- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

The following is an excerpt from a recent sermon preached by Pastor Tony Ghareeb at the Arabic Bible Baptist Church in Fairfax Station.

Why is Christianity different from other religions?

Nearly all religions claim that our good deeds and efforts is the way to restore our relationship with God and that God will ignore our breaking His moral laws as long as we try our best. Christianity says that our good works cannot erase our bad moralistic choices. It does not matter what good things we have done in our lives; God cannot simply ignore our crimes against Him. We will be found guilty, despite our good works. Only Christianity claims that our sins must be eliminated in order for us to be acceptable to God.

The promises of God that He would atone for our sins are found through the Bible. If He is to forgive the sinner, there must be a reason for forgiveness that will also satisfy His justice. The Bible insists that God is just and His justice demands the punishment of the sinner: “The wages of sin is death.” Therefore, the only way out for man is either to die eternally, or be reconciled through His atonement.

God revealed that the way for mankind to approach Him is through sacrifice. He said: “Without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). The practice of sacrifice to cover sin began with the first humans. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, it was God who covered their nakedness by slaying an animal (Genesis 4:4). Adam’s family was taught to approach God through a particular way — the sacrifice of animals. Later, God only accepted the sacrifice of Abel and not of Cain, because Cain’s sacrifice did not meet God’s requirements.

This pattern also is illustrated by Abraham’s offering his son as a sacrifice (Genesis 22:1-14), but in time, God provided a ram to be sacrificed instead. When we look at this story, the sacrifice is seen as a substitute for Abraham’s son. Another example is the Passover lamb: Moses commanded the Israelites to take a perfect animal, slaughter it and sprinkle its blood at the doorsteps of their house so the angel of the Lord will not slay their firstborn. God would accept the animal’s death in place of the death of the sinner. He accepted such sacrifices because they symbolized the sacrifice He was going to provide for the whole of mankind.

How can an animal be a substitute for a human when we are of much greater value than any animal? The animal did not take away sin; it was merely a symbol that foreshadowed what was to come. God permitted such a situation until the perfect sacrifice would be offered for all sin.

God Himself provided a means of eliminating our sins against Him. However, the elimination of sins is not automatic, and since God will allow people into His presence after death, they must agree to His terms. The terms of the contract are executed through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to eliminate our sins. By accepting God’s terms, our sins are erased, and we, therefore, can stand in the presence of God without any sin. Those who do not accept God’s terms will be judged on the basis of God’s laws: They will be found guilty.

Jesus said He is the only way to God and that all people must follow Him to enter heaven. All other religions teach that it is man’s attempt to become acceptable to God, but only Christianity says that God alone provides the only means to be acceptable to Him.

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