The basic Christian belief is that “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” (John 3:16). The basic information and beliefs on which that is based follow.
In the beginning there was God
“The size of the whole universe is not known - It may be infinite. Scientific observation of the Universe has led to inferences of its earlier stages, which appear to have been governed by the same physical laws and constants throughout most of its extent and history. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that describes the early development of the Universe, which is estimated to have begun 13.798 ± 0.037 billion years ago.”
“Scientists remain unsure about what, if anything, preceded the Big Bang. Many refuse to speculate, doubting that any information from any such prior state could ever be accessible. There are various multiverse hypotheses, in which some physicists have speculated that the Universe might be one among many, or even an infinite number, of universes that likewise exist.”
It’s safe to say that whatever existed in the beginning that created the universe – and the physical laws – is totally beyond man’s comprehension. The Jews accepted this supreme being as their God, as recorded in the Bible: From Genesis 1: “1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 27…God created humans to be like himself.” But, to what degree can we believe the Bible and what Bible? Most of the following Scriptures are from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. However, the Hebrew Bible records the same information using slightly different words. Although the language is a little different, the two are basically in agreement. This means that the prophecies in the Old Testament about the coming of Jesus were not put there by the early Christians.
“The opinion of the overwhelming majority of modern biblical scholars is that the first five books of the Bible were shaped into its final form after the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. Although the traditions behind the narrative are older and can be traced in the writings of the 8th century prophets. How far beyond that the tradition might stretch cannot be told.”
But, there are at least 39 non-biblical documents that have been recovered that lend credence to the historical accuracy of the Old Testament. The earliest was 2500 B.C. and the latest was the Dead Sea Scrolls – third century B.C. to first century A.D. (Source: the NIV Study Bible – Zondervan) One document – the Atrahasis Epic of about 2000 B.C. – included the great flood.
God created humans as his “children-on-earth.” and gave them free will, without which they could not love him, or one another. More…
Christians believe that God loves them as a father loves his child and that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and is always with them. How can this be possible? No one knows, but it seems like a walk in the park as compared to creating the universe.
God’s love for us was made clear by Jesus in the Parable of the Lost Son
11Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
There are 60 Bible verses about God’s love.
Perhaps the best description of human love is given in 1 Cor 13:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
CS lewis provides helpful insights into love, including these two from Mere Christianity:
“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”
So the all-knowing, all-powerful God is always present with us and Jesus made it clear at the Last Supper with the disciples that God remains with us at all times through the Holy Spirit and that we should count on the Holy Spirit for leadership. To understand this better, a cell member asked his cell to use “God’s Leadership” as a topic for a series of lessons. Here is the goal of his request:
“For me, the goal of this series is to help me understand how to better serve others by accepting God’s leadership – and change my life accordingly. Here’s where I am:
- Miracles happen – sometimes with and sometimes without our asking.
- I can never know what is and what isn’t a miracle.
- Praying, including asking for a miracle is a communication with God from the heart not the mouth – and not even the mind. Words may help our heart to understand, but not in God’s understanding of what’s in our hearts. He always knows that.
- God can work miracles in any way he chooses, for example, through people, as described in (Name's) experience with the baby and (Name’s) several experiences. I believe that sometimes – maybe frequently – God leads us without us even knowing it.
- Our God is always available to lead us in doing what Jesus would want done in miraculous ways or in ordinary, everyday ways. But, it’s all about love. Loving God, loving others and loving yourself. I don’t believe he leads us about material things, except when they are about loving others or loving yourself.”
The results of this series can be seen here…
But, most humans chose not – they loved only themselves. “And the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Hebrew Bible, Genesis 6:5). But there were always a few people who loved God and loved others, and they survived the flood and their descendent Abraham, (Gen 11) – was living such a good life that God rewarded him by making a very special agreement with him – today this agreement is called the Covenant.
This agreement with Abraham was that, if he would always obey God and would always do right, everyone on earth would be blessed because of him. (Gen 12:2 & 17:20). The descendents of Abraham later established the Jewish kingdoms. The archaeological record indicates that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah emerged in the Early Iron Age (Iron Age I, 1200–1000 B.C.E)
Israel’s second King, David, was a direct descendent of Abraham and God promised David, and his successors, an everlasting dynasty.
Christians believe that Jesus is a direct descendent of David, and that his followers will indeed have everlasting life. About 3900 years ago, God also made the same promise to Abraham’s grandson Jacob. From Genesis 28:14: “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”
To make the world a better place to live, God gave the people rules to live by and He punished evil people and helped good people. He sometimes sent angels to help. For example, in Genesis 19 angels said to Lot: “12Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
There is some archaeological evidence that Sodom and Gomorrah were indeed destroyed in a conflagration.
For over 500 years, God sent many prophets to remind the people of the covenant agreement and to instruct the people on how to have better lives. For example, he told Jeremiah to tell the people: “The days are coming, declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.” Jeremiah 33:14–15
After telling David that one of his son's will always be King, God began to prepare the world for this new kind of King – who would bring them a New–Agreement – called the Second Covenant – and a new way to live. He did this by telling His prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Daniel, and Micah to tell the people that:
- The new King was to be called Immanuel (meaning “God with us”). (Isa 7:14)
- The New–Agreement declares:
- He would be our God and we would be His people (Jer 31:33)
- He would write His law in our minds and our hearts (Jer 31:33)
- He would forgive us when we do evil things (Jer 31:34)
- The new King would:
- Be from King David’s family and have The Spirit of the LORD with Him.(Isa 11:1)
- Be called; wonderful advisor and mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.(Isa 9:6)
- Be honest, wise and rule with justice.(Jer 23:5)
- His mother would be a virgin, (Isa 7:14)
- He would be born in Bethlehem, (Mic 5:1)
- People from every nation would serve Him, He would rule forever,(Dan 7:13/14)
- His power would never end, and peace would last forever.(Isa 9:6)
Jesus was a descendent of King David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem – just as predicted.
This great gift is summarized in John 3: “16For 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. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
In Jesus’ brief ministry, He taught us how to live the loving life that God would have us live – the wonderful life. His teachings can be summarized by these three passages:
Matt 7:12 “So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matt 22:34 “…the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Jesus then gave his life on the cross so that we could live with our heavenly father for eternity.
To summarize the basics:
There is an all-knowing, all-powerful being who is always with us and loves us – we call him God. If we love God and accept Jesus as our Savior, we will love others, and the result is an everlasting life filled with love.
Christ’s impact on the world has been enormous and far beyond our understanding.
The writing “One Solitary Life” used in the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” provides the right perspective:
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled 200 miles from the place He was born. He never wrote a book, or held an office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.
While He was still a young man, the tide of the popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of the trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners’ gambled for the only piece of property He had − His coat. When He was dead, he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.
Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life”.