Hi there crispymornings... Sounds like you've been on a big journey! To answer some of your questions/comments....
OK, so I have figured out that there is God. And Jesus did many wonderful things and He died for us, for our sins.
Yep - Jesus was God's Son and God in human form (sounds confusing I know!). Not only did he die for all of us, but he was also raised from the dead and taken up into heaven. Thanks to that act, we are forgiven for living our lives 'autonomously' (in rebellion from God, self governed = sin).
There was essentially no way out for us. We'd (present and past tense) chosen to rule ourselves rather than live under God's rule. God, being just and fair, really should have punished us with death. There really was no other option for him. Hence, we all will die.... But instead of making death the end, because he is also a loving God, he offered an alternative, giving up his Son in place of us, so that now death is not the end for us, just the beginning.
it's the word of God and a guide as to how we should live our lives.
Definitely. But it wasn't written specifically as an 'instruction manual'. It was written by all sorts of people in all sorts of contexts. It mainly serves for us to KNOW God. It's not a book of rules as such, although in knowing God and reading His word (the bible) we get a feel for how God would like us to live. But the bible is mostly a place to get to know and understand God, to read about how he has worked in the past, and to read about people who are worshiping him, so that we also can do so.
To be a Christian, one must give themselves to Jesus, and live by the bible? And when one sins, they pray for forgiveness? So if one does not want to live exactly by the bible, one is not a Christian, and cannot be?
Not exactly. The bottom line is none of us will ever be able to live perfect lives. The bible acknowledges that - if we could do so there would have been no need for Jesus. So no, being a Christian isn't contingent on the things we DO - or on living the exact way the bible illustrates God would like us to live (thank goodness, because I'd fail dismally!).
Being a Christian is about recognising that Jesus took the punishment we deserved, accepting it and being thankful! Saying "God, thanks so much for offering me forgiveness through Jesus, please forgive me and show me how to live under you.."
But ... what happens is, in realising the truth of what God has done, you start to WANT to please God. Because when you realise the monumental sacrifice he made on your behalf, you WANT to thank him by living his way. So it doesn't become about following rules, it becomes about wanting to please God.
And in doing so, you interact with him, talk to him, confide in him, ask him things, and allow him to lead you, rather than lead yourself. And that's when life takes on a whole new meaning.
Does that make sense????
I just don't agree with all his *rules*-does that make any sense at all??
My suggestion would be to not start with the "rules". Start with God. Get to know who he is, and try relating to him. Try to get a feel for what Jesus did and whether you can accept that gift.
Perhaps I'm just a rebellious/non-committal kind of person!!
We're all rebellious. That's the whole point. If we weren't, there would have been no need for Jesus.
But God changes hearts and each time we 'rebel' he forgives us and loves us just as much. And slowly, as we focus on knowing him more and more, and knowing what he wants for us, we find less of a reason to want to rebel. (But we still do, sometimes! Yes, all of us!).
Would going to church at this point be silly, or would it help me find my way? Should I be walking down another path altogether?
No, I'd never say going to church is silly. I'd say it something to do but with an open mind and a reminder that it's God that is perfect, not people or churches. I'd say go there and see what you can learn about God, but don't judge God by church, because we're all only human. Give it a chance I guess is what I am saying.
My advice would be to try and find a local church that might offer introductory courses like "Christianity Explained", "Alpha" or "Introducing God". My best suggestion would be Introducing God, as it's really post-modern and explains the 'story of Christianity' in a really refreshing and easy to understand way. You might be able to find where a course is running by visiting: http://www.introducinggod.org/
Feel free to keep posting here, or PM me. Happy to even chat on the phone if you like. Or if you're in Brisbane we could always catch up and chat more.