Why I Am a Christian
According to what I believe to be truth from God's Word, I have been a Christian virtually all my life (see here). At some point in my life I had to "grow up" and come to an understanding of why I am a Christian today, of why I am a believer, a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. So, here are five reasons: the Book, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Choosing.
We call the Book The Bible. It's actually a Holy Spirit collection of sixty-six books written over a period of 2000 years in three languages by at least forty authors all with a single theme. Unlike any other book, this one is life changing. It is a means used by God to give us truth and grace because it is the very Word of God. There is really no way to explain how God gives life through the hearing of His Word except to experience that life change through hearing it. If you don't know the life changing power of God's Word, and even if you do, I would encourage you and even challenge you to see for yourself. Start by reading the researched and organized biography of Jesus that was written by Luke. If you want to follow up how God worked in the first century after the life of Jesus, you can read the Acts of the Apostles. Then to get a sense of what was happening behind the scenes of the life of Jesus, read the gospel written by John. I believe that in the reading (hearing) of the Book, God does amazing things in us.
The Book is our primary, though not only, source of three significant historical events that are the next three reasons I am a believer today. The first of those events is called the Incarnation. I have a problem. I'm selfish. Though I want to be good, way too much of what I do serves myself and not others. Though I want to be kind, I'm not. I end up disobeying God and hurting others by what I say and do. In a court of law, a judge would pronounce a judgement against me for the harm I do especially if the harm I do is prosecuted because it also breaks a law intended to protect my neighbor. In a similar way, the harm I do, even if it's not illegal, is a breaking of the Law of God; and there are consequences for breaking God's Law. The Book calls this breaking of God's Law sin. When I don't love and trust God and when I don't love my neighbor, I sin and become unworthy to be in God's holy presence. But the Book also tells us that God wants to be in fellowship with us, that is, He does not want us to suffer the consequences of our sin. But, just as we expect justice to be served in our lives, justice must be served in the spiritual realm. To solve this problem, God became one of us. God became a human so that a perfect human could take on Himself the punishment for human sin. This becoming one of us is called the Incarnation.
The second event of the three is the actual carrying out of God's justice. The judgment against us is death, first of the body and then eternal separation from God (because we are not worthy to be in His holy presence). So God became the perfect Man--Jesus born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judea--and suffered the consequences of our sin. It happened that in the time He chose to come to us the Romans were in control of His part of the world. One of the primary forms of capital punishment for the Romans was crucifixion. It also happened that the Jewish religious leaders were jealous of the popularity Jesus had, so they arranged for Him to be arrested and charged with trying to overthrow the Roman government, a capital offense. The Roman governor in Judea, Pilate, did not really think it just to put Jesus to death; but his fear of the a riot instigated by the Jewish religious leaders was greater than his quest for justice. He allowed Jesus to be crucified. All this was according to God's plan so that Jesus would die the death we deserve and in doing so suffer the sentence of death we deserve.
The Incarnation and the Crucifixion, however, might be empty events if the third event had not also happened. It is perhaps this third event that is most necessary in my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus, a believer. If we die separated from God, that will be how we will be for all eternity. But death could not hold Jesus. He was raised from the dead. There are many skeptics to this historical event, but everyone who has really tried to disprove the Resurrection has come to believe it is true. The apostle Paul tells us that over 500 people saw Jesus after His resurrection. The disciples staked their lives on their belief that they had seen the resurrected Jesus. They were willing to be persecuted and even die for that belief. What the Book tells us is that by His resurrection Jesus proved that He is indeed God and indeed has the power to forgive our sin.
All this is well and good but only a list of historical events if it is not all real for me. The Book, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection all become real to me because God has chosen them to be so. I am a Christian because ultimately that is God's choice for me. I believe it is God's choice for everyone, yet there are more who do not believe than there are who believe. I have to concede that there is a mystery here. The Book says having faith is absolutely necessary. I know I didn't have faith, I was an unbeliever, because I didn't trust what the Book says. But, I do trust, and I do believe because God has given me the ability, the faith, to trust.
Just as we give gifts to our babies, I believe God gave me the gift of faith when I was but an infant. Since then I have come to understand what that gift is. I have been lead to put that gift to use in my life. By doing so, I believe the Book is true; I believe the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection are real events; and I believe God has chosen me to be His follower and disciple. It is by faith that I know that my sins are forgiven and God has brought me into fellowship with Himself.