What is a Christian?
Taking a leap of faith
In the introduction to ‘Christianity Explored’ is this statement regarding Christianity:
There are many reasons to suspect that God might exist: the order of the universe, the beauty of the world and the incredible design of the human body. There’s also the nagging sense that nothing we do or achieve will fully satisfy us, that something is mission in life. How can we know for sure that God exists? We would need him to introduce himself. And according to Mark’s Gospel, that’s exactly what God has done. In order to introduce himself to us, he has become a man: the person we call Jesus Christ. Christianity is about being able to have a relationship with God. That’s why “the gospel about Jesus Christ” is good news.
It is important to get Jesus’ identity right –otherwise we’ll relate to him in the wrong way. In the Gospel of Mark, we see Jesus demonstrate the power and authority of God, in the way he teaches, in his miracle healing power, over nature, in his power to forgive sins, and ultimately over death.
Teaching: Mark 1:21-22 Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum, and every Sabbath day he went into the synagogue and taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one who had real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.
Miracle healing power: Mark 1:29-31 After Jesus and his disciples left the synagogue, they went over to Simon and Andrew’s home, and James and John were with them. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. He went to her bedside, and as he took her by the hand and helped her to sit up, the fever suddenly left, and she got up and prepared a meal for them.
Nature: Mark 4:35-41 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” He was already in the boat, so they started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm arose. High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. Frantically they woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” When he woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. And he asked them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?” And they were filled with awe and said among themselves, “Who is this man, that even the wind and waves obey him?”
Power to forgive sins: Mark 2:1-12 Several days later Jesus returned to Capernaum, and the news of his arrival spread quickly through the town. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there wasn’t room for one more person, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them. Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.They couldn’t get to Jesus through the crowd, so they dug through the clay roof above his head. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there said to themselves, “What? This is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew what they were discussing among themselves, so he said to them, “Why do you think this is blasphemy? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!” The man jumped up, took the mat, and pushed his way through the stunned onlookers. Then they all praised God. “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” they exclaimed.
Death: Mark 5:35-42- While he was still speaking to her, messengers arrived from Jairus’s home with the message, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.”
But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter and James and John. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw the commotion and the weeping and wailing. He went inside and spoke to the people. “Why all this weeping and commotion?” he asked. “The child isn’t dead; she is only asleep.” The crowd laughed at him, but he told them all to go outside. Then he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. Holding her hand, he said to her, “Get up, little girl!”* And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! Her parents were absolutely overwhelmed. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what had happened, and he told them to give her something to eat.
The reason that the world is not as it should be is because human beings are not as we should be. Jesus said that all the standards of God were summed up in this statement “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.” It is obvious that no-one has ever done this, and this has left us estranged from God because of what he calls ‘sin’ in all our lives. Jesus came to rescue us from our sin. He did this through his willingness to die as a substitute for human beings, so that we would no longer need to be estranged from God. On the cross, he suffered the abandonment of God, so that we need never be abandoned by God. He died to take the anger and judgement that all sin deserves. God was sacrificing himself by sending his Son to die in our place.
Mark 15: 33-39 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. Then, at that time Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”* Some of the bystanders misunderstood and thought he was calling for the prophet Elijah. One of them ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, holding it up to him on a stick so he could drink. “Leave him alone. Let’s see whether Elijah will come and take him down!” he said. Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”
We can’t make ourselves acceptable to God by doing ‘good things’. These things may be wonderful in themselves, but they can’t solve the problem of our sin. We are only acceptable to God because of Jesus’ death. When we look at what happened at the cross, we see God freely offering us forgiveness. This is something we cannot earn and do not deserve.
And that’s Grace: God behaving towards us in a way we simply do not deserve. WE don’t have to pretend to be something we’re not. We don’t have to be constantly proving ourselves to God. God’s love for us in unconditional!
The way we know the truth of the meaning of the cross is as a result of believing in the resurrection of Jesus three days later. The resurrection is a great hope, because it proves that what Jesus said about himself was true, because in the resurrection God vindicates Jesus, and all he said about himself. His resurrection is also the sign that our estrangement from God is over, and we are welcomed into eternal life with God, if we put our trust in what Christ did at the cross.
Mark 16:9-20 It was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping. But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. Afterward he appeared to two who were walking from Jerusalem into the country, but they didn’t recognize him at first because he had changed his appearance. When they realized who he was, they rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their unbelief—their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. …
…When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honour at God’s right hand. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked with them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.
How do I become a Christian?
Let God reveal the truth of the above, through reading Mark’s gospel account of the life and death of Jesus Christ.
In prayer, acknowledge that however hard you try, you can never live up to the standards of God, for loving God and loving other people, and that as a result you are estranged from God, and from one another. In Jesus, you see God’s answer to all these problems, and accept as truth that his death on the cross was God’s way to offer us forgiveness and enable us to be acceptable to Him. Jesus’ resurrection was God’s vindication and proof of all that Jesus said of himself was true.
Your prayer might be something like this:
I know that I am not worthy to be accepted by you. I don’t deserve your gift of unconditional love and eternal life. I have neither loved you as you deserve, nor shown love to others. I need forgiveness. Thank you for sending your son to show me what you are truly like, and to die for me so that I may be forgiven, and no longer estranged from you. Thank you that Jesus rose from the dead, as a sign of the truth of all this, and that, in that resurrection, you have given me new life as I put my trust in Him. Please forgive me and change me, so that I may live with Jesus as friend, as well as Lord and Saviour.
What happens next?
Christianity is not a faith that can be continued as an individual. While our prayer to God is definitely personal, when we accept what Jesus has done on the cross for us, we are incorporated into his body, and that is to belong together. Christianity cannot be practiced in isolation. What happens next must be that if you are not already involved with a Christian Community or Church, then you must seek out such a community to belong to. If you have already been involved in a Christian Community or Church, the next step is to tell that community what God has done for you and in you.
Public statements of faith are important!
If you have never been baptised before, then seeking out the process for being baptised is an important thing to do. If you have been baptised, either as an infant, or a child or as a teenager, or even as an adult, but that you have now realized what faith truly means for you, ask about renewal of baptism vows, so that the faith that you have come to understand in a new and vital way is affirmed and celebrated.
What about OAC as a community of faith?
If you have come this far, and you are exploring different faith communities in your locality, then it is important for you to know who Oakleigh Anglican Church is and what we stand for.
How can I get involved and develop my faith?
Christianity Explored / Alpha: these are 8 week courses that explore what it means to have Life in Christ
Opportunities for public declaration of what God has done or is doing in one’s life are important, for they encourage the whole community in the spiritual journey, and enable confidence in the person who makes such a declaration.
Such declarations can take place:
• At a Baptism and/or Confirmation Service – Parents can share something of their journey in bringing their infant to Baptism; children can have appropriate questions posed to them so that they share something special about God; teenagers can give a personal testimony, as can adults who have explored faith and come to the point where they want to make a public declaration, either by being baptised, or by being confirmed, or by having an opportunity to re-affirm their baptismal vows.
• Opportunities for people to share something of what God has been doing in their lives are part of the regular 10.30am service, and this is enabled by seeing one of the ministers, who is then able to make sure that time is made available.