If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, here is something to consider: Do you really believe that Jesus is uniquely different and superior to any other person or belief system? And if so, is it arrogant to think this? Is faith in Christ just another option in the spiritual smorgasbord set before us? What is wrong with someone choosing a different option?
These are questions that need to be thought through as God gives you opportunities to talk with others about Jesus. The Bible is clear about the exclusive claims of Jesus.
One fall, I began a conversation with a student from the University of Central Florida (UCF) at my neighborhood gym. Noticing his accent, I asked him where he was from. He answered that he was from the Middle East. He wore a cross on his neck, so I asked if he was a Christian. He said yes; he’d grown up going to the Catholic Church in his country.
He shared with me about what growing up in that part of the world was like. He told me we don’t realize how good we have it in America. His friends in other Middle Eastern countries live under violence and death. I told him that God used him to remind me of the need to pray for Christians and for the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ in the Middle East.
He looked at me and said very politely that he does not usually talk to people about religion. He mentioned that he comes from a region of the world mainly comprised of people from three religious groups: Jews, Muslims and Christians. These groups share a common history and origin, yet there is hostility and little hope for peace.
He began to say that both the Bible and Koran share many things in common. Some of the same people are mentioned in these holy books and are revered by both faiths (Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus, to name a few).
As he finished, I shared that although this is true, what is said about these people does not always agree. For example, what each faith says about Jesus is radically different. In particular, Muslims believe Jesus to be a prophet but not God in the flesh, whereas Christians believe that Jesus is not only a prophet but the Son of God.
Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, but these are fundamental truths for the Christian faith. He agreed that this was true.
I then told him that I do not like to talk to people about religion either. He gave me a strange look that seemed to say, “Then what have we been talking about?” I told him that to me, religion is centered on man and it focuses on man’s attempts to find approval, gain a right standing or reach God based on his own efforts (for instance, the five pillars of Islam or the baptism of Hindus in the Ganges River to wash away their sins). I told him that Christianity is radically different: it’s not focused on man’s efforts but on God making a way for people to have a relationship with Him.
Then I began to share with him the good news of Jesus and said that all people share these three things in common:
In light of this universal human predicament, God has made a way for the forgiveness of sins and for being made right with Him. In His love, God sent His Son to die for our sins, and whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life (John 3:16).
As I was sharing these points, he was nodding his head in agreement. Yet the conversation shifted on what I said next.
I said that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). At this point, he politely said to me that he did not mean to be rude but he wanted to know what I thought about Buddhism. I said, “Honestly, I don’t know a lot about Buddhism, but any belief system that lays out any other path to God apart from trusting in Jesus Christ is false.”
He then said to me (very politely) this is why there is so much tension in the world: Just like you claimed that Christianity is true, someone else can make the same claim about Buddhism or any other religion.
Then he asked me, "What makes Christianity different?"
I came to the gym for a workout. Yet I found myself in a deep spiritual conversation and in need of God’s help for what to say next.
The first thing that came to mind and out of my mouth was “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” I mentioned to him that there are historical writings, from both biblical and non-biblical sources,¹ that we can look to as evidence for the life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I then told him, although we have historical evidence of Jesus’ life and death, his body has never been found. I then began to share with him why the resurrection of Christ from the dead is reasonable to believe. What follows is what God used me to share as we spoke that night.
Some have argued that the disciples stole the body and hid it. I think that this is highly unlikely. When Jesus was arrested by those sent from the Jewish leaders and turned over to the Roman authorities to be crucified, his disciples scattered from Him (Mark 14:43-50), and the ring leader, Peter, denied that he had been with Him (Mark 14:66-72).
They were cowards who scattered, hid and did not want to be associated with Jesus in His death. Yet, seven weeks later, we find Peter preaching, along with the other disciples, that Jesus was raised by God from the dead in the very city (Jerusalem) where He was condemned to die (Acts 2:14-36). What changed for these men? What turned their fear into courage? The fact that they had hidden a corpse? Or that these men had seen Jesus after He had risen from the dead (Acts 1:3)?
It is reported that 11 of the 12 apostles suffered violent deaths for their preaching of Jesus Christ and not one of them took back or renounced their faith.² It is often said that many people have died for a lie. But how many have died for a lie knowing that it was a lie?
If the disciples had stolen the body, then they would have known that the resurrection was a lie. And you would think if that were the case, at least one of them would have taken back their testimony in the face of extreme torture and violent death.
Persecution and death for preaching Christ was true not only for the 12 apostles but for those who received their teaching. It is difficult to believe that these people would willingly die for Jesus Christ if they knew it was a lie. Thousands of these Christians died because they believed the statements in the Gospels about Jesus. They willingly died as martyrs, refusing to deny their faith in Him. In the face of Jewish and Roman opposition and persecution, Christianity spread all throughout the Roman Empire in 300 short years, and it continues spreading today.
I also mentioned that if the Romans and Jews had known where the body of Jesus was, all they had to do was wheel it down the street on a cart and Christianity would have died right there.
In addition to the resurrection of Jesus, I began to talk with my new friend about the claims Jesus made about Himself. Some people will say that Jesus never claimed to be God, that others made that up. I mentioned to him that Jesus did not come to a culture of people that were ignorant about God. He came to the Jewish people, His chosen people who believed in the existence of one God only. Jesus did and said things that clearly alluded to His deity which was not missed by the religious leaders He interacted with. Here are four examples of this:
He claimed to have the authority to forgive sin, and the religious leaders thought to themselves that He was blaspheming (Mark 2:5-7).
He called God His Father and equated His work with the Father’s, and they tried all the harder to kill Him (John 5:17, 18).
He said that He and the Father are One, and they picked up stones to kill Him because they said He was blaspheming (John 10:30-33).
He said that He would sit at the right hand of the Mighty One and come on the clouds of heaven. They said He was blaspheming, and they condemned Him to death (Mark 14:61-64).
I mentioned that these are just a few of many examples and that Jesus did not leave it open to debate who He is. I reminded him again that Jesus actually said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
At this point, I said that it is not because people proclaim Jesus to be the only way that the world is so messed up. It is messed up because people determine for themselves what is right or wrong with no regard for God. People deny that there is such a thing as truth (which in and of itself is a truth claim), and ignore who Jesus claimed to be, making themselves their own gods. Often, even people who proclaim Jesus as the only way end up acting as if they are their own gods.
People look at every belief system as being just as right as any other, acting like everything is okay until someone else’s beliefs contradict their own. This selfishness leads to disputes, conflicts and wars.³ At this point he interrupted me, saying that he enjoyed our conversation and would like to hear more but he realized that he was running late to meet a friend. With that we shook hands and said goodbye.
When it comes to the real identity of Jesus, the question needs to be asked: “Who is Jesus?” A popular quote from C.S. Lewis talks about the only real options:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – Mere Christianity
Jesus is either Lord of all or He is Lord of nothing. Look at these words of the Apostle Paul found in the book of Philippians:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
Even if you don’t spend a lot of your time at a gym, you may cross paths with someone in your daily life like this student asking an important spiritual question. Understanding what makes Christianity different from other religions can help you have more fruitful discussions. Other religions try to reach God by human efforts, but only Christianity offers the good news of Jesus. Jesus’ death, resurrection and claims of Godhood separate Christianity from all other faiths.
If you’ve ever wondered about this topic yourself or felt unprepared when someone asked you about it, here are some important points to know.
The very nature of God makes Christianity different from any other belief system.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Here are some reasons explaining why Christianity is true.
The amount of evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus make it undeniable that Christianity is true. Jesus is God, and Christianity is majorly different from any other religion because of this fact.
So many things clamor to define you. But as a follower of Christ, your identity can and should be grounded in one thing: who He says you are.
Grace is the promise that you stand forgiven before God if you know Jesus. But what does it mean that God is gracious? How do we receive His grace?
Jesus dying on the Cross is one of the most important parts of His story. Learn why He did it and what it means for you.
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