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In other words, if one person is walking west because he/she believes that is what God wants him/her to do, and another person is walking in exactly the opposite direction for the same reason, then both people are right in God's eyes (even if one was totally mistaken in his/her understanding of what God wanted).

By the same token, if two people are walking in exactly the same direction, one could be rewarded for that action by God (because the motive was right) and the other could fall flat on his/her face spiritually (because the motive was wrong).

This means that the most primitive "heathen" in Africa who is walking in all the spiritual light that he or she has, is accepted by God on the basis of his or her faith (even if the actions themselves are wrong). (1 John 1:7)

BB4 08The reason that this is possible is because Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, died an agonising death on the cross of Calvary as payment for all of the heresies in our theology as well as for all of the sins in our lives.Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) And he also said, "Everyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)

Unfortunately, traditional Christianity teaches that faith must be theologically correct before God will honour it. It teaches that a Hindu or Buddhist cannot be saved, because their faith is in gods whom they represent through idols; a Muslim cannot be saved, because, though they worship God the Father, they see God the Son merely as a prophet; and a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness cannot be saved, because, although they say Jesus is the Son of God, their understanding of what this means differs slightly from orthodox Christianity. 

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Yet when it comes to Jews, most evangelical Christians find themselves in a dilemma. Abraham (the father of both Muslims and Jews) is referred to by New Testament writers as the classic illustration of someone who was saved by faith. (Galatians 3:6)

But Abraham had never even heard of Christ. He certainly wasn't "born again" in the traditional way. He wasn't baptised. He had no concept of the Trinity or the resurrection. So how was he saved?

He was saved by the grace of God, which was made available to him through the sacrificial death of Christ. He didn't have to know Christ personally in order to be saved by him. All he needed to do was to have sincere faith in God, and to do his best to obey God.

Galatians 3:6-7

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In his later years, Abraham offered animal sacrifices for his sins, which was symbolic of the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. But the animal sacrifices did not save him. What saved him was his faith in God; and this faith started while he was still living in a pagan country long before Judaism or Islam existed, much less Christianity!

Abraham represents sincere pagans anywhere in the world, who are seeking to serve God to the best of their ability. The Bible says, "When the pagans, who do not have the Bible, do naturally the things taught in the Bible, even though they don't have the Bible as a book, they still have its message in their hearts. And they show this by their actions. Their own conscience leads them, telling them whether they are doing what is right." (Romans 2:14-15)

God's promise to Abraham, that his children would be numberless, was only partially fulfilled in his physical descendants (the Jews and Muslims). In fact, he is the father of people who have faith in God in every country of the world, despite the fact that they may be regarded as "heathens" by theologically "correct" Christians. The Bible says, "Knowing that he would justify the heathen on the basis of their faith, God was (prophetically) preaching this good news to Abraham when he said that he would be the father of many nations." (Galatians 3:8)

Jesus said he had "other sheep which are not of this fold." (John 10:16) The "fold" was the church of his day (Judaism). Jesus said "others" were "sheep" as much as the Jews were.With reference to a Roman (who probably worshipped Roman gods, such as Zeus), Jesus said to the Jews: "Many [like this man] will come from the East and the West and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 8:11)

What a shocking thing to say to the "chosen people"! But it is how the grace of God works. God gives it to whomever he likes; and religion often has little to do with it. (Romans 9:15)

One of the most famous stories in the entire Bible is the story of The Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:30-37) But people often overlook the fact that the hero of the story was a pagan. The Good Samaritan's practical expression of love was given as an illustration of what God is looking for in the people to whom he chooses to give eternal life. (Luke 10:25-29)

Jesus once told a Samaritan woman that her people were off in their theology (John 4:22); but it was in the context of the good news that religious affiliation really proves nothing about a person's right standing in God's eyes now. (John 4:21-24)

This is what distinguishes the New Testament (Christianity) from the Old Testament (Judaism). True Christianity is not a religion in the institutional sense, but rather an invisible "kingdom" of all people of faith in every nation and every age.

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