Christ of Christianity.
It may sound obvious, yet many people fail to recognise that the true key to understanding Christianity is contained in the very word itself, CHRIST-ianity. The key to understanding Christianity is understanding Christ. Christians aren’t just moral, well-behaved, religious people - they are people who believe that Jesus is the Christ!
The term Christ was used to describe the one whom God would send into the world as the ultimate Saviour; the one who would take what was wrong in God’s creation and make it right again. He was the one spoken of by the Old Testament prophets. He was the deliverer, the Messiah.
With the introduction of Christ on earth, it was as if God himself punched a hole in the ceiling of the world and climbed into our humanity, revealing Himself to us. It was like He put on an ‘earth suit’ and stooped down into the straw of Bethlehem’s manger. God was effectively putting skin on, clothing himself in humanity to become the lowest, and in doing so became ‘Immanuel’ (God with us.) What is important to understand however, is that by becoming human, by donning flesh and entering the world as you and I did, God was not emptying Himself of being who He was, and is, and always will be.
Throughout scripture we see that Jesus made claims about Himself to prove that He was the Messiah:
- 1.Jesus claimed to be God.
(John 10:30-33 NIV)
- 2.Jesus claimed to fulfil the scriptures.
(John 5:39 NLT)
- 3.Jesus claimed to have come from heaven.
(John 3:13 NLT)
- 4.Jesus claimed to be sinless.
(1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT)
- 5.Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sin.
(Mark 2:5-7 NLT)
- 6.Jesus claimed to be the only way to heaven.
(John 14:6 NLT)
- 7.Jesus claimed to be able to give eternal life.
(John 6:40 NIV)
- 8.Jesus claimed to be the Christ.
(Mark 14:61-62 NIV)
The prolific writer CS Lewis put it this way:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman, or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We beheld His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...”
John 1:1, 14 NIV
The term ‘gospel’ simply means ‘good news’. When we fully understand the gospel, however, we begin to realise that it is far more than good news - it is astonishing news that has the ability to transform our lives!
The gospel is of first importance. It is the prime thing. The cross of Christ is at the centre of our faith and without the cross, we have nothing. The message of the cross is not the basic thing - it is the essential thing. The story of the Bible is the good news of what Jesus has done to restore our intended relationship with God.
The gospel is a story that can be told a thousand different ways, but it is fundamentally about these four key things:
1. God's Design
Man was created to walk in relationship with God. This was the original plan for man before sin entered humanity. Therefore, when exploring the gospel we ask, “What is God up to? What is God’s plan?” The gospel shows us that God is actively involved in His original design. He is still building the dream, bringing man back to the original idea of family in Eden, for us to live in a thriving relationship with Him, unimpeded by sin and brokenness. God’s plan is for you to be in a loving family relationship with your Creator.
2. Man's Fall
In the book of Genesis, we see Adam and Eve choosing to disobey God by eating of the tree that He had instructed them not to eat from. The first result of ‘the fall’ was that sin caused man to run away from God rather than run to God. What we need to understand is that God desires a loving relationship with us, despite our sin and failure. The second result of man’s fall is that our alienation from God inevitably results in alienation from each other. Sin has a very human cost - it deeply affects how we treat each other.
3. Christ's Cross
The consequence of sin is death – sin is the result of our deception and deserves the judgment of a holy and just God. The spiritual debt of death must be paid and either we will pay, or a substitute will pay on our behalf. Without a Saviour for our sin, we are cut off from the God that we are designed to have a life-giving relationship with. Until this debt of sin is paid, we are exiles far from our true eternal home. Without the shedding of blood, there is no removal of sin. We have all accrued a debt of sin that must be paid. In order to have forgiveness, someone has to pay the price.
Jesus became our substitute upon the cross. He took the punishment for our sins and paid a price we could never pay. Because of Christ’s cross, we can now go back into the presence of God! There is a way for us to come home. There is a way back to the original design. We can live the dream of the Garden of Eden and walk with God in the cool of the day. How? Jesus made a way. This is good news.
4. Our Restoration
The gospel is about restoring us back to the original plan as people who have a relationship with God. Restoration brings us back to a life of worship and prayer, healing and wholeness, faith and hope, purpose and destiny. As we look to the Scriptures we find that God progressively empowers and equips us to live a life of fruitfulness.
The confidence that we have in this process of restoration is that we did not start it and we cannot finish it. Christ came looking for us. Christ took the initiative to restore us back to the original plan. That is why Paul could say that he was confident in this:
“…that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 1:6 NIV
When we experience the grace of God, it leads us to live a life of gratitude. This is a life of worship and thankfulness that transforms the way we live as we continue to follow Christ. Grace is not the end of personal effort in following Christ, it is simply the end of guilt-driven efforts to earn God’s love.
This is where Christianity differs from all other religions. All other religions encourage the worshipper to do something to earn merit with their god and to work towards gaining acceptance from their god. We, however, are not trying to earn God’s love and acceptance. His love and acceptance is the starting point. When we experience such grace, how can we help but respond with grateful hearts and lives! This is so much more than a theoretical set of beliefs or a religious philosophy. Our response to the gospel goes deep down into our soul and flows out through our daily lifestyle of following Jesus. The life of Christianity is a life of gratitude and worship!
When the first disciples answered the invitation of Jesus, they didn’t understand all the implications of their response - they simply made a decision to open the door and welcome Christ into their lives. That is all we need to do to start this journey of faith. The way we respond and open the door to Christ is through faith and in prayer. An example of a prayer that we could pray might be as simple as this one:
“Dear Jesus, I come to you just as I am. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and ask you to be my Saviour, my Lord and my friend. I ask you to forgive me for all of my sins and I ask you to give me a new life. I choose to turn away from my sin and I ask you to help me to follow you all the days of my life. Make me the person you want me to be. In Jesus' name, Amen.
If we pray that prayer and mean it, then by faith we believe that Christ hears our prayer and answers it. He will come into our lives and begin the process of transformation!
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