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Old 03-06-2004, 06:12 PM   #1
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Christianity for Dummies

Hi,

I would like some assistance in understanding the concept of grace, please.

All explanations encouraged and welcome.

Edited to add: This is a spin off thread from the Heaven thread. I found I wasnt following the highly reasoned arguments as I didnt understand some of the basic concepts. I was hoping it would be alright to start a thread where people, eg me, could ask stupid questions and receive serious answers. Thank you.
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Old 03-06-2004, 06:13 PM   #2
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Re: Christianity for Dummies

Quote:
Originally posted by beli
Hi,

I would like some assistance in understanding the concept of grace, please.

All explanations encouraged and welcome.
Good references are "Grace" and "When Love Comes To Town" by U2.
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Old 03-06-2004, 06:18 PM   #3
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Mercy is not getting what you do deserve.

Grace is getting what you don't deserve.

Grace is unmerited favor, by God, through Jesus Christ, to make us holy in Godís sight.
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Old 03-06-2004, 07:05 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
Grace is getting what you don't deserve.

Grace is unmerited favor, by God, through Jesus Christ, to make us holy in Godís sight.
LivLov said something in the heaven thread about cleansing sins (or something to that effect, I cant locate the post at the moment). If grace is unmerited favour then committing a sin and Jesus/God cleansing the person of the sin - is that grace? How do you know if the sin has been cleansed. (I could have this REALLY wrong as I havent got the original post open, my apologies if Im way off the mark).

Found LivLovs post:

Quote:
Think of it this way: we all sin, right? Even if you (not YOU personally, but anyone) don't care for religion, I think EVERYONE can admit that they've done something bad. Nobody is pure. But God/Jesus can take away the bad and make you pure and whole. This is the gift of Grace. The GIFT of salvation. As with any gift, you have to accept it for it to work. And you can't exactly accept a gift from Jesus if you don't believe in Him, right? So yes, anyone who accepts the Grace of Jesus gets into Heaven. But "believing in Jesus" does NOT mean Christian, Elect, etc, ALL it means is that you accept His Grace for your salvation, you accept His gift.
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Old 03-06-2004, 09:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by beli
LivLov said something in the heaven thread about cleansing sins (or something to that effect, I cant locate the post at the moment). If grace is unmerited favour then committing a sin and Jesus/God cleansing the person of the sin - is that grace? How do you know if the sin has been cleansed. (I could have this REALLY wrong as I havent got the original post open, my apologies if Im way off the mark).
Without using a lot of theological terms or "Christianese", you have it right.

We know the sin is cleansed because Jesus promises us so. This is the best part about grace - the absolute assurance that you have been forgiven and eternal life.
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Old 03-07-2004, 01:20 AM   #6
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So is a person automatically forgiven for anything? Including murder?

Im guessing but I think my morals are most closely aligned to Marthas. (no offense Martha) I dont believe in karma exactly but I do believe if you make a mistake or do something bad then you need to rectify the situation eg apologise to the people involved, whatever it takes to try and make peace with the people who have been hard done by. Just accepting that God will forgive you and heading on your own merry way seems not fair to me. Same with people who go to church and confess their sins. I believe what they really need to be doing is confessing to the people they have hurt, not some bloke in the cupboard. (no offense). If I did something bad and apologised and the person didnt accept my apology then I would have to learn to live with my mistake. The fact that some Christians believe that God absolves them of all their mistakes and they neednt worry about people on earth has always scared me. I basically dont trust Christians for this reason.

Sorry if Im blabbering. Nothing personal NBC. And I appreciate you hearing me out on this one.
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Old 03-07-2004, 09:01 AM   #7
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I don't think it's so much that you're *automatically* forgiven--that is, as soon as you do it, you're forgiven. But if you take a look at yourself and what you've done, realize that some of it wasn't very good, and ask God's help in not doing it anymore, you will be forgiveness. Forgiveness requires repentance, I think--which is more than saying you're sorry. It's making a commitment to avoid such actions in the future, which is a lot harder than it sounds. But in light of the great gift we've been given--i.e. God's mercy--we have to at least try.
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Old 03-07-2004, 09:07 AM   #8
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By the way, I really like the idea for this thread. And I wouldn't call it "Christianity for Dummies"--Christianity is an amazingly complex and diverse tradition that even lifelong Christians have lots of questions about. The cool thing about asking it here, rather than (say) on a Catholic or Methodist or (insert denomination here) message board, is that you're going to get answers and interpretations from all over the Christian map. Oftentimes there is more than one right answer or no right answer at all, and that will probably come out in this thread.

So, please, ask away.
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Old 03-07-2004, 10:15 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by paxetaurora
I don't think it's so much that you're *automatically* forgiven--that is, as soon as you do it, you're forgiven. But if you take a look at yourself and what you've done, realize that some of it wasn't very good, and ask God's help in not doing it anymore, you will be forgiveness. Forgiveness requires repentance, I think--which is more than saying you're sorry. It's making a commitment to avoid such actions in the future, which is a lot harder than it sounds. But in light of the great gift we've been given--i.e. God's mercy--we have to at least try.


I think what you're getting at, beli, is the difference between belief and saving faith. There are plenty of people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God (even Satan can quote the Bible, and there's a verse that says 'Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well -- the devils also believe and tremble'...I think this is in James in the 'faith and works' context). Though Protestants believe in faith alone as the means to Salvation, saving faith is inextribably linked with good works, or the concern for others, because faith isn't just a purely cognitive or emotional processes, but a life commitment to modeling oneself after the example set by Jesus.

I don't know whether I'm making any sense or not, and I'm not even a Christian, so you might not want to listen to me.
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Old 03-07-2004, 12:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by meegannie

Though Protestants believe in faith alone as the means to Salvation, saving faith is inextribably linked with good works, or the concern for others, because faith isn't just a purely cognitive or emotional processes, but a life commitment to modeling oneself after the example set by Jesus.
Thank you! People have been criticizing Protestantism and giving it a negative connotation by assuming that Protestants think they can do whatever they want b/c they'll automatically get into Heaven. This is not true. Just because we believe that Salvation is through Jesus' Grace alone doesn't mean we don't strees works/good deeds. All we're saying is that, in the end, only the Grace of Jesus matters for Salvation. Good works are part of being a strong Christian and living a Christian lifestyle, but if you do one more good work that your neightbor, you're not more deserving of Heaven b/c we are ALL sinners and humans do not have the right to judge eachothers' sins and say who's works get them closer to Heaven. Humans do not have the power to get themselves to Heaven no matter how many good works they do, b/c we will NEVER be perfect without God. EVERYONE needs God's Grace and God is the ONLY judge in the end.

/rantsermon
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Old 03-07-2004, 03:21 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by meegannie
I think what you're getting at, beli, is the difference between belief and saving faith.
This is correct. Remember, even Satan "believes" in Jesus.

I know we are inclined to rank sins - this was a central part of my Jesuit high school junior year religion class, so it happens both inside and outside the church. It can be hard to accept or understant that God's grace is so powerful, it can cover any sin.
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Old 03-07-2004, 04:06 PM   #12
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Head spin, head spin! I have to go to work in a minute so I will read the posts again tonight. Thank you everyone.

Pax, you are welcome to change the name of the thread. I just wanted something lowbrow and non intimidating.

Meggie, Im not Christian either but its never stopped me posting in Christian threads. (except for when they were in GIS)

PS I think Jesuits are vaguely on the Catholic side of the fence. Where do Quakers fit into the scheme of things, please?
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Old 03-07-2004, 08:09 PM   #13
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The Society of Jesus (its members are called Jesuits) is an order of Roman Catholic priests (and brothers, too, I think). I think Jesuits are *required* to get PhDs or the terminal equivalents in their respective fields. Jesuits are largely teachers and professors, and Jesuit high schools and colleges are usually very good.

Quakers are Protestants (any Christians that are not Roman Catholic or some branch of Orthodox, like Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox, are usually called Protestants). Quaker "churches" are usually called "meeting houses" and their congregations are called "meetings," and are also known as the Society of Friends; for example, the group of Quakers near me is called the North Branch Friends Meeting.

Quakers are total pacifists. Quakers are among the very few religious groups whose members are automatically recognized by the government as conscientious objectors, meaning they can never be made to fight in a war. If a Quaker was drafted, he or she could serve as, say, a medic, but they can't be compelled to take combat positions. (I think Jehovah's Witnesses also fall under this category but for different reasons). Quakers have no formal clergy and their meetings are nonhierarchical. They are usually very committed to social justice issues, nonviolent conflict resolution, stuff like that.
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Old 03-08-2004, 12:24 PM   #14
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This is a GREAT idea for a thread! You know what would be REALLY handy, is to have a continuation of that explanation of Jesuits and Quakers and also explain the differences between:

What the differences are betw. Catholics and Orthodox
Anglicans
United Church
7th Day Adventists
Jehovas Witnesses
Mormons
Pentacostal
Presbyterian
etc. etc etc..

These are just some at the top of my head but I haven't a clue what the different beliefs are.
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Old 03-08-2004, 12:27 PM   #15
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I've got some materials at home that explain the differences between some of the groups listed. I'll get that and send you the info.
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Old 03-08-2004, 12:55 PM   #16
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Thank you!

I just thought of two more questions too.

1) What exactly is Lent all about? All I know is people give up chocolate (and other good things) for Lent but I have no idea why...do all Christians do that, or only certain denominations?

2) There has been talk in the Heaven thread about Grace being a gift that you accept if you believe in Jesus (because if you don't believe in him it's impossible to accept a gift from him).

I totally understand that concept, but I'm wondering how does one really go about BELIEVING in something/someone....it's one thing to read and understand something intellectually but am I literally supposed to just read the Bible and maybe take some classes and discussions and suddenly I will BELIEVE? I will out of the blue feel this love and submission to Jesus?

How did everyone become such believers, was it literally just drummed into your heads from birth until it was the only truth you knew?

Just curious....
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Old 03-08-2004, 02:10 PM   #17
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It's something that comes with time and not a little bit of effort. I was raised in Christian household (my parents are both ministers), so I knew all the basics from a very young age. I was confirmed (officially becoming a full member of my church) at 15, but I really couldn't say I truly and fully believed and felt God's real presence until a couple years later. My parents made sure I went to Sunday school as a kid, because as Christian parents they felt it was their responsibility out of love for me to have the opportunity to know God. However it was never forced down my throat and for that I am fortunate as many children of the clergy do and turn away from God and religion for that reason. But as you say there is a world of difference between intellectual knowledge and belief. I didn't go to church with any regularity for a number of years after my parents no longer had me go to church with them, or when I did go on reflection now i can say that while it was interesting and I enjoyed parts of it, I never really came with a full sense of dedication. While communion for me now is a profoundly spiritual experience, back then it was really just going through the motions.

I had some humbling spiritual experiences and a long the way I felt the need to read the Bible daily and commited myself to that and regular prayer. I can't say exactly where it happened but at some point I just felt I had come to know God and knew I was His. Even though I've been less than faithful in a lot of areas in the last couple years I still fell connected to God as much as ever and strangely perhaps a bit more. It's a cumulative process. No one can say when it will happen, but I believe that if you honestly and dilligently seek to find God, he/she will find you. I can happen in a singular epiphany or gradually over time. For my Dad it was a long road and it took a lot. Though he's been a minster for as long as I've been alive he was an agnostic until his early to middle 30's. He spent many years as a seeker unable to completely come to terms with God, but today he is one of the most dedicated belivers I know. It happens differently for everyone.

I have vaguely explored other religions but none matches to what I have come to know about God nor do they make as much sense as orthodox (traditional) Christian belief. Upon every evaluation of my beliefs I may find some small areas where I end up making changes, but in the core fundamentals my conviction in basic Christian belief remains solid.

As a side note, let me say I agree with Bono in finding Karma to be a very depressing notion. I can only find freedom in Grace, and God's love in that Grace.
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Old 03-08-2004, 02:31 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally posted by Blacksword
As a side note, let me say I agree with Bono in finding Karma to be a very depressing notion.
How so?

I've lived my life on the principles of karma for a while now, and I really could call it a lot of things, but depressing wouldn't be one of them. I find it actually liberating, because with karma comes accountability and a lot of soul searching and a lot of self awareness when it comes to your daily life. How your actions can have good and bad consequences is a powerful tool in stepping back and evaluating exactly how it is you want to live your life and conduct yourself while you are here.

As for Lent, it is the time of preparation for the Feast of Easter that begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes at midnight on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter). It consists of 40 weekdays, and Sundays don't count because Sundays aren't days of penance. The Catholic Church encourages Ash Wednesday and Good Friday to be days of fast and abstinence, and all other Fridays should be meatless. Historically, the notion of 40 day penance evolved, because (I think, but may be wrong) that long ago, during Lent, those who were baptized and committed serious sins would be required to undergo penance during Lent, and then later it spread to the general populace.
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Old 03-08-2004, 03:20 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mrs. Edge
1) What exactly is Lent all about? All I know is people give up chocolate (and other good things) for Lent but I have no idea why...do all Christians do that, or only certain denominations?
In a general sense, Lent is a 40 day period where the believer prepares his/her heart to celebrate the most important event in all of human history - the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Denominations approach Lent differently, some with traditions of sacrifice, others with traditions of service. How Lent is celebrated is not spelled out in the Bible.

At our church, our Children's Program has a giving project. The goal is to raise tutition for at least to children for Genesis One Christian School in Mendenhall, Mississippi. The school is the only private school in this county of Mississippi that is open to all students (read, African American students).

Quote:
Originally posted by Mrs. Edge
2) There has been talk in the Heaven thread about Grace being a gift that you accept if you believe in Jesus (because if you don't believe in him it's impossible to accept a gift from him).

I totally understand that concept, but I'm wondering how does one really go about BELIEVING in something/someone....it's one thing to read and understand something intellectually but am I literally supposed to just read the Bible and maybe take some classes and discussions and suddenly I will BELIEVE? I will out of the blue feel this love and submission to Jesus?

How did everyone become such believers, was it literally just drummed into your heads from birth until it was the only truth you knew?
To really understand, you may need to hear the stories of many who come to a saving faith. It is not a strictly intellectual process, but one that comes from the heart of the individual.

I was a hard-core agnostic until I was 22. There was a time in my when I wanted to hate, but I couldn't. Then I realized God was there. All my intellectual knowledge of the Bible sprang to life at that moment. I can identify with Mary when she suddenly recognized Jesus outside the tomb.
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Old 03-08-2004, 03:29 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader


I was a hard-core agnostic until I was 22. There was a time in my when I wanted to hate, but I couldn't. Then I realized God was there. All my intellectual knowledge of the Bible sprang to life at that moment. I can identify with Mary when she suddenly recognized Jesus outside the tomb.
Whoa, I wouldn't have guessed that. Very interesting.
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