What is Christianity all about? Why are people so interested in it? Why do people give their lives for it? Why do more than a billion people follow it? Here is my brief summary of the main points of the Christian faith and its significance.
When we talk about the Christian faith, we begin and end with God Himself. Most people of the world believe there is a God, and that is the standpoint from which we begin.
When we think about God, we know that He is far greater than us. He made the earth and the heavens in all their splendor and variety. He made the complexity of our cells and the vast expanse of the universe. He’s far greater than we could imagine.
He is also good. We see this in the beauty of the universe, in the amazing provision this world offers us, and the way we can enjoy so many good things in this world. God has made this world so we can know Him and experience good things.
God is also holy. This means that He is pure in every way. He wants us to be pure. We all have a sense of right and wrong that we did not invent and that we cannot just dismiss. This is our conscience. We all have a sense that right and wrong is not just a preference or something convenient for us. Instead, it comes from our Creator, requires us to do right, and points us to the holiness of God.
When we think about humans, one thing we know about them is that they are created for God and to connect with God. They can know who God is. Within us all is a sense that we can pray. We also have a sense of God’s commands and that we are to live before Him. We are created to connect with God.
We also are made to connect with other humans. We are made to live in fellowship and harmony with all human beings. We are made to connect in a special way with those close to us, but all human beings are owed respect and honor. When we act contrary to this, we act contrary to our own nature, which is made for community.
We also are made to do significant things in this world. We are made to live in the world, work in the world, and enjoy the world. The whole world is like a giant garden that we are meant to take care of and enjoy.
The Bible has a word for our problem. It is called sin. This means the disruption of the way things are supposed to be. We can see many problems in the world, but the Christian faith tells us that our biggest problem is the disruption of our relationship with God. Instead of loving and serving God, we put other things in His place. This leads us to do and be all sorts of things contrary to the way we were meant to do and be.
The result of the disruption of our relationship with God is a disruption of our relationship with other human beings. Having lost our connection with God, the realm of human beings assumes more importance than it should. This leads us to idolize and demonize others. It leads to all the injustices and perversion of human relationships.
The disruption with God manifests itself also in our relationship with the world. We try to make the things of the world satisfy us. We make our work or pleasures a sort of idol. This leads to destructive consequences for ourselves and others. We become addicted to the things of this world, and this often reeks havoc in our lives. All this leads to the abuse and destruction of the world and the people in it.
God did not leave the world in this condition. God wanted to restore it. God became a human being in order to restore the world to the way its supposed to be. This is the great mystery of the Christian faith. It is something we could only know if God told us. We learn this truth from God’s Word, the Bible. We learn that while God is one God, this one God exists in three persons, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. The second person, the Son, became a human being while remaining the Son of God. This is the one we call Jesus. This is a great mystery, and it may sound strange. But we have every reason to believe it is true.
Why did the Son of God become a human? He became a human to die the death we deserved. The disruption of our relationship with God is not just a problem for us. It is a problem for God because He is totally opposed to wrong and injustice. He is holy. He will always deal with it. Jesus dealt with wrong and injustice by suffering the death on the cross in our place. In this way, God declares definitively that He is holy and good. He is holy because He did not let sin go unpunished. He is good because He permitted and indeed gave a substitute in our place so we could be forgiven and restored.
Because Jesus is the Son of God, death could not hold Him. He rose from the dead as He promised He would. In doing this, He began a recreation of the world that is still going on and will be completed when He comes again. This is the power of new life that is now available to the world.
What we need to do as humans is to admit that we need God’s solution and accept it. This is what the Bible calls faith or believing. It is to trust God’s solution. When we do so, we obtain forgiveness or justification. Even though we have done all sorts of wrong things, God accepts us and declares us righteous because of what Jesus has done on our behalf in His death and resurrection. God is also so gracious that He not only forgives our sins, but He also officially adopts us into His family!
God not only forgives us and accepts us. He also changes us. This is what we call sanctification. It is the transformation of the human being to make that person become once again a person who loves God and loves other people in the way God created them to be. This is a work that is carried on throughout our whole life.
The promise that God gives us is not just for this life. It is a promise of life that lasts forever. When we die, we will be with the Lord. When Jesus comes again, our bodies will be resurrected. We will be changed, and be like Jesus in the glorious life that He enjoys now. We will live in a renewed heaven and on a renewed earth forever.
There are many challenges to living this new life that God has begun in us restoring us to productive service to God and others. First, there is the devil. The devil is a spiritual being who was created as a good angel. He turned from God and now opposes his work along with many other fallen angels. That such beings exist is clear from the Bible and the general belief of humans throughout history. There is a power that goes beyond the world that seeks to get us off track and turn us back to destructive ways.
In addition to the devil, there is the sinful world of humanity. The world is bigger than the sum of its parts. It is a system that encourages us to make ourselves the center of the universe and to focus on the things of this life. It seeks to turn us from focusing on God and recognizing His will as the center of life.
Even without the devil and the world, there is something of the fallen human nature that remains in the individual human being. The Bible regularly calls this “the flesh.” It is our own tendency towards pride and the disordered desires that make us want things more than we should. It exalts ourselves at the expense of others. All these factors can make it very hard to live the renewed life in Jesus.
Even though we have much that would oppose us in living a life of faith working through love for God and others, we have a powerful support. We have the Father who created and governed all things and is working all things for our good. He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all will not fail to give us all other things as well. Not a hair can fall from our head without our Father’s will.
Second, we have the Son who is resurrected, ascended, and reigning at the right hand of the Father. He is interceding for us so that our faith will not fail. He is ruling all things for the good of His church. He is supporting us in countless ways and is present with us.
Third, we have the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. The Spirit guides us, rebukes us, leads us, comforts us, encourages us, and keeps us on the path. He is our ever present help in times of trouble. He is directing our hearts in the right way and keeps leading us back when we go astray.
God has given us outwards means by which we can experience His help in living a new life. The first is the Word of God. He has spoken to us through His Word, and the Spirit uses the Word to lead us in the right way. The sacraments are outward signs that seal and confirm to us the same truths. Baptism is a washing with water that occurs when we become a Christian. The Lord’s Supper is giving and partaking of bread and wine in order to be reminded that our life is in Christ. The Supper occurs throughout the Christian life.
The second means is prayer. When we find ourselves struggling or desire to do things that glorify God, then we should ask for help. God delights to give us what we ask for. He wants to respond to our prayers by changing us, protecting us, and blessing us with opportunity to do good things.
Finally, we have the church or the people of God. These people gather weekly in groups committed to support one another in prayer, service, and worship under leaders called pastors and elders. They help us, encourage us, rebuke us, and guide us. They act as a counterbalance to the world by leading us away from ourselves to love and trust of God and service to the world.
What hope do we have that we will be able to live in and enjoy this relationship with God? First, we have to remember that it will never be perfect in this life. We will always be able to find something lacking. Sin will be present with us. We always need to keep pressing forward.
However, this does not mean that we cannot make progress. We should not look at any sin or problem and say that it cannot be overcome. We can really grow and become more and more the people who love God, enjoy the world properly, and love our neighbors.
Our great hope is that one day this work will be completed. It will not be completed in this life. However, the day will come when every tear will be wiped away and all that is evil and unjust will be banished forever. Then, we will enjoy God perfectly forever in unparalleled joy and blessing. That is the great hope of the Christian.