ONLY TWO RELIGIONS—Part 3

“Jesus never said he was God.” I heard this comment often while I was in college. Some of my contemporaries willingly accepted Christ as a great teacher or perhaps a guru, but they were not willing to accept his claims to deity. These skeptics added that the “Church” made up these claims to enhance his story and teachings. They claim that he taught the same as most other religious leaders.

Many people today believe the same ideas about Christ. Others may believe that it does not matter what he claimed to be as long as we focus on the Golden Rule or the Ten Commandments, or if we just love Jesus. When someone tells me that all you have to do is love Jesus, my question is, “Which Jesus?” Isn’t there just one Jesus? No, He himself said that many false Christs would arise in the last days. Matthew 24:24 says, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”

Does it make any difference which Christ we believe in? After all, anyone who believes in Christ is a Christian, right? Jesus told the Jews where he was from. John 8 records his discussion with them. He said that they were of the world, therefore they would die in their sins. He repeated that in the next verse. John 8:24 says, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (NKJV). Notice what he says here in the original language. “If you do not believe that I am…you will die in your sins.” There is no complement to the linking verb “am.” Most modern English verses will add the word “He” in italics, or “the one I claim to be” in brackets in my earliest copy of the NIV translation. The brackets and the italics indicate that those words are not found in the original language.

That is a common practice in translation, not a deception. Sometimes one language expresses a thought in fewer words, but the target language requires more words to be grammatically correct. Jesus said that if you do not believe that “I AM,” you will die in your sins. The Jews recognized this as a claim to deity.  Later in verse 28, he used a similar construction: When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am…”

He made the same claim later in verse 58. There he said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” A former Mormon once asked me how this proved that he was claiming to be God in the flesh. I said, “Look at the Jews’ response.” The next verse says, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him.” I asked, “Why did they pick up stones to stone him? Because they recognized his claim to deity.” They could not stone him for not completing his sentences.

This claim is magnificent. If you believe that Jesus was a wonderful Teacher, Master, Guru, Prophet, Example, one of many sons of God with many spirit brothers, an archangel in the flesh, but you will not believe that he was Jehovah God in the flesh, hear the words of Jesus: “you will die in your sins.”

Loving Jesus is not enough. You have to love the right Jesus, not the jesus who is not God in the flesh. This is another reason why doctrine is so important.

To recap: There are only two religions in the world. There is biblical Christianity, which makes these three claims: 1) Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, 2) You cannot do anything to earn your salvation, and 3) the Bible is sufficient to tell you how to be saved. All other religions and cults in the world deny one or more of those claims. They state: 1) Jesus Christ is anything but God in the flesh, 2) You must do something to earn your salvation, and 3) The Bible is insufficient to tell you how to be saved.

Are you following a man-made religion in which you will die in your sins, or are you following the God-man, Jesus Christ who alone can lead you to salvation because he has already paid the price in full for your salvation? How you answer that question will determine your eternal destiny.

A Different Gospel

 

Jesus warned us that in the last days false christs and prophets would come and deceive many, even the elect, if possible (Matthew 24:24). Deception has always been Satan’s ruse. Sin entered the world because Satan deceived Eve, and he has never stopped using the same tactic. He still deceives today.

Since Christ said that false Christs and false prophets would arise, it was inevitable that false gospels would arise, too. Satan never creates; he only counterfeits. Counterfeits look like the genuine object or they would never deceive. That is why they are so dangerous.

Paul warned the Corinthians about receiving a different Christ and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). Someone may say that anyone who loves and follows Christ is a Christian. Well, which Christ? Not all are the same. To some he is just a man. To others he is one of many great prophets. To still others, he is one of many of God’s sons and the brother of Satan. How would you recognize the true Christ?

Then there are the false gospels. Some gospels say that salvation is by your works. Your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds so you go to heaven. There is the gospel that says that you have to add to Christ’s work on the cross by adding ceremonies, rituals and sacraments. Finally, there is the watered-down gospel that says all you have to do is pray a simple prayer like, “God I believe that you love me and want to save me. I ask you to forgive me and come into my heart.” Then you will receive God’s favor and blessing that will lead to health and material prosperity.

But Christ’s true gospel demands more. Luke quotes Jesus as saying, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily  and follow Me” (9:23). He also said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27). That gospel is tough to swallow. Many people are not willing to take up their cross because that means they may have to suffer for the cause of Christ. That gospel does not attract large crowds. Jesus even said that few would enter the narrow way that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14).

People will put up with a gospel that promises wealth and ease, but balk at the gospel that demands death to self and service to others. It is not popular, and it does not fill pews and offering plates.

The oft – quoted “sinner’s prayer” found in the back of many gospel tracts and booklets does not exist. The sinner’s prayer in the Bible is found in Luke 18:13. A poor tax collector could not even look up to heaven, but he cried out, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He did not try to justify or excuse his sin. He did not try to compare himself to others as the Pharisee in the story did. He simply admitted his need by crying out to God. Jesus said that man went home justified, not the other, the religious man.

Sit down and count the cost of believing the true gospel (Luke 14:28). In the same way counterfeit money will be of no service at a bank, a counterfeit gospel will not get you into heaven. Have you accepted another gospel? The true gospel is simple, but it is not easy. It is not popular. It is not politically correct. It is not all-inclusive. It is not tolerant of sin, but it is the only gospel that leads to salvation. What will it cost you to follow Christ?