A word that is so often misunderstood. But what does it really mean?
Type “definition of Christianity” into your average browser’s search engine, and you’ll come across an answer such as “the religion based on the person and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, or its beliefs and practices”. In the secular world, “Christianity” simply refers to a set of beliefs that surrounds the person of Jesus.
If you dig a little deeper and ask a self-proclaiming Christian, you should hopefully get a different and more in-depth answer. Though the responses may vary depending on their specific beliefs, many who call themselves “Christians” would describe Christianity as a life-style choice, or a relationship with God.
To many, being a Christian means that you believe Jesus Christ died because he loved you, and as long as you do your best to live a life for God, you will go to Heaven when you die.
But is that it? Is being a Christian simply about not going to Hell and having a God to help you when you want Him to?
Sadly, this is how many who proclaim they are Christians live out their lives practically.
Christianity is not ultimately about a being a religious person, going to church, or saying a prayer. It’s not about getting out of trouble and punishment and living life the way you’d like. It’s not about simply knowing that Jesus is who He said he is and did what He said He did. It’s not about just knowing that we rebelled against a Holy God and want to be on His good side.
Christianity is about believing the truth of the Gospel and practically applying that truth to our lives.
So first, in order to correctly understand Christianity, we need to know what the Gospel says concerning who God is, who we are, and who Christ is and what He did.
Who God Is: God is the Creator (Genesis 1). He made everything and everyone for His glory, and because of this, He is rightly King and Lord of all (Colossians 1:16). He always was, is, and will always be. He is perfect and holy – “set apart”. He deserves our glory, honour, and praise for all that He is (Isaiah 6:3, Revelations 4:11).
Who We Are: Man was created by God (Genesis 1:26-27). Though God blesses us with so much, it isn’t enough – we want to be our own gods, and so we despise, resist, and rebel against Him and His authority in an attempt to live in our fantasy world – to live a life where we are in control (Romans 1:21). We think we can do better – without Him – and so we refuse to let God be Lord in our lives and make ourselves our own personal gods (Romans 1:22-23). Because of our treason against a perfectly just Judge, we are found guilty in our rebellion (Romans 3:23). We are condemned for our crimes, and our punishment is eternal separation from God though death, both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23a). We are a people who are without hope, because there is no possible way we who are guilty can make ourselves right before God – and the sad truth is that we are so lost in our rebellion and hatred for God that we don’t even want to be made right with Him (Romans 1:28-32).
Who Christ Is and What He Did: Despite our unfaithfulness to and rebellion towards Him, God still loves us. In order to redeem us back to Himself, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to come to the world to deliver us. God cannot simply excuse or allow sin, and we cannot present ourselves to God on our own behalf because of our sin and His holiness. We need a mediator. This is why it was necessary that Jesus – second person of the Trinity God-head – descended to earth as both fully God and fully man: as fully God, His obedience and suffering would be perfect; as fully man, He could obey, suffer, and die on our behalf. Jesus chose to humble Himself by descending to earth, living a perfect life and fulfilling the prophecies of the Messiah promised from the beginning of sin, and dying a public death of humility and shame.
If this were the end and Christ had stayed dead, then all that Christ had done would have been worthless, being defeated, and Christianity would be pointless. But, praise God, this was not the case: God raised Jesus back to life. Sin and Death could not stop Jesus, but instead He conquered them through His resurrection. Shortly after, Jesus ascended into Heaven, where He still lives, continually interceding on our behalf.
In His sacrificial life, death, and resurrection, Jesus paid our death in full. There is nothing we did to earn this, and nothing we can do to merit it – our deliverance, our salvation, is a gift freely given to us simply because He loved us and desired that we might be made right with God, for His glory: a gift that we simply have to receive (Romans 6:23b, Galatians 2:21, Ephesians 2:8-9).
Because Jesus is completely without sin, He is the only one who could be the perfect substitution to take the punishment for all our crimes, once and for all. Jesus came, lived, and died to give us hope: we now can be made right with God because He no longer looks at us as rebels but as children clothed in Christ’s righteousness.