(This is the second in a series of blog posts inspired by The Chosen, a multi-season series about the life of Jesus and His followers. Each post will highlight a quote sourced from Season 1. For the first post, see Chosen Reflections: I Have Called You By Name.)
Chosen Reflections: The Difference
Religion or relationship?
That’s often the comparison used to differentiate between Christianity and all other religious belief systems. Apart from Christianity, all other religions promote a path to salvation based on following a list of dos and don’ts. If I do this, I gain heaven; if I do that, I lose heaven. But the foundation of Christianity is intimate trust in Jesus Christ, who provided the gift of salvation to us: a relationship.
Lots of people identify as Christians who are not really Christians. Think about it. You may have been raised in a family that attended church on Christmas and Easter. Or you may have completed a form in a hospital that asked your religion. As you looked at the options, you pass Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, and checked the box marked Christian because the others didn’t fit. Or maybe you attend church each week because it’s expected of you.
But attending church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car. And that brings us back to the difference a relationship makes.
When we claim to be a Christian without having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Christianity becomes a label without life change. We’re no different than the rest of the world. Our fears are the same. Our words are the same. And our behavior is the same. Then we wonder why people are not persuaded by the gospel message.
Why should they be persuaded if the gospel doesn’t offer them something different from what they already have? If they don’t attend church or read the Bible, then all they know of Christianity comes from what they see in you and me. Do they see a difference?
In The Chosen’s second episode of season one (“Shabbat”), Mary Magdalene tries to explain the change that occurred in her. She tells Nicodemus, “I was one way, and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between . . . was Him.”
A person made the difference. A person she now had relationship with. The same person who extends the invitation for relationship to us today.
What is this difference? The Bible tells us it’s not just being made better, it’s being made brand new: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17 ESV).
And this difference is manifested in a variety of ways, including:
- We no longer fear death.
“Jesus said . . . “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25 ESV).
- We are quick to forgive others because we’re aware of how much we’ve been forgiven.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32 ESV).
- Our new life no longer accommodates the sins that once controlled us.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry . . . You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived” (Col. 3:5, 7 NIV).
- We have a new motive for our actions.
“Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16:14 NIV).
- We care enough about others that we pray for them.
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people” (1 Tim. 2:1 NIV)
- Fear is replaced with love and self-control.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7 ESV).
- Our affections and priorities are set on eternal things, not on our temporary world.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world” (1 Jn. 2:15 NIV).
All these verses can be summed up in one sentence. “I was one way, and now I am completely different. And the thing that happened in between . . . was Him.”
Is this your declaration? What does the difference look like in your life?