What is Biblical Christianity?
Purpose, meaning, a reason for living—these are all things we desire and search for in life. Despite steps each one of us takes to find purpose and meaning, we still feel empty, unfulfilled. That is because there is a spiritual emptiness in each of our lives. We each have a hole in our heart, a spiritual vacuum deep within our soul. Possessions won’t fill this hole, nor will success. Relationships alone cannot satisfy this emptiness, and morality, in and of itself, falls miserably short of occupying this space. In fact, even religion cannot fill the void in our heart.
There is only one way to effectively fill that void. This way will not only help us to have a life that is full and rich on this earth, but—more importantly—will give us the absolute hope of spending eternity in the presence of God. Before we can truly appreciate this good news, though, we need to understand the bad news, which is a serious problem we all have. Read on…
Someone may say, “But I’m a good person. I try to be kind and considerate to others. I live by the Ten Commandments.” That’s a great place to start. God set up these rules for our benefit, and they are his standard for what is good and will be used in our final judgement. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see how you measure up. (For more details, see the “good person test” link on the home page.)
Let’s start with the 9th commandment: ”You shall not lie.” Have you ever lied, even once? Be honest now. What then would that make you? For instance, if I’ve murdered then I’m a murderer. If you’ve lied, you’d be a…? Come on, I know you can say it.
How about the 8th: ”You shall not steal.” Have you ever taken anything that is not yours, no matter how small, regardless of its value? People who have stolen are called… That’s right, thieves.
By the way, these are not trick questions. I’m a liar and thief also.
The 3rd commandment: ”You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Have you ever used God’s name as a swear word? The Bible calls that blasphemy.
The 7th: “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus said if you even look upon a woman with lust in your heart, you are guilty of adultery. Have you ever looked upon a person with lust?
The 1st commandment: ”You shall have no other gods before Me.” Have you ever loved or desired something or someone more than you love or desire God?
The 5th: ”Honor your father and mother.” Have you ever dishonored either one of your parents?
These are only six of the ten commandments. If you’re honest with yourself and admit to breaking just the first four, then by your own admission you’re a lying, thieving, blaspheming, adulterer at heart. Just to reiterate, you’re not alone, sadly I’m right there with you. If you feel innocent of any one of these, just move onto the next. Fact is, we’re guilty!
So, if you stood before God today, would he declare you guilty or not guilty of breaking his law? If you’re like every other person on earth, you have absolutely failed the test. The truth of the matter is that the Ten Commandments, or the law, as they are called in the Bible, were not given to make us look good but to make us realize how sinful we are. The Bible tells us, “No one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it” (Romans 3:20). You might say that God’s law was given to show us that we are not good by God’s standards and therefore desperately need his help and forgiveness for our terminal condition as sinners. Romans 3:23 clearly says that “all have sinned.”
Think about it, if you only sinned three times a day, by the time you’re 20 years old you would be responsible to God for breaking his Law over 20,000 times. Are you ready for that day? To repeat what was said above, before we can truly appreciate what God did for us to solve our monumental problem, we must first acknowledge that we have a sin problem, in fact a very serious problem. Keep reading to learn about the greatest act of love in the history of mankind: God did something to solve our guilty condition. The hope for heaven is in His goodness, not ours.
But there is GOOD NEWS—GOD LOVES YOU! IN FACT HE IS CRAZY ABOUT YOU AND HAS DONE SOMETHING SO THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO GO TO HELL (eternal separation from God). He has provided the only way to be declared not guilty. This is why Jesus came. The same verse in Romans that says that the penalty for sin is death (eternal separation from God) goes on to say, “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth to take our punishment for us, to bridge the chasm of sin that separates us from God. This was the only way for God to remain just and fair (absolute punishment for sin offenses), and still provide a way for us to be forgiven and made right again (Romans 3:26).
Jesus’ death on the cross was a substitutionary death—He paid the penalty of death in our place. He was completely sinless, and did not deserve to die; he died for us. But because He was sinless, His death satisfied God’s justice, and then Jesus rose from the dead on the third day showing authority over death. For a more thorough explanation, read on…
1. Why Jesus can Bridge the Gap
Jesus came to this earth with a clear objective in mind: to bridge that gap between us and God.
When the Israelites of the Old Testament sinned, the high priest would go into the temple and offer an animal sacrifice to God to atone for their sins. In a symbolic sense, this was a way of putting one’s sins on the animal, which stood in the place of the guilty person. The Bible teaches, “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The sacrificial rituals carried out by the Israelites in the Old Testament foreshadowed what Jesus would do when he came to this earth. He took the sin of the world upon himself when he hung on the cross so many years ago.
Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies pointed not only to his birth and life but also to his death, including the way in which he would die (see elsewhere on this website the article on fulfilled prophesies, amazing!).
Jesus knew from the beginning that he had come expressly to die for the sins of humanity. He also knew that this sacrifice would be made on a Roman cross. He was arrested on false charges after Judas Iscariot, one of his own disciples, betrayed him. But it was no accident. If humanity was going to be put in touch with God and have the barrier that separated them removed, something drastic had to be done. In essence, with one hand Jesus took hold of a Holy God, and with the other hand he took hold of the sinful human race. As crude nails were pounded into his hands, he bridged the gap for us. Wow! We must not forget, however, that three days after his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the dead!
2. We put Jesus on the Cross
The necessity of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross shows just how radical our situation was as fallen people. It’s been said that you can tell the depth of a well by how much rope is lowered. When we look at “how much rope was lowered” from heaven, we realize how grave our situation really was.
For that reason, don’t blame the people of that day for putting Jesus on the cross. We are just as guilty as they. In reality, it was not the Roman soldiers who put him on the cross, nor was it the Jewish leaders: it was our sins that made it necessary for Jesus to volunteer for the torturous and humiliating death. Whenever you are tempted to doubt God’s love for you, take a long look at the cross on which Jesus died. Then realize that, for all practical purposes, it was not nails that held him to the cross, but love.*
Many of us have heard this story at some point in our lives. Yet the significance behind this heart-wrenching scene is often missed or misunderstood. This was not simply some “good teacher” being crucified for his beliefs. It was God in human form who hung on that cross, bridging the gap between sinful people and a holy God. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that when Jesus hung on that cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Many Bible scholars believe that those words marked the precise moment at which God placed the sins of the world upon his Son. The Bible, speaking of God, says, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13). For that reason, the holy Father had to “turn his face” and pour out his wrath upon his own Son.
On the cross, Jesus received the wages that were due us. He was not heard that we might be heard. The ear of God was closed to Jesus for a time that it might never be closed to us.
3. Does it Have to be Jesus?
Haven’t there been other religious leaders who have claimed to have the way to God? Haven’t some of them also died as a result of their message?
While the answers to these questions may be yes, the truth is that not one of these others leaders was fully God and fully human. That is why Jesus is uniquely qualified to deal with sin. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Acts 4:12 tells us, “there is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.” And, most important, Jesus Christ rose from the dead! This is one of the most reliable truths of ancient history. There were hundreds of witnesses, many later willing to give their lives for what they actually saw. It’s one thing to die for something you believe to be true (i.e. current day suicide bombers); however it would not make sense for someone to sacrifice their lives for something they knew to be false.
So how should we respond to such an amazing act of love? Read on…
To know Jesus Christ personally and have your sins forgiven, you must acknowledge that you are a sinner separated from God and that your only hope is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came and died for your sins. There are two things you must now do to enter into a relationship with the God from whom you have been separated.
1. Repent (Turn From Your Sins)
As Jesus began his public ministry, his first message was “Turn from your sins” (Mark 1:15). In essence, Jesus was telling the people to repent—to acknowledge their sinning, change their minds, and change the direction of their lives. Look at it this way. In the past, we have been blinded by our sins, causing us to run from God. As we repent, we do a “U-turn” and start running toward him. It is not enough just to be sorry for our sins. We must also change our lifestyle, for the Bible teaches that “God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin” (2 Corinthians 7:10). In other words, if you are really sorry for something, it will result in a change in your actions.
The apostle Paul summed up this change succinctly when he quoted Jesus, who had said that people must “turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me (Acts 26:18).
You see, there are some things only God can do and some things only you can do. Only God can remove your sins and give you the gift of eternal life, but only you can turn from your sins and receive Jesus as your Savior. That brings up the second thing you must do to respond to God’s offer.
2. Believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior (only means of salvation) and Lord (master)
Having seen the enormity of your sin and having decided to turn from it, you then must believe in and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Becoming a Christian, however, is far more than following a creed or trying to live by certain standards. Jesus said that you must be “born again,” or more literally, “born from above” (John 3:3). This spiritual rebirth happens when we personally put our faith in Jesus Christ. In other words, we ask Jesus to come and take residence in our lives, making the changes he deems necessary.
Notice that this offer is yours for the asking, and it is free. You don’t have to work for it, trying to clean up your life before you make this life-changing decision. The Bible says: “The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Also, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (2:8-9) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Being a Christian also means having a personal relationship with the living God. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus said, “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.” To better understand the meaning of this verse, it is important to understand the culture at the time it was written. Eating together in Bible times was a long, drawn-out affair. People would not sit on chairs behind tables in a formal setting as we do, but they would sit on the floor, reclining on pillows around a low table. The relaxed atmosphere made meals a time when you would not only satisfy your appetite but also receive a gratifying serving of enjoyable table conversation. You would share your heart and life with those who sat beside you.
Consequently, when Jesus says that he will “share a meal” with us, it implies intimacy, closeness, and friendship. He offers this to us, but we must first “hear him calling” us.
To hear God calling us, we must know how he speaks. One way in which God speaks to us is described in the Bible as a “still, small voice.” This could be described in another way as that tug you may have felt on your heart from the Holy Spirit showing you your need for Jesus. He may even be speaking to you right now! It is at that point that you must “open the door.” Only you can do that. Jesus will not force his love on you. Said another way, the God of the universe, he who created the world wants a personal relationship with you. This is not religion, this is an profound, eternal, awesome opportunity/gift! What’s next? Read on…
What God Has Done for You
What actually happens when Jesus Christ comes into your life? First, he saves you from your sins and the punishment you deserve as a result of them—eternity in hell. This is called salvation, or regeneration, and has to do with what takes place in your heart: God gives you new life, a new perspective.
Second, he justifies you. Justification has to do with your standing before God and includes the complete removal and forgiveness of your sins. Think about it! When you receive Jesus Christ into your life, you are completely forgiven. God’s Word tells us, “Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins! Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God (justified)—something the Jewish law could never do” (Acts 13:38-39). Speaking of our sins, God says, “I will never again remember (your) sins and lawless deeds” (Hebrews 10:17). What a wonderful promise! Furthermore, the Lord wants you to have complete peace about your salvation. This is one of many scriptures meant to give us absolute assurance of salvation, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Is that crazy (love), or what?
Justification, however, is more than just the forgiveness and removal of the guilt and condemnation that accompany sin. While God has removed your sins and forgiven you of them (via Jesus Christ), he has also placed the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ “into your account,” so to speak. You don’t have to earn it or try to achieve it; that would be impossible. It is yours as a gracious gift from the God who loves you. To understand justification more fully, read the following Scripture passages and notes below.
1. God Promises Us His Gracious Forgiveness (see 1 John 1:9). The word confess means “to say the same thing as another” or “to agree with.” To confess means that we are agreeing with God about our sin. We are seeing it as he does. We know that God hates sin. Therefore, to truly confess our sin means that we essentially feel the same way God feels about what we have done. After committing that sin, we will be determined to put it out of our lives and never do it again. That is true confession in the biblical sense. The reason many believers are not experiencing the forgiveness and joy they desire is because they have not yet truly confessed! Once we have met God’s conditions, however, we will know his gracious forgiveness. We may not “feel” forgiven, but we are. We have his word on it.
2. God Has Balanced Our Moral and Spiritual Budget (Romans 5:1-2). When God makes us right in his sight, he does so by placing all of the righteousness of Christ to our credit. This balances the moral and spiritual budget for us. We now have sufficient “capital of character” to get on with the business of living.
Up to this point, salvation has been God’s responsibility. From this point on, it continues to be his responsibility except that we are responsible for the wise investment of our “capital of character”—that is, we are responsible for living as God desires us to. It is as if your checking account were empty, but then someone made a $100,000 deposit. What you do with that money is up to you.
3. God Calls Us His Children (see Luke 15:11-32). This incredible story illustrates what happens when a person turns from sin and returns to God. First, notice that the father in the story did not give this prodigal son what he deserved—banishment. In the same way, we do not receive from God what we deserve—punishment for sin. Second, the young man was given what he did not deserve (grace)—the rights and privileges of full sonship. Likewise, although we are not worthy to be called children of God, he calls us sons and daughters. In summary, he doesn’t give us what we deserve (judgment). He gives us what we don’t deserve (forgiveness and justification).
Speaking of sons and daughters, read on to see how God has adopted you into his family. This is amazing!
Adopted and Assured
We have looked at what happens when we are regenerated (when Christ comes into our lives) and when we are justified (when God forgives our sin and puts his righteousness in its place). Now let us look at another incredible thing God has done for us. He has adopted us into his family as his children!
Adoption means “to be given the rights of a son.” In essence, you have been given the full rights of sonship in the family of God as though you were born that way. The story of the Prodigal Son illustrates this (Luke 15:11-32). The wayward son thought that after leaving home, he would no longer be considered a son but would instead be treated as a hired servant. Much to his surprise, when he made the long journey home, his father welcomed him and smothered him with kisses. The father then gave orders to bring out the best robe and to put a ring on his finger, signifying full rights as a son. That is exactly what God has done for you! Take some time now to examine three Scripture passages that assure you of your adoption into God’s family. If you’re finding this news amazing, you’re getting it. As said above, this is indescribable, crazy, unadulterated love – this is not human, it’s divine.
God Disciplines His Children (see Hebrews 12:5-9). Recognizing you are now a child of God is not some distant hope but a present reality. One of the ways God will remind you of this is by correcting you and bringing you back into line like a loving father when you stray away from him.
Before we were believers, we may have felt no sense of guilt for certain things we did or did not do. But now that we are Christians, God’s Holy Spirit shows us the way to live, which includes correcting us. He does this not because he wants to make our lives a drag, but because he loves us as his own dear children. Understanding this truth should help us in the way we behave.
You Have an Approachable Father (see Galatians 4:6). The Aramaic word translated “dear Father” is abba, which is a word of affection that a young child would use endearingly toward his or her father. A western equivalent of that phrase would be “papa” or “daddy.” God does not want to be viewed as some distant, disinterested father, but as a loving, approachable father to whom you can turn at any time because you are his child, a child of God, Wow!
His Promises are Not Based Upon Your Feelings (see 1 John 5:11-13). There will be times as a Christian when you may not “feel” God’s presence. You may even be tempted to doubt that he has come into your life. But 1 John 5:13 does not say, “I write this to you who believe in the Son of God so that you may feel you have eternal life.” This is because feelings come and go. They fluctuate. Nor does the Bible say, “I write this so that you may hope—if God is in a really good mood—that you have eternal life.” It does not say, “I write this so you can try and be good enough for eternal life”– our sin disqualifies us no matter how good we are. It says, “I write these things so that you may know you have eternal life.” Eternal life is yours! Stand on God’s promise to you. You are forgiven, justified, adopted into his family, and assured of salvation. Now that is reason to rejoice! Now… go love on somebody as a way to say “thank you” to Jesus for His amazing grace.