Religion or Salvation - Which?
PANDITA RAMABAI, the noted Christian leader of India, tells of how she followed the religions of her country during her childhood days and right up until after she was married and had grown to womanhood; and of how they never satisfied.
One day she heard about Christianity, and she said, “That is what I want. Christianity will satisfy the longings of my heart. I will embrace the Christian religion.”
Accepting Christianity, she sailed for England, where she was baptized and later confirmed. She joined a church in England and for eight years lived a most exemplary Christian life.
One night she happened to be listening to a message on the new birth. Never before had she been told that she must be born again, born from above. She was convicted, and right there and then she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Saviour and passed from death and into life.
This is her testimony in her own words: “I found the Christian religion,” she said, “but I did not find the Christ of the religion.” She had embraced Christianity, but she had not accepted Jesus Christ.
For eight years she had lived without Christ, in spite of the fact that outwardly she was a Christian. She discovered at last that Christianity could not save any more than could her own Hindu religion, and that only Christ could.
My friend, I am wondering if you, too, have made the same mistake. You have been brought up in the lap of Christianity. You were taught the precepts of the Christian faith at your mother’s knee. You have never known any other religion.
I wonder if you have passed through the primary department into the Sunday school, and from there to church, without having known Christ? Have you accepted the Christian religion and yet ignored the Saviour? If so, you are not yet a Christian.
I would point you to Christ. If you are relying on Christianity instead of upon Christ for the salvation of your soul, then turn at once to Him, for He alone can save you. Religion will not suffice. You must have Christ.
Let me show you the difference between man’s religion and God’s salvation.
First, religion is what a man does to or for his God; salvation is what God does for man.
Anything that you do for the God you worship constitutes religion. But what God did for you nearly two thousand years ago on Calvary’s cross constitutes salvation.
A man may be a good churchman. He may partake of the sacraments. He may be an officer in the church and a consecrated worker. He may be present at every service. But all this, if it is a basis of salvation, is useless. If he does it with the expectation of being repaid by having salvation bestowed upon him, he is deceived. His faith must not be placed on what he does for God, but rather in what God has done for him.
Second, religion is “do”; salvation is “done.”
Religion says, “Something in my hand I bring.” Salvation says, “Nothing in my hand I bring.” Religion comes with closed hands, bringing an offering to God. It may be prayers, tears, repentance, penance, sacraments, churchgoing, morality, goodness, etc. Salvation comes with open hands, saying, “Just as I am.”
Third, religion consists of rites, forms, ceremonies, precepts, doctrines and teachings. Laws and commandments; salvation consists of the impartation of a new life.
Men are so anxious to perform rites in the church, to go through certain forms and ceremonies, to practice special precepts, to believe the doctrines and endorse the teachings of God’s Word, to obey laws and commandments, while refusing to take their place as sinners, accept the sinner’s Saviour and receive eternal life, divine life, God-life. The Word is very clear, “God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” I John 5: 11,12.
Fourth, in religion blood flows from man to God; in salvation it flows from God to man.
Judaism was a religion. It consisted in sacrifices and offerings. Men brought their gifts to the altar and presented them to God. Thus blood flowed from man to God.
But when it comes to salvation, the Godman gives Himself in sacrifice. God’s blood flowed for man, and man is redeemed because the blood of Christ was shed.
Well now, will you have religion or salvation, Christianity or Christ? It is for you to decide, and your eternal destiny hangs in the balance, Oh, then, choose Christ. Will you do it? Do it and do it – NOW.
Oswald J. Smith