I’m a Christian.
I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe, who made all that exists and is the cause of existence itself: the “I am,” the very essence of Being. He transcends time and space. He is far above and beyond anything we can comprehend: all-knowing, all-powerful, eternal, and infinite. He is the beneficent Father and sovereign King of the human race, the Author of providence. He is perfect and holy, the Judge of all that is right and wrong. He is not only the source of life and love and reason, but He is Life, He is Love, He is Reason. Everything good comes from Him.
I believe that the human race is created in the image of God, which means that we are possessed of a spirit: capable of love and reason and therefore honored above all of creation. We have the free will to make our own decisions (though still bound to the ultimate will of an all-knowing God) and a conscience to know right from wrong. As spiritual beings, we were created to serve and worship Him forever.
I believe that sin is a failure to obey the moral law that God has written on our hearts. All immorality is sin, known by our conscience and thus disobedience against God. Sin is a spiritual act, committed in our hearts before it ever manifests itself on the outside: murder begins as hate, theft as greed, adultery as lust. The father of all sin is pride, which leads us to deny our own sinfulness and put ourselves in the place of God as ruler of our lives. All sin can ultimately be traced back to a lack of love: first a lack of love for God and then for our fellow man.
I believe that all of us are sinners by nature, which robs us all of perfect fellowship with God (or even the desire to know Him). The immediate effect of this sinfulness on the human race is death, and the ultimate consequence is eternal separation from God. As spiritual beings, we live on when our physical bodies perish, but we are inherently unworthy to enter His holy presence on account of our guilt as sinners.
I believe in heaven, a spiritual realm or a separate plane of existence where our immortal spirits can abide in eternity with God. This place or state of being in His presence is without sin, hatred, darkness, or pain, none of which can exist in the holy light of His love. Heaven is often pictured as a beautiful city so that we might have some idea of its grandeur. But the reality is certainly greater and more magnificent than anything we can describe or comprehend.
I believe in hell. Just as heaven is union with God, hell is separation. Our sins alienate us from God in life and will continue to do so there for all eternity. It is a lasting punishment for our sin, a continuous destruction or “second death” where our lives basically go on ending forever. In hell, we’ll know nothing of joy or peace without the goodness that comes from God alone. For this reason, it is described as torture and suffering beyond compare. If any greater agony could be imagined than constant burning, that would undoubtedly be our picture of hell.
I believe that God, as our Judge, must and will hold us accountable for our sins. He is one with His moral law, and to commit sin is to commit offense against God. He will not tolerate sin; He loathes and despises it as evil. To excuse it would be an insult to His character and a disgrace to justice. He will not waive the sentence; He is not an incompetent judge. He is not required to “let us off easy,” for He is God and we are His creatures. He is perfect, righteous, and holy; we are guilty sinners. To mistake His wrath for cruelty is to underestimate the gravity of our sin, the greatness of God, and the gulf that separates us.
I believe that God, as our loving Father, desired that all men be saved from our inevitable fate in hell. So even before mankind had committed sin, God set a plan in motion to free us in His mercy without sacrificing justice. He looked through time, as only He can do, and foresaw our failure. He promised to send a deliverer, an “Anointed One,” to rescue those who trust in Him. This Savior was long expected to usher in an eternal kingdom that would eventually engulf the world.
I believe that God came to Earth as a man to carry out this mission Himself. The Anointed One (“Messiah” in Hebrew, “Christ” in Greek) was conceived miraculously by the Spirit of God in the womb of a virgin bride and thus called the Son of God. Though announced by angels, his birth was attended with humility: his parents laid their newborn son in a feeding trough and the only known visitors were shepherds. He was raised not as a king, but a carpenter. Though human in every way, he was fully possessed of the divine Spirit and limited only by the purpose of his mission. He began his ministry at about thirty. His original name translates into English as Joshua, and he was from a place called Nazareth. Today, we call him Jesus.
I believe in the revelations of ancient Judaism, as endorsed by the life and teachings of Jesus. He was raised and lived as a Jew; commended both their moral and theological principles; practiced and thus validated their religion by attending services, celebrating feasts, and quoting Scripture. Far from seeking to overturn its legitimacy, Jesus proclaimed Judaism’s gradual corruption since the days of Moses. He identified himself as the Anointed One promised by Jewish prophets, the perfect fulfillment of Jewish law in obedience and culmination. Long before, God had chosen the Jewish forefathers to be the ancestors of “His people” Israel, through whom He might communicate His revelation, demonstrate His holiness, and finally bless all the world with the knowledge of who He was. Jesus was not only a member of that blessed race; he was meant to be the blessing itself.
I believe that the purpose of Jesus’ mission was to take the punishment of sin upon himself, as only he could do. He did not come primarily to teach us, to set an example for us, or even to reveal the will of God to us (though he did all of those things as well). Everything he did in his relatively short time here pointed to the sacrifice that only he could make. God requires retribution for the sins of mankind, yet He loved us enough to make that payment Himself. As God in the flesh, Jesus possessed both divine authority to choose his fate and the sinless perfection that made him a worthy substitute. Nevertheless, as a man, he was fit to experience life and death, pain and suffering, and ultimately bear the punishment of sin as one of us.
I believe that Jesus willingly gave His life to act as the ultimate sacrifice long foreshadowed in the animal sacrifices of Jewish law. Through ceremony and ritual, the Jews knew the depths of sin and the severity with which God regarded it. Only by the shedding of blood could their sins be washed away: in order for sin to be pardoned, a life must be taken. But such sacrifices could only ever be symbolic; no ignorant animal could truly redeem the soul of man. In the end, a proper sacrifice would be needed if the symbolism were to have any meaning at all. And only a sinless substitute could stand in for the rest; how could anyone pay the debt for others if he himself owed the same? Jesus knew no sin, so he died in our place.
I believe that Jesus healed the sick and performed miracles during his time on Earth, in order to demonstrate His spiritual power and confirm his identity as the Son of God. He challenged the Jewish leaders for their hypocrisy and pride. He honored the Jewish faith they had polluted for power and wealth. And he humbled himself to associate with those of no social status to show the love of God and the equal worth of all mankind.
I believe that Jesus was sold out by one of his own followers, the traitor Judas Iscariot, for the price of a common slave; delivered to the Roman government on false accusations of blasphemy and treason by the Jewish Sanhedrin out of jealousy for their religious authority; and sentenced to death by crucifixion at the command of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, out of fear for his own position.
I believe that Jesus was executed like a common criminal on a hill outside Jerusalem. He was whipped and beaten, mocked and humiliated, crowned with a wreath of thorns, all before He was forced to carry a wooden cross to the place where he would die. There, he was nailed to that cross through his hands and feet, exposed to the elements and the public eye until the weight of his own body, loss of blood, and thirsty exhaustion could kill him. He died in shame and agony; his body was speared to confirm his death, then removed by friends who buried him in an empty tomb. Both his death and burial were witnessed by others who had followed him in life.
I believe that on the third day after his death, Jesus was resurrected. His grave was attended by a crowd of Roman guards meant to protect his body from thieves. But when he rose, the unsuspecting guards all fainted away, and Jesus left his grave in full physical health, bearing witness to the truth of his words and his divinity. He appeared to those who had attended his burial, then to his disciples and his brother. He testified to the power of God both in word and deed by coming back to life and affirming the good news of the kingdom: the Anointed One had come, and salvation was now available for anyone who trusted in him.
I believe that Jesus Christ ascended from the earth after a short time with his disciples and returned to the Father. There, He is one with God again, restored to the glory He knew before His incarnation as a man. He will be our mediator with the Father until the end of human history, when He will return for His saints as promised. At that time, the Kingdom of God will be delivered into His hands, and He will in turn surrender it to the Father.
I believe that the Holy Spirit was promised and given to all who trust in Jesus Christ. The same Spirit who conceived the Son of God was sent to the Church after Jesus’ earthly departure, according to the promise he made to his disciples. In times past, the Spirit of God had inspired prophets and kings to speak His word to mankind. But since the great “outpouring” on the Day of Pentecost, that Spirit is available to all who believe in Jesus Christ. As Christians, we can know that the Spirit of God lives within us, to convict and correct us, teach and guide us, comfort and calm us, strengthen and encourage us, motivate and empower us. This same Spirit was given in special abundance to the Apostles, the leading disciples of Jesus, so that they might lead others to him.
I believe the testimony of those Apostles who walked with Jesus and knew him during his ministry and after his resurrection. Everything we know about him, everything in which our faith must be placed (as I understand it and have written here) comes to us through them. They were the leaders of the early church, through whom the good news of Jesus Christ was communicated to the rest of the world. And while Jesus is the One on whom everything depends, we would have no record or understanding of him except through their message. It is that message which the Apostles gave their lives defending. And their sacrifice as martyrs lends credibility to the message itself.
I believe in the Bible as a record of that message and an inheritance of spiritual wealth from the Jewish ancestors of the early church. In the Bible, we find not only the story of Israel, God’s chosen people, but the words of the prophets who heard from God, the religious poetry of kings and psalmists, and finally the gospel (“good news”) of salvation through Christ. We learn the character of God, the nature of sin, and humanity’s connection to both, as revealed to the Jews and Apostles. And we receive instruction and encouragement for Christians to live by. The Bible is not a single work of divine imposition, conspiratorial agreement, or superstitious nonsense. It is the foundation of knowledge regarding Jesus and the people from which he sprung. Regardless of interpretation, it is the best (and only legitimate) source for the story and teachings of Jesus Christ, as passed on by the disciples who died professing his resurrection and lordship. We need the Bible to know the Word of God and thus have faith in Christ.
I believe that we are saved from the curse of sin (both its effect and its punishment) by simple and sincere faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our personal Savior. There is no external action required or even helpful for the saving of our sinful souls. But by accepting the sacrifice Christ made in dying for us, we can be pardoned through his merit instead of our own. We are found guilty of sin; he has paid our fine. We are enslaved by our sinful nature; he has bought our freedom. We are sinful offenders; he has satisfied the divine wrath. We are estranged from God; he has reconciled us in his great love. We are covered in sin; he has washed us clean. All we must do to be “born again” into this new life of the Spirit is to believe in the saving power of the blood he shed for us. Baptism is a public sign of our faith. Communion is a commemorative act of worship. Even repentance is but the evidence of our salvation. But we are saved by faith alone. That is what makes us true Christians, true disciples of Christ.
I believe in the church as the collective body of all Christians around the world. As ambassadors for God, we are called to be united in spirit against the world and gather in worship for Him. We should share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with sinners and serve the kingdom of God in cooperation with one another. We should set an example of Christian behavior to be like Christ in love, humility, and wisdom. We are called to organize not as a political party, but as a spiritual family; to follow those best equipped for spiritual leadership (in character, experience, and understanding); and to encourage, instruct, and assist others as followers of Christ themselves.
I believe in good works, good character, and good morals, not only as a result of becoming a Christian, but also a goal for every Christian individual. Doing good does not earn salvation or favor with God, but it does honor and please Him, as we should hope to do. Moreover, a changed heart is the sign of a true Christian. We should seek to do good and be good in all things for the glory of God and the benefit of all mankind… even if we suffer for it. Jesus said “Be perfect,” and while none of us will be perfect in this life, we can’t be our best unless we always strive to be better. Christ is our loving, sinless example, and the church is made up of individuals with a responsibility to be like him. If we are to lead others to God, we should share the gospel with our words and set a Christ-like example with our actions: practice integrity, work hard, help others, be grateful, reject sin, and show unconditional love to the best of our ability.
I believe in seeking knowledge and wisdom wherever it may be attained, albeit through the lens of Christian faith. Imitating Christ means showing humility, being honest, and loving one another. But if we lack the humility to see our own ignorance, the honesty to identify uncomfortable truths, and the love to treat others with respect, we cannot be like Christ. All of this is necessary if we are to learn and grow. Wisdom honors God, even when it displeases men. Without knowledge, our ignorance may lead others to mock the God we serve; without the truth, we can have no wisdom. And there is no knowledge or wisdom we should seek more than that which relates to God. This means familiarizing ourselves with Scripture as we should with history, language, philosophy, and other fields of study. We are all morally responsible to know the truth, so far as we are able, and we should honor God by doing so.
Why do I write all of this? Because too many people define Christian in their own terms, either too loosely or too rigidly. Obviously, most people think of it simply as “a believer in Christ,” but we have to know who He is before we can truly believe in Him. If we all believe different things about Christ, we can’t all believe in the true Christ. So I write this to clarify my position and share my faith as I understand it.
There is much more that I would like to say (and hope to at a later date). But I leave these words here now so that they may be referenced as the basis and foundation of anything else I write in the future. Most importantly, however, I hope to bring the truth to others, and no truth is more important than the gospel of Jesus Christ. If I can help someone understand what it means to follow Him, I will have succeeded.
I am a Christian, and I believe we all need Him to be saved. My hope is that you will choose to follow Him now so that you may be with Him in eternity.