Christianity 101 // So... you want to be a Christian
So, you want to be a Christian... I don’t blame you. Hell is going to be hot and eternity is a long time. Heaven sounds cool, and Jesus seems like a swell guy. However, there are a couple of things you are going to need to know about. Sin, God and Jesus for example are a great place to start.
Sin…we all get the concept of sin, especially being sinned against and our desire to have justice exacted against the people who do it to us. Someone cuts you off in traffic, you demand their ‘bleeping’ head on a ‘bleeping’ stake. Someone rips you off, you demand blood, someone cheats you, you demand their still beating heart. While you may not support it, I am sure we can all understand the desire that some have for the death penalty to be exacted for severe crimes, like murder. Think about it… someone rapes and kills your child, your spouse, your sibling, your BFF, you would demand blood right? You may even want the perp to die, or at least rot in prison, a place for weeping and gnashing of teeth. Heck… someone mocks you, you are just as likely to say “go to hell looser” as you are anything… so we all get, and feel deep within us a strong sense of justice, and are keen for the exacting of it.
So, you want to be a Christian... I don’t blame you. Hell is going to be hot and eternity is a long time. Heaven sounds cool, and Jesus seems like a swell guy.
It’s the same deal with God. He created everything to and for His glory, and so he set a standard for holiness, called it “The Law” that the fulfilling of which would glorify him… think 10 commandments (plus a whole bunch of other stuff that you will never be able to do). So sin is simply rejecting or failing to do what glorifies God, by not fulfilling any part of the law however big or small… simply falling short of the mark… that is sin and it’s reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallly easy to do, and it’s usually fun and feels great, at least for a little while, until it feels empty and unsatisfying, or painful and humiliating. Sometimes that sin is by us, and sometimes committed against us. God hates both. Both the sin we commit and the sin committed against us. He hates it with a perfect hatred. He hates it and he demands blood! Revenge must be exacted! A penalty must be paid! So most all of you already get this.
The big difference is, when someone wrongs you, you demand the blood of the person who wronged you. You demand that they be put to shame, or put to death (maybe not literally but the sentiment is certainly there especially in extreme cases as stated above). Think of the worst possible crime that you can imagine, and then think of the penalty that should be paid by the perpetrator. What humiliation or pain. For us to God, this is sin. Simply sin. Any sin. That’s the worst. Rejecting Him, denying Him, failing to glorify him. The worst possible crime he could think of… and he demanded blood, dreamed up the worst vengeance and recompense he could image, pain, humiliation, suffering, scorn, mockery, shame and death. For our sin he demanded that punishment, then he came to earth, as a man Jesus, fully man, fully God. He fulfilled the law perfectly, and so being the only person not to reject or deny God, or fail to glorify him, and so he became the only person to ever live who didn’t deserve the most humiliating shameful death one could imagine… but the remarkable thing was, while he didn’t deserve it, he kicked around with people that did… and then he said to them, “I will die in your place. I will be humiliated in your place. I will take the shame and punishment you deserve for you”. And so He was crucified, taking the punishment that we deserve, if you would just repent and confess… “Yes! I believe in Jesus. I believe I am a sinner He can take my sin and the punishment for it. I repent!”
he said to them, “I will die in your place. I will be humiliated in your place. I will take the shame and punishment you deserve for you”
The story could have ended there and it would have been a cool story. Great! No punishment. That’s a bonus. But then it got way cooler. Not only did Jesus die, then 3 days later (and you might know this as Easter, so you are already celebrating it, you may as well get the benefit of salvation as well) God rose him from the dead. Showing that not only did Jesus conquer sin, but also death. So that those who believe in him, while they will still sin (lets face it, Christians can be jerks too and, they have the worst bumper stickers), they don’t have to bare the consequences any more… Jesus took it for us… but bonus to that, he conquered death. Hell is real. Heaven is real. The former is called ‘everlasting death’ the latter is called ‘everlasting life’. The former is a crappy place of fire, and weeping and gnashing of teeth for eternity, the later is the kingdom of God, where we are fully reconciled to nature, each other, ourselves and to God. Its going to be epic, and its way better than hell.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures . . .” -1 Corinthians 15:1–4
What is the Gospel? The word gospel simply means “good news.” The central message of the Bible is the gospel, or good news, about the person and work of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul provides the most succinct summary of the gospel: the man Jesus is also God, or Christ, and died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins; three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life.
The great reformer Martin Luther rightly said that, as sinners, we are prone to pursue a relationship with God in one of two ways. The first is religion/spirituality and the second is the gospel. The two are antithetical in every way.
Religion says that if we obey God He will love us. The gospel says that it is because God has loved us through Jesus that we can obey.
Religion says that the world is filled with good people and bad people. The gospel says that the world is filled with bad people who are either repentant or unrepentant.
Religion says that you should trust in what you do as a good moral person. The gospel says that you should trust in the perfectly sinless life of Jesus because He alone is the only good and truly moral person who will ever live.
The goal of religion is to get from God such things as health, wealth, insight, power, and control. The goal of the gospel is not the gifts God gives, but rather God as the gift given to us by grace.
Religion is about what I have to do. The gospel is about what I get to do. Religion sees hardship in life as punishment from God. The gospel sees hardship in life as sanctifying affliction that reminds us of Jesus’ sufferings and is used by God in love to make us more like Jesus. Religion is about me. The gospel is about Jesus.
Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God. The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.
Religion ends in either pride (because I think I am better than other people) or despair (because I continually fall short of God’s commands). The gospel ends in humble and confident joy because of the power of Jesus at work for me, in me, through me, and sometimes in spite of me.
The gospel is not behavior modification, becoming a better person or learning to become more moral. It is not taking the life of Jesus as a model way to live or transforming/redeeming the secular realm. It is not living highly communal lives with others and sharing generously in communities who practice the way of Jesus in local culture.
These may all be good things, but they are not to be confused with the gospel. Did you notice the one characteristic of all of the above activities has nothing to do with what Christ has done for us, but all about what we do for him. The true gospel, rather, is news about what Christ the Saviour, has already done for us (in his life, death and resurrection) rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. Christ's accomplishment, not ours, is the essence of the gospel. Above all the gospel of Christ brings good news, rather than instruction about our behavior. The gospel of not about what we do, but our acts inevitably follow in thanksgiving because of what Christ has done for us.
In short, the Gospel is the life-altering news that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, lived a sinless life under the Law, died for sinners and rose again to reconcile them to himself, eternally victorious over every enemy that stood between God and man.
In short, the Gospel is the life-altering news that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man, lived a sinless life under the Law, died for sinners and rose again to reconcile them to himself, eternally victorious over every enemy that stood between God and man. Now, because of this redemptive work, there is nothing that separates those who believe from their Creator and all the benefits that He promises in him. D.A. Carson says the gospel centers "upon Jesus Christ and what God has done through him. The essential points of the gospel are Jesus Christ's status as the Son of God, his genuine humanity, his death for our sins, his burial, resurrection, subsequent appearances, and future coming in judgment. That no one is justified but in the gracious work of Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection. It is not merely a recital of theological truths and historical events; rather, it relates these truths and events to situations of every individual believer."
THE REALLY IMPORTANT BIT. JESUS.
The Bible declares that Jesus was/is God the Son who in His incarnation (birth into human history as fully God and fully man) provided for us the clearest and most important revelation of God that has ever been or ever will be and can alone forgive our sins and grant us salvation. In Hebrews 1:1-3 we read, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”
The question of Jesus is of vital importance because while many people believe such things as that Jesus lived, was a good teacher, or a very spiritual man, there remains many erroneous perspectives of Him that deny that He is God. The Apostle Paul spoke of this propensity to reduce the majesty of the real Jesus in favor of a diluted and diminished Jesus that in the end is no longer truly Jesus at all. In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 Paul writes, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”
Man was created to glorify God & Enjoy Him forever
"Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things." (Rev 4:11) "Do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31)
Man has failed to glorify God & is under His just condemnation
"For all have sinned..." (Rom 3:23) The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) "These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction" (2 Thes 1:9)
Jesus fully bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve
Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent His Son to be the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) he "...gave His life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45) & "rose again" from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.
All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in submissive faith are forgiven
If you confess you are a sinner in need of Christ then God has begun to work in you a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with Himself! "Repent and believe the gospel (Mk 1:5) "In Your presence is fullness of Joy (Ps 16:11). So leave your self-righteousness, and your sins. Fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness to be your covering, and his blood to be your atonement. If your trust is in Jesus alone for your salvation (that is, if you have no hope save for Christ's mercy alone) then you can be assured that your sins are forgiven and He has granted you eternal life.