‘Christian’ is word that many different people use in many different ways. Broadly speaking, it refers to someone who is a follower of Jesus Christ. However, it’s possible that people mean something else when they use the word ‘Christian’. Maybe they mean a set of beliefs, or a set of behaviours, or even just a vibe. Whatever the case may be, given the confusion, we thought it might be helpful to outline some of the big things we believe at City on a Hill – so you know the kind of things we mean when we say ‘we’re Christians’.
‘Gospel’ is a word meaning ‘good news’. So, when we say ‘the gospel’, we mean the good news that Jesus lived a sinless life, died a gritty death in the place of sinners, and rose again victorious over Satan, sin, and death itself.
This is really good news – because it means that Jesus has taken his rightful place as the Lord over all creation, and anyone who believes in him shall not perish, but enjoy the forgiveness of sins, freedom from death, and life forever with him.
Sin is often thought of as the bad stuff we do that breaks the rules. But the Bible gives us a much broader definition of sin – it’s our tendency and disposition to deny God’s God-ness, and rebel against him. So, it could be something we do, or it could be something we fail to do. It might be breaking God’s rules, it might involve creating our own rules, and replacing God in the act. With this definition in mind – it’s not too difficult to see that all of us are guilty.
Sin has significant, and wide-reaching consequences. It fractures our relationship with God, and requires a just response from him – and as much as it might seem jarring, the Bible tells us that the only appropriate penalty is death. Not only this, but the rest of creation gets caught up in the chaos that our sin creates, leading to the disharmony and decay of the world we live in, and the relationships we have with ourselves, with one another, and with creation.
But there is hope for us, and for the world.
We believe that in Jesus, God has graciously, lovingly, mercifully done something about our sin – he’s taken it upon himself, by dying for it on the cross. When he died, he faced the punishment of death that we had earnt for ourselves… so that now we don’t have to. Instead – we enjoy the fact that we’re saved from the penalty and power of sin – and rejoice that because Jesus has dealt with it – we’ve been reconciled to God, our relationship is restored, and our hope of eternal life with him is secure.
God didn’t have to do this, by the way. He’s just that gracious, loving, and merciful. It’s one of the many reasons we worship him.
The Bible is a collection of 66 books written across hundreds of years by dozens of different authors, which all come together to tell one incredible story about Jesus Christ. Not only is it the best-selling book of all time… according to the NY Times, it’s the best-selling book of the year, every year. With that in mind, it’s hard to deny that the Bible is the most loved, most read, most incredible piece of literature the world has ever known.
But it’s more than just a book. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God – it’s how he speaks to us. Therefore, it carries his authority, and it tells us true and wonderful things about him. As we enjoy, understand and submit to it, we enjoy, understand and submit to him.
The church is not a building, and it’s not a meeting. It is a people. God’s people. As we’re saved by him, we’re invited into a community of believers – often described in the Bible as the family of God.
There’s two ways to think about the church, both of which are equally true and real. One is as the ‘local’ church – the gathering that we can see, and smell and touch as we get together in the same room each week, because we live at the same time, and in (roughly) the same place.
On the other hand, there’s the ‘global’ church – which is the gathering that we can’t see – because it extends across the world, and throughout history, to include everyone who has ever called Jesus their Lord and saviour. One day – we’ll all be in the same place singing the same song. But until then, we enjoy the blessings of being part of the global church by belonging to a local community of believers.
God in his love has acted through Jesus Christ to free us from our slavery to sin. When Jesus had risen from the dead, he said to his disciples ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make all nations my disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’. Baptism is the outward sign which symbolises that we have received ourselves what Christ has done for us; we are united with Jesus in his death; we are granted the forgiveness of sins; we are raised with Christ to new life.