What does it mean to be a Christian? The short answer is: to follow Christ. The longer answer requires the context of the message of the Bible about faith in God. We can use four words to tell the biblical story.
The Bible begins in Genesis 1:1 with this statement: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The Bible spends no time trying to convince you that God exists. It merely points you toward the evidence of creation. Look at the vastness of the universe. The beauty of nature. The complexity of the human body. The most reasonable explanation for everything that exists is that someone created it. The Bible says that that someone is God. It requires faith to trust that God created everything, including you, just as it would require faith to trust that the world is simply the product of random acts of chance. Which do you find easier to trust? More than that, God pronounced all of creation to be in keeping with his character, that is, good. In fact, very good.
But by Genesis 3, something has gone terribly wrong. No one should have to convince you that the world is in a mess. Every day we hear about wars, famine, injustice, murders, and just plain old meanness. It seems that God has created people with a free will to choose God's way or their own way, to love God and live according to his plan or to choose according to their own selfish interests. That's what the story of the first people tells us. Adam and Eve chose to reject God's perfect world, and their choice has affected their descendants—all of creation, in fact—to this very day. It's not a pretty picture. Are you living your life apart from God?
God could have walked away, given up on humankind and planet earth, and started over. But he didn't. It seems at one point he came close, but he decided he would redeem his fallen creation and saved Noah and his family, giving him the rainbow as a seal of his promise to redeem. He set in motion a plan of redemption. First he chose a man—Abraham—and promised that if he would follow him, he would give him more descendants than he could count and a land for them to live in. But the biggest promise was that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. Then he gave this great nation two great commands for living; (1) love God with all your heart and (2) love your neighbor as yourself.
Things didn't go so well. The people ignored God and treated their neighbors with contempt. Then God would send his prophets to get them back on track. It never worked for long. God began to promise he would send a special King, a Messiah, or Christ, who would establish the eternal Kingdom of God and finish fixing all that was broken in creation. Finally God decided to come to earth himself. We know him as Jesus, called the Christ, born as a baby in Bethlehem,
When Jesus began his ministry, he announced the coming of God's Kingdom to earth. He called people to repent of their sins and return to (1) loving God and (2) loving their neighbor. Some people believed Jesus and chose to follow him. But others sought to end his life and had him crucified as a common criminal for crimes he didn't commit. That would have been the end of the story except for one thing: Jesus didn't stay dead. On the third day, he rose from the grave. As hard as it is for us to trust that something like that could happen, it was no easier for Jesus' followers. But Jesus kept appearing, first to a group of women, then to his disciples, and ultimately to a group of five hundred. Convinced, his followers began to spread the good news of his resurrection and preach forgiveness in his name. In spite of persecution and martyrdom, more and more people believed in Jesus and began to follow him. As they began to love God and make their enemies into neighbors, the movement took off until today there are some two billion people who call themselves Christians. Have you asked Jesus to forgive your sin and committed your life to following him?
People continue to follow Jesus. He has begun the process of redemption in the hearts of those who have trusted in him, transforming everything about them from the inside out by the gift of his Holy Spirit. We live with the promise of eternal life. We believe that one day, God will bring about a new heaven and a new earth. We believe that Jesus will return as King of kings and Lord of lords, and that creation will be restored to God's original intent. Just as Jesus called his original followers, he continues to call people today to repent of living life apart from God and to follow him in (1) loving God and (2) loving our neighbor. Have you become a Christian? Would you like to talk more about it? Email us.