PREFACE

First… Why do we believe something so strongly that we’d live and die for it?  Only one reason - because we are convinced that it is absolutely and universally true.  In this case, the Truth we believe in is a Person.  The evidence for God, specifically the God revealed the Bible (the most unique, impactful, and supernatural book in history) compels us.  We have encountered God, experienced Him, enjoyed Him, and have been awed by Him.  We are still growing in our understanding of Him as He is infinite, and we are but limited.  Yet we understand that there is literally nothing more important for any human being than discovering the truth about God and His impact in our lives now and after we die.  Can there be anything more deserving of our attention?  Can you see why this is not just some religion we prefer but truth that we must know?  We must know that what we believe corresponds to reality, not wishing or fantasy.  And God has persuaded us.  So that’s why we have a story, and it goes like this… 

THE BROKEN RELATIONSHIP

God - the eternal, immaterial, all-loving, all-powerful, all-good, Creator of the universe, created human beings in His own image (or like God Himself, giving us immeasurable value) so we could be loved by Him and responsibly rule with Him over the earth that He provided for us.  True love can’t be forced, so God gifted humans with a will that was free to choose fellowship with their Creator or reject Him.  Tragically, humans misused their free will to reject God’s loving rulership and moral authority, in essence proclaiming themselves as the new “kings”.  This refusal to be ruled by God is called sin. Humanity’s moral rebellion broke the fellowship and closeness we once enjoyed with God, introduced death and pain to the human race, and resulted in our natural desire to sin (known as our “sin nature”).  This broken state has been mankind’s normal experience ever since.  To rationalize our moral rebellion, mankind tends to deny or ignore the existence or seriousness of the moral law giver Himself, replacing Him with false gods or false ideas about God. The “rules” of false gods are more to our liking.

THE REMINDERS

To address this human tendency, God provided all humans with subtle but striking reminders of His existence. God is revealed through the splendor of His natural creation and the moral law written on the heart of all humans (called the conscience).  At times, however, God has been less subtle, choosing to reveal Himself more directly by declaring His will to specific individuals whom He charged to pass the information on to others in oral and written form. These written records of divine revelation have been collected in what we call The Bible.  It includes vital information about God including His character, how He was acting in History to reconcile mankind to Himself, how we ought to live, and His plans for the future.  The Bible also includes supernatural evidence of God’s work in the way of fulfilled prophecies.  While some people responded positively to these additional reminders from God, most rebelled just like times before because of our sin nature.  So these written words of God were not enough to fix mankind’s broken relationship with God.  An even greater revelation of God was needed…  

THE SOLUTION

Therefore, God revealed Himself in the most unexpected and amazing way - by personally coming to exist and function as a normal human being.  God would reveal Himself to us as one of us - the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  How could this be?  Miraculously, Jesus was conceived by God in a virgin’s womb - perhaps an unlikely staging area for such a heavenly rescue mission!  The Creator of the universe became a creature to reverse the damage we brought about in the beginning.  He would pay the penalty for our moral rebellion – the penalty of death – by dying on the cross.  Jesus would then defeat death itself by rising again three days later.  Jesus Christ chose to sacrifice Himself in the place of sinful mankind who deserved divine wrath for our continual disobedience to God.  Because He was divine and not just a sinless human being (which He also was), Jesus’ sacrifice is of infinite value - more than enough to pay the sin debt of all human beings. Christ - the invisible God made visible to mankind - provided the ultimate intersection of perfect love, holiness, justice, mercy as He gave Himself in love for those who deserved death for our moral crimes against Heaven.  Sinful man now has access to God because Jesus accomplished "the Great Exchange” in which He offered to trade us His perfect record of obedience and sinlessness for our horrible (and otherwise unfixable) record of every sin we commit in this life!  We are rescued from the penalty of sin because of God’s favor (grace) through Christ, not our own ability to do good or be “good people”.  To confirm His divine identity and the truthfulness of His teachings, Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead in a miracle known as The Resurrection.  This historical event is the very basis for the Christian faith, and it sets Jesus apart and above all other religious figures.  

THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH

When we put our genuine and obedient faith (trust) in Jesus, our immaterial self (the soul) experiences salvation, but our body continues to decay and will eventually die.  However, Jesus promised to return again to earth in the future, and at that time He will save our bodies also by raising our bodies in the same way His body was raised from the dead.  Before ascending in His immortal body back to Heaven, Jesus told those who were eyewitnesses of His miraculous resurrection that they would be filled with His Spirit, empowering them to tell others the Good News (the gospel) - that Jesus’ death and resurrection can restore our healthy relationship with God if we will just put our genuine trust in Jesus and submit to Him as our Lord and Ruler.   About 120 of received this empowering “gift of the Holy Spirit”, when they began to speak in languages they had never learned.  This event on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost marked the beginning of the church.  Immediately after this "Pentecostal Experience", Christ’s followers boldly shared the truth of the Resurrected Christ with the very crowd that had been involved in calling for Jesus’s death just seven weeks earlier.  They proclaimed that restored fellowship with God requires a decision to change one’s life (repentance), to be baptized in the name of Jesus, and receiving the gift of God’s Spirit. Thousands were converted, and the church continued to grow daily.  As Christ’s followers kept preaching and teaching, people turned away from their wrongdoing and turned to God in radical life-change.  They were baptized in water in an act of faith celebrating the forgiveness of their sins and their new identification with Jesus’s death and burial.  They experienced the resurrection power of Christ when they were filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, being divinely empowered to tell others about the risen Christ.  This gift is still being poured out around the globe today!  Once again God began to reveal Himself in written form, moving on certain leaders of the early church to write down the Gospel message, instructions for Christian living, and prophecies for Christian hope in the face of a hostile world that would tempt and persecute believers who still had to struggle against their sinful desires and inconsistencies. These God-inspired writings of Jesus’s followers make up what it called The New Testament.  

WHAT NEXT?

Throughout history, the record of those claiming to be Christ’s followers has been quite mixed.  Some have flourished as human beings as they have been transformed into the image of Christ through the Spirit.  Others have fallen far, far short of their Lord’s will and example, perpetrating some inexcusable evils at times.  Nevertheless, the goodness, truth, and love of Jesus Christ are not somehow made false simply because some “Christians” have failed to live out His teachings.   As Christians today, we strive to live in a grace-fueled, Spirit-empowered way that embraces Jesus’s teachings and follows His example. This “grace-based living" is done as we express God’s worth to us through worship, though our efforts to walk closely with God in times of prayer and Bible study, and in our blessing others with Christian acts of service.  As members of Christ’s Church (meaning His “called out ones”), our main expression of love for our fellow man is telling them the Good News of Jesus Christ (evangelism) and our stories of how He has changed and impacted our lives.  Though we may be understood or considered offensive by some, this love for other necessarily involves warning them why they are in danger of God’s judgment for sin, how to fix that relationship with God, and finally, how to know God - and know what He wants for their lives.  When we try to persuade others of the truth about God or about joining us on this spiritual journey,  we are not trying to be judgmental or condemning toward those who are not living like we do. Rather, God has moved upon us to reach out to people whose eternal fate is in the balance.  Telling others of this powerful Good News is our mission of mercy that someone previously shared with us, so we are trying to “pay it forward”.  Our sharing of God’s truth begins with those in our own homes (family disciple-making), and it extends to the ends of the earth (missionary work).  Just like our minds and bodies continue to grow, develop, and mature, our spiritual life is a continual journey of growth, development, and maturity.  Each Christian will experience different rates and stages of growth, but our ultimate goal is for every Christian to “grow up” to become as much like Jesus as possible.  The Church – and specifically the assembling together of a local body of believers - is the environment in which God appointed us to grow.  Just as the natural family exists to support, strengthen, and serve its members, so too, the family of God – the church - exists to support, strengthen, and serve one another until the return of Christ.  

 

So our story continues… 

…as we grow in our knowledge and closeness to God…

Grow in our Christlikeness of character…

Grow in our unity as we bless the family of God…

And grow in number as we invite others outside God’s family to join our spiritual journey in Christ.  

 

Finally, the Bible lets us know a little bit of how the story will end for those who belong to Christ.  Eternal life with God and those who are part of His kingdom.  Freedom from all pain, suffering, sin, and death is promised.  Paradise is restored.  Though we have to await to discover all the details of life everlasting, we believe this is the only story that can truly end with the promise: 

“And they lived happily ever after."