A Beginners Guide to Christianity
A Beginners Guide to Christianity for those who are new to this!
This is one of the most important articles on this website and will take about 20 minutes to read and briefly covers a multitude of subjects as follows:
- A few Bible basics
- Some historical facts
- A mathematical anomaly within the Bible
- Not going to church!
- The beginning
- Faith vs Happy-clappy!
- Sin, Laws & Sacrifices
- A bit about Adam
- A bit about Sin!
- Proving Jesus & God
- Eternal Laws & satan
- God's Plan
- God's Love
- Where to go next...!
There are many reasons given why someone ends up in church or in a setting that plans to talk about faith.
Some say that they're at the end of their tether or that they've just had enough or that they're searching and looking for answers.
I believe there comes a time when we finally allow God to break into our lives. There may be a variety of circumstances that lead you to this; all of them are relevant and are no less valid than anyone else's reasons.
To begin to understand what faith is about, some people prefer to focus on the holy side of things, which to most people seems unattainable and somewhat pompous. Unfortunately, many Churches don't give enough background as to why faith or Christianity should be considered in the first place!
There are some questions that for now will remain unanswered, but bear with me as I hope all will become clear in the end.
Some of the common questions we come across are:
- Why am I here?
- What's the point of all this?
- Why do bad things happen here and around the world?
- Why is my family ‘broken’?
- Why do I feel like…?
- Why do other countries do…?
- Why does the weather kill so many people?
- Why should I believe in something I can't see?
- Why does God let…?
- Why Jesus, what’s he all about?
Can you see a common thread? The word is 'Why…'
Basically there are a lot of questions that seem to go unanswered. And I believe the reason for that is that there are no simple manuals or guides that cover the basics before you move onto the harder stuff like actually reading the Bible and committing to going to church.
Scholars and theologians have studied the Bible for centuries and where we find ourselves now is in a time in history when we have the most amazing resource at finger tips called the Internet, yet do not benefit from the centuries of study and seem more lost now than ever.
It’s easy to get any question answered by looking on-line, but, and there is a big but, you have to be open to listening out for God to make sure that you can see and hear right from wrong. As we both know, there’s a lot of nonsense out there too!
When it comes to faith there is no right or wrong approach. It says in the Bible that we are all given the same amount of faith, but it's up to us to let it grow.
To start with a couple of basics, the Bible and Jesus
The Bible, as an historical book is accurate. So in terms of a history lesson, it all hangs together as it should and we are still discovering archaeological evidence that proves the various stories. The most recent was the discovery of thousands of bones in the Red Sea dating back to the time of Pharaoh and Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.
Also, everything in the Bible points to a man called Jesus. From the very first book in the Old Testament called Genesis which dates back some 4000 years before Jesus Christ was born to the last book called Malachi which is about 400 years before Christ, all thirty nine books which make up the Old Testament points to the coming of a Saviour.
The New Testament is made up of four Gospels (the word Gospel translates to mean Good News) written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and nineteen books or Epistles (letters) written by the apostles who were appointed by Jesus. The 27 books talk about Jesus and many are specific about Jesus returning a second time!
In terms of accuracy, the earliest historical document that mentions Jesus Christ is on an ossuary, a limestone box in which the bones of a deceased relative are placed. The box dates back to 66 AD and mentions James (Jesus’ brother), Joseph (his earthly father) and Jesus. Let’s put this in to perspective:-
- Plato wrote his works from 427-347 BC. The earliest manuscript copy of Plato’s writing in existence today was written in 900 AD. That is 1,200 years after Plato’s death! And there are only seven copies of these manuscripts in existence.
- Julius Caesar — One of the most celebrated and trusted historical figures. Caesar lived from 100-44 BC and the earliest manuscript copy of his writings dates back to 900 AD, putting our best evidence of Caesar ever existing 1,000 years after his death. And there are 10 copies of ancient manuscripts of Caesar’s Gallic Wars. So if you question the Bible based on when it was written, being “translated so many times” (it was not – we still have the same Greek manuscripts today) and still question whether Jesus existed, then you must also be really sure that Julius Caesar and Plato were completely fictional characters and never really existed.
- Homer — Homer, who historians are not even sure ever really existed even today, is credited with writing the Iliad in circa 900 BC. The earliest manuscript copy of the Iliad dates to 400 BC. Meaning the only proof of Homer or the Iliad being accurate is from 500 years after his death. Additionally there are 643 copies of ancient manuscripts of the Iliad written over the centuries that when compared against each other by experts have a 95.3% consistency and accuracy, making it one of the most reliable and proven documents of antiquity.
- The Bible - The New Testament manuscripts date to less than 100 years after the death of Christ. Additionally there are over 5,600 ancient manuscript copies of the New Testament giving it more copies to a degree that dwarfs any other figure of ancient history (to view actual copies of some of these ancient manuscripts, go to www.csntm.org/manuscript) And they have a 99% accuracy when compared to each other.
And it all points to Jesus Christ. The record of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has more evidence and proof than any other person from antiquity.
The Fingerprint of God
Apart from the Bible being historically correct, the teachings contained in it are a blueprint of how we are supposed to live. In addition, there is an inherent signature contained in the writings which is so amazing and so complex it left me with my mouth open. I’ll try to explain it very briefly.
In the late 1900’s a Russian called Dr. Ivan Panin discovered a mathematical structure embedded in the Bible. He called it Heptadic meaning “Seven”. Dr Panin hand wrote 43,000 pages of notes and although he died in 1942, they are still being published today. Whilst this subject is questioned, no one has disproved Dr Panin’s theory as it still stands to date.
It is accepted that the perfect number throughout the Bible is seven. This number appears in 600 passages overtly, structurally and in some cases is hidden.
In the Greek and Hebrew written language, every letter/character is given a numerical value.
It is Dr. Panin's discovery that presents the Bible construct being divisible by the number 7. The example I watched on-line explained the first eleven chapters of the Book of Matthew and in particular the genealogy or family line of Jesus, starting with Adam. The example given was to try and randomly create the same genealogy to that of Jesus, just by making it up, however, there would be a few rules.
- The total number of words are to be divisible by seven
- The total number of letters are to be divisible by seven
- The total number of vowels are to be divisible by seven
- The total number of consonants are to be divisible by seven
- Words that occur more than once must be divisible by seven
- Words that appear in more than one form must be divisible by seven
- Words in only one form must be divisible by seven
- Number of words beginning with nouns must be divisible by seven
- Number of names must be divisible by seven
- Number of male names must be divisible by seven
- Number of generations must be divisible by seven
To apply one rule, e.g. the total number of words are divisible by seven, you have a 1-in-7 chance of getting it right, i.e. to randomly try and make up the total number of words in the whole story divisible by seven. And say that exercise took you ten minutes for each attempt.
The mathematical calculation would look like this:
- For 1 Rule 71 = (1x7) 7
- For 2 Rules 72 = (7x7) 49
- For 3 Rules 73 = (7x7x7) 343
- For 4 Rules 74 = (7x7x7x7) 2,401
- For 5 Rules 75 = (7x7x7x7x7) 16,807
- For 6 Rules 76 = (7x7x7x7x7x7) 117,649
- For 7 Rules 77 = (7x7x7x7x7x7x7) 823,543
- For 8 Rules 78 = (7x7x7x7x7x7x7x7) 5,764,801
- For 9 Rules 79 = (7x7x7x7x7x7x7x7x7) 40,353,607
So, from just the first eleven verses from Matthew 1:1-11, to get all nine rules you would have a 1 in 40 million chance of getting it right. Now, assuming you worked on this for eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty weeks a year (two weeks holiday!), which equates to 2000 hours or 120,000 minutes to make 40,353,607 attempts. At 10 minutes per attempt, it would take you over 403 million minutes or 3,362 years to complete just eleven verses. The heptadic structure appears throughout the Bible.
So to believe that the Bible is just a story or that these statistics are just random is very naïve. I believe that this illustrates a much higher intelligence than we could even begin to imagine and that God has done this on purpose so that we can guarantee His Bible’s authenticity.
I don’t want to go to Church!
When I became a Christian in June 2009, I somehow knew I had to make a commitment to follow Jesus and later got baptised, but wasn't really sure why. I felt I was being drawn to do it, but it is different for everybody. I later realised that it is the same as getting married. When we get married, we are confirming a covenant with our spouse and we do so in front of witnesses. Getting baptised is no different. We make a covenant with God and do so in front of witnesses.
The reason I mention when I became a Christian is because my wife and I were simply asked if we'd like to go to Church (I went out of being polite; I didn't really want to go). There was no pressure, but also, there was no training, no study or teaching and we were expected to read the Bible but no one told us where to start or what to make of it. It seemed like we were expected to go along with everyone else and behave like a happy-clappy!
But eventually we did realise that something wasn't right and we felt like we were missing out on something. At that point and with the encouragement of a fellow Christian who went to the same church, we started reading.
We read the Bible, commentaries about the Bible, Christian fiction, guides, teaching books and prayer books. We also watched sermons and teachings online and on TV. We couldn't get enough.
So here I am, writing an article about what it means to look at the Christian faith as someone who has gone it alone rather than someone who has maintained a long-term connection with one church from a young age.
The Battle Plan
My take on becoming a Christian and why is therefore slightly different compared to normal. The best way to describe faith and Christianity for me is not like a love story but more like a structured battle plan, with a twist!
So, to get a handle on this you have to start back-to-front.
When we make a commitment to follow Jesus, who you could likened to our Commander-in-Chief, and then get baptised, you’re not only signing up and joining in the battle, but you are instantly grafted into immortality and 'book' your place in eternity. This is when the Holy Spirit enters you. There is a supernatural change which means you will never die as long as you maintain your allegiance to Jesus and follow God's precepts.
When your body finally gives up and the skin and bones part dies, your spiritual body, which looks like you do now, continues to live on in eternity.
So why is the transition required? Why do we need to swear our allegiance to Jesus? Well, this is the part where we need to go back to the beginning.
In the beginning… Genesis 1:1
God decided he wanted to create man in his own image, he wanted to be connected with all humanity and to have a relationship with them, i.e. us.
He created the heavens and earth, he created Adam from the dust and Eve from Adam's rib as someone to help and exist at Adams side. After creating Adam, Eve, the animals and vegetation, there was one proviso, they were not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As you may or may not know, Adam and Eve both ate the fruit. Bad move!
Faith vs Happy Clappy
The last thing I wanted was to be connected to a sandal and sock wearing, happy-clappy lot, but it certainly didn’t stop me. I knew there was more to this than met the eye, especially as different Churches have different opinions, and now I know that opinions can be damaging in many ways if you don’t find out stuff for yourself.
Only now after my own searching, study and answered prayer can I write with confidence about God and Jesus. My faith has grown because I ‘get it’ and Jesus proved it to me. But that’s all well and good you might say, but it has no impact and relevance on anyone else, it’s a bit like saying “yes, and?” or “and I should care because!”
There's one other thing. To get a handle on something that's been going on for thousands of years there must be a lot of twists and turns. Nothing in life is plain-sailing so what we believe to be accurate now might have been as a result of something happening in the past and being incorrectly reported. Well the answer is yes. But you have to commit some time to find out about this, which is why we included a link to Know Your Enemy; a multi-part video series on You Tube which explains some of the surrounding stories which will help open up this amazing jorney you are about to embark on. Click here to read our blog article on it.
I don’t believe in God or Sin
Let's say that you don't believe in anything. Not God and therefore not Satan. You only believe in what you can see, touch and what science says. Well I'm a Christian and to offer an explanation would take way too long, but consider this. The odds that all the prophecies and events in the Bible happening would be as likely as throwing thousands of letters up in the air and them landing to read like a copy of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
So in light of the above I wouldn't waste your valuable time trying to disprove the existence of God. I believe we all know instinctively that there is something greater than ourselves and that we might be answerable to that ‘something’ at some stage in our existence.
Taking one for the Team
Starting at the beginning; for anyone who wants to get to know God, they first have to begin a relationship with Jesus and to do that, as a logically thinking person, we have to know what Jesus’ purpose was on this earth before he died. If you don’t grasp the foundational elements the rest will collapse like a pack of cards.
When Jesus died on the cross, he became the final blood sacrifice who attoned (paid for) our sins. By doing this he also took away the power satan HAD over us, he disarmed satan (I just wanted to mention here that God is good and satan is bad, you may already know this but I’ll talk about this more a little later). So you ask, why did Jesus have to die for our sins in the first place and what does it mean to you and me now, if anything?
Laws & Sacrifices
Back in the early books of the Bible, Leviticus and Numbers, God gave Moses the Law (the basis of the laws we now live by) and in the Law it talks about sacrificing animals to atone for, i.e. to pay for our sins. This "transaction" or "eternal law" was established to show us what was right and what was wrong (especially in light of how Man had behaved in the past, that's where Noah comes in!!!). The Bible states what sacrifices were to be offered for what sin.
The Israelites had to lay their hands on the animal and by doing so transferred their sins to the animal. The animal’s blood was then sprinkled on the altar and then the animal was subsequently burnt.
It must be understood that a sin is a supernatural and physical event; it can exist in the form of something that is said or a physical action against someone. In order to be accurate about this, there are three categories of sin:
- Sin itself is an act of disobedience toward God, something we do by ourselves and miss the mark!
- Transgression is when we sin against someone else
- Iniquity is/are the sins of our forefathers that are passed down through generations
Constantly our actions and words are held accountable. They impact the world and our environment.
When the Bible says that Jesus died for our sins, it means that he took on himself the physical and supernatural repercussions of our sins because Jesus became the blood sacrifice for us, once and for all time. This meant that the whole animal sacrifice ‘thing’ was to be done away with because Jesus became our substitutionary sacrifice.
Bearing in mind Jesus was fully man, can you imagine the courage he had to possess go through with this selfless act. You have to grasp that although he knew his destiny he also knew how "things" hurt a body. He was fully man, so being whipped, scourged, nailed to a cross and crucified was going to seriously hurt and in fact would kill him.
All Power and Authority to Adam!
What we also have to remember is that God gave all power, dominion and authority to Adam. It was like God leased the earth to Adam and therefore everything that happened from that moment onwards on the earth was down to Adam. For example if you get a mortgage on property, the lending bank doesn’t tell you how to behave in your house! Well, nor does God. He only told Adam don't eat the fruit!
At the point of Adam eating the fruit, it was like Adam reassigned the lease on the earth to satan and from then on the seed of Adam was corrupted and sin entered the world.
To put this in perspective I say good comes from God and bad comes from satan; we are either leaning towards God on leaning towards satan there’s no in between, no halfway or third option.
What are the Repercussions of Sin?
Christians talk about salvation and being saved; well it can sound like Christianese (i.e. another language!), but what does it really mean.
Well before we pin our colours to the mast and acknowledge what we believe, we have to know what the repercussions are if any. Sinning means that we miss the mark, that is the stage or level of behaviour that has been set for us by God.
If we refuse to ask for or don’t believe in forgiveness for sin, the repercussions are many and varied! Firstly we open ourselves up to being directed down a path that is not of God. Whilst we may do the odd good deed, we become less and less able to fight off the bad stuff, i.e. smoking, alcohol, drugs, violent films, aggressive behaviour, short temper, short fuse, sickness, health issues, mental issues, work problems, relationship issues and the list goes on.
Sin opens the door to satan who tries to influence you. Not knowing to repent or turn away from sin doesn’t mean that you’ll become a mass murderer, but it does mean that you’ll never know what life is like being forgiven and being connected to God through Jesus.
The end result? Well, hell is one explanation. It’s fairly well recognised as the place one goes to if one does not make one's peace with God and believe. But only once we realise the significance of being connected to God in the first place can we fully appreciate what it would be like to be separated from him.
There are Scriptures that describe hell as lakes of fire, wailing and gnashing of teeth. I believe that hell must be in its worst form the complete opposite of Heaven. And it has been presented to us as a deterrent, something to encourage us to want to understand salvation and Jesus.
One thing to bear in mind; when we sin, our society has a framework to deal with sinners or put a different way, those who commit crimes. They are either fined or sent to prison. However, in God’s eyes, a sin is a sin. There is no hierarchy. Stealing a sweet is the same a stealing a billion dollars. Shouting at your parents is as sinful as shooting someone – in God’s eyes.
We do bad things because the enemy, satan and his demons, influences us to do so. Whilst we’re here on the earth for approximately seventy to eighty years we are being trained in preparation to go and be with Jesus.
So as long as we repent and turn away from our sin and genuinely mean it, God knows our heart and forgives us, no matter what the sin, because it only affects what happens here on earth. That is why it is possible for God to love anyone and everyone, because everyone has the opportunity to acknowledge Jesus as their Saviour and confess/repent of their sin and then they can be saved.
Facing the Ultimate Test
So, as I just mentioned, it seems to me that we are being tested. In fact, this whole time on earth is a training ground, preparing us for something far greater when we leave and enter eternity.
We are all given the same seasons, situations and struggles. We all have access to the same information (especially in the West) so from Gods point of view, we’re all given the same chances to understand and to get with the program.
We can only base our beliefs on what we’ve been presented with and what both history and evidential proof can offer.
I'm not going to compare other religions against the faith called Christianity, but it is important to differentiate faith from religion and religion from ideologies like Islam.
Proving Jesus, Proving God
So when it comes to proof, there is overwhelming evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ, both in secular and biblical history. Perhaps the greatest evidence that Jesus did exist is the fact that literally thousands of Christians in the first century A.D., including the twelve apostles, were willing to give their lives as martyrs for Jesus Christ. People will die for what they believe to be true, but no one will die for what they know to be a lie. In addition to this are the prophecies in the Bible which have come to pass.
The Bible contains more than 300 prophecies about Jesus alone — all written a thousand years before he was born. The Bible contains prophecies about when Jesus would be born, where he’d be born, and how he’d be born. He couldn’t have manipulated his birth to fulfil those prophecies.
It also predicted how he would die. A thousand years before Jesus died, David described Jesus’ death on the cross in one of the books in the Bible called Psalms. He didn’t use the word “crucifixion” because no one knew that word then. Long before the Romans were even thinking about crucifying people, David described it. Only God could have known that.
What are the odds that I could make 300 predictions about you and every one of them would come true? It’s so astronomical you couldn’t write the number down. It takes more faith to believe that the Bible’s prophecies were a coincidence than to believe that God planned them.
The above image links to a PDF of 365 prophecies if your reading this online, if not, please go to our website to download it.
The image below links to a PDF of an historical Bible timeline
But for me personally, it's much simpler. I know what God has done and is doing in my life and with and through others who are affecting me. So I can constantly see God's hand in my life and see things in black and white when it comes to faith in Jesus.
Jesus was needed to put mankind back on track after satan's interference with Adam and Eve when he established sin in the world.
Jesus Being Perfect
Jesus had to be perfect and without sin in order to defeat satan so he could NOT have been born of human seed in the natural way as we understand conception. Adam’s seed was corrupted by sin, by satan and therefore this corrupted seed was handed down generation after generation.
Perhaps satan thought he could defeat Jesus because he thought Jesus was born ‘naturally’.
satan knew the offspring of the Nephelim (Genesis 6:4), prior to Noah and the flood, were despised by God, as sexual relations between angels and humans was forbidden and so God sent the flood to wipe them out and intended to start again.
Multiple prophets spoke into being the Immaculate Conception. This process nearly got thwarted by Zechariah, the husband of Elizabeth who gave birth to John the Baptist. The angel Gabriel shut Zechariah up until after John's birth because he spoke against what was being planned i.e. Zechariah did not believe Elizabeth would have a child so late in life and Gabriel knew that if he continued he would say something that would mean John the Baptist would not baptise Jesus.
There is a Proverb that says “there is death and life in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:22).
Jesus used Eternal Laws against Satan
Even when Jesus started his ministry and was baptised by John the Baptist, satan tried to tempt Jesus away from his destiny three times and each time Jesus knocked satan back by using the truth based on Bible scripture from the Old Testament, and satan went away! There were no ‘fisticuffs’.
God made Adam, and therefore us, to have a relationship with him. He didn’t create us to simply live then die. satan introduced sin and death to mankind, not God! So, in order to overcome sin and defeat death, a supernatural event had to take place which was the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s Plan will not be stopped
Jesus, in the form of a human man, chose to die. He had an assignment that he knew was going to be painful.
But God knew it had to be done. God established a set of Eternal Rules and Laws that had to be adhered to, by him and by satan. satan’s domain, Hades (some people call it Hell), had to be invaded by Jesus. There was no other way. And so Jesus had to die in order to covertly enter hell.
God is the most purposeful being in existence. Nothing is a coincidence. When Jesus was crucified, the blood sacrifice was complete. His blood was released into our atmosphere and we are now, still, able to appropriate his blood in our everyday lives.
This means to know what his blood achieved and to know how it continues to impact everything we do. It can be likened to a command, but really it is a statement of faith that enables the power of God inside us to breakdown the layers of doubt that wants to subdue God's power through us.
Creating the Ultimate Hack
Jesus overcame death, defeated sin, atoned - paid for what we had done. In a nutshell he created a hack, an event that meant that we were no longer subject to the wages of sin and death or the effects of sin on our eternal soul. Can you see why this is not overly straightforward, yet so important?
One of the over arching factors is that satan is still very much alive and active, you only have to look at Islam and the Qur’an. Jesus didn't kill satan (perhaps because satan continues to be part of our training?), he only took his power and authority and returned that power and authority to us, the present-day Adams and Eves.
We still have to be wary of satan and know he and his demons are still whispering to us – don’t ask me how, but they speak into our consciousness and that’s where bad or negative thoughts come from, trying to get us to sin and to separate us from God.
But the hack, the event, means that once we acknowledge Jesus as Lord, as our Commander in Chief, and submit ourselves to him, we can simply ask for forgiveness when we do sin and he is gracious to forgive, no questions asked, as long as we don't continue in our sin.
So Why Care about Jesus?
To live without guilt, shame, fear or regrets is quite an amazing existence. We don't always get it right but there is so much to uncover and explore about our relationship with God.
We all sin and therefore we all need a saviour. So when it comes to Jesus, he is greater than the Prime Minister, The Queen, a Pop Star, a Pope or Business Mogul. I certainly wouldn’t call Richard Branson “Lord of my Life”. No! everyone of these “types” of people are also to submit to Jesus, just like you and me.
Don't ever forget, young or old, male or female, God wants you for eternity and satan wants you dead.
So no matter where you are right now, when it comes to sin and deciding on your future, there are 1.5 billion people on the earth who decided that Jesus is most definitely worth caring about. It seriously saddens me to think that so many people dismiss Jesus without so much as a cursory thought! But we’re praying for them, all the time. This is too important to be deceived by a distraction.
Jesus is the only one. He won't force you into believing in him, he will allow you your free will, but there comes a time when you have to make a decision - are you up for God or up for satan? There is no third option.
God Loved Us So Much…
When it's the Christmas season, we are reminded that God loved us so much he sent Himself in human form, knowing that to complete his master plan, He, as Jesus would have to go through the pain of death to fulfil His plans for us.
We had to be given a saviour who would give us the tools necessary to complete the training here on Earth. We couldn't get back into a right relationship with God any other way. So because of Jesus' death we were made right with God which is what being made righteous means. And because of being made right with God we are also made holy, which is what sanctified means, so that we can exist in His presence. No one can be in the presence of God if they have sin!!!
Where to go next - Can you feel it yet?
No matter who you are or where you’re from, if you haven't been convinced about Jesus, now is probably a good time to start, especially if you can feel that heaviness in your chest!
In fact, Jesus has been waiting for you to make up your mind since you were able to. If you got this far reading this article, bless you and I pray for you that you will follow through and connect with us and be welcomed into God's amazing family.
The first part of this journey is to understand, recognise and repent of sin, that means doing a 180 degree about face and stop sinning. When God see's that this is what you want, he will give you a new heart, replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. The next stage is to get baptised and we have some more information on this on this website, click this link to find out more about Baptism. And finally, as a born again Christian you will be baptised in The Holy Spirit which enters you, and is a promise from God for everyone who repents and gets baptised to Jesus Christ. God gives us His Holy Spirit as our helper and to help us follow God.
Contact us if you're ready to start the next stage of your amazing journey called "life" perhaps we'll see you at one of our coffee meetings - Stay Blessed - Nigel
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