What is the Way to Eternal Life?

What does Christianity teach about the way to eternal life that is different from other religions?

Isn’t Christianity at its core the same as other religions?  If you could put it in a pot and boil it down,  wouldn’t the remainder smell, look and taste the same  as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and the rest?  What is religion?  Just as we refer to our minds as being thoughts and ideas  beyond the electrical impulses of our physical brain, the major religions propose that the human’s true essence is their soul  instead of their physical body. But just like our physical bodies,  the soul also has needs or it will starve.  Each religion proposes to be a guidebook of that spiritual plane  that helps lead our starving souls to soul bread.  Aren’t these guidebooks all the same?  

The historical Jesus of Nazareth told a story about a father, two sons and a family business.  It was custom that the sons would split the business when their father died.  but the younger son said to his father, “I can’t wait for you to die!”  “Give me my money now!” Seeing his son’s true heart, the father gave it up to him. The son turned his back to his family and hit the road  far away. He partied like an animal, eating and drinking and paying prostitutes  until suddenly his pockets were empty. In desperation, he found a job feeding pigs.  But the country’s economy crashed and he couldn’t even make enough to feed himself. Now broke and starving, he found himself craving the pig’s slop when it suddenly hit him that there was probably food back home.  What do you think?  Should this father let him back into the house?  As long as the son works hard to pay his father back, then he should be able to  get a place at the family table again, right?  Let’s see how Jesus ended this story.  

The son decided to return, admit his wrong and ask his father for a minimum-wage job  but still away from home, his father spotted him  and ran out to him and wrapped him in a bear hug  Remorseful, the son began his plea, “Dad, you shouldn’t even call me your son anymore.”  But the father put a fine robe on him and a ring with a family crest.  He told his workers “Get the best meat and prepare a welcome home feast  for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again. He was lost and has been found”  Although Jesus told this as a story, he was actually presenting his view of the truth.  In the story, the father represents God.  So is Jesus seriously teaching that God forgives selfish gluttons before  they’ve repaid their wrongs against him and others?  Judaism teaches that one can atone for their wrongs  by changing their behavior, praying and doing good deeds.  Islam says we can move towards paradise by performing the five pillars.  Hinduism claims that if we store up enough good karma,  we will reunite with Brahman.  Buddhism says we can enlighten and discipline ourselves into Nirvana  by practicing the Eightfold Path.  But in this story the father embraced his son and fed him before he did any work.  Why?  Because in Jesus’ view  it’s impossible for a person to repay God for their bad deeds.  

God is a perfect judge  who cannot be bought off with anything that we have to offer.  Jesus said that when we die we will face God with all of our deeds laid out. None of us is completely morally perfect  and none of us will stand a chance of justifying ourselves.  Then is there hope for us?  Jesus believed so and staked his life on it.  He claimed to be God in human form  who came to pay our moral debt with his innocent life  so that if anyone truly believed and surrendered to him,  they would receive a full pardon from God and the power to change how they live.  Other religions teach that our own self-sacrifice can pay our debt  but Jesus taught that only God’s own self-sacrifice can pay our debt.  All other religious founders claim to be guides to lead our starving souls to bread.  Jesus claimed to be the bread our souls starve for.