FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS



Website: History & Purpose?

What is the history and purpose of this website?
A CENTURY 21 DISCIPLE OF JESUS (AC21DOJ.org) is a web-based, non-denominational Christian discipleship ministry owned and operated exclusively by me, Greg Williamson. It is not affiliated with any particular church or denomination.

This website first began in 1999, while I was attending Southeastern Baptist Theological College. Initial content consisted solely of class papers and research projects.

At that time JUNO had partnered with another company (Homestead) to offer free web space, and I used Microsoft Word to convert text documents (.doc) to webpage files (.html) that I posted (or "published) to my site. Eventually Homestead began charging a fee, and that's when I decided to make the move to a real website.

I found a website hosting service (an "Internet Presence Provider"), and purchased a copy of Front Page 2002/XP (along with a simple, step-by-step book on how to use it). Since I continue to do quite a bit of reading and some writing, finding content for my site has never been a problem.

Simply put, the purpose of this website is to provide free, quality informational resources that help promote G.R.E.A.T. Christian discipleship: Genuine - Relational - Enthusiastic - Active - Thankful

For more info, please click on the "Statement of Faith" tab under the TABLE OF CONTENTS tab at the top of this page.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have.


A Christian?

What is a Christian?
By definition, a Christian is someone who has a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. While many people will say they believe in Jesus, what they really mean is that they believe he was an actual historical figure -- kind of like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. However, simply believing that Jesus lived, and even agreeing with some of his teachings, does not make a person a Christian.

Specifically, there are four steps necessary for having a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ:

  1. ADMIT your sinful condition. "All of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory." (Romans 3:23)
  2. ACCEPT the fact that Jesus Christ died in your place so that you can be forgiven for your sins and receive eternal life. "Sin pays off with death. But God's gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23) "God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die." (John 3:16) "God has also said that he gave us eternal life and that this life comes to us from his Son. And so, if we have God's Son, we have this life. But if we don't have the Son, we don't have this life." (1 John 5:11-12)
  3. ASK God to forgive your sins based on the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on your behalf. "So you will be saved, if you honestly say, 'Jesus is Lord,' and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death." (Romans 10:9)
  4. OBEY Jesus. "And Christ did die for all of us. He died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for the one who died and was raised to life for us." (2 Corinthians 5:15) (all CEV)

 

A disciple?

What is a "disciple" of Jesus?
By definition, a "disciple" is "one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another." The word "disciple" is related to the word "discipline," which means "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character" (Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary). In simplest terms, then, a disciple of Jesus is someone who personally accepts Jesus' teachings and shares those teachings with others, the end result being a total -- albeit ongoing -- transformation of both beliefs and behavior.

True, saving faith involves much more than mere mental assent to certain facts. It involves placing our complete trust in Christ, and then living for God rather than self. Faith and faithfulness are inseparable: salvation joins us both to Christ and to fellow Christians, and the Holy Spirit "nurtures the initial response of faith to the gospel message into a continuing life of joyful praise and obedience to God (Rom. 1:5; 16:26), and loving service to the neighbour (Gal. 5:6, 13–14; 6:1–2)" (New Dictionary of Biblical Theology).

True, committed discipleship is very costly and, in fact, involves nothing less than a radical rethinking of what life is all about. As Jesus put it: "'If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple'" (Luke 14:26-27, NASB).


Bible: Myths & legends?

Isn't the Bible really just a book of myths and legends?
This is a common -- and sadly mistaken -- refrain of those who, for whatever reason, have decided in advance to reject the clear teachings of the Bible. However, it is certainly not what the authors of the Bible believed: they knew and remained fully convinced that they were recording actual, historical events.

The Bible is the record of God's dealings with the human race. While nature and the inner workings of the human person testify to God's existence, it is only in the pages of his inspired, authoritative Word, the Bible, that we learn in particular of God and his plan to redeem us fallen, sinful human beings.

It should come as no surprise that there is a tremendous amount of evidence for the Bible's historical reliability. Archeology, the study of ancient writings (manuscripts), the study of prophecy, and eyewitness testimony all help to confirm the fact that the Bible is entirely trustworthy.

To offer just one example. ... It's been shown that it takes more than two full generations for a myth or legend to develop. The bare fact that the NT gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were written within a few decades of Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection in and of itself constitutes substantial evidence that the miraculous events recorded actually took place. If they had not, there would have been too many eyewitnesses still living who could dispute them. (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics)


Bible: Translations & copies?

Hasn't the Bible been translated and copied so many times that what we have today cannot be trusted?
Of course it's true that the Bible has been translated into a vast number of languages. In fact, the Bible is the most translated book in the world, and in many cases a language was first put into writing by Christian missionaries for the express purpose of making the Bible available to a specific people group. And it's also true that the Bible manuscripts were repeatedly copied by hand for many hundreds of years (until the advent of the printing press, invented in Europe in the 15th century). In both cases, mistakes were made.

Far from making the Bible unreliable, however, the vast number of translations and thousands of hand copied manuscripts still in existence help to ensure the accuracy and reliability of our modern Bible. How so? Through the science of textual criticism, which can be defined as: "Comparison and evaluation of the different readings of the manuscripts of the Bible in order to construct the history of the text through its various stages and to establish, as far as possible, the original." (Nelson's New Christian Dictionary)

In the case of the New Testament, today there exists nearly 5,700 Greek manuscripts, some fragments of which can be dated to within only a few years of Jesus' death and resurrection. This number has been said to be embarrassingly high when compared with other ancient writings. While no two manuscripts are exactly alike, modern Bible scholars have arrived at a text that is very nearly 100% accurate. What's more, any questions or uncertainties that remain do not impact any major Bible doctrine. (A General Introduction to the Bible)


God: No proof for?

You can't prove the existence of God. Why should I believe in him?
God is spirit. We cannot see, hear, or touch spirit. Therefore, we cannot see, hear, or touch God -- at least not directly. That is why he gave us his Word, the Bible. And that is why we must look at Jesus to see God.

Lots of things cannot be "proven" through the scientific method. Love, for example, cannot be weighed on a scale or poured into a test tube. And yet we know love is as real as anything in this world. People set themselves against tremendous odds, endure tremendous hardships, go tremendous distances -- all in the name of love. The greatest example of love, of course, is God's love for us: "God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die" (John 3:16, CEV).

In addition, while there may be little direct evidence for God's existence, the indirect or circumstantial evidence is formidable. For example: 1) The universe must have had a beginning -- and hence a "beginner." 2) Complicated design -- i.e., evidence of an intelligent designer -- is found throughout all of nature, even down to the DNA within a single cell. 3) Certain moral laws -- against murder, rape, stealing, lying, etc. -- have been and still are accepted by a large number and variety of cultures around the world (When Skeptics Ask).


Truth: Relative?

Isn't it narrow-minded for Christians to think that only they have the truth? Isn't all truth relative?
Christians claim that God is the source of all truth. And since the Bible is the inspired, authoritative Word of God, we must check our view of reality against it.

Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6, KJV). If that sounds narrow, it's because truth is narrow. For example, it's still true that 1 + 1 = 2. It does not equal 1.9 or 2.1, etc. It equals 2.

By definition, "truth" is what corresponds to reality and is true for all people, at all times, in all places. While our understanding or perception of truth may change with time, truth itself never changes. For example, even in the year 1500 it was true that electricity would be used to power the typical pc in the year 2011. But of course in order for the truth to be realized: 1) electricity had to be discovered and harnessed, 2) the pc had to be invented, and 3) the year 2011 had to arrive.

As for the popular notion that "all truth is relative," that is a self-defeating proposition since it is making at least one absolute claim regarding truth -- namely, that all truth is relative.


Bible: Complicated?

The Bible is so complicated. How can I read and understand it?
The Bible -- a.k.a. Scripture or the Scriptures-- is actually much simpler than many people realize. It is made up of several types (or "genres") of literature (narrative, poetry, prophecy, etc.) that tells a unified story of God's plan and purpose for the human race. The first part of the Bible (the Old Testament) centers on God's dealings with the nation of Israel. The second part of the Bible (the New Testament) centers on the coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of his church.

At the heart of Scripture is the story of the gracious and loving God who mercifully extends salvation to us rebellious and undeserving sinners. In a word, it is about reconciliation.

Today as never before, there exists a wide array of helps for understanding the Bible. For example, Bible dictionaries, commentaries, introductions, and word study aids offer a wealth of knowledge. (Click on the RECOMMENDED RESOURCES tab at the top of this page for some suggested titles.)

A good place to start is with Inerrancy, Interpretation, and Application (PDF), comprised of the three statements issued by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.


Jesus: Just a great teacher?

Wasn't Jesus just a great moral teacher, but not God in the flesh (as Christians claim)?
While Jesus certainly taught his followers to live good, moral lives, his primary concern was that they be rightly related to God through personal faith in him (Jesus). Such a relationship would be possible only if they accepted Jesus' incredible claims regarding himself.

As has often been pointed out, a close examination of Jesus' own claims about himself leaves us with only one of three possibilities: 1) Jesus was a liar, 2) Jesus was a lunatic, or 3) Jesus was (and is) the Lord.

In addition, only Jesus Christ said and did what we would fully expect God-in-the-flesh to say and do, including:

  • being born in a way different from any other human being
  • being completely perfect
  • performing tremendous miracles
  • teaching the greatest truths ever taught
  • having a profound and universal influence
  • satisfying our deepest spiritual hunger overcoming our greatest enemy, death (The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict)

 

Christianity: What about other religions?

How does Christianity compare to other religions?
The tendency today is to relativize all religions in the name of pluralism. This is accomplished mainly through maximizing the moral similarities and minimizing (or completely ignoring) the theological distinctives found among the world's religions (Handbook of Christian Apologetics). But while it is true that most religious traditions can come to general agreement regarding what constitutes a morally good person, there are some profound differences regarding who/what God/god/gods is/are and how we can be rightly related to him/her/them/it.

Along those lines, it has been observed that the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions is Jesus Christ. And the most important difference between Jesus Christ and all other religious leaders is Jesus' claim to be God -- a claim backed up by innumerable miracles, the greatest of which was his own resurrection.

Christianity is so vital because it is the only religion that 1) offers the true teachings of Jesus and 2) binds together the true followers of Jesus.

As important as the Christian faith is, however, we should be quick to remember that in the final analysis only personal, committed faith in Jesus -- not a religion -- can save us. In other words, it's not about a religion, it's about a relationship.

"'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me -- watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.'" --- Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)


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