The reason I’m a Christian…

This is why I follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

First, I look outside of myself, into the world, and see absolute wonder. I see Earth, that appears to be in a constant state of change. I see the complexity of the universe. Stars. Galaxies. Other earth-like planets. I look and see the intricate nature of emotion. I see corruption. Hate and anger. Violence. Inequality. I see brokenness. Pain and sorrow. But I also see compassion, love and forgiveness. I see charity and selflessness. I get the sense that there is something mysterious about the universe. Something that the human mind can’t explain. When I look outside of myself I feel like something isn’t ‘right’ with the world that I live in. The way I see it, there is something wrong. Yet, on my own I can’t explain it.

Then, I look inside of myself, into who I am, and see something that has a purpose. I don’t consider myself to be just a bunch of particles gathered together without direction. I feel like I can achieve things. Achievements that are significant, not just to me, but to the world. I feel like I can add value to other people’s lives. And I also feel like I have the power to detract value from other people’s lives. I can sometimes be a weapon, that is something that can cause harm. I can hurt other people. I can destroy the wonderful nature around me. I see inside of myself something that is not quite right, like the world around me there is something wrong. Sometimes I am happy. Excited. Enthusiastic. And Filled with hope. Other times I am sad. Lonely. Lethargic. And feel hopeless. I get the sense that I am supposed to be better than I am. Yet, on my own I can’t explain it.

I strive to be a better me. But in all my striving I can never achieve a standard of humanness that satisfies me. What am I comparing myself to? There must be something greater than me. There must be something greater than the world that I live in. If there is not, there is no purpose to life. How can I, and my world, be the greatest thing on offer? It is beautiful. And I really do enjoy my life. But no matter how much joy I experience, I am always left craving more. I have an insatiable appetite for more. Yet, on my own I can’t explain it.

In search for more, I could turn to science and knowledge. I would do well to do so as it offers my many answers to my questions. The vast universe. The complexity of Earth. The intricate construction of the human body. But it does not answer my yearnings for ‘WHY?’ Why am I here? Why do I feel like I have purpose?

I could also turn to philosophy. The love of wisdom. I could reflect inwardly to such a deep level that I am confident even unto death that my soul is real. I could justify love and forgiveness. Hate and violence. Greed and corruption. I could even convince myself of an afterlife. Of divine powers. But philosophy does not answer the question of truth… What are the facts? How can one philosopher draw such different conclusions to another? Reflecting inwardly does not always reveal universal truths.

In the search for more I could turn to religion. If I have the sense of something more, than there are plenty of ‘extras’ available through the various religions. All regions have one thing in common. They all tell me that there is something wrong with the world. BAM. That first thing that really hits home. That’s how I felt before I even started my search.

And that’s where the similarities end, see, most religions tell me I have to do more… Chant. Pray. Meditate. Tithe. And be charitable. They say that if I do more, I will ‘be more’. Some religions are focused on reaching external gods. Others are focused on reaching internal perfection. Yet, I already feel that the more I strive to do, the further I am from achieving my own standard. Let alone the standard of ‘the more’ that I seek.

Then I heard about Jesus. I had grown up listening to people talk about him. He makes sense of my world. We are supposed to marvel at the complexities of our universe. We are supposed to feel the full spectrum of emotion. People will sacrifice themselves for their friends in ultimate acts of love, and at other times allow others to die in spiteful and vindictive ways. Jesus explains greed and corruption. He understands my longing for more.

Jesus’ teachings are found in the Bible. Every word on every page makes sense of me and my world. There is supposed to be death in my world. Pain and sorrow are supposed to be present in our lives. To suggest that I can work my way towards perfection is unrealistic. It is opposed to science, and philosophy. Jesus makes the most sense of me. He makes sense of the way I feel. Jesus does not contradict science and philosophy, he perfects them. He answers the questions that they cannot.

Jesus offers a solution to the problems that I experience with myself and those that I see in the world. A solution that I find more appropriate than any other religion. All the other religions that the world has to offer say that I can achieve it on my own. But Jesus says, I cannot, that resonates with me. That is my experience. In all my striving, I am unable to fix these problems myself, so Jesus offers to fix them for me.

In response to his offer, I choose to follow his teachings. I am here to serve Jesus. I was created to bring glory to him. That is my purpose. The bible teaches countless ways that I can do this. But all of his commands boil down to this… I should love Him with all my heart, soul and mind. In addition I should love the people around me in a similar way, treating them as I would like to be treated. Everything the bible teaches hangs on this command. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that my perfection is not measured by how well I achieve this command. My work is in response to his work. In this simple fact, I am free to be the best human being I can, without fear or condemnation. I can be the best human I can, knowing that one day, in the future, I will be made perfect in the likeness of Jesus himself.

It is not what I can do, but what has been done on my behalf. Jesus makes most sense of my world and that is why I choose to follow him.

The more know about Jesus, the more sense he makes of myself, and the world that I live in. I would wager that it would be true for you as well. You should find a bible… find the book of Luke within it, and start reading about the most sensible thing this world has to offer. Good Luck.

Question 10: Who, What & Where are God & Jesus?

We’ve made it, the final installation in our Got Questions? series. In this short interview we meet Jackie. A young women who has found Jesus. Tell me what you think of her incredible story.

 

Click here for a 20 minute bible talk that answers the question… “Who, What & Where are God & Jesus?”

Question 5: Can there really be just one true religion?

Hey there, this video is an interview with Keryn who has had a long journey to find Jesus. Keryn is from New Zealand and grew up with family who were Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Keryn asks the tough question: “How is the God of the Bible the one and only true God?”

 

If Keryn’s story of coming to know freedom in Jesus in the midst of other religions interests you, a 20 minute bible talk on the same topic can be found by clicking here!

Question 3: Would a loving God send people to Hell?

In this video my good mate Josiah talks about the firm but fair judgement that God expresses through Jesus Christ.

 

This is a really sensitive topic that haunts today’s churches. How can we communicate both the ‘love’ of God and the ‘justice’ that He brings? An answer to this question can be seen in a 20 minute Bible talk presented at Creek Road Church in Australia and the vod-cast can be seen here.

My failed VoIP convo about [R]eligion: If I had my time again!

So yesterday, I’m hanging out on Mumble  (VoIP) with some mates that I’ve met through an online game I play far too much of. They all know I’m in the Army and also studying to be a chaplain. ‘Gramps’ (her nickname) decides to ask me about ‘my view on religion’.

I figure this is my element and start to rattle off a few clichés like “I think it’s good to tolerate everyone’s religion, and therefore I expect people to tolerate mine” or “Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and I don’t expect everyone to agree with mine”. I did chirp in a doctrinal statement like “My personal beliefs are found in the Christian scriptures”.

And with that I was done. The conversation had moved on and someone was talking about their athiestic views (which were entirely valid and came from a well thought through position).

To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with myself. I had 2-3 minutes to talk about my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and what I think about the world’s religions. What I did talk about was a wishy washy, all accepting, blasé, water-down version of how everyone should stop arguing and live in harmony. Man I sound like a Greeny.

I left the convo feeling that I had failed not only myself, Jesus’ message, but also my friends. They genuinely wanted my opinion, and for some reason, I hardly touched on what I really thought about Religion.

So here goes. Gramps, If I had my time again here is what I would say about Religion.

To start: what religion isn’t! It isn’t a CRUTCH. It grinds my gears when people say ‘You’re a Christian because it makes life easier’. Or, ‘You’re a bad person and therefore need religion to control your behaviour’. I can understand why people might think these things, but Christianity hasn’t made my life ‘easier’. I’m still a bad person (maybe not by the world’s standards) even after my religion is considered.

Religion isn’t a means to violence and war. People have undoubtedly used religion to fuel war, and there have without a doubt been wars based on religion. This doesn’t mean that the bible condones it.

Religion doesn’t give ignorant people the right to fight with educated people about things like science. There are undoubtedly things that where written 2000-4000 years ago that contradict a modern understanding of science. The bible wasn’t written as a scientific account of the world. [Edit: It does however tell the story of how humans can become part of God’s family. It is divinely inspired, 100% of the bible is accurate, non-contradictory and scripture always serves a particular purpose, which is often not what people use it for. ie. to justify persecuting the LGBT community.]

This is what the bible says about religion:

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27.

I think the world sees a good religion as one that helps those around itself. Caring for the sick and needy. Helping the poor. A religious person is one who has a high moral regard, and cares deeply about how the present themselves to the world. They don’t talk trash, gossip, lie, steal, murder etc etc etc.

But that being said, it’s REALLY IMPORTANT to draw a line between Religion and God. Religion as the world experiences it doesn’t represent God. The local priest, trainee chaplain or crazy religious nut on Reddit.com fails to represent God in all His Glory. Some do a better job than others. But all fail at some point. So if your question is: ‘what is my opinion about religion?’ then my answer must be that “religion is trying to make a difference in the world based on a single persons, or groups ‘religious’ beliefs and values. This doesn’t have to be about a god or spirit or whatever, but I think it also includes people who hold so tightly to their beliefs that they make it ‘their religion’. ie. A animal activist that devotes their whole life to saving animals and would be willing to lay down their lives for that cause. That in my opinion is their religion. A soccer player who dedicates their whole life to being the best and will sacrifice friends, family and loved ones to achieve their sporting goals. That is their religion. I reckon some people have got their beliefs right, I reckon some have got their beliefs wrong, and 99% of everyone are somewhere in-between.

So why do I try and make a difference in the world through MY RELIGION. Because I’m called to be like Jesus. I and YOU and WE ALL are created to imitate Jesus. Yes, Jesus tolerated the other religions, but he didn’t accept their beliefs as truth. Yes, Jesus loved all the people around Himself, but He never let that love compromise who He was or what He stood for. He did this to the point of dying. He stood firm in His convictions. And this is I think the true message of Christianity, that Jesus died so that we can have a relationship with God. We should imitate Christ, in everything, including anything up to and including death.

Christ didn’t ‘do religion’ to be a good person, He didn’t do it for the money, cars, animals, women, fame or even for himself etc etc etc. He did it for God. His message and life was to show everyone else that life is all about God. For me, Religion is all about God. My opinion on religion is just this: its a means of glorifying God.

Maybe if your interested you could ask about my opinion on God and Christianity, the convo will be alot different and I’ll try and do you more justice in answering that one on Mumble. 🙂

The Kingdom of God: Now or Later or Both?

3. “Now but not yet” – Is this the best unifying concept to sum up the life of God’s people in the present age?

This exam response will discuss whether the phrase “Now, but not yet” is the best concept to sum up the age in which Christian’s live in. As Christians there is no doubt there are expectations of the future and the full unveiling of the Kingdom of God is not yet completed. This response will show a) that through his life, death and resurrection Jesus established a Kingdom that is incomplete on Earth. It will discuss b) a biblical perspective of the future completion of the Kingdom of God and conclude that there is an overlap in the ages, which means Christians both live in the Kingdom of God and are waiting for the completion of that Kingdom in accordance with the scriptures.

Through the life of Jesus Christ we can see the inauguration of the Kingdom of God ‘now’. Jesus was the kingdom in person. He was the temple of God on Earth. (Jn 2:19-21) The kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament comes to actuality in the person of Jesus, but He didn’t stay on earth for long. Christ was raised in glory to be with the Father and continue his reign. Thus He sent the Holy Spirit while Christians wait for his return.[1] The ascension of Jesus, and the sending of the Holy Spirit marks the overlap of the ages.[2]

Christians are victorious now by being re-born in Christ’s victory on the Cross and also His resurrection. Christians have been raised with God in this age. God is working within us now, changing and conforming Christians into His image and likeness. Christians have access to the father now because Christ is reigning King today.

These present and earthly expressions of the kingdom are imperfect and incomplete.[3] The human experience is defined with suffering (Rom 18:19), Christians continually displease God (Gal 5:17), Christians haven’t yet reached glory as God intends (Eph 4:15). There is a day where God’s future will be fully realised and perfected.

So then, Christians are compelled to think of the Kingdom also in terms of the ‘not yet’. It will be consummated on Christ’s return. Jesus will judge the living and the dead. At this point the kingdom reign and kingdom realm will become one. ‘Both-And’[4]

The bible uses certain passages to describe what the Kingdom of God will look like in the future. There is a Old Testament theme of ‘prophecy and fulfilment’ as the scriptures are a linear historical progression. The theme is best described as ‘a movement from creation to new creation’. We find in the Old Testament a prophetic eschatology, as in Isaiah 2:4.[5] This passage, along with others, is focused around the themes of God the King,  the new temple of Jerusalem, a new people with a new heart of flesh, a new land and a perfect union with the King where obedience is also central. Prophetic eschatology is understood by looking back to the garden of Eden in order to show what the future Kingdom of God will look like.

The New Testament has a different eschatological approach but draws identical conclusions. Goldsworthy surmises the New Testament eschatology by saying that the emphasis of the kingdom is no longer on the temple, but on the person of Jesus. Wherever He is, the Kingdom is.[6] Although the emphasis is switched, the theme of God as King is still present.  Phrases such as Kingdom of God’s beloved Son,[7] Kingdom of God,[8] Kingdom of Glory,[9] Kingdom of Christ,[10] show that the Kingdom is described less with land and more with emphasis on Jesus.

Further to this in the gospels Jesus shows that the kingdom of is both near and hear. This is done through his miracles, reign over nature and demons and the forgiveness of sins.

In conclusion through both the New and Old Testaments Christians can visualize what the Kingdom of God will look like. From our human experiences of this world it is clear that the fullness of God’s Kingdom is not upon us. Although we have already experienced Christ’s saving grace and justifying forgiveness; and although we have the Holy Spirit as our present counsel, Christians still look forward to a time where the fullness and completion of God’s Kingdom will be a present reality.


[1] G. Goldsworthy, According to Plan, (InterVarsity Press, 2002) p.212

[2] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[3] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[4] G. Goldsworthy, Kingdom of God, p.620

[5]  see also: Ezek 34, 11:19; Is 65; Jer 31; Joel 2:28-32

[6]  G. Goldsworthy, According to Plan, p.213

[7] Col 1:13

[8] Col 4:11; Rom 14:17; 1Cor 4:20

[9] 1Thes 2:12

[10] Eph 5:5; 2Pet 1:1; Rev 11:15

The Intermediate State: Where do Christians go when they die?

2.What happens to the individual person between death and the return of Christ, in the case of Christian believers?

This exam response will briefly discuss what happens to a Christian believer after they die for the period of time between their death and the return of Jesus Christ. It is beneficial to understand that in the beginning humans where created by God made up from a spirit and body which were tightly joined together. (Gen 2:7) Death was not in God’s plan for the perfect creation, and is directly a result of sin. (Gen 2:17; Rom 5:12) The death of a Christian believer results in a separation of the body and soul.[1] (Ecc 12:7 & Luk 23:43). This time of separation is commonly referred to as the ‘intermediate state’.

From our earthly experience we can deduce that the body is destroyed after death. The question that remains is what happens to the human spirit. For the Christian believer, the bible’s emphasis of the state of the soul after death is always positive. There is no hint of suffering, evil, sin or persecution. (Rev 6:10 and 7:15ff).

While the scriptures don’t spell out in detail what the intermediate state will encompass, the focus is on the fact that Christian believers are going to be with Christ. The key term is ‘with the Lord’. (i.e. Phi 1:23)

Paul’s writings are often positive about the intermediate state and there is also a sense of incompleteness. The vibe is that there is still something incomplete. Despite this incompleteness the soul is undoubtedly in heaven, with God. (2Cor 5:1-10).

The bible doesn’t lead the Christian believer to expect a gap between earth and heaven. This would exclude the idea of purgatory of which the Roman Catholics petition.

The bible teaches that Christian believers are not conscience in the intermediate state, but does suggest that those who have died or ‘gone to sleep’ are in heaven with Christ. Christians are taught that Christ will bring them with Him when he returns for final judgement. (1Thes4:14).  This raises the question of what ‘joys’ the Christians will experience. J.N. Darby fervently advocates immediate joy for the Christian after death.[2] Darby is often criticised for his dispensational views, although this is the case he helpfully differentiates between the intermediate and eternal states of the Christian after death. He argues that the bible never talks about spirits or souls being glorified. He shows that the human soul is not fully glorified after death, but that glorification is saved for the final judgment and reuniting of body and spirit. Darby suggests that there is an immediate joy for the Christian after death.[3] Others would interpret ‘gone to sleep’ as a death with a lack of conscience and therefore no human emotion.

To what end the human emotions are experienced is open for interpretation however we can conclude that after death, the Christian believer’s spirit is in heaven, with the Lord, waiting for Christ’s return and the final judgement where he and his body will be reunited and glorified for eternity. (Heb 12:23, . 2CO 5:1, Phil 1:23; Acts 3:21, Eph 4:10, John 5:21-30).


[1] M. Driscoll & G. Breshears, Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, (Crossway, 2010) pp.409-410

[2] J.N. Darby, The State of the Soul After Death, (T. Weston Publishers, 1910)

[3]J.N. Darby, The State of the Soul After Death, , (T. Weston Publishers, 1910)