I preached a sermon similar to this at our church last month, and plan on using these notes tomorrow. Thought they might be useful to someone. (Okay really, it's just that if they are here I can't lose them!)
The Nature of Christianity
Our topic this morning is Christianity. This may seem something of a broad and obvious topic for church service. But I think for us to understand properly how we as Christians are to live, we must first understand what really the nature of Christianity is. The reason this is of fundamental importance is that what you believe defines who you are. You will always-always-act in accordance with what you truly believe. And so if we miss the boat on the meaning of Christianity, we are in big trouble. And quite frankly, I believe most of what we might call current Evangelical teaching has most certainly missed the boat. So, with that being said, I want to give you three things right out of the gate that Christianity is not about. These three are
1)Christianity is not about works,
2)Christianity is not about comfort,
3)Christianity is not about you.
These are three things that we will reference back to, and we will shortly turn those statements over and view positively what Christianity is about. As you may have gathered from the statements above, what I want to do is break down our study into three parts. These three parts are
This will be by no means exhaustive, but I do believe it will give us a solid foundation from which to examine this thing called Christendom.
A side note here: While it is to many a dirty word, I do believe religion is absolutely fitting when we describe Christianity. We say that our relationship with God is without any form of religion we in essence divorce ourselves from 2,000 years of church history. This seems unwise at best, and at it’s worst, misled to the point of arrogance. We must keep in view the fact that we are not the only Christians to have ever lived, and the things passed down to us through extra-biblical teaching and tradition and quite rightly called religion. There is nothing wrong with this. The error comes when we move from worshipping God to worshipping the religion itself(see Romans 1).
End note. Let us next turn to the Scriptures themselves. Turn to the book of Romans chapter one. We will read verses 1-7
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:1-7 ESV)
The first thing I noticed when I read this is something I would also like you to see. Who is the author of this letter? Verse one says Paul. What part of his letter are we reading? The introduction. If you are familiar at all with Pauline literature you may notice that this introduction is different than his others. Let’s look for example at his letter to the Philippians, where he gives a rather “normal” introduction.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:1-2 ESV)
Now what difference do you notice? The first thing that strikes me is the length. In Philippians he simply says who he is, who he’s with, and sends a greeting of grace and peace to those whom he is writing. Romans is much longer. This should cause us to take notice. To perk up our ears and listen, as it were. You might say that Paul starts preaching from verse one. So, the question then becomes, why? Well, obviously if he departs from his normal routine in writing it is something he finds to be of pressing importance. Which would then make us wonder, what is it that is so important? And that is what we want to look at.
We will first look at our first point-Christianity’s foundation.
1 Corinthians 15
History of Israel
Romans 3:9-12; 23-24
You cannot earn salvation, it is a gift! Christianity is not about works, it is about Jesus! His work and person are our ultimate foundation.
Point two-Christianity’s essence is the obedience of faith.
1 Peter 2:21-24
What sort of faith is this? John 3; Matthew 10;
Not a comfortable faith. That is not what God has called us to. Christianity is not about comfort, it is about believing and following Jesus, in any circumstances. Romans 8:28-39
Point three-Christianity’s ultimate meaning is the glory of God.
That’s what Paul means by saying that the Gospel that saves us is for the obedience of faith, which is for the sake of His name among all the nations. This can be a tough pill for us to swallow. But it is thoroughly Biblical. Ephesians 1:3-14
Isaiah 43:6b-7, 25
This is foundational to our comfort and joy.
1-Do you believe it?
2-Do you live like it?
3-Do you count Him more valuable than all? Matthew 13:44