I don’t mean to be contrarian or cause anyone to doubt their faith, but I want to share some thoughts. I’m working on a study about the nature of the kingdom of God, starting with the gospel of the kingdom of Heaven.
I’ve been considering for some time that Christian tradition does not consider the gospel as fully as it should. Coincidentally, today, I’ve been engaging in some interesting conversation with a man in Oman who currently practices Sanatani Dharmi (Hindu). He wants to learn about Christianity, so I decided to oblige.
I’ve never tried to explain the gospel to people of other faiths. In writing this out, I again feel that our common perceptions about the gospel are sorely lacking. I’m going to share this with you, and I plan to do an in-depth study (as mentioned) and cite scripture as well. I will also consider ideas about the Jewish faith and Jesus as the Messiah.
I share this now because I want us all to consider these things. Are we children of God, truly? Are we children of the promise?
(You will probably notice my struggle in explaining the trinity. Do you have suggestions for explaining this idea to someone who might not have heard this before?)
Here is my best attempt at explaining Christianity:
The Christian faith is centered around Jesus, as you already know most likely. So, I will start with telling you about who he is, what he stands for, and why we put our faith in him.
Jesus is the son of God, and he also is God. God is the Creator, and as God, Jesus is Life.
Jesus was conceived within a virgin, born of the Holy Spirit of God. God is a Spirit. Jesus, being born of the Holy Spirit, comes forth from God. So, he is both one with God, and yet distinct from God in that he was born of a woman.
As God, and as Life, Jesus stands for all things pertaining to life. His teachings are centered around love, mercy, forgiveness, humility, reverence for God, and sacrificing self for the good of others.
There is a counterpart to Jesus. This is Satan. Whereas Jesus is Life and Light, Satan is Death and Darkness.
Presently, this world is ruled by Death. We see this in that all things die. The reason all things die is because of sin. To sin is to act in ways that bring death. As creatures of this world, we are naturally drawn to things that bring death. We are destructive creatures that kill the creation and mankind with hatefulness, pride, selfishness, and a variety of other matters of “darkness” and “death.” Because of our sin that brings death, death is our just punishment.
There is no man or woman to walk this earth without sin. Because of this, we are all doomed to the punishment for sin, which is death. That is where Jesus comes in.
The reason God came to the earth in the person of the Son, Jesus, was to make atonement for the sins of mankind. Being that Jesus is God, he is the only being that could walk in the flesh without sin, so he is the only being perfect enough to provide the atonement.
After Jesus was crucified and killed, because he was God, he had the power to raise himself from the dead. The resurrection is a central part of the faith because this shows us that Jesus is God, and that he is Life.
When we put our faith in Jesus, his sacrificial death forgives us of our sins. His resurrection is a promise of life, showing us that if we continue in the faith, we too will be raised from the dead.
All of this has a purpose.
When God created this earth, it was with the purpose of raising up His children. Jesus is the first born Son of God, though he is also one with God in that he directly proceeded from the Holy Spirit of God.
Those who God is raising up to be his children are granted faith in Jesus, so that we can find forgiveness and freedom from sin. This is also freedom from death.
After Jesus was raised from the dead, he sent his Holy Spirit into the world so that people of all nations could believe in him and be redeemed to God. Those who seek to obey the teaching of Jesus (the teachings of Life) are given the Holy Spirit as a sign of our adoption as joint heirs of Jesus and children of God.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, our sinful natures are transformed overtime so that we are able to have greater communion with God and learn to walk according to his ways of righteousness—the ways of life.
We say that if we believe in Jesus, we will be “saved.” This means that we are saved from the punishment for our sin, which is death. This also means we are saved from the kingdom of this world, which is currently ruled by Satan—who is death.
Jesus “saves” us from Satan, also called “the prince of this world” because with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we are no longer ruled by Satan and sin.
This salvation is called “the gospel” which means “the good news.” This is the gospel of the kingdom of God, because with faith in Jesus and by his Spirit in us, we are able to live in the kingdom of God as we are made free from the kingdom of this world (the kingdom of death).
If we are truly among those who God is raising up as His children, then we will continue in the faith of Jesus, leading us on a path of spiritual transformation as we are changed into the “image of Jesus Christ.” When Jesus returns, he will establish his kingdom and overthrow all death, and the children of God will rule with him.
The reason Jesus is the only path of this salvation is because he is God in the flesh, and he alone provides acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He alone has the power of resurrection and life, because Jesus is Life. His Holy Spirit is the only way mankind can find real spiritual healing and change of nature from sinful to the righteousness of God (the laws of the kingdom of God). This is how God has deemed His children would be raised up in His image.
Do you see discrepancies with this idea and some of the teachings we hear today? We are forgiven, yes. We need forgiveness. We also need to understand that the purpose for all of this is to raise up the Children of God. Are we children of this promise? Are we laying hold of the faith and growing in the grace-given things of the kingdom of God? Would the children of God pollute his grace and the gospel of the kingdom? Would we reject so great a salvation by conforming to the world Jesus died to free us from?
Of course, I realize that those who read this blog are serious about the faith, and most of you have blogs of your own. I appreciate that you all strive to grow as Christians. I think we will find that our striving is made simpler and more effective though when we push on in the promises of Jesus and consider the gospel in its fullness. Maybe you already do, but from my limited view of the world, I seldom see it.
Amen, I pray for your friend. Whoever believes in Him has everlasting life. It’s good to grow in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. When we love Him, it’s impossible not to.
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What do you mean by push on in the promises? I thought of having solid belief in the promises of Jesus Christ, in the heart of the gospel. Why do you think there is not so much of it left in your opinion?
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Hi. Unless you’ve followed my blog (and even for those who have) this notion of Christians not laying hold of the promises might sound confusing, so I’m glad you ask.
The Christian faith is centered around the death and resurrection of Jesus, right? Of course we agree on that front.
We all agree that Jesus is the Son of God who died for our sins so that we can be forgiven. I do not want to sound like that is not important. It is fundamentally important because without forgiveness, we will all perish.
The promises however go beyond forgiveness. The purpose of creation is to raise up the children of God. With faith in Jesus, we are forgiven. We are also given the ability, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be transformed as the laws of the kingdom are written in our hearts. This is what the gospel of the kingdom of heaven is.
Typically, from my experience, many approach faith in Jesus legalistically (as I once did). We think that if we believe in him, we are forgiven so that means we will go to heaven when we die instead of hell. We think that going to heaven in the future is the gospel of the kingdom. Some might say that the future coming kingdom is the gospel of the kingdom.
The latter is true, however, we often forget that the kingdom of God is also within us. Because we do not lay hold of this, often we begin to approach sin in the wrong way. Either we do not worry much about sin because we are forgiven, or we know we should not sin, so we try to avoid sin by our own ability.
Neither are laying hold of the promise, because neither have faith that Jesus came not just to forgive our sins, but to heal us from them as the kingdom reigns in our hearts. As Jesus writes the laws of the kingdom in our hearts, we experience an actual change of nature, so we naturally do what is good instead of trying to struggle against sin or claiming defeat.
If we really believed that we were not just forgiven, but that we were being raised by the power of Jesus in us into children of the kingdom of God in a present-life way, we would find so much more from the faith.
I believe that Jesus is merciful to all Christian faith, so I do not go around judging the Christianity of others. I always feel like I need to make that point clear. My hope is to encourage Christians to lay hold of the promises of the kingdom of God—the promises that by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can be transformed overtime from those who are bound to this world to those who are free from it.
If we really understood this, there would be no legalism, no division among Christians, and no conforming to this world. We would be as Jesus is (as much as it is possible. Of course, there is none good like God is good). We would be the light and salt of the earth we were meant to be.
Sorry if this was a long-winded answer. It would take much more for me to really describe where I’m coming from and what has lead me to this point. If you’re interested, I can refer you to some specific writings that might make my point more clear. However, this has been an on-going journey for me, and so I don’t think I have anything written as of yet that presents a clear and concise picture of my stance. I’m working on that.
I hope you are having a blessed day, and again I by no means mean to insult your faith our anyone else. We each have our own walk, and I write these things as part of mine. Not to discourage, but hopefully encourage a closer walk with Jesus.
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Thank you for your response. It in no way offended me. I just was just curious about your understanding of Jesus’ promises.
I absolutely agree that Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God, not only for us to be in a right relationship with Him, but to be in a transformed relationship with each other.
One of the most amazing aspects of the Kingdom of God to me is that God chooses to use flawed and broken people to bring new life to other people. If more people thought horizontally as well as vertically, we might realize more of the Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven.
Thank you for your thoughtful response. Hope you feel God’s Spirit working in you today.
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Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. It is most welcome and refreshing, and I agree completely.
I think you’ve done well in your summary of the faith. When it comes to the Trinity, however, I don’t think even theologians do a good job of explaining it. None of the analogies seem to work, and definitions like “One God in three persons, co-equal and co-eternal” sound so presumptuous and certain, as if we could understand such a great mystery.
I prefer to let the Scriptures speak on the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I say that Jesus is God’s unique Son, who existed before creation in the “Father’s bosom,” and that He is the “image of the invisible God… the exact representation of his being… in whom all the fullness of God dwells bodily.” In short: Jesus is God representing Himself to His creation visibly and tangibly.
The Holy Spirit is God’s intimate presence who, according to Scriptures, comes and goes, anoints individuals, indwells and even baptizes believers with power. He also enables us to produce the fruits of the Spirit which ought to be increasingly evident in our lives. He is “God with us” at the present time.
To people of other faiths, the “Trinity” can sound like three gods, or a schizophrenic god, or something other than the “One God and Father of us all.” I think the Scriptures themselves speak wonderfully on the divine relationship, so I don’t even mention Trinity when witnessing.
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Thanks for your thoughts. I guess when trying to explain Jesus, I feel like I need to make it known that Jesus is God, but yet I also feel an obligation to describe the distinction also. This person I was writing to said Jesus is not God, so I felt it necessary to attempt this. I agree the scriptures speak to this relationship well, though it can be hard to really wrap our minds around and explain. I don’t think it’s necessary to mention this when witnessing each time, but in this particular case, I thought I needed to. I see your other comment as well, and I will get to that later today. Thanks again for your thoughts!
I understand. I wonder though why we find it so important to emphasize that “Jesus is God” when none of the early church preaching (in Acts) involves that doctrine. Also, in none of the letters do we find the statement “Jesus is God.” Jesus is frequently identified both in letter and in preaching as God’s Son, God’s Anointed, the Holy and Righteous One, the Atoning Sacrifice. Even Jesus stopped short of explicitly saying “I am God.” He did say “I and the Father are one” but stopped short of saying “one and the same” etc. So why do we think this is so central to the message? Maybe the mystery of Jesus’ “oneness” with the Father is an understanding that we come to over time, but too much of a mystery – too easily misunderstood – to be preached or shared with unbelievers. Just a thought.
I’m not sure you do understand, Don. Not where I’m coming from at least. Jesus was a humble man, so he did not say he was God. Jesus also is distinct from God, yet we cannot deny their oneness. Why is the divinity of Jesus important? How shall we count the ways? For one, he is the creator, therefore he is Life. He is the only way to life, and stating this in a well-rounded way helps to make the case for Christ, in my opinion. I don’t think you can get any clearer than “I and the Father are one.” I get how this is easily misunderstood, but there are times when we have to make it known. Why do you insist on arguing against my stating that Jesus is God? Do you disagree? I apologize for my impatience, but I think so often we get distracted on arguing things that are of no profit to us. We can disagree on many things, and this is fine. I get no pleasure from debate. The knowledge I seek is the knowledge of the Lord’s righteousness in my heart, freeing me from the bonds of sin and this world. Could Jesus free me from such bonds if he was not the creator? I think not.
Sorry, no argument 🙂 I just think out loud, I guess, and I was thinking about how the apostles approached the gospel.
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The fault is with me, Don. I need to do better about handling these conversations. My blog usually gets little traffic, so this is new to me. There is nothing wrong with discussion. It’s good you think about these things, I just want to encourage people to pursue the knowledge that is most profitable. You might want to read this, if not that’s okay too.
I don’t mean to discourage or offend you. If I have, I apologize.
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