Why Christianity Matters, Part 1
From the series Jesus Loves Me
If someone were to ask you, what do I have to believe to follow Jesus?... What would you say? In this program, we’re kicking off our series Jesus Loves Me: Essentials of the Christian Faith, taught by our guest teacher John Dickerson. Join us as he shares the foundational truths Christianity rests upon and why they’re non-negotiable for us today.
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About this series
Jesus Loves Me
Christian Essentials for the Head and the Heart
Do you know the core beliefs of Christianity? Forget what churches, denominations, or notable pastors say for a second - what do God and His Word actually state are the essential truths to being a follower of Jesus? In this 10-part series, journalist, author, and pastor John Dickerson helps us uncover the foundational building blocks of the Christian faith. By using the simple children’s song - Jesus Loves Me - John reveals what these lyrics tell us about God, His love for us, and the reliability of the Bible. So whether you’re a new Christian looking for guidance or you’ve been a believer your whole life - and you need a refresher, John’s words will encourage you!More from this series
This series is all about the Christian essentials. In other words, if you were in a room with no Internet access, no Bible, no book, nothing, and someone said, “What is Christianity about? What do I have to believe to be a Christian? Or how do I access the power of God,” by the end of this series, you’re going to know with confidence exactly what you could say to them and actually, it’s all summarized in that song, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
And what we are going to do each week of this series is look at the significance of each of those words. What do you have to believe about Jesus to be a Christian? What do you have to believe about His love and about yourself and about the Word of God?
We are starting off the series with kind of the “so what?” question. Does it matter? I mean, we live in a society that increasingly says, “Well, you believe what you believe. I believe what I believe. Really, ideas don’t matter that much. Beliefs don’t matter just as long as you’re nice to people and you’re a good citizen of society, then everything is okay.
So, in that kind of society, does it really matter if we get Christianity right or wrong? And that’s what we are going to answer today.
But I want to talk with you about that feeling when you’re kind of stuck, you’re kind of stranded, and you realize, I need some outside help. Maybe it’s a situation where your phone battery dies and you’re, like, How am I going to access my life? I need a charger, right? We all have these situations where we need some outside help, and what we are asking today is this: Where can you access power to solve your biggest problems?
We face things like a cancer diagnosis or a divorce. Our big idea is very simply this: Christ’s message is the power to change our world and it’s the power to change ourselves for the better. Christ’s message, the good news that He brings, or the gospel you can call it, it is the power to change our world for the better. It’s also the power to change ourselves for the better.
Now, I was talking earlier about situations where you realize you need outside help. And I think there’s one most of us can relate to. And that’s when your phone dies and you don’t have a charger. Anyone else ever relate to that situation? Maybe it’s just those of us who use our phones way too much, okay. But your phone or your computer or your tablet dies and you’re in need of a charger.
And maybe you have, like, an Apple phone, someone has a Samsung charger so it doesn’t fit. Or maybe you have a PC computer and someone has an Apple charger, and you need this power, but you can’t quite access it. And so, if that verse we read is true, and I believe it is, that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, well, how do you access that power? How do you access the power?
And I want to tell you a true story where I realized the significance of this. I was on a trip in the year 2007 to a country called Belarus. And I got into my hotel room and I found myself in a dilemma. If you have traveled to Europe or Asia, maybe you have been in this dilemma, I went to plug my computer into the wall and here’s the situation I was in. You see, they have different power outlets over there. That power outlet is shaped funny. And – or, they would say ours are shaped funny. But anyhow, I had a plug like this and the outlet was like that. And I found myself in this situation where I’m in my hotel room, all the electricity of a whole city’s power grid is right there in the wall, but I don’t have the right plug for it. And what I learned in that moment, now, I know you guys are all smarter than me and if you have traveled internationally, you packed your little adapters before you left. But I wasn’t that smart, okay? I learned this the hard way, that you need a little adapter.
And here’s what I learned. Accessing power is not complicated. Right? Any kid can plug something in. Now, they probably shouldn’t if they are too young, but it’s not complicated, but it is precise. In other words, these three pieces have to be the right three pieces and I have learned that it’s the same with accessing God’s power to change our lives. Accessing God’s power is not complicated, but it is precise.
In other words, it’s not as simple as just saying, “Yeah, I’m a Christian, therefore I have all the power of God in my life.” No, there are three or four specific things that we do need to believe to actually be a Christian, to actually plug into the power source of the universe and experience His power, His energy, His life change here in this life and in the next.
And what this series, Jesus Loves Me is all about, is you knowing those three or four things for yourself. Now, you hear them here and most of you have had a moment where you have heard this preached and you have believed it, but my desire for you as a brother in the Lord and as a spiritual leader, is that you would know with confidence the essentials of Christianity so that you can go through your life and someday if a co-worker asks you, “What do I have to believe to be a Christian?” Or if you’re tucking your kids or your grandkids into bed and they say, “I want to believe in Jesus; what does that mean?” That you think, you know exactly how to answer them. You don’t have to look it up in a book, you don’t have to ask someone, you know, “Well, it’s all summed up in this little kid’s song, Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
And that you’re in a place where you could just very simply walk through each of those words, here’s what Jesus means, that He is fully God. He’s not just another person, He’s not just a good teacher, but He was God who came to earth. What does it mean that He loves us? Well, it means that He willingly went to the cross to die in our place. He didn’t just say He loved us, He showed it with actions. And after He died on the cross, He rose from the grave.
He loves me. In other words, I have to believe some things about myself, that I’m in need of a Savior, that I have made mistakes, that I am made in the image of God and I’m loved, but I do need His help, I need His forgiveness. And this I know. Have you had a moment in your life where you have said, “I believe in Jesus for myself”? Do you know it? Have you had a moment where you said, “God, I need Your salvation for me; I believe in what You did on the cross. I receive that free gift of salvation.” Have you had that moment?
And then, “For the Bible tells me so.” That the Bible, we make it the standard for what we do and believe as followers of Jesus. And that keeps us plugged into the power source. So, if you look today on your way in or if you’re watching online you can click below us, you’ll see this little card. It says, “Jesus loves me,” and you got this with your program on the way in. This gives you an outline. This is kind of a spoiler alert, okay? Because, by the way, the essentials of Christianity, it shouldn’t be like, “Come back next week to find out,” like, they are pretty well known. Okay?
But this series is about you knowing them with confidence. You don’t have to go to seminary, you don’t have to memorize a bunch of books of the Bible to know the essentials. So, this card is a tool for you and by the end of this series, you’ll be in a place that you can recite those little lines, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And you can know the significance of each of those words, know it for yourself, and also know it so that you can share it with others.
Who is Jesus? What does it mean that He loves us? Who are we? How do we know it? Why does it matter that the Bible tells us so?
Now, here’s the question we are asking today, because you might be thinking, Okay, great. You’re a pastor now. Of course you care about getting Christianity right. That’s what you do. Why does it matter for me?
So, let’s ask that question. Does it matter if we get Christianity right? I mean, does it really matter? You know, in this day and age when it’s like, well, as long as – pretty much as long as you’re nice to everyone around you, it doesn’t matter what you believe. That’s kind of the message of our day and age.
So, here we have this two thousand-year-old belief system that is all about getting a few beliefs right, beliefs that Jesus, by the way, said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He didn’t claim to be one way to God; He claimed to be the only way. So, if you’re upset that it’s very black and white, take that part up with Jesus, okay? I didn’t make that part up.
But does it matter if we get the black and white things right? And I want to start by sharing today, there are probably dozens of reasons why it matters. I’m just going to give you four today. First one is very unexpected. And it’s one that I, a conclusion I reached actually as a journalist, not as a pastor. And it’s one you might not expect to hear in church, but it does matter if we get Christianity right, first and foremost, for society. It actually matters for society.
And I’ll try to compress here about ten years of research that I have done as a total nerd and investigator. But here’s a few things I have learned. Number one, the fact that you and I know how to read today actually traces back to Christians. Do you know that the majority of people in world history never knew how to read; they were illiterate. Until about three hundred years ago, most people never knew how to read.
Now, there were these groups of people who started making these little laws in their villages that every child in the village had to learn how to read. It was the beginning of what we call public education today. Who were these people and what motivated them?
Well, these people were followers of Jesus, they were called Protestant Christians, who were very, very excited about the Bible. And they wanted all the kids in their village to know how to read the Bible. So, they created a law. You can look it up. This original law was called the “Ye Old Deluder Satan Act.” Okay? The idea was that Satan deceives people and if people can read the Word of God, they’ll find the truth. And so, we are going to make it a law that every child in our village is trained to read so they can read the Bible for themselves. And you can trace it back through history; this is not my opinion. That’s where public education comes from.
It started in England and in Germany and here in the United States through the Puritans. So, whether or not we like Christians, whether or not you even believe in God or the supernatural realm, you know how to read today because of Christians. And Christians have impacted our world in a number of other ways that are almost so big that we could miss them.
And one of the other unexpected ones is in women’s rights, believe it or not. According to the World Economic Forum, they rank women’s rights by all the nations in the world, here’s the listing of the ten best nations for women’s rights. Now, let’s just, you know, address the elephant in the room here that no nation has arrived on women’s rights. We have all got a long way to go, okay? But there are nations that are much worse and much better at giving women equal and fair treatment.
And these are ranked, again, by the World Economic Forum, not a Christian group. You don’t have to read all these, but if you want later, you can watch this online, you can pause this so you can go back and study anything I show you today. You don’t have to take my word for it. I’d encourage you to dig deeper into these things.
So, what I did is I just took the top ten off of this list. There are about two hundred nations. And then I looked at another group called the Pew Research Group to find out: What is the percent of Christians in the populations of these nations?
So, if I’m, like, number one, Iceland, eighty-five percent of the people there are Christian. You average this out across the top ten nations, seventy-five percent of the people, so that’s three out of four people, in that nations that lead the world in women’s rights are Christians. These are very Christian-influenced societies.
If you trace back through fifty years, you go back fifty years, these nations have been predominately Christian for more than fifty years. In fact, most of these hundreds of years. Okay?
Now, let’s look at the other end of the list. Because there are ten worst nations in the world for women’s rights. These are nations where women are still very often bought and sold into marriage. You get young girls – nine, ten years of age – sold into a marriage to some old guy they don’t even know.
This is places where women have to cover themselves up by law, places where women are often beaten, where they are not allowed to vote, where they are not given equal access to education. None of this is my opinion as a pastor. This is how the world works, that is sadly how women are still treated in many places of the world like Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, etcetera.
Now, what is the percentage of Christians in those nations? I did the research again from the Pew Research Center and it averages out to about eight percent. So, less than one in ten people in those societies are Christian.
Of the ten worst societies to be a woman in today, have any of them been predominately Christians for more than fifty years? No. And so, here’s what I concluded, not as a pastor but as a journalist and researcher. If I love my daughters, if I love my wife, my mom, I want them to grow up in a city that has a bunch of churches in it. You don’t have to believe in God to acknowledge that reality of the world that we live in.
Here’s the summary of this research. On average, Christians make up seventy-five percent of the top ten nations, but Christians are a fragile minority in the nations where women get the worst treatment. And this traces back through history that you can see the influence of Christian beliefs on these societies. It’s probably not what you expected to hear, but again, I encourage you. You can research all this for yourself. You can go online, check out every one of those nations for yourself.
Would you believe it that the same thing I actually discovered in education – we know that where education goes, society improves because you get engineers who can make better things. You get doctors who can advance healthcare.
So, I looked at the founding of the universities that lead the world today and again, I wanted to use non-Christian, secular researchers. So, here are the top ten universities in the world as ranked by a non-Christian group. Now, these universities you might be thinking, Oh, education, blah, blah. This is boring, okay?
But this actually matters because it is graduates of these universities who launched the scientific revolution, who have given us eyeglasses and contacts and surgery and modern medicine and electricity. Pretty much our whole modern way of life. Did you know our lifespan today is double what the historic average was? Most people only lived forty years, on average. That was the average human life expectancy until about two hundred years ago, because of the graduates of these universities.
Now, every one of these universities, just like those nations, you can go and you can do the research yourself and see who started Harvard. Who started Harvard? Well, the guy’s name is the Reverend John Harvard; he was a pastor. And he was a group of Puritan Christians who started a Bible seminary called Harvard College. And you can look at their founding documents; one is called The First Fruits of Harvard, where they say, “Dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the next generation.” In other words, we want pastors to be trained to lead our churches for our kids and grandkids. We are going to start this college.
That’s why Harvard was started. What I did for all the top ten is I went through and I looked at: Were the founders Christian? Yes, ten out of ten of the top universities in the world, the founders were Christian. But not only were they Christian, eight out of the ten were overtly Christian in their mission statement. So, for example, I mentioned Harvard, if you look at Yale, the mission statement, the original mission statement says, “For the propagation of the Protestant Christian religion.”
So, again, whether or not you believe in Jesus or God or the Bible, if you care about the women in your life, you want them to grow up in a Christian-influenced society. If you care about your kids and you want them to grow up to be educated and have good jobs, you want them to grow up in a Christian-influenced society.