Tag Archives: Salvation

Two Kinds of Religion

There are two kinds of religion in this world. In the first kind, individuals must save themselves and in the second, God must save each individual. The religion that says people save themselves always falls short of salvation. For “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy rags” and “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (cf Isa 64:6, Rom 3:23).

Pick a religion. How do people in that particular faith come to a right standing before God? Think for a moment about Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, or any other ‘isms’. They have laundry lists of things that a person must do. Tim Keller argues that in almost all religions people essentially build a bridge to get from one side to the other. They build their bridge to salvation brick by brick, following certain rules and doing certain deeds.

I once asked a devout Muslim: “How do I become a Muslim?” He said to me: “Declare there is no God but Allah, and follow the Five Pillars. Then you will be Muslim.” To be a Muslim that’s all you have to do. Merely follow a set of rules. What about Buddhism? Their central tenet is that a person achieves enlightenment by following the 8-fold path. In all of these religions, it’s always about you and your ability to achieve your way to God or some inner peace.

I do concede though that religions have differences between them. But at the same time, all those religions fundamentally espouse rules and rituals that people must do to save themselves. People are “saved” by following that system, whether it is Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, etc.

How then is Biblical Christianity any different from the rest? Fundamentally, it says that you can’t save yourself. No matter how hard you try, your best isn’t good enough. The ‘you’ on your best day still fails God’s perfect standard. Jesus must save you! The Bible says humanity has been separated from God because sin has infected us all. His holy nature cannot allow sin to go unpunished. These axioms are antithetical to what the majority of religions proclaim.

In Biblical Christianity, God saves humanity because they can’t save themselves. Why did Jesus have to die? To save wretched sinners separated from a holy God. If men and women could save themselves then Christ died for nothing (cf. Gal 2:21). A Christian then is one who always stands before God purely on Christ’s finished work (cf. Heb 10:14). He or she looks to Jesus, the spotless lamb and trusts in Him alone for salvation (cf. Jn 5:24). To quote the classic hymn, ‘Rock of Ages’:

nothing in my hand I bring,

simply to the cross I cling

foul I to the fountain fly;

wash me Savior or I die.

Religion is always of two kinds: either humanity tries to save themselves, or God saves humanity. The faith that saves is always the one in which God saves us and reconciles us to Himself “for salvation comes from the Lord” (cf Jon 2:9).

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Why Did Jesus Die?

Have you ever wondered why Jesus had to die? If you haven’t pondered the question, you are missing the crux of Christianity. It is at the cross of Christ that God’s justice and mercy meet.

One of the tragedies of being human is that we sin. We all do what we should not do and fail to do what God requires, our conscience testifies. People usually respond by saying, “Well, everyone does what they shouldn’t do. Nobody is perfect.” I completely agree with that statement, but that does not change God’s standard– “be perfect therefore as I am perfect” (Mat. 5). The prevalence of sin does not obligate God to lower His standard for humanity. On the contrary, the bar remains ever the same, for God is unchanging. This presents a problem for humanity, how is sin reconciled before the God whose standard is unchanging?

As human beings, when we show mercy to people, it is always at the expense of justice. Someone deserves a certain consequence or punishment for injustice, however for mercy’s sake it is withheld. We don’t pour out what a person rightfully deserves. Justice is sacrificed at the expense of mercy.

God does not dispense mercy at the expense of justice like we do. If God chose to “simply forgive sin” He would cease to be God. The very essence of being God is His holiness. He must punish sin. If an earthly judge just let prisoners run rampant because he wanted to be merciful that would be unspeakable. It would be a gross violation of justice. If that’s the standard for a mere earthly judge, how much more holy must God be? As the prophet Habakkuk states, “His eyes are too pure as to behold evil.” God will not sacrifice justice for mercy.

Every individual’s sin demands payment, and God desires that no one be separated from Him. He reconciles the tension through Jesus. It is at the cross of Christ that God can be both just and merciful. The Lord bore the sins of the world so that those who believe in Him could have everlasting life. The cross is the only foundation on which any person stands before God; it is where the righteous demands of the law are satisfied. Acceptance before God is not found in what you do, rather it based solely on the finished work of Christ. (That’s why no one can boast it is all of grace. If you work for it then there is boasting, but if it is a gift boasting is void.) If salvation could be achieved through what we do, then Jesus Christ died for nothing (Gal. 2).

On the cross, Jesus experienced the full wrath of the Father. Christ paid the penalty of sin for each and every individual, so that those who believe in Him alone through faith could be saved (Eph. 2). “By a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 9). It is a gift to be received for those who recognize their need for a Savior.

Only at the cross is justice satisfied and mercy offered to those who believe in Him.

How deep the Father’s love for us,

how vast beyond all measure

that He would give His only Son

and make a wretch His treasure.