If My Sins Are Forgiven, Can I Do Whatever I Want?

Dear Muslim readers,

As a follower of Jesus, my Muslim friends often say, “You Christians think you can stick your sins on Jesus, and then sin freely. You think you can do whatever you want if you are forgiven. Isn’t that true?”

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I answer, “Astaghfirullah! (an Arabic expression of disapproval or shame, meaning “God forgive me”) God forbid! No! We love God so much for what He has done for us through Jesus, that we desire to be free from sin to honor Him!”

As the Bible says, “Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!” (Romans 6:1-2). Forgiveness from God should lead toward a growing purity and holy life in the one forgiven.

In this blog post, let me share more with you about how I believe the Bible itself answers this very important question about a person being forgiven, but then doing whatever they want. I have 6 points:

#1 – Many people who call themselves “Christians” are simply not followers of Jesus. They have not truly repented. If they had, there would be true change in their lives: change in their attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. The Bible says you become a “new creation” – a new person – when you repent of your sins, receive his gift of forgiveness, invite Jesus to take over control of your life, and commit yourself to following him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new creation (a new person). The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Matthew 7:16 – You will know them by their fruits (how they act).”
1 John 1:6 – “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
1 John 2:3,4 – “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

#2 – When you have genuinely accepted Jesus as the Savior of your sins, you want to live for him, obey him, follow him. Your heart is filled with gratitude which overflows into a desire to not do “whatever you want,” but to do “whatever He wants.” You just want to please Him and live for Him!

2 Corinthians 5:9 – “we make it our goal to please him.”
2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

#3 – The primary motive in avoiding sin as a follower of Jesus is not fear of hell but love for Jesus and for Almighty God.

John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
2 Corinthians 5:14 – “Christ’s love compels us.”
1 John 4:19 – We love Him because He first loved us.”

#4 – While fear of hell is not a Jesus follower’s primary motive for pure and righteous living, a healthy and reverential fear of appearing before God the perfect Judge after death (to judge one’s works, not his/her sins) is a solid Biblical motivator.

1 Peter 1:17 – “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as ‘foreigners in the land.’”
1 John 2:28 – “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

#5 – When a person commits their life to Jesus and begins to follow him, there is a change in the heart. The Bible actually says you gain a “new heart.” There actually takes place something like a spiritual “heart transplant!”

Ezekiel 36:26 – “I will give you a new heart.”

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#6 – After a person becomes “born again,” a new power (grace) comes into their lives – a new power to resist sin.

Titus 2:11, 12 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

When Jesus comes into your heart following true repentance, there is true change. Jesus himself called it being “born again” (The Holy Injeel, The Gospel According To John 3:3). For some people, this change is virtually overnight. They stop swearing, gossiping, envying, boasting, lying, rebelling against parents, stealing, drinking, using drugs, and engaging in immorality right away. In essence, they stop living for themselves and begin living for the Lord. This gives them new joy, new freedom, new purpose. They feel alive for the first time in their lives.

For others, the change is slow but sure – like a butterfly coming out of a cacoon. Old sinful habits like those just mentioned die hard, but they do eventually die for one who sincerely follows Jesus. It takes time. Years. And it is a battle – a real and constant battle! A battle against 3 adversaries: this world’s anti-God system, our old desires which creep back in, and our adversary the devil.

To all my Muslim friends, please see from these Biblical truths that we who are really followers of Jesus can’t just “do whatever we want” after we receive the gift of forgiveness. This would go against everything we believe!

Do followers of Jesus still sin? Yes, we do. Of course. We fail every day.

But generally speaking, the forgiveness we have experienced actually motivates us to forsake (abandon, desert, leave, turn one’s back on) sin and live for God out of love and gratitude for what He has done for us.

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends!

If Isa – Jesus – Didn’t Die, Who Was That Man That Came Out Of The Tomb?

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Dear Muslim friends,

Two days ago, Christians all over the world celebrated “Easter.” Sadly, when you do a google image search using the word “Easter,” you will see mostly images of little rabbits, eggs, and spring flowers.

But Easter is actually the name given for the day over 2,000 years ago when Christians believe that Jesus rose from the dead after being executed (by crucifixion). (You can read about the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb in the Injeel: Matthew 28:1-15, Mark 16:1-20, Luke 24:1-47, John 20:1-29).

Do I believe Jesus was actually crucified and rose from the dead as the Bible claims? Well, as a first century preacher stated in a letter to early Christians:

“. . .if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

What this means is, I am basing my belief that I will go to heaven solely, completely, emphatically on 2 events that I believe to be entirely historical: the death of Jesus on a Roman cross for my sins and the subsequent resurrection of Jesus from the dead to prove he was who he said he was.

Is there any evidence that Jesus rose from the dead?

In this blog post, I quote a speaker and author, Josh McDowell, regarding evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

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EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS THE MESSIAH
by Josh McDowell

The body of Jesus, in accordance with Jewish burial custom, was wrapped in a linen cloth. About 100 pounds of aromatic spices, mixed together to form a gummy substance, were applied to the wrappings of cloth about the body. After the body was placed in a solid rock tomb, an extremely large stone was rolled against the entrance of the tomb. Large stones weighing approximately two tons were normally rolled (by means of levers) against a tomb entrance.

A Roman guard of strictly disciplined fighting men was stationed to guard the tomb. This guard affixed on the tomb the Roman seal, which was meant to prevent any attempt at vandalizing the sepulcher. Anyone trying to move the stone from the tomb’s entrance would have broken the seal and thus incurred the wrath of Roman law.

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So. . .what are the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

EVIDENCE #1: THE BROKEN ROMAN SEAL
The first obvious fact was the breaking of the seal that stood for the power and authority of the Roman Empire. The consequences of breaking the seal were extremely severe. If the responsible people were apprehended, it meant automatic execution by crucifixion upside down. People feared the breaking of the seal. Jesus’ disciples displayed signs of cowardice when they hid themselves after his death and certainly would not have had the courage to fight off Roman soldiers, break the seal, and steal his body.

EVIDENCE #2: THE EMPTY TOMB
The disciples of Christ did not immediately go off to Athens or Rome to preach that Christ was raised from the dead. Rather, they went right back to the city of Jerusalem, where, if what they were teaching was false, the falsity would be evident. The empty tomb was “too notorious to be denied.” Paul Althaus states that the resurrection “could have not been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.”

If the resurrection claim was merely a lie – some kind of hoax – the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body of Jesus from the tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor of his resurrection.

EVIDENCE #3: LARGE STONE MOVED
On that Sunday morning the first thing that impressed the people who approached the tomb was the unusual position of the one and a half to two ton stone that had been lodged in front of the doorway. All the Gospel writers mention it. Now, I ask you, if the disciples had wanted to come in, tiptoe around the sleeping guards, and then roll the stone over and steal Jesus’ body, how could they have done that without the guards’ awareness?

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EVIDENCE #4: EYEWITNESSES
Christ appeared alive to his closest followers – and to many others – on several occasions after the cataclysmic events of that first Easter. Claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations are unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations – namely that different people cannot see the same hallucination simultaneously.

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Two of the most amazing appearances of Jesus after he rose from the dead are recorded in the Injeel, John 20:19-31. In the second appearance, one of Jesus’ disciples put his fingers into the imprint of the nails in Jesus’ hands and then made one of the most stunning statements of all time as he said these words to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”

EVIDENCE #5: LIVING WITNESSES YEARS LATER
The New Testament accounts of the resurrection were being circulated within the lifetimes of men and women alive at the time of the resurrection. Those people could certainly have confirmed or denied the accuracy of such accounts. They were still alive and could be questioned.

EVIDENCE #6: THE DISCIPLES’ LIVES – AND DEATHS
The strongest evidence of all for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the way those early Christians lived – and died. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ?

Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts – prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits – we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this “risen Christ.”

Instead, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking.

Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message: Jesus died and rose from the dead.

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Postscript to my Muslim friends: how do you evaluate these evidences for the empty tomb – for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead?

I am respectfully assuming you will answer that the Bible has been corrupted and changed.

If so, may I humbly ask you:

Who changed the Bible?
When was it changed?
Where was it changed?
Why was it changed?
What is the evidence that it was changed?

Until I see evidence that the Bible was changed, I will maintain my belief that it is true and accurate. And I will maintain my belief in the evidences from that first Easter – evidences for an empty tomb. I am staking my eternal destiny on it and invite you to carefully and objectively examine the evidence for yourself – for your eternal destiny.

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends.

I really, really do.

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The Terrible Sufferings Of Isa – Jesus – For You, For Me, For All Of Us

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Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

Yesterday – around the world – countless millions of Christians remembered something called “Good Friday.” Good Friday is the day that Christians believe Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world. It was, the Bible teaches, a day of terrible suffering and tremendous love by Isa al Masih – Jesus the Messiah – for you, for me, for all of us.

To my Muslim readers, I know full well that Islam teaches that Isa did not die – that another (possibly Judas or Pilate or someone else) – took his place; that God took Jesus up to heaven and put his facial image on someone who actually did die on a cross. But for now, can we agree to disagree about that?

In this blog post, I just have to say something. Many things. To Isa. Jesus.

I have to thank him. Publicly. Effusively (expressing feelings of gratitude, pleasure, or approval in an unrestrained or heartfelt manner).

So my Muslim friends, even if you don’t agree with my position about the death of Isa – Jesus – on that day 2,000 years ago, would you bear with me? Would you allow me to express my love for him here?

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A PUBLIC THANK YOU TO MY SAVIOR – ISA AL MASIH – JESUS: YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO. . .BUT YOU DID

* You didn’t have to leave your place with God in heaven and all the glory you had there. . .but you did. (John 1:1-4; John 1:14)

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* You didn’t have to come to planet earth – a place filled with sin and shame and hatred and foul darkness. . .but you did. (John 1:9-10)

* You didn’t have to choose to be born in a place for animals – a dirty, smelly stable instead of the king’s palace you deserved. . .but you did. (Luke 2:1-7)

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* You didn’t have to take the body of a human with all the weaknesses that we experience. . .but you did. (Philippians 2:5-7)

* You didn’t have to be born in little Bethlehem and live in obscurity in Nazareth instead of the fame you could have enjoyed living in Jerusalem. . .but you did. (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-6; John 1:46)

* You didn’t have to refuse to be king. . .but you did. (John 6:15)

* You didn’t have to serve people instead of being served. . .but you did. (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:5-7)

* You didn’t have to spend time with people everyone else shunned and hated (tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers) – eating with them, loving them, teaching them, healing them. . .but you did. (Mark 2:13-17)

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* You didn’t have to ride into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday on a humble donkey instead of a white horse. . .but you did. (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-11)

* You didn’t have to let your friends betray you (Judas for 30 pieces of silver) and deny you (Peter three times). . .but you did. (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 27:3-10; Luke 22:54-62)

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* You didn’t have to sweat blood (a rare medical condition during extreme stress known as hematidrosis) as you faced carrying our sins. . .but you did. (Luke 22:44).

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* You didn’t have to let them tie your hands and arrest you (since you were only bound by your love for God and for us). . .but you did. (Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1)

* You didn’t have to go through a night of cruel, illegal, and unjust trials (3 Jewish trials, 3 Roman trials) on that Good Friday morning. . .but you did. (Matthew 26:57-27:26; Mark 14:53-15:20; Luke 22:54-23:25: John 18:12-19:13)

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* You didn’t have to let them blindfold you and spit on you and strike you and mock you and pull out part of your beard. . .but you did. (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67-68; Mark 14:65 and 15:19; Luke 22:63-65)

* You didn’t have to answer the high priest’s question – “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” but you did. (Mark 14:55-64).

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* You didn’t have to announce to the world on that night exactly who you were (you were not lying, you were not confused, and you were not blaspheming). . .but you did. (Matthew 26:62-66)

* You did not have to remain silent before false accusations of the Jewish leaders in the presence of the Roman governor Pilate. . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12-14; Mark 15:3-4)

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* You didn’t have to let the Roman soldiers scourge you (with a whip of leather straps with bits of bone and iron and glass designed to rip the flesh open, exposing muscles and bone from the shoulders down to the thighs). . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:5; John 19:1-2; 1 Peter 2:24)

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* You didn’t have to let the soldiers mock you by placing a crown of thorns on your head and a purple robe on your torn back. . .but you did. (Matthew 27:27-29; Mark 15:16-20)

* You didn’t have to let the soldiers beat your face so much that it was severely disfigured. . .but you did. (Isaiah 52:13-14)

* You didn’t have to carry the heavy crossbar of your cross (that we deserved to carry) on your shredded, bloody back. . .but you did. (John 19:17)

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* You didn’t have to allow Roman soldiers to pound iron nails into your wrists and feet. . .but you did. (Psalm 22:16; Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 20:25)

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* You didn’t have to refuse the sedative/anesthetic on the cross because you wanted to face death fully aware. . .but you did. (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23)

* You didn’t have to suffer the other horrible pains of crucifixion for 6 hours (dislocated shoulders, elbows, and wrists; exhaustion; infection; fever; severe dehydration; blood loss; hyperventilation; collapsing lungs; cardiorespiratory failure; and finally slow suffocation and cardiac rupture – a “broken heart”). . .but you did. (Psalm 22:14, 15, 17; John 19:34)

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* You didn’t have to pray for forgiveness for those who did all these cruel, horrible things to you. . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34)

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* You didn’t have to endure the vicious verbal attacks – mocking, insults, sarcasm – from people and religious leaders who watched you die. . .but you did. (Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-31; Luke 23:35, 37; John 19:24)

* You didn’t have to endure the worst pain of all – abandonment, desertion by God – while you carried our sins. . .but you did. (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)

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* You didn’t have to go through so many terrible sufferings and finally die in my place, for my sins and shame – for the unspeakable sins and shame of all of humanity. . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:5-6, 8, 10-11)

* You didn’t have to love me – love all of us - with this kind of tremendous love. . .but you did.

Isa. Jesus. Thank you. For all eternity, thank you.

Good Friday.

You didn’t have to. . .but you did.

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Did Isa – Jesus – Die On The Cross. . .Or Was It Someone Else?

(Dear Muslim friends: as you read the title of this movie clip, I am very aware that you don’t believe that Jesus was/is the Son of God. I want to assure you that the Bible teaches that this is a spiritual relationship between God and Jesus, NOT a physical one)

DID ISA – JESUS – DIE ON THE CROSS. . .OR WAS IT SOMEONE ELSE?

Yesterday was a day celebrated by Christians around the world. It is called, “Good Friday.” It is our remembrance of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins.

I know that you – as Muslims – believe that Jesus did not die on the cross but that God took him up to Paradise and put his facial image on someone else – maybe Pilate, maybe Judas, maybe someone else.

But I wonder, would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words with nails in their hands and feet as they were being crucified:

“Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

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Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as their bones were being put out of joint (part of the effects of crucifixion)?

Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as they were being mocked and ridiculed by Roman soldiers and Jewish leaders and people who were watching (yes, this happened to Jesus)?

Would Pilate or Judas or anyone else say these words as they were suffocating (the ultimate way a victim dies in crucifixion)?

My Muslim friends, I believe with all my heart that Jesus died that first Good Friday on the cross.

Not Pilate.

Not Judas.

Not anyone else.

Because no one else can love like that.

No else can love like Jesus.

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Dear Muslim Friends: Do You Fear Hell? You Don’t Have To. . .

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Dear Muslim friends,

“Do you fear hell?”

I usually don’t start out my blog posts with such a serious kind of question. But this is a subject that is really on my mind today and is incredibly important. I wanted to get right to the heart of the matter.

Please allow me to share a few brief experiences I have had with some Muslim friends regarding fear of hell.

A few years ago, I was with a dear Muslim friend from Bangladesh, enjoying a meal together. We were having great conversation about life and faith and at some point I asked him, “Do you fear hell?” His answer really impacted me (and hurt me on the inside). He looked down and said with real seriousness and a sadness in his voice and facial expression, “Every day.”

Another time, I was driving with a Muslim friend from Yemen and I asked him the same question. He replied with surprise, “Who wouldn’t fear hell? Can you imagine burning your hand in a fire? Then try to imagine your whole body burning. Can you imagine that? Of course I fear hell.”

While taking Christians on a tour of another mosque in Michigan, a very kind and well spoken imam said, “Your good deeds can outweigh your bad deeds and you can still go to hell.” When I asked him why, he said, “Because God is King. He can do whatever He wants.” (Wow, I have to admit, that answer shocked me.)

Dear Muslim friends, may I share with you why I don’t fear hell?

First of all, let me say that it’s not because I am such a good person. It’s not because my good deeds will outweigh my bad deeds on a scale on the day of judgment. It is certainly not because I never sin, because I sin every day – against the Lord and against people. I sin every day – either in my actions or in my thoughts. I sin every day – in what I do or in what I should have done. And I am not alone. The Injil says that we all have sinned and that we all have fallen short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23).

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No, the reason that I don’t fear hell has nothing to do with my goodness. It has everything to do with God’s goodness. And just as importantly, with God’s promise. You see, God has promised that anyone who puts their faith in Jesus and his sacrifice will be completely, totally, and forever forgiven. Imagine it. All sins forgiven. Washed away. Every single one. All shame removed.

I have followed God’s way, His path. I have chosen to follow Jesus as my Savior. Because of this – and only this – I have God’s incredible, amazing, stunning promise of forgiveness in my heart:

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And because of this – and only this – I do not fear hell.

God. . .is a promise maker.

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And God. . .is a promise keeper.

He can change His mind.
But He won’t.

Why?
He promised.

This is my hope and prayer for every man and every woman: that they not be plagued by a constant anxiety about hell but that they might know an incredible peace in the deepest part of their soul. That they might know that heaven can be their eternal home and that their sins can be completely and eternally forgiven.

This is God’s amazing promise to all who put their faith in Jesus and His sacrifice of love.

Dear Muslim friends: “Do you fear hell?”

If you do, please hear these words: “You don’t have to. . .”

There Are Only 2 Religions In The World – Which One Is Yours?

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(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, I thought it would be good to repost it. 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 rewards.

This religious system is called “good works.”

Those who depend upon good works 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 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 (Jesus the Messiah) – 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 yours?

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(Postscript: All I want – all I passionately want – is for all people to see Isa Al Masih – Jesus – 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 full of genuine, undeserved mercy and compassion. If I can help anyone to find and follow that straight path, it is my complete joy, privilege, and honor.)