This is part two of a four-part series on the essentials of being a Christ follower. The series began with Bible basics. This article may be hard to accept by many in the Western culture because it assumes belief in a spirit world. The metaphysical is not something that can be easily catalogued, studied, or proven and therefore is often dismissed as imagination. To embrace the possibility of an entire other realm of existence is scary and challenging. There is a real heaven and a real hell and choosing to not believe in them does not make them go away. There is not an argument that can be made to convince someone about the existence of God. That is why faith is so important. The best explanation of faith I can give is Hebrews 11:1 Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.
The spiritual realm is not something I have a great intellectual understanding about. In a similar way I work with electricity on a regular basis. I do not fully understand it. Nobody has found a concise way to explain electricity. In fact all we really know is ways to utilize the electric power that is not readily understood by most people. All that being said, try to explain electricity to someone who has never seen it in use.
I feel it is necessary to mention a core belief of the Christian faith and that is the Holy Trinity. This is difficult to explain about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They are the three parts of the triune God, that is the Holy Trinity. In other words the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are the one true God. My finite mind cannot fully comprehend this and it is certainly a worthwhile study, but it goes beyond the scope of this article to explore this subject further.
JESUS CHRIST AND THE MEANING OF BEING A CHRISTIAN
It would be utterly impossible to discuss Christianity without talking about Jesus Christ. After all, it’s all about Jesus! How many times have you heard that phrase? Have you considered what that phrase means? There are many attributes of Jesus Christ that could be discussed. History acknowledges the historical figure of Jesus. No other person has had as much impact on the social and political landscape. Jesus Christ is the most debated figure in all of human history. An overwhelming amount of books have been written and sermons preached from various views about the man called Jesus. With this in mind it is not possible to accurately cover every aspect in a single article. However, in this post we will take a brief look at some essentials of Jesus and what it means to be a Christ follower.
The first thing to know about Jesus is he is the Son of God sent to earth as a man to save humanity from sin. The primary role Jesus had on earth is summed up in John 3:16-17 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
Here is the condensed form of the good news of Christ. God created man to be in fellowship with Him. The first two humans (Adam and Eve) disobeyed the only commandment given to them. Disobedience to God is known as sin. That one sin brought sin into the world and separated man and God. Furthermore sin brought death into the world because death is the punishment for sin. As a result God established a system of sacrifice to atone for sin. Most people intuitively want to reconcile with God so they try to be a good person. This takes many forms such as being a law-abiding person, or going to church, giving to the poor, etc. The problem is all the things we do to reconnect a broken relationship with God fall short. God, in His loving mercy, sent His son Jesus to earth to live as the only perfect man and ultimately be the perfect sacrifice for sin. The moment a person believes that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the grave to pay for their sins, and turn from sin, they are forgiven of sin and are able to be in true fellowship with God. That relationship is what gives us the hope for eternal life in heaven and we become what is known as a Christian.
The term Christian means little Christ and was first used as a derogatory term some time after the scriptures were written. That is why the term Christian was not found in the original manuscripts of the Bible. The first believers were called followers of The Way referring to Jesus. That’s because Jesus said of himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” in John 14:6. In short to be a Christian is to be like Christ. That is our ultimate goal.
The best way to become more and more like Christ is to study about him in order to imitate his ways. In order to help us Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as a guide and teacher. Look at John 14:23-26 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. 24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. 26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
To be clear, salvation is a free gift. Jesus came to save the people who think they have screwed up too much to be forgiven by God. Jesus shows love for people like me who can’t hardly make it through the first cup of coffee in a day without finding a way to sin. Jesus did not come for the self-righteous and he does not expect perfection. Look at this passage from Matthew 9:9-13 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. 10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. 11 But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?” 12 When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Certainly Jesus gives us some commands to follow as we mature in our faith but that is not for salvation. Be encouraged that regardless of your past salvation is available to all who seek it!
Rev. Burt Schwab