Monday, December 14, 2015

The Essence of Christianity

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6 ESV)     

Many people, today, define Christianity in a purely moralistic sense. The Christian Faith, to them, is defined by loving our neighbor.  It's defined, to them, by the golden rule.  So they tend to think that Christianity is very much like the other major religions in the world today.  And for this reason, they tend to have a universalist view of salvation.   
     Even though Jesus did command us to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40), even though he told us to love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28), and even though he told us to to do to others as we'd have them do to us (Matthew 7:12), this doesn't define the Christian faith. Even though God has given us the Law and shared with us how he desires for us to live, this doesn't define what it means to be a Christian. It's much more than a system of rules.
Those who define Christianity in this way often fail to understand Jesus’ purpose in being born into the world. Although he is a good teacher, and even though he is a wonderful example for us to follow, this is not the primary reason he came.  God had already given his Law through Moses.  And God had continually reached out to his people through the prophets.  Even though they were sinners, the example of godliness was displayed by many of the great men of faith.  
Jesus came into the world for a much greater purpose.  As the angel told Joseph in announcing Jesus’ birth, he came to save his people from their sins.  And this was a task that could be accomplished by no one else.
The way he did this was by giving his life on our behalf.  Jesus himself stated this in Mark 10:45 where he says: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” By dying on the cross, he paid the necessary ransom to secure our salvation.  
This blessing is then received by us through faith in Christ.  It’s not something we earn by our goodness or by our love.  As Jesus stated to Nicodemus in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Those who define Christianity as love, those who define it by a system of morals, tend to deny what Jesus clearly tells us in verses such as the one above. They deny that Jesus is the only way of salvation. They deny that he is the only way to the Father.
If this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would be no purpose in having a separate religion.  If this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would’ve been no purpose in Jesus’ birth.  And if this were the basis of the Christian faith, there would’ve been no purpose in his suffering and death.   The principle of love, a message of morals, is found in every other faith on the face of the earth.  
So, as we celebrate Christmas, let’s remember the true message of Jesus’ birth.  Although God wants us to love, and although he wants us to live a moral life, Jesus didn’t come to instill these values.  He came that he might save us from our sin.  He was born into the world that we might come to the Father.

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