Christianity 101 – One Simple Choice
What makes Christianity the easiest religion? Well that’s an easy question. 🙂 Every religion outside of Christianity requires you to WORK WORK WORK in order to ally yourself with your chosen god or gods. Christianity requires no works, only that you let go of your pride (admittedly a HUGE step), and accept a gift from God. The gift is presented as Jesus Christ, and if you accept Him as God in the flesh and that God raised Him from the dead, then you will be saved for all eternity (Rom 10:9)! Its as simple as that.
No Works, NONE
You do not need to do any works. You do not need to immediately stop sinning in order to be saved, and you don’t need to stop sinning after you are saved. Why in the world is this not more appealing to the masses? It just might be that huge step of PRIDE to admit that yea, I am a loser and need God to pay the price for me. We often do not want to admit we are wrong, or be accountable to some higher authority. It’s in our nature to resist the truth that is staring us right in the face. Maybe its because its beneath us to sing kumbaya, act lovey dovey, or whatever. But this always misses the point. You don’t have to do ANY of this stuff because then it becomes works – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph 2:8-9).
Can You Keep Sinning? – Yes
Wow, did I just say that? Well, I bet it got your attention to read on! 🙂 Once a person is saved they should certainly try to stop sinning, but here’s the thing, it WILL become easier to steer away from the bad things. Why? Once you know you are no longer condemned to hell, and instead will spend eternity in heaven, the LAW, that is, don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do the other thing, no longer has dominion over you, and it stops enticing you (Rom 6:14, 7:5). When you see a sticker on a wall that says “wet paint, don’t touch”, you’ll be tempted to touch it. If there was no sticker there and you saw the wet paint, you wouldn’t bother touching the wall. But because someone said don’t do it, you want to do it!
So many Christians like to keep themselves and other Christians under the law by putting up “wet paint” stickers all over the place, all the while thinking it will help them and others sin less, but it always has the opposite effect! God’s only law in the Garden of Eden was to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil, yet Eve thought it wise to add to this law by deciding it was best that she also not even touch it (Gen 3:3). We all know how that turned out. Consider the difference of effect between law and grace that is so eloquently illustrated by my friend, Pastor Bob Enyart. The analogy goes something like this. Your wife borrows your car and notices on the visor a reminder note that says, “I will work very hard today not to lust after another woman, and I will not commit adultery”. What will be her reaction? Likely fear and worry. But what if the note had instead said “I will love my wife with all my heart and soul”. Her reaction would surely be one of joy. As Paul said, “love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Rom 13:8).
Once you fully recognize that you’re under grace despite anything you do, you’ll be less apt to do bad things. Sure, you are still under the law of the land, and will pay the temporal consequences of bad deeds, be it through dumb things to cause painful relationships, or being put into jail for some bonehead move, but in the end you’ll still go to heaven. It would be totally counter-productive to put yourself back under the law by doing deeds only for the sake of the law, instead of out of love.
That being said, we shouldn’t use grace as an excuse or justification to go on sinning (Romans 6:1-2). This doesn’t mean you lose your salvation if you keep on sinning, instead its just a practical matter that Paul elaborates on in Romans 6. Since we are no longer under the penalty of sin, we shouldn’t let it have dominion over us, but instead make ourselves “alive to Jesus Christ” (Romans 6:11). God isn’t some ogre who doesn’t want us to have fun and enjoy life. The sins we commit are harmful, we just often times don’t see it, or choose not to see it. For example, sex outside of marriage is highly encouraged in our society, yet think of the lives destroyed by adultery? Consider the studies that show sex is better in marriage than out of marriage. Just do a google search of this and even secular sites admit to this truth. Or consider the destructive lifestyle of homosexuality that is wrought with depression, drugs, lower life expectancy, etc (even LGBT sites admit a much higher depression rate, but wrongly blame it on persecution and ostracization). Its to our own benefit and those around us when heed Paul’s advice to switch our allegiance from the flesh to God – “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” (Romans 6:22).
The Scary Part
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Matt 7:13)
I think the biggest lie people fall for is “I’m a good person”. Now in comparison to other people, sure, maybe you are. But I’m willing to bet you aren’t quite as good as you think you are. Have you really never told a lie? Have you really never lusted after someone, or coveted some thing, or stolen some thing, even as small as peeking at someone’s answers on a test, or that little thing you didn’t report on your taxes? If you can assume for the moment that God really is perfect and holy, is it so unfathomable that God must keep us losers separate from Him? The only reasonable solution is that God decree a penalty for our sin, then pay that penalty himself. According to the Bible, the penalty for our sin is death (Rom 6:23). So God himself has to pay that price in order to carve a path for us to be in His presence (a good analogy of this was given by Josh McDowell toward the end of the Other Religions chapter). Now in order for us to be reconciled, we have to accept the free gift.
According to the Bible God suffers hoping people accept Him (2 Peter 3:9), just as I and many other Christians do in a much less courageous way, hoping and praying that our unbelieving friends come around. There is a well-made movie whose transcript is the Book of John verbatim. It’s interesting to see how throughout this movie Jesus does all this cool stuff, miracles that only God could do, and pleads with people to believe He is indeed God. Jesus isn’t expecting you to blindly believe as skeptics falsely claim, instead faith as described in the Bible is evidence-based (“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – Heb 11:1; also see Romans 1:18-20, and of course the Bible Evidences listed on this site). When John the Baptist went through a weak moment of doubt while in prison, despite himself having previously seen the miracles and signs (e.g. John 1:32), did Jesus respond, “ye of little faith”? No, instead he reminded him of all the evidence: “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up…” (Matt 11:4-5). As Peter said, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Peter 1:16).
Smoking or Non-Smoking?
The reality of hell is something that cannot be voted off the island. It is a real place of utter darkness (Matt 22:13). Its a place that Jesus spoke of three times more often than he did of heaven. Many Christians believe ultimately that people who end up in hell choose this destiny and would prefer to stay there, such as is the story line in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce. I’m not sure I would go so far as this, it might deter me by thinking there’s no hope for the friends and family I really want to see in heaven who are currently on the wrong side of the tracks.
There’s a saying that the law condemns the best of people, and grace saves the worst of people. Indeed I’ve had one family member tell me they would refuse to worship a God who would send Mahatma Gandhi to hell (he rejected Christ), and allow Jeffrey Dahmer into heaven (he became a Christian while in prison). It’s a dichotomy they can’t accept or comprehend. We often see in the end zones of college and NFL football games, the famous verse John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Since Jesus talks about hell much more often than heaven, perhaps it would be better if these signs show what comes two verses later to capture the full dichotomy – “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
We’re all losers folks, but if we can just for a moment throw our pride to the side and accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation, then we become winners, not because of any good deed we do, but because God gladly stamps “winner” on our forehead and He is beyond thrilled that we accepted his gift (Luke 15:7,10). It’s His way or the highway though, there are not many highways that lead to heaven, only one (Acts 4:12). Whatever worries, fears, depression, tragedy may befall us, its all just a temporary setback in the minuscule drop in the bucket of time we have on this planet (James 4:14), because in the end we’re “winners”. Just believe that Jesus is God and died for your sins, and all your sins past present, future, will be thrown into the ash heap and erased from God’s memory forever (Isa 43:25, Heb 8:12). It’s a piece of cake!
” For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)