The essence of the Gospel message of Jesus can be summarized and explained in two words: Receive / Achieve. The order in which they apply to our lives determines whether we are living by Grace or by another world religion.
Every other world religion has some truth somewhere inside of it. There are sound principles, ethical tenets to be mined in all of the major world religious viewpoints. However they depart from Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus in one significant, non-negotiable way. That difference lies in how we find God.
All world religions, except Christianity, will point you into the direction of laws to be kept. In Judaism, it is the 613 Mitzvot (Commandments) derived from the Torah. The basic beliefs of Buddhism tell of The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Islam has its basic Pillars of Truth. By keeping these laws, following these truths and obeying the ways of life prescribed in their religions, followers hope to live a life that will be accepted as worthy so that Heaven or Nirvana will be granted to the believer.
In other words, one must ACHIEVE a level of righteousness by following the rules, laws and regulations of their religion, in hope of being good enough that Allah or Supreme Being will look favorable on their lives and accept them.
Christianity is 100% the opposite. Through the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, the Law is made obsolete and Grace is offered, by definition, as the FREE GIFT of God to all who believe. This is capsulized in the word RECEIVE. God for the sake of His Son Jesus offers followers of Jesus Grace, the free gift of acceptance. Once accepted, once salvation is assured for no other reason than we receive it through Jesus’ then Christians feel gratitude. Gratitude to God then triggers the motivation to live a life of service to God, i.e. ACHIEVE.
To Achieve / Receive is to be enslaved to what is called “works righteousness.” In other words, we must save ourselves through good works. This is fraught with problems. If we are good at keeping the rules, then our characters will tend to be proud of our achievements. If, on the other had, we are “no so much” good at keeping the rules, once we fall, sin, lust, cheat, lie or steal…we are depressed at the prospect of “starting over” in our quest to please God. After awhile, when we continue to fall short, we despair…this despair will crush us and we will walk away from the exercise…and God.
The reason, however, that people like this Achieve / Receive theme is because it strokes our pride and allows us to feel we can “save ourselves” without bending a knee to something greater than ourselves…more on this in later blog posts.