I am an atheist just trying to understand more about Christianity. I have a couple of questions that I'd like to ask, and I would appreciate any sort of guidance that is offered.
Thank you for your upfront honesty. Please realize that some of what you will read in replies will not really make sense since you do not have a relationship with God.
The fact that you are seeking answers to questions makes me wonder if you really are an atheist or if you are agnostic. You see, if you really did not believe in God, you would not even bother wondering why we believe the way we do. Our faith would be seen in the same light as a child believing in the tooth fairy.
How does someone put Christ before anyone else? The way I have grown up I have always believed that people are the most important thing in the world. Materialistic items (money, property, power, fame) can come and go, but people stay eternal. Family, friends, and loved ones are the ones that you will always have forever. How can someone put Christ before their children and their wife/husband?
There are a couple of points that need to be addresses. First, family, friends and loved ones will not be there forever. They, just like all of us, die.
Second, when one comes to realize that God is real, we begin to see how His ways are far above our ways, and to believe we know better then Him, we soon see the foolishness of our thoughts. To understand the fullness of God opens the understanding as to why He must be first in our lives. He would never direct us down a path that would cause harm to anyone. He is love and all His ways create more love.
This brings us back to the first point. The only way you will be able to spend eternity with the ones you love are if you and they accept the life God provides. God, being the Creator of all, even life eternal, will not allow sin into the next life. That is stated all through scripture. Sin is going against God. The deadliest sin of all is to reject Him. There is no turning back when one dies in rejection.
If God asks you to leave your family behind, would you be able to do it?
Yes. The next question in this series would be, "How do you know God is asking you to leave?" , or something along that line. When God moves inside you, there is no question it is Him when one has a relationship with Him close enough for Him to choose you to do so. God would never ask you to do something that you cannot do.
Why does God want us to love him in-order to be saved? Why is this a requirement? Can we not just do good in the world (follow his teachings)? I have read through Mark, Mathew, and Luke, but still am a bit confused by what the bible says.
To understand why, you first have to consider Who God is. God is not a man that will pass after time. He lives forever, no beginning and no end. God is also pure love, something we as humans cannot grasp in this life. Using these to truths, consider the following.
God wants to share eternity with those who seek pure love. There is no way to even understand pure love unless He lives in you. People get only a snapshot of this type of love by reading the actions of His Son, Jesus, as He taught, died and rose again. Those who refuse to really meet God don't even understand why His terms must be met.
God offers an eternity of perfect love, perfect health, perfect happiness, perfect everything. There is only one way to enter into this, and that is to have no sin. The only way to be this way is to have His Spirit live in you and have your sins covered by the sacrifice of His Son. There is no other way to gain acceptance. Sure, many will claim they were good, but when one understands how sin lives in our nature, one then understands that we can never be good enough.
Maybe I can give you an example.
Say you have an island and you develop it to be a paradise, never ending food and fresh water, enough rooms for everyone to live and have the privacy they desire, where all that is dangerous is removed. You put everything you had to create such a place. You then offer admittance to everyone who is willing to fulfill one goal, but in order to fulfill this goal, there are certain steps one must follow, or the goal could never be fulfilled. This goal is a test to ensure that they will be able to live in, and provide for, the life planned for this paradise. Some accept the challenge and do what is asked, though it was against their nature and difficult. These were allowed to live on the island for they did everything they were asked to do. Others came seeking admittance, claiming they did what they thought they had to do, but did not follow the instructions; therefore, they never really reached to goal set for them to reach, but one that they substituted in place of the one you required, claiming it was good enough. Others came seeking admittance after completing only part of the goal, claiming the requirements were too hard so they gave up trying. Still, others came claiming if you really cared about others, you would admit anyone who wants to live in such a place.
Knowing that in order for your paradise to work, those who live there must have certain qualities, which can only be reached if the goal was completed in its entirety. Failing to complete the goal proves the individual did not apply enough of themselves to work through the hard times, which could be reached by all who had the desire to complete it. The test is either pass or fail.
Eternal life with God means we have to accept His salvation plan. Salvation is either yes, you accept the salvation put forth by God, or no, you reject the salvation as He put forth. Unlike my example, the work has been done for us, through Christ Jesus. All we have to do is accept who Christ is and what Christ did for us. He took upon Himself the sins of every single person who ever lived, is living, and who will live, on this world. It is free, but the choice to accept it has to be done from the heart, not just lip service or a thought. Being from the heart allows Him to live in us, creating us to be like Jesus. Accepting Christ is the beginning of true life.
Rejecting Christ does not mean once you die, you cease to exist. It means that you spend eternity away from God. Since God is everything perfect, living apart from God means to live apart from everything perfect.
He allows us a lifetime to choose. The wise truly accept His challenge to get to know Him, for He will never turn anyone away whose heart is seeking after Him. Those who choose to ignore His calling to find Him end up wasting their time and, in the end, find themselves face to face with He who created them, only to be just as rejected as they rejected Him.
Hope this was clear enough ...