In my previous article about the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ, I intended to respond to a brother from Tanzania who wrote to me asking about the character and work of Christ that sets Him apart, and why we ought to follow Him. In response I delighted in writing a series of articles addressing this question that may prove helpful for many. These articles will not be exhaustive, but I hope they will stir up serious thought, that culminates in a personal relationship with Christ as Lord and Savior.
I had mentioned how Holiness (Purity) and Love set Christ apart. In this article, I hope to explore the offer of forgiveness He alone provides us through the cross, as well as His claims. As with the first article, I pray that you may be challenged to begin a personal obedient relationship with Christ. May this not merely be a mental exercise that puffs up, but life and faith to you. This Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God-Man stands alone in the whole universe in everything.
The Forgiveness He alone offers.
Each one of us needs forgiveness. We know it. We blow it every day and need to be forgiven. we don’t just long for a statement ‘I forgive you’, but the restoration of peace in our hearts, of knowing that we are right with God and with each other. This forgiveness is not abstract.
The cross of Christ not only demonstrates a purity of life lived, or God’s love towards us, but also the forgiveness we obtain from God because of Christ’s sacrifice. We noticed that on the cross, amidst the greatest agony, Christ reached out to His enemies with forgiveness (Luke 23:34).
For this reason, only Christianity provides ground for forgiveness and mercy. I am not saying that non-Christians cannot forgive. What I am saying is, that only Christianity provides a satisfactory basis for forgiveness. Islam cannot account for forgiveness. What is going on in the middle east is a philosophy of unforgiveness, where Allah rewards those who kill infidels. Islam as a philosophy is devoid of personal forgiveness, and that is why it is built on human merits. In Islam you must work your way to heaven, as you make sure that your good works outweigh your sins. That is because your sins never go away, but are kept for weighing on the last day. Allah sets an example in Islam as one who doesn’t forgive, but Christ reveals the God who forgives our iniquities (Ps 99:8, 13:3). Buddhism, Hinduism, Pantheism, Polytheism are all built on the philosophy of human works.
Christ alone offers forgiveness. Those who follow Him know for sure that their sins are forgiven them, eternally, never to be counted on them. For in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:14). He died to put us right with God. Christianity reverses the order of every other religion. Other religions say ‘do more good than bad, and perhaps God will let you into paradise’; while Christianity says ‘you have been accepted wholly apart from what you have done. Your sins are all forgiven, you have been born again now go and live a life of obedience to Christ’.
To borrow Stuart Townend’s lines again;
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.
Relationships grow only in the environment of forgiveness. A family built on unconditional forgiveness lasts. But that family that is based on weighing the good against the bad shall be sure to crumble under the weight of our imperfections.
His unique claims
If you asked Buddha whether he thought he was God, he would say no. In fact Buddhism doesn’t claim a transcendent reality beyond matter. Christ made claims, audacious claims that if true means He is God, and if not, He is a lunatic. He claimed to be God, to be the Messiah that Israel was waiting for. He claimed oneness with God.
There is no founder of any religion who claimed to be God. Christ did, and demonstrated supremacy over the powers of darkness, healing the sick and forgiving sins, even raising the dead. No one in history ever walked like Him. His enemies exclaimed that no one ever talked like Him. His disciples called Him Lord and God, and He was worshiped as such.
His simplicity of life attracted the sinners and the poor. The rich and learned envied Him, the masses were glad to meet Him. But amidst all this He made more claims like;
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Christ claimed exclusivity to life, to God and truth. He says that you either follow Him or perish, there is no middle road. It’s either all of Him or no life, no truth, no hope, no forgiveness. He is the absolute. He is God. And this is why He was killed anyway. And yet even after His death (which was for our redemption, as mentioned before), He still demonstrated His divinity by resurrecting from the dead. His empty grave silenced His critics, and triumphed over Satan eternally and provided the foundation for our hope.
You and I have to choose whether to accept or reject Him. We cannot go on living on the fence forever. As I mentioned, Jesus is a uniting figure as well as a divisive One, who has come, in His words, to ‘send fire on the earth’ (Luke 12:49). Because He divides, everyone eventually falls either on His side or against Him. As C. S. Lewis remarked in his ‘Mere Christianity’;
“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.”
What is your decision? Shall you embrace Him as Lord or reject Him as liar? Your choice determines a lot. It determines everything; the meaning of life, how you live and where you will spend your eternity.