I have been reading about Islam from two former Muslims. Their insights remind me that my faith in Jesus Christ is unique, if properly understood. All other systems of belief depend on the success of the believer–good deeds, rituals, and other activities. Biblical Christianity (read it for yourself in the New Testament) recognizes that nothing that sinful humans can do or give is sufficient. Instead God gives salvation as a gift. The operative word is grace. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:
“For by grace, you are saved through faith, and that (faith) not not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast (of saving themselves). For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Some have described grace as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Islam promises paradise and virgins for killing infidels. Christianity offers heaven simply for trusting oneself to Jesus who died on our behalf. That is grace. When I trust Him and His atoning death, the very faith itself a gift from God, he saves me. I can do nothing for myself, and nothing is required except to believe. Then good works become a natural consequence of the change He makes in me. His death is the basis for reconciliation between the sinner and a holy God; once the connection is restored, then the goodness of God tends to flow back through the bond, into and through the believer, and to those around.
People without faith hope they are right, and there is no judgment, nothing to fear after death. People with religion depending on their religious activities, even terrorist murder, hope with little confidence. The question is always whether they have done enough of the right things and not to many wrong things. Christians, on the other hand, though we still struggle to do good rather than bad, are not afraid. We hate disappointing our God and Savior by doing wrong, but we are secure. We never could satisfy God, but His grace is sufficient; we cannot lose what He has given us.
My hope rests in the promises of God based on His love, his grace, and the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ. To reinforce that hope is the presence of his Spirit, active in my life and experience. He promises additional, subsequent gifts–love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. This I have observed growing in my life. I have the blessing of other like-minded believers in fellowship.
I heard today that conservatives and Republicans, regardless of social or economic status, are happier than others. I suspect, if the survey asked, that result would have found a strong core of Christian people who believe as I do. Happiness, joy, contentment, and serenity are qualities we have regardless of terrorism, war, economic trouble, or political turmoil. They don’t depend on us or on our environment.
I am a fanatic, I suppose, but you will never have to worry about me. I have no desire to harm anyone. I recognize that we are engaged in a religious war, but our side doesn’t plan to win by earthly warfare. When our side wins, and it will, God will win it!
I do support my government’s war, in the meantime. Islam has often fought in the name of Allah because their Qu’ran commands it. Islamic governments never offer true freedom to their citizens, unlike the Christian-based western governments. Islamic governments oppress because they believe that infidels must ultimately either convert or die. Open dialog is not a typical option. We Christians believe only in faith that comes through the free choice of the individual. Though I know that the conflict between our beliefs can never be won on the battlefield, I accept the necessity of fighting to preserve and extend the right for free people to make their own decisions.
In a nutshell, however, it’s all about grace. He offers everyone the gift. He offers you the gift. Will you accept it?
If you would like to know more or ask me a question, just drop me a note. ROGER