Christianity is all about having a personal, interactive, vibrant, and faithful relationship with a real, caring, loving, and personal God who really is interested in the things you worry about, your fears, your pain, the problems you face, the things that fill you with joy, your successes, and even your failures.
Christians believe in one eternally existing God, who created the whole universe and everything in it and yet, knows each one of us so intimately that He even knows our names, knows the number of hairs on our heads, and who loves us enough to actually get involved in our lives.
It’s not always easy to believe the things we believe. In fact, we sometimes experience real dilemmas as we try to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to God. His ways are often, if not usually, at odds with the ways of the world in which we all live. However, we continue each day to try to live in ways which are pleasing to God, just as a child wants to please his or her parents.
Many people think Christianity is some kind of easy way out, a mythological creation of mankind designed to comfort us, to make us feel all warm and fuzzy, and to placate our need to be loved by something or someone bigger than ourselves, but the evidence simply doesn’t bear up the argument.
Christians have endured persecution since before they were known as Christians and for the two millennia since. Hardly an easy way out. Unlike every other religion in the world, Christianity is not about humans trying to reach up to a God of our own creation, but about a perfect, loving God reaching down to connect with His own lost and sinful people.
There, it’s out – sinful. Such a harsh word, isn’t it? A word like that doesn’t leave much room for gray areas. In fact, it doesn’t leave any room for gray areas.
The whole idea of absolute right and wrong, and a God who calls the shots regarding how right and wrong are defined is probably one of the biggest obstacles people have when it comes to Christianity. While moral relativism seems like the tolerant way to be in this post-modern world, total chaos would most certainly ensue if there were no absolute standard of right and wrong.
Moreover, if humanity were in charge of determining the standard of right and wrong, just how strong or trustworthy would that standard be? How well has it worked in those places where it has been tried? Was the holocaust wrong, or is it wrong to exploit an innocent child? Who says? You? The government? The majority? What makes them right? No, we are sinful people who do some awful, sinful things, say some awful, sinful words, and have sinful, selfish thoughts and motivations.
However, it was not always like this…Back in the beginning of time when the world began, back when God created everything, the world was perfect – completely free of sin, death, suffering, and all the troubles and trials that currently exist. In those days, humankind was completely pure, and God, holy and perfect as He is, actually walked amongst His creation.
But, God, in his infinite love and wisdom created us with the capacity and opportunity to decide for ourselves if we would be faithful to Him or if we would choose to walk in disobedience. We were not created as mind-numbed, pre-programmed robots. The choice to love and obey our Father was and is ours. But there is a consequence to every decision we make.
In the Garden of Eden there was a tree, the fruit from which God had instructed the people He made not to eat, or else they would die. Having the freedom to do so, and having been tempted by the devil, the first people ate of that fruit.
In committing the first sin, the purity and holiness of the first people was forever marred, as would be everyone born of human conception thereafter. God, being perfect and holy, would no longer walk alongside the people He created, now that we were stained and made unholy.
And so, we became separated and distant from God and He cursed all of creation. Childbirth became painful. People now had to struggle and work for the bounty of the Earth. Suffering, death, decay, and hardship all became a reality – all because of the first sin of the first people.
The rest of history is essentially the result of the fall of humankind in the Garden. All of creation groans under the strain of the curse and the degradation of perfection. Ever since that terrible day natural disasters, war, bondage, slavery, abuse, and the struggle for existence have been a reality of our world. People hurt one another, sickness and disease plague us, our bodies fail us, even the way we think, learn, understand things, and relate to one another – literally everything has been affected as a result of that first sin.
God, still loving His people, set His plan of redemption in motion, creating for us a way to become right with Him again, securing for us an eternal home with Him in Heaven and a restored creation, where sin and the effects of the curse cannot exist.
See, what we believe about God here and now determines how we will spend eternity; we will either be with Him forever or separate from Him forever. The choice is still ours but it must be made on this side of eternity. We are not without hope!
In the early days of human history, God instituted a system of sacrifice where people could give their most perfect, unblemished lamb as an offering to make up for (or atone for) their sin. The lamb’s blood was shed to pay the penalty for the sins of the person. This went on for a very long time during which God’s people looked forward to a day when He would send the One whose blood would be shed once to cover all the sin of all humanity, forever. This was the Messiah, the Christ, the Lamb of God, the One promised by God and the One to whom hundreds of years of prophecy and history pointed. The one Savior of all humanity – Jesus.
Jesus… that was a pretty common name two thousand years ago, but this Jesus was anything but common. As Christians, we believe this particular Jesus was the Messiah promised by God. It is not a baseless claim, either.
This one man fulfilled every one of the nearly three hundred prophecies written about him over a period of more than one thousand years, by different authors, in different locations, long before he was actually born; a feat of near statistical impossibility. Based on the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptural prophecies, Jesus’ claims about himself, the claims of Jesus’ contemporaries, eye witness accounts from both friends and enemies of Christianity, an abundance of manuscript evidence that rivals all other historical texts in existence, and our own individual, personal relationships and experiences with Jesus through faith, we Christians believe that this Jesus was and is the long-awaited Savior.
We believe in Jesus as the sinless man, born miraculously of a virgin girl, conceived within her supernaturally by the very power of God. We believe that this man, fully God and fully human at the same time, completely without sin, lived to die a sacrificial death by crucifixion for the forgiveness of our sins.
As the perfect Lamb of God, we believe Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried; that He remained in the grave for three days; that He rose from death and ascended into Heaven. Sin and death have been conquered forever!
So, what does all this mean for us? Well, for starters it means that we now have the means to be forgiven of our sins without constantly bringing atoning sacrifices. In fact, the whole sacrificial system has been voided because of Jesus.
Through believing in Him as the Messiah, we accept for ourselves complete, total, free forgiveness for every single thing we have ever done wrong, no matter how bad it is, no matter who we have hurt or how badly.
We do not have to be good people to be good enough for Heaven. In fact, we cannot be good enough for Heaven on our own merits because even one little sin is enough to make us unholy. All we have to do is believe that Jesus is the Messiah and trust that His death stands as a sufficient sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
It sounds so simple, and it is, but it is also so very profound! Not only do we gain freedom from our sins, we also experience a real, growing, interactive, relationship with the very One who made us, the One who promises never to leave us nor forsake us. Will you believe as we do? Will you accept the forgiveness God freely and lovingly offers you? Will you consider that perhaps all the terrible things some really bad people have done in the name of Christianity have simply been the result of someone twisting and perverting the Bible, the love of God, and the life and person of Jesus for selfish gain? Will you consider that many of the stereotypes you have heard about Christianity are nothing more than myths? Will you at least begin to explore all of this for yourself?
Believing all of this does not mean putting your mind on a shelf and living in some fantasy world of blind faith. No, in fact, God wants us to explore the Bible and history and science and to see how all of creation, even our innermost thoughts and desires, point right to Him.
If you believe the things about Jesus outlined above and trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins, even if you are not sure you completely get it, then you are by definition, a Christian. If you believe and trust in Jesus, one thing you can do right now is tell God that you believe by praying.
There is no special way to pray. It’s just talking to God, recognizing that you have the ability to approach Him directly because you believe in Jesus. Just in case you are not sure what to say, here is a little prayer that you can use for yourself:
God, I confess to you that I have sinned and I know that I need to be forgiven. I believe that Jesus lived a sinless life and died as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for my sin and I now trust in Him to save me. I don’t necessarily understand all the ins and outs of Christianity, but I want to explore and deepen my faith in you. Please help me to know you and to trust you more fully each day, until that day when I come home to you in Heaven. Amen (which basically means ‘So be it’)!
Assuming you have decided to put your faith and trust in Jesus, you have embarked on the greatest adventure of all! But now you might be wondering, “What’s next?” As an important part of growing in your faith and understanding as a Christian, you will need to be intentional. It is easy to become sidetracked and off target. Here are a few pointers to help you along your way:
First – find, join, and regularly attend a good church. Be sure to find one that teaches sound biblical doctrine. It would also be a good idea to make friends with someone who will encourage you and disciple you in your faith. There are no ‘lone-star Christians’. We need one another.
Second – pray about everything. Say thank you for your blessings, confess your sins as specifically as you can, ask God questions, tell Him about your joys and concerns, tell Him your needs and desires. God already knows what we need and think even before we say it but prayer is an exercise we need to remain open, connected, and committed to God’s working in us and through us.
Third – believe intelligently. Do not be afraid to explore and ask the tough questions. God knows and made everything – He is not afraid of the tough questions you have! When you are seeking answers, always make sure the answers you think you are getting measure up against the truth of the Bible and the character of God. We test everything against the authority of God’s word. In addition, it can be a good practice to analyze your own motives in deciding what you believe about something. Ask yourself questions like, “Is this what God says about this through the words of the Bible, or is this simply what I want to believe about it, for whatever reason?”
Fourth – Do not give up on God. The answers we want to get are not always immediate and sometimes they are not at all what we expect. Whether praying for help through a hardship or looking for answers to tough questions, hang in there! Everything that happens in the life of a believer – even hardship – works for the good of the believer. Sometimes, God answers our prayers with a “yes”, sometimes with a “no”, and sometimes with a “not right now”, but He always answers.
May your adventure be blessed!