“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” -2 Corinthians 5:17
Christianity involves moral reform. As God works in our hearts, our attitude toward sin changes and we seem to “sin less” than we used to. This is one of the evidences of God working in a life. But don’t other religions offer the same kind of moral change? Doesn’t any religion make you a better, more moral person? What’s the difference between Buddhist morality and Christian repentance?
Repentance is a change of mind. It’s when the entire direction of a life is turned away from the selfish, worldy direction it naturally moves in, and the heart and mind does a 180 and turns to God. A person goes from unbelief to belief, he goes from hating God to loving God, and goes from loving sin to hating sin.
Can people change on their own? sure.
Behavior modification is a hard thing. Just ask anyone who’s tried to quit smoking or go on a diet. But if we really apply ourselves, and abstain from our desires, and create habits we can make changes in our lives. This can be true in a religious sense too. But that isn’t repentance.
The Buddhist meditates, and abstains, and works hard, and pushes themselves, and changes. They become more moral, or study harder, or get healthier based on their fleshly strength. Their still desire the things they give up, but they fight against those desires, until a habit is formed.
But the Bible says “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” -John 6:63. Christian repentance is a work of the Spirit in us. God changes our desires, instead of us fighting against them (that’s not to say we don’t still have sinful desires, but God becomes our central desire). So through a supernatural work, the Christian turns, believes, trusts, and desires holiness.
Instead of the flesh fighting against a man’s will to change, the Holy Spirit is in the believer, fighting against our flesh for us. I’m tempted to say it’s easier than self-improvement. Perhaps more accurately: It’s no longer our work, but God’s. That’s Christianity.
“If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” -Colossians 2:20-23