God, Jesus & Us
Both of us are Christians, and we've been going to Chatswood Baptist church since April 2002. It's been a great place to learn more about God and share with other Christians. If you want to drop in and say hello, we attend the morning congregation at 9:30.
Well, what does it mean exactly to be a Christian? In a sentence this means that we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. On this page we'll to briefly describe the who, what and why of what we believe. We'd like to challenge you to read through the discussion presented here, and have a serious think about the implications.
What's a Christian
To understand what a Christian is, it's best to look at what we believe, and how we've responded to Jesus. Here are some of the core concepts:
- God made the world and that makes him the boss. Just like you get to arrange the furniture the way you like in your own house, God gets final say about how things run in the world he made.
- We're stuffing things up. It's pretty self evident that the world has problems. And many of these problems can be directly traced back to people's actions or in-actions. Christians call this Sin. More generally, Sin is disobeying or ignoring God - and by that definition we're all doing it.
- God is going to fix things up by coming back and straightening things out and getting rid of the problems. But there's a catch...
- We will be judged and sin will not go unpunished. Some people picture this as weighing our 'good stuff' against our 'bad stuff'. But this isn't the case: if we're supposed to obey God all the time, then how is obeying him only some of the time possibly going to make up for the other times. Put differently, we're part of the problem - so if God's coming back to fix things up, then we're in the hot seat.
- Jesus provides a way out. Because God is just and holy, he cannot let sin go unpunished. But he does allow someone else to take the punishment for us. Of course, this can't be someone who's got their own sins that need punishment. It has to be a perfect sinless person. And Jesus fits the bill. This is why Jesus was crucified on a cross.
- We are saved by grace, which means that we didn't particularly do anything to deserve this kind act that Jesus has done for us. We did not earn it by doing good deeds. All credit goes to Jesus.
- Jesus is Lord. Because of who he is, and what he has done, Jesus has been appointed as King over the whole universe. This is why we 'follow' Jesus.
- Repent, Believe, Obey. This is what Christians do. Say sorry to God for rebelling against him. Believe that Jesus' death on a cross has paid for your sins. Then start to obey God - though this obeying isn't what actually saves us.
But, hang on, this doesn't sound right. Christians do good stuff, follow the ten commandments or something like that, and then they get into heaven, right? Nope. To be sure, there are going to be some bitterly disappointed people who thought they could get in on their own steam. Rather, the reason that Christians 'do good stuff' is because they feel compelled to, in part from gratitude for what Jesus has done for them, and in part because God's spirit is working in us to change us.
So, it's kinda like the Matrix. There is a reality greater than just the physical world we perceive. But even if we can't see God and these things now, we will in due course. So it's a good idea to work out if you're with God or against God before it's too late.
Objections to Christianity
So now you've got the Christ1001 of what we believe. But why do we believe this things. Why should the two of us, two intelligent, university educated people (I'll just give myself a wrap here) believe this stuff? Indeed, people put forward lots of reasons why they think Christians are barking mad.
We'll look at some of these objections. Unfortunately it's hard to provide a compelling argument in a sentence. But, believe me, these are well discussed questions that have good answers, and it would therefore be ignorant to dismiss Christianity for any reason without checking to see if there's any validity to that reason.
- "God doesn't exist. Simple as that. All this Christianity stuff might make individual feel good, or might be good for the community, but so what." God has revealed himself in many ways. One of the most compelling is the life of Jesus himself. Jesus made grand claims to being God - he talked the talk. But then he walked the walk and backed his claims by performing amazing supernatural feats, as attested by both his friends and his enemies.
- "No really, science has proved it with the big bang and evolution and all that. We really don't see any evidence of God." Two brief points: 1. To what extent can science be used to study the non-physical reality that we speak of, or even historical events of the physical world? 2. To the extent that science can meaningfully contribute to the discussion, do not believe that catch cry "Science has disproved God" without reviewing the evidence both for and against yourself. What you find will surprise you.
- "All religions are equally right", which is another way of saying that they're all equally wrong. The various religions make many contradictory claims. For example: "There is one God", "There are many Gods", "There is no God". People who say they're all right are actually dismissing them as all wrong and only focusing on the experiential nature of each.
- "What makes Christianity right over other religions?" Good question, and it's worth noting that secular atheism is just another belief system like the rest of them. Christianity makes many verifiable claims and assertions, and in particular the life of Jesus Christ has a great deal of archaeological support. A very strong case can be made that his resurrection was a real event - which on its own is proof of his deity. Other religions either do not make testable claims, or fail when their claims are tested.
- "Christians are hypocrites, with the crusades and wars, the scandals, and the good ol' day-to-day hypocrisy". Christians claim that all people are sinners and they do not claim that people stop sinning once they become Christians. Having said that, it is sad that these things happen. God's justice will prevail.
- "What God of love would let so much bad stuff happen, like earthquakes, famine and disease, or tragedy that strikes a person who didn't deserve it?". The world was not always like this. Many sins have direct consequences that help to stuff up the world - but more than that, the first Sin brought about a breakdown in the way the world works. It's decaying and bad stuff happens. Our time on this broken earth is short, but God sees the big picture and present suffering pales compared to eternity in a new creation.
- "I'm too bad. Beyond saving. God can't love me". No one is beyond saving. One example from the bible is Saul. He went around hunting down and killing Christians. But Jesus appeared to him and he did a 180, becoming one of the key figures in the early church.
God Reveals Himself
"You can neither prove nor disprove God" is a common quoted phrase. But it's interesting that Jesus' early followers had it proved to them beyond doubt that he was God. So, a better way of phrasing this common objection might be that science cannot prove or disprove God. Rather, rational thought and historical study are more appropriate tools for investigation.
Evidences to support the claims of the bible generally fall into three baskets:
- Jesus Christ was an extraordinary man. He made extraordinary claims. He claimed that he was God. But he backed these claims up by performing miracles that only the creator of the universe could do. Below is one example from the book of Mark, chapter 2:
...When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"
- Historicity of the bible. The bible describes many places, people and events in both the old testament and the new testament. Many of these have been verified through archaeology. The text of the bible has also been faithfully and accurately preserved throughout the centuries. The bible succeeds where it can be tested - it is therefore prudent to accept it where it cannot be tested.
- General revelation is a fancy name for all the clues God has given us in the world around us. Indeed we don't need to look past the end of our nose to find evidence of Gods handy work. "Intelligent Design" is an unpopular phrase these days. But it describes that the world, ecology, environment, universe, our own bodies, DNA, and brain are all such intricate systems that are all so perfectly tuned to their task that they could not have possibly come about through unguided processes as modern science suggests. They must have been created by an intelligent designer - God. Even the fact that you're thinking your very own conscious thoughts, your self-awareness, cannot be explained by the 'mechanical' physics alone that science gives us.
Further to this, we experience him personally in a variety of ways. Though answers to prayers, though the way he shapes our character, and through the way he directs the course of our lives in ways that we otherwise wouldn't have gone on our own. It's like having a pen friend. At first, the medium of communication may appear to only be on paper, but through the development of the relationship you know personally there's a very real person at the other end.
So, what do you think?
Hopefully you understand a bit more about what makes a Christian who they are, and what makes the two of us who we are. But more importantly, maybe you've thought a bit more about this important topic. It seems that most people do more research into their next digital camera purchase then their eternity. If you have more questions, please talk to one of us. If you disagree... please talk to us and tell us why we're wrong. Don't be too shy, lazy, proud, stubborn, uninterested, distracted to look into this important issue further.
- Christianity.net.au - Good info, or ask a question
- 2 Ways to Live - Summary of the Christian message
- biblegateway.com - Online bible