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Most Religions are Alike…

April 23, 2013

…in the sense that all religious people are pursuing the same main goals – 1) they want to please God and 2) they want to have their sin debt paid.[1]

What are you doing in your religion to get your sin debt paid?

When I recently asked a religious person this question he started going into great detail to explain to me how he tries to obtain forgiveness on a regular basis and to maintain as much as possible a state of perfection.  I asked when he could know that his sin debt had been paid and that he was headed for heaven when he died, and he said he could never know that.  He had just been to church and had prayed and asked for forgiveness for everything up to that point, but he could not know if he was clean right then because he might have sinned in his thoughts since that prayer.

This opened up the perfect opportunity for me to share why I believe something different.  The Bible says we can KNOW that we have eternal life [2].  We can have assurance that we are going to heaven.  Not because we have achieved a level of perfection by our own effort, but because God has provided the ultimate sacrifice for sins.  We are trusting in the Lamb of God who was the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.

When I got done sharing the beautiful good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ he was very quiet and thoughtful and said, “You mean all I have to do is believe Jesus Christ died for our sins and that’s it?  I’m clean?”

The gospel is so beautiful and simple and such GOOD news.  The gospel proclaims “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” (Luke 2:14).  Religious people are working so hard to save themselves and the great message of the gospel is that God saves sinners.  This is a message of hope and peace and freedom and victory over death.  The gospel centers completely on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  God promised to send a Savior to pay our sin debt and that is exactly what has been accomplished.  We simply need to believe and receive this free gift.  Then go out and proclaim this great news to people who are in bondage to man-made religions and are terrified of dying because they are failing to achieve a state of perfection by their own effort.

“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel. For He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us…as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began…to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we…might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life…to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:68-79).

References:

1. Any-3: Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime by Mike Shipman

2. John 3:36, 4:1-6, 4:25, 5:24, 8:14-17; Acts 10:43; Rom. 5:1, 8:1; Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 2:13; 1 John 5:11-13.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. Seth R. permalink
    April 23, 2013 7:41 pm

    Sigh….

    OK… what do I have to DO to “believe in Jesus Christ?”

    We’ve been over this ground before Jessica.

    The Gospel is good news. But the news is more than just “Jesus forgave you.”

    The message is also that Jesus has redeemed you and it will be SHOWN in your life by you becoming more and more holy. We can’t forget the second part.

  2. April 23, 2013 8:04 pm

    Hi Seth, Thanks for your comment. I agree that a person who has understood and received the gospel will manifest evidence of a life transformed by the Spirit of God and should be progressing in sanctification. But that’s a separate issue than the point of the post. This post is talking about what religious people are ultimately trusting in for their salvation. The example I gave is someone who was trusting in himself for his salvation. His salvation was entirely dependent on whether or not he had just asked for forgiveness and had been able to refrain from sinning for one minute in his thought-life since his latest prayer for forgiveness. Because he was an honest sinner he saw that this was impossible and therefore he had no assurance of salvation.

  3. April 23, 2013 8:37 pm

    Your perspective is interesting; nevertheless, I agree with Seth. People often just sit and take for granted that they just have to do the basic necessities to be considered “religious”. For example, believe, confess, pray, and go to church. As I was always taught, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian/religious/a believer, just like sitting in a garage doesn’t make you a car.” Salvation is free, but we have to put forth some effort because it is earned.

  4. April 23, 2013 9:49 pm

    opinionatedchristian, I want to make sure I understand what you are saying. What part of salvation is earned, who earns it, and how do they earn it? How is salvation both free and earned?

  5. Seth R. permalink
    April 24, 2013 2:21 pm

    It’s an impossible question.

    There has to be a human element of the equation. I have no problem with salvation being a free gift whatsoever. But I do have a problem with making salvation philosophically free in some absolutist sense – as if there was nothing the human subject was doing at all.

    The human has to be doing something. Or the whole thing is senseless and meaningless.

  6. JRSG permalink
    May 1, 2013 9:22 pm

    Jessica,
    Been reading your site for a while now. I do not agree with all that you say, and sometimes how you say it. I DO appreciate the fact that you seem to want dialogue and discussion.
    I was on another Evangelical site and asked a very honest question. I was answered with mockery, and no one answered the question. The people on the site also made false blanket statements about LDS people and would not put up my comments to debunk what they said. Which tells me they do not want LDS people on their site, they don’t want honest discussion, they just want to spread lies. There are many anti-Mormon sites like that, full of bullies, and resort to name calling.

    Thank you for being more nice than the rest.

  7. May 1, 2013 10:18 pm

    Thank you, JRSG. I look forward to future discussions. I haven’t been spending much time on this blog since I’ve been busy with other things and was living overseas for the past couple years, but if you have any ideas for discussion topics I’m open to suggestions. Thanks!

  8. May 6, 2013 10:24 pm

    Hi Jessica,
    I became interested in your site after I visited Temple Square last year and began to investigate the Morman belief. I was impressed with your ability to handle the negative comments gracefully. I believe in Christ’s one-time payment for all of my sins- past, present, future. I understand why this is a hard thing for some to accept when they see many Christians proclaiming religion, but see no evidence of a relationship with Christ by the way they live. Even though I do not believe I had to “work” for my salvation, I do believe that I had to repent, or turn in a different direction from the way I lived before, and ask Christ to come into my heart. (mind) When I did that, the Holy Spirit immediately took up residency in me. Even though I believe I cannot lose my salvation, I do believe I can lose the relationship with Him if I refuse to give up my sinful, natural nature and allow HIm to live daily through me. In order to understand what IS a relationship with God, I have to study His word, the Bible. I also have to communicate with HIm through prayer and allow HIm to call to my attention those things I need to correct on a daily basis. These are things that sound easy but are in fact are totally contrary to the way humans think. IF one decides they can “fool” God into salvation and then live whatever way they feel like in order to receive eternal life, they are only fooling themselves.

  9. May 11, 2013 8:28 pm

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks for your comment. I totally agree. And, actually, it’s my own immense gratitude for my gift of salvation (so full and free) that motivates me to want to serve God and to want to share about His salvation with others. I think when we meditate on the truth of what He has done for us our humble response should be to hand our entire life over to Him and say, “I have nothing to offer you in exchange for this gift I could never earn and never deserve, but here I am – take all of me, my life is yours, use it for your glory and kingdom.”

  10. June 24, 2013 8:43 pm

    Hello. I am LDS (Mormon). I do believe that salvation is a gift from Jesus Christ, meaning we will all be resurrected (salvation from death) as he was. We do nothing to earn this. But beyond the gift of resurrection, entrance into heaven requires us to DO something. We are required to repent, forgive, love, serve, be faithful, honor, emulate Christ, be baptized, and spread his gospel. Yet with all that, we will fall short and thus we need Christ’s atonement (his grace) wherein he paid the price for our sins and suffering. So, bottom line, we do our best, and he does the rest.
    He did for us what we cannot do for ourselves, hence he is our eternal Savior. Everyone will have a chance to accept him and his gospel, whether in this life, or in the next. We are all children of God, and like any loving earthly parent, he does everything possible for his children’s success. It’s a wonderful and comforting message. I have known it all my life and am so grateful.
    Btw, thank you for a kind and respectful blog. I have seen a lot of rudeness online, particularly from Evangelical Christians sad to say, and your friendliness is refreshing and appreciated.

  11. Seth R. permalink
    June 24, 2013 11:00 pm

    Brenda, I think, as Mormons, we need to be careful what we define as “heaven.”

    Strictly speaking – “heaven” includes the Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms – since all three are “kingdoms of glory”, and as such – heaven.

    Exaltation is only in the Celestial Kingdom, but “heaven” is all three.

  12. February 16, 2014 2:43 am

    Visit We Will Stand http://wws.mahjestic.com/ – Posts in Portuguese and English =)

  13. May 8, 2014 1:15 am

    U love Mormons…I love la

  14. September 18, 2014 5:38 pm

    Do you still check this blog, Jessica? I ran across it quite by accident, specifically this blog post.

    I disagree (with Brenda) that we do our best and then the Savior makes up the rest. Even though this issue gets confused in the LDS church sometimes, due to multiple scriptures about faith requiring works (“faith without works is dead”). But the Savior does make UP the difference, He makes ALL the difference.

    We believe in Grace and that we’ve been saved by it. Fully, absolutely. I’m not doing ANYTHING to get my sin debt paid beyond acting on the Atonement provided to me; the sin debt was already paid for every single one of us, whether or not we participate in its healing, cleansing powers.

    Our being anxiously engaged in good works is not a way of earning Heaven, it’s a way of learning about and being prepared to live in Heaven.

    I love what you said to Seth about being an “honest” sinner. We are all sinners, and it’s by being honest sinners that we rely on the Atonement to come closer to the Savior, not to earn a place in heaven, but to grow spiritually and with the Savior’s help every single step of the way (not His help after all we’ve done).

    Anyhoo, I think it’s sweet that you love the Mormons. And I haven’t read all your posts except this one, but I did peruse the one about your mormon dermatologist, and was a bit surprised that for how well you seem to understand the mormon church, that you think we worship Joseph Smith rather than Christ. We do not worship Joseph Smith, though we feel great gratitude for his role in restoring God’s church on the earth. We worship God & Jesus Christ.

  15. September 18, 2014 5:48 pm

    p.s. I love this: “I think when we meditate on the truth of what He has done for us our humble response should be to hand our entire life over to Him and say, “I have nothing to offer you in exchange for this gift I could never earn and never deserve, but here I am – take all of me, my life is yours, use it for your glory and kingdom.”

    I think it really helps describe the “why” we do work so hard to better ourselves and spiritually grow. Not because we are “earning” that salvation (which is indeed free and already paid for), but out of humility & gratitude for the gift that we can never repay, and of giving back the other greatest give we’ve been given; agency. When we turn over our will to God, we’re saying, “You gave me this agency, and I’m willingly foregoing it in order to give it to Thee and Thy glory & Thy kingdom.”

  16. Mark S permalink
    February 16, 2015 12:41 am

    I too love LDS’s. As a Christian with a “reformed” theology, I believe I am saved by grace (God’s favor gifted to me because Jesus accomplished all that is necessary for me, and I am unable to merit that gift). I recall the bible verse that states we must be perfect just as our Father in Heaven is perfect. I believe most LDS’s would agree that we must thus be that perfect, and that seems to be what they are being taught and encouraged to do by their church. Problem is, I believe it’s impossible based on what the bible also teaches. Trying hard to please God is what a loving child does for his or her loving father. If that father is unconditionally loving, the failures of that son or daughter do not cause that father to stop loving. Yet, our heavenly Father doesn’t lie in his word, we must be perfect. Therefore, Jesus lives a perfect life and then suffers and dies (our deserved punishment for our imperfection) in our place and offers that to His Father in exchange for us suffering that deserved punishment. But it wasn’t just Jesus’ physical suffering and death that He accomplished. Bearing the sins of the world, He suffered the true punishment of our sins by experiencing a break in His relationship with His heavenly Father.

    We can discuss the meaning of “accepting” Jesus, acquiring faith, and just how to understand the contrasts between some’s said faith and a life that doesn’t seem to fit their “christian” label. But I believe Jesus accomplished it all, we can’t accomplish any of it. I am thrilled deep in my self by this knowledge, preserved in the bible and in the bible alone. I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but you might say it’s a burning in my bossom experience.

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