The Foundations of Christianity.
Have you ever been asked, “so what is Christianity?” and struggled with the words to say? I’ve been there. I have been more and more convicted that this world needs to know the basic truth of Christianity. Not because of religion, but because of the relationship! It is so important to know what we believe and how to articulate truth.
Let’s start at the beginning. The beginning, as John 1 states, starts with God. Do you ever doubt the existence of God? I love that John Piper shares he often thinks about the idea that there is no god. He says this thought often comes to his mind when he is reading atheist literature. I struggled with the existence of God at a point in my life. I remember staring at the mountains in Colorado and struggling to believe that a God created what I saw. I read through the book of Psalms that year and started to see what David saw. God is revealed through nature. Romans 1:19-20 says, “What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them . . . in the things that have been made”. Study science. Look at what scientists don’t know. Things like our brains, how much of the ocean is undiscovered, space… Then you will start to think, there has to be a God. God’s creation is truly His way of saying “Hey, I am here”. I believe that’s another reason why studies have proven that being in nature lowers anxiety. You get a hug from God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:1-5
It comes down to faith at some point. Taking that jump and saying, “God, if you are real tell me about yourself. Show me you are real.” God shows himself through light and life that can be undeniable in our lives. He brings people out of dark places.
The first Faith Essential I want you to grab hold of today is that there is a God.
One True God
One crucial belief in Christianity is that there is one, true God. This same idea can be found in the Jewish and Muslim religions. Other major world religions such as Hinduism, Universalism or Budism would not claim this belief.
The Bible teaches that there is only one true God. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5). The Bible also talks about those higher powers, or gods at the time that the Bible was written, as spiritual beings that were real, however, not the true God. Paul is bold enough to call the higher powers or spiritual beings as “demons” (1 Corinthians 10:19–20).
James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Knowing that God is one is only half of understanding the one true God, because the key part to knowing that the God of the Bible is the one true God has to do with Jesus. So, if you’re claiming to be a Christian and think that all religions end up leading to the same place, the Bible says you actually know less than the demons.
What sets the God of the Bible apart? The answer is Jesus. That’s why we will spend a few weeks going over who Jesus is.
John Piper says, “Any religion that does not embrace and worship and obey Jesus for who he is — revealed in the Bible — is a false religion.”
Why is this so essential? Because every religion out there or higher power teaches that we, humans, have to or can do something in our own redemption story. The Bible teaches that no one can redeem their own story (everyone has sinned… we will cover that another day). Not even one. That’s why we needed the son of God, Jesus, to, out of His great love, pay the price of redemption. It truly is the best love story that was ever written down. It has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with God. Other religions have man at the center, while the Bible has God at the center. Any religion or person who rejects Jesus as God is a false religion. In 1 John 2:23, John says, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.”
Here’s your Faith Essential: There is One true God and Jesus is the key.
God Three in One
God is mysterious. I remember sitting in humanities class and reading about different religions. I remember thinking these gods sound so… human. The God of the Bible may be mysterious, complicated, hard to understand… but isn’t that what makes God, God? I don’t want to live my life for a god who I can understand. I want to live my life for a God who is beyond my human understanding. — otherwise I wouldn’t really need a god. This may sound so confusing, but that’s my thinking. And can I be so bold as to suggest that if you could understand a god, maybe it’s because that god was created by a human?
Anyways, God is mysterious. That is why the question, “what is the Trinity?” or, “who is Jesus?” can be so common. The Holy Trinity is not actually mentioned in the Bible. It is a theology term to describe that God is three in one. God is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Each name or title describes a function or role of God in humanity’s redemption story. Here’s an example of God being described in more than one persons… In Genesis 1:26, “God said, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness.” Another example is when David writes, “The Lord says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” in Psalm 110:1. This is a reference to God with two persons, Jesus and God. But how do you comprehend this? You try, but at the end of the day He is God and is three in one.
The Doctrine of the Trinity is just an example of how our God is not easily explained and I am ok with that. We can try to illustrate this concept with analogies like water, steam and ice or a triangle… but all will fail. God is unexplainable, mysterious, and beyond my own understanding.
The Faith Essential to be learned here is
- God is three persons
- Each person in the trinity is fully God
- There is One God.
God’s Word Comes in Three Forms
The Bible is essential to our faith because the Bible is a form of God’s Word. We believe that the Bible is literally God’s words spoken to us. It is important to remember that there’s other forms of God’s Word.
The forms of God’s Word include the person of Jesus. The Bible says that Jesus is called The Word of God in Revelation 19:13. John 1:1 also refers to Jesus as the Word of God. There are not many mentions of Jesus as the Word of God, however, this shows us that Jesus was meant to communicate to us the character of God.
Another form would be the audible Word of God. This is another form of communication we know God has used. For instance God literally spoke the world into existence as the Bible tells us with His words (Gen 3). God has addressed humans personally with audible words according to Ex 20:1-3. This is how we received the ten commandments. Moses heard an audible voice. God has also spoken through humans. We see this in the lives of the prophets and judges in the Old Testament of the Bible (1 Kings 20:36, 2 Chron. 20:20, Ezek. 13:1-7). It is important to note here that God personally addressing a person in the Old Testament is very rare. It is also important to note that after the New Testament was written we believe that God’s Words came to completion, because of Jesus.
Finally, the Bible is the written form of God’s Words. Did you know that Moses wrote a majority of the Old Testament of the Bible. Joshua did too (Joshua 24:26). We have to remember that the Bible was told verbally for many many years before it was written down. I think that’s why it is important to remember that when we talk about the Word of God we mean all forms of God’s Words.
Each form of God’s Word is powerful and true.
God’s Word includes the Old Testament and the New Testament
What is the canon of the scriptures? The canon is the list of books that belong in the Bible. The Bible was written over thousands of years by multiple authors. The Old Testament consists of 39 books and was finished around 435 B.C. Josephus was a historian who wrote much of the historical facts about Jesus. He would agree that there were no more books added after that date. The New Testament is filled with Jesus pointing back to the Old Testament and referring to it as divinely authoritative. That’s why we have both a New and an Old testament and a big reason why we do not include the Apocrypha (a collection of books included in the canon by the Roman Catholic Church).
Now onto the reason the New Testament is added to the canon of the scriptures. The Old Testament ends with the promise and hope of the Messiah coming, who we believe to be Jesus. This is why after the event of Jesus coming to the world, more books are added to the canon. And who better to tell us the Words of God through Jesus, but first hand witnesses. That’s why the New Testament is written by the apostles or the twelve disciples (there are only five books not written by the apostles). The New Testament writings can be dated to shortly after the church was dispersed because of persecution. And Jesus himself tells His disciples that when He goes the Spirit will come and will guide them to truth and declare things that are to come (John 16:13-14). This is why we believe the Holy Spirit has a big part to play in the power of the Bible.
It is wild to think about, and instead of doubting the truth of the words in the Bible, read it! It is remarkable to me that so many authors over so many years all point to the same message, to the same Truth, to the personhood of Jesus Christ.
Faith essential for today: God’s Word in written form includes the Old AND the New Testament because of the personhood of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is True
The Bible is Truth. Just saying that feels jarring. This is only because our culture is so against truth and all for relativity. However, that’s why I think this is so crucial to talk about. The Bible’s truth has a lot to do with how we live. And I am not just talking about moralism — I am talking about a life change that includes total surrender. That’s what the Bible talks about.
If the Bible is true then I have to change my whole life and the way I live. That was how I saw things at a young age. Before we completely dive into this topic (as much as we can in an email) I want you to know that the best way to find out if the Bible is True is to live what the Bible says. Just try it out. If the Bible is truly God’s Words, and Jesus’ life communicates to us God’s character, what do you have to lose?
In John 17:17 Jesus says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth”. I love how the language during the time Jesus lived was perfect for communicating philosophical thinking like “truth” and “love”. The word for “truth” found in this verse means “truth itself”. Because Jesus states that the God’s Words are truth itself and the Bible is a form of God’s Words in written form, we believe that the Bible is truth.
God’s very character cannot contradict Himself. This means God doesn’t lie, because He is Holy and doesn’t sin (Titus 1:2). I, for one, am thankful for a God who’s very being is Truth. Amazing! Here are more verses that speak about God’s truthfulness: Psalm 12:6, Matthew 24:35, Proverbs 30:5…
Standing on God’s truth is a game changer for standing firm when life shakes things up. There’s so much more we can say about this topic like God using human author’s personalities to write scripture (the overall message is God’s Words, not the literal words themselves), which translation is the most accurate (I use the ESV), but for the sake of the length of this email let’s save that for another time.
Faith Essential for today: Truth is what God says, and we have what God says (accurately but not exhaustively) in the Bible.
(Wayne Grudem, pg 84)
All Have Sinned
To fully understand who Jesus is, we have to go back to the beginning. Previously, we covered that God exists and is the Bible true. Now, let’s look at what the Bible has to say about who Jesus is. To understand Jesus, we have to go to the beginning. To understand the rescuer we have to understand what we need rescuing from.
Genesis is the first book of the Bible. We find right away that God created the world. He created the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve. God walked with Adam and Eve. They had a close relationship with their creator in this beautiful garden, which can be located in the Middle East. God gave one instruction. He started with saying, you can eat from every tree — just not this one… “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Then the Bible tells us that there is an angel, Lucifer, who was rebellious and decided to talk to Eve first. He said, “‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took off its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:5-7). What he told Eve is something the enemy uses on us to this day.
Adam and Eve wanted to be god instead of a relationship with Him. And today, we want to be gods. We do this when we think we know what is right and wrong based on our own experiences, feelings, and perspective. We do this when we make plans to be the best in our family, companies, communities. We do this in relationships. Entire marriages are ruined by this striving for “who is right or better”. At the core of racism is a pride that one group of people are better or superior than the other. Pride gets in the way of seeing that others have value even if they are different than us. This pride of living like we are mini gods is something we all struggle with and that’s what sin is — because only God can be god.
Adam and Eve wanted to be god instead of having a relationship with Him. This breaks God’s heart and creates a division between us and God. There’s so much more to be said about sin and the Holiness of God, but the main point is that we’ve all sinned. We all come into this world wanting to be mini gods. We have to acknowledge that this is a problem before we recognize that we need a rescuer.
Faith Essential for today: We’ve all sinned by trying to be god instead of desiring a relationship with Him (Romans 3:23, Genesis 2-3).
Jesus Is Fully God and Fully Human
I recently watched the Guardian and although the ending is tragic, something pulls at your heart. There’s something about stories about sacrifice. Randall, the main character, is a U.S. marine.
When you watch the opening scene he is diving in to save a couple who’s in the middle of the ocean with only life jackets. Randall doesn’t just watch from the helicopter. He has to dive into the water, attach each person to a cable to be pulled up into the helicopter to their rescue. It isn’t until after both are safe that Randall is pulled back up to the helicopter.
See the rescuer has to enter into the same danger or peril as those who need rescuing. Firefighters do the same thing. They don’t just stay on the ground with a hose. They have to enter into a burning building to rescue those trapped inside.
We needed rescue, because the Bible tells us that all have sinned. All of us. We are all in need of a rescue. Sin impacts our relationships, our communities, our nations, our world. There’s something not right.
Because of this God had to become a man inorder to rescue us. That’s why we believe that Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is 100% man and 100% God. He is the only sinless human. Because of this only He can rescue us. This is another aspect of our faith that sets us apart from other religions. No “prophet” actually claimed to be God himself. That is why the Romans, the religious leaders at the time Jesus lived hated Jesus and his followers. Jesus claimed to be God and human. We needed a rescuer and God came down to get close enough to us to pull us out. And just like Randall in the 2006 movie, The Gaurdian, Jesus sacrificially died so that we could be rescued.
Jesus Died, Rose Again and Will Return
Jesus died on the cross. When we talk about the cross it is so easy to forget what that actually means. It was the most violent form of punishment at that time. We know this because of historic documents and historians. the Bible also talks about Jesus’ side being pierced as a way for the authorities to know without a doubt that Jesus died.
32 So the soldiers came and brokethe legs of the first, and of the other jwho had been crucified with him. 33 But when theycame to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that theScripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again anotherScripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”John 19:34
Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of Jesus. He took His body and buried Jesus in a tomb. The Romans decided to guard the tomb because they didn’t want Jesus’ disciples to steal the body. The third day after Jesus died, we believe He did indeed rose again. The Bible tells us 400 people saw Him and could testify. The seven disciples also saw Jesus after His death. His ascension is recorded in Luke 24. I think the most beautiful part of Jesus’ ascension is that He said it is to our benefit that He goes because those who believe in Him will receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus died on the cross, conquered death, paid the price for sin, and proving that He is God.
We also believe that Jesus is coming again. If you desire to know Jesus and follow the one true God all you have to do is believe that He has paid the price. There’s nothing you can do to gain right standing with God apart from what Christ did for you. If you believe today, Jesus says simply that you will be called a son of God, saved, and receive the Holy Spirit.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”John 1:12
Jesus’ disciples continued the preach the same message. And that’s what I want to continue to tell you about.
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”Acts 2:38-39 ESV
Nice analogy with the nice the Guardian. FYI, Randall is a Coast Guardsman. A rescue swimmer. Not a Marine.
Scott, a former Coast Guardsman.