Jesus said: "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
Jesus came “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free”.
The lives of Christians are the same as those of other people, but are lived in relationship with the God who made us. We believe that God is good and that he loves us dearly, and this relationship brings great joy to our lives.
God is not far from any of us. St. Paul had a wonderful phrase about God, that “In him we live and move and have our being”. But many things get in the way of our drawing close to God and sensing his presence with us.
One of these things may be that we want to know what God is like before we explore Christianity further. The best way to find out about God is to read about the life of Jesus in the Bible. The life of Jesus is described in the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In Jesus, we see God in ways that we can understand - as a human being. Jesus prayed to God as 'Father', and told his disciples that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”.
As a man, Jesus experienced the quality of suffering that we have to cope with. He only lived for about thirty three years, but in that time he experienced what it was like to be a prisoner, to have terrible fear and excruciating pain, and to be betrayed, humiliated, abused, and tortured. So we can be sure that he identifies with our suffering, and he is able to give us the help we need when we cry to him.
Another thing that can get in the way of our meeting God is a sense of our own failure - that we are not good enough for God. This may be our problem - but it is not a problem for God. All of us have failed; not one of us is good enough to come into his presence. But God has made a way for us to come to him, if we really want to. It is by forgiveness. If we are conscious of carrying around burdens of guilt and shame that have us in their grip, so that we feel oppressed and imprisoned, then the good news is that we can be set free from them.
This freedom and forgiveness is totally free for us. But it doesn't come cheaply. God loves us so much that he was prepared to pay the price, and that price was the death of his own son, Jesus, in as cruel a way as you can imagine - crucifixion. You can read about it in the Gospels mentioned earlier. But the point is, that there is nothing that can't be forgiven - Jesus himself died because of the jealousy, the cruelty, the unkindness, and the plain thoughtlessness of his own people. As he was being crucified, he cried, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing”. It is our own cruelty, unkindness and thoughtlessness that result in actions of which we are ashamed, and God, in Christ Jesus, knows all about it. He understands, and he forgives.
Our behaviour killed Jesus. But it is not the end. Three days later he came back to life. This one truth can be a stumbling block - people just don't come back to life - and it has been a stumbling block to belief for over two thousand years. Yet the Christian church to day, worldwide, is enormous and is still growing. People who become Christians have realised that the resurrection of Jesus was real, and that it has relevance in their lives today.
God cannot be killed off! The glorious truth for us is that, when we fail again as we all do, it is never the end. There is always opportunity for a new beginning - just as there was for Jesus in his resurrection.
As we go on in the Christian faith we see how Jesus offers healing, how we receive the Holy Spirit when we become Christians, the joy of being part of a worshipping community of God's people, the satisfaction of praying and the excitement of seeing answers to prayers. But there isn't the time or space to cover these things here. If you want to find out more, then please follow my earlier suggestion of reading the Bible for yourself, and visit our church where you can learn about the Christian faith in company with others.
Through our worship, our church aims to express something of the love that God has for us, and that we want to give back to God. If you live nearby and would like come and join in with our worship, you would be most welcome. If, however, you live too far away, then please visit one of the many churches that you will find in your area. We are all part of the body of Christ in this world today.
References for the quotes from the Bible: John 10.10, Luke 4.18, Acts 17.24-29, John 14.9, Luke 23.34