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Christianity traces its beginning back to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Central to all of this is Jesusí resurrection. It has been rightly said that if the resurrection could be disproved, then Christianity would be just another system among many moral and ethical systems in the world. The towering figure behind Christianity is Jesus Christ, who, though sacrificed on a cross, rose bodily from the dead, and lives today.

The term Christianity does not appear in the Bible. The word Christian only makes brief appearances in Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. It was coined as an insult. The original idea was to tease followers of Jesus because they were acting like ďlittle Christs.Ē In fact, authentic Christians have always been those who claimed they had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, based on faith. This relationship does not depend on Christians living a certain way (itís not a reward). Rather, it is a relationship that results in a lifestyle that pleases God.

Christianity stands on the roots of Godís revelation through the Old Testament and the New Testament. In its development around the world throughout twenty centuries, Christianity has taken on many forms and expressions. This has been going on for so long that to those in one tradition, the worship styles and structure of other traditions often seem foreign, strange, and even wrong. But the issue of right and wrong form always takes us back to Jesus Christ and the New Testament church. Our practices must not be evaluated by whether we are comfortable with them, but rather by how closely they reflect the teaching of Jesus and the general patterns of worship established by those who knew him best.

Very different streams of Christianity trace their origins back to Jesus. In fact, the heart of Christianity is about a personal relationship with Jesus, lived out in a variety of ways. This variety of approaches does not make them different religions. There is a common misconception in referring to different denominations (Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Orthodox, etc.) as different religions. This they are not. They are varying expressions of the teachings laid out in the Bible, combined with history, tradition, culture, and different emphases. To the degree that these streams are faithful to Jesus Christ, they represent a beautiful diversity within the unity established by Jesus.

What you will find is that the people who have a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ manage to live beyond the limitations of their backgrounds and traditions. Itís not that worship styles or leadership structures in churches arenít significant or valuable. But ultimately, Christianity proves its message for all people by the way authentic believers get along with other authentic believers whose practices may differ widely but whose faith rests on Jesus. ďFor God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal lifeĒ (John 3:16). Christianity is the ongoing, living expression of Christís work in the world. It represents Godís successful purposes in rescuing mankind from sin and providing his children with eternal life.

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ďIím thrilled with the NLT second edition. . . .The attention to accuracy while being understandable makes the NLT the perfect choice for all churches called to grow people in Christ and reach people far from God.Ē

Brad Mitchell
Trinity Church
Lansing, Michigan

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