We’ve been going through the different world religions in Sunday morning Bible class. We talk about what they believe, why they believe it, and how to most effectively share our faith in Jesus with people of other faiths. I have really enjoyed this study and it has been of great benefit to me. The topic of world religions is fascinating to me.
I have learned several things from studying different belief systems, but there is one that sticks out in my mind more that anything else. As I look at other religions, I see systems that are based on the individual. What do I mean? I mean that they have a certain number of prayers to pray, or good deeds to do and even then, it may not be good enough to get them into heaven, Nirvana, oneness with the universe, or whatever else they may be striving for as the end result.
Paul, a man who was familiar with religion and it’s requirements, a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” as he pens in Philippians 3:5. He writes his long list of personal accomplishments:
“If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” (Philippians 3:4-6)
Paul was well acquainted for striving for redemption—working his way to God. But then he writes this:
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)
To me, that’s the one of the biggest differences between Christianity and other religions. Religion teaches that you must work to get to God. Christianity teaches that God has already done all the work that you couldn’t do in the first place and then went beyond. Religion is man’s attempt to reach God, while Christianity is God’s attempt to reach man. See the difference?
Paul penned some remarkable words to the church at Galatia. After a discourse about the Law being useless and Christ being all-sufficient, Paul says this to the church of Galatia:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
Paul is saying, after contrasting the imperfections of following the Law with the perfection of Jesus fulfilling it, my paraphrase: “Why in the world are you shackling yourself down with things you were just set free from?” Why are making something so simple so hard? It’s the great question of the church of our time. Have we lost this simplicity? Have we traded it for things that were never intended? God the way and tore all the barriers down.
So what about you? Have you kept it simple? Are you free? Truly free? Jesus says,
“and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Have you been set free? Or have you been set free and chained yourself down with man-made rules and regulations? Something to think about.