There Are Only 2 Religions In The World – Which One Is Your’s?

(The post below was first done in June of 2013. Because of a great conversation with two kind sheikhs and other Muslim men at a mosque yesterday, I thought it would be good to repost it today. I hope it is thought provoking as you seek truth in this life and what we all want in the future – Paradise.)

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

I believe there are really only 2 religions – 2 religious belief systems – in the world. Sounds crazy, right? No, I truly believe there are just 2 religions in the world.

In the first religious belief system, we can use the illustration of a ladder extending from earth to Heaven.

In this illustration, most of humanity attempts to “climb the ladder” to Heaven by right beliefs, good intentions, obedience to all kinds of rules, and the faithful practice of all kinds of rituals. The adherents of this religious belief system believe if they can just do enough, they can tip the divine scales and God will let them into a place of bliss, perfection, and reward. This religious system is called “good works.”

Those who follow this way of reaching an after death state of Paradise might call themselves “Buddhists” (using the 8-fold path of enlightenment) or “Hindus” (reincarnation – coming back over an over again in some new form), or something else. They might call themselves “Muslims” (practicing the 5 pillars, attendance at the mosque, memorizing the Qur’an, following the Sunnah, etc.) or “Christians” (going faithfully to “church,” practicing the “Golden Rule,” singing in the choir, reading the Bible, etc.).

A legitimate question about all of these people is, “What – or who – are they counting on to gain Paradise when they die?” Essentially, if they are trying to “climb the ladder” to Paradise by their good deeds, they are counting upon – and this is incredibly important – themselves. They are counting on their own performance, their own hard work, and their own spiritual achievements – in essence, their own goodness.

In the second religious belief system, we can also use the illustration of a ladder between earth and Heaven. But in this faith system, God in Heaven looks down upon humanity and lovingly sees that people simply cannot “climb the ladder” and get to Him. None of them can. All are helpless, all are hopelessly lost, and all are in need of rescue. All are in deep shame and in need of their honor to be restored. So God – oh yes, He is truly Most Merciful and Most Compassionate – sends His mercy and compassion down the ladder through His prophets. He does this especially and uniquely through Jesus – Isa Al Masih. The prophet Isa – spotless and sinless (Qur’an 19:19) – takes upon himself the sins and shame of the whole world through the voluntary sacrifice of his life. He provides restored relationship with God in Heaven, forgiveness of sins, and the honor that all people need and crave.

This is indeed Good News but. . .there is a big IF: mankind must believe in Isa – who he is and what he has done – and follow him to the end. This religious belief system is called “grace.” Grace is simply receiving (accepting) by faith a gift that cannot be earned. In this case, the gift is the gift of forgiveness of sins and righteousness (right standing) before God and then the resulting gift of eternal life in Paradise.

2 religious belief systems: good works and grace.

So yes, I believe there are only 2 religions in the world. Which one is your’s?

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(Postscript: All I want – all I passionately want – is for all people to see Jesus – Isa Al Masih – for who he is. I desperately want all people to put their complete trust in him and his sacrificial death so they can live forever in Heaven with God who certainly is Most Merciful and Most Compassionate. If I can help anyone to follow that path, it is my complete joy, privilege, and honor.)

5 thoughts on “There Are Only 2 Religions In The World – Which One Is Your’s?

  1. Is this not a juvenile way of thought?—any time one is tempted to reduce the wonderful diversity of God’s creation into a simple binary of good/bad—one has abandoned sophisticated, nuanced, intelligent thought. Such a view also reduces God—either into an egoistic figure with a savior complex or an accountant putting numbers in the “merit” and “demerit” column! Muslims also reduce the breadth and wisdom of Islam when they reduce it to halal/haram (good/bad).

    To see ourselves in binary terms as bad/not good or good/not bad is to reduce the complexity of our being—“we” are someone’s child, someone’s lover, someone’s parent, someone’s friend, someone’s neighbor, …etc. God also interacts with us in diverse ways …..as a nurturer, maintainer, teacher, partner, creator…etc.

    To conduct our lives on the basis of accumulating “merits” or passively waiting around to be “saved” is to misunderstand the purpose for our creation. We (humanity) were created to be Khalifia/Trustee on earth….as active participants with agency/will who are entrusted with the task/responsibility of bringing benefit to all of God’s creations…..we do this by choosing ethical/moral actions (ibadah/worship) with the intention of taqwa (love of God) under the principle of Tawheed (Unity/One God)—that confirms that all humanity—and all creation are from the ONE God and will return to him.

    Hadith Qudsi
    “My believing servant does not cease to draw near me with acts of his free-will offering, until I love him, and when I love him, I am the eyes with which he sees and the ears with which he hears, and the feet whereon he walks…..”

    All humanity needs to work together to bring benefit to God’s creation—we cannot do so if we are focused on things such as “my way is better than yours” rather, as the Quran recommends—to you is your way and to me is my way….. instead let us all join our hands together to make this world better.

    • Dear Anonymous Muslim Friend,

      It is always good to hear from you. I sincerely appreciate that you would take time to read some of my blog posts – and even respond!

      I had to laugh when I saw your word “juvenile” as it pertains to my post! Dictionary definitions of “juvenile” are:

      * immature; childish; infantile
      * displaying or suggesting a lack of maturity
      * unsophisticated

      I suppose some of those non-flattering words could be used about me at times!

      But now, with all seriousness, I want to say that the pursuit of ultimate truth is never “juvenile,” and that is what I was addressing in this blog post. The pursuit of spiritual truth, especially, is so incredibly important because it determines our eternal destiny.

      Can you not see – with even the most casual observation – some truth in my claim that there are only 2 religions (works and grace) in the world? As you look at people, no matter what they call themselves, can you not see that most are trying to work their way to heaven/paradise/nervana? They are trying to follow all the rules. Obey all the commandments. Keep all the rituals. They do this because they desperately want to be in a better place after this life and they think that their efforts will accomplish this.

      Just yesterday I was talking to an 86 year old woman and her son. As we were getting ready to part ways, I said to her, “Nancy, Jesus loves you.” She looked at me quizzically – as if no one had ever told her this before. I said, “Nancy, it is really important that you know this.” My wife chimed in, “We want to see you in Heaven.” Her son said, “She’ll be there. If anyone will be there she will be. There is not a bad bone in her body.”

      What did he mean by that? The same thing most people in the world think: “If I am just good enough, I will make it to Heaven.”

      My friend, I don’t think it is “juvenile” or “bad” for a Muslim to say to me that he/she believes Islam is the only way – the straight path – to Paradise. On the contrary, I think it is loving. It is kind. It is even. . .humane. When a Muslim kindly and respectfully (without force) practices dawa – inviting me to Islam – I thank them. I know they must care about my eternal soul.

      As you surely know by now, I am zealous with all my heart that all people hear the Gospel – the Good News – of Jesus’ words, his life, and yes, his death and resurrection. Why? Because this is the only truly unique, one-of-a-kind spiritual message on the face of the earth: grace. Salvation as a gift, not as something that can be earned. If I don’t tell people – all people – this message, I am not just “juvenile,” I am unloving in the most extreme way.

      Arab proverb: what is the greatest crime in the desert? Finding water and keeping silent.

      I can’t be silent about what I believe about God’s way to Paradise if I genuinely love people.

      God has made a way of salvation that is exclusive (truth is by nature. . .exclusive). It is found in the bridge He has made to Heaven: Jesus.

      But this gift of salvation in Jesus is not exclusive. It is for all people.

      It’s not about being good or bad. We are all bad and in need of salvation and a Savior. We are all walking in spiritual darkness and need light.

      “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'” (the Injeel, The Good News of John, chapter 8, verse 12)

      It is this truth I tirelessly proclaim to any and all who will listen.

      It is the most loving thing I can do. . .

  2. God is not a Christian or a Muslim—He is the creator of all humanity. He created us in diversity—as the Quran explains—if God had willed—there would have been only one religion—but he gave us differences so that we can learn to love one another. It is easy to love another if they are same as us—not so when the other is different, strange…..That is why a binary way of thinking—us vs them is counter productive….and juvenile…..

    Human beings are not static—we change, learn and grow as we experience life—sometimes we may put in more effort in our works—especially when we have young families and need to be role models—other times we may concentrate on grace—like when we are older and our work is done. There are many ways to be with God…..and a person goes through various vicissitudes in life and belief….

    Islam does not assume that humanity is bad. God created us in goodness and we have an inherent potential for good. This goodness is to be exercised proactively. To do FOR God is not something to be ashamed or discouraged—rather, it is a blessing—a way of worship.

    I am sure God loves you (even though you are a Christian)—just as I am equally sure God loves us all—because we are all his creation.

    Dawah (invitation) can be done with words—but the best dawah is one that is shown by actions—-showing others HOW your religion/way of life has made you a better human being….

    If I, as a Muslim, can help you be a better Christian and a better person—then I have done God’s work as surely as I would have, had I convinced you to convert to Islam.

  3. I well appreciate what you are trying to do Mark but wonder have you ever actually led any Muslim to accept Christ? If you witness to a Muslim who is not happy w/ Islam and who is thus looking and asking questions I could well imagine that you MIGHT be able to get through to them or at least have a good and useful conversation. But here I see you doing a LOT of assuming.

    Speaking to a Muslim is like speaking to a Mormon. There are many words and references in Islam and Mormonism that also appear in the Bible. However, what the common words actually mean or reference in Christian doctrine or belief is often quite different in Mormonism and Islam.

    For instance here you reference Isa Al Masih or Jesus. But who is Jesus to any Muslim? Jesus is Muhammed’s inferior. Jesus’ work is said by Muslims to need a pretty serious follow up…a successor prophet. Thus Muhammed is seen as finishing business Jesus left undone. Somehow Muhammed had to come down here and FINISH the job Jesus was unwilling or unable to do. But I’ll be damned if I know what stone Jesus left unturned! (Pun intended Mark!)

    You aim to convince Muslims otherwise of course. You aim to convince Muslims that Jesus died for their sins because our good works will never be enough to gain admittance to Heaven. But you should know VERY well Muslims absolutely positively reject the idea of Christ dying on the cross. As I would assume you know, Muslims claim that BOTH Jesus and Muhammad ascended into heaven ALIVE — though as I understand it Muhammed was for some reason or other sent back to die! (Hmmmm… Odd that eh?)

    As you also surely know, Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but instead he was raised up by God unto the heavens, and that God transformed another person to appear exactly like Jesus who was then crucified instead. And yet you sit here and try to tell Muslims that Jesus died for their sins. Good luck Mark.

    Meanwhile, I see evidence on your website that the perpetual terrors of Islam can somehow or other be attributed to things like Western imperialism. I can only begin to have faith in your interfaith dialogue enterprise if you are actually ready and willing to admit that the West’s issues with Islam are in no wise born of supposed offenses against Islam like the Christian Crusades or Western Imperialism.

    At least you are actually prepared to have it that there is actually only one true or righteous path to Heaven on the Planet…the sole one based on grace and faith vs good works (ie Christianity)

    But while, it seems to me that you certainly can be expected not to offend too many Muslims too terrible much. You may well actually offend a few Christians in the process of appeasing Muslims. Is it really a good idea for Christians to refer to God as “Allah” for example? I get that we have to find “common ground”.

    But the God I worship does not answer to the name “Allah”. And the God I worship has a Son named Jesus – who is also God. Allah has no son. And in Islam as you should very well know there is no Holy Spirit. In fact, Islam says the “One” that Jesus spoke of who would follow Him (The Comforter/Paraclete) is NOT actually “The Holy Spirit” but is rather Muhammed. That is arguably blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, ie the one unforgivable/unpardonable sin.

    I am actively engaged in a detailed study of Islamic history Mark. It is truly a twisted tale of unimaginable horrors and hellish bloodshed. Muhammed himself mercilessly slaughtered hundreds and hundreds of Jews in Medina — even after they had initially befriended and sheltered him in the wake of his leaving Mecca! Muhammed was a nomadic raider of trade route caravans — just like all his forefathers and ancestors. And in Muhammed’s wake his succession is also a woe-begotten tale – one of repeated murders and assasinations…one still a brital contest still very much unresolved, ie insofar as Sunni Shiite rivalry.

    Are you willing to admit that Islam WAS spread by the sword Mark? Are you willing to admit that Islam is simply NOT a religion of peace by ANY means? Are you willing to allow that Islam is an inherently violent and satanic “religion”? Are you willing to allow that Islam is in fact straight out of Hell…a demonically inspired perversion of truth…a perfidious heresy Lucifer thought up and put in place via Muhammed specifically to counter Christ’s work and teaching? Is it any coincidence that the descendants of Ishmael and Isaac are now and will forever be locked in battle until Christ comes again Mark? In short, poverty is not the only earthly woe that will always be with us

    If you are willing to believe that Islam is the greatest scourge on Earth that Satan ever inflicted on Mankind then you are, indeed, a Man of Truth. But if you HAVE this truth in you I would sincerely like to know how it is possible for you to have a constructive dialogue with the direct enemies of Christ. If you are open and honest about Islam to a Muslim how can you possibly not offend them deeply? On the other hand, how can you claim to be a bearer of Truth if you hide the wretched wicked truth about Islam from everyone?

    In short how can you reveal the truth of Christ without in the process also openly exposing the explicit lies and deceits of Muhammed?

    I certainly can not and will not ever follow recitation of Muhammed’s name with the Islamic saying of “peace be upon him”. Rather, my inclination is to say “God’s wrath and the fires of HELL be upon him!”

    Thanks,

    LC

    PS I was alerted to your ministry by a pal in Ann Arbor. I know we are to pray for and love our enemies as Christians. But that said, I am SO glad Charles Martel took up the sword to defend France from Islamic incursion in 732AD or else there would be no Christianity left and your ministry (and faith) would be totally unimaginable. So it would certainly seem that at times turning the other cheek might in fact NOT invariably be the right way to proceed. Certainly it will NEVER earn you much if any real respect among the average Muslim Mark. May as well admit it.

    • Lee,

      First of all, thanks for any reading you have done on my blog.

      Second, I am blessed to say that a few have chosen to embrace Jesus as their Savior. And countless others have heard the Good News. They have heard about salvation by grace through faith. They have read Biblical texts. They have begun to see Jesus as he is properly portrayed in the New Testament. There is so much more that I long for and pray for but I am entrusting the seeds that have been sown to the Lord. I ask Him that they ultimately bear fruit – even if it takes many years.

      Finally, may I ask you some questions? First of all, do you love Muslims? They are our neighbors. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor,” correct? It seems as if you see Muslims as your enemy. Perhaps not. But if you do, Jesus has something to say to you. You know what it is: “Love your enemy.” So Lee, are you making a conscious effort to obey and follow Jesus by reaching out in love to Muslims?

      I can tell that you are an avid fan of truth. Great. We all should be. But are you also a fan of grace? Jesus set the example for us. He was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). May that also be true of you. . .and of me. . .as we relate to Muslims.

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