It is a simple fact that throughout the history of the world just about everyone has believed in some sort of god. Religion, like music and art or our longing for good relationships, is one of the few things shared by every human culture that has ever existed.
Even today, 92% of people still acknowledge the existence of some kind of god. Of course, some people (less than 5%) are still atheists. They argue that the beautiful complexities of the universe are just accidents. But most people follow the logic of the ancient poem found in the Bible:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Whose god should we listen to? The choices seem endless - Hinduism, Bahai, Islam, Buddhism and so on, all offer an alternative god and an alternative view on life. How can we be certain which one is right?
The central claim of Christianity is that God has come into the world so that we can be certain of who he is.
The life of Jesus Christ offers a unique, public signpost to God. He is the intersection between our world and God's. By looking at his life "his teachings, healings, death and rising to life" we can discover who God is and what he is like.
He was a public figure who did things and said things that made him famous in his time.
Eyewitnesses have recorded these events and preserved them for us in the Bible.
The Christian faith is fundamentally historical. It is not a faith that must be accepted without question. Rather, it is based on a set of public events that can be studied and tested. Its as if Christianity has placed its neck on the chopping block of public scrutiny and invites anyone who wishes to come and take a swing.
Christianity, in other words, is a rational response to the Jesus we find in the Bible.
What stands out are his miracles and he healed the sick, controlled nature and even raised people from the dead.
The important thing about these miracles is what they mean. According to Jesus, these miracles were to show people that 'the kingdom of God has come.'
In Jesus' day the Kingdom of God was seen as the time when God would deal with all that was wrong with the world. He would come and undo sickness, overthrow evil and prove himself to be the King over his creation. Jesus showed by his miracles that this time was near.
Jesus' miracles show us that God cares about us and guarantee that what we all long for - the fullness of life and the end of evil and will one day arrive.
Even today many of his teachings are part of our culture: 'Turn the other cheek,' 'Do to others what you would have them do to you', and many others.
But of all his many teachings, Jesus said the most important one is to 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' And the second most important is to 'Love your neighbour as yourself.'
According to Jesus, God's way of living is summed up by these two simple commands; to love your Maker and to love your neighbour.
Yet in making this statement, Jesus is showing us how we fail even this simple test of living God's way. None of us has loved God or our neighbours to the extent that Jesus describes.
God holds us responsible for our failure. Jesus teaches about a time in the future when we will all have to come before God in judgement and face the consequences for the way we have lived. This is a serious business.
He was crucified because he was seen as a political troublemaker.
But far from being a failure, Jesus death was the fulfilment of his role in God's Kingdom.
On the eve of his execution, as he shared a final meal with his followers, he spoke of his imminent death as a sacrifice that would secure God's forgiveness. As he passed a cup of wine around, He said â€œThis is my blood which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
Within hours, Jesus' blood was indeed poured out. He offered himself as a substitute for all of us who deserve God's judgement. We who failed to live up to God's standard can now be forgiven and saved. The teacher and healer is also our Saviour.
Jesus was not simply a great Jewish teacher or healer. His sacrificial death and resurrection marks him out as unique. Because of his love for us, Jesus willingly died in our place to save us. So God raised him to life again and made Him the Lord of heaven and earth - the King, the boss, the one who is truly in charge.
The strong connection between Jesus' resurrection and lordship is at the heart of the Christian faith. The New Testament says "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord', and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved".
More than a teacher, or a healer, or even a saviour who died to save us from judgement, Jesus is the divinely appointed Lord. Heartfelt acceptance of this reality is the guarantee of God's salvation and the beginning of the Christian life.
It is all about confidently trusting Jesus Christ, the healer, the teacher, the saviour, the Lord. Indeed, the word 'faith' in the Bible simply means trust.
A Christian is a person who trusts in Jesus the Healer, the Teacher, the Saviour, the Lord.
In particular a Christian:
A person becomes a Christian by asking God to forgive them. This heartfelt act of turning back to God is all that is required. If you want to, you can pray to God now using these words:
I know that I have not lived as you want me to. I have not loved you as I ought nor loved the people who live around me. I am sorry and want to change.
Thank you for Jesus. Thank you that he lived and died for me and rose again and is the Lord.
Please forgive me and help me to live as you want me to.
When you turn back to God and pray such a prayer, God hears and forgives you. He gives you his Holy Spirit who helps you to love him as he wants. You also become part of his family, a member of his people who share the common bond of faith in Christ.