The basic principles of Christianity are explained here.
The differences between Christianity
and other religions are also discussed.
This website’s objective is to help readers to build sound Christian faith and apply it to their lives, by engaging with God there. Engaging with the Lord in that way, allows him to demonstrate his actual presence there. In effect proving he is real; that he does exist and how he also loves each one of us.
AND, if all this seems a bit too much for you … say if you are even struggling with the possible existence of God … please begin by reading the article, “Can I really believe in God?” Trust me on this one: if you are ready to believe, then you can! (I am from a senior auditing background and the majority of my advisory team are Christian clergy. To glimpse the ‘who’, ‘how’ and ‘why’ of this website please click here.)
This particular article, the first in this section of the website, begins with a brief overview of Christian beliefs. If you wish to gain deeper knowledge on any of the subjects that follow, then you can ‘drill down’ into following and supporting articles.
The article continues with explanations of Christianity’s rules of love, and what they should mean to us.
2. ESSENTIAL CHRISTIAN BELIEFS
So, a brief overview of Christian beliefs follows.
2.1 God’s Love for Us
Let me begin by writing, that it was the concept of “grace” that actually drew me to Christianity. The term relates to the way our loving God is always ready to give us human beings more than we rightfully deserve. (This is not to be confused with financial riches etc. etc.) I read somewhere that the concept of grace is ‘so far out there’, that no human could have ever ‘dreamt it up’.
Through his outpouring of grace, in our lives, God demonstrates that he really wants a loving personal relationship with each one of us. And of course, God intends that relationship with him will never end, even after our physical death (more about that later). Within this life he is, for example, continually and lovingly trying to ‘guide us‘ and ‘help us‘ in our day-to-day lives. Mind you, this relates more to our ‘real needs’ than our ‘wants’. And I’d guess you know the difference.
So, God’s love for us is the underlying theme in Christianity. Hence the subtitle for this article.
2.2 The Holy Trinity
The vast majority of Christians hold the ‘Holy Trinity‘, the concept of a triune God, as a central belief of their religion. Christians believe that Jesus is an essential identity within the ‘Trinity’. The Trinity consists of God the Father, God the Son (or Jesus the Son of God) and God the Holy Spirit – three ‘persons’ in one God. So, despite the concept of the Trinity, all Christians believe that there is only one God.
The concept, and God’s reason for it, is not as complicated as at first imagined either. Again please see the article, “The Holy Trinity”. The Trinity, as explained there, began with God’s need to place his loving presence in human form on Earth whilst still sustaining the existence of ‘all that is … and ever shall be’.
2.3 Jesus and the “Cross”
Following on then, most Christians believe that Jesus, whilst alive amongst us as a fellow human being over 2,000 years ago, was ‘God incarnate‘. Jesus was, and still is for that matter, God.
Through Jesus, God pours out his grace upon all of us human beings who are ready to enter into a deep and meaningful relationship with him. AND as a result we can receive eternal life.
So, from God the Father’s actions, who gave physical life to his Son Jesus, we read in the Bible:
For 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.
The price that Jesus paid for us
Because of God’s love for us, i.e. his “grace”, Jesus offered himself as a living sacrifice, the ‘Lamb of God‘, in order to pay for humankind’s wrongdoings (sins).
Jesus felt the pain of pre-execution torture and humiliation at the hands of his captors. And then he experienced physical exhaustion when forced to carry his own cross much of the way to the place of his execution. He felt the nails go through his flesh.
Once up on the cross, he felt the agony of losing his ability to breathe freely. In effect he experienced the slow and tormented death that he had known awaited him.
What the cross means for us
Through his own death by crucifixion on the cross, Jesus thereby ‘justified‘ our sins. As a result, faithful Christians can be assured of eternal life through the ‘grace‘ of God. (Note this explanation makes use of the essential Bible ‘jargon’ that has been used for over two thousand years.)
In ‘simple English’, the average Christian believes that Jesus died for them. His physical death on the cross paid for any sins they have or might yet commit. Essentially, the cost of all our sins throughout our lives, i.e. which would normally mean a punishment of ‘permanent death’, is brushed aside as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
It is also believed that the ‘resurrection’ to new life and ‘ascension’ into heaven by Jesus, after his death ‘on the cross’, demonstrates most positively the victory over death that is ‘offered to us’.
AGAIN, the Christian religion’s view of Jesus as God is essential to understanding the depth of God’s unconditional love for us, and his “grace”. That is God became human so that he could physically sacrifice himself for us. (Please see the articles, “Jesus as God” and “Evidence of Jesus” for a better understanding.)
For Christians then, the common symbol of the ‘cross‘ signifies: God’s love for us; his grace, our forgiveness and victory over death.
2.3 Jesus as “Our Lord and Saviour”
Although some small issues of disagreement exist between theologians on the subject, we Christians are ‘saved‘ from our sins so as to receive eternal life, if we:
- admit to our past wrongdoing (sins) and try hard to turn our backs on our old ‘its all about me’ way of life.
- commit ourselves through ‘faith’ to Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
A great proportion of Christians do accept these commitments.
Now the words “Jesus as our Lord and Saviour” is an important term and therefore deserves a sound explanation here. That is, even though it is revisiting some of the ‘beliefs’ already explained.
The ‘Lord’ aspect of the above term firstly requires an explanation. It refers to ‘Jesus being God himself‘. That is, as well as being Jesus, he is also the God of the Old Testament (the pre-Jesus Books of the Bible); the great “I AM”. As I have already indicated above, the Father and the Son are two persons of the Holy Trinity. Both declared themselves to be I AM within the Bible. The Father did so in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14), possibly 500 to 600 years before Jesus was born, and then the Son did so in John 8:58. The two related verses are quoted in full on the “About website” article of this website.
The ‘Lord’ aspect secondly relates to Jesus (as God) being ‘the boss’ to us humans, who are trying to obey him in life; to follow his guidance. Be ‘faithful’ to him!
And clearly, we have a ‘boss’ who dearly loves us all. And he deals with each and every one of us, and humanity as a whole, in an all-knowing pragmatic manner.
The ‘Saviour’ aspect of the statement, as explained under the previous sub section, is straightforward. We are to believe that Jesus laid down his physical life in a very painful manner to pay for our wrongdoings; our sins, so as to enable us to have eternal life. From the New Testament:
For 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.
Jesus, through his sacrifice, ‘saved’ each of us Christians from permanent death after our physical lives end. As a result of being saved through faith, Christians are freed to concentrate on a close loving and faithful relationship with God. In essence, that is what God desires above all else. That is why we individually have been created.
Further discussion on what it ‘takes’ to be saved, as mentioned above, is included in the supporting articles, “Rules, laws and commandments” and “Heaven and hell”. The ‘moral dilemma’ of wrongdoing (sin), and its impact on our lives now, is also expanded under Heading 4.
3. THE TIME WAS RIGHT
‘Love’ is at the heart of Christianity – God’s love for us, our love for God and his other children. Christianity’s direction was a positive shift away from the obsessive compliance with rules that the Jewish religion had been drifting towards. At the expense of reducing the need for a close personal relationship with God I must add.
So our religion ‘came to pass’ at the point of history that God KNEW would come. It was time to relax on rules, laws and commandments. The time was right to now seriously commit to loving and meaningful relationships with our Lord.
A better explanation of ‘timing’ is available in the previously mentioned, “Jesus as God“.
4. CHRISTIANITY’S SIMPLE RULES OF ‘LOVE’
The three great monotheist religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) agree that every one of us can enter into a personal relationship with God. That is a God who: listens to each of us, tries to speak to each of us, offers guidance/ support to each of us, offers each of us eternal life after physical death. All three religions believe that God wants each of us to enter into that relationship with him. Actually, he attempts through the means available to him to draw us into it – encouraging us to respond to him.
Christians accept that God has laid down rules to be followed. But unlike Judaism and Islam, Christianity views its rules in a different way.
4.1 Jesus’ answer
I have clearly mentioned in this article why I chose Christianity over the other two monotheist religions: Judaism the oldest of the three, Islam the youngest. Simply put, it is Christianity’s principle of ‘love’. That is God’s love of us, contained within his ‘grace‘ that is given freely to us; and our love of him and our fellow human beings. The rules of Christianity, or “Commandments” as they are called, are also based on ‘love’.
Two new commandments
When it comes to actual ‘laws and rules’ for guidance in our lives, Jesus himself provided clear advice.
Firstly bear in mind that Jesus was born into the Jewish religion. And all the Old Testament (OT) of the Bible was written prior to the birth of Jesus. The Bible’s New Testament (NT) was all written after Jesus’ birth. All Jews, including Jesus’ followers at the time, tried to follow the guidance of the OT’s so-called Ten Commandments (provided by God of course).
When asked, in the form of a ‘challenging’ question, which of the Ten Commandments was the most important, Jesus offered a powerful answer. It was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Then continuing, Jesus added, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” [Luke 10:27]
What they mean for us
So, love of God and our fellow humans underpins Christian ‘law’. Bear in mind though, this is not to say that other laws, i.e. within the Old Testament, are of no relevance at all. Also Jesus himself added further standards for us to follow, and these are also documented in the New Testament. Again, please see the article, “Rules, laws and commandments” to better understand how rules and laws do affect Christians.
God will definitely try to ‘guide us‘ into what is appropriate in our actions, if there is any doubt about what is ‘right or wrong’ within our lives. This in effect provides us with an element of proof of God’s existence. That is his recognisable presence in our lives.
By the way, the word ‘love’ in the Bible (in relation to our fellow humans) means more ‘to deeply care about’ than as we apply the word today. That is a deeper or more significant emotion reserved for those who are very close to us personally.
4.2 Love of God
Now it is no surprise that if God did love us enough to become human and then die for us in agony, then he would expect love from us in return. And Jesus highlighted the extent of love that is expected of us, in his answer “…with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”.
Note too that Jesus provided us with the ideal example of a human being to follow – himself! The Gospels (New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) contain the words and actions of Jesus. The concept of Jesus’ ‘revealing’ nature is ‘built into’ one of his alternative titles, “The Word”. With regards to actually loving God (in his case the ‘Father’) the human Jesus clearly demonstrated that he did so. He really did love his dad!
From God’s point of view, it is a case of the more ‘Christ-like’ we can become with his assisting ‘grace‘, the closer our loving relationship with him becomes. As the Word, in this context, Jesus is our ‘guiding light’, and I write a bit more on that later.
Ultimately, contentedness with life improves as growth towards Christ-likeness takes place, and our love of God increases. And hey, do not worry too much, if that all seems a bit too much. It just happens. Slowly but surely, as our ‘faith becomes sound‘.
4.3 Love of our Neighbours
With regards to our neighbours (i.e. our fellow humans), it basically comes down to ‘love’ again. Each one of us is a loved child of God, and he wants us all to deeply care for his other children. The article following this one is titled, “Christian behaviour“. It further explains how we should act towards our fellow human beings etc.
Meeting his expectations
When we grasp that, we can see that the old Ten Commandments, i.e. those ones that relate to our fellow human beings, should not need to be stated. For example, everybody should understand that it is wrong to steal from people we love (i.e. people that we ‘care about’ as much as we ‘care about’ ourselves)! Similarly, we would not covert (lust after) or enter into adultery with the life partner of someone we deeply care for etc.
In other words, Jesus’ new love-based law again encompasses the essence of all those older laws, and indeed goes beyond them! And yet again, please read the article, “Rules, laws and commandments” for a better understanding.
We should be ‘guiding lights’
I suppose we can look to the twentieth century example of Mother Theresa of Calcutta for the ‘personification’ of love towards neighbour. This way of life (loving and self sacrificing care for others) offers so much in return to us. All Christians are called to it. And, there is no better medicine for the ‘human psyche’ than assisting others in their time of need. It has the ability to lift us from the ‘mire’ of self-centredness. And in turn, lead us away from our all too common self destructive tendency to dwell on our own problems and wish-lists.
4.4 If we are saved anyway, why obey the rules?
Now, most Christians accept that obedience to rules and laws (the ‘two rules of love’ or for that matter complying with the Ten Commandments etc) is important. But however, it is not necessarily critical for the soul or its ‘salvation‘. Christianity essentially places faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour above all else. Of course it certainly does not ignore ‘obligations’ that we should meet.
This is the big difference between Christianity and the other major monotheist religions of Judaism and Islam. Those religions place ‘obeying religious rules/ laws’ at the same level of importance as ‘belief in God’.
We must try hard to be faithful
The best summary in the Bible of how the law itself (rules, commandments etc), God’s saving grace, and following those laws, all fit together is provided by St Paul. Please read Romans 3:19-26.
As Christians, we should want to do his ‘bidding’ because we do not want to disappoint our loving God – not because we are afraid of losing our souls. Of course, God expects us to ‘run the best race’ that we can, with the help of his grace. And when we do wrong (commit sin) we should admit it to God and try hard to not do it again. We love him, as we should love our human parents, and as with them, we don’t want to disappoint him.
The cost of being unfaithful
A further issue surrounding serious wrongdoing/ sin, is that it can grow to a stage where the wrongdoing itself can become more important to us than our relationship with God. Not good! Those sorts of ‘bad life choices‘, can actually ‘dis-engage’ us from our relationship with him. Tear it apart! Then we will just plain miss out on the rewards of God’s grace that faithfulness offers us.
Yes, faithfulness to God should be a major aim in any Christian’s life.
This principle, based on love and faith, rather than rules and faith, obviously also offers a shift from the Jewish and Islamic concentration on laws/ rules or ‘legalism’. Again, and all importantly, it is not primarily about the rules. No, it is about having that deep personal, loving relationship with God that we are called to.
Most importantly, remember that Christianity is a religion that does not need a lot of theoretical knowledge, upfront, before you can practise it. Just be open to God; begin that relationship with him, and see how Jesus can transform your life. Yes, engage with him.
As suggested in the intro, if you need guidance on how to develop your belief in God, then please read the article, “Can I really believe in God?”. You will see there how to involve our loving God in your life; to ‘walk the walk’. Yes, how to engage with him. I am confident, just like so many other Christians, that anyone can prove to themselves … well beyond reasonable doubt … that God is real by simply putting faith to work within their lives. And remember it is the ‘old auditor‘ here writing all this stuff. Look, just read the article, “Too Good to be true” to see how the obsessive atheist, that I once was, became a ‘rock-solid’ believer.
There is no denying that deeper knowledge of the Bible can, and should, come later. This is due to the incredible depth of wisdom and guidance that is contained within it. It is not difficult to see God’s purpose for Christianity (and yourself) through the Bible’s themes – which I have tried hard to summarise in this article. The article, “Our amazing Bible” gives assistance on how to interpret its contents.
Exposure to Christianity, through ‘church attendances‘, also offers us the chance to experience this essence at work. That is to feel it! Further evidence of God’s presence can be witnessed there as well. It is also there within the Church that we are provided with the opportunity, when finally ready, to ‘genuinely’ commit ourselves to Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
Again, ‘Love’ is at the heart of Christianity – God’s love for us, our love for God and his other children. Initially, it demands little of us as individuals, other than developing a relationship with the God who became human and then painfully sacrificed his mortal life for us.
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