I overheard this conversation the other day: ”I feel like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam basically worship the same God.”
We are now in the “I feel” generation – where reference to truth and facts don’t matter as much as your emotional response to them. If you want to understand the difference between the major 3 monotheistic religions – the defining trait that distinguishes and separates Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – look to how each addresses the character and nature of Jesus Christ.
The appeasing lie that “we all believe in the same God” is the general rallying cry of universalists who want to accept all beliefs instead of choosing one. The challenge is that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all mutually exclusive in their nature. A basic understanding of these faiths will highlight the glaring contradictions that do not allow for a logical acceptance of a universalist outlook.
If someone asks you what differentiates Christians from the other major religions the answer is: Jesus.
Identity of Jesus
Jesus as the good teacher
- a Jew can say Jesus was a moral teacher, but can’t call Jesus a prophet or Lord
Jesus as the prophet
- a Muslim can say Jesus was a teacher, and a prophet, but can’t call Jesus Lord
Jesus as the Lord and Savior
- Christians say Jesus is Lord and Savior. He is the Son of God who sacrificed His life to redeem us from Sin and offer us the gift of Grace and eternal life.
But who does Jesus say that he is?
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16-17
“Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He doesn’t come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 5:23
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40
“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:7-9
CS Lewis sums up the discussion up in Mere Christianity stating that Jesus can either be one of three things – liar, lunatic, or Lord.
I’ll give a recap of what he captured in his explanation.
Liar: Jesus made a lot of claims about being divine that he knew were not true.
Lunatic: Jesus made a lot of claims about being divine that he believed were true, but they are not true.
Lord: Jesus made a lot of claims about being divine that he knew were true, because those claims are true.
First chose one of these characterizations for Jesus – then revisit the earlier roles: teacher, prophet, Lord.
If he was a liar then he is not a credible teacher because the majority of his claims and basis for his teachings are lies.
If he was a lunatic then he is not a prophet. Prophets speak the true words of God. You cannot claim he spoke the inspired word of God, yet also claim he spoke falsely. A false prophet is not a prophet.
If Jesus is Lord then all holds true. He spoke the Word of God in truth because He was God.
Any attempts to celebrate Jesus without identifying and accepting his nature as holy, divine, and triune with the Father and Holy Spirit suffers an internal contradiction.
This brings us back to the God we worship. God revealed to us that Jesus is the Son of God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father, and that Jesus gave his life as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
We’ve seen Jesus claim his identity, but who does God the Father say Jesus is?
At Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan river by John the Baptist, God the Father revealed the identity of Jesus:
And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 5:17
And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:11
Now when all people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22
At the transfiguration of Jesus, when Moses and Elijah appeared before the 3 apostles gathered with Jesus, God the Father revealed the true identity and nature of Jesus:
[Peter] was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the could said, “This is my beloved Son, with who I am well pleased; listen to him.” Matthew 17:5-6
And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud , “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Mark 9:7
And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listens to him!” Luke 9:35
After God revealed more of His true nature to us, denying his Word and still attempting to Worship Him would not be true recognition of God, but instead worship focused on our own creation. He spoke through the prophets to prepare the people for the of the coming Messiah. God says I am the living God. Jesus is my Son who I sent as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins. He conquered death and now I send the Holy Spirit to those who believe and follow Me.
If we refuse to accept God as He has revealed Himself to us, then we refuse to w orship Him. That is a denial and redefinition of God, not based in His Word. As much as we want to be open and accepting of all people – we can’t compromise our faith. Denying God to please the world is not a sacrifice we should be willing to make as Christians.