"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:18-20)
Ever since the fall of Adam, man has been trying to find a way back to God. There is a longing within every person to be back in the image that God created them in. There is a knowledge that there must be something more. The religions of the world are a testimony to this scripture, from the first chapter of Romans, that God has revealed Himself to His creation. But man has devised nearly as many different ways to approach back unto God as there have been people.
The difference between religion and Christianity is, basically, that religion is man's attempt to reach God, and Jesus is God reaching out to man. All the religions of the world fall short of obtaining salvation because they put the burden of salvation on man. They teach that through our adhering to a rigid standard of dos and don'ts, we make ourselves acceptable unto God. But God revealed in James 2:10 that if you keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, you are guilty of all. This is where the religions of the world have missed it. They have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Man cannot save himself; he has to have a savior.
So God sent His Son Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh to condemn sin in the flesh that we might come into right standing with God (Rom. 8:3-4). We are made acceptable to God through who Jesus is and what He did (Eph. 1:6). Jesus said of Himself that He was the only way unto the Father (John 14:6). Peter said in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." God is the only One who could provide salvation for man, through Jesus; and any other attempts to approach unto God, regardless of how sincere they may be, will end in total failure with the result of eternal death.
Most church-going people in America can accept all of this regarding other religions easily. But what many have failed to see is that much of what is called Christianity today is nothing but religion. By that, I mean that many people are going through the motions of Christianity thinking that their observance of Christian virtues will help them obtain salvation. But it is possible to be caught up in the trap of trying to be justified by your church attendance and financial receipts, just as much as the man who burns incense to idols to appease the gods.
Hebrews 5:9 says that Jesus is the author of eternal salvation, therefore His judgement is the only one that counts. Many people trust the fact that their names are on a church roll or that they have "IN GOD WE TRUST" written on their coins, but that's not the standard that Jesus used to administer salvation.
Let's look at an account of Jesus ministering salvation. In Mark 10:17-22, we see an example of a man who really desired to have eternal life. He was actively pursuing it, which is evidenced by the fact that he ran to Jesus and knelt down at His feet. If desire or good intentions could obtain salvation, he would have gotten it. But Jesus, the author of eternal life, didn't accept his conditions. Many people today don't believe that it is really important what you believe. It's just your intentions that count. But this example proves that to be wrong.
This man was seeking the right thing, and he even came to the right Person, but he did a number of things wrong. First, he only acknowledged Jesus as being a good master (verse 17). Jesus answered by saying, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." This rich young ruler was willing to acknowledge that Jesus was good, but he wouldn't go so far as to say He was God. Yet, one of the must crucial elements to salvation is believing that God was manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16).
Every great leader of the different religions of the world has had to recognize the greatness of Jesus, but yet they have rejected His own claims to divinity. When Jesus was questioned by the chief priests, He admitted He was the Christ (Matt. 26:63-64). The chief priests and elders said that He had spoken blasphemy or ascribed divinity to Himself. Jesus had to be more than a good man to be a sacrifice for the whole human race. One man's life is only worth one man's life. But since Jesus was God, His life was worth more than all the people who had lived or ever will live on this earth. This young ruler made the mistake of recognizing Jesus as good, but not as God.
Second, he wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life. He was trying to reach God through his efforts, but he couldn't do enough good. He had sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Many so-called Christians today are doing the same thing. They think that their church attendance or Bible reading, etc., will atone for their sin, but only the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ can cleanse us of our sin. All our efforts fall short. You may live better than someone else, but who wants to be the best sinner who ever went to hell? You need a savior.
Jesus knew this man was incapable of saving himself. He didn't tell him to keep the Old Testament Law so that he could earn salvation. The Law wasn't given so we could keep it but rather to let us see that we have all sinned and need a savior (Rom. 3:19-20). Jesus ministered the Law to this man so that he would see his need and call out to Jesus for help.
The rich young ruler said he had observed all those commandments all his life. According to Romans 3:23, which we already quoted, that wasn't true. Jesus knew that, so He told him to go and sell all that he had, give the money to the poor, and then come and follow Him. This was to show that he had broken the very first commandment, which was, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3). His money was his god, and he proved it because he chose to keep his money rather than obey the Lord.
The third thing he did wrong was that he didn't make Jesus his Lord (ruler and master). He was not willing to make a complete commitment of his life to the control of Jesus. Verse 20 says that Jesus loved him, but Jesus didn't change His standard. Unless a man is willing to make Jesus Lord of all, He can't be Lord at all (in that man's life).
God still hasn't changed His standard. Some churches today tell people just to do their best or join their church, etc., and they'll go to heaven, but that's not so. You have to recognize your complete dependence on Jesus only and make a surrender of your life to Him as Lord. As it says in Romans 10:9, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved."
The commitment to Jesus as Lord of all has to be there. That doesn't mean that you can't ever fall short of that commitment. The Lord is full of mercy, and His love covers a multitude of sins (Prov. 10:12), but regardless of how well you fulfill it, you have to have made the commitment that Jesus is Lord of all.
I accepted the Lord when I was eight years old. I didn't know about healing and the baptism of the Holy Ghost then, so I certainly wasn't letting Jesus rule in those areas. But I truly committed my life totally to Jesus to the extent that I had knowledge, and as God revealed more truth to me, I yielded those areas too. I've balked temporarily at things He's shown me, but because I made Jesus Lord, He has always won out. Praise the Lord!
If you have never made Jesus the Lord of your life, just pray this simple prayer with me and mean it with all of your heart, and you shall be saved:
"Father, I recognize that I am totally dependent on You to save me. I accept Jesus' sacrifice as payment for my sins and make Him the Lord of my life. I believe that Jesus is alive from the dead and now living in me. I am saved! Praise God! I am saved!"