This week, Pastor J.D. begins a new Ask Me Anything series based on his new book, Essential Christianity. First up: “What Is Christianity, In a Sentence?”
I get asked questions like this a lot because there’s so much misunderstanding about what Christianity is or isn’t. So, I’m going to give you a sentence that I think defines Christianity in a sentence, but first, let’s talk about why so many are confused about it, and why there even seems to be a growing animosity towards Christianity.
This new book, Exploring Christianity, works through 10 key words in the book of Romans to help us explore the truth behind Christianity. And we start off with the gospel announcement that Paul makes very clear in chapter 1.
Now, this book is not a commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans. Instead, it uses the major talking points of Paul’s letter to construct a framework of Christian essentials. I’m asking, “If Paul were writing the book of Romans today, to people living in a 21st-century Western post-Christian culture rather than people living in a 1st-century Roman and Jewish culture, how would he write it?”
So, what is the gospel announcement that Paul starts the book with? He says the gospel is good news about:
- who Jesus is
- what he’s done
- what he brings
Based on that, here’s a workable definition we can use, then, from this point forward:
God, in an act of grace, sent his Son, Jesus, to earth as a man so that through his life, death, and resurrection he could rescue us, reign as King, and lead us into the eternal, full life we were created to enjoy.
That’s the one sentence I’d say we can sum up Christianity with. Let’s break that down:
The gospel begins with God. God exists, and he’s been moving and speaking throughout history. That’s already a big claim, and we’re only one word in! How can we know he’s there? What is he like? How do we know when he’s speaking to us? I don’t want to “tease” too hard, but we do get into that more in the book.
…in an act of grace,…
That word “grace” means “undeserved kindness.” Grace, properly understood, is what makes Christianity different from every other spiritual approach. Grace is the entire basis of the gospel: the melody line around which all other Christian truths are played.
…sent his Son, Jesus,…
Or, as the apostle John explains it, God himself became a man and dwelt among us (John 1:14). More on the what and why of this later.
…so he could rescue us…
The most important thing about Jesus is not what he taught but what he did. Paul’s letter to the Romans, in fact, speaks very little about what Jesus taught and a whole lot about what he did. It’s not what he taught that saved us, but what he did. The symbol of Christianity is not a lectern but a cross.
Christianity is, in its essence, a rescue religion. Which, of course, raises the questions: Why do we need rescuing? And how can a man who lived 2,000 years ago have done something then that can rescue me today? Those are great questions, and we get into them in the book.
…reign as King, and lead us into the eternal, full life we were created to enjoy.
The gospel is not just about what Jesus came to rescue you from, but what he came to rescue you for: the full, eternal life that we were created to enjoy. As Paul explains, the gospel restores us to the life we were made for all along (the subject of chapters 7 to 10). This is what a lot of Christians, as well as non-believers, forget, but it pulsates through almost every chapter of Paul’s great letter.
For more from Essential Christianity, order your copy today!
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