By Charles Arthur
I am a Christian because I believe the world has no other hope. It has been pointed out that many Christians or so-called Christians do not follow the Bible, or the teachings of Jesus, but choose to live just like the rest of the world. This is true, though I am not proud of it. I am not telling you anything new, however, when I tell you that Christians are not perfect, as the world seems to expect. We have been forgiven for the sin and wrong of which we are guilty, and God is at work to change us, but none of us can say that we have arrived. This is no excuse, of course, for the sins that even Christians commit-we still sin, and it is still wrong when we do. But the Bible teaches that we have already been forgiven for those things, even though at the time that we were forgiven, they were still in the future. The difference now is that God works with our conscience to make us want to do right, though not everyone listens. The simple fact is that the person we have been all our lives is very hard to deny; so, we still slip up. Change comes slowly.
I choose to be a Christian, as I said, because I believe that the world has no other hope. While many Christians still struggle with those old sins, many millions more have had their lives turned around by Jesus Christ, many of us in dramatic ways, and many more in subtle ways, over a period of time. All of those who truly believe in Christ as savior are somewhere on that scale, but you have to understand that the scale has a low end, as well. A baby doesn't learn to walk the day after it is born, and a Christian doesn't learn to be godly right after he is saved. But I do believe that Christ is the only Person who can truly change a person for the better. The Bible teaches, and society demonstrates, that self-help and support groups and therapy and wealth and all the other things the world has to offer, can't do anything to make a person better; in fact, most people end up war worse, and far more miserable than when they started. Christ is the only One who can change society-history bears record of whole nations and people groups being changed by belief in Christ. Here in America, we have reached a critical mass on population, so that the percentage of practicing Christians is too low to really "salt" society and preserve it, but even in a local way, in some communities, you can see the impact that Christ has on groups of people. Christianity teaches a morality that can halt society's decline, then gives the power to back up that morality-because the secret is, the power of Christ working to change the hearts and lives of the individuals that make up society.
And what, exactly, is there to believe? Maybe you don't understand exactly what Christianity is. It is obvious that the crowd of opposing groups out there has muddied the waters and confused countless people about what it is. My opinion is worthless, but I do not want you to go by my opinion; I want you to go by what the Bible says. It says in Romans 3: 4, "Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar." In other words, even if every one of us were to fall away and fail to be true in what we say and do, His Words would still be true and right. His words are the Bible. So, I'll start where most people are:
Humankind is lost. We were created innocent, but we had a choice: Love and live for the God Who created us, or do our own thing. Now, whether you may like it or not, God is the absolute standard of right and wrong. There is no reality outside of Him and the universe He created and He rules. Therefore, you may resent having someone else in power over you, but you absolutely cannot ever escape it. He ultimately is right, and has the final word. But humans chose to do their own thing, and have been choosing it ever since. But God cannot allow more than one way, when the ways don't agree; it would be a contradiction within himself. He must be true to himself, just like I must be true to myself. So, He had declared what the consequences would be for disobeying: eternal death, separation from Him and from everything good. What we call Hell, in other words. Pain and torment forever. Hell is very real, and it is waiting for all of us. God is very considerate-He doesn't send innocent people to Hell. Rather, He lets sinners choose it for themselves by rejecting Him. Someone has said that Hell is God's utmost expression of respect for our freedom of choice. WE chose it, and we continue to choose it. Furthermore, when we were created, we were untested; we were pure and righteous, but we hadn't chosen God for ourselves yet. We failed that test in the Garden of Eden-Adam, as the head of our race, failed it for us, I should say (not that we necessarily would have done any better). The grade is final; the test is over. WE cannot choose to go back on our own. WE are helpless.
That is where Jesus Christ comes in. He is the son of God, so he never inherited sin from his father, which is how we get it. He lived a perfect life, which we could not do; He never once sinned. When He was crucified, God allowed His death to be the punishment for our sins-and because Jesus is infinite, and because He was perfect, that death is worth enough to pay for the sins of every human from Adam to the end of time. He took our death for us. It's as though we trade His righteousness for our sins. He took the sins, and we get the righteousness. As well, because the sins weren't His-because He did not deserve to die-God raised Him from the dead, and He is still alive today, though not on Earth. The fact that He lives means that we can as well. When we have received His righteousness, we also receive His life. Oh, our bodies will die, because it isn't yet time for them to receive that life-but they will in the future. Death is no longer forever! And, when we die, we can be with Him, rather than in Hell. We'll be waiting for a resurrection, not a judgment.
Accepting it is simple. I have taught children, and we tell them that it is as simple as ABC. "A" is to "Admit" that you are a sinner-many people do not even want to go that far. They believe that their sins are their business, and no one else needs to know; or that they are not a bad person; or, worst of all, that they really do not sin. All these are lies. "B" is to "Believe" the truth about Christ-that He died and was buried, and that He rose again, as the Bible says, and that it was to take our place and offer us forgiveness and salvation. "C" is to "Call" on Him and tell Him these things, then ask Him to forgive and save us. It is that simple. This is not something we earn; it is offered to us as a free gift, because God desires our love and trust. When you are offered a gift, you don't buy it; you reach out and take it. That is how it is with salvation.
After the fact, we have the Spirit of God to live in us and guide us. He doesn't make us fall on the floor and roll around, or twitch, or handle snakes, or any of the other crazy things people have proposed-what He does do is show us when we are wrong, and guide us into what is right, and make the Bible make sense to us. He changes us-which is back to where we started this discussion: how Christians behave.
I do not claim to know everything, but I do claim to know this: There are Christians who have given Christ a bad name. The Bible warned that it would be that way. But Don't look to believers for the standard-look straight to Christ for that. What He does, He does out of love, because anyone can see that the world is in a mess it cannot get out of. If it could have, it would have. I certainly hope that all Christians will be a shining example of what Christ is like (that is what we intend to show, anyway), but I am realistic enough to know that it won't work out so well. But don't give up on Christians because they struggle-it should give you hope, really, because I am sure that you struggle with some of the same things. If God can reach them, He can reach you, too.
A final note: Don't take my word for it-take the Bible. Some quick references follow, but they aren't exhaustive-read for yourself! My email address is freely available to anyone, so I'll take reviews and emails alike, with questions, answers, accusations-I'll even take hate mail, if you will only read the verses first. If you don't have a Bible, ask me-I'll send you a copy of the verses. Feel free!
John 3:15-17 Romans 3:23 Romans 6:23 Romans 5:12 I Corinthians 15: 3, 4 Romans 5:8 Romans 10:13 John 14:6 Acts 16:31