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Why Christianity?

Lots of questions and confusion exist about Christianity.

Here are a few questions, thoughts, and responses.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Copyright © 2003, 2011, 2015 by The Rev. Dr. Keith Cressman

It was break time and as often occurs many interesting topics were being discussed. Someone brought up religion and spirituality. Horoscopes, “900 know-your-future” numbers, “truth,” and various religions all soon became part of the conversation.

When engaged in this type of spiritual conversation it is helpful to be familiar with some of the basic understandings of the Christian faith.

This post is written and designed for people who wonder and ask questions. Some of the questions asked as one investigates Christianity are discussed here. These topics are presented with the hope and prayer that basic and important Christian beliefs will be clarified and deepened.

References to relevant verses in the Bible are provided for your convenience.

Some Commonly Asked Questions about Christianity:

1. How do we really know? What or who is authoritative in determining and discovering eternal truth?

2. What is sin?

3. Is believing in God enough to restore a relationship with God?

4. Is being a good person enough to overcome sin?

5. Must sin really be dealt with?

6. How is a person forgiven of sin and “saved?”

7. Who is Jesus?

8. Do I have to understand all of this to be set right with God?

9. Who are people?

10. What is the Trinity?

11. Who or what is the Holy Spirit?

12. Opening to God.

1. How do we really know? What or who is authoritative in determining and discovering eternal truth?

Christians generally look to four sources to discover truth. These are Scripture (the Bible), Christian Experience, Church Tradition and Inspired Reason. Many, if not most Christian Churches recognize that Scripture is primary in the search for truth. Thus, experience, tradition and reason are interpreted in light of Scripture. No person, prophet, committee, congregation, council or later revelation overrides what God has revealed through Scripture. It is therefore important for us to understand Scripture.

God is involved in the interpretation, understanding and application of Scripture. The Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing, also inspires the reading and study of God’s Word.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17.

2. What is sin?

Sin is foreign to God. God does not sin. People sin. Every person has sinned. But just because everyone has done it does not make it okay. Sin results from the freewill choice of individuals to actively or passively disobey and ignore God. The primary damage is a broken relationship with God. This separation occurs now and, if not remedied, for eternity. This separation results in death - physical death in this life and spiritual death for eternity. Not only is the sinner unworthy to approach the Holy God, there is also nothing he or she can do on his or her own to fix the problem. Unable to do anything to cure this problem, the sinner must rely wholly upon God to grant a pardon for the sin and pay the penalty to fix the damage caused by sin.

(A)ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. . .

Romans 3:23. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23.

3. Is believing in a God enough to restore a relationship with God?

Believing that God exists is not enough to restore a relationship with God. Simply acknowledging the existence of the Divine is not enough. James (one of the inspired authors of the Bible) writes:

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.

James 2:19.

Demons cannot have a restored relationship with God. Believing that God exists is not a response that leads to a relationship with God. The Apostle Paul (another of the inspired authors of the Bible) writes:

… (S)ince the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Romans 1:20-23.

Our belief in the existence of God does not resolve the problem of sin that separates the sinner from the Holy God.

4. Is being a good person enough to overcome Sin?

The good things we do (works) are very important. They are the evidence of what we believe (faith). Without works that demonstrate faith, it can be concluded that there is no faith. This does not mean that a person is set right with God by being good enough, doing enough good works or even doing really good religious things in the name of God. Jesus said:

… (B)y their fruit you will recognize them. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7:20-23.

It is neither the good works nor calling Jesus “Lord” that overcomes the broken relationship that results from sin. We must “know” God. This is possible through God’s grace. Grace, God’s (not our) work, is necessary. God invites us back to a relationship with Him and makes it possible for us to say “yes” to the invitation.

The Apostle Paul writes:

. . . for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:8-10.

We do not fix the damages of sin - God does. Repairing the damage sin causes is called “salvation.”* God makes salvation possible and accomplishes it through Jesus Christ. This work of God is called “grace.” Our response is faith. Faith in Jesus Christ and the ensuing inner working of God is demonstrated by our good works. All we can do on our own is present ourselves as good sinners. We need the grace of God to become forgiven sinners.

*Some other words with similar meanings include “atonement,” “justification,” “propitiation,” and “redemption”

5. Must sin really be dealt with?

Sin cannot be ignored and will not go away on its own. We must make a choice to deal with sin in God’s way. John (another inspired author of Scripture) writes:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.

1 John 1:7-2:3.

When we pretend that sin does not exist or does not matter, we deceive ourselves and say that God is a liar and reject his word. However, forgiveness of sin is made possible by God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

6. How is a person forgiven of sin and “saved?”

Sin divorces us from God. It breaks our relationship with Him. God must remove the brokenness that results from sin. Our part is to recognize our need for forgiveness and believe in (have faith in) Jesus Christ as our Lord (Leader) and Savior (Forgiver).

Forgiveness from God is accepted through faith in Jesus Christ.

There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:22-24.

We were in a situation we could not fix. God became a person, Jesus Christ, to fix the problem. The fix required that he take on the broken relationship, the death, which was due us. He was the only one eligible to do this because he was sinless (righteous) and he is God in person.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.

1 Peter 3:18.

God’s work of salvation through Jesus Christ is not an act of anger, but one of love. Only love could motivate God to give so much for us.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

Romans 5:8-9.

We have a problem. God solves the problem. But to implement the solution we must accept the solution God provides. We do this by confession and faith.

… (I)f you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 10:9-11.

Once you accept God’s solution you are changed and your relationship with God is restored; you are “saved” or “born again.” This decision is one you will celebrate forever!

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:22-23.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

2 Corinthians 5:17.

When God forgives you, you start life over in very real ways. God gives you a new start, re-start, fresh start and jump start in life.

7. Who is Jesus?

The issue of the identity of Jesus Christ is the key question for humanity and each and every individual person. This is an important question for each person to consider and answer. Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?”

… (Jesus) asked them, "Who do people say I am?” They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ.”

Mark 8:27b-29.

Jesus is God become man, not a man who became God. Jesus is more than a really good person, leader, teacher or prophet.

… Christ Jesus … being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11.

In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it . . .. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-5, 14.

Who did Jesus say he is? He is either who he claims to be, or he is a liar.

Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:7-11.

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

John 14:5-9.

Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.

Matthew 27:11.

Jesus Christ is unique; there is no other Christ or way of salvation but he.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14.

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

John 1:18.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

John 3:16-18.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9.

The inspired authors of the Bible and Jesus Christ the Lord himself identify Jesus as much more than a man. He is God who became man for the purpose of saving all people from sin and for eternal life.

8. Do I have to understand all of this to be set right with God?

An intellectual understanding is not the same as faith. In fact, the Apostle Paul described the Gospel as a stumbling block and foolishness to many. You may not understand everything but you need to accept the Truth. Accepting is not the same as understanding. As you continue to study the Bible and pray, you will experience breakthroughs of faith and power and you will understand more completely.

The Apostle Paul writes:

… Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel--not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1:17-31.

9. Who are people?

People are the objects and focus of God’s divine love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17.

God creates us. The stories found at Genesis 1 and 2 present the account of God creating people. At Ephesians 2:10 we are reminded that “...we are God’s workmanship...” We are created by God and are deeply and divinely loved by God, but we are not and never will be gods. Seeking to be God leads to sin as the stories found at Genesis 3:5 and Genesis 11:1-10 teach us.

The plague of sin is the problem facing mankind, not any lack of enlightenment, or lack of trying to be good, or lack of being good. Broken relationship with God due to sin is the basic human problem.

10. What is the "Trinity?"

The word “trinity” is not found in Scripture. It is a concept revealed through Scripture. It describes our understanding and experience of God as he reveals himself to us. God reveals himself as God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit. This is the Trinity.

The Trinity is not three gods, but one God, revealed and experienced in three ways. Each is equal and is one in the same while having unique functions.

Here are some references to the Trinity found in the Bible:

Blessing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

2 Corinthians 13:14.

The Trinity is present in one place at one time:

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22.

The Holy Spirit was present as the dove, the Son was being baptized, and the Father spoke from the heavens.

11. Who or what is the Holy Spirit?

When a person becomes a Christian, she receives the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is part of God. The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is God and is the form in which God is here with us today.

When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit enters that person’s life to seal them for God. The Holy Spirit gives you an assurance and confidence of your relationship with God, helps you pray, deepens your understanding of God and gives you power, courage and strength to live as a Christian.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Acts 2: 37 – 39.

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is freely given to those who know Jesus. He is a free gift.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1: 4 - 5

12. Opening to God

We can become more receptive to the Holy Spirit by participating in “spiritual workouts.” These workouts include prayer, worship, fellowship with other Christians, Bible study, Holy Communion and fasting. By working out, you strengthen and develop your spiritual muscle. These practices help draw you closer to God. They are called “means of grace” or “spiritual disciplines.”

As you pray, ask God to give you more of himself. As you seek God, obey him and practice the means of grace, you will find your relationship with him deepens and strengthens. The Holy Spirit is at work in your life.

As you continue to grow as a Christian you will change. Just as a mature tree bears fruit, you will bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, kindness and self-control will develop in your life as you grow. (See Galatians 5:22-23 and compare with Galatians 5:19-21.) The change God brings is a change for the better.

Enjoy the journey . . . the better.

Enjoy the journey . . .

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