What is Christianity all about? The heart of our message is momentous but simple. Here are the core truths we believe, in common with countless churches all over the world.
The God who is there
There is a real, living, almighty God, who created the universe, our world and each of us. He is totally in charge, and perfect, truthful, generous, loving, faithful, just and all-seeing. Remarkably, he exists as a unity in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit, in a relationship of perfect love.
He has made us in his image, and each of us is accountable to him. He cares passionately about us and how we live.
But how do we know any of this? On what grounds do we believe it?
The God who has made Himself known
For many people God seems distant and unknowable. But he is not silent. He has made himself known. The very world he has made testifies to his greatness, and that he deserves our praise and thanks. And supremely, he has made himself known by sending his own Son to be one of us.
The four gospels, the foundation documents of Christianity, focus entirely on Jesus of Nazareth. These accounts set out eyewitness records of his life. They present the reader with multiple, compelling lines of evidence that he really was (and is) the Son of God, who came into our world. (This emphasis on evidence is a Christian distinctive: the gospel writers give reasons why they believe this.)
This is momentous, for if Jesus is the Son of God, then reading about him introduces us to God himself. What better way could there be for God to make himself known?
This is how we know what God is like. It is also because of Jesus that Christians take the Bible seriously. The Old Testament points forward to him and the New Testament looks back on him.
But why did God go to this effort to make himself known?
The world that needs a Saviour
God really does want us to know him – in personal friendship. But for this to happen, a desperate problem must be overcome. Our world is in trouble with God.
Brilliant though we are in many ways, we have each rejected his ways and failed to acknowledge him; we’d rather be in charge ourselves. We make up our own ideas of God and right and wrong, to suit ourselves. The Bible calls this “sin”.
Sin has consequences. Not only does it lead to alienation from each other (the root of so many of the world’s problems) but, worse, our attitude incurs God’s righteous anger (not like our fallible human anger). In his integrity he must deal with our rebellion – how could he not, and still be a just and moral God? This leads to separation from God now, but also for ever: Jesus warned, with tears, of how terrible it would be, at the end of our lives, to face God’s just and eternal sentence.
There is a deep sense, throughout the New Testament, of the urgency of this problem, and that it is universal – not just for specially “bad” people. And, equally, that nothing we do can wipe out the stain of our sin before our all-seeing, just God.
But, in God’s amazing love and grace, this is why Jesus came. This is why the Bible often refers to him as a “Saviour”. As the Christmas carol puts it: “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.”
How, exactly, did he do this great work of rescue?
The greatest rescue in history
The Bible’s answer is very surprising: it was by dying on a cross. Although Jesus’ death – recorded in all four gospels – was directly caused by people’s hatred, it was ultimately God’s plan. He died for our sins.
He had no sin of his own, but as a man took our place and paid the debt God’s justice requires, so that, our sin once fully paid for, we could be freely forgiven, and reconciled to God. What love! This most wonderful news explains why Christians call the day Jesus died “Good Friday”.
Jesus did not stay dead: on the third day, he was raised, bodily. He is alive today: not a dead hero but a living Lord and king (which should worry those who seek to defeat him). And he calls us to turn from our sin and trust him, that we might be forgiven, reconciled to God, and enjoy new life in him. Nothing could be more important. Have you done that?
And not only is this essential, it is also possible! For now, back with his Father, he sends his Holy Spirit to live inside us, enabling us to turn to Him and to live for him. Will you ask him for this new life?
People with new life
Christians are simply ordinary people who share the joy of knowing the living God, through Christ, being made into the people the Creator made them to be, and using their gifts to serve him and his world. Their sins forgiven, they wait with confidence for the great day when Jesus himself will return as judge, and they will be his forever. Each Christian has their own story to tell of how this came about in their own life, but also shares that experience, across cultures and ages, with countless millions who also know God through Christ. Our church, along with many others in Cambridge, is a local branch of that world-wide fellowship.
More to say
This is, of course, a very basic outline! It may raise as many questions for you as answers. Well, there is so much more to say: evidence, explanation, implications, and seeing more of how this works out in our lives. That’s why, Sunday by Sunday and in our small groups, we never stop exploring what the Bible itself calls “the unsearchable riches of Christ”.
© St Andrew the Great 2014