What is a Christian?
A Christian, a true Christian, is a person that has admitted that they are a sinner, that they are in need of a savior and they have accepted the gift that Christ has given them, and they have chosen to commit their life to, or strive to please, Him. These are the proverbial ABCs of being a Christian. One very important thing to note is that a Christian is not perfect. Professing to be a Christian is much like attending a support group in that you have admitted you have a problem and you need help. The only difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that one recognizes they are a sinner and are in need of help. Otherwise, they are virtually the same: both struggle, both can feel happiness, both can feel pain, both can do good things, and both can do bad things. There are some Christians that have indeed forgotten that principal. One last thing to note is that Christianity is not about “getting to Heaven” or “not going to Hell” as many seem to think. Obtaining access to Heaven and avoiding the flaming darkness of Hell is a wonderful benefit of becoming a Christian, but it’s not the main goal.
Ok, but what in the world is sin?
Before this question can even begin to be answered, we need to step back and take a look at a few foundational concepts. Before we go any further, I want to warn you that everything I’m about to say may sound absolutely ridiculous and I would like to pause and take a moment to ask you to humor me. Forget everything you know about everything. It is very important to first establish a foundation on which claims can be made as each claim builds upon the previous. Please note that nothing in this section tries to prove anything (I will provide my reasoning for believing all of this later), rather, it’s simply trying to provide an explanation for what sin is. So, to borrow the colloquialism, just go with it for a moment.
Now, assume for a second that a God exists. Forget what you know about this God and assume the following: He is an almighty, all-knowing, and present-in-all-time-and-places-simultaneously God. He can say whatever He wants and He can do whatever He wants.
Next, assume that the Holy Bible is completely true and without error even though it was penned by human beings. This book and this book alone are the only absolute source of truth. No other books should be considered divinely inspired.
Because we are assuming that the Bible is true and we are also assuming that an all-powerful God exists, then we can see by reading the very beginning of history in the Bible, that the universe and everything that is in it was created simply by God speaking. He literally willed it into existence. Most people think of the planet Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the plants and animals and finally human beings as a part of creation, but God also created time, space, and all of the laws of physics, those we know, those we don’t, and those we still don’t even understand, like gravity.
Everything was created and bound together like a cohesive machine. And, like a machine, everything has a set of rules that should be followed in order to get the most out of it. As an example, if I take my car that requires gasoline to run and I instead put diesel fuel in its fuel tank, I’m going to have problems. This is the literal sense of what sin is. In addition to the things that God created, he also created a set of rules that the created things are bound by. When those rules are broken, that is an act of sinning. God designed everything to work in a specific way so that we could get the most out of life. Being the creator of everything, He knows how best to live. As an example, God commands us not to murder one another. But if we do, we also destroy a part of His machine. Where there should be a person, there is a void, and pain, and sorrow.
Murder is a fairly easy example of sin. So much so that most societies agree that killing one another is a bad idea. But what about other sins? Another example of sin is gluttony. Now when we hear the word gluttony, I think most people think about a person who eats like a pig, completely stuffing themselves until they are bursting at the seams, completely covered in food. But, did you know that simply eating more than you need can be classified as gluttony? But why would eating too much be called a sin? I don’t know about you, but when I eat too much (think of Thanksgiving day where we eat food all day long), I get extremely tired and lazy. Being lazy (slothful) is also a sin (note there is a difference between laziness and resting). So, giving in to the sin of gluttony can lead to other sins. Also remember that with sin brings death and problems. The older I get, the more I realize that eating more than I need causes my internal organs to cry out sometimes. There are plenty of studies out there that show that if you have an unhealthy gut, you’re going to be much more susceptible to diseases and overeating can cause your gut to become unhealthy. Again, sinning is a misuse of the machine that God has created.
We can also define sin as the absence of love. The Bible tells us that God is the very definition of love and in 1 Corinthians 13, we have a definition of its/His attributes. Love:
- is Patient
- is Kind
- Does not Envy
- Does not Boast
- is Not Arrogant
- is Not Rude
- Does not demand its own way
- is Not Irritable
- is Not Resentful
- Does not rejoice in wrongdoing
- Rejoices with the truth
- Never gives up
- Never loses faith
- is Always Hopeful
- Endures all things
The absence or the opposite of these things is what sin is. And as Jesus says in Matthew 22:36-40, all of the rules that God has set forth can be summed up in two commandments, in this order:
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
Love is the act of being selfless while sin is being selfish. When we are selfish, others will suffer because of it. Consider the above murder example again. When one person murders another they do it for selfish reasons, whether it be because of something the victim had (coveting. another sin), something the victim had done (vengeance, another sin), or even because the murderer just wanted to. Whatever the reason, it was to gratify self.
Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
We’ve taken a look at what sin is and how it affects the machine that God created, but if you and I are a part of a machine, shouldn’t there be some sort of a manual to inform us of how to use it properly? Plenty of people have used some form of the phrase “I wish life came with an instruction manual”. The thing is, it does. The Bible is the living Word of God. I can read the same passage several different times throughout my life and come away learning a life lesson I didn’t know before. The book of Proverbs says:
If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as or hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.Proverbs 2:3-5
God promises us that if we are wholly seeking the truth that He will show it to us; He will teach us what He is wanting us to learn. The entire Bible contains basic instructions that we can follow. There are even chapters dedicated to the list of rules to follow to live a sinless life. However, even with having all of the rules to tell us how to live in the way that God had intended us to, there is still a problem.
What we’ve talked about so far is a sinful act that you or I may carry out and its consequences. There is still another sin, sometimes called Original Sin, that all human beings are affected by that has led us to our current state.
The Original Sin occurred near the beginning of time when God commanded the first humans, Adam and Eve, not to eat the fruit of a specific tree in the garden of Eden. They both disobeyed and ate its fruit. This original sin is what brought the curse of death and sickness and all other sins on mankind. What’s worse is that this sin is inherited at birth. We are born into sin and are cursed by it. Note that before this sin, both human beings were without sin. There was no death, no sickness, no pain, and no tears.
There is a very popular debate in the world about whether a person is basically good or basically bad with a large number of people believing they are basically good. Christianity, due to the Original Sin, says we are all basically bad. What it means to be “basically bad” is that at a basic level we are bad and that it’s not natural for our actions or reactions to be “good”. Instead, we naturally act and react in a “bad” way and have to perform tremendous amounts of work to be “good”. Take a moment and examine your own life. When someone wrongs you, is your very first initial response, whether internally or externally, to love that person? At the risk of sounding arrogant, I will answer that question: No. Our first response is to retaliate. We may not physically show the retaliation. Sometimes we can suppress that urge, but it’s still there. Another example is children. I don’t have to teach my children how to be bad or how to act out. They do it naturally. But I do have to put in a ton of work to teach them how to behave in a good manner.
What’s worse is that because we have been tainted by sin, we can no longer be in the presence of God. Romans 3:23 says that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. This means that even if you mess up even once you’ve already messed up too much in order to meet the absolute perfection that God demands. We are doomed before we even try.
The bog of discouragement
So now we know what sin is, we know that there is a rule book describing how we should live, and we know that God demands absolute perfection in order to be in His presence. I don’t know about you, but when I listed gluttony as a sin, it’s definitely one of mine. It’s something that I perform most often without even thinking about it and I pay the price for that sin all of the time with acid reflux. There are many many other sins as well and based on what Romans 3:10 says “There is none righteous. Not even one”, so the rule book accuses us of our sins rather than excuses us. This should leave us feeling trapped in a decaying and dying body and wondering the same thing that the Apostle Paul thought in his letter to the Romans (7:24) “Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?”
Doomed for all eternity?
Because sin introduced death into our world and everyone is born into sin, everyone is subject to death. There is no getting around it. Now, the million dollar question: what happens after death? The Bible says that due to the fact that we are sinners and God cannot tolerate sin, we are to be cut off from Him and we are doomed to an eternity in a sinful state in a place called Hell. Hell is a place where the love of God does not exist, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Anything that is of God (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness) will not exist. There will be no interactions with other people and what’s worse is that without God’s love, without the existence of love, you won’t want to interact with other people as you collapse further into yourself for all eternity.
But, there is hope.
When the Original Sin was committed, much like our own justice system, God demanded that someone must pay for the crime. But who would be able to live a sinless life and even then be willing to sacrifice themselves for all of mankind? There is only one: Jesus.
Jesus is God incarnate. He is the son of God. He is both fully God and fully man such that he could be the perfect human being necessary for making the payment that God demanded. No other human being is capable of such a requirement. Jesus lived a perfect, selfless, and sinless life and the payment that God demanded was made in full the day that Jesus died upon the cross.
It doesn’t stop there. Not only did Jesus die on the cross and pay for our sins, but He was also resurrected, brought back to life. Because of His resurrection, we also can live with Him. This is the part where most people are familiar with. This is the “going to Heaven” part. When we die, our souls, our being is free of the tainted, sinful bodies. For Christians, death is a gift.
God loves all of the people in the world so much that He provided the payment for all sins and all He asks is for them to repent of, or turn from, their sin, and accept the free gift of His son so that they might be saved from the eternal damnation; so they can live in Heaven with Him, forever.
Why do I believe?
For any that don’t know me, I am a very logical and calculating person. I am a computer scientist by trade and I tend to think about everything in a similar, logical fashion. Like a scientist, I try not to make rash decisions, rather, I gather and weigh evidence and then make educated decisions based on the evidence.
I was raised in a church-going home, so I was definitely biased to believing everything I’ve presented from the start. One day, though, my faith was challenged: did I believe what I said I believed because I believe it or was it because my parents believed it? Of course, my answer was the obvious church-going, good boy answer “because I believe it”. However, that question stirred up doubt in my mind that lingered. I went through a period of doubting my own faith. I questioned everything including my foundational beliefs. I examined evolution and other beliefs. I was ashamed that I was questioning things that at one point seemed so simple. Having gone through the doubt, researching, and questioning, I am now no longer ashamed of the doubt that I had, rather, I embrace it as a refinement period. In fact, I encourage everyone to always perform self-introspection and reflection on things often because of this. Step back. Reevaluate everything you think you know. Search hard for the truth. All of this to say that I definitely believe what I believe because I personally have sought after the truth and have found it.
This next section is my personal testimony as to why I believe in the supernatural. For me, it’s not necessarily just the stories themselves, but the feelings involved during the stories that are important to me. I concede that the feelings involved were a very important part and that I cannot completely convey those feelings with words, so these stories may seem meaningless. I have never really wanted to share my experiences before because I didn’t want anyone to belittle them or write them off as coincidences or to tell me I’m crazy or whatever other excuse. These experiences are one of several in my life that have led me to believe that there is a God in Heaven and that He fits the description of the God in the Holy Bible. Moreover, all of my experiences have validated that the Bible is the true, inerrant Word of God. I will do my absolute best to describe a couple of example experiences as accurately as possible so that it doesn’t sound like a too-good-to-be-true, feel-good sort of story. I affirm that these stories are true.
My first story takes place in 2005. My grandpa, my mom’s dad, was diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctors said he probably had until September of that year. Some time around June or July my sister and I were to go visit my other grandparents in Sedalia. We would be staying with them for a whole week. The night before we left, I was busy playing a computer game when my mom asked me if I’d like to go visit with her mom and dad. Being completely wrapped up with my game, I declined. She then began to get ready to leave while I continued to play my game. It was then that I heard God.
“If you don’t go, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
Now I want to be clear, I never heard an audible voice, rather it’s more like my own voice in my head, but the thoughts were completely foreign. That’s the best way I know how to describe it. In any case, the message was clear, but I shrugged it off as having an overactive imagination or something.
The next day, we started to head to Sedalia, but we happened to have enough time to go visit my mom’s parents. We spent about 15 to 30 minutes visiting before we left. My grandpa was doing fine, so I never thought any more about the warning. That was the last time I saw my grandpa alive. By the grace of God, I was still given those few extra minutes with him.
Fast forward to 2009.
It was November 1st. My parents were out of town for my sister’s band competition. My remaining grandpa had been not feeling well and so I had the thought to drive all the way down to Sedalia to go visit him. I really don’t like driving though and I normally don’t go driving to my grandparents whenever they get sick, so I was kind of on the fence about it. And then, I heard it again:
“If you don’t go, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”
I don’t know how to describe it, but there is a feeling involved that makes the thought feel completely legit. And it scared me, because the last time I had that thought, my other grandpa died. It scared me enough into driving all the way down to Sedalia where I spent time with my grandparents. My grandpa still wasn’t feeling well, but he was coherent and carrying on with conversations. We had supper and then later on, my grandma had my grandpa check his temperature. He was running a fever so we ended up driving to the ER where we waited a long time for him to get a room. It was getting really late, so my grandma sent me home, but on the way home there was the most dense fog I’ve ever encountered in my entire life and I kept getting the thought “Turn back. Turn back”. I continued on, but I wished I would have turned back.
The next day, my dad received a call from his parents. His dad had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. My grandpa died two weeks later. My grandma told me several times that my being down there and helping to take them to the hospital and waiting with them was one of the most helpful things. She kept telling me that I was her rock. God sent me where I needed to be at just the right time, and, I was blessed with being able to eat one last meal with my grandparents at their house as my grandpa lived the last two weeks in the hospital.
I’ve had several experiences similar to these two, but I don’t think they are something I can share in a blog post, if ever. Sometimes experiences are made for sharing and sometimes they are something that God makes just for us. All of the experiences I’ve had, though, are why I believe in a God that created everything and it is His Spirit that affirms the truth of His Word, the Bible.
My personal experiences are largely the reason for my faith in Christ, but in addition to my personal experiences, there are some logical deductions that also support my reasoning. It is not because of these logic-based reasons that I believe in Christ, rather, it is my personal experiences that fill in the gaps to make these logical claims sound. Meaning that if you’re looking for them, you will find plenty of holes in the following arguments. If your objective is to find the holes in these arguments, please don’t even bother reading. This post has already concluded as far as you are concerned. I appreciate you taking the time to read and I wish you the best. If instead, however, your objective is to examine a view other than your own and to reexamine what you believe in, please continue and I hope you find the following enlightening.
More Faith Than A Mustard Seed
The probability of evolution actually being possible is on an astronomical scale. Keep in mind that science is based only on what we can observe, therefore, since no one was able to observe the start and end of (or current state of) evolution, it will only ever remain a theory. I fully understand that a theory is based on mountains of data, but when your foundation to those mountains is flawed, the whole theory itself is wrong. Moreover, evolutionists and creationists tend to agree on a lot of different world events. They only disagree on the catalyst for those events. Since we cannot prove evolution by sampling events from the beginning, middle, and now present end, it takes just as much faith if not more to believe in evolution as it does to believe in an intelligent designer. I want to be clear that, likewise, science cannot also prove creationism.
No Personal/Selfish Gain
The Apostle Paul was formerly Saul, a zealous Jew who hated Christianity so much that he murdered Christians. However, after a personal meeting with Jesus Christ where he was struck blind, he himself became a zealous Christian and began spreading Christianity. Why would he do this? Some might say that it was for the same reason all religions exist: for power and control. However, if you examine the history and the life of Paul, he spent most of his time in chains or on house arrest. He wasn’t free. He was jailed, beaten, shipwrecked, and poor the majority of his Christian life. He could have made more money and had more power and been more comfortable as a Jewish Pharisee. There is no other reason why a person would choose such a life other than that everything he preached was true. When you practice Christianity correctly you are generally giving up the right to yourself so that others can gain and this is the way that Paul lived. As he says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” That is, he became something other than himself (gave up his desires) so that he could communicate with others in a language they understood to share the gospel with them.
God Has Revealed Himself By His Creation
Similar to what Romans chapter 1 says, all of creation itself is proof of God. If you haven’t had the opportunity, go stand on the top of a mountain. It has a very sobering effect once you realize just how small and insignificant you are on planet Earth let alone try to imagine how small you are in the universe. Go out in the middle of nowhere where the light pollution from cities can’t affect the sky and look at all of the stars. There are more than you can count. Consider what existence itself is. We exist.
C.S. Lewis’ Trilemma
Most would submit that Jesus was a great moral teacher; most of the foundational laws in the US and other societies agree with Christian principles. However, they rejected the fact that Jesus could be the Son of God. Lewis submitted that because Jesus made the claim that He was the Son of God, He could not merely be a great moral teacher. Rather, there are only three possibilities.
- He consciously meant to defraud and mislead people and was therefore a liar
- He was deluded or insane
- He was who He said He was: the Son of God.
He cannot be both a great moral teacher and insane or a liar, therefore we must conclude, however improbable, that the only remaining option is the truth.
C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and Timothy Keller’s “The Reason for God” provide even more reasons and food for thought. I will leave those up to the reader to pursue if they are indeed actively seeking the truth.
Better To Be Safe
The number one phrase that I kept hearing (and continue to hear) over and over and over when it comes to the SARS-COV-2 pandemic is that the virus is coming and “it’s better to be safe than sorry” with respect to people’s lives. Now, let’s use the same logic. I keep telling people that there is a storm coming. One day, we all are going to die and one day we all will learn the truth. If I am wrong, then I’ve lived my life trying to be like Christ, a person who loved others just as Christ loves me, at times sacrificing my own wants and desires for others, and died to an infinite nothingness. But if I’m right, then those who have told me I’m wrong will die and face an infinite, burning death and complete and utter separation from God. Because of this, I beg and implore you to consider the phrase “it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
I want to throw this break in right here because for some, what I’ve written may be alarming and, out of fear, may jump to a rash decision. Take a breath. Jesus Himself says that you should understand what you’re getting into when choosing to follow Him. He says to “count the cost”.
I’ve lived a lot of my life with people hating and ridiculing me simply for stating “I am a Christian”. They tend to know everything about Christianity, and therefore me, having only learned about it through various media outlets. However, what they actually know is of Christians who do what all humans do, sin and mess up, and then hold that against all of Christianity. I am thankful, however, that I still live in a nation where I’m not (yet) executed for making this sort of declaration, so I’ve definitely not suffered persecution like other Christians in the world, but a time is coming when that will not be the case. A part of becoming a Christian means being ready for this stuff to happen.
As a part of counting the cost, Jesus says that it may cost you your friends and your family. They may turn and hate you for it. I’ve witnessed the effects of a person becoming a Christian when the rest of their family is not and it can be very painful. The relationships are never the same. Consider the cost of losing those that you love or losing how you used to interact with one another.
Having said all of that, where people might hate you or where you might be left alone by friends and family, God will always be with you and will never forsake you or leave you. Even in the midst of trouble, you can feel the peace of God which surpasses all understanding; a peace that doesn’t make sense. Paul says in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” And because of that, the cost of accepting the gift of Christ will always outweigh the troubles brought about because of it.
Becoming a Christian
If you’ve made it this far and you want to accept God’s free gift, all you need to do to become a Christian is follow the ABCs:
- Admit that you are a sinner. You realize that God demands payment for the sin that you were born into. You are not perfect nor will you ever be while you are still living in sinful flesh. You need someone to save you and you cannot do it on your own. Repent of your sins.
- Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that His death on the cross paid for your sins. He was resurrected, therefore, upon your own death, you will be resurrected with Him and spend eternity with Him and all other believers in Heaven.
- Commit your life to Christ. Daily take up your cross and live for Christ. Surrender to His will which will ultimately be used for the greater good of all.
If you’ve never prayed to God before, bow your head and close your eyes and focus on talking to Him. He is in the very room that you are in and He has always been with you. Tell Him everything that is on your heart. If you need an example prayer, here is one:
I am a sinner, I have made mistakes, and I am desperately in need of a savior. Please forgive me of my sins. I accept your free gift and I want you to be the Lord of my life.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you just prayed that prayer, I’m so happy for you. Know that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10); Angels are rejoicing over you.
If you haven’t already, you should begin to read God’s Word: the Bible. I tend to use the NASB or ESV translations, but some prefer the more colloquial NIV. If you don’t know where to start reading, I would highly suggest the book of John, then Acts, and then Romans. It’s important to spend time every day praying to God and reading His word and every day be refreshed and renewed by Him. Know that becoming a Christian doesn’t make you perfect at all, by any means. It is a lifelong journey of sanctification that only Christ can bring about. And this is done slowly and one day at a time.
Let me know if you’ve accepted Christ as your Lord and savior. And let me know if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them.