practice Christianity is to respond to what God has done for you. The
Christian life is a relationship with God, not a religious treadmill. Many
Christians, however, behave like they really don't believe this, and that
is another reason why "true believers" need to start calling themselves
"followers of Jesus." With
form, formalism, ritual, legalism, rules, systems and formulas we attempt
to reduce Christianity to a Religion - a system of some kind where works
are really substituted for faith and trust, where Law takes precedence
over Grace. We will not necessarily admit this, but it's true nonetheless.
Instead of responding to God's love in repentance for our sin, we reach
out for it - neatly keep God at arm's length while we do so. But God will
not stay at arm's length. When He comes into your life He demands ALL of
it. Away with religious pretense and pontificating. Away with your
religious game called "church" that you play so well every
Saturday or Sunday. God wants all of you -- your heart, your soul, your
body -- as a living sacrifice to Him. So to answer, "Who
are Christians?" we are followers (disciples) and believers in the
Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The
word "Gospel" comes from the Greek word euangelion which
is properly translated "good news." In ancient history, the word
was given to any message of great joy. In the Scriptures, the Gospel is
the "good news: that through the life, death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ, the penalty of sin has been paid and sinful men may be
saved! Of all the endeavors to which a man/woman may give himself, there
is none greater than to seek to understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and
to search out its infinite glory Ė God in Christ reconciling the
world to Himself! The gospel in its glory is too deep for our
intellect, too wide for our hearts, and beyond the power of any language
to describe, yet within so great a mystery we find our salvation.
So what is the Gospel? (1 Corn. 15:3-4)
In accordance with the Fatherís good
pleasure (Glory), the eternal Son, who is equal with the Father
and the exact representation of His nature, willingly left the glory of
heaven, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin,
and was born the God-man Ė Jesus of Nazareth. As a man, he walked
on this earth in perfect obedience to the Law of God (a sinless man).
In the fullness of time, he was rejected by men and crucified.
On the cross, he bore manís sin (personal sins against God), suffered
Godís wrath (punishment we deserved), and died in manís place.
On the third day, he was raised from the dead. This resurrection is
the divine declaration that the Father has accepted His Sonís death as a
sacrifice for sin, that the penalty for manís disobedience has been
paid, the demands of justice satisfied, and the wrath of God appeased.
Forty days after the resurrection, the Son of God ascended into the
heavens, sat down at the right hand of the Father and was given Glory,
honor and dominion over all. There in the presence of God, he
represents His people and makes requests to God on their behalf. All who
acknowledge their sinful, helpless, estate, repent, and throw themselves
upon Jesus Christ will be fully pardoned, declared righteous, and be
reconciled to God.
This is the Gospel (the good news in short)
of God and of Jesus Christ His Son!
Godís plan is to save his people
from their sins Ė and to bring His people fully and finally to Himself
for His Glory sake (Matt. 1:21; 2 Tim. 2:10). Christians experience
salvation in this life in both a past and present sense, and we anticipate
salvation in a future sense. Christians have been saved from the penalty
of our sins; we are currently being saved from
the power of
sin; and one day, when Godís plan of salvation is complete and we are
with Christ, we shall be like him, and we shall be saved even from the
very presence of
So if God has done this in Christ,
what are we to do to be saved? We must turn to God in Christ, which
entails turning back from sin? If we repent
(decide to forsake and turn from)
our sin (as best we understand it)
in (believe) Christ as a living person, we will be saved from Godís
righteous wrath against our sins.
Turning to God necessarily implies our
turning away from sin. The whole Bible OT & NT clearly teaches that to
repent is to "acknowledge [Godís] name and turn from [our]
sins" (1Kings 8:35; 2 Corn 7:14; Jer 36:3, Ezek 14:6 Acts 3:19, 8:22,
26:18; Rev.2:21-22; 9:20-21; 16:11). We cannot start to pursue God and sin
at the same time. Christians in this life still sin, but against our
deepest desires and better judgment; our lives are not guided and directed
by sin as before. We are no longer enslaved to sin. Though we still
struggle with it (Gal 5:17), God has given us the gift of repentance (Acts
11:18), and we have been freed from sinís dominating power.
Our response to the "good
news" of the gospel is to believe and trust Godís promise in
Christ, and to commit ourselves to Christ, the living Lord, and his
disciples (follower). Among Jesusí first words in Markís Gospel are
"repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). The obedience
beginning with repentance, is to result from the faith and trust we have
in him and his word (Jos. 22:16, acts 27:25). Thus sins are sometimes
called breaking faith with God. (Ezra 10:2). Having faith in Christ, which
seals our union with him through the Holy Spirit, is the means by which
God accounts Christís righteousness our own (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:17-21; Gal.
2:16). Such saving faith is something that we exercise, but even so it is
a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9). Godís gift
of salvation has been given to Christians, but
the evidence of that salvation is lived out
in the continual work of Godís Spirit. We can deceive ourselves, and so
Paul encourages his readers to "Examine yourself, to see whether
you are in the faith Test yourselves." (2 Corn.13:5). Peter
encourages Christians to grow in godliness and so become more confident of
their election (2 Peter 1). We donít create our own salvation by our
actions, but we reflect and express it and so grown in our
certainty of it. Because we Christians are liable to deceive ourselves, we
should give ourselves to the study of Godís Word to be instructed and
encouraged in our salvation, and to learn what is inconsistent with it.
Jesusí descriptions of his followers (Matt. 5-7), or Paulís list of
the fruit of the Spiritís work in us (see Gal. 5:22-23), act as
spiritual maps that help us locate ourselves to see if we are on the path
HERE to learn more about this Gospel that we speak of!