• The Bible is God’s inspired Word. It is not people’s words about God, but God’s Word about Himself. It is God’s self-revelation.
• The Bible is the only source of what we believe, teach, and confess.
• All people are sinners. Sin separates us from God. All people, therefore, need to be restored to a right relationship with God.
• Jesus is God’s one and only Son. He is God come to earth in our human flesh.
• Jesus died on the cross to pay the price of all human sin. He rose triumphant from the grave, having defeated the powers of sin, death, and Satan once and for all.
• God offers and gives forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who trust in Jesus as their Savior.
• Sinners are saved only by God’s grace (His undeserved love) through faith in Jesus Christ.
There seem to be a lot of misperceptions about Christians and Christianity. Depending on where you go for information, you may hear or read that Christians are narrow-minded, bigoted, and intolerant. You may hear that they are unloving and uncaring people who think they are better than everyone else. You may read that they are all hypocrites, saying one thing while doing another.
There are times when all of these things are true of Christians. That is because Christians are not perfect people. Christians are not “better” than other people. Like all people of every place and time, Christians are sinners. Like everyone else, there are times when Christians are in fact narrow-minded, bigoted, and intolerant. There are times when they are in fact unloving and uncaring. Christians can in fact be hypocritical… saying one thing but doing another.
No, Christians are not perfect people because perfect people do not exist. Christians are not “better” than other people nor do they consider themselves to be. Christians are people who humbly confess that they are sinners…that they sin against God and others by their thoughts, words, and deeds. Christians are people who humbly recognize that they are sinners, and that sin separates people from God.
If sin separates people from God, how does one go about getting right with God? How can that separation be ended? That is the all-important question! How can sinners be made right with God? Here misperceptions once again abound. Christians are not people who try to tip the scale in their favor by doing more good than bad. And Christianity is not about following a set of rules or instructions to get right with God and somehow earning one’s own way to heaven. If being right with God is all about tipping the scale in one’s favor, how can one ever be certain that he or she has done enough? He or she can’t! If getting to heaven is all about following rules and instructions for right living, how can one ever be certain that he or she has followed those rules closely enough? He or she can’t! Uncertainty would always be there.
The God of heaven and earth, however, has removed all such uncertainty. The fact of the matter is, sinners cannot make themselves right with God by their own works or efforts. What sinners cannot do for themselves, therefore, God Himself has done!
He sent His Son Jesus to live a perfect life in our place. God then sacrificed His own Son in the place of sinners…so that sinners may be forgiven.
Christians are and remain sinners, but they are forgiven sinners. All their sins are forgiven and washed away for the sake of Jesus. The certainty of being right with God depends not on us or our efforts, but on the saving work of Jesus Christ. Christian churches, therefore, are not gathering places for “good” people who are better than everyone else. Rather, they are gathering places for sinners who seek the gift of God’s forgiveness for the sake of Jesus… forgiveness for all the sinful failings of their daily lives.
Does that give Christians an excuse to go out and be unloving and uncaring people? Does that give them an excuse to say, “It doesn’t matter how I treat other people because God is going to forgive me anyway.”? Absolutely not! Such thinking would be yet another misperception. Christians are not perfect people, but motivated by the forgiving and saving love of Jesus, they strive to live lives that reflect His love. They strive to be more loving and caring people as they live out their daily lives in the world. When they fail, they again seek God’s forgiveness…and with that forgiveness His strength to more faithfully live as His people. Misperceptions about Christians and Christianity abound. Misperceptions about Lutherans and Lutheranism also abound, but that is probably another subject for another day. Suffice it to say that Lutherans are Christians who humbly recognize that they are sinners…yet sinners who live with the certainty that they are forgiven for the sake of Jesus.