On Monday night we took the evening to consider a basic question: What is Christianity? Now, there are two different perspectives you might take to answer the question…
- Answered from one perspective: Christianity is what results from God calling out a people for himself from every nation to be the bride of his Son living on the new earth forever.
- Answered from another perspective: Christianity is people born of the Spirit, passing along the Apostolic testimony, living lives which match the message, until Jesus returns.
The second perspective helps people who don’t follow Christ understand what they are looking at when they see Christianity, and it helps people who are Christians understand what they’re supposed to be doing now that they are followers of Christ. That’s the perspective we considered on Monday night. Below are the notes:
People born of the Spirit
Mark 1:15 – Jesus preached this message of the kingdom of God.
John 3:1-8 – Jesus said that you can’t enter or see the kingdom of God unless you’re born of the spirit. How does this happen? Faith! (3:9-21) As one commentator explained: “Wind is observable, but it goes sovereignly where it pleases and is untraceable in its origin and disappearance. Also free, mighty, and untraceable in his movements is the Spirit in a person who is born of the Spirit.” (H. Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, p. 129) – Here is the rest of what he said about this passage, paraphrased: The point of Jesus’ teaching is to contrast divine possibilities with human possibilities—and not just to show us that we’re weak, but to invite us to look away from our own possibilities or impossibilities and to look to God for our salvation. Because the freedom of the Spirit to go where he pleases is not just impulsiveness or unpredictability, it’s a power that nothing can hold back; and the Spirit’s untraceability is not just that no one can figure him out, it’s that he possesses means that that humans don’t have—but what is impossible with Humans is possible with God. Only God designed and opened up this way for us to have his life, and this is the way we become participants in this new existence and therefore gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus also calls “eternal life.” And so it makes sense that it is faith in this salvation that is being revealed in Jesus that allows us to participate in these things. (See also 1 Peter 1:23-25, 1 John 5:1, Galatians 3:13-14, 4:6, Romans 8:9)
To sum this point up: Christianity is irreducibly spiritual. The thing that sets Christians apart—the main “identity marker” we have—is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which has led to our experience of a whole new birth. This can look like a total life change, or a whole new set of desires and interests, or a new freedom from the old things that used to break us down. Primarily it will manifest itself in a new love for and excitement about God and a love for and concern about other people. That’s what makes Christians Christians, and this is what everything else flows from.
Passing along the Apostolic Testimony
So if this is what Christians are, then what distinctive things do Christians do? This is important for Christians to communicate to those who aren’t Christians, and it is important for Christians to reflect on so they don’t get confused about what they’re supposed to be doing.
Here’s the key: Christians are people who have heard and believed a message, and now they simply repeat and pass along that same message. What message is this? It is the message taught by Jesus to his hand-picked messengers called Apostles. See Jesus’ explanation in Luke 24:44-47. (See also Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8, John 20:30-31, 2 Timothy 1:13 & 2:1-2, 2 Peter 1:12-16.)
The Point: Ultimately Christians are not people who innovate. We are people who get very serious about knowing what the message handed down to us is, and repeating it faithfully. We find that message in the bible, and that’s what we say to everyone. (Romans 1:16)
Living lives which match the message
See 2 Timothy 3:10-15 – Paul’s life matched the message.
Four areas where our lives match our message:
- Love – Since Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is the supreme demonstration of God’s love, and since his message is a message of love for humanity, Christians are transformed by love, and we seek to demonstrate it to everyone.
- Holiness – Since Jesus has atoned for all sin, and will eradicate it from the earth, why would a Christian keep it around in their life? So a Christian seeks to live a life totally pleasing to God in holiness.
- Gathering – Since Jesus has overcome the things that fracture human society, and is gathering a world-wide family for himself, we get together often and regularly to express our new one-ness in Christ.
- Spreading – Since Jesus has transcended all ethnic and national barriers, Christians scatter throughout the world using their daily lives and special missions to spread the message of Christ to every corner of the globe and every part of society.
Until Jesus Returns
There’s a time element built in to the Christian experience. See Titus 2:11-14. This all lasts until Jesus returns to institute the Kingdom of God on the earth. So Christians do what they do, and say what they say with eagerness about the approaching return of Jesus. They’re life looks like a life of waiting.
Summing it all up:
Christians are meant to be people who live with a lot of direction in their lives, and a clear sense of purpose. We don’t need to guess at who we are or what we’re doing. The details of our lives are all designed to fit into the direction God has given us. It begins with the Spirit, it’s shaped by the message, it aims at spreading, it longs for Jesus to return. Anything that doesn’t fit into that kind of life doesn’t belong. We’re people who constantly repent and look to grow and cleanse our lives of things that don’t make sense based on what we’re learning about Jesus and what he’s done in our lives. And we do it all with a huge, unique kind of Joy, since Jesus has secured everything that truly matters for us for all eternity, and we will soon see him and be with him, together, forever.