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Christianity 101: What’s Really in the Bible?

on December 23, 2013

It has been brought to my attention, with this whole “News Sources Crucifying Phil Robertson and Not Reporting in an Ethical or Factual Manner” thing, that many people don’t know what’s in the Bible. Now this isn’t exactly surprising, as most people do not live a Christian lifestyle. Having been called from my previous lifestyle and into this fantastic relationship with Jesus (check out some of my other “testimonial blogs), I felt that I needed to share, to the best of my ability, what’s actually in the Bible, and what Christianity is really about. This will cover mostly New Testament stuff, because while I love the Old Testament (holy Psalms!) and I know there’s some valuable stuff, being a Christian is about what Jesus did, and plus I don’t have schooling in this area so I’m feeling intimidated as it is, covering the smaller “half” of Scripture. Because so many people have distorted the Bible by taking verses here and there and using them out of context (I’m so tired of that practice, which is one reason I’m extremely picky about what type of church I attend), I will use mostly larger passages to back up a point, rather than a single verse. I hope this clears up some confusion and please, don’t hesitate to leave respectful questions and comments below. (I’ve spent more time on this blog since December 18 than I did on schoolwork during my last month of being a full-time college student, so this blog is my “baby” and I will not tolerate disrespectful or intolerant attitudes.)

This is what a Christian-in its most simple form- is (and I can testify to this because in April 2013, I was called to change my life and adopt Christ as my Savior, making me an official, born-again, Bible-thumping, taking-Jesus-at-His-Word-and-living-for-Him-Christian): a Christian is a person who believes in the holiness of Jesus-that is, that He is the Son of God and rose from the dead- and that we are all equal sinners who can be forgiven and go to Heaven. John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

A Christian lives by the Bible– it’s absolutely foundational to living a Christian life- a “how-to-live-a-good-life” manual given to us by God Himself. Psalm 119 is perhaps one of the clearest texts about this part of living as a Christian. Psalm 119:105-112 is all about following God’s Word and choosing to live by His standards:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, O Lord, according to Your word. Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget Your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from Your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping Your decrees to the very end.

To add to that, a Christian has been born again and has a relationship with the Trinity: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Many people I know would say they’re Christians like on their Facebook pages, but they’re really not living or believing as a Christian would (probably part of why the world hates us so much), because for all of us-myself included- being a Christian requires a complete change of lifestyle where we quit our sinful lifestyle (to the best of our ability and with Jesus’s help) and it’s noticeable from the outside. We live by the Bible and our relationship with Christ is first priority in our lives, after all, we were bought at the price of Jesus’s life and if we love Him, we will honor Him. 1 John 5:1-12:

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the One who came by water and blood– Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about His Son. Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians has a beautiful passage that clearly talks about the new life that a Christian has. 2 Corinthians 5:11-21:

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

And the book of Colossians has my favorite passage about new life. Colossians 3:1-25 tells us all the things we’ll be doing in our new lives in Christ (this is also a great reference for repentance, which I’ll discuss later):

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly naturesexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scynthian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s dearly people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

(Note: this next passage totally applies to culture today. However, it was written 2000 years ago for a culture on the other side of the world. At the time, men didn’t have to love their wives or treat their family with respect-when Paul brought this idea, it was totally new, revolutionary, and against culture, and it still is today, although we’ve at least heard these ideas before. At the time of this letter to the Colossians, this was directed towards men and women in Christ, showing them how to live differently from “culture” and to live in Jesus instead.)

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

In the infamous GQ interview, when Phil Robertson was asked about sin and he talked about sexual immorality, he did, in fact, represent Christians’ views in a proper way. I’ve seen a lot of headlines incorrectly disputing this point, and I’ve seen a lot of discussions debating as well, but there’s no arguing with someone who’s truly a Christian-Phil gets it. Here’s something I copied and pasted directly from http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson?currentPage=2:

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” he tells me. “You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview, America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles. (He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all that we have lost.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

During Phil’s darkest days, in the early 1970s, he had to flee the state of Arkansas after he badly beat up a bar owner and the guy’s wife. Kay Robertson persuaded the bar owner not to press charges in exchange for most of the Robertsons’ life savings. (“A hefty price,” he notes in his memoir.) I ask Phil if he ever repented for that, as he wants America to repent—if he ever tracked down the bar owner and his wife to apologize for the assault. He shakes his head.

“I didn’t dredge anything back up. I just put it behind me.”

As far as Phil is concerned, he was literally born again. Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

Read More http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson#ixzz2oFbS0WRb

As a radical, liberal, Christian who takes Jesus seriously, what Phil said was absolutely correct. Granted, he could’ve picked any sin (greed, idolatry-which is my biggest struggle, hatred, obscenity, gossip and slander), but he chose sexual sin, and if I was asked the same question, I’d also choose sexual sin. And without going into great details about why I would choose that sin (again, check out some of my previous postings about my past life and what I learned), sexual sin is one that has many more earthly consequences than other sins because it comes from within our hearts. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is the first passage I thought of that tells about the horrifying nature of sexual sin.

“Everything is permissible for me”– but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”– but I will not be mastered by anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”– but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with Him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.

Here’s another, where Jesus addresses lust (Matthew 5:27):

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Hell.”

And as far as homosexuality in the Bible, I have a few points to raise about this. For one thing, as a Christian, we are called to love everyone. Also, all sins are equal except for blasphemy against God. And my last point is this: from a scientific standpoint, we don’t know why homosexuality exists. But there are cases in the Old Testament (Sodom & Gomorrah) and Romans 1 in the New Testament explains homosexuality as a result of this sinful world. It isn’t being homosexual that’s a sin, but rather, acting on it. And that’s no different than all the heterosexual people I know having sex outside of marriage, serial dating, etc-just like when Phil talked about a man sleeping with this woman and that woman and that woman. Romans 1 makes me feel sick to my stomach, but I think as a part of explaining what’s in the Bible, this has to be covered. I also think that Paul is a great role model for how we should approach such matters-praying for everyone, and being honest about everything. Since Romans 1 is quite long and I wanted to talk about the sin part, I’m going to start at verse 18, but I encourage you to check out the whole chapter sometime.

The wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth with their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-His eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations for women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do not do what ought to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent new ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Romans 1 is a great passage about describing the sin in the world. Paul’s letter to the Romans goes on to talk about how to overcome sin and how God is with those who love Him.

As far as male and female sexual relations, that’s a beautiful part of the Bible, it’s a beautiful part of God’s creation. In Genesis 1, God makes Adam and all the animals, and he realizes there’s no mate for Adam. So he puts Adam to sleep and from the rib by his heart, he makes a woman to be Adam’s helper. Today, the male/female dichotomy has been ruined by our culture to the point that some days, even I want to give up hope of ever finding a suitable mate who will treat me right. And it all started in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve-the very first people God created to have a social relationship with. But when God created Adam and Eve, they were made to be intimate together and to be life partners together, to have children and raise a family, all in holiness and with God in their presence. That was God’s original design. Song of Songs is a beautiful love letter that is so descriptive I am not comfortable writing it here (I can’t even watch people kiss in movies so…yeah, not into the PDA thing). But it is a part of the Bible, and it was included for a reason….

Phil goes on to say the most foundational of all Christian beliefs, the one point that unifies us all more than anything else: that we’re all sinners equally and we’re all called to love each other regardless of who we are or who we’ve been. First John is one of my favorite books in the Bible so I’ve chosen to use another passage from 1 John 4:7-21:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know that we live in Him and He in us, because he has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence in the day of judgement, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Romans 12:9-21 is another great passage about Christian love:

Love muse be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Another point Phil hits on in the GQ interview is repentance. That’s really what the whole “born-again” part is about. I made a note in my Bible years ago that repent means to “completely turn around.” Repenting of your sins has a component of feeling guilty and sad about what you’ve done, wanting to change, and making that change. Without change, there’s no repentance. Colossians 3 (above) is a very clear passage about what it means to repent of your sins and have a new life in Christ. The book of Ephesians has some great passages about living as a Christian. 1 Peter 2 is also a really great passage about changing your life in Christ. 1 Peter 2:1-12:

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to Him, the living Stone-rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who don’t believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes many men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to god, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.

I can’t figure out why someone took Phil Robertson’s words completely out of context and turned them into something he didn’t say at all. I do know this though: jealousy causes humans to do terrible things, and I have a suspicion that most people who don’t know Jesus are jealous of those of us who do, because we’re made complete in Him, and without Him, there’s always an emptiness. There are many Psalms and various verses throughout the Bible that talk about God being with/in people.

Psalm 46 tells us that God is with us, and we don’t have to be afraid of anything.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; He lifts His voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the Lord, the desolations He has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear, He burns the shields with fire. “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Joshua 1:9 is one of my very favorite verses of all, given as Joshua prepares to conquer some land for God’s people, the Israelites, in what looks like an impossible win. Here’s Joshua 1:6-9 (God speaking to Joshua):

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you: do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So in the Old Testament, God was with Adam and Eve in person. As sin progressed, He was less present in human form but holy people like Moses were able to approach Him (Exodus 20 and the surrounding chapters talk about Moses going to the Mountain to get all the commandments from God), and then later His presence was in places of worship and sacrifice. In the New Testament, He comes back to earth in the form of a human boy-Jesus, from birth to death. When Jesus is crucified, we get the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is God in us, helping us to overcome our sin and live a holy life, and also to communicate with God in Three Persons. This is explained all throughout the New Testament in the apostles that experience the Spirit. But first, Jesus explains to His disciples how the Spirit will work in John 14-16. Here’s John 14:15-31:

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love and who myself to him.”

Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show Yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own, they belong to the Father who sent me.

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

“You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world (the devil) is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

So the world is overcome with sin and therefore can’t process what Phil Robertson said when he said exactly what a Christian believes in a popular men’s magazine. I hope this has cleared up some questions about the Bible and Christianity, but this is nowhere near comprehensive, I just wanted to help out because I recently realized that some people have never been introduced to the Story of God.

Some of my personal, inspirational favorite passages from the Bible are: The book of Job, the Psalms (9, 34, 73, 91, 119 are some that come to mind), Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 43:2, Jeremiah 17:7-10, the gospel of Matthew, Luke 15, Luke 7:36-50, the book of Acts (particularly 1-9- I love Paul’s conversion), Romans 8, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews 11, the book of James (it’s probably my very favorite), 1 Peter 5, 1 John, Revelation 7:9-17. I said I wouldn’t simplify the Bible for this blog, but when I need quick help, these are my favorite places to go.

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10 responses to “Christianity 101: What’s Really in the Bible?

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