home > Pastor’s Desk > 2016 > June 10th > Becoming A Christian

CHRISTIANITY IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK

We are all religiousWe are all religious. Some people are religious about their belief in, and worship of, God. Others are equally religious about their non-God beliefs such as the environment, politics, atheism, or their sporting team. This is why we all have religious opinions. But unlike other personal preferences, our religious ideas can not only be wrong, but also the difference between life and death – both now and beyond the grave – for eternity!

 

But Which Religion Is The Right One?

Despite the claims of some people that all religions are basically the same, a closer examination of each religion’s claims reveal just how different they are! The central teaching of each religion is the identity, nature, and character of God. Hinduism teaches that God is an impersonal force that can be worshiped as a multiplicity of idols. Islam teaches that God is a solitary being who is not bound to moral restrictions (“Allah is arbitrary”), which means that God can cheat, lie, and murder without moral impunity. Judaism teaches that God is the uncreated, eternal, and holy (the source of moral purity) Creator. Christianity teaches that God is the eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit with the Son becoming a human being – God in the flesh. Islam teaches that this particular teaching of Christianity is the sin of shirk (Arabic: شرك‎‎ širk) – the unforgivable sin. As you can see from this brief survey of the world’s major religions, the most fundamental claim of any religion is the identity, nature, attributes and character of God – yet each of these religions contradict each other’s teachings about God! 

Like any truth claim, the claims of any religion can be tested. 

  1. Does it comport with reality?
  2. Is it consistent?
  3. Is it ‘falsifiable’? (That is, if the claim is false, is it possible to show that it is false?)
  4. Can its experiential claims be put to the test?

The case for the teachings of Christ (‘Christianity’) being the exclusively true religion can be shown to pass each of these truth-tests, and as I explain what is involved in becoming a Christian, it is the last of these four truth-tests that I will invite you to try. 

 

Becoming a Christian…

A Christian is someone who follows the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth as revealed in the Bible. Becoming a Christian involves a spiritual conversion – not just intellectual agreement. The Bible calls this “regeneration” (Titus 3:5) which Jesus described as being “born again” (John 3:3). This spiritual transformation is transacted by prayer to God asking Him to forgive us of our sin and save us from its eternal penalty because of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ that first Easter.

Thus, when a person cries to God for help, there has come an awareness that there is something wrong – not just with the world, but with our own hearts. 

There comes a growing realisation that no matter how hard we try to ‘fix’ ourselves, we are unable to change our sinful, selfish, self-justifying behaviour. We eventually see that we need a Saviour

Christianity is the only religious view that has a “Saviour” – a Rescuer. We need to be rescued from the plight and peril of our sin. Sin is what separates mankind from God. It is an act of pride that says to God that we know best and He doesn’t. Sin is thus highly self-deceptive. It deceives into thinking we are better than we actually are. It maliciously tricks us into thinking that God is less than He actually is. It wounds our heart and calls it ‘pleasure’. It stains our souls and calls it ‘happiness’. It poisons our minds and calls it ‘progressive’. We need healing from sin. We need cleansing from sin. We need an antidote to sin – and only God can provide this healing, cleansing, antidote.

In His mercy, He plants a cry in our hearts to God for this healing-cleansing-antidote called: salvation. God then causes us to ‘see’ that if we cling to our sin and identify with it, that our sin deserves eternal justice for what it has done to humanity. But He also reveals that the God of Justice is also the God of Grace – who not only must punish sin but who has also sent His own Son as our substitute to take our penalty for identifying with sin. When a person realises this, God enables them to repent – to turn away from their identifying with sin, and turn to Him.  Repentance is a gift from God (2Tim. 2:25) which brings about a change in a person’s heart, mind and actions. The repentant person is now enabled to trust the One who acted as their substitute and bore the penalty for their sin: Jesus Christ.

The Bible promises that all those who simply call upon (the Name of) the Lord shall be saved from the penalty and doom of their sin (Romans 10:9-13).

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Romans 10:9-13

You don’t have to clean up your act first. You don’t have to become religious. You don’t have to improve yourself – before you call out to God for this salvation.

 

This is entirely a spiritual experience which has implications for our everyday lives. After becoming a Christian we think differently, act differently and feel differently towards others. This result is called “conversion”. Any unconverted person cannot reasonably be expected to claim that they are a Christian!

Perhaps you recognise your need for Christ? I invite you to put this experiential truth claim of Christianity to the test. Even though you may feel like you’re a million miles from God, you’re not – you’re just one step – and this first step is taken in prayer…

 

“Father God, I thank You that You have shown me my true condition before You and what sin has done to my heart, mind and soul. I thank You that have taken the penalty of my sin and graciously placed it on Jesus who was my willing Substitute. I thank You that Jesus has died in my place to heal and cleanse me from, and provide the antidote to, my sin. I ask you to forgive me, heal me, cleanse me, and set me free from my sins. Help me now to live for you and fill me with Your Spirit, Amen.”

Will you give your life to Christ and start your journey as a Christian? If Jesus Christ of Nazareth was correct, the grave is not the end, and from the moment we leave this life we either spend eternity enjoying eternal life with God in Heaven or separated from Him and His goodness enduring the penalty of our rebellion for eternity.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (JESUS CHRIST)
Matthew 10:28

Amen.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

WHO BUILDS A CITY ON A HILL?

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > October 7th > Who Builds A City On A HillFor those who don’t know, I was born in Geelong, and have always been fan of the Geelong Football Club. But I’m not just a fan, I’m a paid-up member of the Club. In fact, I’m a student...

5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR ATHEIST & MAGICIAN PENN JILLETTE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.