(I originally preached this as a sermon in 2012, and posted the notes here on 06/23/12. This is a reworking of those original notes, hopefully a little more readable.)
Our topic is Christianity. That may seem a broad or obvious topic. But for us to understand properly how Christians are to live, we must first understand what the nature of Christianity is. The reason this is foundational is that what you really believe defines who you really are. You will always, always, act in accordance with what you truly believe. So if we miss the boat on the meaning of Christianity and believe something apart from the truth, we are in big trouble. And frankly, I believe much of what we might call current evangelical teaching has, if not missed the boat entirely, hung its legs out into the shark infested waters. This being said, I want to give you three negative statements right out of the gate in relation to the nature of Christianity.
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. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, I want to note what specifically I'm addressing in those three statements:
1) Christianity’s foundation
2) Christianity’s feel
3) Christianity’s goal
Our three part study here will be by no means exhaustive, but I do believe it will give us a solid foundation from which to look at our churches and our lives.
Something of an aside here: While it is to many a dirty word, I do believe Religion is an absolutely fitting term with which to describe Christianity. When we attempt to say that our relationship with God is without any form of religion we in essence divorce ourselves (perhaps unwittingly) from 2,000 years of church history. This seems unwise at best, and at worst, downright arrogant. 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 are quite rightly called religion. There is nothing wrong with this. The error comes when we move from worshiping God to worshiping the religion itself (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' intro 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