Many people share the same questions about Christianity. Sometimes our questions are sincere...sometimes they are just excuses. The answers to the following questions may or may not be of help to you. If an answer is unclear, please ask for clarification.

What is sin?

Sin is self-centered living, as opposed to God-centered living. Sin isn’t limited to things we do intentionally – like choosing to harm someone or refusing to do what we know He wants us to do. It is also unintentionally leaving God out of the things we do.

What does it mean to repent?

Repenting means that we agree with God that our sin and self-centered living is wrong.

What does it mean to make Jesus “Lord of our life”?

Allowing Jesus to be our Lord, means that we let Him be the boss. All areas of our life, from career decisions to how we treat to people, are under His control and influenced by His place in our life.

What does it mean to respond to what Christ did for us?

We respond by doing something as a result of believing these truths. We can do this any number of ways, but commonly our response begins with a prayer. Just talk to God and in your own words, acknowledge your need for Him and thank Him for paying the penalty for your sin and forgiving you. Tell Him that you now want Him to control your life.

What does it mean to “be saved”?

A person is saved when they respond to the gospel, or good news of God’s offer of salvation.

How does Christianity give someone purpose in life?

Here’s a short answer to a really complex question: Christianity answers the two questions necessary to have a sense of purpose in life: What am I here for? and Why do I matter?

The Bible teaches in Genesis 1-2 that God created us to be in a relationship with Him and to “fill the earth and subdue it” (build cultures by participating in our role in society). Sin greatly hinders our ability to do these things as God wants. Through Jesus we can enjoy the relationship with God that we were designed for and contribute to society using the truths taught in God’s Word.

The Bible also teaches in Genesis 1-2 that we matter because we were created in God’s image. We have worth and value because God created us. We didn’t just accidentally come along, instead, God is intimately involved in each person’s creation and existence (Matthew 10:30, Psalm 139). Because we have this intrinsic worth, we have significance and know that we matter because we are created and loved by God.

What does it mean to “bear good fruit”? Jesus uses this analogy to show that in the same way a tree bears fruit based on the type and quality of tree it is, people behave in a way that shows who they really are. Galatians 5.22-23 says that the fruit, or evidence of God in us is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control”. These character qualities are just a few examples of “fruit” that people can “bear”.

What if we don’t see the evidence of salvation in our lives? Does that mean we’re not really saved?

If we cannot see fruit in our life, it MAY be indicative of a lack of sincere faith. If you feel this might be the case, talk to a spiritual friend or leader. Sometimes we are tricked into thinking we don’t have fruit so we’ll doubt our faith, when in fact, there is fruit in our life. A mature Christian friend can help us see the fruit we feel might be missing. Or, if we really aren’t exhibiting fruit, they can help direct us to do what needs to be done.

Can someone can get saved just before they die and still go to heaven? If so, why not live life my way and then “repent” right before I die?

Jesus tells a parable (Matthew 20.1-15) that illustrates how God treats everyone who responds to the gospel the same: whether they have been Christians for many years, or just a few minutes they are given eternal life.

However, from a logical standpoint, you’re taking quite a gamble by waiting until right before you die to respond to God’s love; you don’t know if how you die will allow for time to do this. Once we reject what God has offered us (which we do by choosing to live our own way), we are condemned until we accept it. And from a spiritual standpoint, this attitude shows a lack of understanding of what is offered by salvation.

Is there such thing as purgatory (a place for people who were good people, but weren’t saved)?

The Bible doesn’t make any mention of a “neutral” place for good-but-not-saved people, so while it’s a nice idea, we can’t count on its existence.

I was baptized when I was a baby. Am I saved?

The Bible teaches that it is our responsibility to respond to what God has done for us. Babies are not choosing to follow God by getting baptized; because their parents choose to baptize them, it is more of an act of dedicating a child to God rather than salvation. Those who have been baptized as children are still accountable to God to choose Him for themselves when they’re old enough to make that decision.

What happens to people who don’t hear about Jesus and have the chance to reject Him?

Mark 16.16 says that those who accept Jesus are saved and that those that reject Him are condemned, but the Bible doesn’t say anything specific about what happens to those that don’t have the opportunity to do either. Romans 1.19-20 says “...what may be known about God is plain to them [people], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” This indicates that everyone is accountable to respond to God to the extent they are able because of how He has revealed Himself in the universe, but it doesn’t say exactly what this ‘response’ must look like. However, the Bible does teach that God is both merciful/loving and just. Because of this, we can trust that God will make a fair and just decision while still being merciful to those who didn’t have the opportunity to accept His gift of Jesus.

How do I have a relationship with someone I can't see or touch?

It can sometimes be difficult for people to understand what a relationship with God is like if they haven’t experienced it for themselves. Even though God isn’t a physical person we can see, our relationship with Him is much the same as a relationship with anyone else. We can enjoy His company, spend time with Him, trust Him, be honest and genuine with Him, talk about things we’re excited or frustrated about…just look at any of your good friendships with people and it can be an example of how to relate to God. We grow our relationship with God by spending time with Him in prayer, worship, and by reading what He has to say to us in the Bible.

What does it mean to "bear good fruit"?

In the Bible, Jesus talks about people bearing fruit. He was using a metaphor, comparing people to fruit-bearing trees. In the same way that you can tell the nature and quality of a tree by its fruit, you can tell the nature and quality of a person by their actions. An "apple" tree that produces cherries is not an apple's a cherry tree. In the same way, a "good" person that is known for their bad actions must not really be good.

So good fruit refers to good actions or behavior. The Bible lists “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control” (Galatians 5.22-23) as specific examples of good fruit, but it encompasses all the ways God changes us to become more like Him.

How do I know what is sin and what isn't? How do I know if I have sinned?

Generally put, sin is self-centered living, as opposed to God-centered living. Sin isn’t limited to things we do intentionally – like choosing to harm someone or refusing to do what we know He wants us to do. It is also unintentionally leaving God out of the things we do.

There are two ways to find out more specifically what things are sin: God's Word, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit's conviction.

God has established standards for living, which are recorded in our Bibles. God's "rules" are not designed to keep us from having fun...they're designed to keep us from pain. Sin has painful consequences that affect our life and the lives of those around us.

Additionally, the Holy Spirit convicts us when we have lived in a way that is displeasing to God. We feel guilty and know we need to change to restore a right relationship to God.

Some "sin" is black and white; there are things in the Bible that God commands us to do or not do. However, there are also gray areas; sometimes what is right for one person is not right for another. This is where we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in knowing what is best for us.

The great thing is that God has already forgiven us when we sin. He always loves us and that love for Him is what causes us to want to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.

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M. Schmidt © 2005