In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Post, comedian Bill Cosby praised the Muslim religion, saying that the world would be better if we all emulated Muslims. Though Mr. Cosby acknowledged that he is a Christian, his comments reveal that he either thinks the Muslim religion is in some ways superior to Christianity or that those who are practicing Muslims are possibly more genuine in their profession. Whatever the reason(s) for his comments, they seem strange to come from a believer in Christ because Jesus Christ is the epitome of life and offers a supreme way of life for all of His followers. Use our vowels for our basis, let’s consider five ways Jesus offers life like no one can or ever will.
A is for abundant. In John 10:10 Jesus says that He came that His sheep may have life and have it abundantly. This kind of life Jesus offers contrasts the effects of the person to whom He refers in the first part of verse, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” This “thief” is the devil whose influence has devastated lives for centuries, ever since the Garden of Eden, when he deceived Eve and sin entered into the world. Jesus is the Son of God and has come from heaven to offer a restored relationship with God by giving His life for guilty sinners like you and me. It’s the “sheep” of Jesus, meaning those that belong to Him, who take part in this abundant life because they have trusted Jesus and His sacrifice on their behalf on the cross. They know that Jesus has indeed come to save them from the devastating effects of the devil and sin, which include death, guilt, shame, despair, fear, bondage. It is through faith in Jesus alone that believers can now enjoy a life of forgiveness, freedom, and joy, as Adam and Eve enjoyed before they sinned against God.
E is for eternal. Later in the same discourse in John 10, Jesus (still speaking of His sheep) says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (verse 28, English Standard Version). This teaches us that eternal life cannot be earned; eternal life is a gift given by Jesus to be received by all of His sheep. This is where there’s a real conflict between Christianity and most other religions. Some religions will teach that heaven can be earned by doing this and that, by saying these prayers or by doing these good deeds; and then other religions teach a universality of everyone going to heaven no matter what people do. Christianity teaches neither, for Christianity teaches that God demands complete obedience; complete adherence to His perfect Law. But even though we are all sinners and have no hope in and of ourselves to earn eternal life, God has mercifully and graciously provided a perfect substitute who has not only lived in perfect obedience to the Law; He has come to bear our sin and death on the cross to give you and me the gift of eternal life. Only Jesus, who is God Himself and the perfect Man, can promise eternal life and make good on that promise.
I is for illuminating. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, ESV). Only Jesus was and is perfect, just as pure light has no darkness in it. If you or I choose to believe in Jesus and choose to follow Him and His commands, Jesus promises that we will not walk in darkness (sin) but have His light. Because Jesus has taken away our darkness and sin at the cross, and He has replaced them with His forgiveness and righteousness, Christians can now choose to walk in His light. The apostle Paul spoke of this when he wrote to some first-century Christians, “for at one time you were darkness but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)” (Ephesians 4:8-9, ESV). Similarly, Jesus once told His followers, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV). Because it is the light of Jesus that believers shine, only believers in Jesus can truly walk as children of light and can let our light shine before others, so that people will see and God will be glorified.
O is for obedient. Jesus promised, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:15, ESV). This “Helper” is the Holy Spirit who helps and empowers the Christian to follow and obey Jesus. All people choose something or someone to obey; either we obey the Lord or we choose to obey our own sinful desires, or the devil, or the ways of the world. To make this point, the apostle Paul once wrote, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16, ESV). As you and I come to know about Jesus and what He has done on the cross to offer each of us forgiveness and life, and this generates a love for Him and His work on our behalf, this will cause a true believer to desire to obey Jesus, to repent from sin, and to follow after righteousness. When we have this desire to obey, then the Holy Spirit is promised to help us believers to follow our true Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.
U is for useful. What makes any real difference in this world? Can we make it by just being nice or kind or by merely thinking of others ahead of ourselves? Is it just being a “good” or “religious” person? No; the truth is that only Jesus makes any real difference in the lives of people because He alone can transform a hopeless and rebellious life headed for death and hell and intervene to save him/her to bring them into God’s eternal kingdom. This is why Jesus told his disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, ESV). You, I, or any Muslim can do many “good” things, but it is only one Person, the Person of Jesus Christ who can impact someone for all eternity. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and He is still doing that today; but today, He is doing it through His Church, which is all of His true believers. As believers in Christ abide in Him, then our acts done in the Spirit of Christ are promised by Christ to endure and bear eternal fruit. A Christian who abides (remains obedient) in Christ, it is that person Christ promises to abide, and that believer will bear much fruit in and for this world.
So instead of taking Mr. Cosby’s advice to emulate Muslims, perhaps a better idea would be for us to emulate Jesus. When you and I who are believers choose to do that, we will show the world the abundant, eternal, illuminating, obedient, and useful life Jesus came to bring all people. We will certainly then bear much fruit in this sick and dying world, and glorify our heavenly Father in the process.