If you’re still with me, I’m going to assume you are either, A.) already a Christian, or B.) looking for more information about the Christian life – and, if you are in category B, this is written especially for you.
Note: I’m not going to call Christianity a religion. Christianity, in it’s purest form, is simply a personal relationship with our Triune God. That is: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. That may be difficult for you to grasp right now; but, trust me, it’s true. Oh, fully comprehending God is impossible; but, having a personal relationship with Him is not. (Really – and, I’m going to tell you how.) If you become a Christian it will be the most liberating, joyful, empowering, yet humbling, thing you can ever do. It will change your life.
We (Christians) believe the Bible is “God Breathed”. This tells us where the message originated – regardless of who actually wrote it down. I tell you that, because the Bible is made up of 66 books written by about 40 authors over a period of approximately 2,000 years. It contains History, Prophesy, Poetry and Instruction. The oldest book, Job (arguably), is believed to have been written perhaps as early as 2,000-1,800 BC. The most recent (Revelation), about 95 AD. It is in the pages of the Bible that you will learn not only about the Christian God; but also, how to truly know Him.
I could start a list God’s characteristics; but, I’m not sure I could ever finish it. So, I’m going to dwell on only a few.
First, I’ve already said that God is supernatural. (If He were mortal, how could He truly be God?) He resides in His Kingdom (called Heaven). It is invisible to us – likely in another dimension).
Second, God is omnipotent (has unlimited authority and power) and omniscient (has universal and complete knowledge, including infinite awareness, understanding and insight). When Moses (mid-1400 BC) asked God His name. God told him it was “Yahweh” meaning “I Am Who I Am” or, “I Am”.i
In the “No God” post, I said I believe God created the universe. (Note: Within the Christian community there are two camps. One believes in an “old earth” [at 4.5± billion years] the other believes in a “new earth” [at 10,000± years]). The point I want to make about this discussion is simply this: it doesn’t make any difference if God created the universe billions of years ago or thousands of years ago. The point we all agree on is… He did it. He (Our Triune God, is the great architect, engineer and fabricator of the universe – period. When He did it, simply doesn’t matter to this core belief.
Third, as the Creator of everything, everything belongs to Him. He is supreme and sovereign. There is no other god.
Fourth, God loves His creation, most especially mankind. Because He loves us, He created us in His image. No, we are not miniature versions of God; however, we do have many of His characteristics. Not all of them; and certainly not to the same degree. Most obviously: God is perfect, …we are not. On the other hand, one way we are made in the image of God is that we have eternal souls. We are eternal beings, living in temporary bodies, on planet Earth.
God could have created us as mindless slaves. Instead He created us as intelligent beings with freewill. When God created Adam and Eve, he gave them dominion over the earth. He placed them in the Garden of Eden and gave them only one rule. Do not eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. For a period of time Adam and Eve lived in a paradise on earth. Adam and Eve walked and talked together in the Garden. They enjoyed the animals and all the plants. God visited them and they all talked together. But that would come to an end.
Fifth, God is Just.
Sixth, and important, important, …important! God’s justice is tempered and perfected by His unbounded grace and perfect love. I mention it now, because it is critical to what happened in the Garden of Eden; …and, everything following. But before going there, we need to talk about Satan.
The angels are also created beings, not in God’s image. God created them to serve Him in Heaven, and occasionally on Earth. There are (evidently) thousands upon thousands of angels. Satan, one of the angels, was known as the most beautiful of all the angels. And perhaps because of that, he had “issues” with pride. He wanted to be the equal of God. When God didn’t agree, Satan gathered approximately one-third of the angels and attempted a coup. Obviously it did not succeed; and Satan (now a sworn enemy of God) and all his followers, were banished from Heaven – to earth. Satan became pure evil and is referred to as a liar and the father of lies. In fact, he is incapable of telling the truth; and if he seems to tell the truth, it is a twisted truth that will bring about evil. Satan ultimately destroys anything he touches.
Satan still wars with God. But, since he cannot attack God directly he does it indirectly through mankind – God’s favorite creation. (That includes you and me). This explains what happened in the Garden of Eden. Satan approached Eve and engaged her in conversation. Using lies and twisted truth, he convinced her to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. She did, liked it, and then convinced Adam to also eat it.
That willful disobedience of the only rule God had given them, ushered in death, pain, and every other evil on Earth – to this day. By listening to Satan and following his words (rather than God’s one rule), Adam and Eve gave Satan control of Earth. Even more importantly, mankind was instantly separated from God. Today, we call Adam’s and Eve’s sin, ‘Original Sin’. Since we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, their sin has passed down through the ages to each and every one of us. We are all born, sinful by nature. Satan thought he had won a great victory over God because God cannot abide to even be in the presence of sin; and, the only payment for sin is death.
But there is still more to the story, ….
Remember those two words omnipotent and omniscient, well now you will see an example of them in action. Even at creation, God knew what would happen in Eden; so, He had a plan in mind for the redemptionii of mankind. No way was God going to forsake His most loved creation.iii
All of the above is found in the Old Testament. Most of it in Genesis, the first book. The Old Testament also contains a ton of history; a lot of “law” (that applied in the Old Testament – but not the New Testament); prophesy (much of which would come to pass in the New Testament); and, wonderful instruction from the lives of many great men and women. Satan runs rampant through the Old Testament, with much of his mayhem designed to find and kill the “son of Eve” who will ultimately kill him (Satan).iv Additionally, throughout the Old Testament there are wonderful “hints” and “sneak previews” of God’s plan that will give mankind a path to redemption.
Approximately 400 years separate the Old Testament From the New. During this time God was silent. But His plan was progressing.
The New Testament begins with four books called the “Gospels”. The word means: Good News. It is these four books that spell out God’s plan for redemption. Why four books on the exact same subject? Easy. There were four different authors, each writing from his own perspective. Together they provide a well rounded picture of Jesus. Jesus is God’s only son. He came to earth as a baby. His mother, a virgin named Mary, was impregnated by the Holy Spirit and gave birth to Jesus nine month later. Jesus lived a sin-free life; and is the crux of God’s plan to redeem mankind.
OK. Remember the important words Grace and Love? This is where they intersects with us. As noted, the only payment for sin is death. So, we ALL deserve to die. After all, no one is without sin. Because of God’s Grace and Love, He sent Jesus, to earth to become the payment for our sin. And, when this perfect man – who had committed no sin – died on the cross, He became the blood sacrifice, carrying the weight of sin for all mankind – for all time.
Jesus was put into a tomb. And, on the third day He arose from the dead. Why? That was the final proof that Jesus was truly God’s Son. He had been beaten, lashed, crucified, suffocated, and had a spear thrust into His side to penetrate the membrane around His heart. He was pronounced dead by absolute experts in crucifixion. He was sealed in a tomb from Friday to Sunday. He was dead. Yet on Sunday the tomb was found empty. Over the next 40 days, he was seen by hundreds of people (over 500 in just one instance). Then He ascended to Heaven, where He sits at the right Hand of His Father (once again in His supernatural form). It is from there that He will return in the final scene of God’s Great Plan. Christians believe in a living God.
Jesus will return as the Messiah. The expected king and deliverer of the Jews. And, on this visit to earth, Jesus will be on a very different mission. All Christians (living and dead) will be gathered to Him and given new bodies. Satan, all of the fallen angels, demons, devils, and all of his followers, will be judged and thrown into Hell. The Earth will be cleansed of all evil by fire, and then re-created. Heaven and the New Earth will merge – with a new capital called “The New Jerusalem”. God and all of His People will live together on the recreated Earth.
So, if Jesus died for everyone, it’s a done deal. What does one have to worry about…, you ask? Well, Gods plan is simple, but not quite that simple. I repeat, everyone is free to accept Jesus’ sacrifice and gain eternity in Heaven. The cold, hard fact is, not everyone will. (It’s that freewill thing).
Thus, not everyone will be in Heaven. Only those who answer the Holy Spirit’s urging and choose belief in Jesus, have a repentant heart, and ask Him for redemption, will receive it. They will become the adopted sons and daughters of God. They will also receive the Holy Spirit to live within them (establishing that personal relationship with God). It is these who are assured of entering into Heaven after death.
Many (most) will harden their hearts to the call, and turn from God. God will allow them to do this. God, while not approving all our choices, will honor them. Again, no one will be forced to become a follower of Christ. But remember this: God is just. He will not, literally cannot, abide willful disobedience (sin). Those judged sinful, will spend eternity in Hell – completely separated from God. That means there is, literally, nothing “good” in hell. Only, complete, black, never ending evil. And, no hope – period.
Where are we now in God’s plan? Well, we know that Christ died on the cross for us. We know that after dying on the cross Jesus regained dominion over the earth – from Satan. We know that Christ will return to earth at a future date; which is unknown (and unpredictable). While He delays, Satan – who knows he has lost – never-the-less, continues to make as much trouble, for us and God, as possible. Satan continues his war, and tries to use us a pawns. It’s as if he doesn’t know he can’t change our destiny if we stand our ground. He (Satan) can, and does, do tremendous harm. But he cannot change the final outcome. He is beaten. The Bible says that God is waiting to give as many people as possible the opportunity to accept His offer of Salvation. But there will always be people who won’t accept that offer. And, at some point, it will suddenly be too late. In the meantime, those of us who have accepted Gods Grace must continue to do the work He has for us, …while we can. God will bring us through, and grow our faith in the process.
So, establishing your personal relationship with the one true God is as simple as saying and meaning, the following words…
God, I accept you as the one true God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. I know I have sinned and cannot do anything to save myself. I believe you sacrificed your son, Jesus, to be my redeemer; and, I accept your grace. I wish to turn away from my sinful life and live for you. Thank you Jesus, for saving me. Amen.
If you have taken that step, you will, likely, soon have some questions. In my next post, “For New Christians” I will give you some pointers and references I think will help you. And, congratulations!
If you have not taken that step, know that many Christians are praying for you. God grieves over every soul that is lost. It hurts Him, but it doesn’t change Him. Someday we all must stand in Judgment. Christians have a free and exclusive pass. For everyone else it will be too late. I write this not to scare anyone. Just to make you aware of what this world is really about.
In Christian Love…
i ‘Yahweh’ is derived from the Hebrew word for “I Am”. (The problem for us today, is that Hebrew doesn’t use vowels (YHWH). And, since the Jews never pronounced the name of God out-loud, the correct pronunciation is “lost” and we can only make an educated guess at the correct pronunciation and spelling.
ii Redemption: To redeem. To buy back; to release from blame or debt.
iii As Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eve, God cursed Satan and told him that a son of Eve’s would destroy him.