Jesus Makes Me Christian
The Pew Foundation released a study in April 2018 that indicated that almost 90% of Americans have a concept of God. If we look a little further we understand that for at least 10% of those they believe in an intelligent creative force not necessarily confined to the definitions others place for God. Of the remaining 80%, some 56% believe in the God of the Bible. A God that intercedes into history and relates to humanity. The remaining people who believe in God may believe in a creative being or intelligent life that designed our reality but they dont believe that God intercedes into history, interacts with us or reveals self as God.
I dont recall the statistic but if 56% of the people polled believe in God of scripture I wonder how many self-identify as Christians? You see, my experience has been that there are a grand number of people (I understand the use of "grand" is not very specific or scientific, however this is anecdotal based on my experience) who are in church who believe in God, in very generic terms and come to church because of the faith of their parents or grandparents. In other words, they've inherited the title "Christian" for themselves because they are the heirs of a tradition of faith that is rooted in Christianity. However, if we dig a little deeper I find that there are many who self-identify as Christian who really are closer to being "deist."
What is a deist? A person who believes in a creative force or person (God) who is intelligent and great in power but absent or revealed in our everyday life. They believe God created the heavens and the earth but they dont believe that God is interacting with humanity in any significant way.
In contrast, to self identify as a Christian is a proclamation that tells a very different story and understanding of God. To be Christian is not only to perceive God as Creator but it to see God as Creator that is innately invested in His creation. In Christianity we discover the story of God in the Bible and through it we believe that God created us, granted us free will and dominion over the earth, and even when we choose to be rebellious to the point where we have no connection to God, God reveals Himself to us. God reveals self to us so intensely that He sends His son, Jesus, who is God and yet a different person from God into human history with the intent purpose of revealing how we can have an everlasting relationship with God. Our quest in this world, through Jesus, is to respond to God's love and help others find purpose and meaning by being in relationship with God.
Thus to be a Christian is not simply to be aware of God or know of God but it means that we come to know God through the person and ministry of Jesus. Jesus makes us Christian. It may sound redundant but it is a truth that I believe that is not always grasped. Our understanding of Jesus as fully God, fully man, as the redeemer of our sins and as the advocate of humanity is uniquely what makes us Christian.
Jesus proclaimed for himself that He is from Heaven (John 6:38), Salvation comes only from Jesus (John 14:6), Jesus forgives sin (Mark 2:5), Jesus came because of God's love for us (John 3:16-17) and we come to understand the pre-existent of Jesus in John 1:1. So to be Christian means that through our understanding of Jesus shapes how we see and understand God and how we see and respond to the world.
Surmising there is a God is not an act of faith, it is a rational observation. Believing in who Jesus is and the definition of God in the unfolding of scripture is a journey of faith that uniquely shapes us. It is our hope, as a church, that others will respond to love of God by understanding who Jesus is.