How do you define Christianity? Strange as it may seem, many people who attend church are quite confused as to what it is. How does the Bible answer that question?
Many people are confused about the Christian faith because they listen to others who define Christianity as they understand it. These people are also quite confused, so it becomes the blind leading the blind. For example, say you are in a group that is discussing this question. One person explains his understanding of the Christian faith, which does not agree with the Word of God. Is it, perhaps, because the sermons on Sunday do not sound a clear note on a regular basis that God in Jesus Christ has come to die for the sins of the world? That He was raised on the third day so we might have the promise of eternal life and the assurance that Jesus walks with us on this earth?
Others have definitions of Christianity, which are applied in its own way, according to the circumstance.
Examining some of these beliefs, we find they have omitted some basic teachings and added some that should be missing. Let me give you some examples.
¥ Jesus could not have been born of a virgin, as described in Luke chapter 2.
¥ Jesus was a “God-intoxicated” man. His death on the cross of Calvary was not for the sins of the world.
¥ His resurrection was only spiritual, not physical.
¥ Jesus will not return.
¥ Salvation is for all people. Everybody is going to heaven (universalism).
So it is good for us to look at the Bible’s understanding of Christianity in order to remain true to the Word of God.
In today’s text, it was the first day of holy week and a lot of people were grouped together celebrating the Passover. The Greeks were always seeking after the truth, so some were there also. A few of them went to Jesus’ disciple, Philip, and said, “We would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to Andrew, and they in turn told Jesus.
Jesus did not reply at that particular time. Instead he began to speak: “The time has now come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” The climax to his ministry was close at hand. He had been ministering to the people for three years. He had proclaimed that he was the Messiah of the world, taught what God’s will was for their lives, and told how the kingdom of God would be extended to the far corners of the earth. However, he was ministering primarily to Israel, and most people turned a very dim ear to his words.
But now he says, “If a kernel falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed, but if it dies, it produces many seeds.” What he is predicting here is that, if he were to remain in that part of the world, his message would only reach the ears of those nearby. But Jesus was more than just a local religion, he was the Son of God and the Savior of the whole world. And so he would suffer, he would die and be raised again. Then he would ascend into heaven and inform the disciples that their primary mission on this earth is to proclaim that message. That is the core of the gospel.
And so, as Jesus Christ stood there talking with his disciples, a strong voice came out of the heavens saying, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd that heard it said, “It has thundered.” Jesus replied that God gave them this message to help the people understand who he really was. He is saying, “You are going to have the light just a little longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”
In verse 30, Jesus explains, “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world (Satan) will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.'”
Jesus will draw all people to himself Ð Jews to be sure Ð but all others as well. His Word will extend out into the world until he returns again. This means that the message he was proclaiming would find its way into the hearts and homes of people in 2012. It is the message that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.
When he finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them. These were his closing words. My friend, this is Christianity.
I would like to turn your attention to verse 27. “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ÔFather, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”
I love this portion of scripture, because it points out that Jesus was human, but without sin. He knows his task is to go and make atonement for the sins of the world, but his heart is troubled by the real temptation. “What shall I say, ÔFather, dismiss me from this hour’? Or ÔFather, wait another 10 years, then we’ll have this hour’?”
But then he follows with this bouncing “No! It was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (Here he is defining Christianity.) God has come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. He was God to be sure, but he was also man Ð the God/man. He was man in the sense that he understood what sin could do to an individual. He was man in the sense that he understood what temptation was all about. Yet he was also man who, empowered by the Holy Spirit, knew that God himself had come, the God/man, to suffer and then die in order to free man up to be one with Jesus Christ forever.
Biblical Christianity has Jesus Christ at the heart of its message. It is far more than a fine moralism or a general religion. It is the glorious truth that Jesus Christ has come as the God/man. When you give someone a definition of Christianity, don’t forget that Christ is at the center of it all.
Many of us who have heard this gospel through the years believe it is true. We believe Christ is all he says he is in the scriptures and we are the people of God. Others have been in the church for a long time and believe they are good Christians, but cannot believe everything scriptures say about Jesus. They have sort of a worked-over Christianity. They don’t take some of those doctrines as seriously as the scriptures do. So they chalk off some cardinal and ethical teachings until soon it is not a Christianity of the scriptures, but a Christianity according to human beings.
Perhaps you believe that, if you have more time to work through these beliefs a bit better, you will come to trust them. Jesus knows how tempting Satan can be. He knows it would be easy to say, “I am just out of college, and I’m not so sure I want to give my life to Jesus Christ now. Perhaps in a few years, after I’ve had a look at the emptiness of the world, I’ll know best. “
Jesus says, “Now is the day! Now is the day for you.” He will continue to walk with you. In the meantime, he is urging us to invite him into our hearts Ð by the power of the Holy Spirit Ð so we can know the glory of this gospel.
How do you define the Christian faith, is a very important question, and we need to give it a great deal of thought. Don’t put it off. Don’t let Christianity be confused in your mind simply because of what you might have read or what others might have told you. To not be sure about it is one thing. But to deny the Christian faith is unbelief, and that is sad.
There is no question that we live in a very confused world, and that confusion certainly extends into Christianity. One of the basic reasons for all the confusion is the world continues to deny who Jesus is and that he has the answers for our problems, no matter how serious and how big they are. Turn to your Bibles, and remember the words God has given us. If we want to be his followers, we are to take up his cross and walk with him, the light of the world. If you hear his voice, open your heart and let Jesus in today.