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Why Christianity Is Not A Religion
O.K., so here I go again with a title meant to intrigue you enough to read my little essay...
The point though, is that I believe in Jesus, and believe the Bible is true, for reasons that show Christianity is utterly different from all other faiths--just as you would expect it to be if it's the one true expression of God's nature and our relationship with him. I've been thinking about one of those differences and wanted to get it written down in my own words.
The Bible teaches we are saved--restored with God--freed from punishment for our wrong-doing--given life after death--by God's grace alone, and NOT through our own efforts. Note that every other religious system teaches salvation by works. Follow the rules, they say, measure up, and that's what gets you to heaven, or Nirvana, or godhood, or whatever. It's always based on human effort. Bow to Mecca five times a day, get baptized for your ancestors, don't eat this, do say that...you get the idea. The laws of these faiths are all presented as requirements to EARN the love or the salvation of God.
It's a relief and comfort to me to realize that God, in the Bible, turns that all around. He says we CAN'T measure up. We CAN'T earn it. He says we've sinned, and a penalty has to be paid, but because he loves us so much, Jesus paid it IN FULL for us on the cross. It's a free gift and all we have to do is accept it.
"It is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)
It's the difference between God's way and our way. We, in our pride, want to do it ourselves, so our man-made religions all offer that. God says we can't fully receive his love until we humble ourselves, give up trying, and accept him doing it for us.
God wants to reconcile us to himself. He created us to have fellowship with him. He loves us so much he made a way for us to be with him forever.
So, if you define a religion as a set of beliefs in God's nature and our relationship with him, of course Christianity is a religion. On the other hand, if you define a religion as a system of requirements to attain righteousness, Christianity doesn't fit. Rather, it's a relationship with a living person, who loves you and wants you to know him. In this sense, religions are about what we do for God...Christianity is about what God has done for us.