Let’s take a look from the outside in for this message. Suppose you are not a Christian and have no real familiarity with anyone who is.
The word Christian means so many different things to different people. Some people have a positive image association with Christians while others are negative, undecided or indifferent. The bible has many things to say about Christians and I will do my best to spell some of these out in this message.
Here in the U.S. and around the world Christianity’s largest public relations problems are generally, “We the Christians”. On the other side of the coin we are also our own greatest advocates. Normally it depends on the specific Christian and of course, the audience.
There is much done in the name of Jesus that cannot be found between Genesis 1 & Revelation 22. Many things carry a “Christian” label. Wikipedia estimates that there are 38,000 different Christian denominations, non-denominations or sects. That is an amazing number. Some of the differences between these groups are quite significant while others are very slight. The interpretation of scripture and the practice of faith seem to be the greatest dividing lines within the church.
If I had never been to a church and did a Google Maps Search in Irvine, CA (where I live) here is what I would find:
Depending on your eyesight or screen size you may not be able to see that there are 295,105 search results. The paid search results have the large red flags on the map, but all of those little red dots are also churches. There are hundreds of churches within a 30 minute drive of my home. If I wanted to check out Christianity what would I find behind door number one or door number two or door number 300?
I can almost guarantee that the buildings would be different. Some of them would have stained glass, padded pews and crystal chandeliers. Some would be converted office buildings while others would be held in store front retail environments. They would vary in size, shape, color and décor. Most would have a cross on, in front of or within the building (some in all three locations). Some would have chairs instead of pews and some would even have sofas in the sanctuary.
Some would have service on Saturday; most would meet on Sunday while others would have services during the week as well. Some would meet in the morning, others in the evening and some would meet many times each week. Some services would be short as 30 minutes; most would be 90 minutes while others would be several hours long.
The pastors would be called many different things: Pastor, Priest, Brother, Bishop, Father, Rev., Apostle, and the list could go on. Some have attended a seminary, some have gone to a Bible College or School and some have no formal training at all. Some will preach in a robe, some in a suit and others in casual attire. Some will be young; others will be elderly but most are between 40-55. Most will be men (90%).
Christian music for worship will vary greatly. Most would have similar words and messages. Instrumentation would be all over the map. Many would have a choir or team of vocalists. Some would have an orchestra; many would have a 4-6 piece band and some would have just a piano or guitar player. Some churches would have no musicians. Some songs would be hundreds of years old, many 25-50 years old and others would be as fresh as the songs on the radio. Some will sing from hymnals while most will sing along with words projected on a screen. Some will remain seated, most will stand and many will clap or raise their hands while singing. At some of the churches people will dance or even run around the room.
Messages will vary greatly from church to church as well. Some will be centered upon morality and human decency. Some will be evangelistic in nature; asking people to become Christians. Some will seem like a lecture on a biblical topic. Most will quote from the Bible.
Each of these things discussed above can be labeled as “Christian”. Many of these things could also be labeled something else as well. There is no right or wrong to many of the things that I have listed (I am sure that some of you disagree). The evidence of Christianity cannot be found solely in our buildings, our meeting times, our pastors, our music or our message or style of delivery. Each of these will hold a piece of what it means to be Christian, but they cannot stand alone.
You can walk into a different church every Sunday and you will find many things change while many others stay the same. The evidence of Christianity must be found in the things that stay the same. From reading the Bible I know of two very important things that remain the same:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
The person and message of Jesus Christ do not change. For Christianity to be biblical, these two things must agree with the Bible.
- What does a Christian look like?
- Is there a uniform?
- Is there a secret handshake?
- Is there a special diet?
- Can they be recognized only by other Christians or will non-Christians be able to tell?
- Are there specific things that they say?
- Are there specific things that they do?
- Are there special places that they go?
- Do they treat people differently?
- Those that are Christians
- Those that are not Christians
- Do they have a goal or missions?
- What do they support?
- What are they against?
Each of the 38,000 different Christian groups will have slightly different answers to each of these questions. Many of these answers will be shaped by scripture, some will be shaped by religious tradition and others will be unique to the group.
What does the Bible provide as evidence for Christianity?
- They love each other
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
- They have a sincere desire to keep God’s commandments
And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. (1 John 2:3-6)
- They do good things
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. (Titus 2:14)
- They pray
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
- They share their faith with people who are not Christians
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
- They give thanks, praise and worship to God
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-20)
- They study the Bible
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
We could continue to list biblical evidences for Christianity, but the most important evidence of Christianity is a life that has been changed by the love, grace and power of God. A Christian is a person who has accepted Christ as Savior and Lord; believing that Christ alone has made payment for their salvation and in return they have surrendered their lives to Him.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The only time churches will agree on everything is after Jesus has returned. Even then some of us may find things to argue about. The things that divide us many times are trivial and should not keep us apart.
Style is not as important as substance. Seasoning is not as important as the meat. Christianity at its core is Jesus Christ redeeming the world through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead three days later. It is our faith in Him and the payment He made on our behalf that gives us access to salvation. Everything else is secondary.
The evidence of Christianity is Jesus in you and Jesus in me. I pray that you and I would allow Jesus to show the world that He is alive in and through us each and every day.
May we tear down the dividing walls of insecurity & fear that keep the church scattered and splintered so that we may focus on what it means to be a Christian – to be like Jesus.