'Why Christianity Can't Compete'

Saul of Tarsus was a Jew from Cilicia, a student of the highly respected Gamaliel (a ranking member of the Jewish High Court).  Saul had been hand-picked to lead the effort to eradicate a sect of Jews commonly called Christians.  These Jews had been convinced that Jesus of Nazareth, recently killed, was their long-promised Messiah.  Saul with zeal hunted these Christians, having authority from Jerusalem to punish them to the full extent of the law.

Then one day, this same Saul (later called Paul) was seen on the streets of Damascus, Syria, where he had gone on a mission to hunt Christians.  What was he doing?  He was preaching that Jesus was in fact the Messiah and had risen from the dead! Obviously, something had happened.

We don’t have to guess what it was.  He tells us in his own words: “You have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church if God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.   And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But... it pleased God... to reveal His Son to me, that I might preach Him among the nations” (Galatians 1: 13,. 16, NKJV).

Paul wrote much of the New Testament, including the book of Romans, a carefully worded document written to Christians in the empire’s capital.  In it, he gave the follow-ing reasons why Christianity can’t compete with other belief systems (because there’s no competition!):

Reason #1: Christianity can’t compete because it is the only belief system in the world that offers overwhelming evidence to authenticate its truthfulness
(Romans l: l-4).

If you were meeting someone, say, at the airport whom you did not know, it would be helpful to have a description of them; the more details the better.  This is just what God has done.  The Hebrew Scriptures contain a series of clues as to the identity of the one God promised He would send.  These are not wild tabloid-like predictions, but specific references that cover everything from the family to which He would be born (see Matthew 22: 41-46), to a graphic description of His execution by crucifixion (Psalm 22, c. 1000 BC), even though Jewish execution was by stoning.

Many of these predictions seemed unlikely to come true For example, Matthew (another Jew overwhelmed by the evidence) points out three such prophecies.  He reminds his readers that the Hebrew Scriptures promised that Messiah would he born in Bethlehem Judah (prophesied by Micah.  700 years before – Micah 5: 2); He would come out of Egypt (Hosea 11: 1); and that other prophets declared He would be called a Nazarene (in the north. in Galilee).  Yet all three predictions came true (see Matthew 2: 6, 15, 23).

Are these merely coincidence?  There are more than 300 such prophesies! But, say some, Jesus saw He looked somewhat like the Messiah and so adjusted His life to fit the picture.

Do you believe that?  Then you have not done your homework.  How could He arrange the way He was executed?  Or that His legs would not be broken?  Or that the soldiers would tear His inner garment in four but would gamble over His coat?  And did you know that the amount of His betrayal money was predicted (which prediction was known by the ones who paid it)?  The Jews were trying to disprove His claims, yet they authenticated them! If they had paid 31 pieces of silver, He would not have been Messiah, but they paid exactly the amount stated (see Zechariah 11: 12). There is nothing like this in any other belief.  Obviously Christianity can’t compete in this; there is no competition.   

Reason #2: Christianity is the only belief system in the world that allows you to be honest with God about your true spiritual condition (Romans 3: 10-18).

One of Christianity’s striking differences is its assessment of humanity’s condition before God.  Both the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian Testament agree: “There is none righteous, no, not one, ” writes Paul (Rom. 3:10, quoting from Ps. 14:1-3). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory God” (Rom. 3:23).  In fact, both chapters 1 and 3 of Paul’s letter to the Romans contain detailed diagnoses of sin.  It is a shocking indictment, to say the least.  And the Bible leaves us in no doubt that the writers had people like you in mind when they wrote this way.

Immediately, a lawyer for the defense rises up within you: “Not guilty, your Honor. My client is a good person, a respectable citizen, ahem, most of the time.”  The major world religions agree, including large portions of professing Christendom.  But is this the Bible record?  Is this consistent with the evidence around us-and within?  Read the morning paper.  Watch the evening news.  Look in the mirror.  Crime.  Divorce.  War.  Human tragedy reaching epidemic levels.  Then claim that man is improving, if you dare.

There are only three ways to deal with this disturbing information.  An increasingly popular approach is anti-intellectual: if you don’t like what you see In the mirror, turn the light off! Just pretend “it ain’t so.”  Others simply move the measurements.  By  decriminalizing crime, amazing things can he done with the statistics, but nothing substantial has changed.  The third approach is to get honest.

Let me tell you that this is one of the great things about Christianity – you don‘t half to pretend.  You can be honest with God about who you really are - an incorrigible sinner and know that He is prepared to deal with this deep-rooted problem in a way that only He can.  When you agree that your efforts at right living have not even met your standards, let alone God’s, here is His offer: “… The righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (Rom. 3:22, NKJV).

Reason #3: Christianity can’t compete because it is the only belief system in the world that offers YOU a Saviour.

At first, this claim may seem to be the height of presumption.  But notice that Christianity does not claim to be the only way, It acknowledges that there are other ways (Isaiah 53:6).  However, these ways are largely keyed to human effort. Muhammad, Confucius, and other founders of religions do not claim to be saviours -  with good reason.

First, obviously a saviour is only required if someone needs to be saved from something; that is, if one is beyond helping oneself.  As noted, only Christianity claims the human race is beyond repairing its own moral damage.

Second, only the Christian message states that the problem is so immense that nothing but a God-sized provision will meet the need.  The Bible also attests that this need is met by Christ, who validated His claim to be God incarnate by fulfilled prophecies, authenticating miracles, unrivaled moral teaching, and a verifiable resurrection.  This resurrection was a validation by God that He was satisfied with the payment of Christ’s death in lieu of your judgment if you are willing to unconditionally surrender yourself to Him.

Third, in order to offer oneself as a true saviour, one must obviously not need to be saved. A drowning person cannot save others who are drowning.  Thus Jesus’ challenge to His enemies-“Which of you convinces Me of sin?”-is foundational to the Christian message.  I dare say you wouldn’t want to try asking your friends the same question.

Everyone was agreed about Christ’s sinless life.  His enemies said: “No man ever spoke like this man.”   The judge at His trial stated: “l find no fault in this man at all.”   His executioner said: “Truly this was the Son of God.”   His friends, who knew Him best, declared: “He did no sin.”   In this, He is the only one qualified to be the Saviour. Of course, the term, “save yourself!” is mockery at best.  If you were drowning. and asked someone to throw you a rope, and they threw you the whole thing, what good would it do?  Are you going down, holding both ends of the rope?

Listen to this artless offer, uncluttered by conditions: “Whoever caIIs on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13).  Is it true?  Here is the perfect experiment.  If you put your entire hope in this Saviour, you will find what millions of sin-weary people have found: “The gospel (good news) of Christ...is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes” (Rom. 1: 16).  It was for this reason that Paul was not ashamed of the Christian message.  Everyone who took it seriously found it to be true.  Only those who refuse to entrust their eternal cause to Jesus Christ consider it a foolish thing.

Reason #4: Christianity can’t compete because it is the only belief system in the world that guarantees an instantaneous change of status with God (Romans 5: I).

By now it should be obvious that Christianity is not a comparative religion.  It is also unique in the results it offers to those who respond to its claims.  Paul describes the change that occurs in these words: “Therefore being justified (declared righteous) by faith (receiving God’s gift of new life in Christ by a definite act of the will), we have (as an immediate possession) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace (undeserved favor) wherein we stand and rejoice in hope (a future certainty) of the glory of God” (Rom. 5: l-2). If such claims are true, what reason could you use for not taking them seriously? 

William MacDonald writes, “The grace of God is wonderful. It can take a repentant prostitute, forgive and cleanse her, make her a new woman, and destine her to be a companion of Jesus in eternal glory.  It can take a dying thief; save him in the closing moments of his life, and escort him to paradise that very day.  Grace has lifted millions out of a horrible pit and from the miry clay; set their feet on a rock, establishing their way; put a song in their heart, to glorify their God; and eventually has taken them to the many mansions in the Father’s house.”

As a condemned sinner, you stand guilty as charged.  If you will agree with God about the problem - your personal sin, and about the answer - the death He died for you, salva-tion is yours.  “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Of course, entrusting yourself to Christ does not make you instantaneously perfect. However, once justified by this gracious God, you are immediately brought into a new relationship with Him.  He no longer treats you as a criminal since Jesus has taken your place in the dock.  The death He died under God’s Judgment was yours, and having received His substitution for you, you are immediately saved from the penalty of your sin.  Sin still has an influence on you, of course, but supernatural resources to overcome this are also made available to every believer for daily personal victories.

Reason #5: Christianity is the only belief system in the world that reserves a place in heaven for you that is as certain as it’ you were already there (Romans 8:28-39).
How glibly people today dismiss the possibility that they will consciously exist forever somewhere.  To many, heaven and hell are outmoded opinions.  But when someone says, “There is nothing after death,” I can’t help but ask, “Do you know that for sure?” How would you know?

Jesus claimed He came from heaven and was headed back there as soon as He died and rose again.  Any thinking person would consider this ludicrous - except that He gave us validating evidence.  As already noted, Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies when He came.  He also said He was coming back. From Him, I would take that very seriously.

How can a loving God send His creatures to hell?  God wanted real people that could know and love Him in return.  He did not want toys.  Although humanity rebelled and we all became sinners, God has made us a real offer to more than remedy the situation, He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

But He cares enough about us that the choice is a real choice, too.  If you do not want Him, you will not have Him.  You are free to spend eternity without God. How can a just God take sinners to heaven?  Christianity is the only belief system that allows Him to be both “just, and the justifier” of those who believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:26).

God sets His standard at perfection and cannot lower it.  But Christ meets the standard and then takes the believing sinner’s place: God “made Him to be sin for us, [the One] who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The claims of the Christian message are unique.  Everyone who has taken God at His word has found the promise true: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). What will you do with Jesus?

Why Christianity Can’t Compete By J. B. Nicholson, JR.

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GOSPEL FOLIO PRESS
P.O. Box, 2041, GRAND RAPIDS, MI 49501-2041.

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