What Sets Christianity Apart
First of all, I could have named this article "What Sets Christianity Apart From All Other Religions." But I chose to leave out the word "other" and for good reason. Christianity, that is TRUE Biblical Christianity, is not a religion. It was germinated and fostered in the bosom of a religion: Judaism. But Christianity is not religion. It is Truth Revealed. It is the plan of God carried out to reconcile man to Himself. Religion is something man does; Christianity is something God extends to man and man receives. Religion is about outward practice, such as form, rituals, self-discipline, in other words, a way in which man tries to ascend up to God. Biblical Christianity is about God coming to man and transforming man by His Power from the inside. Religion is about man's works; Biblical Christianity is about God's works, culminating in a relationship to God and through that relationship a right relationship with self and others. False religion -- and all "religion" is false -- includes also false Christianity, which is all about man-pleasing external works. There is only one true way back to God, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not religion, but God-engineered and God-pleasing spiritual transformation. That is the reason this article is not named, "What Sets Christianity Apart From All Other Religions."
I am benefitted from reading books setting forth the beliefs of various religions, because then I can get a real grasp on what is out there deceiving millions. I have been reading a book written by an Eastern guru, who is teaching his perspective on the Gospel of John. He has a few good things to say. But most of what he says is very far off base -- outright lies of Satan meant to deceive millions.
The guru's first error is that he is coming from the perspective that all religions may be following different paths, but they all converge into only ONE path in the end.
His second error is that he does not distinguish Jesus as the unique Son of God come to the earth to save mankind. To this guru there are many such "sons," and they all have basically the same message. He sets Jesus up as a great teacher, a Master among Masters, but he does not glorify Jesus Christ as the Son of God -- the Saviour. He starts out by glorifying John the Baptist and writing as though the first chapter of John concerns the Baptist, not Jesus. That is, John is the Light, John is the Word, etc. To this guru, and apparently all gurus, all great spiritual teachers are the Word, because they have the Light and point to the Word.
The actual truth is that the Gospel of John in the New Testament glorifies Jesus Christ, and no one else. Even the Baptist himself pointed to him, saying, "I come baptizing with water, but one comes after me who will baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire." Water is an earthly element, and water baptism is an outward ritual. The baptism that the Son of God brings is the baptism with God's Spirit, which is from heaven, and which is a power that no human being can bestow upon another. Only Jesus can baptize with the Holy Spirit, because only Jesus was God and Perfect Man! Only God has the power to bestow the Holy Spirit. Also, John the Baptist, later in John's Gospel, said that he himself must decrease and Jesus must increase. This he said to those disciples who wanted to continue to follow him. Jesus said of the Baptist that there was no greater man who had been born on earth, but that all those in the Kingdom of God were greater. What did Jesus mean? That it is the "new birth" into the Kingdom of God that really counts! John the Baptist was just a man -- yes, called and sent by God on a mission -- but nevertheless just a man.
The third error that this guru in his book makes is in not accounting Jesus Christ as God. Since he claims there have been many gurus and masters, he puts Christ on a level with all of them. Yet the very gospel he is teaching, the Gospel of John, glorifies Christ in many ways as the Son of God, establishing the truth of the Deity of Christ. The Lamb of God, without blemish, the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, Living Water -- and so on -- uniquely describe Jesus Christ and no one else, and ascribe to Him Deity.
A fourth error that the guru makes in his book is that he sets Jesus Christ up only as a great teacher, a Master with disciples whom He taught to lead men to God by teaching others. The guru says there is one such person in every age. Therefore, if Buddha lives in your age, follow his teachings. If Muhammad lives in your age, follow his teachings. Etc. Etc. That means there is some such person in the world today whom you can follow as your Master -- someone to teach you how to be spiritual! A lot of modern day "discipling" programs are attempting to do that today in the name of Christ. If they are merely passing on teaching and self-discipline methods, they are false teachers, nurturing false disciples.
The Truth is that what sets Jesus Christ apart from all such "spiritual teachers" is that He did not come as a teacher. Oh, yes, He was a Teacher -- the greatest Who ever lived! But all His teachings point to and culminate in the Cross. It is by way of the Cross that His teachings can be applied to our hearts and we become changed by them. If we do not come by way of the Cross, there is no power to follow Christ's teachings. Following Christ's teachings is the result of being transformed internally by the Holy Spirit. For example, we cannot love the God kind of way, unless the Holy Spirit, whom only Christ can give, has entered into our hearts and changed us. And we cannot have anything that Christ gives, including the Holy Spirit, without the Cross.
The fifth error the guru makes - and it is perhaps the worse -- is that the Cross has no place in his definition of spirituality at all. He talks about Nicodemus and his discussion with Christ on the New Birth. And he has some insightful things to say about the nature of the New Birth being the ability to "see" spiritually and understand spiritual things, and its being the beginning of a spiritual journey. But there is no Cross in the guru's perception of the New Birth. He does not see the New Birth as only being accessed by Christ's Cross. He sees the New Birth as being accessible through the following of any "master" and through self will! Later on in John, when Christ speaks of His being the Bread of Life and the Light of the World, etc., to the guru He is just one among many who have come to reveal the Father. He explains Jesus' words about eating His body and drinking His blood as pointing to the Word of God as instruction and Light, and leaves any teaching on the Cross of Christ completely out of it.
What sets Christianity apart? The Cross. The basic fact of Christianity is that God became a man and died on a Cross for your sins, my sins and the sins of the whole world. He is the only ONE of all the so-called "Masters" extolled by eastern and other false religions, that did this. He is the only One Who could do this and make it meaningful! He is the only One Who could do this and truly pay the debt. Because He was God! None of the others qualify. None of the others were born into the world perfectly sinless and remained perfectly sinless, so that they could pay a debt for sinful humanity. Because Buddha was a sinner like me, and a mere man, his sacrifice on my behalf could mean nothing. He would first have to die for his own sins. And if he died for his own sins, he would be dead -- VERY DEAD -- and would remain dead. There is no plan of God for a sinner to die as a sacrifice for his own sins. A Perfect Sacrifice, without spot or blemish, is necessary. There are types and shadows in the Old Testament Tabernacle that prove this point. In the ritual of the Day of Atonement, the High Priest (a type of Christ) had to perform several sacrifices. First, there had to be a sacrifice making himself ritually clean. After that sacrifice was completed, then and only then was he fit to offer the sacrifice of the Atonement for all the sins of Israel. The High Priest was but a man -- a sinful man. He had to be cleansed of sin before he could stand in the Holy of Holies and minister before God for others. Christ fulfilled the type, not only of the High Priest, but of the Sacrificial Lamb also. He was both the offerer (priest) and offering (sacrifice.) In the Tabernacle the Lamb had to be without spot or blemish in his outward body, which was a type of being perfect inwardly in heart. Christ was the Lamb -- perfect -- without spot or blemish, not having to do with his outward body, but His inward sinless state. As High Priest He offered Himself -- a Perfect Sacrifice. Had He had sin upon Him, He could not have done that. He would first have had to die for His own sins, in order to become ritually clean. And that would have been impossible, because if He had died as a sinner, there would have been no Resurrection. And even if there could have been a Resurrection, He would have been then in a glorified body which life's flow was Spirit, and to shed His Blood a second time for my sins and your sins would have been impossible! It had already been established that "Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin!" So it is utterly impossible, established by the types, for a blood sacrifice to die twice. Christ could die only ONCE, as the Perfect Sacrifice for mankind, and die once is what He did! And there is no other Perfect Sacrifice that can be, because of sin. Hence, Christ and His Cross, is the only way!
The only Perfect Sacrifice that could die for the sins and Sin of the world had to be God Himself come in human flesh. The Sacrifice had to be human, and it had to be without spot or blemish. And Jesus Christ is that One Unique Sacrifice that was sent by God -- His only begotten Son. Jesus Christ was born into the world without sin to carry out a mission for God the Father that has never been equalled in the world before or since. His is a One Time Perfect Sacrifice never to be repeated, and never needing to be repeated. Because His work on the Cross is efficacious for all time for all who put their faith in it.
The Cross is the instrument that God uses to circumcise the heart. We are born into the world with stony hearts, which become more stony as we grow and develop in the world. We are born into the world spiritually blind, with a veil of darkness that separates us from God's Spirit. The only hope is that we come to the Cross, where Christ took away our sins and the condemnation of the law, have our hearts circumcised and the veil rent -- set free to worship the Living God!
Following Buddha is religion, self-discipline, works, without the Cross. Following any spiritual guru is religion, self-discipline, works, without the Cross. The same could be said of any religion. In addition, following false Christianity -- and there are many forms of it -- is trying to make oneself over by following principles and teachings, leaving out the Cross. Even many who talk about the Cross, but who have not experienced the Cross, are worshipping only an idol without the practical application of the Cross applied to the heart itself and transforming it. It is absolutely essential that one be born again in order to be a part of True Christianity. And to be born again means we come by way of the Cross.
How does one come by way of the Cross?
First, one must recognize he is lost and without God, because he is a sinner by nature. He can attain that knowledge and become convicted in his heart by reading the Word, particularly the New Testament, prayer, and sincere seeking in his heart. A good way is to find a church that preaches and teaches the Cross and the New Birth, and then to obey and respond to the Message. But it is not the only way. A friend who is born again can lead you to Christ and the Cross. Or reading the Word and praying on your own. There are many and varied ways to receive the Message of the Gospel; just make sure it is the true Gospel of the Cross.
Second, once convicted of sin, one must desire to be reconciled to God and be transformed, and must repent of his sin. Repentance means heart conviction and heart sorrow of a previously wasted and lost life in sin without God. Repentance is a turning: away from sin and turning towards God.
Thirdly, he must follow the leading of God's Spirit to show Him the Cross as the Way. And then he must put his faith in the Cross and accept it as the Way back to God. When you hear the message, "Faith in Christ," that message must be "Faith in Christ and the Cross." To have faith in Christ is to have faith in the message and good news of the Cross. Faith is the absolutely necessary ingredient. Faith is the only way that we can receive from God. Faith in the Cross is our only access to God's Grace.
In conclusion, Christianity is not about man seeking God, but about God seeking man. Man seeks God through religion and attempts to climb up and find God by achieving morality and goodness. But while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)There is none that seeks after God, none righteous. In God's Great Plan; He sought us. And His Revealed Truth is Christ and Him Crucified. What sets Christianity apart is that alone of all the spiritual paths and ways, it is the Revealed Truth of God: the Message of the Cross.