What is Christianity?
I meet a lot of people who think that Christianity is all about doing or being – doing religion, doing church, doing good things or being good a person, but at it’s heart Christianity is about knowing and being known We’re not talking here about knowing a list of rules or an academic set of facts, but knowing God and being known by him, the Bible says “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” John 17:3.
The passion for life
As we go through life we aspire to certain things, I can remember as a child spending hours flicking through catalogues in the run up to Christmas selecting the gifts which would make my life complete. I didn’t always get what I wanted and even if I did they never quite lived up to my expectations, or they certainly didn’t for long.
Unperturbed by this, I like most of us, entered into adult life expecting that relationships, qualifications, a nice house, a good car etc would actually make my life fulfilled.
We are desperate to fill that yawning gap in our lives, but everything that we put in there just seems to fall through – it is never quite enough to do the job.
How do we deal with that reality?
Well, there are a number of options. First you could blame the things or people that you have used to try to plug that gap. Because we don’t feel fulfilled it must be that our car isn’t big enough, or our partner isn’t pretty or smart enough, or our job isn’t challenging enough and so we move through life on a constant search for bigger and better discarding anything or anyone who doesn’t match up to our expectations along the way.
Alternatively we could blame ourselves – why is our life not fulfilled, well it must be that everything is our fault. Perhaps we focus on past critical comments made by family, teachers or bosses believing that they were right and so we sink into a pit of self depreciation and self loathing.
Then again we could rage against the world, shake our head at the idealism of youth and become a cynic in a shallow world.
But most positively we could actually stop, look around us and within ourselves and see that the biggest problem facing the world today is not terrorism, global warming or food shortages - those are merely the presenting symptoms of the real issue and that big problem the one which prevents us from finding fulfilment in life is sin, the very thing which lurks in our heart and which has separated us from God.
So how can we put that right?
First of all we need to recognise our roots – we are all unique individual creations of God. God made you and I to be the people he wanted us to be and we will never find our rest anywhere else except in him.
Secondly we need to repent of our sin. Repenting simply means turning away, it’s like recognising that you are heading down the wrong road, stopping, executing a three-point-turn and heading back in the right direction. So repenting of our sin means recognising that we have been trying to put other things (or even people) in God’s place and so we need to turn away from worshipping them and turn back to God.
Then thirdly we need to hand our lives over to God. You see, we like to think of ourselves as free, but if a fish escapes from the confines of the water is it free? No, of course not. To know life in all its fullness we need to be immersed in God, that is real freedom for us.
So who is God?
It’s easy to love people who love us back, but sometimes when I am marrying a couple in one of our churches I remind them that hatred is not the opposite of love, indifference is. Well, God does not hate you and neither is he indifferent about you, he loves you and is seeking you out, in fact he loves you so much that he sent his one and only Son on an incredible rescue mission to free you from everything that separated you from him.
You see, because God in holy and just and loving he cannot remain indifferent about your sin and yet because he loves you passionately he does not want you or me to pay the just penalty – death; eternal separation from him, that’s why Jesus came.
People sometimes tell me that they would believe in God if they could see him. The problem is not that God has never been visible, it is simply that we have been born 2000 years too late. Had we been able to wander around Israel in Jesus’ day then we would have been able to look into the face of God because Jesus is God himself; he lived a perfect human life – the sort of life you and I owe God, he loved God completely and then he died a terrible, undeserved death on a cross. That death is the price our rebellion against God cost – the debt that we should have had to pay, but instead Jesus paid for us.
The staggering reality of Christianity is that we are more flawed and sinful than we ever dared believe, but that we are even more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope.
The thing is though, we have to take that offer up. Let me explain, I could walk into your local car showroom and buy you a brand new car. I could phone you, write to you and email you to tell you that I had done this, but if you never believed me, if you never went down to the showroom and picked up the keys for yourself, then my free gift to you would never be of any benefit to you.
Likewise we need to believe in Jesus and in what he has done for us, that’s where repentance comes in, then we need to trust in what Jesus has done for us; we need to have faith in how he has rescued us from an eternity separated from God despite the fact we had done nothing to deserve his mercy.
If that is what you believe then you need to tell God, you could pray this prayer from the Christianity Explored course which we run;
Heavenly Father, I have rebelled against you. I have sinned in my thoughts, my words and my actions – sometimes unconsciously, sometimes deliberately. I am sorry for the way I have lived and ask you to forgive me. Thank you that Jesus died on the cross so that I could be forgiven. Thank you that I can now see clearly who Jesus is and why he came. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me follow him whatever the cost. Amen.
If you prayed that prayer then you need to tell another Christian – don’t keep the news to yourself because you will need someone to celebrate with and someone to help and support you as you set out on your new life. After that you will need to meet up with lots of other Christians – a gathering called the Church. These days it’s easy to think that you can get everything you need through online sermons and worship CD’s, that’s just not true. To grow in your faith and to be a help to others you need to mix with other Christians and worship God together with them.
Perhaps you’ve got to this point and you are thinking, “Well, maybe if I pray to God then I might actually get that promotion I want.” Let me remind you that that is just doing a neat little circle and putting your job (or whatever else) back on the throne of your life. You can’t make deals with God or fob him off as if he is some sort of half-wit deity who might give you a bit of good luck if you go through the motions. You need to turn to God because he is your loving creator and because you owe him your life.
Alternatively you might still be sceptical. You may have a mind full of doubts which is fine, but despite all your questions please remember that God still exists and so he is still worthy of examination.
Whatever you do, don’t get to this point and go no further. You may want all sorts of proof to accept that God exists, but then again, let me ask you, do you believe you are competent to run your own life? Looking back over the last couple of decades have you got any firm evidence of that? In all honesty would someone else trust you 100% to run their life? So, is it fair to simply doubt that God could do any better? Perhaps you owe it to God to seek him out. Do so.
Click on the logo below to visit the Two Ways to Live site which explains further what it means to be a Christian.
Find out more about reading the Bible.