Now, I could stop there, and wouldn't blame anyone else if they want to stop at that point. From this point forward, I'm going to be sharing something else I don't really talk about much. I'm going to share my faith.
I'm a follower of Christ. I'm not a follower of religion, which includes Christianity. You might be asking yourself don't Christians call themselves 'followers of Christ?' Yes, there are many that do. Unfortunately, many of those same people put more focus on following their religion rather than following Christ. Jesus had words for people like that: whitewashed tombs.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean."What is religion? It is man's attempt to reach God. It's trying to do things to earn your place in heaven. It often manifests itself in hatred, bigotry, prejudices, and all sorts of other negative qualities that humanity shares. This evil that is being done on others in the name of religion can clearly be seen in every aspect of our world today. Is it any wonder why Christ and His followers are so easily dismissed in this world?
Matthew 23:27 NIV
So, what does that mean for me and my faith? First, and most essential, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a God in heaven. There is mountains of proof to his existence, and anyone who earnestly seeks after the Truth can find it. In addition to that, He has made Himself known to me in many ways personally. I've personally seen Him move in my life. He's delivered me from so much, and given me so much more. I could never have gotten to where I am today, or through the trials I've gone through in life, without His strength and His goodness carrying me.
Second, I know Jesus of Nazareth was born to a virgin. I know He lived for ~30 years with his family before beginning His public ministry. I know He journeyed throughout Judea performing miracles, raising the dead, teaching people about God, and telling them that He was God. Jesus is the Son of God, and He is God. Jesus was a man, born and lived among us, suffered with us, and could relate to every one of our needs. The reason He was executed was because He professed to be equal to God.
Why is the death of Jesus important? It is important to realize that when we are born, we are born to die. At some point in our future, we will meet our end in this world. When we were born, we were also born dead to God with something called sin. Everyone has it, and everyone knows it. There is no one here that is perfect. It doesn't matter if it is just a simple "white lie" or the act of murder, we're all imperfect. Because of that, when we die, we would all go to hell, a place of eternal suffering and torment, which is often referred to as the second death.
Jesus, being fully God and still fully man, lived a life without sin. He was perfect, unlike anyone else. He went to the cross willingly. He was sent to this earth for just that purpose. When He hung on the cross, one of the phrases He said was "It is finished." What was finished was the separation between God and man. Anyone who believed in Jesus and accepted His finished work on the cross, could gain access to heaven. They would gain eternal life and avoid the second death.
There was still one more act to follow, though. If Jesus did not rise again, then all that would be for nothing. We would all still die in the end, and there would be no hope. Yet, on the third day, Jesus did rise from the dead. This resurrection is what we celebrate on Easter Sunday. His resurrection and ascension into heaven allows us that full access to God, as God's children.
I'm still human. I still sin. I still do things that God would not approve of. Despite all that, I still believe and trust in Him. I do try to live right according to what He would want. I will never be perfect, but I will always follow Him. I'm not trying to do things to earn my place, because my place was already bought and paid for by Jesus Christ.
God doesn't send people to hell. That is where everyone is going from the moment they are born. God did make a way of escape, though. There's only one way to escape, one door in which we can pass through, and that door is very narrow. God offers us that choice, and we're asked to choose life, so that we might live. Not only live with Him after we die here, but also live much fuller lives here as well, of which I can personally attest.
Those who call themselves Christians need to stop hurling rocks at others. Those who call themselves Christians need to stop forcing those who don't believe to act like they believe they should act. Jesus only spoke harshly against the religious who did just that. To those who did not believe, He simply showed them His love, His grace, and His mercy. That is the desire of my heart, to love others and show them what I know to be the Truth.
Easter Sunday, of all the Christian holidays, to me is the most important. Yes, on Christmas we celebrate His birth, which is important as well, but His birth only lead to this penultimate moment, where He rose again from the dead, and bridged the gap between God and man. Because of His sacrifice and ultimate resurrection, I, along with all who believe, have become sons and daughters of God.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him."
John 3:16-17 NIV
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6 NIV
Therefore Jesus said again, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."The choice is set before everyone. You can enter the door or you can avoid it. I'm just pointing to the door, letting you know it is there. From that point, it is up to you.
John 10:7-10 NIV