Click HERE for Part VII, which will give you a quick summary of what we learned from Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam & atheism... & how the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ differs from them all.
There are some massive implications of this kind of study...
- Only Jesus comes into this world to save us. He enters into this world as both God and man, living the life we should have lived (perfect obedience to the Father) and dying the death we should have died (under God's curse for sin). Thus he alone gets us out of the pit.
- All the other systems have this in common: YOU are the person responsible for getting yourself out of the pit... YOU are the person responsible for salvation. Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam, atheism -- they are all forms of self-help, self-salvation, self-rescue. With Christianity, the person who does the work of salvation is Not You. It is Jesus. Not you. That's a huge and evident contrast. Who rescues you?
- In all the other religions, the pressure for "right practice" is upon your shoulders. If you get it all right all the time, you might get out of the pit. If not, you won't. Everything is staked on your thoughts, your beliefs, your actions, your obedience, your record. The pressure on you is enormous. In the gospel, the pressure is all on Jesus, completely on Jesus. You are rescued by his thoughts, his beliefs, his actions, his obedience, and his record.
- Here's a huge difference... In all there other religions, this is the order of events: You perform (obey, think, do, etc.) and THEN you might get out of the pit. It's always your obedience that is leveraging your acceptance, your salvation. In the gospel it's just the opposite: Jesus performs. He delivers. He gets you out of the pit. THEN you obey. You don't obey in order to be rescued; you obey out of love, because he has rescued you. Your obedience doesn't leverage a thing. It's merely a response of genuine gratitude, because of what Jesus has done.
- That last point makes a universe of difference in how you live. IF you are thinking right & doing right & obeying right & doing all things right IN ORDER TO HELP YOURSELF... then, for whom are you doing what you're doing? You're doing it for you. To help and to love and to serve you.
- But with Christianity, you're already rescued. You're already delivered. You've already been brought out of the pit. And now when you "do right" -- give to the poor, sacrificially love someone else, welcome the marginalized, fix the injustice -- you're not doing it for you. You're doing it for God. And for other people. In the gospel you've already been saved. So now you're not giving to you. You're giving to others.
- Therefore... Christianity is the only religion that can set us free from bondage to self. Only the gospel can break us out of being self-centered and make us God-centered and others-centered. Yes, it's just that radically different.
Remember what that former cynic of Christianity once wrote. This man was once dead-set on destroying the Christian faith. He was even guilty of executing Christians!
But one day he met the Lord Christ. He became a follower of Jesus. And later, in a letter to some friends, he wrote this:
"For while we were still weak (that is -- in the pit with the snake -- according to the terms of our illustration), at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (that is, the snake was not just outside of us, but also INSIDE of us). For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5.6-8)
Let that sink in.