Thursday, August 25, 2011

What is Christianity?

It's amazing to many that Christianity is actually Jewish, both in its roots and heritage. It is the culmination of Judaism. Jesus (Yeshua) was Jewish. He was brought up by faithful parents who regularly took Him to synagogue. He observed Torah perfectly. The last recognized Jewish prophet, John the Baptist, declared that Jesus was the perfect "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

The Apostles, the first disciples of Yeshua, were Jewish men. After His resurrection, in Luke 24:25-27, Jesus explained to them how all the Hebrew prophets of former times pointed to Him, saying, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the [Hebrew] Scriptures.

The central message of Christianity is that Jesus Christ is God the Son who came to earth to rescue sinners not only from a life of sin but also from eternal damnation in hell. Christians believe that the 66 books of the Bible comprise the true and inerrant Word of God. As such, they read it, love its truth, come to know God more deeply by it, and live by its counsel.

The Bible teaches that the only way to know God and enjoy a right relationship with Him is through faith in Christ. Faith assumes that one turns away from his sin and submits to Jesus Christ as the ruler of every aspect of his life, calling Jesus "Lord," a synonym in that context for God (see Romans 10:9-10). Merely nodding the head and giving intellectual assent to truths about God is what characterizes demons, not the children of God (James 2:19).

Who Can Be a Christian?
At the heart of what it means to be a Christian is justification—being right with God (see Romans 4:20-25). So, another way of asking this question is, "Who can be considered right with God?" John 1:12 says that " many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name." In other words, not everyone is automatically a child of God simply because he or she is born.

Galatians 3:26 says that one becomes a child of God "through faith in Christ Jesus." Notice that a person is not saved by faith. We are saved by Christ through faith in Him. It is the object of our faith, the Divine God-Man Jesus Christ, who saves us. In other words, every person who will cry out to be delivered from his sin and will trust Jesus Christ, the Lord—the Divine Messiah—alone for forgiveness will be justified. Not only will that person be right with God, he will also be a child of God.

Such full forgiveness and reception into this new family relationship produces deep allegiance to God and to His people. An observable result of this new allegiance of heart and mind is that the life of a true child of God is characterized by good works, thoughts and attitudes. Good works do not serve as any ground for one's justification, however. As Romans 10:9 states, "...if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Good works, rather, serve as corroborating evidence that one has truly been "born again" by the Spirit of God who now dwells in the believer (see John 3:1-20; Ephesians 1:13-14).

One of Christ's closest followers while on earth, the Apostle John, wrote these inspired words of Scripture: "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20)

Note well the exclusivity of the Bible's claim. It is not a mistake, nor is it arrogance. It is, quite simply, truth. Therefore, any religion or individual who alters, adds to, or teaches a message contrary to this gospel does not speak in alignment with the true God and eternal life but is teaching damnable heresy.

What makes Christianity different?
1. It is a spiritual belief that is open to all, regardless of age, religion, sex, or economic status.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

2. It is a faith relationship with God that solves the problem of sin. In other words, deliverance from sin is not achieved by one's personal adherence to a system of works. One is delivered from sin by receiving God's grace in Christ. A sinner is declared to be right with God as the merits of Christ's life, death, resurrection and ascension are applied to him through faith. Second Corinthians 5:21 says it this way: "He [God the Father] made Him who knew no sin (i.e. Jesus, God the Son) to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Other faiths believe that salvation is based on good deeds or keeping certain laws. Christianity recognizes that "There is none righteous, not even one" (Romans 3:10).

The Bible clearly says that "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy." (Titus 3:5)

3. Unlike Buddha, Mohammad, and other religious leaders, Christianity accepts that its Messiah, Jesus Christ, is still alive today.

"...Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us." (Romans 8:34)

Jesus died on the cross for sinners, but was resurrected after three days. His resurrection vindicated the truthfulness of His message. He was witnessed by many who were eventually martyred for their faith. The historic truth of Christ's life and message has stood the test of time and will ultimately triumph over all other beliefs (Revelation 21:1-8).

Isn't Christianity Just a Political Movement?
No. Real Christianity is not a political movement that seeks to change the world from the outside in. Rather, it is truth that radically changes one's entire worldview from the inside out. Twentieth century British author, C.S. Lewis, said it well: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

There are many hypocrites and counterfeits in the world. And Christians can and do sin. But the general direction of a real Christian's life is to increasingly love the things that are dear to God's heart such as (see Acts 2:42-47) faithfully handling, believing and obeying His Word, being relationally committed to the people of His Church, worshipping Christ sincerely from the heart, and being winsome in the way one lives and shares His message of hope to the lost.

What's Missing from the Average Person's Picture of Christianity?
One Christian author* has answered the question like this:

It's like we're in a war—in a concentration camp—and suddenly you're hearing on the smuggled-in radio that the troops of deliverance have landed in helicopters five miles away. They're conquering everything in their path and they're just about to get to the gate and open the doors. And having lived all your life in this concentration camp, you're now going to be set free.

That's Christianity. It is news that God sent rescue troops into the world, namely Jesus Christ, and that at great cost to Himself He has conquered our enemy the Devil, opened the gates of the concentration camp, and welcomed us home.

And then you add the beautiful image of bride and bridegroom and realize that this is not just a soldier who simply frees you to go and do what you want to do. He's your Husband, as it were, who has been separated from you for years and years, and you're the wife who has been in the camp. And when the gates are opened, there He stands on the other side, and the affections are huge.

I remember watching at the end of the Vietnam war some of those magnificent videos of men who had been away from their wives—some of them I think up to five years. I remember watching them run toward each other and seeing them sweep their wives off their feet. My heart leapt and my tears flowed when I watched that kind of reunion. I believe it is this deeply emotional response to being rescued and united with God that is missing from so many people's picture of Christianity.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

*Adapted from the article "Is Christianity just a bunch of rules for how to live?" is by John Piper. © Desiring God Website:

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