What is Christianity?
Some say it is a philosophy, others that it is an ethical stance, while still
others claim it is really an experience. None of these really gets at the
heart of the matter, however. Each of those things is something a Christian
has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is.
Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God. A
person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to
knowing Him directly and intimately. "Now this is eternal life;
that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have
sent." —John 17:3. Christianity
is knowing God.
Why Do I Need to Know God?
Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to
recognize the desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we
first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last
get that weekend house—these breakthroughs arouse in us an anticipation
of something which, as it turns out, never occurs. We eventually discover
that our desire for that precious something is a longing that no lover or
career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The
satisfaction fades away even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing
ever delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us avoid the yawning
emptiness through busyness or denial, but, at best, there is only a postponement. "Nothing
tastes," said Marie Antoinette. There are several ways people respond
- To blame the things themselves—to
find fault with everyone and everything around them. Some people
believe that a better spouse, a better career, a better boss
or salary would finally yield the elusive joy. Many of the
world's most successful people are like this: bored, discontented,
running from new thing to new thing, often changing counselors,
mates, partners, settings.
- To blame themselves—to
try harder to live up to self-imposed standards. Many people
feel they have made poor choices or failed to measure up to
challenges and to achieve the things that would give them joy
and satisfaction. Such people are wracked with self-doubts
and tend to burn themselves out. They think, "If only
I could reach my goals, then this emptiness would be gone." But
it is not so.
The Christian says, "Creatures
are not born with desires unless satisfaction
for those desires exists. A baby feels
hunger: well, there is such a thing
as food. A duckling wants to swim:
well, there is such a thing as water.
Men feel sexual desire: well, there
is such a thing as sex. If I find in
myself a desire which no experience
in this world can satisfy, the most
probable explanation is that I was
made for another world. If none of
my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that
does not mean that the universe is
a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures
were never meant to satisfy it, but
only to arouse it, to suggest the real
— C. S. Lewis
- To blame the universe itself—to
give up seeking fulfillment at all. These are the people who
says, "Yes, when young you are idealistic, but at my age
I have stopped howling after the moon." They become cynical
and decide to repress that part of themselves that once wanted
fulfillment and joy. But they become hard, and they can feel
themselves losing their humanity, compassion and joy.
- To blame and recognize their
separation from God—to establish a personal
relationship with Him.
How Can I Know God?
In order to form a personal relationship with God, we must know three things:
- Who We Are
We are God's creation. God created
us and built us for a relationship with Him. We belong to
Him and owe Him gratitude for every breath, every moment,
everything. Since humans were built to live for Him (to worship),
we will always try to worship something. If not God, we will
choose some other object of ultimate devotion to give life
We are sinners. We have all chosen (and reaffirm daily) to reject God and
to make our own joy and happiness our highest priority. We do not want to
worship God and surrender our self-mastery, yet we are built to worship;
so we cling to idols, centering our lives on things which promise to give
us meaning: success, relationships, influence, love, comfort, etc.
We are in spiritual bondage. To live for anything else but God leads to breakdown
and decay. When a fish leaves the water, that which he was built for, he
is not free, but dead. Worshipping other things besides God leads to a loss
of meaning. If we achieve these things, they cannot deliver satisfaction,
because they were never meant to be "gods." They were never meant
to replace God. Worshipping other things besides God also leads to self-image
problems. We end up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement in these
things. We must have them or all is lost, so they drive us to work too hard
or fill us with terror if they are jeopardized.
- Who God Is
God is love and
justice. His active concern is for our
joy and well-being. Most people love those
who love them, yet God loves and seeks
the good even of people who are His enemies.
But because God is good and loving, He
cannot tolerate evil. The opposite of love
is not anger but indifference. "The
more you love your son, the more you hate
in him, the liar, the drunkard, the traitor." (E.H.
Gifford) To imagine God's situation, picture
a judge who is also a father, who sits
at the trial of his very guilty son. A
judge knows that he cannot let his son
go, for without justice no society can
survive. How much less can a loving God
merely ignore or suspend justice for us
who are loved, yet guilty of rebellion
against His loving authority?
Jesus Christ is God. Jesus is God Himself come to earth. He first lived a
perfect life, loving God with all His heart, soul and mind, fulfilling all
human obligation to God. He lived the life you owed—a perfect record.
Then, instead of receiving His deserved reward (eternal life), Jesus gave
His life as a sacrifice for our sins, taking the punishment and death you
When we believe in
- Our sins are paid
for by His death, and
- His perfect
life record is transferred to our
So God accepts and regards us as if we had done all Christ has done.
- What You Must Do
first must be an admission that you have
been living as your own master, worshipping
the wrong things, violating God's loving
laws. "Repentance" means you
ask forgiveness and turn from that stance
with a willingness to live for and center
must believe. Faith is transferring
your trust from your own efforts
to the efforts of Christ. You were
relying on other things to make you
acceptable, but now you consciously
begin relying on what Jesus did for
your acceptance with God. All you
need is nothing. If you think, "God
owes me something for all my efforts," you
are still on the outside.
Pray after this fashion: "I
see that I am more flawed and sinful
than I ever dared believe, but that
I am even more loved and accepted than
I ever dared hope. I turn from my old
life of living for myself. I have nothing
in my record to merit Your approval,
but I now rest in what Jesus did and
ask to be accepted into God's family
for His sake." When you make this
transaction, two things happen at once:
1) your accounts are cleared, your
sins are wiped out permanently, you
are adopted legally into God's family,
and 2) the Holy Spirit enters your
heart and begins to change you into
the character of Jesus.
must follow through. Tell
a Christian friend about your commitment.
Get yourself training in the basic
Christian disciplines of prayer,
worship, Bible study and fellowship
with other Christians. You can contact
our church office at 214-224-2500,
and we will be eager to connect you
with someone who can help you begin
to grow as a Christian. Consider
reading: Go for It, by John Guest,
or The Fight, by John White. Both
are good books for developing a new
Why Should I Seek
to Know God?
On the one hand, you may feel very much that you "need" God. Even
though you may recognize that you have needs only God can meet, you must not
try to use Him to achieve your own ends. It is not possible to bargain with
God. ("I'll do this if You will do that.") That is not Christianity
at all, but a form of magic or paganism in which you appease the cranky deity
to get a favor. Are you getting into Christianity to serve God or to get God
to serve you? Those are two opposite motives, and they result in two different
religions. You must come to God because 1) you owe it to Him to give Him your
life (because He is your Creator), and 2) you are deeply grateful to Him for
sacrificing His Son (because He is your Redeemer).
On the other hand, you may feel no need at
all or interest in knowing God. This does not mean you should
stay uncommitted. If you were created by God, then you owe Him
your life, whether you feel like it or not. You are obligated
to seek Him and ask Him to soften your heart and enlighten yours
eyes. If you say, "I have no faith," that is no excuse
either. You need only doubt your doubts. No one can doubt everything
at once—you must believe in something to doubt something
else. For example, do you believe you are competent to run your
own life? Where is the evidence for that? Why doubt everything
but your doubts about God and your faith in yourself? Is that
fair? You owe it to God to seek Him. Do so.
What If I Am Not Ready to Proceed?
Make a list of issues that you perceive to be barriers to your crossing the
line into faith. Here is a possible set of headings:
Content issues: Do you understand
the basics of the Christian message—sin, Jesus as God,
Coherence issues: Are there
intellectual problems you have with Christianity? Objections
to the Christian faith which you cannot resolve in your mind?
Cost issues: Do you perceive
a move into full Christian faith will cost you something dear?
What fears do you have about commitment?
Now talk to some Christian friend until they are resolved, or
contact our church office at 214-224-2500. We will be happy to
connect you with someone you could talk to about these matters.
Hope Has It's Reasons, by Rebecca Pippert (Harper and Row)
Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (MacMillan)
Basic Christianity, by John Stott (IVP).
—Adapted from Timothy Keller, 1991