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God loves you and has a plan for you!
The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” – a complete life full of purpose (John 10:10).
Here’s the problem: we are sinful and separated from God.
We have all done, thought or said bad things, which the Bible calls “sin.” The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The result of sin is death, spiritual separation from God (Romans 6:23).
God sent His Son to die for your sins!
This is the good news:Jesus died in our place so we could have a relationship with God and be with Him forever. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). But it didn’t end with His death on the cross. He rose again and still lives! “Christ died for our sins. … He was buried. … He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6).
Pray to receive God’s forgiveness.
Praying is simply talking to God. He knows you. What matters is the attitude of your heart, your honesty. Pray a prayer like this to accept Jesus as your Savior:
“Lord Jesus Christ,
I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. I ask your forgiveness and now turn from everything which I know is wrong. Thank you for dying on the cross for me to set me free from my sins. Please come into my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit and be with me forever. Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen.”
FUEL Ministries exists to reach men that are caught in the bondage of habitual sin and long to be set free. We are here to encourage, equip and empower men to be all that God has called us to be and Focus Upon Eternal Living.Get in Touch
A message from Billy GrahamThe Bible is somewhat like a library because it is actually a collection of books. Those books were written over many centuries, and they were only gradually brought together into their present form. The first “collection” was probably the first five books of the Bible (often called the “Torah,” which is the Hebrew word for God’s Law). As time went on, other books were added.
The whole Old Testament was finished about four centuries before the time of Jesus. Only a few decades after His ministry, the books of the New Testament were written and then accepted by Christians. The most important fact about the Bible, however, is that God watched over its writing, and He has preserved it down to the present time.
The Bible isn’t just another ancient book of human wisdom-it is God’s Word, given to us to tell us how we can know God. The Bible says, “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (II Peter 1:21). God guided the authors as they wrote the different books.
What place does the Bible have in your life? God wants to speak to you through its pages; are you listening? Most of all, He wants you to come to know Him by discovering Jesus Christ, who is at the Bible’s center.
Reading the Bible
A message from Billy Graham
The Bible is big-so big that even the greatest scholar will never exhaust its riches. But the Bible isn’t just for preachers and scholars! God wants to speak to you through His Word, and no matter who you are, the Bible can come alive to you. You may never understand everything in the Bible, but you can understand something. Samuel was still a boy, but God answered his simple prayer: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” (I Samuel 3:9).
Today, many people keep the Bible a closed book. One reason is because we don’t realize how much we need it. If I suggested that you stop eating for a few months, you’d ignore me-and rightly so. We need food in order to survive, and without food we’ll grow weak and eventually die. Yet many Christians are spiritually starved and weak because they ignore the spiritual “food” God has provided in the Bible. The Bible is not an option; it is a necessity. You cannot grow spiritually strong without it. Job said, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:12). Is the Bible this important to you?
So how can you discover the Bible’s message? How can the Bible become part of your life?
Learn the Bible from others. God has given some people a special gift to understand the Bible and teach it to others. The Bible says that “God has placed in the church … teachers” (I Corinthians 12:28). Listen carefully when your pastor preaches from the Bible. In addition, seek out a Bible class in your church or community where the Bible is faithfully taught. Also check your local Christian radio station (if you live in a country that permits religious broadcasting); some of today’s most gifted Bible teachers are on radio. Investigate spending part of your vacation at a conference center devoted to Bible teaching. Many people find daily devotional books based on the Bible helpful. Although they may examine only a verse or two each day, God can use them to encourage you.
One of the most significant spiritual movements in recent decades has been the explosion in small group Bible studies. All over the world, Christians are coming together to read the Bible and share their insights. The Bible says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another” (Colossians 3:16). Jesus promised, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20, NKJV).
Learn the Bible on your own. If you have never read the Bible, or you started reading it once but got bogged down, let me encourage you to discover the Bible for yourself. How can you do this?
First, come to the Bible joyfully. Bible reading shouldn’t be a burden but a joy! I vividly remember the day I received Ruth’s letter saying she had decided to accept my proposal for marriage. I probably read and reread it dozens of times that day. God wants to talk with us through His Word; in fact, it is His “love letter” to us. Why shouldn’t we come to it joyfully?
Then come to the Bible prayerfully and expectantly. Ask God to speak to you through its pages and expect Him to do so. This doesn’t mean that every time we open the Bible we’ll find something new; God may be underlining truths we already know. But let the psalmist’s prayer become yours: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18).
In addition, come to the Bible systematically. Some people open their Bibles almost at random or simply reread passages they already know. While God can certainly speak to us through any passage, we also need to remember that the Bible wasn’t written [to be read] that way.
Get in the habit of reading the Bible the way it was written: one book at a time. I often suggest people begin by reading through one of the Gospels, such as John, perhaps only a few paragraphs at a time. Later you can read Acts, which tells of the early Christians, or some of the New Testament letters. Psalms in the Old Testament-the “hymnbook” of the Bible-has blessed generations of believers, while Proverbs gives practical guidance for daily living. Psalms teaches us how to relate to God, and Proverbs teaches us how to relate to others.
Also come to the Bible thoughtfully. In other words, be sure you understand what you are reading. Several years ago, a woman told me that her grandmother reads a chapter of the Bible every day. Then she added, “But whenever I ask her what she’s just read, she can’t tell me. Reading the Bible is just a habit that doesn’t seem to make any impression on her.”
Focus on what the passage is really saying. What is happening in it? What is its central point or primary teaching? What does it say about God, or about Jesus, or about someone’s response to God?
Finally, come to the Bible obediently. James wrote, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). Is God pointing out a truth you should believe or something you should do? Is He revealing a sin for which you need to repent? Remember: God never leads us to do anything that is contrary to His Word. But the opposite is also true: God always leads us to do everything that is in agreement with His Word.
God gave the Bible to us because He wants us to know Him and love Him and serve Him. Most of all, He gave it to us so we can become more like Christ. Make the Bible part of your life-beginning today.
Reading and Understanding the Bible
The Bible is God’s Word to us. It’s His message of love and forgiveness, and shows us how we can have eternal life. It can also answer questions you have as you strive to live a life that pleases Him. That’s why Christians should try to read the Bible daily.
Here are some suggestions:
First, read one chapter from the Gospel of John each day. This will help you understand the basics of the Gospel. (Books of the Bible are typically listed in the front of the Bible.)
Second, read Acts, the exciting story of how Jesus Christ’s first disciples told others about how He died and rose again.
Third, read the letters that Christ’s apostles wrote to His first followers-all who were new in their faith. These letters are the book of Romans through the book of III John.
Fourth, go back and read one of the other three gospels: Matthew, Mark or Luke.
You might not understand everything you read in the Bible, but don’t let that discourage you. The Bible tells us what God is like and offers us wisdom. As you read it, ask yourself:
What does this passage mean?
What is God saying to me in this passage?
How can I apply this to my own life?
As you read your Bible regularly, you will begin to understand more of it. Here are 4 more ways to get more out of your reading:
1. Read the Psalms, the Old Testament book of worship, to enrich your devotion to God.
2. Read Proverbs to gain wisdom and strengthen your relationship with others.
3. Pray for understanding. The Holy Spirit can help you, and you will begin to see life from God’s perspective.
4. Talk to others about what you’re learning. Try to attend a small group Bible study.
A message from Franklin Graham
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The angel announced to Joseph that the Child in Mary’s womb should be called “Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptized, he exclaimed, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The Bible mentions sin so frequently for a very good reason-it is sin, our sin, that separates us from God and, if not dealt with through faith and repentance, it brings eternal death. Facing the truth about our sin and its deadly consequences is a biblical prerequisite to receiving Jesus as Savior.
That’s why I was shocked when I attended a Christian conference and one of the speakers said that we should not mention sin in our preaching because it is offensive. Sin certainly is offensive, but the Person who is affronted is the Holy God. God hates sin. He is eternally, fiercely opposed to it and cannot tolerate it in His presence.
That’s why the Scripture spends so much time speaking about sin. It is our fundamental problem and, if ignored, leaves us to rely on our own futile resources for a solution.
However, as much emphasis as the Bible places on the reality and peril of sin, it puts an even greater weight on the cure for sin-salvation through personal faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Sin has been dealt with. There is deliverance because we have a Deliverer. There is salvation because we have a Savior. There is redemption because we have a Redeemer.
The Good News is that God forgives sin. He poured out His divine wrath against it by punishing His own Son on the cross. “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5, NASB). Sin’s penalty-eternal death-was paid in full when Jesus died as our substitute at Calvary.
When we turn from our sin-acknowledge our rebellion against God and utter inability to save ourselves-and turn to God in faith, we receive the free gift of salvation. We did nothing to earn it, because we can’t.
Amazingly, God not only took away our sins, He also credited His righteousness to us. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21, NASB). Martin Luther called this the “great exchange,” our sin for His righteousness.
Sin is indeed bad news. We are lost, hopeless and without God. However, as we put aside our pride and admit our sin, we are ready to receive the glorious salvation of Jesus Christ.
If I’m a Christian and keep sinning, will God turn away from me?
It’s true that sin puts up a barrier between us and God and cuts us off from the fellowship He wants us to have with Him. The Bible says, “But your iniquities [sins] have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
But that doesn’t mean God refuses to have anything to do with us. In fact, He wants us to come back to Him and have our fellowship with Him restored-and He does everything He can to wake us up and bring us to repentance. Sometimes the only way He can do this is by making us so miserable that we finally realize what we’ve done and turn back to Him. Sometimes He quietly shows His love to us even when we don’t deserve it, hoping to awaken us to His goodness.
Think about what happens in a family when someone wrongs his or her relative. That person is still a member of the family; nothing can change that. But a barrier has come between that person and the rest of the family; their fellowship has been broken. The only way to restore it is by confessing the sin and asking for forgiveness. The same is true with us.
Don’t let sin come between you and God. God loves you, and Christ died to take away our sins. When we do sin, however, we need to confess it and seek God’s forgiveness at once. The longer it goes on, the more the devil rejoices.
If you have done these things, you are saved! You have salvation, which means you have accepted God’s love and forgiveness, are adopted into His family and have fellowship with His people-your fellow Christians. You are free from the power of sin-a child of God! The Bible promises you eternity in heaven (Romans 10:9-10).
How are we saved?
John 3:16-17 and John 10:10 tell of the great love God has for us. Because of His love, He wants us to come to Him just as we are. He wants to have a personal relationship with us and longs for us to talk to Him freely about our sins and our needs.
God revealed His love for us by sending His Son, Jesus, to die for our sins more than 2,000 years ago. Jesus understands us because He lived as a man on earth for 33 years. He lived a sinless life and paid the price for our sins by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice on the cross. He rose from the dead three days later and went up into heaven, where He intercedes on our behalf (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25).
Don’t good people go to heaven?
Many people think that being good will get them into heaven-that if they are nice, don’t commit any crimes and try to do the right thing, they have earned their way into God’s kingdom.
But the Bible says we all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We all sin, and the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). There’s nothing we can do to earn our way into heaven.
But God made a way by sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins! None of us are good enough to get to heaven on our own, but if we ask Christ into our lives, we can look forward to eternity with Him in heaven. It’s not about good things you’ve done, but about what Christ has done for you (Ephesians 2:8). It’s not about emotions you might feel, but about what God’s Word tells you (I John 5:11-13). Jesus provides the only path to salvation.
So what do I do?
Jesus has all power and authority over sin and evil (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 2:14-15; I John 3:8), and through Him we can also live victorious lives. We read in II Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!” The Bible also says in I Corinthians 15:57: “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To be saved, admit to God that you are a sinner. We are all sinners and because God is holy, He cannot tolerate sin. Yet because He loves us, He forgives our sins when we ask for forgiveness. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation, but it is only by God’s grace-His undeserved mercy-that we can be saved.
That doesn’t mean we should go on sinning, relying on God to forgive us later. God is holy, and our sin is a direct rebellion against His holiness. We should take it seriously, realize we were wrong and actively try to turn from our sins-that’s called repentance. Repentance carries with it the idea of confession, remorse and changing our ways to become more like Jesus.
Once you repent and ask forgiveness, recognizing Jesus as your Savior, thank God for His love and acceptance of you. If we give ourselves to Jesus, He comes into our hearts and lives there (Revelation 3:20). We must commit ourselves to Him and trust Him alone as our Savior and Lord.
Have complete confidence in everlasting life by accepting Christ, and experience the joy that comes from knowing Him personally.
It is impossible to understand the Bible, Christian living, the structure of the church or our own relationship with God without understanding the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is a person. The Bible says that He is not something. He is Someone. He is God.
To understand this better, let’s talk about the Trinity. There are three persons in the Trinity-God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Christians do not worship multiple gods; they worship one God who takes on different forms. God the Son, or Jesus Christ, was God in human form. The Holy Spirit lives inside us when we accept Christ and helps us grow closer to God.
The moment we receive Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our hearts. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is all-powerful and present everywhere. The Holy Spirit teaches us and takes us deeper into God’s truth as we go along in our Christian life.
There is not a person anywhere who can be a Christian without the Holy Spirit. There is not a person who can follow Christ without the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit sees everything that goes on. He knows what goes on in our hearts. He knows what goes on in our minds. Nothing is hidden from Him.
The Holy Spirit is also called holy. The Bible says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (I Peter 1:16). One of the Holy Spirit’s ministries is to help make us holy-to become more like Christ.
How does the Holy Spirit work?
First, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin. “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8, NKJV). He uses a mother’s prayers, or a tragic experience, or a pastor’s sermon, or some other experience to convict us of sin and of our need to give our lives to Jesus Christ. He points to us and says, “You are a sinner. You need to repent.”
We don’t like to hear that, but without conviction, we could never have our sins forgiven, we could never be saved and we could never go to Heaven.
Second, the Holy Spirit gives new life. The Bible says that we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). Our spirit within us, made in the image of God, is dead toward God. Mankind needs life. Yet, we have all sinned and, therefore, are dead toward God. The Holy Spirit, however, gives us new life in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again”(John 3:3).
But how is someone born again? What does that mean? The Holy Spirit is the one who makes you born again; it is a supernatural act. It isn’t the good things we’ve done, but God’s mercy through the Holy Spirit that saves us (Titus 3:5). All we have to do is accept the free gift of salvation by accepting Christ.
Third, the Holy Spirit lives in us. As you read this, you may realize that you are spiritually dead, but God says, “I will put my Spirit in you. I will come to live in you.” That’s the reason we should never take anything unclean into our bodies. That’s the reason we should discipline our bodies. God loves your body. He doesn’t want it polluted by fleshly lusts or harmful substances. The Bible says, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (I Corinthians 3:16).
Fourth, The Holy Spirit gives you power to serve Christ. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Christ is coming back again, and He is ready to come into your heart by the Holy Spirit and make you a new person. Will you accept Christ as your Savior?
Baptism is not required to go to heaven, but it is a sign of obedience to God and a way of publicly declaring your decision to follow Christ. Christ commands His followers in Matthew 28:19 to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Remember that nothing we do will earn us salvation. Salvation is not about our actions, but about what Christ has done for us-the fact that He died for our sins. We must recognize our sin and ask forgiveness for it, but the Bible says that we are saved “by grace … through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is God’s undeserved mercy.
You might recall the criminal who hung on a cross next to Christ when He was crucified. The criminal confessed Christ as Lord, and even though he didn’t have a chance for baptism, his place in Heaven was secured (Luke 23:43). God is a perfect, holy God, and there is nothing we can do to be good enough to spend eternity with Him in heaven. It’s all about what He has done for us.
At the same time, when we trust in Christ and desire to live the way He wants us to, it will show in our actions. We are changed because of His work in us. Baptism means that we identify ourselves with Christ; it’s a sign that He washed away our sins by His death on the cross. Just as water often symbolizes life in the Bible, baptism is a sign of our new life with Christ.
Christian churches haven’t always agreed on the details of baptism-how to do it or when, but they agree on its importance. Baptism reminds us that we aren’t saved by our own good works, but because of Christ and what He did for us on the cross. As evangelist Billy Graham has said: “Baptism is a conclusive act of obedience and witness to the world that we are Christ’s.”
The facts of God’s Word, however, don’t change. You can depend on them. Don’t focus on your feelings, but on Jesus Christ and what He has done for you. Imagine for a moment that you had a very wealthy relative, and one day you received a call from an attorney telling you that she died and left you a million dollars. What would you do? You might say, “Oh well, it can’t be true,” but would that be wise? Instead, you would probably accept by faith what he told you, and then begin to act on it. In a far greater way, Jesus Christ offered you a gift-the gift of salvation-and you have accepted it. Now act on it! Begin by thanking Him for saving and forgiving you, and seek to live for Him every day.
Does God forgive future sins?
One of the Bible’s greatest truths is that Christ died to take away all our sins-not just part of them, but all of them: past, present and future.
You shouldn’t fear losing your salvation every time you sin. If that were the case, we would lose our salvation every day. Even if our actions are pure, our thoughts often are not. And even if our actions and thoughts are pure, we still sin because of the good things we should do but don’t.
Never forget: Your salvation does not depend on you and how good you are; it depends solely on Christ and what He has already done for you through His death on the cross. The Bible says that Christ “appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
Does that mean it doesn’t matter whether or not you sin? No, of course not. Sin is serious; it is an offense to God, and it breaks our fellowship with Him. God calls us to “be holy, because I am holy” (I Peter 1:16). We should also be a good witness for Christ; others should be able to look at us and tell that something is different about our lives.
You can’t live the Christian life in your own strength. You need God’s help, which is why He has given His Holy Spirit to you. When you sin, confess it immediately, then seek the Holy Spirit’s help each day to live as you should.
God has a plan for every one of us. Many people go through life without ever thinking about it, but that doesn’t change the fact that God put us here for a purpose. We aren’t here by accident; we’re here because God put us here. And He put us here for a reason-so we could come to know Him in a personal way, and then live the way He wants us to live.
This is the greatest discovery you will ever make: You were created to know God and to be His friend forever. God not only has a general purpose for each of us, but He also has a specific plan for each of our lives. God knows all about you, and He has a plan for you.
That’s why you can pray and seek God’s will when you face decisions, and it is why you can know God is with you every moment of the day. The Bible says, “Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path” (Psalm 27:11).
Knowing God’s will
Knowing God’s will can give you peace in the midst of suffering and everyday trials. When you are in constant fellowship with God, He will lead you in the fulfillment of His plan.
To know God’s will, you must first know God Himself. You can do that by committing your life to Jesus Christ, who was God in human flesh. Christ came to earth to show us what God is like and save us from our sins, and once you accept Him into your heart, you are a child of God! You can know God’s specific will for your life.
If you have accepted Christ, here are some ways to understand God’s will for you:
– Make right any behavior or relationships that might keep you from knowing God’s will. Is there a certain sin that continues to plague your life? Are you in an unhealthy relationship? Confess any wrongdoing, eliminate anything that might distract you from living a godly life and commit your life to God who can make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6). The Bible says, “I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man” (Acts 24:16).
– God will never ask you to do something outside of His will. Do you feel like He’s telling you to take a certain action? Have godly friends encouraged you to use a certain talent? Don’t ignore wise advice or your own common sense.
– Look at God’s Word, the Bible. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” What does God command of you? Has a verse motivated you to do something?
– Pray and ask God to reveal His will to you.
– Make a list of pros and cons when faced with a decision. As you seek God’s guidance, weigh your options.
How do you know when God is speaking?
Have you felt a tug to do something and wondered if it’s God speaking? Our feelings and emotions can be tricky, and they can deceive us-especially if we depend on them alone for making a decision. God gave us our emotions, and they are important, but He also gave us our mental abilities, and when we face a decision, we need to look at it carefully and logically. Part of discerning God’s will is to ask Him to help us see all sides of an issue-sometimes with help from others we trust.
But emotion and intellect aren’t enough. When we face a decision, we need to pray about it, trusting God to lead us. We also need to do it in light of God’s Word, the Bible. God will never lead you to do something that is not in accord with the Bible. Also remember to have an open mind when waiting for God to respond to your prayer. He might not answer right away, or His answer might be something you haven’t considered.
The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NASB). Make sure of your commitment to Christ, then submit every decision you face to Him. When we sincerely want God’s will above all else, He will help us know what is right.
But like any other relationship, it needs to be nurtured and strengthened. If it isn’t, it will wither and grow cold; God will seem distant to us, and we will no longer think of Him as our friend. We might even drift into behaviors that don’t honor Him and instead lead us to destruction. The Bible warns, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. … The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2:15, 17).
Worldly values include greed, lust and obsession with one’s status. Godly values include serving and loving others and humility.
So how do we learn to do God’s will-to walk with Him-every single day? Think of a human friendship: How do we grow closer to someone on a human level? By spending time with that person-talking, listening, sharing concerns and lending a hand when he or she needs help.
The same is true with God. When we read or hear His Word, the Bible, He speaks to us. When we pray, we speak to Him. And when we worship Him and obey Him, we are doing His will and participating in His work.
Followers of Christ are often called disciples. Once you decide to follow Him, it’s important to begin a life of discipleship, following His teaching and telling others what He has done for us on the cross. If you have not already done so, try to organize your day so that you have a special time to spend alone with God. Be sure you don’t neglect this “quiet time” because it will give you strength and power to resist Satan (James 4:7), to live above your circumstances (Romans 5:3-5) and to become a victorious Christian (I Corinthians 10:13). It’s also important to read your Bible daily. This will help you mature spiritually (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 3:17-19).
As you give your heart and life to Christ, you will grow as a Christian. Worship and fellowship in a Gospel-preaching church are also necessary for spiritual growth.
Think of it this way: Did you ever play with a couple of magnets when you were a child? If you did, you’ll remember that the closer they got to each other, the harder it was to pull them apart.
Temptation is something like that. The more you dwell on it and the closer you let it get to you, the stronger its attraction will be. In fact, if you don’t look out, the time may come when it will be almost impossible to pull away from it. Don’t let that happen!
The first step you need to take is to flee from whatever is tempting you. Get as far from it as possible. The Apostle Paul told his young friend, Timothy, to “flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace” (II Timothy 2:22).
Also remember that our thoughts are as important as our actions. In fact, Jesus had strong words for people who were outwardly righteous but inwardly corrupt. One reason is because our actions typically start with our thoughts. The Bible says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts-murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).
Don’t entertain tempting thoughts. Avoid anything that fills your mind with sinful thoughts and fill it instead with good things by studying God’s Word and praying for His guidance.
Most of all, you need God’s help to fight this battle. If you have never done so, turn to Christ and ask Him to come into your life. Then ask Him to fill your heart with His love and power, and to crowd out whatever is wrong in your life. God has promised that “when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out” (I Corinthians 10:13). Ask Him to show you the way out-and then take it.
Many people pray haphazardly. A few words spoken hastily in the morning, then we say goodbye to God for the rest of the day. At night we push through a few sleepy petitions. That is not the example of prayer that Jesus gave.
The Bible tells us to “pray continually” (I Thessalonians 5:17). This doesn’t mean we should spend every minute of the day on our knees, but that we should have a prayerful attitude at all times-acknowledge our dependence on God, obey Him and talk to Him throughout the day. Prayer should not be our last resort; we should start every day by giving it to God.
God loves us and has promised to hear us when we pray. How can you learn to pray? First, understand why prayer is possible.
Prayer is possible because Jesus Christ removed the barrier between us and God-a barrier caused by our sins. You see, sin separates us from God, and because of that, we have no right to come before Him. But by His death on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sins and removed the barrier. God then gives us the privilege of coming into His presence when we commit our lives to Christ. The Bible says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). If you have never done so, ask Christ to come into your life today.
Then understand that God now welcomes you into His presence and promises to hear you. The Bible says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (I John 5:14).
Even if God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers at first, don’t stop praying. He loves you, and no prayer goes unanswered. Sometimes, God answers our prayers when we don’t realize it; He might answer “No,” or “Wait.” Yes, we think we know what’s best for us, but God sees the whole picture, and sometimes He lovingly refuses to give us what we request because He knows it isn’t according to His perfect plan.
We should also pray for others-even our enemies-as well as our leaders. When we pray for them, we should have faith that our prayers will be answered, but at the same time, remember to seek God’s will.
The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6).
Maybe you find yourself praying in church, with a group of friends or at work. Sometimes, though, it might be easier to pray and hear God in silence. God Himself said, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Try to find a quiet place where you can approach God without distraction and give Him your complete attention. No matter where you pray, remember: Personal testimonies, church history and the Bible all confirm that prayer works.
The Bible encourages believers-new and old alike-to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). The first step in this process is to become actively involved in the ministry of a local church.
All Christians are members of the body of Christ. In fact, church is not just a building but a group of people who have decided to follow Christ as their Savior. It is God’s will that Christians meet together as a spiritual body on the local level, which they have been doing for nearly 2,000 years. A number of New Testament letters were written to local groups of believers in different parts of the Roman Empire.
There are four main reasons we need church.
First, we need to identify ourselves with God’s people, to be counted as Christ’s followers, to come together and remain strong in the faith. Interaction with other believers builds friendship and gives spiritual stability. The writer of Hebrews 10:25 admonished the first-century followers of Christ: “Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of His coming back again is drawing near” (TLB). We cannot overemphasize the importance of fellowship in the church. There is something about fellowship within the body of believers in the local church that is unique and cannot be found elsewhere. If one live coal falls from the fire, it soon grows cold. The same principle holds true in the spiritual sense. To neglect fellowship in church is to give up the encouragement and help of other Christians. We gather together to share our faith and strengthen one another in the Lord.
Second, church brings people together for worship. There is nothing to compare with the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s heart and mind during the singing of hymns and songs of praise, public Scripture readings, prayer and the teaching of God’s Word.
Third, regular and accurate teaching of the Bible helps us grow and live successfully as Christians. Teaching that is in step with biblical truths convicts us to do what’s right and helps us lovingly hold our fellow Christians accountable.
Fourth, church is ideal for serving Christ and others. The evangelist Billy Graham once wrote, “I would choose a church which opens its arms to everyone with a spiritual need, regardless of social standing or race, one which has concerns about the social sins of the community, which has a missionary vision and spirit which cooperates with any worthwhile effort to bring Christ to the world. I would also choose a church which is worthy of one’s (financial gifts), and where I could unstintingly give of my talents and capabilities for the glory of God.” As we seek a church like this, we will have the opportunity to minister to others. Our lives will bear witness to Christ’s love (Matthew 5:16).
Other things to look for in a church
Churches differ by congregation and community, but the main goal is to find one that focuses on teaching the Bible. Key teachings include: the Bible as the true, authoritative Word of God (II Timothy 3:16); there is one God who exists in three persons-God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; Matthew 28:18-19); salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9); and spiritual maturity that develops as Christians dedicate themselves to prayer, studying the Bible and obeying God (II Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 2:6-7).
No church is perfect. Every church is made up of sinners who struggle with the same things you do, so fellowship might require patience, forgiveness and love. Realize that you, too, are in need of these things.
It’s also wise to not get involved with groups that call themselves Christians but deviate from the message of the Bible or don’t practice what they preach. We should, however, still love and care for people who identify with these groups and use opportunities to share our faith with them.
God commands us and empowers us to be His witnesses (Matthew 4:19; Acts 1:8). Your testimony-or the story of how you came to trust in Christ-might not always be accepted, but through the Holy Spirit, you can receive power to live a victorious Christian life and serve Christ effectively. (See Ephesians 5:18 and Luke 11:13.)
Here are a few suggestions that might help you lead others to Christ: Live a consistent Christ-centered life (Matthew 5:17); be a friend and a good listener; pray that the Holy Spirit will give opportunities to share with others and prepare the individual to receive God’s Word (John 16:7-11); and avoid arrogance and preachiness. Pray daily for the people on your prayer list and ask God for wisdom as you share Christ with them. (See James 1:5, 3:17.)
When learning more about God or telling others about Him, you might wonder what exactly the word “Gospel” means. And how can you understand it? Here are 10 things you should know about the Gospel.
1. The definition
What is the Gospel? In I Corinthians 15:1-5, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas,and then to the Twelve [disciples].” Christ also appeared to others, but the main point is that He died for our sins and rose again so we could have eternal life.
2. It’s simple
You will be quick to notice that the Gospel is composed of two parts: First, Christ died for our sins; second, Christ rose from the dead.
3. It’s not a religion
Religion is mankind’s quest for God. The Gospel is the God seeking lost men and women through the Savior Jesus Christ. Religion can only produce an outward reformation; the Gospel creates an inward transformation.
4. It’s free
No one can buy salvation. It comes as a free gift-by God’s grace through our faith in Christ.
5. It’s for anyone and everyone
It is called the “Gospel of our salvation” because it is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
6. It will free you
It is called the “Gospel of peace” because, through Christ, it makes peace between the sinner and God. Christ is the bridge to bring us to God.
7. It happened once for all time
Christ died once for our sins. It was a one-time event and provides a way to everlasting life today and forever.
8. It’s unique
The key difference between our supernatural faith and other religions of the world is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
9. Its work has been done
A young pastor asked an aged and dying woman if she had made her peace with God. “No, I have not made peace with God, and I am not afraid to die,” she said. “You see, I do not need to make peace with God. Jesus Christ made peace with God 2,000 years ago, through the blood of His cross, and I am simply resting in the peace that He made.”
10. You can receive it
If you will receive Christ, He will receive you, and you will find that this Gospel, which tells of His death, burial, and resurrection, is the power of God for eternal salvation. “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).
The same is true with God. We believe in Him because He has given us enough evidence to prove that He exists. In other words, He hasn’t hidden Himself from us; instead, He has revealed Himself or made Himself known to us. God wants us to know Him-and has done everything He needs to do to make that possible.
How has He done this? One way is through His Word, the Bible, which He has given to us to better understand who He is. Another way is through the physical world He created, with all of its beauty and complexity and wonder. Isn’t it more logical to believe God created it than to believe it happened by chance? The Bible says, “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” (Romans 1:20).
But God also revealed Himself to us in an even greater way: by coming to earth and becoming a man. That man was Jesus Christ-God revealed in human flesh, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus was fully man but also fully God.
Still, some will say science doesn’t support God’s existence because it can’t be proven through a chemical formula or some other complex equation. But think about this: happiness, beauty and love can’t be proven or measured by a laboratory experiment, either, yet that doesn’t mean they aren’t real. In fact, many well-known and accomplished scientists are convinced that science alone can’t explain where we come from or why we’re here. They realize that science itself points to an all-wise, all-powerful Creator. The Bible says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Psalm 19:1).
Do you want to know not only if God exists, but if He loves you? Is He calling you, wanting a real relationship with you? Look at Christ, who came to demonstrate God’s love for us by dying on a cross and rising again three days later to pay for our sins and provide a way to eternal life. Don’t remain filled with doubt, but turn to Christ and open your heart and life to Him.
First, the Bible declares God to be Spirit. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is talking to a woman at the well. He makes a straightforward statement about God when He says simply, “God is Spirit.” You might envision a sort of cloudy vapor, but that is not a picture of God. You can find out what Spirit is from these words of Christ after His resurrection: “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39, NKJV). Spirit is the opposite of body, something that is not limited by a body.
The Bible declares that God is Spirit, that He is not limited to body, shape, force or boundaries. He is absolutely immeasurable and unfathomable to eyes that are limited to physical things. He can be everywhere at the same time. He has unlimited wisdom, power, love and mercy.
The Bible teaches that there was no time when God did not exist. He is eternal-He has no beginning or end-and unchanging-He is the same today and forever.
Second, the Bible reveals God as a Person. Everywhere in the Bible we read: “God loves;” “God says;” “God does.” Everything that we attribute to a person is attributed to God. A person is one who feels, thinks, wishes, desires and has all the expressions of a personality. God is not bound by a body, but He is a person. He feels, thinks, loves and forgives.
Third, the Bible declares that God is a holy and righteous Being. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals Himself as a holy God. He is perfect in every detail. He is too holy to endure sinful living because He is a good, perfect God.
If we could ever get a vision of God’s majestic righteousness, what a tremendous difference it would make in the way our nations live. If we could once see the appalling difference that separates our unrighteousness from God’s perfect righteousness, it would change our way of living immediately. We all fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).
The Scripture declares God to be Light in whom there is “no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). It is impossible to understand the Bible unless you have a clear understanding of the holiness of God. His holiness determines all His other attributes.
Because God is holy, a gap exists between God and us, the sinners. The Scripture says, “your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2, NKJV). Not only is the sinner separated from God, but God is separated from the sinner. Because God is holy, He can have nothing to do with sin.
Before sin came into the world, humanity and God had fellowship with each other. Now that fellowship is broken, and it is impossible for a sinner to have any contact with God unless it’s through Jesus Christ. People do not possess, nor can they acquire, the sinlessness that is necessary to access God. Christ, however, came to make such access possible.
Fourth, God is love. Many people have misunderstood that part of God’s nature. The fact that God is love does not mean that everything is sweet, beautiful and happy and that God’s love could not possibly allow punishment for sin.
God’s holiness demands that all sin be punished, but God’s love provided a plan of redemption and salvation for sinful people. It was the love of God that sent Jesus Christ to the cross: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
No matter what sin you have committed, no matter how dirty, shameful or terrible it may be, God loves you. But it is up to you to believe in Jesus Christ, ask forgiveness for your sins and receive His gift of eternal life.
Some people might say: “I still can’t understand God. Therefore, I can’t receive Him.” I can’t understand how a black cow can eat green grass and produce white milk, but I drink milk. I don’t refuse to turn on my radio because I can’t understand how it works. Every day, we do thousands of things that we don’t fully understand.
It is impossible for limited human minds to understand God completely. That’s where faith comes in. By faith, I receive His plan for my redemption. I trust Christ as my Savior.
If you don’t believe we have a sufficient revelation that answers the question of what God is like, you will never be satisfied because all discussion outside of the Bible-God’s Word-is speculative. Every other idea about God is the product of the imagination or reasoning of a mere man; your guess is as good as anyone else’s.
Jesus claimed to be God. It might be hard to understand how this could be true, but it’s important to remember that God is much bigger and more powerful than we can comprehend. We do know that Jesus said He existed before Abraham (John 8:58). He claimed that He and His Father are one (John 10:30), and that He is equal with the Father (John 5:17-18).
Not only did He claim to be God, but He also claimed to have the power of God. He said He has the authority to judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-46). He claims the authority to raise people from the dead (John 5:25-29) and to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7)-things only God can do (I Samuel 2:6; Isaiah 43:25).
Further, Jesus says He has the power to answer prayers (John 14:13-14), and that He will be with His followers always (Matthew 28:20). The New Testament equates Jesus to the creator of the universe (John 1:3), and in John 16:15, He says, “All that belongs to the Father is mine.”
But where’s the proof?
Claiming to be something, as Jesus claimed to be God, doesn’t make it true. Where’s the evidence that He is God?
Jesus’ identity isn’t based solely on what He says, but on what He does. And He has left a lot of evidence that He is God. That evidence includes fulfilled prophecy and recorded miracles in which Jesus reversed the laws of nature. He also lived a sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), something no one else has done.
The ultimate proof of His divinity, however, was His resurrection from the dead after His death on the cross. No one else has ever risen from the dead on his own.
Did Jesus ever say, ‘I am God’?
If someone said to you, “I am God,” would you believe him? Many people who believe in one God would think the person is blaspheming. Even if Jesus said the exact words, “I am God,” many people would not have believed Him or even heard what He had to say. Yet, He did give us reasons to believe such a claim without using these words.
In Luke 4:8, Jesus says, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” He said and showed many times that He is the Lord. Jesus says, for example, that He is “the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17, 22:13), which God the Father says in Isaiah 44:6.
But maybe you’re looking for a place in the Bible where Jesus says, “I am God; worship me” in those exact words. If we suggest that Jesus could only claim to be God by saying that one sentence, we might also ask where He says, “I am a great teacher, but not God,” or, “I am just a prophet; don’t worship me.” The Bible doesn’t say that, either.
The good news is that Jesus told us He is God in many different ways! He has made it clear that He and God the Father are one (John 10:30), and says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Who else could claim these things except God?
Does that mean there are multiple gods?
Believing Jesus is God doesn’t mean there are multiple gods. It can be difficult to understand, but followers of Jesus believe in one God in three persons (God the Father, God the Son-Jesus, and the Holy Spirit). God is one but has three roles, just like a person today might be a father, an employee and a husband. Each person of God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) has a separate function, but all are united as one God-one in purpose, essence and nature, and equal in power and glory.
How can Jesus be God if He is God’s Son?
If Jesus is God’s Son, does that mean God had a wife?
God has never had a wife. Calling Jesus God’s Son is an expression of His role in relation to God the Father. Unlike us, Jesus was not conceived by two earthly parents; He was born of a virgin through a miraculous work of God. He was born holy, without sin.
Being born of a virgin might seem impossible-even Jesus’ mother, Mary, asked, “How will this be? (Luke 1:34)-yet God is all-powerful and made a way for the holy Jesus to be born a human. In Matthew 1:20, an angel tells Mary’s fiancÃ©, Joseph, that what is conceived in Mary “is from the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was not born out of a sexual relationship between God and Mary, but instead out of a miracle by God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus was both fully God and fully human.
It is also significant that the most thorough Gospel account of the virgin birth was written by Luke, a medical doctor. If anyone knew the impossibility of a virgin birth, it was Luke-yet, after careful research, he concluded that it was a fact. The God who was powerful enough to create the universe was also powerful enough to bring Jesus into the world without a human father. His miraculous birth is just one more testament to His deity.
Why should we care who Jesus is?
There is one way to heaven, one way to be free from your sin and to have a relationship with God. That’s through Jesus Christ. Acts 4:1II says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” To have eternal life in heaven, you must put your trust in Jesus. Here’s why:
We all sin, meaning we all fall short of God’s perfect standard. The consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). That means eternal separation from God. But because Jesus lived a sinless life, His death on the cross provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because He defeated death by rising again, we can have eternal life in the presence of God when we put our trust in Him.
Hundreds of people saw and believed in the risen Christ after His death and resurrection, and countless people in the past 2,000 years have discovered that only Jesus can meet the deepest longings and needs of the human heart. In Jesus Christ alone “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
Can we trust what the Bible says about Him?
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is God, and there are many reasons we can trust the Bible. (Find “Is the Bible true?” under the Common Questions section for five of them.)
Not only do we have many reasons to believe that the text of the Bible is true, but many will find that reading the Bible allows God to speak to them-perhaps not audibly, but through His words.
While there are different translations of the Bible, the same core message is the same-that God loves us and freely offers us eternal life if we accept Jesus as our Savior. Different translations exist in an effort to make the Bible understandable to various audiences; however, the major doctrines-and the person of Jesus Christ-remain the same.
If you’re curious about Jesus or what the Bible says about Him, read the book of John in the Bible. It’s a great place to start.
Christ means “anointed one.” It is the term for the ancient Hebrew word Messiah-the anointed one whom God would send to save His people. The first believers of the early Christian church recognized Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Their period of world history was full of discouragement and despair. The promised Messiah shone as a beacon in the darkness, and His light has never dimmed: “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. … The true Light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world” (John 1:4, 9).
Today, as world leaders struggle with seemingly insurmountable problems, this darkening and menacing situation accentuates the brightness of the One who proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Jesus alone can offer eternal life because He is the only one who lived a sinless life and provided the perfect sacrifice for our sins by His death on the cross. He lived on earth as man, but was also divine. Because He was divine, He rose again three days after His death-the only one ever to die and come back to life on His own-then ascended into heaven. While the founders of various non-Christian religions of the world have died and been buried, Christ is very much alive!
Jesus was the only one to claim to be God and the only one to prove it. In His words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Because the Bible is God’s inspired Word and God cannot lie, it does not contradict itself or teach falsehoods. It is in this very Scripture that Jesus is revealed.
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People have all kinds of ideas about truth. Whatever your view is, you would be wise to consider what Jesus Christ taught about truth. He taught not only that there is truth, but also that He is the Truth. In His words, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He also taught about lies and said Satan is the father of lies.
Satan’s lies started in the Garden of Eden. When God created man and woman, He placed them in a beautiful and perfect environment. God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Then Satan came along in the form of a serpent and said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ … You will not certainly die” (Genesis 3:1, 4).
In our generation, people question whether the Bible is really the Word of God. They put doubt in people’s minds, asking, “Did God really say that?” (See “Is the Bible true?” for more.)
Adam and Eve had to make a choice between God’s truth and the devil’s lie. They chose the devil’s lie. And today our sinful nature also sides with the lie instead of the truth. Jesus said, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20).
From the moment we are born, we have a tendency to sin. Our moral universe is out of focus, and we won’t get it back into focus until we come to Christ. We accept lies as truth and truth as lies. We don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong.
We don’t have to be taught to sin; we inherit it. The question is, what will we do about it? How can we escape the deception and delusion that plague our world?
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). He also said, “I am the … truth” (John 14:6).
Jesus told the truth about many things, including repentance-asking forgiveness for your sins. He said, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Unless we turn to Christ and try to change our sinful lives, we will suffer. We will be eternally separated from God. But if we put our faith in Christ, we can enjoy eternity with Him in heaven!
Regardless of what people say they believe about truth, the fact is that every day, we live our lives on the basis of things we believe are true. We step onto airplanes that we believe will fly. We flip switches that we believe will bring desired results.
Yet in Jesus Christ we have the most profound truth. He is the only One who can bring peace and joy and the total satisfaction you have been searching for.
The Bible contains four Gospels, or books about the Good News of Jesus Christ and salvation. Those Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The authors knew a lot about Jesus’ ministry: Matthew was a tax collector who became one of Jesus’ disciples, or followers; Mark worked with those who started the I churches; Luke was a doctor who carefully investigated the life of Jesus and wrote in great detail; and John was also one of Jesus’ disciples. The Gospels include eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ ministry, historically accurate details and were written shortly after His ministry. Non-Christian sources and archaeology also confirm historical facts that appear in the Gospels.
Between 25,000 and 30,000 handwritten copies of the New Testament survive today. Ancient church fathers quoted from the New Testament so much that even if these copies were destroyed, nearly all the books could be put back together. Some critics say these copies contain thousands of variants, or differences in text. However, nearly all of these variants are minor, like differences in spelling or using “Jesus” instead of “Lord.” None of them change the core message of the New Testament.
All four Gospels tell about Jesus’ ministry, but include different details. The authors wrote to different audiences for different reasons. Matthew wrote to the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior. Mark wrote to Roman Christians to emphasize Jesus’ teachings and heart for serving others. Luke wrote to Gentiles (non-Jews) to show that Jesus, by living a life without sin, paid the price for our own sins. And John showed new believers that Jesus is the Son of God and those who believe in Him will have eternal life. Each author had a different style of writing, but all four accounts present the same basic truth. Their differences are actually evidence that the Gospels were not a conspiracy. The Gospels also include embarrassing accounts, like the disciples failing at times to understand Jesus’ teachings. Those testimonies would not have been used by those who called Him Lord if they weren’t true.
Even without copies of the New Testament, people throughout the centuries have passed on stories of Jesus by word of mouth. Plus, there were so many eyewitnesses to His teachings-think feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish-that an inaccurate detail could easily be crushed.
God used the Bible’s authors to convey His message, guiding them through visions, dreams and their own experiences. II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” God did not move the pen in the writer’s hand, but guided him through the process; He inspired the text. Just because humans make mistakes doesn’t mean they can’t write truthful documents.
Many people reject the Bible without ever actually reading it. But since the Bible claims to answer life’s deepest questions, it makes sense to see what it has to say. Even if you read a paragraph at a time, God can teach you the Bible’s truth and use it in your life. You will also discover that Jesus Christ was a real person who loves you and that life’s greatest joy comes from following Him.
Some people doubt that they are actually Christians. They want to be, but feel like they are missing the joy of the Christian faith.
The dreadful uncertainty that haunts many people grows out of misunderstanding what the Christian experience is. Some people don’t seem to know the nature of Christian conversion, while others have been misinformed concerning conversion and seek an experience that is not biblical. Many confuse faith with feeling.
Faith always implies an object-that is, when we believe, we must believe something. That something I call the “fact.” Now let me give you three words that will help you understand the Christian life: fact, faith and feeling. They come in this order, and the order is essential. In this order, you will have the joy and confidence of one who can say, “I know whom I have believed” (II Timothy 1:12).
First, you are saved through a personal faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ as defined in the Scriptures. The Gospel refers to the news of Christ’s death and resurrection in order to pay the penalty for our sins and provide a way to eternal life.
Though it might at first seem dogmatic and narrow-minded to you, the fact remains that there is no other way to be saved from your sins than by God’s grace through your faith in Christ. The work of Christ is a fact, His cross is a fact, His tomb is a fact and His resurrection is a fact.
It is impossible to believe anything into existence. The Gospel did not come into being because men and women believed it, and Christ’s tomb wasn’t empty three days after His death because His followers believed it. The fact preceded the faith. We are psychologically incapable of believing without an object of our faith. Christians do not call upon people to believe something that is not credible, but to believe in the fact of history. Trusting in Christ for your eternal salvation is trusting in a fact-not in a figment of someone’s imagination.
Faith is the second of these three words. Faith is rationally impossible where there is nothing to believe. Faith must have an object. The object of Christian faith is Christ. Faith means more than agreeing with the claims of Christ; faith involves the will-a decision to believe in Christ. If you say with your mind and your heart, “Yes, I believe in Christ and receive what He has done for me”-that He died for my sins-then you have eternal life. Faith, then, means surrender and commitment to the claims of Christ. It means acknowledging sin and turning to Christ. We do not know Christ through the five physical senses, but we know Him through the “sixth sense” that God has given every man and woman-the ability to believe.
Feeling is the last of the three words, and it must remain last in your thinking. I believe that earnest and honest seekers for the salvation of God have unrest and uncertainty when they think they must have some kind of emotion to make conversion a true experience. If you are seeking salvation as it is presented through the Scriptures, you will want to know what kind of experience the Bible says you should have.
Maybe you went to a church altar, to an inquiry room, or knelt beside your radio or TV when an invitation was given to receive Christ. You heard the message, and you knew that you were a sinner in need of a Savior. In your lost and hopeless condition, you looked to Christ for salvation. You believed that He could and would save you. Maybe you read His invitation to sinners: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
I have read carefully through the New Testament to see just what kind of experience you are entitled to. I have looked to see what the nature of the experience of conversion is, and I have found that the New Testament reveals only one: the experience of faith.
Believing is an experience as real as any experience, yet multitudes are looking for something more-some electric sensation that will bring a thrill to their physical bodies, or some other spectacular event. Many have been told to look for such spiritual thrills, but the Bible says that a man is “justified by faith” (Romans 3:28), and not by feeling. A person is saved by trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross and not by bodily sensations and religious ecstasy.
Still, you might say, “Is there no place in saving faith for any feeling?” Certainly there is room for feeling, but we are not saved by it. Whatever feeling there may be is the result of saving faith, but feeling never saved a single soul.
When I understand something of Christ’s love for me as a sinner, however, I respond with a love for Christ, and love has feeling. Those who love Christ also have a confidence in Him that raises them above all fear.
To have a guilty conscience is also a feeling, and the Bible teaches that Christ cleanses the conscience: “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:14).
To have a guilty conscience cleansed and to be free from its constant accusation is an experience, but it is not the cleansing of the conscience that saves you. It is faith in Christ that saves. A cleansed conscience is the effect of a right relationship with God.
Joy is a feeling as well. So is inward peace. Love for others is a feeling. Concern for the lost is a feeling. But these feelings are not conversion. Again, the only experience you can look for and expect is the experience of believing in Jesus Christ.
Finally, someone might say, “I believe the historic facts of the Gospel, but nothing has changed for me. I don’t think I’m saved.” Perhaps you are not, for the faith that saves has one distinguishing quality: Saving faith is a faith that produces obedience. It is a faith that brings about a way of life. Some have successfully imitated this way of life for a time, but for those who trust Christ for salvation, that faith brings about a desire to live out that inward experience of faith. It is a power that results in godly living.
Being born again doesn’t mean a physical rebirth; it’s a spiritual one. It refers to a change of heart-from indifference or hostility toward God to a love for Him and a desire to live out His best for us.
But how does it happen?
First, we have to understand our current human condition. There’s a problem we all face, and Jesus said it begins in our hearts. The problem is something called sin, which means to miss the mark-to fail to do what we ought to do.
Whether we realize it or not, we strive to fix this problem ourselves-to somehow compensate for it or push it out of our minds, yet there’s still something missing deep down inside. Nothing will fully satisfy us unless we have Jesus in our lives and the eternal hope of being with Him forever in heaven.
There’s a story in the Bible about a man named Nicodemus. He was a religious leader and a good man, and one night while talking to Jesus, Nicodemus asked Him what he needed to do to go to heaven. Jesus told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). In fact, Jesus said, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Jesus was telling Nicodemus that no matter what good he did on the outside, he needed changing on the inside. That can only happen through a supernatural act of God when His Holy Spirit convicts us of wrongdoing and brings new life to our very souls.
So what do we need to do?
First, we must admit our sin-that we can’t live up to God’s perfect standard on our own. Then we must ask forgiveness for that sin and repent, which means to make every effort in turning away from that sin. Finally, we ask Jesus to be part of our lives.
That’s when God’s Spirit penetrates our hearts to guide us and help us be more like Him. That’s when we’re born again.
God Himself puts it this way: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:26). From then on, He gives us a new purpose and new goals for living. We no longer live for ourselves but for Him (II Corinthians 5:15).
Whatever you’re bound to, there’s help. You don’t have to feel ashamed, broken or empty. God promises us in the Bible, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He longs to set you free and give you new life in His Son, Jesus Christ. When you are weak, He is strong, and offers real, lasting hope.
Christ was also tempted (Hebrews 4:15) and knows what you’re going through. When you trust in Him, you can be confident that He will help you break every chain that binds you.
Here are some steps to help you break free from your addiction:
– If you’ve never thought about what it means to find satisfaction and purpose in a relationship with Jesus Christ, do so now. (See PeaceWithGod.net for more.) If you have already given your life to Christ, make Him top priority.
– Admit responsibility. No matter what your situation, at some point you decided to drink, take drugs, look at pornography, etc. You are accountable for your decisions.
– Cut ties to friends and places connected with your addiction. This will help lessen temptation and make it easier to experience recovery. The Bible says, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
– Ask God for strength to help you overcome your addiction. Everyone struggles with temptation, but as I Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
– Don’t be surprised if your family or friends doubt a successful recovery. If this addiction has dominated your life, they have likely dealt with broken promises and disappointment. Give them time to see the new you.
– Remember that being a Christian isn’t about perfection. You might fall back into your old ways, but as soon as you do, ask for God’s forgiveness and ask Him to cleanse you of your addiction. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
– Read and study God’s Word, the Bible. Get involved in a Bible-believing church and establish healthy friendships. The Bible says, “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:10).
– It’s often necessary to deal with the underlying causes of addiction to overcome it. Seek further counseling from a pastor, Christian counselor, or a local clinic or resource.
No one can promise an easy road to recovery, but Christ will walk with you and offers a firm foundation to stand on. Remember, “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37, NKJV).
Maybe you will find work soon, but maybe not; God might have something in store for you that you didn’t expect. Whatever you do, try not to get discouraged. The Bible says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11). It also tells us that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
Here are some other tips while you wait for work or decide what to do next:
– Remember that Jesus Christ knows what you’re going through and has compassion on your situation. He knew what it was to be poor and even homeless. When you put your trust in Him, He is with you wherever you go.
– Use this time to grow closer to your family. Spend time with them, mend broken relationships and share what God is doing in your life.
– Look into job retraining programs or volunteer opportunities to keep you active, help others and give you experience you might use later on. The Bible tells us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).
– Give your worry to God and ask Him what step He wants you to take next. See this time not as a problem but as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships. If you do, once this time of unemployment is over or you have moved onto something else, you can look back and thank God for being with you, even in the midst of difficult times.
Matthew 6:25, 28-30 tells us, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? … See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?”
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Ask God to give you the desire to do whatever you need to do to find another job, but remember that when you trust in Him, you are not taking those next steps alone.
This cycle of healing doesn’t always happen in the same order, and some parts might occur more often than others, but all are a natural part of grieving. Remember that this process is normal and that it helps to seek support.
– Initial shock: an intense emotional experience that could leave you feeling emotionally paralyzed.
– Emotional release: a time often characterized by crying, weeping or deeply sad feelings.
– Loneliness and depression: a sense of loss. The depth depends on how dependent you were on the person/people/things involved.
– Guilt: second-guessing yourself-“I could have done more” or “I should have done something differently.”
– Anger, blame, hostility: “Why did they do this to me?” “Why did God do this to me?
– Depression: an overwhelming sense of apathy and feeling like you can’t get on with life.
– Recognition of loss: understanding what you lost. For example, maybe you didn’t just lose a job but your income, position and self-esteem.
– Thankfulness: if you lost a loved one, appreciating the good memories and that person’s life.
– Return to hope: “Life will go on,” “I can cope,” or “God will help me get through this.”
– Return to normalcy: accepting the loss and adjusting to it.
The Bible says, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). God wants to bear our heartaches and losses and give us His comfort, hope and encouragement. When you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, He will carry you through your grief.
It’s also helpful to talk to God and to others about how you feel so you don’t bury what’s inside. Expect God to bring good out of the situation, too. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” Reading your Bible and praying to God will also help you through this tough time.
We live in a fallen, sin-scarred world, and, because of that, life isn’t always the way we wish it were. At the same time, God often has lessons to teach us when we face problems and adversity. He can use life’s hard experiences to knock the rough edges off our lives and change us into the people He wants us to be. Have you stopped to ask God what He wants to do in your life through this experience? The Bible says, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths” (Psalm 25:4).
Everything we have, including money, comes from God. Money isn’t a bad thing, but can be if it’s misused. Sometimes it leads to greed, pride or materialism, and it can be easy to give it top priority in our lives. Sometimes unexpected losses or unplanned expenses can result in money problems, tempting us to worry. But we must remember to keep God first in our hearts and lives.
If you’re struggling with debt, here are some helpful tips:
– Seek God’s will for you with a humble heart and open mind. The Bible says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). Regardless of how you got into debt, maybe He wants to change your attitude or give you new priorities or goals in life. Whatever it is, begin with a renewed focus on your relationship with Christ and give special attention to what the Holy Spirit “speaks” to you through the Scriptures.
– Ask God to help you trust Him and not let this debt crush your spirit or dominate your thinking. The Apostle Paul, who was isolated, imprisoned and lost all possessions, said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11). Anchor your hope in the promises of God’s Word. The Bible says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11). Assuring your heart of God’s unfailing power, goodness and love will make all the difference.
– Consult a wise, trustworthy businessperson (perhaps in your church if you attend one), someone who has been trained in financial planning or a nonprofit financial counseling agency in your community, then act on the advice given. It will likely include making a realistic budget; make one and stick to it. God often answers our prayers by bringing people into our lives who can help us.
– Find ways to weed out any unnecessary spending, such as money spent on entertainment or luxury items. It might not be fun, but it will help you save money and get on track to financial peace. You can also brainstorm ways to have fun for little to no money at all.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Anything we have ultimately comes from God, and He will always provide for us. We are to be good stewards of what He gives us, meaning we should be responsible for the money and possessions that come our way and be careful not to overspend or be greedy. As Jesus warned, “you cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). Make Him the priority in your life today and ask Him for guidance concerning your finances.
Why does it matter? Confusing the two can be dangerous and could lead to manipulation, a broken marriage, adultery or a similar tragic situation. While physical attraction and emotional feelings between a man and a woman have their place, love between the two is more than that. It is an act of the will-a commitment to seek what is best for the other person. True love doesn’t demand; it gives. True love doesn’t ask, “What can I get out of this person?” It asks, “What can I do to help this person?” True love isn’t self-centered; it is self-giving.
It takes a lifetime to explore the richness and complexities of human love. But consider this: Would you love this person even if he or she lost physical beauty, or if his or her body were ravaged by cancer or disability? The Bible says, “Love is patient, love is kind. … Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4, 8). This is the kind of love God had for us when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and draw us closer to Him.
If you’re faced with a challenge concerning lust:
– Open your heart to God’s love by inviting Christ to come into your life, then ask Him to help you avoid lustful thoughts and actions. Ask Him to help you understand how to truly love someone.
– Remember that what goes on in our minds eventually influences the way we act. Jesus warned, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Make it your goal to keep your mind pure, as well as your body.
When you feel tempted to lust after someone, remember this verse: “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Worth in Christ
God created each person unique, with different talents, personalities and desires. We are not mass produced, but carefully made by the God of the universe. He knows us by name.
Just think of it: You are God’s masterpiece! Your life is not worthless, no matter what others say or how they treat you. Your life is a gift from God. He knew you before you were even born. Psalm 139:13-14 says, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful.”
God values you. And He doesn’t show favoritism (Acts 10:34). He loves you and cares how you feel. I Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord, you are called a child of God. I John 3:I says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”
Why bullies bully
Some people-children, teenagers and adults alike-pick on others because of things going on in their own lives. They might envy you or even resent you for something beyond your control. They might have a difficult situation at home and target you to fulfill a need to be in control. Perhaps they are not treated well, either, or have a negative view of themselves. Maybe they receive little attention from people around them. It could be that the person or people making your life miserable are simply trying to take the focus off of their own problems. Some bullies bully others to gain attention, status or approval from their peers.
While these things might not be the case, keep in mind that you might not be the only one facing a hard situation. While there’s no excuse for bullying, recognizing a motive might help you respond in the best way.
While the word “bully” does not appear in the Bible, the idea of treating others in a brutish or disrespectful way does. Christians can even be a specific target of bullies since trying to live like Christ is often countercultural.
Matthew 5:39 says, “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” However, this doesn’t mean you can’t ask for God’s defense or stand up for yourself.
When responding to a bullying situation, remember that the Bible tells us to treat others fairly and with respect. Matthew 22:39 says to love others as yourself. And Romans 12:18 advises, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” When faced with someone talking bad about you, making fun of you or putting you down, do not seek revenge but respond in love. Matthew 5:44 says to “love your enemies,” and Matthew 5:9 says peacemakers will be blessed. Luke 6:28 even says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
How you treat others reflects your relationship with God since He created and values everyone. When you respond to bullies in love, they notice and might even change their attitude toward you. Proverbs 15:I says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
At the same time, if the bullying is negatively affecting you-mentally, emotionally or physically-do not allow yourself to remain in danger, but seek support from a trusted adult or authority figure. Remember that our strength comes not from ourselves, but from God who cares about us and gives us hope. Let that give you confidence to endure. Psalm 34:4-5 says, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.”
Sometimes, it’s wise to even flee from a bully. Out of jealousy, King Saul in the Bible chased David, and David fled (I Samuel 19-24). Fleeing from a bully isn’t cowardly; it’s often the best choice when we can’t protect ourselves. Ask God for wisdom in how you should respond, and trust Him to bring justice.
If it is a fellow Christian who is wronging you, Matthew 18:15-17 says to point out the wrongdoing to the person. If that person doesn’t listen, ask one or two others to approach him or her with you. If that doesn’t change anything, bring the issue to your church.
Regardless of the situation, we can find comfort and protection in God. Psalm 46:I says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Let His strength encourage you today.
Ephesians 5 and 6 calls husbands to defend their families and businesses. And it’s up to parents to try to protect their children from danger.
If your child is being bullied, don’t assume it will just go away. It might help to role-play how your child can respond so that he or she feels prepared to face the bully. Keep the line of communication open with your children, and don’t hesitate to get another adult or school administrator involved to help resolve the issue.
Tragedies and suffering often leave us confused, angry, horrified or bitter. They are further proof that Satan is at work in our lives and that evil is no stranger to us.
A great book of the Bible to read about suffering and evil is Habakkuk. It’s only 3 chapters long, but it’s a book about the prophet, Habakkuk, who asked God why He wasn’t punishing evil. God answered Habakkuk, saying that He would punish evil, but that He was working in His time to do so.
Sometimes we don’t understand God’s timing, but we should remember that He did not create evil. God is a just, merciful and loving God who gave humans free will when He created them. Because we are all sinful, we all experience evil and unfairness, yet God is always in control and can use even evil to do good. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above.”
We can also use our time of suffering to look inward. We live in a fallen world where we are all in need of a Savior, and that’s just what God provided. God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins so we can live forever in heaven. Christ was perfect-holy-yet He suffered beyond imagination to pay the price for our sins and give us eternal life. Yes, we experience bad things here on earth, but we can rejoice in the fact that God has provided a place of eternal peace in heaven.
Also remember that because Christ suffered, He understands what we’re going through and has compassion on us. Christ not only gives us hope when we trust in Him, but helps us through hard times by comforting us in our grief, surrounding us with supportive people and allowing us to feel His presence in our lives.
Allow God to speak to you through the following verses.
When needing COURAGE: Psalm 138:3; Ephesians 6:10-13
When facing DANGER: Psalm 91:1-16; Psalm 121:1-8
When you have DOUBTS about your salvation: John 3:16; I John 5:11-13
When in doubt of God’s power to keep you FAITHFUL: Philippians 1:6; I Peter 1:5
When in FINANCIAL need: Psalm 34:10; Philippians 4:19
When needing FORGIVENESS: Hebrews 4:15-16; I John 1:9
When seeking GUIDANCE: Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5
When LONELY and DEPRESSED: Psalm 23:1-6; Hebrews 13:5
When facing PAIN: Matthew 11:28
When your PATIENCE is being tried: Romans 8:28-29; James 1:2-4
When seeking PEACE in a stressful time: John 14:27, 16:33; Philippians 4:6-7
When filled with sinful PRIDE: I Corinthians 4:7; Philippians 2:3-8
When burdened with many PROBLEMS: Psalm 55:22; I Peter 5:7
When needing REST: Matthew 11:28-30; Galatians 6:9
When driven by SELFISH DESIRE: Philippians 4:8; I John 2:15-17
When facing SORROW: Romans 8:26-28; II Corinthians 1:3-5
When seeking God’s STANDARD: Matthew 5:48; Matthew 22:36-40
When SUFFERING: Psalm 34:19; II Corinthians 4:17
When facing TEMPTATION: I Corinthians 10:13; James 1:2-4, 12-15
When being treated UNFAIRLY: I Peter 2:19-23; I Peter 4:12-15
When feeling WEAK and INADEQUATE: II Corinthians 12:9-10; Philippians 4:13
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