The God discussion (New Testament) – Why do I believe (Part 4)

Posted: 08/06/2011 in God
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In my last post I summarised my understanding of the Old Testament of the bible. How does the New Testament differ? This is where Judaism (except Messianic Jews – those that believe that Jesus is the son of God) and Christianity separate. Both believe in God but where Christians believe Jesus is the promised Messiah, Jews believe he was simply a prophet of God. The New Testament can be broken up into four sections. The first four books are the Gospels which are separate eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. They containing his beautiful words, his radical teaching and the miraculous encounters people had with him. Reflected in Jesus is God the Father’s heart of love for people. Jesus is the Son of God, part of the Trinity and he came, among other things, to save humanity (Luke 19:10), to give eternal life (John 3:16) and to set the captives (us) free (Luke 4:16-21). He walked this earth fully God and fully man. Ultimately though, Jesus came to become the final, once and for all sacrifice for the sins of man (Heb 10:11-14). He died at the hand of God, in the most torturous way, nailed through his wrists and feet to a cross and left to suffocate. Crucifixion was a depraved method of death and he knew what he was about to face when he prayed, sweating drops of blood, that God would find another way. Yet still he went to the cross willingly, knowing it would give us total, non-religious access to the God the Father. It was not just the profound pain he suffered but the weight of the sin of every person who ever had and ever would live. And finally the greatest suffering, total separation from the Father with whom he had experienced eternal relationship with. The absolute joy is that he rose from the dead three days later and in doing so defeated sin and death so that anyone who believes in Jesus, giving their life over to him and repents of their sin is no longer separated from God (John 14:6). Though their body will die an earthly death, their spirit will live on forever with God.

Part of Jesus ministry involved establishing his Church made up of those that follow him (Matt 16:18) and Jesus loves the Church (Eph 5:25-26). The books subsequent to the Gospels describe the early Church and its growth and advancement across the Middle East, Greece and Rome. It begins with Jesus appearing to his followers as the resurrected Christ and promising the third part of the trinity in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7-8). This they received in a powerful and life transforming way (Acts 2:1-13). The Holy Spirit is given to everyone who becomes a Christian when they give their lives over to Jesus (John 7:37-39); He teaches (John 14:26, Luke 12:12), intercedes (Rom. 8:26), leads (Matt. 4:1), gives life (John 6:63) and refines with fire (Matt 3:11-13). Evidence of the Holy Spirit in a Christians life should come in the form of spiritual fruit such as love, patience and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit also gives spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12-14:25) which are used for “…the common good…” (1 Cor 12:7), to “…build up the Church” (1 Cor 14:12) and to testify to non-believers about God (1 Cor 14:24-25).

The Epistles are the letters of Paul and other apostles (followers of Jesus and leaders of the Church) to the various established Churches. It contains teachings about the life and ministry of Jesus, how he fulfils prophecy concerning the Messiah and exactly what the plans and purposes of God are regarding Jesus and his Church. As well there are instructions for growth in the Christian faith, admonishment when required and much encouragement and testimonies as to what was happening in the lives of the early believers. The history of the early Church is fascinating and far to detailed for just one blog so I will not go into it here. The Church was made up of both Jews – God’s chosen people (Deut 7:6), a nation established through Abraham into which Jesus was born, and Gentiles – considered by Jews to be the outsiders. Paul addresses the struggles these two groups experienced individually and with each other. Christian Jews did not fully understand God’s intent to include all people, not just Jews, in His plan for salvation nor did they comprehend how Jesus’ death cancelled out the need for the religious practices they were so used to performing (Acts 10:1-28, Rom 10:9-13, Hebrews 8:6-13, 10:19). Consequently they struggled with the Gentiles lack of understanding and practice of the law and the way they seemed to have such an uncomplicated relationship with God unbound by religion. On the other hand gentiles had incorporated a lot of their old pagan practices into the Church and many heresies formed causing confusion. A lot of Paul’s work was in unifying the Church with the correct theology, teaching the ways of Jesus and the plans of God and instructing them against false teaching (2 Cor 11:1-4). This has been an ongoing battle in the Church and has resulted in a diversity of church denominations and many factions. While all believe in God, there are varying theologies on the Christian walk and purposes of and practices within the Church. This has caused much argument both within the Church and out and is cause for great confusion, particularly among those who know little about God. It the Church can’t seem to agree how could God possibly be real? Unfortunately many turn their back on God because of how the Church has disappointed or offended them. I long for the day when despite our differences in how we “do Church” we are unified as the body of Christ.

Revelation, the last book of the bible, is full of symbolism and is prophetic and apocalyptic in nature, describing a vision of the apostle John. It is not however, the only place where the end times are mentioned. Many prophecies are scattered throughout both the Old and New Testaments and Jesus himself promised He would return (Matt 24). When that will occur is unknown despite the endless predictions and prophecies people have made over the years (Matt 24:36-44) but we will all know when it does (Luke 17:22-24). All people will one day stand before God and give account of their lives. Those who have chosen to accept His grace and mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus will live forever with God, those who have rejected Him will themselves be rejected and spend eternity separated from God (Matt 25:31-46).

I am definitely no theologian and this is such a basic outline! I am really just starting to grasp the richness of God’s interaction with humanity and the history of the Church. I hope this blog does justice to why and what I believe and somehow gives you either a new taste to find out more about God or for those of you who already follow Jesus, cause to reflect on why you believe what you believe.

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