The Essence of Christianity
(Sermon Notes) By Warren Zehrung 11/13/2021
In today’s sermon we will be looking at how we become and remain true Christians. It is good that from time to time we are reminded of what a Christian’s life entails.
Our nation is often referred to as a Christian nation. That is only because a majority of citizens ‘profess’ to be followers of Jesus Christ.
But, in actuality, the world knows little or nothing about true Christianity. For example: We do not have an immortal soul that goes to heaven or hell when we die. Jesus walking on water and raising the dead is not what Christianity is about.
Those things are facts about the person of Jesus and not what Jesus taught us to become.
Jesus was born to a young Jewish virgin named Mary; Jesus grew up in Nazareth; He calmed the stormy sea, He was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.
The world even knows that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected—but they do not know how to change their lives by following the principles and virtues Jesus taught and lived by.
We in God’s Church are privileged to know God’s truth. We are freely presented with the knowledge of true Christianity. We are told that Jesus did two things:
Matthew 9:35 Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
Those are two separate things.
First, He preached the Gospel of the Kingdom — the Good News of the coming Kingdom of God.
Second, He healed every sickness and every disease — yes, Jesus worked many great works — but, He did those things to show and prove that He was the Prophesied Messiah (Luke 7:22).
I would like you to notice that these miracles were separate from the preaching of the Kingdom. We Christians live according to the way of God’s Kingdom—even now. The world does not. John the Baptist had some concerns that Jesus was not ushering in the Kingdom – even then. He sent his disciples to Christ who assured them that He worked those miracles as evidence that He was the prophesied Messiah according to the Scriptures.
Luke 7:22 Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John [the Baptist] what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the Gospel is preached.
Somewhere in there Jesus also taught what Christianity is. That is what the world is mostly oblivious to. This present evil world is self-serving—taking care of themselves, first and foremost.
True Christians know that you cannot out-give God. Christians are service oriented—giving of themselves in a continuous manner.
Worldly Christians love their own, but True Christians do not fit into the world or society about them. True Christians are persecuted all the day long—accounted as sheep for the slaughter (Romans 8:36). Jesus said:
John 15:18 If the world hates you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
John 15:19 If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
John 15:20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.
There are two kinds of people—converted and unconverted. Converted people have a right moral core given and implanted by God.
Today, we will be looking at the Essence of Christianity. The world likes to quote John 3:16 because it makes Christianity sound so easy.
These are the spoken words of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John the Baptist said it in a similar but contrasting way explaining that if one does not believe in Jesus – he most assuredly will perish.
John 3:36 He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.
The world believes in a very superficial way that Jesus was a real person who was born in Bethlehem about 2,000 years ago. That shallow belief is not what Jesus is speaking of here in John 3:16.
Sometimes we expect more from those in the world than they can possibly perform – because they lack God’s Spirit. The world has embraced the name “Christ” and Christianity without accepting the words and teachings of Jesus Christ. Instead they hold to false doctrines of Sunday worship, Christmas, Easter, the Trinity and the like.
But, more importantly, what are we—True Christians—to believe, live and demonstrate by our actions?
What are our core doctrines and beliefs that we live by?
That is the essence of our Christianity.
Believing in Jesus must also take account and embrace in obedience all the things Jesus stood for, represented, spoke and taught.
Which is the first and greatest Commandment of all?
Mark 12:29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: [the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob]
Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy being, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
Mark 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
We see here that those who correctly believe in Jesus will have everlasting life.
Two chapters after John 3:16, Jesus modifies that statement about believing in Him:
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on Him [God the Father] that sent me, has everlasting Life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto Life.
A true Christian looks to God the Father—and is reconciled to Him. We see that true Christianity is a much larger concept than simply believing on the personage of Jesus.
Christianity is a belief system. Not a belief system that must be known, as much as — a belief system that must be believed and lived.
1Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
Christianity is not to be lived in a legalistic way but it is a belief system that is written, engraved, on the inward parts of our heart.
God’s word, God’s way, literally becomes a part of us.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Romans 10:8 But what does [the Scripture] say? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shalt be saved.
We find our belief system becoming very great. It is a salvational issue that we believe that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead—the Bible says so in two-dozen places! The Worldwide Church of God began to teach the heresy that Jesus raised Himself.
Romans 10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Romans 10:11 For the Scripture says, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed. (Isaiah 49:23)
But Jesus said—quoting His own words to Isaiah—that many will not heed his admonition.
Matthew 15:8 This people draws nigh unto me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (Mark 7:6).
Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their reverence toward me is taught by the precepts of men:
Brethren, let’s not apply those words only to the world – let’s consider the Church of God as well—and make sure that our heart is right with God.
True Christians are drawn by God—called by God out of this world and its ways (John 6:44, 65).
They must receive a personal invitation to become a child of God (1John 3:2).
It is indeed a precious calling to be summoned to the very Family of God.
Galatians 4:6 And because ye are children, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
The world does not have that close relationship with the Father because of their sins.
Isaiah 59:2 Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear [your prayers].
True Christians put on and live the attributes of God. Peter explains the Christian development:
1Peter 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.
Our Sanctification means to be made holy, to be led by God’s Holy Spirit and set apart from this world.
Paul explains how we begin to enter the Family of God
2Corinthians 6:17-18 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.
“Come out from among them,” that is the first step in the process of Sanctification.
Brethren, true Christians are separate from this world and its ways. Only God can save us out of this evil world through the setting apart of ourselves through the sanctification of the Spirit. We are able to become holy as God is holy. We begin to be led by God’s Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14).
Many Scriptures teach us that Jesus Christ undertakes the work of sanctification of His brethren—just as He did their justification.
We find here in Hebrews 10, the process of how we become saints in God’s Church.
Hebrews 10:14 For by one offering [the sacrifice of Jesus Christ] has perfected forever them that are sanctified. [Set apart from this world].
Hebrews 10:15 Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that was said before, [in the Scriptures.]
Hebrews 10:16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;
Paul is telling us here that Jesus prophesied through the Prophet Jeremiah that He would sanctify His Church, and those in the Millennium.
Jeremiah 31:31 Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Jeremiah 31:32 Not according to the Covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my Covenant they broke, although I was an husband unto them, says the LORD:
Jesus prophesied of the New Covenant way back in the Old Testament!
Jeremiah 31:33 But this shall be the Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Add to notes:
Hebrews 8:10 For this is the Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
That is the process of sanctification and the essence of Christianity.
Our Sanctification means to be made holy, to be led by God’s Spirit and set apart from this evil world.
It is God’s Sanctification that makes us different from the world.
After our initial repentance and following forgiveness, Sanctification is the inward spiritual transformation that Jesus Christ works in a convert by His Holy Spirit.
Who and what is a Christian? Paul tells us that a Christian is a new spiritual creation. We have come out of the world.
2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
Brethren, our reconciliation to God the Father makes us one with God.
Notice again how Paul states this truth.
Hebrews 2:11 For both He that Sanctifies [that is Jesus Christ] and they who are Sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
King David put it this way:
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right Spirit within me.
Right there, God changes us – who and what we were before conversion. Why do we believe and study the Bible so diligently? We study the Bible because that is the only way to know the mind of God.
If you believe that the Scriptures are the spiritual Word of God—and you do—you have been given the grandest gift from God. The Bible is the only place we can find the doctrines of God, the Nature of God, and His teachings.
Brethren, it is the Word of God in us that Sanctifies us, making us separate from the world.
We will see here the words of Jesus as He prayed to His Father – just before He died.
Jesus is asking His Father to Sanctify us – in other words – make us His converted saints.
Jesus asks of His Father:
John 17:14 I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:15 I’m not praying that thou should take them out of the world, but that thou should keep them from the evil one.
John 17:16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
John 17:18 As You [Father] have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
Here is an amazing statement on How Jesus lived His entire life on earth in the pursuit of His Father’s Godliness.
John 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
“I sanctify myself,” means that Jesus separated Himself totally from the ways of this world. He fully put on the way of His Father. For us, that Truth is only found in the word of God – the Bible.
A few moments ago we saw in Hebrews 10:14: For by one sacrifice of Jesus Christ has perfected forever them that are sanctified.
We see that concept reiterated here:
Ephesians 5:25 … Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself for it;
Jesus sacrificed Himself for the Church.
Ephesians 5:26 That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word [of God], [Jesus covered and removed our sins].
Ephesians 5:27 That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
‘Holy’ and ‘Sanctified’ are synonymous words – meaning set apart by being made clean and purified for God’s spiritual purposes.
Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
Brethren, let me ask rhetorically: Where does God’s Spirit lead a person?
John 16:7 I’m telling you, The truth is that it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Parakletos [intercessory Spirit of truth] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send it unto you.
John 16:13 Howbeit when the Spirit of truth, is come, it will lead you into all truth…
Sanctification is apparent in our Godly conduct. Christians cannot take sanctification for granted. Paul gave some good instruction for Christians to remain Sanctified. The Thessalonians were living their Christianity – but there were a few areas where they had let down and needed to be gently reminded:
First, it must be noted that it is the job of the ministry to look out for the spiritual welfare of the brethren, and no one should take offense at sound teaching.
1Thessalonians 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
1Thessalonians 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
1Thessalonians 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
1Thessalonians 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but always follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
“Follow that which is good,” that is the process of Sanctification.
Paul wrote in Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, [Sanctification], without which no man shall see the Lord:
What does Paul mean by “Always follow that which is good?”
He is writing of the Love of God, patience with everyone, kindness toward all, being understanding of others in gentleness, showing virtue and modesty, while practicing self-control, and chastity.
1Thessalonians 5:19 Quench not the Spirit. [As it leads us into God’s Truth]
John 14:23 Jesus answered and said …, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we [Jesus and the Father] will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
Brethren—our goal is to be holy as God is holy – we always have a good way to go.
Sanctification is a process we continually pursue.
Those who think, “I got baptized – I’ve got it made,” have a very myopic view of salvation – they are very near-sighted when it comes to the process of Christian Sanctification.
1Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and being and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You can just feel the love Paul had for the brethren.
Acts 16:16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
Acts 16:17 The same [damsel] followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
Demons are able to speak the truth – but they do so in order to put the Truth of God in an unfavorable light.
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
Acts 16:18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the [evil] spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And [the evil spirit] came out the same hour.
Acts 16:19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,
Acts 16:20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
Acts 16:21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.
Acts 16:22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
Acts 16:23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:
Acts 16:24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
We find here the story of the Philippian Jailer being converted.
Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.
Acts 16:26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
Acts 16:27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.
Acts 16:28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.
Acts 16:29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,
Acts 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
Christianity is the salvational issue.
Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shalt be saved, and thy house.
Acts 16:32 And they spoke unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.
The ‘word of the Lord’—are the things Jesus said and taught!!!
John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
The World’s faith centers on the facts regarding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ while almost entirely disregarding the words and teaching of our Lord.
Acts 16:33 And [the jailer] took [Paul and Silas] the same hour of the night, and washed their wounds; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
God granted repentance to the jailer and his household, they were baptized and had hands lain on them — receiving God’s Holy Spirit, which instilled in them a core set of moral values enabling them to live by the word of the Lord—making them Christians.
2Corinthians 1:22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
Acts 16:34 And when [the jailer] had brought [Paul and Silas] into his home, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
It was the word of the Lord Jesus Christ which converted them into Christians. The jailer and his entire household were taught and received the doctrine of Christ.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
Hebrews 6:2 Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
Just like Jesus taught in Luke 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3: It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
1Peter 1:25 The Word of the Lord endures forever.
Of course, when Jesus said, “by every word of God,” He was quoting Himself from Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 8:1 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers.
Deuteronomy 8:2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou would keep His commandments, or not.
Deuteronomy 8:3 And [the LORD] humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knew not, neither did thy fathers know; that [the LORD] might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD — doth man live.
2Corinthians 3:3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
Ephesians 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
Ephesians 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
Ephesians 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Filled with all the fullness of God,” that is Sanctification.
Ephesians 3:20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
Ephesians 3:21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
Paul gave the Colossians a “to do” list and a “not to do list,” if they were to become and remain true Christians.
Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God.
“Seek those things which are above,” that is the process of Sanctification.
Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above [Sanctification], not on things on the earth.
Colossians 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
Colossians 3:6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience:
Colossians 3:7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
Colossians 3:8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Colossians 3:9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:
“Put on the new man,” that is the process of Sanctification.
Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Colossians 3:13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
That is a salvational must: (Matthew 5:23-24, Matthew 6:15 “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”)
Colossians 3:14 And above all these things put on charity [Godly love], which is the bond of perfectness.
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body [the Body of Christ]; and be ye thankful.
Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
End: The Essence of Christianity
A True Christian is reconciled to God: (Isaiah 59:2)