Religion is a system of belief that connects people to their deities. If you look at the world there are many forms of religions. Even though you see thousands of religions on the surface, in fact, there are only two distinct religions in the world: that is the true religion of God and the false religion of Satan in various forms (1 Corinthians 8:5-6; 1 Corinthians 10:20; 1 Timothy 4:1). These two religions have two philosophies and two assurances leading to two different ultimate destinations. Christianity is the only true religion that leads men to heaven while all the other religions of the world lead men to hell.
If I were not a Christian, and if I were to ask a question from several different Christians, “what does Christianity offer to me? Why should I become a Christian, and not a Hindu or Buddhist?” I would expect to receive so many different answers for sure. Among all these answers, a common presentation of Christianity today is that it offers health, wealth, success, peace of mind, a certain level of tranquility, a better job, a better career, a better marriage, the fulfillment of your dreams and all the other perks in this world. Is that what true Christianity offers?
What does Christianity offer to me?
There is widespread confusion concerning the presentation of true Christianity. What’s in it for me? From ages, people have complicated what seems to be a very simple answer to this question. The simple, straightforward and biblically accurate answer is, it offers Christ and His works. The supreme theme of the scripture is Christ. If you have Christ, you have everything; and if you don’t, you have nothing. Paul sums up the significance of having Christ, “By the works of God you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).
The true Christian message is simple, and it has only one message. The message is, you can receive all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies (Ephesians 1:3), you can receive everything you need for living a godly life (2 Peter 1:3) through the relationship with Christ. To become a Christian, all you need is Christ. “In Him, you have been made complete” (1 Col. 2:10).
Instead of that truth, what we hear every day is all kinds of unbiblical presentations of the gospel by many people and groups. They tell that to be a true Christian, you need a lot more than just Jesus Christ. All these presentations undermine the person and works of Christ. Any message that diminishes Christ and His works is a perverted presentation; it is another gospel, a false gospel propagated by Satan and demons.
When we look at Paul’s letter to the Colossians we find FOUR types of attacks to the true gospel. There was some teaching about the insufficiency in Christ that prompted the apostle Paul to write this letter. Nothing has changed today. Satan had been using the same tactics to pervert the truth from inception. (Note: I am using Colossians chapter 2 in this discussion.)
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
This refers to human wisdom. Here, Paul calls to vigilance and to affirm the sufficiency of Christ. All you need is Christ. The philosophers of the world tend to look at Christians who believe the true gospel as ignorant, and unsophisticated fools. A frequent comment I receive from others is that I am very narrow-minded, I am a fundamentalist, I am limited only to the Bible, I need to go beyond the scripture to know God and know the truth. “You are so biblical; you bring up the bible for everything!”. Yet this was what Paul did––I resolved to know nothing among you except Christ crucified.
The truth is that we possess all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ (v2,3). We spend our time studying the Word of God. Worldly wisdom adds absolutely nothing. Here is God’s own commentary on the uselessness of human philosophy: “Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:20-21).
We do not need Christ plus human wisdom to receive all things necessary for life and godliness. Paul sternly warns the believer not to be intimidated by the attacks from human efforts to discredit the scripture. Trying to find God through human wisdom is a futile effort of the degenerated mind.
Christ is all we need. In Him, we receive:
- Complete salvation (v11, 12)
- Complete forgiveness (v13, 14)
- Complete victory over Satan (v15)
So, what’s in it for you in Christianity? Through the true gospel, Christianity offers transformation from death to life, the forgiveness of all your sins, and complete victory over the hosts of hell. The false gospel based on human traditions and human wisdom cannot offer these things.
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Here Paul tells Christians not to be intimidated by anyone’s spiritual verdicts on your life based on what you eat and drink. Legalism is a big problem even in bible preaching churches. It restricts the freedom that the gospel gives by binding the believers’ life to man-made practices and rules. You do not have to commit to a religion of human achievement to become a Christian. Obeying God’s rules is obedience, but submission to man-made rules is legalism. When you come to Christ you will be given the capacity to obey God’s holy law by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.
Christians do not need to be subscribed to a legalistic system. It would be ridiculous to imagine that Christ has opened the gate of our prison, set us free, only to put us in another cell. There are people who want to judge others’ spirituality on external things: what they eat, what they drink, what they do, whether they attend prayer meetings, whether they join the bible study group. When they see a person with a cigarette or taking a glass of wine or a beer, they immediately pass the judgment. This is not the standard to evaluate spirituality. There are people who conform to all externals but not related to Christ. Spirituality is not a game that plays outside, it’s something that happens inside.
Legalism is the attitude that says true spirituality is based on external behaviors. It tries to achieve righteousness before God by doing or not doing some external things. This is a misunderstanding of God’s righteousness. “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Do not restrict your liberty in Christ for the sake of false teaching. There are instances that I should restrict my liberty; for the benefit of a weaker brother (Romans 14:21, 1 Cor 8:13) or for the sake of unsaved people in my community who could be offended (Acts 15).
In the Old Testament, you find certain God-given restrictions pertaining to eating and drinking. Eg. Leviticus 10:9 (for priests), Numbers 6:3 (Nazarite vow), Judges 13:4 (Samson), etc. There were unique purposes in those situations in the Old Testament laws, but in the new covenant, those laws were set aside. In Mark 7, v15 you will find the first statement where Jesus abolished these laws. Further illustrations are given in Acts 10 and 15. “The kingdom of God is not food and drink, but righteousness, and joy, and peace in the Holy Spirit’ (Romans 14:17). If you re-establish what God has abolished, they become manmade rituals.
So, what’s in it for you in Christianity? Through the true gospel, Christianity offers freedom from manmade rituals. Your spirituality is not a matter of external ritual, but a matter of the internal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.”
In simple terms, mysticism is a deeper spiritual experience based on some personal intuition. There are people who claimed to have a higher, and a deeper, and a greater mystical union with God. They are puffed up in their mind, and say, if you don’t have such experience, or if you haven’t reached that level, you are sort of a second-class Christian; you are disqualified from attaining the full blessings that are available to Christians; you haven’t received the best from God. You need Christ plus higher experience with spirits, and visions, etc. Now, Paul says, “Christ is enough. Do not let anyone keep defrauding you of your prize.”
This is a heresy that plagues the church for many years. There were people who approached me and said, “If you haven’t had the baptism, and if you don’t speak in tongues, you haven’t reached the next level.” According to scripture, I have received all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Christ is the head and I am connected to Him; He provides everything, and I am not missing the prize. I am not a second-class Christian because of a lack of some ‘higher’ experience. I do not need to have such mystical experiences or need a ‘second blessing’ to be a first-class Christian. “I resolved to know nothing except Jesus and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). That sums up the entirety of the Christian faith. All I need is Christ revealed in Scripture.
So, what’s in it for you in Christianity? Through the true gospel, Christianity offers crucified Christ plus nothing. You do not need to add to it any special revelation, or visions, or any mystical experience.
This refers to a life of rigorous self-denial or rigid abstinence. This is another heresy still being preached in many churches. “If you want to be holy, if you want to be a Christian, you must totally abstain from certain things”. I’ve heard these kinds of advocations enough in my life. If I died with Christ, why I should subject to the elemental human regulations?
This is a form of teaching that suggests human achievement as a means of earning favor from God. You pretty much become a monk. Eat rice and curry, drink water and coffee for the rest of your life, wear the same clothes and shoes, and drive an old car. No parties, social life, luxury vehicles, or big fancy houses. You should not enter into love relationships and you must dump your girlfriend or boyfriend, you cannot marry until a certain age -“Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle”. These are all foolish attempts to add something to Christ. Such restriction may seem wise, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they do not have any value in curbing self-indulgence.
Christians are not called to live a monastic lifestyle to achieve spirituality. There is nothing wrong with living a simple life if that’s where God has called you. God hasn’t called everyone to live that way. If God chooses to bless you with wealth as He did to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job, it does not disqualify you. The commandment for them is not to be arrogant or put their hope in the wealth, but to enjoy God’s provision, and be generous in sharing with others (1 Tim 6:17). It is not Christ plus poverty, or Christ plus total abstinence from certain things that determine your spirituality. It is Christ plus nothing.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1). Live as free men, but do not use your freedom to cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves (1 Peter 2:16). Christians have an imperishable inheritance in Jesus Christ that is sufficient for all their needs. So, they do not have to live in unnecessary, self-imposed deprivation, and neglecting the abundant resources that are rightfully theirs to enjoy in Christ.
So, what’s in it for you in Christianity? Through the true gospel, Christianity offers freedom in Christ. You do not have to throw away what you own, be poor, and start living in self-denial. Don’t be intimidated by any such speeches.
The true Christian gospel offers Christ only. In Him, you will have complete salvation, complete forgiveness, complete victory, complete freedom, and complete sufficiency. To have Him is to have everything. Not to have Him is to have nothing. Do not be eager to pile up junk of human precepts and teachings that perish at the end. Instead, define your life by the biblical precepts, desire to know Christ, serve Christ, worship Christ, and imitate His character through your life.
Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. R.C. Sproul
Our Sufficiency in Christ, By John MacArthur