Some important points at the outset
In writing this first book and indeed, all the other books in this series, I have no desire to offend anyone. I have gone out of my way to try to avoid doing so. However, real Christianity, when understood correctly, is unavoidably offensive. It confronts you with the truth about yourself. Most people don’t like that and it will offend them, no matter how politely it is said. That is why Jesus Himself said:
"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me"Luke 7:23 (RSV)
Instead of taking offence, why not open-mindedly consider the astonishing claims that Jesus Christ makes about Himself? Try to ask yourself “Is this true?” rather than “Does this suit me?” Then you will be in the right frame of mind to come to a proper conclusion. Sadly, many people do approach Christianity by asking whether it suits them and is convenient to their lifestyle or ambitions.
If you do that you are unlikely ever to become a Christian, because real Christianity is difficult and challenging. In fact, it could cost you everything, even your life, and it's unlikely ever to be convenient. Jesus never claimed to be convenient. He does not merely want you to “make some room” for Him on your existing agenda. He wants you to make Him the very centre of your life and will not accept any less than that.
He offers us a stark choice: to wholeheartedly accept Him as Lord and follow Him, or else to reject Him. There is no middle ground. You cannot be neutral about Jesus Christ. You must either be totally for Him or against Him. Jesus will not accept us being half-hearted. He wants us to be radical and passionate about Him and His message. He hates it when we are spiritually lukewarm. Listen to what Jesus Himself said about this:
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.Revelation 3:15-16 (NIV)
Watered down Christianity
Nowadays, very many writers and speakers present a watered down version of Christianity. Much of the real message is edited out to make it inoffensive. It ends up as a confusing mixture of truth and error. So, I want to tell you about Christianity as it really is, even at the risk of offending you. But that is never my intention. Apostle Paul faced the same problem and he decided to tell people the whole truth, without leaving anything out:
"For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God"Acts 20:27 (NASB)
I want to try to write an accurate and complete explanation of the Christian gospel (that’s Greek for “good news”). I want it to be clear but not simplistic, detailed but not too lengthy, and accessible to people of any educational or religious background. I also want to cover some of the key mistakes people make and the reasons why so many people fail in their Christian life, or even fall away.
I also want to give you helpful information on several related topics that I wish someone had told me about when I first became a Christian. Some of that is within this first book, but there is much more in the subsequent books in this series. Most importantly of all, I have tried to be true to the Bible and to focus on what the Bible itself actually says, rather than on what men say about it, or the traditions of any denomination. I want to tell you the real truth to the best of my ability, without compromising or pulling my punches, and yet as courteously as I can.
I do not want to ‘sell’ Christianity to you like a used car. I won’t use any kind of marketing techniques or try to hide anything from you. I want to just tell you the full truth and hope that you will be open-minded enough to see it. That was apostle Paul’s approach:
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.Corinthians 4:2 (NIV)