What is a Christian? What defines a Christian? Strictly speaking, its definition is a “Follower of Christ.” In our faith, we define ourselves as Christian if we believe, follow, and put our faith in Jesus without adding to or taking away from who He said He is.
So what's the difference between believing in God and being a Christian? There are many people out there who believe there is a God. They believe there must be some higher power at work in the universe. Maybe someone sees or hears something at just the right moment, when they needed it most and they know that coincidences can only go so far. These moments can change your life. They can make you question who you are and what your place is in the universe. These questions ultimately initiate a genuine belief in God. Becoming a Christian is the next step in that equation. Becoming a Christian is saying, “Hey. I no longer just believe in God. I believe this Jesus Christ guy that I keep hearing about. And I am choosing to follow what He said.” Thus becoming a “follower of Christ”.
Who is Jesus? You, no doubt, have heard many different ideas about who Jesus was. You may have heard He was a good man. You may have heard He was a saint, or a revolutionary, a prophet or a disruptor. We believe Jesus was God's son. Born of the virgin Mary, to serve God's purpose of rectifying the laws of sin and death. We believe, as God born in the flesh and anointed with the Holy Spirit, He performed miraculous works, prophesied of things to come, and in the end was crucified for who He claimed to be. We believe He rose again three days after His death, and after ministering to his disciples and giving them instruction, ascended into heaven to sit at God the Fathers side and intercede on our behalf. In short; we believe God became flesh and took a walk in our shoes, then died to save us from ourselves, in the man you know as Jesus.
Is there evidence outside of the Biblical accounts of His followers that backs up their claims about Jesus, His death, and the resurrection?
There is approximately 17 known sources by non-Christian writers that were written within 100-150 years of Jesus life. There were the Ancient Historians: Tacitus, Suentonius, Josephus, and Thallus. Government officials: Pliny the Younger, Emperor of Trajan, Emperor Hadrian. Both Jewish and Gentile sources in the The Talmud, Toledoth Jesu, Lucian, and Mara Bar-Serapion. Plus Gnostic sources and some lost works which were recorded as official documents such as the Acts of Pontius Pilate referenced by Justine the Martyr and Phlegon whose original works have been lost to time. But there are a number of facts from the Bible that these documents support:
1) Jesus lived during the time of Tiberius Caesar 2) He was a wonder-worker 3) He had a brother named James 4) He lived a virtuous (perfect) life 5) He was claimed to be the Messiah 6) He was crucified under Pontius Pilate 7) He was crucified on the Eve of the Jewish Passover 8) Darkness and an Earthquake occurred when he died 9) His disciples believed he rose from the dead 10) His disciples were willing to die for there belief 11) Christianity spread rapidly as far as Rome 12) His disciples denied the Roman Gods and worshiped Jesus as God.
Can I trust the Biblical writings as historically accurate as well? There are several historical references that align with the writings of the disciples. One is from the Talmud. You'll notice the word “hanged” in the text and should note that the term was used interchangeably with crucifixion, as we use slang today. "On the eve of the Passover, Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in His favor, let him come forward ad plead on His behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in His favor He was hanged on the eve of the Passover!"
This aligns with the passages from Matthew 26. Verse 1-5, and John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
Another example is from the writer Mara Bar Serapion. In it he also references the death of Jesus, and the the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and that Jesus was considered there King possibly in reference to his lineage from the line of David, His own teaching or in regard to His titles placed above His head on the cross naming Him King of the Jews. It reads as follows:
What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete
dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.
The following is an exert from writing by Dr. Gary R Habermas in regard to the lost writings of Pontius Pilate referenced by later authors. Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of the Roman Province of Judaea serving under Emperor Tiberius. Pilate presided over the trial of Jesus in April of 32 and ordered his execution.
“Acts of Pontius Pilate. The contents of this purportedly lost document are reported by both Justin Martyr (ca. 150 A.D.) and Tertullian (ca. 200 A.D.). Both agree it was an official document of Rome. Two types of archives were kept in ancient Rome. The Acta senatus were composed of minutes of the senatorial meetings. These contained no discussions of Christ or Christianity as far as is known. The Commentarii principis were composed of the correspondence sent to the emperors from various parts of the empire. Any report from Pilate to Tiberius would belong to this second group.(79) Justin Martyr reported around 150 A.D. in his First Apology that the details of Jesus’ crucifixion could be validated from Pilate’s report” And the expression, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after he was crucified, they cast lots upon his vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen you can ascertain the “Acts” of Pontius Pilate.(80) Later in the same work Justin lists several healing miracles and asserts, “And that He did those things, you can learn from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.”(81) Justin Martyr relates several facts, believing them to be contained in Pilate’s report. The chief concern is apparently Jesus’ crucifixion, with details such as (1) his hands and feet being nailed to the cross and (2) the soldiers gambling for his garments. But it is also asserted (3) that several of Jesus’ miracles were also included in Pilate’s report. Tertullian even reports that Tiberius acted on the report: Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected his proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians.(82)” This referenced account is important in regards to not only validifying the apostles descriptions of events of the crucifixion, but also in validifying Jesus's fulfillment of several prophesies that were written several hundred years before he came as a sign to verify who the Jewish savior and also of the world, would be. Some of these can be found in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22:12-18 “....a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet...people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
What does all this Christian Lingo mean?
Christian: A follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ: A reference based on the teachings of Jesus from passages such as Mark 3:33-34 and Matthew 12:50, and the further teachings of the Apostles. “For whoever does the will of my Father is my brother, sister and mother.” When someone accepts Jesus as their savior, Gods son sent to earth to live a perfect sinless life, who died on the cross as a perfect offering to atone for the sins of the world, and believe that God raised him from the Dead, he or she is considered a brother or sister in Christ. United as family by their belief in Him and through His Spirit given to those who believe.
The Spirit - The Holy Spirit -The Spirit of God – The Spirit of Jesus: These are used interchangeably to refer to the same thing. What we call the Holy Spirit. In the Christian Faith we worship what is referred to as the Triune God. One God with three aspects to Himself or three parts. The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. All the same God but manifesting in 3 different ways. 3 different parts. The Holy Spirit is the part of God that we believe comes into the believer when they accept Jesus' gift of Salvation. It helps us in our understanding of scripture, and helps guide and direct us in our lives.
God's Word: The Bible, Scripture. You will hear these used interchangeably as well. They all mean the same thing. The Bible: it's letters, histories, stories, songs, and prophesies. We believe these were written by men instructed and/or influenced by God to do so over thousands of years.
The Blood of Jesus: This is used in reference to two things interconnected. The first being the actual blood of Jesus that was poured out on the cross during His death. Its through the pouring out of His blood and the sacrifice of His death that our sins and wrongdoings are forgiven before God. We believe there is nothing we ourselves can do to make things right between us and God. Only Jesus could do that because He was perfect and gave Himself up willingly as that sacrifice for us. The other time you may hear "The Blood of Jesus" referenced is during what we call communion, in which it is represented by grape juice or wine, in a sort of ceremony of remembrance.
Communion. What is it? Communion is just what the word itself implies. It is, in short, communing with God. It is the one thing that most all Christians do that is ceremonial. But it is also the only thing like it that we were instructed to do by Jesus himself just before his death. According to New Testament teachers, when Jesus was about to be betrayed He knew His time on Earth was at an end. He gathered His disciples around Him, broke bread and passed it around. He told them to take it and eat and to do it in remembrance of Him. His body was going to be broken soon and the bread was representative of His body. He said, “Take, eat. This is my body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then He took a cup filled with wine and passed it around in the same way telling them to drink. He said, “this is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Communion is a time of remembrance of the sacrifice He made. Its a reminder of the new covenant brought through His sacrifice. And its a time of thankfulness and looking forward to when we will be with Him someday.
New Testament and Old Testament: The Bible is divided into two Testaments comprised of a total of 66 books. The Testaments are also known as Covenants. The Old Testament is comprised of 39 books written under what is known as the old covenant with man. This is a collection of ancient books written by the Israelites (aka Hebrews) about their history and interactions with, and instructions from, God. The New Testament contains 27 books written under the New Covenant between man and God that began at Christ's Death and Resurrection. It chronicles the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, books, chapters and verses. Each book in the Bible is itself divided into chapters, and each of those chapters is divided into verses. This is what makes referencing the Bible so easy. You may hear someone reference the book, chapter and verse of any passage they quote along with it. Its a great way to offer opportunity for the people listening to look it up themselves if they have any curiosity or desire to do so in regard to the passage.
Holy: Dedicated or consecrated to God. Sacred. Morally and spiritually excellent or pure. Also in reference to God as entitled to worship.
Worship: The act of singing praise to our God. Believers also view their life devotion and service to God as an act of worship as well.
Worship Service: This is used interchangeably between both the actual singing worship Christians do to God, and the entire church service itself as though the entire service is in whole a worship ceremony.
Incarnate: Embodied in flesh; in human form. When used in the church its typically used to reference the part of the Christian's triune God that came in human form. Jesus.
Who is Jesus Christ? He is God's one and only Son. You may hear Jesus referred to in many different ways among Christians. He's called the Messiah, The Christ, The Lamb of God, the living sacrifice, the Eternal One, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King of Kings, The Judge, Lord, Savior, Teacher, The word made flesh, and Son of God.
Trinity: GOD, Jesus, & The Holy Spirit. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The three aspects of our one God. The three in one.
Why is Jesus referred to as Jesus the Christ, Christ Jesus, and Jesus Christ? Jesus is the human name given to the Son of God when He took human form and was born. Christ is the title and means Messiah, or anointed one, or chosen one. In the English language, as well as often in both the Greek and Hebrew, changing the order in which we use a word in a phrase can significantly alter the emphasis placed on the word and also on the meaning of the sentence itself. However, in the case of the title of Christ, the change of placement makes little difference. Any order you choose to use his name and title attributes him the same honor.
Do I have to be a Christian to be part of THE ANNEX? Nope. The ANNEX is a safe space to explore, learn, and discover who Jesus is.
What does it mean to be saved? The short answer is: being saved, means being saved from the consequences of sin. As humans, we all sin. God's law says, "The wages (or punishment) of sin is death." When Jesus died on the cross, He took our punishment for the sins we committed. You may be asking, "Why would Jesus take the punishment for me?" He said, "For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." When we accept the free gift of Jesus' sacrifice, by believing Jesus is who He said He is, we are saved.
Can I know for sure that Jesus was the Son of God and not just a good man? All we can do is read the historical accounts of Jesus written by His followers and look at the prophesies recorded in the ancient Hebrew texts to determine whether to believe or not. Ultimately its something everyone has to decide for themselves. You may not believe there is a God right now. Or, you may only just be starting to believe, or not sure what to believe and that is all okay. That is one of the reasons for The ANNEX. We can help you read the Bible, do some research and ask questions. If God is calling you, He's not ever going to stop. But you are the one who ultimately has to choose what to believe. He leaves the decision up to you.
Is the Bible for real? Yep. Totally. Beginning to end, its the real deal. Some of the texts in the Old Testament part of the Bible have been translated from manuscripts that are thousands of years old. The newest parts of the bible that come from letters written by Jesus' apostles are nearly 2000 years old at this point.
Who decided what went into the Bible? Well, the short answer is God did. But the long answer is a little more complex. Here is a link to an excellent article that goes into detail about how the Bible was formed and who decided what was included and what was not.
What if I have questions? Who can I talk to? This is what THE ANNEX was designed for. It's a great location to ask any of those questions that may be lurking around in the back of your head making you go, “I wonder....” Pastor Brad hosts a live discussion where you can ask and talk about anything that may have come up in one of his sermons, or if you prefer something more low key, shoot us a Facebook message or post to the message board. We'll do our best to get back to you quickly with an answer as best we can.
How do I make sure I don't ask the "Stupid Question?" That's an easy one....There are no stupid questions. Each and every one of us are on a journey. We've all been new on the journey. We've all had questions. Nobody was born with all the answers (Except Jesus!) Nobody is better or worse that anyone else. One of the great things about THE ANNEX is we get to be on this journey together.
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