Someone once asked me if I thought religions had areas where they overlapped. At that moment, I realized that all religions are basically the same. They all have a system set up to please a deity. In the end, if your “good deeds pile” is larger than your “bad deeds pile,” you get some reward. The only “religion” that does not fit into this category is Biblical Christianity.
The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.
What is the glory of God? It is all of the qualities that make him who he is, and one of those attributes is holiness. God is perfectly holy, so he cannot be around anyone or anything unholy. Because of this, we can never be good enough to bridge the gap between us. He even says that our “good pile” is rubbish in his eyes.
Isaiah 64:6 tells us that, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.”
According to Scripture, “all have sinned” and “the wages of sin is death”.
This is a problem. We are all headed for eternity in hell, separation from God. What is the answer to this? It is Jesus Christ. He bridged the gap between our sin and God’s holiness. Jesus was perfectly holy, did not deserve death, and therefore, he was able to pay our penalty.
Remember, “the wages of sin is death”? The remainder of that verse says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Still, this does not mean everyone automatically gets into heaven. The means of salvation is faith in Christ. A key word in a familiar passage is “believe”.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
What does it mean to believe in Jesus? First, you have to believe the facts about who he is and what he did for you; He is God in human form (John 1:1, 14). He died on the cross for your sins (1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21), you deserve eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23), Jesus’ sacrifice is the only acceptable payment for your sins (1 John 2:2; John 14:6; Acts 4:12); etc.
If you believe these things, that is amazing. But do you really believe? Jesus constantly told people to “follow me”, but why? Imagine you get lost in the woods and eventually come across a couple of other hikers. You ask for directions, and to your surprise, they each give you different instructions. Whose directions will you follow? The one you believe to be correct.
The point is, if you say you believe in Jesus, it means you will follow/obey him. Obedience is the proof of faith, but religion has it backwards, putting obedience as the means of earning salvation. If you are trusting in your own works to save you, then you truly do not trust in the ability of Christ’s work.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is through faith alone, and after a person believes, “…he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
This new creature has a desire to follow Jesus Christ. Following the “good pile/bad pile” philosophy sets up a way for you to keep your sin and buy your way into heaven, but that is not how Scripture says it works.
Yes, works have their place, not to earn salvation, but to demonstrate, or justify, your faith. Do you have true following faith?