Like many of you, I read the papers and some magazines as well as the news on TV and occasionally monitor what's going on through our computer at home. The more I read and observe, the more I feel that I'm being overloaded with information, with choices, with new products and ideas.
For example, I read recently that the next generation of computers will be powered by liquid processors that will be 3 Billion times faster than the newest Pentium chip out today.
Scientists see this advance as the threshold of the development of true artificial intelligence where humans will have vital and meaningful interaction with machines. They're already marketing software that allows a person to dictate directly to the computer for the production of the printed copy. There are much more sophisticated and advanced uses on the way.
Now this information and technological deluge can be quite unnerving to those of us who are charged with the task of communicating the message of Jesus to the world. Preachers have to keep up with what's going on.
On the one hand, there are so many new and competing ideas being spread increasingly faster throughout every nation including our own. On the other hand, we have in our day and age a much greater array of communication tools to do the job of spreading the gospel to every man and woman on this earth.
The challenge, I believe, is to keep our message crisp and clear regardless of the medium we choose to deliver it in. Whether that be the pulpit TV / Radio / Internet / Mail / Ads / Billboards or sharing one on one, we must stick to the basic ideas of the Christian faith as it is taught in the Bible. Although the Bible itself is made up of 66 individual books - and there have been millions of books, papers and articles that have been written that discuss, analyze and comment on it, Christianity (the religion of the Bible) can be summarized with three words that begin with C. So that we don't get lost or confused by the crush of information that's out there about religion in general (and Christianity in particular - see how much info you get on the internet just by typing in the name Jesus).
So that we remain focused on the rock-solid basics, I'd like to talk about the three C's of Christianity. Now you're probably racing ahead trying to figure these out, but try to stick with me as we go through them one by one.
The First C in Christianity Stands for
Jesus Christ is what the Bible is all about. In the Old Testament the writers describe:
- How God created the world that Jesus was to come into.
- They explained why He had to come to this world (in the story of Adam's sin, which caused the human race to weaken and be subject to sinfulness and condemnation)
- Much of the Old Testament is devoted to showing how God created and nurtured a special nation (the Jews) from whom Jesus would receive His cultural and religious nature.
With the writing of the New Testament we have:
- Documents describing His birth, teaching and ministry, His death and resurrection.
- His followers recorded the beginnings of the church He established as well the remaining teachings He provided His Apostles.
But Christ is the core subject of the Bible, and His person as well as His identity, it the hinge upon which the whole of history hangs.
According to Jesus and the Bible, there are only two camps in this world:
- Those who believe that He is the divine Messiah, Son of God.
- Those who do not believe this.
He who is not with Me is against Me
- Luke 11:23
For Christians, Jesus is the one:
- We preach - I Corinthians 1:22
- We hope for - I Thessalonians 1:3
- Who will judge - Acts 10:42
- The one who rewards - Matthew 25:21
The Biblical list goes on and on about who He is and what He does. Jesus Christ is what Christianity is about. It's the study and response to:
- Who He is (the Son of God)
- What He did (saved us from death)
- When He will return (only God knows) ...and most importantly for us, who is with Him and who is not.
When you have answered these questions for yourself, you will have settled the most important issues of your existence.
When you will have settled the question, "who is Jesus Christ and how will I respond to Him," Then you will know how to order the rest of your lives.
The Second C in Christianity Stands for the
There are any number of religions that promote a variety of spiritual concepts and experiences
- The Buddhists emphasize mediation
- Muslims have a pilgrimage to Mecca
Even within so-called Christian circles, there are groups that focus their entire energies in promoting a certain day to worship or a specific name to use when referring to God.
There are others who live and die by being able to perform what they claim to be "miraculous" acts or healings. These may find their roots within Biblical Christianity but what they are focused on is not what Christianity is really about.
Christianity is about the cross of Christ.
This is why Jesus said He came - Matthew 16:21. The cross is the main topic of the Apostles preaching: In Acts 2:36 Peter finishes his sermon with this concluding idea:
"Therefore let the House of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ - this Jesus whom you crucified.
And the number of references to the cross in Paul's preaching is as great, even to the point where he summarizes the nature of his preaching style and content with these words:
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
- I Corinthains 2:2
Of course we, in the churches of Christ, have also been guilty of losing our focus when it comes to the essentials of Christianity.
For example, when people ask what church you go to and you answer the church of Christ, do they say, "Oh, the church that preaches about Jesus and the cross of Jesus!" or do they say, "Oh yes, you're the ones who don't use a piano; or you're the ones who think you're the only ones going to heaven!"
I think we're more famous for our stand on instrumental music in worship than our zeal for preaching the cross of Jesus.
Why should we focus on the cross, you may ask?
- Preaching the cross is central because it is the answer to man's greatest problem and destructive force - sin.
- Sin is mankind's disobedience to God's laws and the reason why we die physically and spiritually at judgment.
- Sin is the reason we are afraid to die and afraid to face God because:
- We know that all have sinned - Romans 3:23
- We know that those who have sinned will be condemned to spiritual death - Romans 6:23
- We know no one has the ability to overcome sin and thus be right and acceptable to God - Romans 7
This is where the cross comes in:
- Jesus, the divine Son of God became a human being in order to deal once and for all with sin.
- He did this by offering His perfect life on the cross in order to pay the moral debt created by our sin.
- The significance of this act is explained in great detail by Paul in Romans 4-6.
Basically what Paul says is that God has dealt with man's sins in an absolute and historical manner at the cross! For example, at one point in your life you are guilty of sin and face condemnation before God.
At another point in your life, you are forgiven for all your sins and are guaranteed eternal life. And the point at which the difference occurs is the cross of Jesus Christ.
Peter the Apostle summarizes it this way,
...and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross...
- I Peter 2:24
The cross is an historical event that God prepared for several thousand years, and that has stood for an additional two thousand years. Your life is either the one you had before you knew about and accepted the cross; or it's the new life you now experience after you have received the forgiveness that flows from it. Without the cross, Christianity is simply a religious self-help program steeped in Jewish history.
The fact that Christ died on the cross however transforms our faith into the only solution to the universal problem of sin:
- The cross wipes away our sins. We are no longer responsible for our moral debt before God; it's "Paid in full" → at the cross.
- The cross satisfies God's demand that we be righteous. God now confers upon us the righteousness (or the perfection) of Christ → because of the cross.
- The cross absolves us of punishment. Jesus suffered the punishment that was supposed to be ours - death.
- The cross brings peace. If God forgives me, I can forgive myself and I can forgive others.
- The cross gives me hope. No matter what happens in this life, the cross reassures me that I can look forward to heaven with confidence.
The cross of Jesus is the focal point of our religion and the heart and soul of our message (the gospel).
- The Cross
Some folks think that they don't need the church in order to be good Christians. Or they say that they don't need the church in order to have a relationship with God. Saying this is like saying that we don't need to have a body in order to have a relationship with our heads. Because the Bible teaches that the church is the body of Christ who is the head Colossians 1:18.
In the same way that just a finger cannot have a relationship to the head without the rest of the body ... An individual believer cannot have a relationship with Christ without being connected in some way to the rest of His body, which is the church.
The Bible teaches that there is only one entity that is officially recognized by God and Christ as His body - and that is the church. (Ephesians 4:4) ... "one body"
You wouldn't try to connect a toaster to your head, or a tree trunk or the body of an animal to a human head. Only a "human" body goes with a human head. In the same way, the only body compatible to the head of Christ is the church of Christ.
Jesus died on the cross for the specific reason of creating a group of people who were saved - that group saved by Jesus is called the church. In turn, the church is the instrument that God uses to preserve the truth of the Gospel (I Timothy 3:15) and the vehicle to spread the good news about the cross and what it means to all men.
The Bible explains that the church is the bride of Christ and it also says that He will return to earth in order to exalt the church to the right hand of God forever (II Timothy 2:12).
If you are not part of the body, the church, you cannot be connected to the head which is Christ, nor do you have access to His cross and the forgiveness it provides. The church is the third and final element in the Christian faith, without which Christianity would have perished along with the death of the 1stcentury Apostles and disciples.
Being a Christian is not simple or easy. There is struggle, and there needs to be perseverance in faith.
But it is easy to remember the 3 basic elements upon which our faith is based and must remain focused:
- C #1 - Christ - the divine savior and Lord.
- C #2 - Cross - the place where our sins were cleansed.
- C #3 - Church - the only body connected to Christ, and charged with the responsibility of proclaiming His cross.
Now at the beginning, I told you not to get too far ahead of me. If you've followed along, this lesson brings with it a measure of good or bad news, depending on who you are.
The good news is that you now know enough to be saved. If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God. If you accept His cross to wipe away your sins. If you have or are willing to express your faith as Jesus has commanded us to do so in repentance and baptism.
Then the good news is that you know the truth, have responded in faith to that truth and will receive the rewards of heaven, so prepare yourself for a blissful eternal life.
The bad news is that there is no excuse. There's no excuse cause you know the Good News. At judgment (and there will be one) no one in this building who has reached the age of reason will be able to offer the excuse that they didn't know. You'll be able to say:
- I didn't care
- I didn't believe
- I put it off
- I loved my sins
- I wasn't sure
but nobody here will be able to say, "I didn't know."
I hope everyone can hear my lesson today and see it as good news for them, if it's anything else why not make things right today by coming forward for baptism or prayer.