What is a Christian

Christianity is centred on Jesus Christ. This shouldn't need to be said, but sadly it is often forgotten.

We begin at the beginning.

It is impossible to 'prove' God in a mathematical sense, but the evidence is very convincing.

The universe and our world are not the result of a chain of accidents. There is order to it all (what are usually called the laws of nature) and purpose. But the most convincing evidence is men and women, for our consciousness and personality, our love and compassion, our consciences, all these are God-given. We are not an accident, we are fearfully and wonderfull made by the Creator of the universe.

What is God like and how can we know?

Once you ask what God is like you should realise that you are up against a problem. If God is the one who created the whole vastness of the universe, then how can we describe such a being being? Of course we cannot, but God himself can.

He has made us as creatures able to communicate using language in an unique way. It is hardly suprising therefore that God chooses to communicate with us in language.

This is where the Bible comes in.

In what is called the Old Testament, the Christian and Jewish Scriptures written in Hebrew, we find phrases like 'the LORD said', nearly 4,000 times. The Bible is a written record of what God has said in revealing to us what He is like. We are not left to guess, or to try and work it out, He has spoken.

Once we begin to listen to what God has to say about himself, we discover that he is not a comfortable, grandfather in the sky sort of God. Here are just some of the things God reveals about Himself:

God is a personal Being not a thing - our personality derives from Him.

He is spirit, eternal and sovereign, not caught up in our created world, but radically different and distinct from what He has made.

He is holy, perfect and awesome. He is not a small God, nor just a super-man. He demands perfection and holiness of us.

He is just, the judge of all, He rewards and punishes in time and eternity.

If we are honest, when we listen to what God has to say about Himself, and when through his mercy, we begin to sense what He is truly like, then we begin to feel very uncomfortable. For the hard fact is that this awesome and holy God has called us to live holy and perfect lives. But we are a million miles from being holy.

This is the part of the Christian faith which it is probably easiest for people to agree with, for anyone who has eyes to see the television and newspaper cannot avoid the conclusion that all is not rosy in the garden.

The wars and hatred, the earthquakes and floods, broken relationships, envy and jealousy, all these things are the signs that something has gone wrong.

What has gone wrong?

We are created by God, we come with a set of makers instructions. At the top of those instructions is the command to Love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Instruction number 2 is to love our neighbour (everyone that is) as ourselves.

Most, computer literate people have experience of plunging in without reading the instructions, so it is not hard to realise why the world is in such a mess. We have failed to follow the makers instructions, things have gone wrong. The bible word for all this is "sin".

Does it really matter?

Sin is a disease that eats us from the inside, it has unpleasant symptoms (the wrong we do and say) and it is terminal.

The symptoms of sin are not hard to see in our lives. But sin also separates us from God, and this is why we find it so hard to understand God, there is a barrier between us and him.

The end result of sin is death, it is a terminal illness. We all die, if you don't believe me, come round in a hundred years or so and we will discuss it. But death is not the end, for God makes it very plain to us in the bible that we will all come before him in judgement. His judgement is just, if we are right with him, we will be welcomed into his presence for eternity, the bible calls this heaven. But if we are found not to be right with him, he will deal with us as we deserve, we will be shut out of the his presense for ever, this is hell. God says nothing in the bible about a second chance.

So what should we do?

This is the question that has gripped people in every age of history and in every society, how can we make ourselves right with God. We try many different ways - through ceremonies, religious acts, good deeds, pilgrimages and so on. All this is religion, but religion cannot make us right with God.

Religion can never remove our sins, because it is all on the surface, whereas our sin is deep down, like a disease; sin is not what we do, but the rebellion within us that causes us to do what we do. Religion cannot satisfy God, for God is perfect and holy and our feeble efforts to please him are futile.

Sounds bleak doesn't it. In fact if you have read this far you may be seething with indignation. The hardest thing about accepting the Christian faith is recognising that we need help. None of us like to admit that we cannot make ourselves right with God, like Frank Sinatra, we want to do it our way. The start of Christian faith is therefore about recognising that there really is something wrong between us and God, being sorry for this, and accepting that we cannot solve the problem. This is called repentance, but on its own it is not enough. Here comes the good news.

The glorious truth which is the central message of the bible and the heart of Christianity is that there is a way for us to be right with God. The way to God is not a religion, or a system, or something we must do. The way to God is a person, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why Christianity is about a person, Jesus Christ.

Jesus himself claimed to be the way to God, an absurd claim to make (which is part of the reason he was put to death) unless it is true.

How can Jesus be the way to God?

Firslty, because Jesus is the Son of God, that is, the historical person Jesus of Nazareth was not just a man (though he was truly and fully a man) but also God who took our flesh and became a man. God stepped into the mess of our world to save us.

Secondly, because Jesus died on the cross, an horrific death, but one which many suffered. What makes His death different is that he was fully and completely separated and forsaken from God the Father in His death. He was forsaken, because He took on himself our sins, bearing the consequence, the punishment for us all. Remember, this is the judge taking on himself the punishment he justly should have bestowed on us.

Thirdly, because Jesus rose again from the dead, in a real and physical way. In doing this he showed that he has conquered the power of death. He also therefore demonstrated the truth of his own words that we will all be raised. He rose so that now, he sits enthroned in heaven from where he will come again as judge.

Jesus is the way to God, he has taken away our sins, and opened up to us the way to God.

But do you want to follow this way?

Many people do not believe there is a problem so they have no thought of a saviour.

Others realise there is something wrong, but they think they can fix it themselves -this is what religion is about in general.

Others believe what the bible says, but never actually themselves turn to God in repentance and accept Jesus as the way.

What then is a Christian?

A Christian is someone who, to use Jesus own words, has repented and believed.

Repented - recognised that all is not well, being truly sorry to God for what we have done wrong, seriously and earnestly wanting to be right with God.

Believed - this means believing that Jesus is the way to God and actaully entrusting Jesus with our lives.

If you have waded through all this text so far, then I congratulate you, but I also ask you seriously to consider what you have read. There is much that you can read and entertain yourself with on the Word Wide Web, but how long will it all last? If you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, you belong to Him for eternity. If you know deep down that you are not right with God, then do something about it.

What should you do if you know you are not right with God?

We cannot batter the door to heaven down, but we can batter on it until it is opened.

You must therefore pray, if you are serious about wanting to be right with God, then talk to Him about it.

Beg Him to forgive you for all the wrong in your life.

With all your heart ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save you and to take his rightful place in your life.

We do not have a right to ask God for this, but we do have a promise:

'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'.

Take him at His word.

If you are someone who trust in the Lord Jesus then you have many things to thank and praise God for, never forget His riches. But also this is not the end of the story. When someone turns to Christ then we have the promise that we receive the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this initial giving of the Holy Spirit is very obvious, but not often. However, as you go on as a Chrsitian the presence of the Holy Spirit should become obvious, for one of the chief works of the Holy Spirit is to make us holy, to help us to live in a way that is pleasing to God. This is not because our salvation depends upon our holiness, but because we have been set free from fear of the future, we should want to live for God now.

If you are a Christian then God has a plan for your life:

His plan is that you should grow in holiness,

it is the Holy Spirit within you who will help you in this,

you must walk in step with the Spirit,

and the Holy Spirit's textbook is the bible, which teaches us how to live for God.

So make sure you read the bible and pray, asking God to guide you in holiness.

My prayer is that those who read these words will find the way to God and be encouraged in their life as a Christian.

© David Phillips 1995-2021