July 1, 2019

Why all roads cannot lead to God . . .

Our family often chuckles about a childhood story. A man tried to give directions to some tourists. He struggled and finally said, “I don’t think you can get there from here.”

Getting through to God is more serious. Many say all roads go there, but Christian’s disagree. What makes Christianity unique in a world of many religions who claim to be the only way? Christians believe in Jesus Christ, that He is real, died for us and rose from the dead. We believe His words, particularly that He claimed . . .

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

We believe it because there is no indication that He was lying. He lived a sinless life and did miracles that only God could do. Jesus is our claim, but not only that, Christianity is the only system of faith that believes this incredible truth:

We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

This month, my devotional book takes me through Galatians and Romans. They are so full of Gospel truth that I wonder how they can be covered in such a short time. We had one pastor who took seven years to preach through Romans!

However, starting with Galatians, this book defends the “justified by faith” passage quoted above. The churches in Galatia were struggling. Paul told them:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6–9)

Strong words, yet Paul wanted them to know the importance of this truth. He finished this thought by saying, For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)

For me, this is a big clue to why people want to believe that doing good is a way of salvation, the way to God and eternal life. All the other religions believe it. Some who call themselves Christian believe it. Some who are genuine Christians are lured into it. Everyone wants to put some value on their own way of doing things. We value our ‘goodness’ and certainly to those who observe, many non-believing people seem to live better lives than some who believe. But God sees the heart.

Besides that, His criterion is not “good works” but faith. This levels the playing field. Even a child can believe. Even a thief dying on a cross can believe. Even a hardened criminal can believe. The biggest struggle with this doctrine is for those who take pride in their own goodness. Jesus tells it this way:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10–14)

This Gospel of salvation by faith humbles me even as it also exalts me. I’m aware of God’s mercy on my sin, but aware also that His grace that is greater than my pride. He could easily have said, “Oh, she thinks she is good enough to save herself, does she! Then let her try!” and left me to my futile efforts. But He did not. He gave me a place in His family and I am exalted as His child, His beloved.

How do I apply this today? With my attitude. No swelling of pride if anyone compliments me. Point to Jesus. I can be happy for the skills He gives, but always aware that He gives them. Without Him, I am nothing.

Jesus, this is so fundamental, so wonderful. Salvation is by faith — and faith is a gift from You. I am saved because of what You did and are doing. Praise Your glorious name!

Today’s thankful list . . .
Grace to know I am a sinner and grace to believe in the One who saves!
Energy for this long and busy day.
Able to finish a baby quilt.
Rain — no forest fires.
A great bed to sleep in and a solid roof over our heads.
Fried chicken and potato salad.

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