What is a Christian?
A Christian is a person who has made their peace with the Lord God, the father of Jesus Christ.
Who is Eligible?
No one is excluded from the possibility of becoming a Christian. The Christian Scriptures make that clear: “Whoever wants to …”.
And it is entirely voluntary. No one under any circumstances can be forced to become a Christian.
Our Natural Condition
The Scriptures tell us that no one is naturally in a right relationship with the Lord God. We are all on our own road instead of His: “Like sheep we have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way”.
This results in apathy about God, or selfishness or indifference towards others or perhaps living a life of wilful wrongdoing. The Scriptures calls all this ‘sin’: “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.
Some look at their own lives and say “You have no idea about my past and how bad I’ve been”, assuming there’s no hope of ever getting right with God.
The Scriptures address this. It uses language like “though your sins be as scarlet” and “our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us”.
None of this prevents the possibility of getting right with God.
Why It Is Possible To Become A Christian
No amount of doing good will reconcile us to the Lord God. No amount of self-inflicted punishment will do it.
The only way was for Him to take the initiative and do what was required.
Enter Jesus Christ!
The so-called ‘Jesus event’ of 2,000 years ago is God doing what needed to be done to enable reconciliation. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is God doing what none of us could do, satisfying all requirements.
What Am I Required To Do?
A call to the Lord God for mercy or a willingness to acknowledge one’s sin and ask for forgiveness is all that is required.
It could be “Lord God have mercy on me a sinner”, or “I believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again to give me a new life”, or “I now determine that I will follow Christ and trust Him with my life.” One person recently said “God, fix my life”.
What is important is that you trust Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, and what He has done for you. You give your life to Him, He will give a new and better one in return. The Scriptures put it like this: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you”.
As someone said once: “You’ll never regret it”.
The Importance of Connecting With Others
The Scriptures don’t know anything about solitary Christianity.
Christians live in community, encouraging and helping one another. When they meet together, it is known as “church”, whether in grand custom-built buildings or halls or homes. And this fellowship goes beyond meeting once a week as it develops into a mutual love and affection one for another.
And it extends beyond the local church to other Christians around the world.
All this is done in the context of the love each Christian has for the Lord God and Jesus Christ.
Of course it is through the Scriptures (the Bible) that we have any understanding of all this, so it is important to read and understand them.
Thankfully it is easy to get copies of the Bible in Australia and Christians are encouraged to get their own copy and make a habit of reading and understanding what is written.
A link to an online Bible is available here (new window).
The Christian is able to talk with the Lord God, as one might talk with a friend.
The Scriptures tell us “When he [the Christian] calls to me [God] I will answer”.
God is pleased to be close to the Christian, to listen, answer, comfort, protect and bless.
What is heaven? What is hell?
The jokes are endless, but the Scriptures treat both heaven and hell with great seriousness.
It is the teaching of Jesus Christ that clarifies these as real places, but they are more than just mutually exclusive destinations for human beings.
Perhaps the simplest understanding of heaven is that place where the Lord God lives. We are told it is extraordinarily wonderful, but only those who are holy will be found there. Similarly the kingdom of heaven is wherever the authority of the Lord God is recognised and submitted to.
By contrast, hell is a place of punishment for those who refuse to submit to the authority of God and the saving work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus had a lot to say about hell, and it all makes very sobering reading. In summary, He warned us to do whatever it takes to avoid going there, even self mutilation if hands or eyes were preventing that from happening. You don’t want to be there, despite the jokes.
Where to from here?
Much has been said about who goes where, and why.
Concerning hell, the Scriptures suggest it was established primarily for the Prince of rebels, the devil, named Satan, and those demonic beings who have sided with him.
But included with them are those people who have joined the rebellion, which the Scriptures call “sinners”.
And who might they be?
The Scriptures tell us that all people are by nature sinners. Comprehensive and inclusive terms like “everyone” and “all” are used to define who is included.
For those wishing to avoid hell, God in His mercy has provided a Way, which is available to any who wish to travel that road. Because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, anyone who calls out to the Lord God for mercy will receive mercy and forgiveness and more, including being deemed “holy” which results in an immediate change of destination. Refer to “Becoming a Christian” for more information.
This and the following topic uses information taken from an article by Ross Haselhorst.
The Christian Scriptures is synonymous with what is commonly called the Bible, or sometimes the Holy Bible.
Originally written in Hebrew or ancient Greek, we now rely on translations into English, of which there are many different versions.
The purpose of the Scriptures is to inform us about the Lord God and us human beings. It informs us of His character and activity, and of our character and activity, and His relationship and dealings with us.
All of Scripture has been inspired by the Holy Spirit and has what one Bible translator called “the ring or truth”. The Christian accepts the integrity of Scripture; that what it says is true.
At the time of Jesus Christ, the Scriptures consisted only of that part of the Bible known as the Old Testament (testament means covenant). But the radical and revelatory nature of Jesus’ life and teaching, combined with the fact that when he was killed he came back to life and then returned to heaven, caused a reassessment of what was written. It wasn’t that what was written was wrong, but rather it had been generally misunderstood.
More than that, there were future events that were documented in the Old Testament that were fulfilled by Jesus in the most dramatic ways.
It was therefore necessary to write down what had been done, spoken and revealed by Jesus to ensure that it was not lost to history. Hence the New Testament, which was written over a period of about 50 years.
So now the Bible with both Old Testament and New Testament is complete.
The following six concepts have helped people better understand the Scriptures…
If the Bible was a wheel, Jesus Christ would be the centre, or hub, of that wheel. The Old Testament anticipates Jesus and shows humanity's failures in relationship to the Lord God without Jesus, setting the stage for Jesus’ arrival.
The New Testament begins with the four Gospels (gospel means "good news") of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which are all biographical accounts of Jesus' life from four different perspectives. The next book, the Acts of the Apostles, tells of selected events among the Christians after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The rest of the books are letters of several early followers of Jesus explaining the significance of His life and death. The final book of the Bible looks forward to and describes Jesus’ reign over and return to earth.
The entire Bible revolves around Jesus as humanity's access to God.
The Biblical literature contains a variety of literary styles. For example, there are historical books which are meant to be taken literally as real, accurate history. On the other hand, some books are entirely or partially allegorical word pictures that are clearly not to be taken literally. There are examples in Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Song of Solomon and others.
Some sections have an allegorical as well as literal meaning, but there are instances where even Biblical experts disagree on the allegorical vs. literal interpretation of a section.
It is often said "the New is in the Old contained. The Old is in the New explained." What this means is that the message of the New Testament is there in the Old Testament, if you know how to find it, and a lot of the mystery of the Old Testament is explained in the New Testament. The Old Testament is like a foundation for the New.
Serious students of the Bible will always refer to both Old and New Testaments.
While the entire Bible becomes more meaningful the more it is read, it can be treated like an encyclopedia or a cookbook, neither of which are intended to be read from cover to cover. These types of books are read "as needed".
The Bible is a large book and life is a journey, so we have different needs in our lives at different times and so read different parts accordingly.
God doesn't change, but His dealings with humanity change over time. Just as a parent’s love for their child doesn’t change over time, yet the way a parent interacts with their child changes as the child matures, so God is unchanging, yet changes His methods of relating to people through history. Thus, the Bible documents God's relationship with humanity over time. This is part of the reason that the same God as described in the Old Testament can appear different to that as described in the New.
In the same manner, a particular concept may be progressively revealed throughout the Bible. For example, there is very limited mention of life after death in the Old Testament, but this teaching is thoroughly developed by the end of the New Testament, and understandably so in the light of Jesus’ resurrection which is recorded in the New.
The Bible is a spiritual book.
This does not mean that one's intelligence is unimportant in understanding the Bible, but if only the intellect is used without an open heart, then the warning Jesus addressed to the religious leaders of his day may apply: "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." As much as Christians honour the Bible, their relationship is with its Author.
Even though parts of the Bible can become well known and apparently understood, they can have new meaning at different times. The same part can "speak" in new ways.
We are thankful that the Bible is freely available in Australia, which is not the case in many countries.
Different translations of the Bible can be accessed at this website (new window).
It is very common for people who decide to read the Bible for the first time to do the logical thing: start at the beginning and read to the end – just like they would read most other books.
The typical experience of reading the Bible this way, however, often ends badly. There’s no problem reading through the first two books, Genesis and Exodus, but by the time Leviticus and Numbers are reached, many give up.
This is not the best way to read the Bible!
A suggested reading order
For first time readers of the Bible, one option is to read a selection of books in the following order:
· Acts (both written by Luke)
· Psalms (a few each time you read several chapters in another book)
· Proverbs (one chapter each time you read several chapters in another book)
After reading the above, one should have a reasonable grasp of what the Bible is about. Hopefully the reader will want to continue…
Isaiah, Mark, Ecclesiastes, Hebrews, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Ephesians, Job, Philippians, First and Second Samuel, the Gospel according to Matthew, Colossians, First and Second Kings, First and Second Corinthians, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Galatians, Song of Solomon, First and Second Thessalonians, Jeremiah, First and Second Timothy, Lamentations, Daniel, James.
Then the rest of the New Testament and the rest of the Old Testament.
Keep in mind there are many ways to explore the Bible – studies of a topic, a theme, a character, studies of a book, a chapter, a single word.
You can do an Internet search on “How to Study the Bible” and find a lot of different methods (including this one!).
One last note
The Bible is intended more to tell us how to live in relationship with God and others rather than answering all our deep questions about life and the universe. The Bible will answer some of those questions, but it will also generate questions. Time, prayer, consultation with other Christians and repeated reading of the Bible will help your heart "hear" more and more from God.
May your reading of the Bible become an important part of your life.