The Purpose of Christian Faith

So far in our look at what Real Christianity is, here are some things that we’ve seen: First, the Christian faith is specifically faith in the person of Christ. It is not about church buildings. It isn’t about us being good enough to earn eternal life. It is not about us holding the world accountable for its wrongs. It is not about us condemning others or telling others how they should live. Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sin, meaning we deserved punishment for rebelling against God and Christ took that punishment on our behalf. He is our substitute. When we place our faith in Him, we accept God’s forgiveness.

Second, we’ve learned that the Christian faith is a faith built on the concepts of acceptance, forgiveness, joy, celebration and truth.

Here’s what we have not seen: We have not seen any spiritual hype or heavy religiosity. What we’ve seen so far deals with life in a very real way. Eternal life in heaven or on the new earth is mentioned as a promise, but our current lives are dealt with in depth. We have not been burdened with religious requirements. We have not been told that we have to think a certain way or do certain things. We have seen that we can either have faith in Christ and be forgiven or that we can choose not to have faith in Christ and not be forgiven. The Christian faith is so simple, but people tend to make it so complicated. It is relevant and tangible, but people tend to try and spiritualize it: making it more mystical than real. This leads me to my question for the night: What is the purpose of Christianity? Why does the Christian faith exist?

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Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.

Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.

Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works. Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. This is how God’s children — and the Devil’s children — are made evident.[1]

If we think back to what we’ve looked at so far in this letter, we remember that people rebelled against God. Despite our rebellion, God accepted us and forgave our sin. Remember that Christ is the propitiation for our sin. He took the punishment we deserved upon Himself. When we place our faith in the person of Christ, we accept that forgiveness. These are the things that John writes in chapters 1 and 2.

In Chapter 3, John begins by asking us to look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called His children! This is the next thing we learn about genuine Christian faith: It is a faith that promotes love, not hate. Here we are not talking about a shallow love that we might have for stuff, celebrities, tv shows, movies or music. These are things that we become enamored with and interested in, but that’s as far as our connection goes.

When I was in middle school, I was enamored with a young lady. She caught my attention, and I still remember when my studly little self built up the courage to ask her to take a picture with me. It was one of the hardest things I ever did and she was gracious enough to let me down easy.

I was interested in this girl, but my interest was not the deep love mentioned in the text. This love goes deeper than interest, deeper than infatuation, deeper than pleasure, and deeper than lust. Love, for the Christian, is a love that rocks us to the core. It is unconditional. This means that people don’t have to catch God’s attention. He gives it from the start. What amazes me most is that we are incapable of loving this way unless we know Christ. From what I have observed, it seems that even people who claim to love someone else unconditionally have built that unconditional love on at least one condition. Couples begin dating because they are attracted to one another. The marriage is based on that initial attraction. Their resolve in old age began with that initial condition of attraction, even if the love experienced had matured into an unconditional love. This is not the case with God.

Here is a side note for those reading: This is why it is so important that when you date, you only date someone who knows Christ. Someone who does not know Christ is incapable of unconditional love.

According to this passage, the love that God has for us has two key elements: acceptance and forgiveness. This means that if we are to love as God loves, then we too must accept and forgive others. If we do not do not love like this, God still loves us; but we fail to live out the faith we have in Christ. In fact we show that we do not have faith in Christ. If anyone does not love others in such a way that he accepts them no matter what they’ve done and forgives them for their wrongs, that person does not practice faith in Christ. The Christian faith is a faith of undying, deep, unifying, unconditional, rock you to the core love; love that the Christian has even for his enemies (Matt. 5:44, Luke 6:27, 35).

We’ve learned that the Christian faith is a faith of love, built on acceptance and forgiveness. Next John mentions that we are now children of God, and that it has not been revealed to us what we will be (v. 2). This is where we learn that the Christian faith deals very specifically with our lives on this earth. People who have faith in Christ are promised a future with God and are promised rewards in the future, but Scripture actually dedicates very little space to future events and our future existence. Faith in Christ was specifically designed by God for all people here and now. It is not simply a get out of Hell or get into Heaven. It is a rock you to the core love relationship with God and with the people of God that begins now: as soon as we place our faith in Christ.

It is community, now

It is faith, now

It is acceptance, now

It is forgiveness, now

It is love, now!
When John works out this idea, he states that those who sin do not know Christ and those who do not sin do know Christ. Looking back at the Greek, it seems John here is specifically referring to habitual sin (poieo, present active participle, v. 4, “continually and constantly committing”). If there is a lack of striving to please Christ, we know that we do not know Christ. If there is a joyful striving to please Christ, we know that we do know Him. Keep in mind that striving to follow a set of rules is not the same as striving to please Christ. I mentioned this previously and encourage readers to go back and explore this idea.

Finally, we arrive at the purpose for the Christian faith: that the works of the Devil will be destroyed (v. 8). Remember that it is the Devil who first tempted people to rebel against God. All sinfulness is a direct result of that rebellion. Because of that sinfulness, we are separated from a good and holy God. Christ is our propitiation; he took our punishment upon himself so that we can be returned to God as true children. In the end, all of creation will be renewed (Rev. 21-22). We can be children of God here and now, and experience this deep, rock you to the core love relationship with God here and now. We can be restored in the present tense. This is the simple purpose of Christianity.

[1] 1 John 3:1-10a (HCSB)

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