Christianity for Dummies
“Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence. But by the free gift
of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free.”
~Romans 3:23-24 (TEV)
Soul Snacks: So many people get freaked out by the complexity of religion. They’re intimidated by it, they don’t get it, they don’t want to talk about it—and even if they do want to talk about it, they just can’t wrap their brain around it enough to be able to string enough cogent thoughts together to carry on a stimulating conversation about it.
But that is absolutely not true about true Christianity. I know, “true Christianity” is redundant, but I want to distinguish authentic faith from the junked up, messed up stuff that some misguided folks have turned our faith into. Christianity is simple—so simple, even a caveman can get it. God made sure of that. Here it is in a nutshell in Romans 3. Here the Apostle Paul, master theologian par excellence, who sometimes is not all that easy to grasp, probably foresaw the need for a “Christianity for Dummies” (he was thinking of me!), so he simply, clearly and briefly spelled out the real condition of humankind, God’s offer of salvation, the essence of faith, and the core beliefs of Christianity in this chapter.
I would highly recommend, as a reaffirmation of your faith and as a great refresher for evangelism, that you go back and re-read Romans 3 in a modern translation, like The Message” or The New Living Translation. You’ll be amazed at the profound simplicity of our Christian faith.
Or I can give you the CliffNotes version:
1. The truth about you and me—Romans 3:9-12
“Basically, all of us, whether insiders (Jews who have the Law) or outsiders (Gentiles who live as a law unto themselves), start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one.”
2. The bad news—Romans 3:20
“For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are,” i.e., we’ll never attain God’s favor in this life now or in the life to come by being good enough.
3. The good news—Romans 3:21-22
“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him [without our futile effort to be good enough for God]. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”
4. Say What?—Romans 3:23-24
“Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living up to the standards God demands of us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ dying on the cross to pay for our sins.”
5. How cool is Christianity—Romans 3:25
“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world—you and me—to clear that world—you and me—of sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”
That’s it! That’s the Good News—and that news really is good! Religion is complex; Christianity is simple. Religion is about what you have to do; Christianity is about what God has done! Religion requires you to sacrifice to appease your god; Christianity required God to sacrifice his Son to appease himself. In religion, you pay; in Christianity, Jesus paid it all. Religious faith is about works; Christian faith is about belief. Religion leads to death; Christianity leads to life.
Need I say more?
Now I’m not all that bright—on par with a caveman—but I think I’ll take Christianity! How ‘bout you?
P.S The great reformer Martin Luther wrote of his revelation that salvation is by faith alone, “At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith. Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open.”