Christianity stands apart from all the religions of the world. One important reason is that its founder, Jesus Christ, claimed to be fully God. Buddha did not claim to be God; Moses never said he was Jehovah; Muhammad did not say he was Allah; and Zoroaster never claimed to be Ahura Mazda. Yet the lowly Carpenter from Nazareth declared that whoever had truly seen Him (Jesus) had seen His Father (John 14:9). Christ said He existed before Abraham: “‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’” (John 8:56-58), the name God called Himself (see Ex 3:14).

Christ said that He was equal to the Father: “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.’ Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:17-18).

Jesus also declared, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” (John 5:21-22). He not only claimed to be God, He proved Himself to be God, among other things, by raising people from the dead!

Christ said that He could forgive sins. In Mark 2:5-7, we read, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” The power to forgive sins against God is something which the Bible clearly teaches only God can do. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah records God as saying, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (43:25).

Christ’s claims are unmistakable. When He asked the religious authorities why they wanted to stone Him, they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood what He was claiming for Himself even if modern skeptics do not.

The New Testament teaches that Christ is the Creator of the universe. “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). He continues to hold all things together. “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17). Paul says Christ was God manifest in human flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). The apostle John refers to Christ as “the Word” and says “the Word was God” (John 1:1).

The true identity of Jesus the Christ is central to Christianity. Between the person of Jesus Christ and the religions of the world and their founders there is an impassable gulf. Confucianism is a set of teachings; Confucius himself is not central. Islam is supposed to be the revelation of Allah, with Mohammed being only his prophet. Buddhism emphasizes the principles of Buddha but not Buddha himself. And in the Hindu religion, there is no known historic founder. But at the core of Christianity is Christ. He did not just teach about truth, He claimed to be the Truth. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Who Jesus Christ is—this is the important question for you. Is He the Son of God? Is He the only way to reach God? Is He who He claimed to be? Is He who He proves to be?

This is why we say that Christianity is not a religion; it is a relationship. You do not become a Christian by merely knowing about Christ and His teachings; you need to know Him personally by receiving Him by personal belief: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). This knowing comes through being honest with God about what the Bible diagnoses to be your true condition as a sinner before Him, but also by being willing to receive, as a free gift, His forgiveness through Christ’s death for you. He also provides the power to live a new kind of life through His Son, made alive again through His resurrection. Yes, Christianity is Christ!

All my life I’ve heard people talk about the “end of the world” or Christ’s second coming. The Bible’s statement found at James 5:8 says the coming of the Lord draws near, so why didn’t He come years ago? It has been more than nineteen centuries since James said this. So this is a good question to ask.

If until now you have been pushing back against the message of the Bible, let the apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, answer your question: “Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’ For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:3-7). In other words, God doesn’t run on man’s schedule, but He is right on time. So NOW is the time to get ready!

If you are a believer, but perplexed by the seeming contradiction, then read the next three verses in 2 Peter 3. “But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come…” The reason God has not sent His Son back to set things straight is that His longsuffering heart waits for others to respond positively to His offer: He promises to save those who agree with His diagnosis of their sin problem and accept His salvation in Christ.

There is also a practical application to our lives today: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God” (vv 11-12). Be assured that what was true in Paul’s day is true still, and nearer to its fulfillment: Now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed. What’s the world coming to? It’s coming to an end. People prepare for higher education, careers, retirement, vacations. Isn’t it time that you “Prepare to meet your God” (Amos 4:12)?

This is the Number 1 question thinking people ask. We’re all affected by suffering. Every home has its heartaches, every heart its shadows. But the Bible doesn’t avoid the subject. The first book written, the book of Job, penned two millennia before Christ, is all about human suffering. And it’s helpful to remember that God has entered into our suffering world. His Son, Jesus, was known as “the Man of Sorrows.” The question of suffering is a complex one, and we can’t guess God’s reasons for allowing it in every instance, but here are five facts that might help.

1. God made a perfect world. And through our tears we can still see much of the breathtaking beauty and intricate design around us. Denying God because His world has been damaged leaves us with no purpose, no meaning, and no hope. Atheist scientist Richard Dawkins describes this view:

“If the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies…are all we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intention at all. In a universe of blind physical forces…you won’t find any rhyme or reason, or any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pittiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Houseman put it, ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature Will neither know nor care.’ DNA,” continues Dawkins, “neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music” (River Out of Eden, p 133).

This is a spiritual black hole. But most people see through this argument. If Richard Dawkins is just an accident of colliding electrons and randomly reproducing DNA, why should we trust any thoughts that come from a brain like that? Scientists believe in order, and spend their lives uncovering the laws that govern our universe. No, there must be another answer to the chaos that is evident damage to an otherwise astounding cosmos.

2. Something did go badly wrong. When God made the human race, He didn’t want machines that could be programmed to do what He wanted. He desired real people who could love Him as He would love them. Of course if they could choose to love Him, they could also choose not to love Him and rebel against Him. That’s just what happened. Here we find the nexus between the action of human evil and the consequence of human suffering.

3. God intends to banish suffering from His universe. But it’s not as easy as fairy tales suggest. There is no magic wand that can change human hearts. God wants to maintain our freedom and right to choose. He will not railroad us into co-operation. He takes our personhood seriously. There is always risk in love, as anyone who brings children into the world knows. But God was willing to take that risk. If a few years of suffering could lead to an eternity of joy and love, God thought it was worth it. One day He promises to bring in a whole new world without tears, loneliness, separation or death. But here’s the catch: there must be no sin in that world either. So how do we, sinners that we are, hope to ever enjoy that world? That’s God’s Good News!

4. God has not yet taken the final step to eradicate suffering and evil—and for a very good reason. God will need to rid the world of all evil-doers. If He were to do that now, He would have to begin with you and me. When people realize this, they are a little less strident in their calls for a righteous God to judge the earth. The question is: Are you ready for Final Exams? The story of Jesus and His dying on the Cross was God’s rescue plan. Here is how Paul describes the Great Exchange: “For He [that’s God the Judge] made Him [that’s Christ, the Perfect Substitute] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5:21). If we agree with God’s simple terms—honesty about our sinfulness and accepting this offer—He takes the guilt of our sin and exchanges for it the right standing of His Son. No offer like that in all the religions of the world!