We had a guest speaker in church on Sunday, and I really enjoyed his message. He spoke of the Gospel and how it is unique among the world religions. He noted that every other world religion is about “do this (obey), and then receive the blessing of God or the gods.” The Gospel, on the other hand, is about “receive this blessing from God (the gift of His Son’s sacrifice on the cross), and then you will want to do this (obey).”
He used a great illustration to demonstrate our situation and God’s response. He talked about his nephew, who is about 3, going out into a Portland “snow storm” at Christmas time to make a snow angel. The problem was that generally a Portland snow storm creates more mud than it does snow, and the little boy quickly was covered in mud. He tried to wipe the mud off, but his hands were unclean and so he ended up just smearing the mud all over. So what did he do? He began to cry and call for his dad.
Enter the dad, clean as can be and with towels for cleaning the little boy. Because he was himself clean and had the right tools for the job, he was able to get the poor boy cleaned up.
We are like the little boy. We are filled with sin, but are unable with our unclean hands to clean ourselves up. Hard as we try, we just make more of a mess. Other religions and self-help books offer as their only advice that one should work harder and pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps, to wash oneself clean. Then we will receive the blessings.
But when we cry out and call to our Father in Heaven, He comes in the person of His Son Jesus and washes us clean. When we are not able to cleanse ourselves (which is always, no matter how hard we try), God cleanses us from our sin and restores us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8.
Many mainstream Christian churches today are losing sight of this important truth. In an effort to be politically correct and all-inclusive, some churches have begun to teach that it is not necessary to know Jesus Christ as your Savior. So as not to offend anyone, some churches teach that Christ died for all people, even those who don’t believe. This teaching assumes that all religions are the same and lead to the same God.
But all religions are not the same. Humans have freewill and a right to choose what to believe, but that doesn’t mean all belief systems lead to the same place or the same God. A religion that requires one to follow all the rules in order to receive a blessing does not reveal the character of the God of Christianity. Our God blesses us because He loves us, not because we earn His blessing. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:10.
Jesus warned His disciples, “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” Luke 21:8. You have freewill, and can believe what you choose, but be careful that you are not deceived.