The Bible teaches us that, from all eternity, there has been and always will be only one God. God was never created, is completely loving, completely just, completely holy, completely merciful and desires the best for us. He is the Creator by whom everything came into existence. This good God does not abandon us to chance but is completely in control of everything that happens in this world. God is a trinity of persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
There is only one God, but He exists in three persons. This does not mean that there are three gods, but three distinct persons who together make up the one God. While the three members of the Trinity are distinct, none is inferior to the other. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are the same in essence and are equal in every way. However, they are distinct from each other in their role in creation, redemption and salvation. God the Father spoke the world into existence and later sent His Son, Jesus, to carry out His plan of redemption. The Holy Spirit lives in us to enable us to have faith.
There is a book which tells us how it all began. That book is Genesis, the first book of the Bible, which describes the creation of the universe and the beginning of man. It tells us that God simply spoke and caused everything to come into existence, including our first parents, Adam and Eve.
The Bible tells us that God created us in His own image. That means that we are here by design and not by chance. We were made like Him so that we could have a special kind of relationship with Him. We were made to live in fellowship with Him, to love and serve Him, and to worship Him with thankfulness. Because this is the ultimate purpose for which we were created, full and lasting happiness can only be found by seeking God.
Through pride, our first parents Adam and Eve were enticed by Satan into rebelling against God. This disobedience opened the door for sin to enter the world. Sin contaminates everything; no person, no creature, no institution, no relationship, no individual action is free from this contamination. The result of sin in the world is evident in such things as greed, violence and oppression as well as weeds, pollution, sickness and death. The most devastating effect of sin is that it separates people from God. However, there is no need to spend an eternity separated from God. There is forgiveness in abundance. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is enough to pay for every sin ever committed by anyone anywhere in the world throughout all of history. If you admit your sin and repent, putting your faith in Jesus Christ, God will most surely grant this forgiveness to you. Then your life will be joined to Christ.
Diagnosis: The problem of SIN
Any time there is a problem, dilemma or illness, a solution cannot be sought without first understanding what the problem is. For example, you cannot recommend a cure for an illness if an accurate diagnosis has not been established. It is the same with the human dilemma. Why is there suffering in the world? Why are there such physical, spiritual, moral, social, economic and political problems? Why are there wars, diseases and death?
And furthermore, why do Christians talk about a need for salvation? Salvation from what?
If you open up your Bible to the first two chapters of the first book, Genesis, you can read that things in this world started out really well. God was pleased with His creation and man was created in God’s image. That means that it was literally Paradise on earth. No conflicts, no disease, no “natural disasters” and no death. So, what happened? Sin. This is not a popular word today, but there is no other way to say it. Adam and Eve, the first people on this earth, were tempted by Satan and disobeyed God’s command to not eat the fruit from the tree that he had shown them. Right at that moment everything changed from being “very good” to being very bad. Sin entered the world. Man’s relationship with God was broken and changed. Suffering began and death became the ultimate destiny for the people that God had created. And because all humans are descendants of Adam and Eve, all humans have inherited sin as well. How is this possible? The word “sin” is not used in these first chapters in Genesis, but a summary of this life-changing event can be found in the book of Romans, Chapter 5, verse 12, “… sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men.”
It is because of sin that there is suffering and death in our world today. The punishment for that first sin is outlined in Genesis 3:15 and it extends not just to humans, but also to the world as a whole. Before sin there was no death. Today we acknowledge that everyone will die one day. Sin has affected everything and everyone. All people, all relationships and all of the physical world.
This notion of sin in all people may not be easy to understand or believe at first. After all, how can a baby who is just born be sinful? How can the sin of one man and woman make wars and illnesses and poverty? But, if not because of sin, then why is man the way he is today? Do you ever truly have to teach a small child how to disobey? What are often some of a child’s first words? “No” and “Mine”. Are they taught to selfishly want their own needs met first? Are people taught how to look out for their own best interests? No! This is a natural tendency because they are born with a sinful heart, a heart that doesn’t want what God wants, but wants to fulfill its own needs and desires. Even when a person tries to live a “moral life” and hasn’t committed any big crimes like murder or theft, are they truly following all of God’s laws all of the time, even in their thoughts and motives?
Why is there such corruption, greed, depression and sickness? Men come up with laws, only to have them broken. We have jails, Prozac, peace treaties, Earth days and counseling, but do any of these remedies really address the root of all of these problems? Unless the root is identified as sin, no remedy will ever be 100% effective! When sin is identified as the diagnosis, only then can the need for a prescription or remedy be considered.
Sin is, basically, ignoring or violating God’s laws. God’s Word, the Bible, is full of instructions on how to live a life that is pleasing to God. Many people know of the 10 Commandments that were given to the Israelite people. That’s a good place to start. But Jesus expanded on these 10 Commandments when He was on earth by addressing the motives behind following the commandments. He included attitudes and motives and stressed the need to make God the first priority in your life. But how can a man keep these laws and put God’s desires before his own if he is full of sin and can’t be perfect, no matter how hard he tries? That’s where grace and salvation come into the picture. Way back in the 3rd chapter of Genesis when God cursed man and creation because of sin, He also immediately gave the first glimmer of hope for the people He created. He had a beautiful plan already in place to restore man’s relationship with Him. He promised a Saviour, Jesus, to the world. Jesus would come to pay the penalty of sin, death, for the human race so that they could have the possibility of living forever in heaven with Him.
In addition to being the son of God, Jesus was also a man, meaning that he was both 100% man and 100% God. Historically speaking, Jesus was the son of a Jewish carpenter who lived 2000 years ago. He lived for about 35 years and spent the last few years of his life as a traveling teacher, preaching and performing miracles. He died by crucifixion after being tried and sentenced to death by the Jewish religious and political leaders of the day. However, three days after his death he rose from the grave and appeared, alive, to many witnesses. The Old Testament of the Bible contains over 300 prophecies predicting his coming and his life. According to eyewitness accounts recorded in the Bible, Jesus explicitly claimed to be the son of God and the fulfillment of the Jewish prophecies, leaving no doubt as to the purpose of his ministry.
Jesus’ death provided the payment for our sins that we can’t provide ourselves. It is the ultimate expression of God’s justice and his love coming together – because of his justice he cannot simply sweep sin under the rug, but because of his love he provided for us a way out. So he sent his son into the world as a man to live a perfect life, and then allowed him to die to pay for our sins. In his death Jesus took on himself the full force of God’s anger against sin as our substitute, so that we could be freed from God’s judgement.
God extends the promise of forgiveness of sins and an unbreakable relationship with him to all who place their faith in the death of Jesus Christ as a payment for their sins. This involves repenting from a life of sin and self-centredness and trusting in the promises of God. Because we are all sinful, no one can earn God’s favour. But because of his love for us, God offers it to us through Jesus Christ as a free gift.
Together with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is, therefore, true and eternal God. The Holy Spirit is given to all those who believe in Jesus Christ, to work spiritual growth in their lives, to deepen their relationship with God, to comfort them and to remain with them forever. He unites believers with Jesus Christ, aligning their lives with his perfect example.
The only way we can maintain a real relationship with anyone is by constant communication. It is the same with the relationship with God. Prayer is our way of directly communicating with God. It is an important way by which we can show our thankfulness to him. We are free to speak to God in prayer anywhere, anytime, and he has promised to hear us and answer.
The church is not a building, but the people who worship in it. It is a committed community of men and women, young and old, who find unity in their belief in Jesus Christ. It is a caring community in which each member is to use his or her talents and gifts for the benefit of others, to the praise of God. Each member is important. Each member has the well-being of the other believers in mind. More broadly speaking, the church is the gathering of believers who seek their salvation in Jesus Christ from the beginning of the world to its end. It is the ‘body’ of Christ or the ‘body’ of believers, a body of which Christ is the Head.
Church is a community of believers, and to maintain that community regular church attendance is essential. Most importantly, going to church gives each believer the opportunity to participate in communal praise and worship of God. At church we encounter God by learning more about what he teaches us in the Bible. Going to church also allows us to be encouraged and supported by our fellow believers.
The Bible, written by a variety of authors under God’s inspiration, tells the story of God’s relationship with his creation from beginning to end. It shows us where we fit into that story, and what that means for the way we ought to live our lives. The grand biblical story makes sense of our human experience. Believing in this story is an act of faith, but it is a rational belief. There are those who doubt the historical accuracy or cultural value of the biblical text, but there is much more reason to trust the biblical account than to distrust it.
Christians, like all people, are flawed human beings who do not live up to God’s command to live a life of justice and peace with all people. Some Christians have indeed been responsible for various tragedies and acts of injustice. This is not a reflection on the truth of Christianity but on the ability of people to always live by it. Christians are people who, with varying degrees of success, are attempting to follow Jesus Christ’s example of a perfect life.
Because of our sinful failings, no one is capable of avoiding judgement by living a perfect life. The entire human race is convicted of sin. Still, although they do not deserve it, God has promised to erase the guilt of all those who put their trust in him. Out of thankfulness for this free gift, God’s children are to live lives that are pleasing to God.
Christianity makes absolute truth claims about the world around us and how we should and should not live in it. The Christian community is exclusive. However, this does not mean that the Christian church is an organization that limits the freedom of its members to their detriment. On the contrary, we know that true freedom exists within the boundaries that God has laid out for his people. We know that service to God brings fulfillment and contentment, whereas slavery to sin leads only to death.