Did you miss Sunday school? Some of us grew up in the church: Sunday school, flannel graphs and story time. Others of us missed the childhood teachings and came to Jesus in adulthood where we picked up the basics along the way. Not growing up in church, sometimes I need to remind myself of the basics. There is something about reading through these that is reassuring, mostly in the simplicity.
I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3.
Christianity is really very simple. Many people try to complicate it in all manner of ways. Much of what we call Christianity today is nothing more than the tradition of men. The teaching I love the best is that I am just called to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, trust His promises, and obey His commands. The true Christian life is not complicated. It is just like the Lord to make His way so simple that a child would understand and comprehend. Maybe even in Sunday school, but we are so prone to complicate God’s ways.
As an adult coming to Christ, I’ve learned that the God who created the universe did not make it difficult to know Him. He came to earth as a man — Jesus of Nazareth — not as a grand, ceremonial religious leader with pomp and circumstance, but as a simple man. Of course, before Christ came, the ancient Israelites lived under a complicated religious system God had given them, but that was for a special purpose, to point to our Lord’s coming and grace in the future. “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24, NIV). Peter later called that religious system, “A yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear.” (Acts 15:10, NIV).
So here is the “Simple: The 7 Basics of Christianity”
- You need to understand that God consists of three equal persons:
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This is called the “Trinity”.
But what exactly is the Trinity?
It’s hard to understand. Some theologians compare it to water, ice, mist or all the pieces of an egg: shell, yolk, egg white. They all have their own purpose separately and their own purpose together.
So point one is God the Father who we see mainly in the first half of the Bible and learn that He is holy, faithful, just, all-knowing, and a father figure to His children. And the good news for us is that if we are believers in Jesus, He embodies the role of our father as well. Again, this is reassuring. Especially for those of us who may have grown up without an earthly father, or an unattainable father, or a father who fell short.
- Jesus. You need to have a big-picture understanding to know His importance.
So, in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve. It didn’t go so well as they went against God’s plan for them and all of humanity began to fall apart. Since then, we have lived in a fallen world which explains a lot, A LOT.
God chose a man named Abraham who He was going to create a whole nation of holy people through a place called Israel. BUT the people disobeyed as well. Then in the second part of the Bible, we are introduced to a man named Jesus. This is the Messiah, the Savior, the Chosen One that the people had been waiting for to redeem humanity.
He was 100% man and 100% God at the same time.
According to the Bible, Jesus was born to a young Jewish virgin named Mary in the town of Bethlehem on the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. Christians believe the conception was a supernatural event, with God impregnating Mary via the Holy Spirit.
Very little is known about Jesus’s childhood. Scriptures reveal that he grew up in Nazareth, he and his family fled persecution from King Herod and moved to Egypt, and his “earthly” father, Joseph, was a carpenter.
Jesus was raised Jewish, and according to most scholars, he aimed to reform Judaism—not create a new religion. When he was around 30 years old, Jesus started his public ministry after being baptized in the Jordan River by the prophet known as John the Baptist.
For about three years, Jesus traveled with 12 appointed disciples (also known as the 12 apostles), teaching large groups of people and performing what witnesses described as miracles. Some of the most well-known miraculous events included raising a dead man named Lazarus from the grave, walking on water and curing the blind.
Some of the main themes that Jesus taught, which Christians later embraced, include:
- Love God.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Forgive others who have wronged you.
- Love your enemies.
- Ask God for forgiveness of your sins.
- Jesus is the Messiah and was given the authority to forgive others.
- Repentance of sins is essential.
- Don’t be hypocritical.
- Don’t judge others.
- The Kingdom of God is near. It’s not the rich and powerful—but the weak and poor—who will inherit this kingdom.
He ended up being crucified for the sins of mankind and because of this, if we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are now viewed as holy and blameless in the eyes of God the Father. Good news for us. It is something we do not deserve and cannot earn. It is a free gift.
- The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence on earth.
When you become a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into your life and helps you become more like Jesus. He is the source of personal testimony and revelation. He can guide us in our decisions and protect us from physical and spiritual danger. He is known as the Comforter, and He can calm our fears and fill us with hope.
My favorite part of the Holy Spirit is this scripture, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Romans 8:26 NIV. I so appreciate having the Holy Spirit on my side.
- The Bible. The Bible is God’s Word.
Reading the Bible shows us God’s character. The Bible is our definitive source for the answers to our questions about God. It tells the story of God’s love for humanity. It’s accurate, authoritative, inspired by the Holy Spirit and applicable to our everyday lives. We should spend time studying it every day…even just 10 minutes.
The Christian Bible is a collection of 66 books written by various authors. It’s divided into two parts: The Old Testament and the New Testament. The Holy Bible includes important scriptures that outline Jesus’s teachings, the lives and teachings of major prophets and disciples, and offer instructions for how Christians should live.
The Old Testament, which is also recognized by followers of Judaism, describes the history of the Jewish people, outlines specific laws to follow, details the lives of many prophets, and predicts the coming of the Messiah.
The New Testament was written after Jesus’s death. The first four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are known as the “Gospels,” which means “good news.” These texts, composed sometime between 70 A.D. and 100 A.D., provide accounts of the life and death of Jesus.
Letters written by early Christian leaders, which are known as “epistles,” make up a large part of the New Testament. These letters offer instructions for how the church should operate.
The Acts of the Apostles is a book in the New Testament that gives an account of the apostles’ ministry after Jesus’s death. The author of Acts is the same author as one of the Gospels—it is effectively “part two” to the Gospels, what happened after Jesus’s death and resurrection.
The final book in the New Testament, Revelation, describes a vision and prophecies that will occur at the end of the world, as well as metaphors to describe the state of the world. There is great hope, but it’s also scary.
Both Christians and Jews follow the Old Testament of the Bible, but Christians also embrace the New Testament. Reading the Bible helps us to renew our minds so we can know God’s will.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” Romans 12:1-2.
Prayer is a conversation with God. As a Christian, you have direct access to Him and He wants you to be as transparent and open as possible. Nothing scares Him away. We often get caught up in needing to “pray correctly.” But, He is our Father. He just wants conversation. Chat with Him, complain to Him, you can even argue with Him. He can take it. It was one of the most comforting things I learned at the beginning of my Christian walk, “It’s ok to be mad at God, He can take it.” In true relationships, we get angry, we don’t always agree, but we still love each other, respect each other and honor our relationship.
- Grace. Grace is the unmerited favor of God upon our lives.
It’s what saves us. When we trust in Jesus to save us, God by His grace forgives us of our sins and transforms us into new creations completely…the old is gone, the new has come. This is what is meant by reborn or born again.
Grace gives us a new life that is not condemned by God. Through God’s grace, we are forgiven transforming our thinking, resulting in the renewal of our mind and heart. Through grace, we live the kind of life that God would like every one of His children to experience. It enables the recipient to do and to be what he or she cannot do and cannot be if left to his or her own means.
Grace equips us to walk out the plans God has for our lives. Salvation doesn’t come from our good deeds or by doing anything special, it’s a free gift from God just because He loves us so much.
Christian community will change your life. There’s nothing like it when it’s done well. Every Christian should be plugged into a community to help you when you are down, build you up, hold you accountable, celebrate alongside you, and answer your questions about God.
So pick a church in your area, serve on a team, attend a small group, take a class, or just start hanging out with like-minded people. Surrounding yourself with other believers is everything. Everything.
That’s it! Those are the 7 basics that every Christian should know.
And just for clarification, here are the types of Christianity. I thought this was interesting.
Christianity is broadly split into three branches: Catholic, Protestant and (Eastern) Orthodox.
The Catholic branch is governed by the Pope and Catholic bishops around the world. The Orthodox (or Eastern Orthodox) is split into independent units each governed by a Holy Synod; there is no central governing structure akin to the Pope.
There are numerous denominations within Protestant Christianity, many of which differ in their interpretation of the Bible and understanding of the church.
Some of the many denominations that fall under the category of Protestant Christianity include:
- Assemblies of God
- Christian Reform/Dutch Reform
- Church of the Nazarene
- Disciples of Christ
- United Church of Christ
- Christian Science
- Seventh Day Adventist
Although the many sects of Christianity have differing views, uphold separate traditions and worship in very distinct ways, the core of their faith is centered around the belief and life and teachings of Jesus.
When I first began my Christian walk, I was with a group of people who began talking about the rapture. At the time, I was such a baby-Christian that I did not know what the rapture was. I was so confused by their discussion. So, in the upcoming weeks, we’re going to continue looking at some of the basics of Christianity. Hopefully, this will be educational, reassuring, and faith-building. If you have any specific questions or confusions, let us know – we’d love to address them in the following weeks.
Walking along with you,