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What do Christians believe?

What is the overarching story line of the Bible?

Rationale

The Bible is made up of 66 books written over a period of some 1500 years by over 40 different authors and contains within it a wide range of genres. Nevertheless there is a central theme that unites all these books, which gives direction and context to the Bible as a whole and, since it is God’s revelation of himself, gives direction and context for all of life. Understanding this overarching narrative is essential to understanding the Bible and to understanding life.

Key concepts

  • Creation – all things created by God and created good
  • Fall – the entry of sin into the world and our personal involvement in this event, that is, we are all sinners
  • God as judge - God is the creator and as part of this he is the judge of the universe. As sinners we stand guilty before him.
  • Death - when sin came into the world, so did death. We all die because we have all sinned
  • Pollution - sin not only affected our relationship with God, but changed our nature. The image of God was marred and now we sin by nature
  • Redemption and Reconciliation – God sent his Son because he loved us to redeem us and reconcile us to himself so that we have a relationship with him. In Jesus, God is both the one who justifies the guilty, and at the same time remains just himself.
  • Response – we are called on to respond to his call of reconciliation, and then, having been reconciled, called to live to the glory of God, loving God and loving others, and making disciples of all the nations. In this we are what we were created to be from the beginning.
  • Consummation – all history is moving towards a final consummation when there will be a new heaven and a new earth and there will be no more sin
 

Scripture References

Genesis 1 - God created all things and he created them good
Genesis 3 - sin came into the world through Adam and Eve when they believed the devil. This broke our fellowship with God, but at the same time God promised a saviour would come
2 Samuel 7:1-17 - the Davidic King is promised
Isaiah 9:1-7; 61:1-2 - prophecies about the Messiah from Isaiah (There are more in Isaiah and more in the OT to add note depth)
Romans 3:23 and 6:23 - the penalty of sin is death
Romans 5:12-21- through one man came death and condemnation to everyone
Genesis 4-9 - sin polluted what we were and spread. The earth became so bad God had to send the flood
Ephesians 2:1-10 - by nature children of wrath
John 3:16 - God so loved the world
2 Cor 5:11-21 - the ministry of reconciliation through Christ
Romans 3:21-31 - God’s plan of reconciliation through Jesus by which he justifies the sinner and yet remains just himself (Also see Romans 4)
Romans 6 and 8 - called to live a new life in Jesus (see also Galatians 5:16-23, 2 Peter 1:1-11, Romans 12 and so on)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 - the coming of Jesus (See also 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 - we will be changed in an instant; and Romans 8:18-25)
Revelation 21 and 22 - the New Heaven and the New Earth
 

Resources

Commentaries Reformation Study Bible (Reformed perspective) and Asbury Commentary (Wesleyan perpective) - easy to read short notes on the whole Bible, giving clear insight on all the above passages and suggesting other related passages
http://carm.org/christian-doctrine - good collection of short articles on key Christian beliefs. Evangelical/Reformed perspective
The Creeds of the Early Church  http://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/creeds - for teacher’s reference only
Basic Christianity by John Stott - see Amazon Kindle option (among others). Excellent summary of Basic Christianity
Know What You Believe by Paul Little - see Amazon Kindle option (among others) and also Know Why you believe by Paul Little
"Who Will Be King?" 6 step booklet of God's plan (See K-2 God's Big Plan for detail)
Songs: Colin Buchanan - commercial website for songs
 
 
Youtube examples:
 - 16 videos in all
 - very clear, and short, animated presentation of the basics of Christianity

Ideas/strategies for lessons

In a scenario in which the students had to explain to a friend what a Christian is, how would they answer? Use their answers as a starting point for exploration
Which parts of Christianity do they find the most difficult to accept/understand? Take one question a week
Create their own posters/videos/plays in which they set out the basics of Christianity? (Use Kid President style??)
Learn or create a song which summarises the basics of Christianity
The various Jewish Festival and seasons in say the Anglican Church calendar are designed to teach the faith in an age when the number f printed books and literacy were low. They can still serve this function today. They also help create he community which is the Body of Christ. These can be taught and acted out to allow students to experience their faith in a different way
Read key passages and discuss
Finish the term with a boys versus girls quiz or house against house quiz
Discussions following videos
Wordless book (colours for each step of God's plan)
Salvation bracelets (colours representing 6 steps of God's plan)
Create timelines with explanations

Lesson concepts:

  • God has always been
  • God is creator
  • God is in control over all creation, including ourselves
  • God has a plan so we can become part of His family despite our sinful nature
  • Christ is the only way to God
  • Christ died for us as a perfect sacrifice. His mercy is a gift. We can do nothing to deserve his salvation
  • Christ defeated death and rose again. He is alive forever
  • We all have rebelled, ignored God and disobeyed his laws. None of us are 'too bad' for God to love
  • Christ's death, resurrection, ascension and return again is all in God's plan
  • We need to individually respond and accept what Christ has done for us. It is a personal choice and call, not inherited, it is a personal faith.

Helpful Definitions:

  • Justice - getting what we deserve
  • Mercy - not getting what we deserve
  • Grace - Getting what we don't deserve - God's Riches AChrist's Expense
Use mnemonic devices to learn the key passages and ideas, e.g. the Roman Road