Many people believe that religions may be different on their surfaces, but at their core they are all the same. But a serious study of world religions reveals just the opposite. All religions are the same on the surface, they all teach that following their prescriptive laws will get you to a place in some sort of paradise, or in the case of the atheistic religions, following their prescribed paths will make you a better person, but at their core, they all differ on how you are to get there.
Christianity is different. All other religions tell us what we must do to find either paradise or ease suffering on this earth; Christianity tells us simply we must accept what Christ has done to enter paradise. In every other religion, until you stand before the God or gods at the end, you will never know whether you were “good enough” to make the cut. In Christianity, it is not a matter of being good enough (because ultimately none of us will ever be good enough) but a matter of accepting by faith that the only One who was good enough sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and failures and purchase a place for us in Heaven (paradise) which He offers as a free gift to all who will believe! Here’s how the Apostle Paul summarized it: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV).
Grace means “unmerited favor.” No one deserves grace. No one is good enough to earn grace. If a person could somehow deserve God’s grace or earn God’s grace, it wouldn’t be grace!
Faith does not mean a blind leap in the dark as some claim. The faith spoken of in the Bible involves the mind, the emotions and the will. Biblical faith begins with an examination of the available evidence. For example, I believe in the Creation account we find in Genesis because of the evidence that exists in the physical universe. Something of this intricate design points me to a grand-designer not mega-chance. The Psalmist put it this way, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV). So, for me, the universe points to the Creator and the cross and resurrection points me to the Savior. I examine the evidence and come to an informed decision.
Then Biblical faith involves my emotions: I place my trust in the object of my faith (Jesus), I don’t place my trust in my faith. That is, having examined all the evidence, I have become convinced that it all points to a person who made a provision for my deepest needs. I became a Christian because I am convinced of the reality of an event that took place in history; the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. While there are those who attempt to explain the missing body of Jesus in fanciful ways, I choose to believe the facts as they are presented for us by the eyewitnesses and people who interviewed the eyewitnesses (that is, the Gentile Physician Luke) who wrote: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1–4, NIV).
Finally, biblical faith demands my volitional response. Because I believe in Jesus, I do something about that: I follow Him, not as my religious teacher but as my Lord. I accept His gift of salvation (and a gift is not something I have paid for, but something someone else has already paid for and then given it freely to me). The works that do follow, are not because I am trying to earn my place in Heaven, but a response of gratitude for an indescribable gift that I have received.