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Thursday, July 12, 2007

christianity 101

{someone complimented the "christianity 101" page on our website, so I was encouraged to repost that page here... it is aimed at post-modern unchurched folks hoping to invite them into a conversation - the first "door" on our website is a whole section with that purpose}

What does it mean to be a Christian?
You could probably ask that to 100 different people and get 100 different answers. Don’t let that dissuade you from checking it out, though! Below, I’ll give you my answer, for what that’s worth to you, and then point you to what the Bible says about it. Whatever you may think of the Bible, most people should be able to agree that the Bible is the place to find out about Christianity. So, for those for whom the Bible may be mysterious or hard to navigate, I’ll try to provide some points of connection. Want to know more? – then come visit us at Good Shepherd… see if you don’t feel a connection with God that is reflected sincerely and without pretense in the lives of this special “family” of people. We’re hardly perfect, but we are drawn together and experience God with us in a meaningful way.

My answer…

First, who am I? I am the “pastor” at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. Why should my definition of Christianity matter any more than any other? Well, it shouldn’t. But I have believed and trusted in Jesus Christ, as described in the Bible, since I was a 4 year-old. I have studied other religions, objectively critiqued the faith my parents taught to me, and come full circle as an adult back to believe in the same (if more mature) Christian faith of my childhood. I have studied the Bible and find it to be an amazing and inspiring “book” – more than that, it points to a God who loves me and whom I have experience personally as “Lord” and “Savior.” What are the mechanics of believing and following Jesus Christ, of being a Christian? Here’s as down-to-earth as I know how to say it…

We (human beings) are messed up creatures. I know that intuitively and deeply. We put on a front, but behind it, we are a wreck. If and when we think about goodness and God and love and getting our act together, we realize that it is beyond our power. Kind of like AA, we’ve got to realize we have a problem and that we need something bigger than us and outside of us to help. The story of the Bible and the story I believe as truth is that there is a real and personal God who is that something. God is real in that we don’t just create our own god – that would still just be us. God is personal because He gets involved – we matter. Again, that’s the story of the Bible and the story I believe as truth. That’s Christianity – that this real and personal God got involved… He made the world and everything in it; He allowed us the freedom to choose the right thing and the wrong thing, and when we chose and choose the wrong thing, He didn’t abandon us. God came after us, like I do when I let my three year old ride her scooter in the cul-de-sac (freedom!) and when she doesn’t look out for and get out of the way of an oncoming car (choosing the wrong). I run after her! God has run after us in Jesus Christ. God became completely human, born into the world as Jesus of Nazareth and yet still completely God, and he taught and lived and died to come after me. When he died on the cross, he took my messed up life as his own, in the same way that I might run, leap in front of an oncoming car, and shove my three-year-old out of the street. Jesus has done that for you and for me! And his message was, “Come and believe that I am who I said I am and that I have done what I said I would do. Come and follow me.” That’s what it means to be a Christian – to come, meet God through the Jesus Christ of the Bible, and trusting him, to follow him. I belong to God because I follow Jesus Christ. Just as God raised Jesus up from death itself (the Easter story!), he raises the mess that is me up to a new life – Jesus said that would be kind of like being born all over again (see John 3). That is the Christian life – a new start and a new life because of trusting and following Jesus. And through Jesus, God promises new life forever – that’s Heaven… new life with God forever. How does one get all that? What are the mechanics? Come; listen and learn; believe; trust; and follow Jesus Christ.

Where’s all this in the Bible?

> God made the world – Genesis 1; John 1:1-4
> We messed up and chose the wrong (sin) – Genesis 3:1-13; Romans 3:23
> God did not abandon us, but began pursuing us to rescue and reclaim us – Genesis 12:1-3 (God establishing a people as a means to “bless” the world and begin rescuing them); Acts 2:17,21 (God’s promise to save)
> God became human (and yet God) – Luke 2:10-14; John 1:14
… to identify with us – Hebrews 4:14-16
… to speak to us and show us God – John 1:18; 5:24
… to call and invite us – John 1:35-42
… to rescue us and make us new – 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
… to raise us up for a new life – Romans 6:4
… to give us life forever with God – John 5:24
> How do I get that? – John 3:16; Romans 10:8-9

Take a moment and talk to God… use the prayer below (or use your own words)…

God, I need you; I have messed up and I am messed up. Rescue me so that I may follow you and know you. Thank you for a new start – a new life. Help me learn what it means to be your child so that I can grow up in Christ. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We’d be pleased for you to come spend some time with us at Good Shepherd or for you to contact me to talk about some of the first steps as a new Christian. Please don’t hesitate to contact me or come see us!

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