Explaining Christianity Class 6

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Hope Deeper: Explaining Christianity CLASS 6: WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? (PART 2)


What is a Christian? Part 2 - Believing

Because there seems to be so much confusion in society over what a Christian is, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that the Bible does not define a Christian as someone who simply reads their Bible, attends church, gets baptized, prays a prayer, etc.  Christians may do those things, in fact a true Christian will be characterized by most of these things, but these things alone do not make one a Christian. A Christian is fundamentally one who repents of their sin, and believes in Christ.
Q: So what does a Christian believe?
o   Not just anything; I need to believe what Jesus tells me to believe about himself.  Can I believe Jesus was just a good teacher, and you believe he was the Son of God, and we both be Christians?
o   Jesus’ answer to this question is, “No.”  A Christian believes a particular message.  A Christian, according to Jesus in Mark 1:15, believes the good news - the good news of His divinity, death and resurrection.  Repentance and belief in the good news are what make a Christian.  [1 Cor 2:2 – Jesus Christ and him crucified]
o   So what does it mean to have faith in Christ?  Does faith imply blind acceptance?  Is faith simply for the irrational and the uneducated?  Or is knowledge a necessary component of faith?  To answer these questions let’s turn to a number of passages in the book of Mark to see how Christ illustrates genuine saving faith.  We will consider what the Bible teaches about what true faith looks like.

1. Faith – To Trust in Christ and His Word (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43)

READ Mark 5:21-24, 35-43:
Mark 5:21–24 ESV
21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him. And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.
Mark 5:35–43 ESV
35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Q: What difference do we see between Jairus, the synagogue ruler, and Jesus’ response to the situation?

Jairus: [Overwhelmed, complete despair, hollow and empty]
Jesus: “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

Q: What does this difference teach us about what faith looks like?

Regardless of how Jairus was feeling, Jesus called on him to believe. 

Faith here is to trust in Jesus’ words, even in times of obvious difficultyFaith is based not on how we feel, but is rooted upon the historical facts of what Jesus has said and done.

This point is extremely important.  The Christian faith is NOT dependent upon our feelings, nor is it simply an experience we had once and are trying to recreate again and again. 

TRUE Christian faith is founded upon the facts of what God has done through Jesus as recorded in the Bible.Illustration

To illustrate, I need three volunteers. [Line them up and call them, “feelings” à “faith” à “facts”.]
Your task is to walk in a straight line across the room. [Have them do it without further instruction.] Great job.But now, what happens if facts, faith and feelings try to walk in a straight line, but faith is always turning around to watch feelings? And what if feelings, as is his nature, is always looking around and can’t keep his eyes focused on anything for more than a second or two? “feelings” ß “faith” ~~ “facts”. [Have them try again with those directions].As long as the middle-man, Faith, keeps his eyes on Facts, he can walk securely and steadily.  However as soon as he turns around and starts to look solely over his shoulder at Feelings, he loses his way.  The same is true of the Christian faith.  Solid faith, true Christian faith, is based on the facts of Jesus Christ as recorded in Scripture.  If we rely too heavily upon our feelings, or close our eyes and try to walk blindly on our own, whatever “faith” we claim to have will be unsure and wandering, destined to fail us. By the same token, we want to train our feelings so that they take their lead from our faith.So faith, or belief, is trusting in Christ’s deeds and words which are facts.  In this sense, we exercise faith all the time, and we understand its relationship with facts.  You sat down in that chair because your had faith it would hold your weight, even though you didn’t test it with my weight before you made that decision.  Why?  Because your eyes presented you with the facts of what you saw: that it looked sturdy.  And based on that evidence, it was reasonable to have faith that the chair would hold you.  Or to give another example, my guess is that you believe Mozambique exists.  But my guess is none of you have ever been there.  You have a lot of evidence for the existence of Mozambique.  But beyond that, you’ve believed that it really does exist even though you haven’t proven that to be true by actually visiting.Faith is more than evidence, but not less.  Faith looks at the evidence, and then makes an educated conclusion about something that hasn’t been, or can’t be, be proven.  When we trust in Jesus, we look at the evidence of what he did, what he said, and what others said about him.  Then we need to make the most educated conclusion based on those facts about who he really is.

What’s amazing is that we know so much more than Jairus.

Jairus had heard of Christ’s miraculous healing powers second hand, but perhaps knew of little else. We however, know the whole story:  that Christ was God-incarnate, who was crucified, buried, and rose again!  How much more should we trust Christ and his Word.Q: can someone summarize for us the right relationship between facts and faith?Q: can someone summarize for us the right relationship between feelings and faith?

2. Faith – Trusting Jesus as your Lord, not just your Savior (Mark 5:24b-34, 10:17-31)

The 2nd component of faith involves trusting Jesus as your Lord and not just your Savior. READ Mark 5:25-34
Mark 5:25–34 ESV
25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

Q: What did the woman believe about Jesus?

Here you have a woman in tremendous suffering, despite the fact that she had spent all she had on the best doctors available. 

Upon hearing of Christ, she believed that he had the power to heal her

This timid woman of faith simply believed that touching Jesus’ cloak would do the job.  And it did!However, after being healed, Jesus did not allow her to be hidden in the crowd.  He insisted she reveal herself.  Jesus wasn’t just a miracle worker as we thought of in our second study.  Nor are there any such things as secret disciples, as we thought about last week.  Jesus was to be her Lord.

The point is that Jesus doesn’t just save us and let us go our own way.

No, he comes to us with designs on our life. Too often Jesus has been presented as simply the solution to a problem we have, the problem of sin. Once that’s taken care of, many don’t see the relevance of Jesus for their life anymore. But that’s not what it means to trust in Christ. He isn’t just a “get out of hell” card. Nor is he simply the cure for sin. He is our Lord, someone who now claims the right to be involved in every aspect of our life, giving it meaning, direction and purpose.The woman eventually threw herself at Jesus’ feet in front of everyone and told the whole truth. 

If we are to follow Jesus, we are called to do so openly and not be ashamed of him

Faith here is reaching out to Jesus, just as the woman in the crowd did, without fear of being ridiculed.
READ Mark 10:17-31
Mark 10:17–31 ESV
17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Jesus demands our obedience

As we learned last week – repentance means turning from our way and turning towards God, confessing our sins (disobedience) and following him

3. Faith - Unwavering Childlike Trust and Personal Commitment (Mark 10:13-16)

Faith also involves unwavering child-like trust and personal commitment. 
READ Mark 10:13-16
Mark 10:13–16 ESV
13 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
This child-like trust is a third component to real Christian faith. 

Q: What does child-like trust look like?

Last week we learned that guilt and sorrow alone do not constitute true biblical repentance.  I fear in a similar way

...some believe the gospel academically and theoretically, without committing to Christ personally.  

The kind of saving faith Jesus talks about here is not just mental assent to a series of propositions.

It resembles the absolute unconditional and unwavering faith children put in their parents.



To help illustrate this, there was a man named Blondin who was a famous tight-rope walker.  He became even more famous when he stretched a wire across Niagara Falls & walked across.After that stunt, he announced to the astonishment of the world that he would walk across the same wire pushing a man in a wheelbarrow. Blondin asked one reporter who was interviewing him if he thought he could accomplish this harrowing feat.  The reporter responded in excitement, “I really believe you can.  I think you’re the greatest stunt artiest of all time!”  “You truly believe I can do it?”  Blondin said, “Wonderful, here’s the wheelbarrow.  Get in.”I hope you get the point.  When the reporter said that he “believed” Blondin could do it, he was merely agreeing in principle.  Theoretically, of course it’s possible.  But that is entirely different from the willingness to commit your life into someone’s hands by faith, and trust that he can actually do what he sets out to accomplish.  And yet this is exactly what Christ is calling us to.  To trust him in all things as one who is good and worthy, and indeed deserving of our complete devotion as our redeemer and resurrected Lord.

4. Faith – Trust in God’s Promise to Save Those Who Believe (John 5:24)

Let’s now turn to John’s gospel where we learn that faith also involves the knowledge that God accepts me
READ John 5:24-27
John 5:24–27 ESV
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.
Q: Why is it important to understand that Christians will not be condemned by God?
In this verse Jesus tells us something about believing in the present and in the future.
He says that whoever hears my word and believes “has eternal life.”  Notice the present tense, “has eternal life.”  Christians are not boasting arrogantly when they say they know they have eternal life or they know they are saved.  They are simply taking God at his word.  They are not saying that they are good either.

As a Christian I am saying that what Jesus has done, not what I have done, makes me acceptable to God.  

Faith is knowing that when we repent of our sin and believe in Him, God accepts us because of what Christ did.The Christian’s faith is based on the fact that Jesus got up from the dead; proving that God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.  The facts of the stool give us the assurance that God accepts us.


So is faith hollow? Is Christian faith blind and rooted in mere feelings and superstitions?  Is it a crutch for the poor and uneducated?I hope you see that true faith is none of these things.  True faith is rooted in the historic facts of Jesus Christ.
True saving faith includes knowledge (of Jesus as the divine Son of God who purchased our redemption on the cross and secured our everlasting life when he rose from the grave). True faith involves belief of what God has done in Christ as we acknowledge that we are sinners in need of a savior.

True faith exhibits itself in personal trust, like that of a child to a parent, and repentance – turning from your sin to obey God. 

Trust that is without shame.  Trust that God will count me guiltless when I repent of my sin and trust in him, and accept me into his eternal kingdom.
Personal Decision
This is the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ – not just for me, or the person sitting next to you, but this news is intended for you as well.

Jesus calls on each one of us to repent of our sins and believe this good news.  Failure to do so secures our everlasting destruction.

Believing in the good news is a personal decision.  No one can make it for you.

Two weeks ago I asked, “On what basis would God accept you into his kingdom?”  The wrong answer is on the basis of ourselves and our own righteousness.
So what are you going to do? Are you going to trust in the righteousness of Christ, or in your own deeds which the Bible calls filthy rags?  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  (John 14:6).We are all under a sentence of death.  It’s a sobering thought, but true.  We will all die, and only God knows when. This isn’t about a journey, where we are exploring our spirituality. This is about our eternity.  There isn’t a better deal somewhere else.  Consider now who you will serve. Repent of your sin, and trust in Christ.Consider the following passage printed on your handout: (from Me? A Christian basic gospel tract we use regularly)

“A Christian, then, is someone who recognizes that Jesus Christ has the right to control his or her life.  They recognize that they are rebels against Jesus Christ and deserve to be punished.  A Christian believes that Jesus Christ died for him or her on the Cross taking the punishment which their sins deserved.  A Christian is a person who has responded to God’s call to repent.  They have turned from rebelling against Jesus and submitted to Him.  This person knows that he or she has been forgiven.  They know that God has made them a new person and that Jesus lives in their life.  They know this because they see their changed desires, attitudes and behavior.  This person trusts God with his or her life.” (pg. 7)

o   Mark 8:35
Mark 8:35 ESV
35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

If you are not a Christian, will you become one?

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