The Difference between Christianity and Religion - And Why It Matters

Few realize that Christianity is diametrically opposed to any other belief system. Not only opposed, but completely opposite. Every belief system except Christianity requires people to do something to get to God – good works, penance, life-transformation, even martyrdom. They teach that we need to be good enough to merit God’s favor. Like Noah’s descendants as they built the tower of Babel, we need to reach up into the heavens with some outrageous feat to attract God’s attention. 

Christianity, however, turns this approach upside down. Instead of mankind reaching up to God, God reaches down to mankind. Listen to Paul’s description in Philippians 2:6-8: 

“Christ Jesus . . . Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!” 

Romans 5:6-8 puts it this way: “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.” 

“. . . while we were still sinners.” I find great comfort in these five simple words. They remind me how God, because he knew we couldn’t earn his favor, do enough good works to outweigh our bad ones, or stand before him at the judgment seat, sent Jesus. Guilty only of loving us, Jesus carried our sins to the cross and endured the atomic blast of God’s wrath – in our place. 

“Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to – because of us. At Calvary, God accepted his own unbreakable terms of justice,” said Philip Yancey. And satisfied them. 

“Is it not wonderful news to realize that our salvation lies outside ourselves?” asked Martin Luther. It is wonderful indeed. Yet as amazing as salvation is, we still forget. 

We forget that Jesus was arrested so we could walk free

That he was wounded so we could be healed

That he was abandoned so we could be adopted

That he was forsaken so we could enjoy fellowship

We forget that we are the unworthy recipients of a life-changing, joy-infusing, eternity-securing seat at God’s banquet table where we will feast on God’s goodness forever. 

Amazing grace. How can it be? That thou, my God, shouldst die for me. 

“Come, and see the victories of the cross,” Matthew Henry wrote, “Christ’s wounds are thy healings, His agonies thy repose, His conflicts thy conquests, His groans thy songs, His pains thine ease, His shame thy glory, His death thy life, His sufferings thy salvation." 

As you enter this new week, I encourage you to ponder the miracle of your own salvation. Think back to how lost you were when Jesus found you. And then, with humility and gratitude, thank God for saving you. 

Salvation – we couldn’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, but we must be eternally grateful for it. 

Father, help us never take our salvation for granted. Remind us every day how much it cost you. Help us embrace you as the pearl of great price and the lover of our souls. And Father, help us not be greedy, keeping this great gift to ourselves. As you have freely given your grace to us, may we also freely share it with others. In Jesus’ precious name we pray, Amen.

Now it's your turn. What aspect of your salvation are you most grateful for? I invite you to leave a comment below or, if you're reading via email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online and share your thoughts.

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