“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.
“Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice?
“Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes.”
— Romans 11:33-36
Go to the course catalog of any college and somewhere you will find a course in “Comparative Religions.” Dig a little deeper and you will see an array of the “usual suspects” among numerous religions (including Christianity) and how they compare.
But is it even fair to compare Christianity with the others? Consider this …
Most religions require membership rites, commitments, adherence to rules and regulations — certain behavioral minimums, etc. The assumption is that you gradually grow into what they define as “good,” or “acceptable,” implying a long process of becoming “qualified.”
In the meantime, the adherent is living on a provisional probation that makes continued membership subject to withdrawal and banishment if he/she fails to live up to its requirements. They end up “paying through works” for the rest of their lives in the hopes of obtaining future benefits not conferred (if ever) until the very end.
» 2 Corinthians 5:17 — One time transformation from death to life, “… in Christ … a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
» Colossians 1:13 — “He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
» Ephesians 2:1,5-6 — Positionally changing from “dead in your offenses and sins,” to “alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved,” and “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
» Ephesians 2:3,10,13 — Granted a new identity from “by nature children of wrath,” to “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” and “brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Note the tense of the statements above — NOT future, following some sort of “qualification period,” but NOW, as a present reality.
Following the dramatic one-time transformation of being “born again,” the Christian goes on to live the rest of his or her life in loving gratitude for benefits that have already been conferred.
Of course, if the Christian seriously wanders behavior-wise, God will discipline him if necessary, but not as some arms-length “applicant” hoping for acceptance, but as a cherished child and full-fledged family member as described in Hebrews 12:6-8.
From “do, do, do” to “done, done, done.”
Most religions include personal merit and demerit in their “acceptance” formula. Qualification to enter and maintain membership always points back to you — your own savior.
In Christianity, you stand in the righteousness of Another Person altogether, not your own. Paul writes in Philippians 3:9: “… not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”
Most religions present a God who is remote, distant and keeping you at arms-length until you are fully qualified, and then MAYBE you’ll get to meet him (or it).
Instead, Christianity offers a relationship with God as a Friend, intimate Confidant and loving Shepherd — God “with skin on him.” Not remote but personal, encouraging trust, closeness and affection.
While other religions treat you as a servant or even slave, Christianity welcomes you as a family member, son, daughter and joint heir with Christ.
And here is the clincher: The Christian is not abandoned to live out the Christian life on his or her own. The key is to get out of the way and let Christ live the Christian life in and through you.
As is written in Galatians 2:20, “… it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God …”
How About You?
Are you tired of that rickety, storm tossed ship of empty religious “ifs?” The peaceful sun-splashed shores of grace, assurance and peace await.
As is written in Matthew 11: 28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
— D.C. Collier is a Bible teacher, discipleship mentor and writer focused on Christian apologetics. A mechanical engineer and Internet entrepreneur, he is the author of My Origin, My Destiny, a book focused on Christianity’s basic “value proposition.” Click here for more information, or contact him at [email protected]. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.