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2. The Focus of Your New Life – Christ

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TOGETHER LESSON

You heard the good news of the gospel and believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who gave himself for your sins so that you could have eternal life just by believing in him—your Savior. But more than salvation, Jesus Christ calls you into a relationship with himself!

Christianity is Christ! It is not a lifestyle, rules of conduct, or a society whose members were initiated by the sprinkling or covering of water. It is about knowing him personally.

1. Jesus Christ – The Promised Messiah

Over 1500 years, Israel’s prophets had foretold the coming of the Messiah, God’s anointed one, who would be both savior and ruler. Nearly 300 specific Old Testament references were made to his coming. The following are just a few. Read them and notice the specific prophecy fulfilled.

Old Testament

New Testament Fulfillment

Micah 5:2

Matthew 2:1

Isaiah 9:6-7

Luke 1:31-33

Isaiah 7:14

Luke 1:35

Psalm 22:16

John 20:25

Psalm 22:18

Mark 15:24

The odds against one person fulfilling merely eight of these prophecies would be the same as a blindfolded person picking one special silver dollar from a two-foot high stack of silver dollars over an area the size of Texas. Jesus fulfilled over 200 of them…exactly! The rest will be fulfilled when he returns. And, his sinless life qualified him as the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins.

Key Question: Jesus lived as a man, died as a man and rose again with a new human body. You heard the good news about Jesus and believed. How much do you really know about Jesus?

Discover truths about your new Savior… 

2. Confidence in the Reality of Jesus

Jesus Is Fully Human

What is revealed about Jesus’ humanity in these verses?

  • Luke 2:52
  • John 11:35
  • Matthew 4:2
  • John 19:28

“For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus Is Fully God

What is revealed about Jesus in these verses?

  • John 1:1-3, 14              
  • Colossians 2:9
  • John 10:30              
  • Philippians 2:6-11

All the evidence points clearly to the fact that Jesus Christ is fully God!

Key Question: How confident are you that Jesus (as man) understands how you feel but is powerful enough (as God) to take care of your every need?

Jesus Conquered Death

The religious leaders accused Jesus of making statements that only God can legitimately make and convicted him of doing so. He was beaten, crucified, and buried in a heavily guarded tomb. All hope seemed to be lost. But…

He rose from the dead on the third day…just as he had promised his followers (Matthew 16:21). Jesus was seen alive by over 500 people as historical eyewitness records testify (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Other religious founders (Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius) are dead. Jesus Christ is alive! You can enjoy a relationship with him—now and forever!

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

Key Question: Besides salvation, what do you think are the relationship benefits of knowing Christ? Discover these next…

3. Jesus Is The Answer To Every Spiritual Need

Like Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the gospel of John contains the good news about Jesus—who he is, why he came, and what he offers to those who trust in him. Jesus used specific phrases as word pictures to describe himself to those who were listening and to describe the difference he could make in their lives when they trusted in him. Discovering these truths will make a difference in your life as well. As John wrote,

“But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

Jesus is the bread of life. Read John 6:35. Jesus’ abundant love satisfies our hunger for a relationship with God. God creates every human being with a hunger for a relationship with him. How have you tried to satisfy this hunger in the past? What invitation does Jesus give in this verse?

Jesus is the light of the world. Read John 8:12. Jesus’ light directs us to follow him. What is the promise to those who follow Jesus?

Jesus is the gate for the sheep. Read John 10:9-10. Just as the shepherd provided safety for the grazing sheep, there is safety in following Jesus and doing life his way. What does Jesus promise to anyone who enters through him as the gate?

Jesus is the good shepherd. Read John 10:11, 27-30. As a shepherd knows each of his sheep by name, you can enjoy a forever relationship with Jesus as your shepherd. Once you trust in Jesus to take away your sin and become one of his followers (“sheep”), is there anything you can do to make yourself not belong to God any longer?

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Read John 11:25. To his followers, Jesus gives eternal spiritual life now and eternal physical life in a new body after death. What does Jesus promise to anyone who believes in him? Do you feel confident that death for a believer is like going to sleep on earth and waking up in heaven with Jesus nearby?

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Read John 14:6. Jesus is the way for us to be totally loved and accepted by God our Father. What does Jesus declare about himself?

Jesus is the vine. Read John 15:5. Jesus nourishes us with his life so we bear fruit in our own lives that represents our connection with him. How significant is it for us to maintain a trusting relationship with Jesus?

4. Christianity is Christ!

Jesus Christ calls us into a close relationship with him. He offers a new life that is joyful and fruitful. Through faith in him, you are totally accepted and loved by God your Father. All the awesome treasures we have are through our faith in Jesus.

Why not spend the rest of your life getting to know this Jesus who lived a trusting life with God so you would know how to do the same and died for you so that you could have a new life?!

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

— — — — — — — — — — —

PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

In this lesson, you learned that Christianity is Christ – it is all about him! The following quote says it well. 

“Jesus Christ gave his life for you so he could give his life to you so he could live his life through you.” (Ian Thomas, 20th century teacher)

As fully God and fully man, you can be confident that Jesus understands how you feel  (Hebrews 4:15) but is powerful enough (as God) to take care of your every need (Ephesians 3:20). Through faith in him, you are totally accepted and loved by God your Father. And, you enjoy awesome treasures God promises to you.

Jesus offers you a new life that is joyful and fruitful. You can enjoy a relationship with him—now and forever!

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – John 20:31.

Memory Verse 2

“But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)

Day 1 Discovery – Review “The Focus of Your New Life – Christ”

Review these five truths. Make them part of your life as you grow in Christ. Find and read the verses listed beside each truth. Write observations of what you see and how you feel about the truth in the space given.

  • Jesus satisfies your hunger for a relationship with God: John 6:35; Matthew 11:28-29.
  • Jesus gives you direction and safety as you follow him: John 8:12; John 10:9-10.
  • Jesus tenderly loves you and cares for you: John 10:11, 27-30.
  • Jesus gives you his life so you can enjoy your relationship with God and bear purposeful fruit in your life: John 14:6; 15:5.
  • Jesus gives you eternal spiritual life now and eternal physical life in a new body after death: John 11:25; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15: 51-54.

Getting to Know Christ

Continue to focus on the life of Jesus as told in the gospel of Mark. Spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—his life, his relationships, and his teaching. As you do so, you will get to know and understand him better—this One who loves you dearly.

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 2:18-27. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 3:1-19. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 3:20-35. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 4:1-20. Reflect on what you read—

Days 6 & 7 Review and Ask Questions

Spend time reviewing what you have learned this week about your new life in Christ. Bring these to your Graceful Beginnings leader so she will know how  to help you grow.

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

NEXT LESSON: Graceful Beginnings, Lesson 3. “Your New Power Source — God’s Spirit.”

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

3. Your New Power Source – God’s Spirit

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TOGETHER LESSON

An amazing transformation has begun to take place since you have trusted in Christ as your Savior. You are now beginning to live the Christian life, which isn’t a standard of performance nor a code of ethics, but a vital personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity is Christ!

When you run a race, such as a marathon, it is your race to win or lose. Living for Christ is different.

Just as our relationship with God is totally dependent on what God has done through Jesus Christ, so the power to live a dynamic Christian life also comes totally from God.

A computer has all the potential to do what it was created to do, but it has no power of its own.

Similarly, through your new identity in Christ, you have all the potential you need to live as a new creation in Christ. But, you must continually draw from the proper power source.

When Jesus left the earth after his resurrection, he told his disciples to wait for the “promise” he would send them from his Father.

“And look, I am sending you what my Father promised. But stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

Without him, living a life that pleases God is impossible. With him, you can do anything and everything through Christ who gives you strength through the Spirit.

Read John 7:37-39. What does Jesus promise to those who come to him?

Discover more about the Holy Spirit and his role in your life…

1. Who Is the Holy Spirit?

Even though he is invisible, the Holy Spirit is a real Person and completely God. He is addressed by several titles in the Bible – Spirit of God, Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit, and the Holy Spirit. We have one God in three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

What do these verses say about the Holy Spirit?

  • John 14:16, 17              
  • John 16:8              
  • 2 Corinthians 3:17

When you invited Jesus Christ into your life, he actually entered your life—and will be with you forever—through the Holy Spirit living in you. You will never be alone!

2. What Is the Holy Spirit’s Role in Your Life?

To give you life. Read Ephesians 2:1-5. The Bible describes your life before Christ as being dead in your sins. Think of it as having a disease (sinfulness) that led to death (no life). Christ’s death on the cross took care of your disease; God’s grace has removed your sin from you. You are healed of the disease. Then, God’s Spirit restores life to you. What is declared about you now in Ephesians 2:5?

To give you a new beginning. Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. What is declared about you? You may not always feel…or act…new. But, in God’s eyes, you are totally new!

To teach you. Read John 16:13-15. What will the Spirit do for you?

Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-12. What will the Spirit do for you?

To free you from sin’s power. Read Galatians 5:16. The lure of life’s pleasures and old habits will tug at you. Your own hormones and desires will crave to be filled. What freedom does the Spirit give to you?

To bring your needs to the Father. Read Romans 8:26. What is promised? How does this make you feel?

To transform you into the likeness of Christ. Read Romans 8:29 and 2 Corinthians 3:18. God’s awesome plan is to change you to become more like Jesus Christ in your character. Jesus’ Spirit living in you has begun this change, and he will continue his work throughout your life (Philippians 1:6). Is this something you desire for your life?

To produce fruit in you and through you. Read Galatians 5:22-23. These qualities of Jesus’ character will grow in your life. Which of these qualities would you most like the Spirit to begin developing in your life?

Read Acts 1:8. What else does the Spirit equip you to do?

To be a witness means to share with others what you have seen and experienced yourself.

God’s awesome plan is to transform your life into something beautiful and Christ-like. Sadly, not every believer experiences the power to live this life as God intended. Some are unaware of the treasure of the Holy Spirit living inside them. Others choose to ignore the Spirit’s work in their lives and follow their own desires instead. Living by the Spirit is a choice…

3. Living by the Spirit Is a Life of Faith

The Life-Long Battle

As long as you live on earth, you will not only have the Holy Spirit living inside you, but you will also have your own flesh still with you and its desire for self-gratification. Life will be a continual battle between the desire to do things your way—or Christ’s way.

The Answer

The Holy Spirit is a greater power than your old nature. Choosing to listen to the Spirit and follow his leading will always be the right choice!

Read Ephesians 5:18. What is the choice given?

The word “filled” means to be directed and controlled. Just as a soccer player freely chooses to let her coach direct her so she can do her best to win the game, we must choose to yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives.

The Spirit-Filled Life of Faith

Faith is how you received Christ and his Holy Spirit giving you new life. Faith is how you turn your life over to the Spirit and trust him on a daily basis. The Spirit-filled life is trusting God to produce in you the fruitful life he promised.

You must by faith yield to the Holy Spirit to control your life—recognizing your tendencies to be self-centered and then desire for Christ’s life to grow in you and overcome those selfish tendencies. Consider praying this prayer of faith,

“Dear Lord, I want you to change my life from being self-centered into one that is Christ-centered. I no longer desire to follow my sinful thoughts and actions. I give you, Holy Spirit, control of my thoughts, attitudes, words and behavior today. Fill me with yourself and show me how to live a life that pleases Christ.”

Key Question: The Spirit-filled life is one of adventure with Christ. Are you ready for the adventure? When you think of what God has done for you—and how much your God loves you—is there any other choice?

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

— — — — — — — — — — —

PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

In this lesson, you learned that when you trusted Christ…

  • God’s Spirit came to live inside you forever (you are never alone!),
  • God’s Spirit empowers you to live your new life of faith, and
  • God’s Spirit produces the character of Christ in you.

Faith is how you received Christ and his Holy Spirit giving you new life. Faith is how you turn your life over to the Spirit and trust him on a daily basis. The Spirit-filled life is trusting God to produce in you the fruitful life he promised.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Review Memory Verse 2 – John 20:31.
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – Galatians 5:22-23.

Memory Verse 3

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Day 1 Discovery – Review “Your New Power Source – God’s Spirit”

Review these five truths. Make them part of your life as you grow in Christ. Find and read the verses listed beside each truth. Write observations of what you see and how you feel about the truth in the space given.

  • You are made alive: Ephesians 2:1-5; Colossians 2:13-14.
  • You are a new creation: 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  • You can understand God’s Word: John 16:13-15; 1 Corinthians 2:9-12.
  • You are freed from sin’s power: Read Galatians 5:16; Romans 6:11-14.
  • You are being transformed into Jesus’ likeness: Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22-23.

A Word of Caution

Many believers have mistaken the Holy Spirit’s power for an emotional feeling or euphoria. Sadly, when the feelings depart, they think they have lost the Spirit’s power. God’s promise is to “never leave or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Getting to Know Christ

Continue to focus on the life of Jesus as told in the gospel of Mark. Spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—his life, his relationships, and his teaching. As you do so, you will get to know and understand him better—this One who loves you dearly.

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 4:21-41. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 5:1-20. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 5:21-43. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 6:1-29. Reflect on what you read—

Days 6 & 7 Review and Ask Questions

Spend time reviewing what you have learned this week about your new life in Christ. Bring these to your Graceful Beginnings leader so she will know how to help you grow.

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

NEXT LESSON: Graceful Beginnings, Lesson 4. “Prayer — Living in the Father’s Love.”

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

4. Prayer – Living in the Father’s Love

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TOGETHER LESSON

You learned that the Holy Spirit brings to you much more than emotions or feelings…although they may be part of it. He brings you his power so that you can live the awesome life Christ has planned for you. Power to overcome temptation and sin, to love others, and to live a life of obedience, freedom and joy is yours through your relationship with Jesus Christ. Christianity is Christ’s life in you!

The Holy Spirit also provides the way for you to enjoy a life of prayer.

What Is Prayer?

Jesus taught his followers to think of God as their Heavenly Father. Prayer is communicating with your Heavenly Father and hearing back from him. It is conversation with someone who loves you dearly. What a privilege for the believer…to go directly into God’s presence and talk with him about whatever is on your heart. He desires to hear from us, and he promises to listen!

“And this is the confidence we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we asked from him.” (1 John 5:4-15)

The Holy Spirit helps you to pray (Romans 8:26) and teaches you how to pray in faith—learning to trust in God’s goodness in how and when he answers your prayers. As you study God’s words to you in the Bible, the Spirit will teach you who God is and how to enjoy your prayer relationship with him.

The next section will focus on God’s character. Then you will know who your Heavenly Father is…and why you can trust him.

Key Question: What words come to mind when you think about the character of God? Is he someone you can know?

1. The God You Can Know

God’s greatness is far beyond human understanding. But, his Word does give us part of the picture…He is an awesome God! Take time to think through each of the following characteristics of God and how each one affects your view of God…and your relationship with him.

God is sovereign. Read 2 Samuel 7:22. God is the sovereign ruler over his creation. He rules it with supreme authority and power. Are you willing to recognize God’s authority over you—to trust that he knows what is best for you?

God is all-powerful. Read Ephesians 1:19-20; 3:20. God is more powerful than anything or anyone else in the entire universe. God uses his power to work for us and in us. Do you feel confident that you can ask him to work in your life, and he will do it?

God is present everywhere. Read Psalm 139:7-10, 18. God is present everywhere at the same time. Can you go to any place where God is not with you or cannot hear your prayer to him?

God is all-knowing. Read Psalm 139:1-4. God knows everything there is to know. Does anything good or bad in your life escape God’s notice or surprise him?

God is just. Read Jeremiah 9:24. God always does what is morally right and fair. How does knowing this make you feel as you share your heart with him?

God is good. Read Psalm 119:68. God is good all the time—in the tough times, in different ways for each person, and in what he allows or does not allow into our lives. As you talk to your Heavenly Father, are you willing to trust his goodness in the way he chooses to answer your prayer?

2. Praying to Your Heavenly Father

Now that you begin to see how great your Heavenly Father is, you may be afraid to approach him in prayer. Yet, as his child, you are always welcome in his presence. Go to him…boldly!

“Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” (Hebrews 4:16)

You Can Talk to God Anytime and Anywhere

You can talk with God throughout the day, telling him your needs, asking him for guidance, and thanking him for all of his many blessings. And your prayers do not have to be especially long. You can shoot up an “arrow” prayer to God anytime: “Father, I need your peace,” or “Please comfort me right now.” You can talk to him at work, while you drive in the car, even when you are talking with other people! He loves you that much.

You Can Talk to God about Anything

Your Heavenly Father loves you very much and wants to hear what is on your mind. When you talk to him about your thoughts and needs, it shows him that you trust him. You can call out to him, and He promises to answer—what a wonderful guarantee! Your prayers do not have to be anything fancy. God is pleased with honesty, not impressed with formality. Just start today by telling God what is on your mind and asking him to speak to you through his words in the Bible.

You Can Talk to God Expecting an Answer

God has given his words in the Bible to teach you what his will is on many areas of life. You can pray with confidence when you pray according to his will.

“And this is the confidence we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we asked from him.” (1 John 5:4-15)

And, you can ask God what to do in other situations and believe he will guide you. Pray with humility, wanting to be dependent on him and learn from him.

“But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

3. Developing a Life of Prayer

As a Christian, you can approach prayer as a conversation with someone who loves you dearly. As with any relationship, living in the Father’s love takes regular time together with him. Plan a daily time that works for you to have focused time with your Heavenly Father. Many Christians call this a “Quiet Time.” It helps to have a place with few distractions. Jesus, as our example, got away from the people surrounding him so that he could spend time talking to his Father.

Key Question: In your daily life, when could you carve out focused time to meet with your Heavenly Father? How would you minimize distractions?

You can start talking to your Father in the morning before you even get out of bed. For example:

“Good morning, Lord. Today, before I get going, I just want you to know I love you…and want to live for you today!”

“Lord, today, I am going to trust you to direct my paths as I choose to live my life your way.”

God’s Perfect Timing

Do not be discouraged by prayers that seem to go unanswered. God in his goodness may choose to delay the answer. Countless Christians will tell you stories of God’s faithfulness in answering prayers after many years of continual praying.

God delights in your bringing him your requests since doing so is an act of faith and obedience. Keep asking him for things that are within his will as revealed in the Bible. He promises to answer those prayers…still, in his time!

Remember to Be Thankful!

God has done so much for you that your heart should want to thank him in prayer and adore him because of his greatness and his unending love for you.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

— — — — — — — — — — —

PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

When you invited Jesus into your life, you began a relationship with God that is very personal and intimate. All relationships need good communication to be healthy. Jesus’ death on the cross made it possible for you to talk directly with God as your Heavenly Father. He wants you to seek his guidance, comfort, peace, and companionship always…not just when you want things.

And, he is a God you can know. Because of this, you can think about him rightly as you pray.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Review Memory Verse 2 – John 20:31.
  • Review Memory Verse 3 – Galatians 5:22-23.
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – Hebrews 4:16.

Memory Verse 4

“Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Day 1 Discovery – Review “Prayer – Living in the Father’s Love”

Review these truths about your Heavenly Father. Make them part of your life as you learn to pray while living in your Father’s love.

  • God is sovereign: When you talk to your Father, approach him with humility and respect for his absolute authority.
  • God is all-powerful: When you talk to your Father, humbly realize he can do anything. And, although he cares about every detail in your life, think about how small your problems are compared with how awesome he is!
  • God is present everywhere: When you talk to your Father, remember that wherever you go…he is already there. Even in the worst situation or location, he is not blocked out.
  • God is all-knowing: When you talk to your Father, think about how he knows what is going on deep in your heart. And, he knows what is best for you!
  • God is good: When you talk to your Father, remember that he is good all the time—in the tough times, in different ways for each person, and in what he allows or does not allow into our lives.

So, begin talking to your awesome Father!

Getting to Know Christ

Continue reading through the gospel of Mark to get to know Jesus better—reflecting on his life, his relationships, and his teaching. Also, begin to pray regularly to your Heavenly Father. Consider praying for specific issues in your life, for friends and family you desire to know Christ, and for your personal spiritual growth. As you read God’s Word, you will want to talk with him more. To help you develop your time with God, a “Day 6” reading is now added. 

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 6:30-56. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 7:1-23. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 7:24-37. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 8:1-21. Reflect on what you read—

Day 6 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 8:22-9:1. Reflect on what you read—

Days 7 Review and Ask Questions

Spend time reviewing what you have learned this week about your new life in Christ. Bring these to your Graceful Beginnings leader so she will know how to help you grow.

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

NEXT LESSON: Graceful Beginnings, Lesson 5. Your New Life in Community.”

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

5. Your New Life in Community

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TOGETHER LESSON

What a privilege it is to enjoy fellowship with God through prayer. It is also a privilege to enjoy fellowship with other believers in God’s awesome family on earth—the Church.

What is the Church?

“But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name – the right to become God’s children – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.” (John 1:12-13)

Yes, the moment you became a Christian, the Holy Spirit placed you into a new family called the Church. The Church is spread across the whole world and made up of every culture and language—all believers alive on planet earth. It is not limited to a building, just as a natural family is not limited to their house. As Christ is the head of this family, all members are considered part of the Body of Christ. And, this family of God’s own children is given an amazing purpose—the privilege of showing the world who God is.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

The Local Church 

While you are part of the universal Church, God wants you to be part of a local church family. It is like having relatives all over the world but living with your immediate family. A local church is a group of believers committed to worshiping Christ, teaching his Word, supporting each other as you follow Jesus together and proclaim the good news to others.

Key Question: Why do you think it would be important for you to spend time with other Christians?

Discover the benefits of life in this new community…

1. The Benefits of Community

“And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Just as logs burn more brightly when placed together, so Christians need each other for warmth and encouragement. The local church provides opportunity for us to enjoy this community. You will see that the benefits are mutual.

Growth. Read Ephesians 4:11-14. Pastors and teachers help you grow in your Christian life as they feed you the spiritual food of the Bible and help you to know God better. In what areas of life do you feel tossed about by every wind of teaching?

Protection. Read Acts 20:28. Just as a house keeps people protected from harm, a good local church community can keep Christians safe from false teaching. Leaders that stay true to the Word of God will encourage the church community to stay true to God’s Word, also. Would you be able to recognize false teaching on your own?

Love for Others. Read John 13:34-35. Being part of a church family helps you learn how to love others and their differences. As we do so, we model his love to the world. Why do you think Christians loving one another would be such a powerful witness?

Spiritual Gifts. Read 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 and Ephesians 4:16. God has given you spiritual gifts to benefit your church family. A local church family can help you discover your gift and learn how to use it to strengthen the Body of Christ. Whether God gave you the gift of singing, teaching, or giving, that role is a crucial one for healthy functioning of the Body of Christ. How do you think someone discovers her or his spiritual gift?

Key Question: Did you know that you are meant to play a crucial part in God’s family?

2. Finding Community in a Local Church

God knows you need the guidance of a pastor, the care of other Christians, and the safety and support of a good church to help you grow as a Christian. What makes a good church? No church is perfect just like no family is perfect. But, as stated on the first page, a healthy church is committed to certain things. Look for a church that …

Worships Christ

A healthy church presents Jesus as the Son of God and faith in him alone as the only way to be saved from your sins and have a relationship with God. 

Teaches His Word as Truth

A healthy church honors the Bible as God’s Word, completely true, and the guidebook for life and decision-making.

Grows Believers to Follow Jesus Together

A healthy church encourages you to personally follow Jesus as his disciple and grow stronger in your faith—what you read in Ephesians 4:11-14 earlier in this lesson. When you are joined together with other believers who are growing in Christ, you each encourage one another and keep each other “fired up” in your mutual faith.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Encourages Believers to Proclaim the Good News

A healthy church is actively obeying Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 to share the good news about Jesus with those who don’t know him yet. This is the main purpose of the worldwide Church—to tell others about Jesus that they, too, may be saved and added to God’s family.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” (Matthew 28:19)

Key Question: Do you feel personally included in Jesus’ command to tell the world about him and make disciples in all nations?

Pray and ask God to help you find the local church he wants you to join. He has promised to provide for you, so you can trust him to answer your request. When you find a healthy church that is committed to the four values listed above, thank God! Ask him how you can serve there.

3. Living as Part of the Family

Enjoying community as part of a church family is called fellowship (from the Greek word meaning “sharing in common”). The sharing of our lives requires sincere love, kind speech, continuing encouragement, heartfelt forgiveness, and selfless generosity. All these qualities are possible because of the Holy Spirit living inside each member and binding us all together.

Relationships among believers should be marked by love for each other, which is the very thing that attracts those who do not have a relationship with Jesus.

“I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Jut as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus knows our hearts. He knows the difficulty we all have at times with one another. Our relationship with him does not prevent us from experiencing misunderstandings or differences of opinion. Sometimes these relational challenges tempt us to harbor grudges against someone with whom we differ or to isolate ourselves from the community. Neither of these is healthy for a believer.

Reconcile Relationships Quickly

Jesus helped his disciples through their conflicts with one another. By faith in Christ, we are not only commanded to love but are given his love to give to others. God’s Spirit enables us as we trust him to do so. We can say, “I can’t, Jesus, but you can through me.”

Read Matthew 5:23-24. How should we respond to a broken relationship with a fellow believer?

Stay Connected

One of the main reasons some Christians live defeated lives is that they have isolated themselves from other believers. Coming together with other believers in Christ’s name is similar to hot coals, which keep each other hot when lumped together. A coal that is separated from the others will soon grow cold. Isolation will lead to stunted spiritual growth and a lack of joy in your life.

Read Hebrews 10:24-25. Why is it important to stay connected to other believers?

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

— — — — — — — — — — —

PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

You, along with all other Christians of all time, make up the Body of Christ, the Church. While you are part of the universal Church, God wants you to be part of a local church family. It is like having relatives all over the world but living with your immediate family. A local church is a group of believers committed to worshiping Christ, teaching his Word, supporting each other as you follow Jesus together and proclaim the good news to others.

You may or may not belong to a local church right now, and there is still a bit to learn about it all. But, take a moment now and thank God for adopting you into his family and giving you a new community in which to enjoy your new life.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Review Memory Verse 2 – John 20:31.
  • Review Memory Verse 3 – Galatians 5:22-23.
  • Review Memory Verse 4 – Hebrews 4:16.
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – John 13:34-35.

Memory Verse 5

“I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Jut as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Day 1 Discovery – Review “Your New Life in Community”

Review these truths about the benefits of life in a church family. Find and read the verses listed. Write observations of what you see and how you feel about each benefit. Learn to live your new life in community with other Christ-followers.

  • Your church community can help you to grow strong in your faith and to know God better: Ephesians 4:11-14.
  • Your church community can keep you protected from being swayed by false teaching: Acts 20:28.
  • Your church community can teach you how to love others and model Christ’s love to the world: John 13:34-35.
  • Your church community can help you to discover your spiritual gifts and learn how to use them to serve the church family: 1 Corinthians 12:4-7; Ephesians 4:16.
  • Your church community can be a source of encouragement to you: Hebrews 10:24-25.

Someone once said, “Believers are ‘Jesus in the flesh’ to one another.” It is truly awesome to “fellowship” with others who love Christ…and are living for him!

How to Get Started

  • Ask God to direct you to other believers 
  • Attend a Bible teaching and outreaching church.
  • Join a small Bible study and prayer group.
  • Use your gifts to reach others for Christ.
  • Look for mature believers who can disciple (mentor) you as you grow.
  • Ask God for someone you can disciple, sharing with her what you are learning.

Getting to Know Christ

Continue reading through the gospel of Mark to get to know Jesus better—reflecting on his life, his relationships, and his teaching. Also, begin to pray regularly to your Heavenly Father. Consider praying for specific issues in your life, for friends and family you desire to know Christ, and for your personal spiritual growth. As you read God’s Word, you will want to talk with him more.

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 9:2-13. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 9:14-32. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 9:33-50. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 10:1-16. Reflect on what you read—

Day 6 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 10:17-52. Reflect on what you read—

Days 7 Review and Ask Questions

Spend time reviewing what you have learned this week about your new life in Christ. Bring these to your Graceful Beginnings leader so she will know how  to help you grow.

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

NEXT LESSON: Graceful Beginnings, Lesson 6. A New Life of Obedience.”             

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

6. A New Life of Obedience

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TOGETHER LESSON

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ” (Galatians 2:20)

The entire Christian life is to be lived by faith, not works. Other religions force their followers to adhere to a list of rules to stay acceptable. Christians should want to obey God out of love and gratitude for how much God loves us and for Jesus paying the ultimate price for our sins. Yet, we cannot live an obedient Christian life in our own strength. We must live by faith in God’s promises in the Bible. By faith, we trust the Holy Spirit to enable us to obey what God wants for our lives. By faith, we learn to obey Christ and experience a life of freedom and joy.

The Forces Against You

The Bible teaches that in the Christian life, you will face enemies that will try to keep you from being obedient to Christ—the devil, the world and the flesh.

The Devil – Satan (a.k.a known as “the devil”) is a vicious enemy who will aim to keep you away from trusting in Jesus and the promises in God’s Word. His weapons are doubt and discouragement. Do not fear him. Jesus is stronger than he is. (1 John 4:4)

The World – The culture wants to conform you to its way of life. Its aim is to keep you focused on possessions, success and other substitutes for God. Choose not to be conformed to the world but transformed to Jesus’ way of living life. (Romans 12:1-2)

The Flesh – While we as redeemed and forgiven believers have new life in Christ, we retain our old bodies in which sin still dwells (called the “flesh” or “sinful nature”). Though born again of the Spirit, our bodies are not born again, and our souls (mind, emotion, and will) are not instantly transformed. It is through this part of us (the “flesh”) that sin assaults us.

Key Question: How much does the “flesh” improve over time? 0—25—50—75—100%

1. Conflict between the Spirit and the Flesh

The “flesh” does not improve over time. It is in continual conflict with the Spirit living inside of us. As a result, we never outgrow our need to depend 100% on Jesus Christ. Our choices can change over time as we learn to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. For simplicity, we will consider living by the flesh as letting your “self” control that part of your life as opposed to the Spirit controlling it.

Read Galatians 5:16-18. How does Paul describe this continual conflict?

Read Galatians 5:19-26. Contrast evidence of living by the flesh with living by the Spirit.

Self-Control Evidences

Spirit-Control Evidences

Read Colossians 3:5-15. Contrast evidence of the two different ways of living.

Self-Control Evidences

Spirit-Control Evidences

Living by the flesh is pretty ugly, isn’t it? Would you say there is a stark contrast between the two lifestyles? Actually, at any point in your life you will be living by the Spirit in some areas of your life and living by the flesh in other areas. The evidence reveals who you are trusting in—self or Christ. The Christian life is impossible apart from Christ himself. That’s why we are continually exhorted to live by faith in Christ, trusting in his Spirit to enable us to obey him.

Key Question: Which evidences of “self-control” in your life jumped out at you when you listed them above?

Jesus wants you to trust him to live by the Spirit in those areas.

2. Choosing Wisely as You Learn to Obey Christ

Sin is ugly, very ugly! Though we have an indwelling sin nature still with us that is at war against the Spirit, we are not left helpless in the midst of the conflict. God’s empowering presence in us—his Spirit—is a greater power than sin and enables us to win the battle over sin. But, we have a responsibility as well.

Read Galatians 5:16 and Romans 13:14. In order to live by the Spirit and not by the flesh, what is our responsibility?

Read Titus 2:11-14. What does God’s grace present in his Word and his Spirit inside us do for us?

Read 1 Corinthians 10:13. Temptation is not sin, but it can lead to sin. What does God promise regarding temptation?

Whether or not we are presently tempted in a given area, we are capable of committing any sin (disobedience to Christ) mentioned in the Bible, given the right set of circumstances, time and temptation. The progression is:

  • A received thought produces familiarity.
  • Continued pondering produces a loss of repugnance and, eventually, curiosity.
  • Desires, sometimes a total surprise, are generated to experiment. The most damaging or dangerous are the ones that blindside you with a desire you didn’t even know would affect you! So, protect yourself at all times through prayer, “Lord, protect me from myself!”
  • Having tried the activity, the flesh (like a goat) can learn to like, and even grow dependent, on any sensual stimulus.

Conclusion: We never outgrow our need to depend 100% upon Jesus Christ. Recognizing this should lead us to have compassion on one another (Galatians 6:1) and to not take risks with sinful behavior!

A habit is easier to maintain than it is to start. Faith can be a habit—a good habit. Make wise decisions to protect yourself:

1) Protect your mind. Desires of the flesh do not go away but are like a fire. They can burn hot or burn down, depend­ing on whether you are feeding them.

2) Don't play with fire. Make policy decisions to keep your distance from what tempts you.

Key Question: What decisions are you making or should you make to protect yourself from what tempts you?

3. The Biblical Way for Dealing with Recognized Sin in Your Life

Most of us cannot go very long without doing something that is a work of the flesh—whether intentional or unintentional. God understands this about us. All sin is covered by Christ’s work on the cross, forgiven before it is every committed. (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14) Living by the Spirit reveals to us through the Word and through prayer what is sin in our lives and helps our repentant hearts follow through with a desire for change. When you recognize sin in your life, use the following process to help you deal with it.

Step 1. View yourself rightly.

Your identity is not “_______” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever it is). You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “_____” (covets, is greedy, gossips).

Step 2. Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your specific sin.

To confess biblically means “to agree with God” about what you and he both know to be true. It is not a formula nor does confession require a mediator. It is not saying, “I’m sorry.” It is saying, “I agree with you, God. I blew it!”

For example: while reading Philippians 4:12, the Spirit convicts you that you have been coveting rather than being content. You agree with God that your coveting doesn’t fit someone who knows God. That is confession.

Step 3. Add repentance to your confession.

Repentance means to change your mind about that sin, to mourn its ugliness, resulting in changing your actions. It’s saying, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it displeases you, God. Please help me to live differently.” He will certainly do that! That’s how our lives get transformed.

For example: You want to stop coveting and be content and grateful instead. So, you pray, “Lord Jesus, by faith I ask your Spirit to nudge me when I want to covet. Replace my coveting with contentment and gratitude.” That is repentance.

Step 4. Follow repentance with dependence.

Depend on the Holy Spirit inside you for that change to take place. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not interested in our compliance (outward conformity) as much as he desires our obedience from the heart.

For example: Memorize Philippians 4:12-13 and any other scriptures that deal with being thankful for God’s provision. Be sensitive to the Spirit’s nudging when you are tempted to covet. Choose to be thankful instead.

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

— — — — — — — — — — —

PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

The Christian life is to be lived by faith. Christians should want to obey Christ out of love and gratitude for how much God loves us and for Jesus paying the ultimate price for our sins. Yet, we cannot live an obedient Christian life in our own strength. We must live by faith—in God’s promises in the Bible and in the Holy Spirit inside us who helps us obey what God wants for our lives. By faith, we learn to obey Christ and experience a life of freedom and joy.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Review Memory Verse 2 – John 20:31.
  • Review Memory Verse 3 – Galatians 5:22-23.
  • Review Memory Verse 4 – Hebrews 4:16.
  • Review Memory Verse 5 – John 13:34-35.
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – Galatians 2:20.

Memory Verse 6

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ” (Galatians 2:20)

Day 1 Discovery – Review “A New Life of Obedience”

Do not be discouraged when progress in your Christian walk does not happen as quickly as you want. Christian growth is a lifelong process. God is patient with you and will never take his love away from you. Believe that the Holy Spirit will give you victory any moment you choose to obey him. Continue being obedient, living by faith and trusting in God’s promises even when you are going through trials and temptations. By faith, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome those trials and temptations. As we surrender our lives to him out of obedience, he conforms us into the likeness of the Lord Jesus.

Have you recognized specific sin in your life that you know is ugly in God’s eyes? Follow the steps given to live in freedom from the ugliness in that area of your life. In this way, you will learn obedience to Christ. Trust the Holy Spirit to give you victory in that area.

Step 1. View yourself rightly.

Your identity is not “________________” (coveter, greedy, gossiper, whatever your sin is). You are in Christ, a child of God, who sometimes “________________” (covets, is greedy, gossips, whatever your sin is).

Step 2. Recognize (confess) the truth regarding your specific sin.

Agree with God about what you and He both know to be true. Be specific about your sin.

Step 3. Add repentance to your confession.

Say, for example, “I recognize what I am doing is wrong. This fills me with sorrow because it displeases You, God. Please help me to live differently.”

Step 4. Follow repentance with dependence.

Depend on the Holy Spirit inside you for that change to take place. You cannot do it on your own, but he can do it through you. Memorize a Bible verse that encourages you to live differently.

Praise God for how he works in your life in that area!

Getting to Know Christ

Continue reading through the gospel of Mark to get to know Jesus better—reflecting on his life, his relationships, and his teaching. Also, begin to pray regularly to your Heavenly Father. Consider praying for specific issues in your life, for friends and family you desire to know Christ, and for your personal spiritual growth. As you read God’s Word, you will want to talk with him more.

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 11:1-19. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 11:20-33. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 12:1-27. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 12:28-44. Reflect on what you read—

Day 6 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 13:1-36. Reflect on what you read—

Days 7 Review and Ask Questions

Spend time reviewing what you have learned this week about your new life in Christ. Bring these to your Graceful Beginnings leader so she will know how to help you grow.

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

NEXT LESSON: Graceful Beginnings, Lesson 7. “Sharing Your New Life with Others.”

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

7. Sharing Your New Life with Others

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TOGETHER LESSON

How did you first hear about Jesus? Someone told you, right? Did you know that you have also been sent by the Lord to reach others with the good news about Jesus? You and I as followers of Jesus Christ have the awesome privilege of sharing the good news of eternal life with others. There is tremendous joy in reaching out to those who do not know Jesus and introducing them to him so they can know him just as you now know him.

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 New Living Translation)

Tell the World about Jesus

This amazing task is called the “Great Commission.” It is what Jesus told his followers right before he left earth to go to Heaven. “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) When Jesus gave that command to his followers to go and make disciples, it was not to ordained preachers, hired church staff or organizations. He spoke those words to average, every day kind of people like you and I are. “All nations” includes your sphere of influence, wherever that is.

Think of it this way: Imagine you had cancer and were chosen to be part of a special test group for a new cure. The treatment cured all of your cancer completely free of charge. What is the first thing you would do after you were healed? You would want to tell all of the other cancer victims about this great cure! Well, sin is a cancer affecting every single person. And you have been cured—forgiven of your sins—by Jesus Christ. Do you remember how you felt before you believed in Jesus? Maybe you felt lonely, guilty, and without hope. The entire world is lost without Jesus. We are Christ’s ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 5:20) He has selected us to represent him and reach them with his love and forgiveness.

Key Question: Are you willing to be Christ’s ambassador to those in your sphere of influence? If so, tell God right now that you are willing.

1. The Gospel Is Good News

“Jesus Christ laid down his life for you so that he could give his life to you so that he could live his life through you.” (Ian Thomas)

Relating the good news to others takes two basic forms: your walk and your talk. As you grow in your relationship with Christ, others can see Christ by your walk (life). As the quote above says, Jesus living his life through us is one way he draws people to himself.

“In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

But, as we read at the beginning of this lesson, you must also tell the good news of the gospel so others may believe in Christ.

The Gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ coming to earth to save us from our sins. If you have opportunity to tell someone one thing, tell her about Jesus.

  • Tell her that God loves her and wants a relationship with her. But, sin separates her from God’s love.
  • Tell her that Jesus is God, who came to earth as a man, and died for the sins of the world.
  • Tell her that she can be completely forgiven of her sins and receive eternal life with God solely by believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord.

That is the gospel. Anyone can share it, and everyone needs to hear it. Pray and ask God for an opportunity this week to share the gospel. A famous evangelist once said this, “Take the initiative to share the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to God.”

2. Pray & Watch

You do not need to be an expert in the Bible or have years of experience with Christ to reach others for him. There are several ways you can share Christ on a daily basis.

The first and most important thing to do is to pray: ask your heavenly Father to lead you to someone who is open to hearing more about Christ. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to draw people to Christ. Pray the following:

“Father, please send the Holy Spirit to work in the heart of ________ to draw her to Jesus and make her into a laborer for the Kingdom.”

Keep on praying that prayer as often as you think about or see that person, envisioning the Holy Spirit going to work in that person’s life, drawing that person to Jesus. Then you can ask the Spirit to open the door to have a conversation with her. Make an intentional date to spend time with her.

When you talk to her, ask good questions to determine if she is interested in spiritual things or whether she has already trusted in Christ as her Savior. For example:

  • What is your faith background?
  • What were you taught about God growing up?
  • Have you had a spiritual experience that shaped your life?
  • Have you ever read or been taught from the Bible?
  • How have spiritual values shaped your life?

You don’t have to make a complete presentation of the Gospel to make an impact for Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to someone who is open to hearing more about Jesus.

3. Share Your Story

If you trusted Christ recently, you remember what life was like for you before Christ came into your life. How did you feel? What triggered your need for Jesus? What did God use to draw you to him? That may be how God will use you to reach others for Christ.

Once you have established a relationship with a friend, and “earned the right to be heard,” pray for an opportunity to share your story—what Christ has done in your life. Be ready for openings in the conversation where you can share simple statements of what God has done in your life (including your weaknesses and need of him). Allow her a peak into the life you have in Christ. Encourage her trust and create curiosity for more.

Most people reject Christianity because they don’t “have a clue” what it is all about, or they misunderstand…and think it is just “religion.” They do not realize they are missing a totally awesome relationship with Jesus! The best way to share…so that they really understand what the Bible says…is to prepare a short version of your own faith story that includes the Gospel message in it—what you heard and believed.

You will get an opportunity to work on your story in the Personal Discovery Guide this week.

4. Ask for a Decision & Lead Her in Prayer

As the Holy Spirit leads, expect God to be working in her heart. Ask one of the following questions:

  • Does this make sense to you?
  • Would you like to accept God’s gift?
  • Would you like to trust in Christ now?

Tell her that she must personally trust in Christ’s death on the cross in order to receive God’s forgiveness for her sins. If she is ready for a decision, pray with her to trust in Christ. A sample prayer is:

“Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for all of my sins – past, present, and future. Thank you for giving me eternal life and wanting a relationship with me. I trust in you now as my Savior, and I desire you to be Lord of my life.”

5. The Next Step for Her – Establish Her in Her New Faith

Once a person has come to Christ, now you have the privilege and honor of establishing her in the basics of the Christian faith as you have now been established through this series of lessons. Schedule a time to start going through Graceful Beginnings with her. Soon she will be reaching her peers for Christ, too.

It is also vital that she get immediately “connected” with other Christians, preferably those who will have common interests and have been praying for her along with you. By joining a community of believers, she can learn from other mentors besides you.

6. The Next Step for You

To keep growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ:

  • Join a Bible study or small group where you can enjoy fellowship with others who are also learning more about this new life in Christ.
  • Keep telling others about Jesus and personally discipling them in the basics of the Christian faith using “Graceful Beginnings.”
  • Take the next step of growth through the “Graceful Living” study, available at https://bible.org/series/graceful-living.
  • Look for ways you can serve others in your local church or community.

Discover more treasure: Work through your Personal Discovery Guide to review what you learned in today’s “Together Session” and discover more of the riches that are yours in your relationship with Christ.

— — — — — — — — — — —

PERSONAL DISCOVERY GUIDE

Christianity is Christ! It's all about a relationship with him. Jesus Christ gave his life for you by grace, so he could give his life to you by grace, so he could live his life through you by grace. Knowing Christ’s love for you and the presence of his life in you should motivate you to “live for him” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15; Galatians 2:20) and to serve him through serving others (John 13:1-15; Galatians 5:13-14; Philippians 2:1-4). Both are responses to God’s grace in your life. Another response is letting his life in you overflow to others around you, particularly those who need to know Christ.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

Continue putting truth in your mind through memorizing Bible verses that are relevant to what you are learning.

  • Review Memory Verse 1 – Ephesians 2:8-9.
  • Review Memory Verse 2 – John 20:31.
  • Review Memory Verse 3 – Galatians 5:22-23.
  • Review Memory Verse 4 – Hebrews 4:16.
  • Review Memory Verse 5 – John 13:34-35.
  • Review Memory Verse 6 – Galatians 2:20
  • Begin working on this week’s verse – Romans 10:14.

Memory Verse 7

“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:14 New Living Translation)

Note: This week, you will do your reading on Days 1-5 and work on your faith story on Days 6 & 7.

Getting to Know Christ

Finish reading through the gospel of Mark to get to know Jesus better—reflecting on his life, his relationships, and his teaching. Consider praying for specific issues in your life, for friends and family you desire to know Christ, and for your personal spiritual growth. As you read God’s Word, you will want to talk with him more.

Day 1 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 14:1-31. Reflect on what you read—

Day 2 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 14:32-52. Reflect on what you read—

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 14:53-15:15. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 15:16-47. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 16:1-20. Reflect on what you read—

From This Week’s Reading:

  • What discoveries have you made?
  • What questions do you have?

Days 6 & 7 Your Faith Story

“People love to hear stories…Telling your faith story is just that: your personal story about your faith. It’s an unobtrusive way to speak about the love of God in your life and the love he has for all people…Your life and story is the best tract to be written!” (The Disciplemaking Ministry Guide for Women in Leadership, “How to Share Your Faith,” page 21)

Use the following prompts to get you started. Then, choose the highlights to make a “Five-Minute Faith Story” that you can easily share when Jesus gives you opportunity.

Before you trusted in Christ

Although the tendency is to spend most of the time on your “before Christ” experience, only give enough information so someone else would know why you needed Christ in your life. Tell what you needed so that someone may identify with you.

Identify what your life was like.

  • What were your attitudes, needs, and/or problems?
  • To what source did you look for security, peace of mind, or happiness?
  • In what ways were your activities unsatisfying?
  • Find 2-3 words to describe what only Christ could fill or do in your life (e.g. loneliness, feelings of insignificance, anger, rejection).

Briefly share a personal example that captures the needs and attitudes from this time of your life as identified above.

How you came to know Christ (point of salvation)

Share when and how you first heard the gospel and/or were exposed to Christianity.

  • What brought you to the place of being willing to listen?
  • Who influenced you?
  • How and when did you decide to follow Jesus?
  • Describe how you felt, what truths you heard, what you thought about them, and how you felt after you made the decision.

Give the gospel in this section. Use 1 or 2 relevant scripture verses.

My life after knowing Jesus

Spend the most time on this.

  • What conditions before Christ has been satisfied by a relationship with him?
  • What does it look like in your life to have a relationship with Christ?
  • How long did it take before you noticed changes?
  • What are your blessings?
  • Where do you struggle?
  • How do you depend on him through those struggles?
  • What difference does having him in your life make during those times?
  • Emphasize what you have learned about God’s grace to you.

Briefly share a personal illustration that shows the wonderful difference that Christ has made in your life.

Wrap up by inviting the listener to trust in Christ as you did so she can experience a new life of freedom and joy!

NEXT TOGETHER TIME: Share your faith story with your Graceful Beginnings leader and listen to hers. Ask Jesus to give you opportunity to share your story with others in your life as well.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Christian Life, Spiritual Life

Acknowledgements & References

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The information in this Graceful Beginnings guide for new believers in Christ has been adapted from the following sources:

  1. Getting Started in Extreme Living by Bert Harned and Larry Chapman, accessed at www.extremelivingguide.com
  2. Graceful Living by Melanie Newton, accessed at www.melanienewton.com/GracefulLiving.html
  3. New Believers Guide accessed at www.godlife.com/new-believers-guide
  4. New Believer Study Guide available from Fellowship Bible Church, Waco TX, accessed at www.fellowshipbcwaco.org
  5. Bridges on the Journey by The Navigators

Is God Real? Evidence for God from Objective Moral Truth

There are several compelling arguments for the existence of God, and many of them are rooted in science (i.e. the Cosmological Argument) or philosophy (i.e. the Transcendental Argument). Sometimes these disciplines are foreign to our everyday experience, however, and not many of us are prepared to debate (or even describe) scientific details or esoteric philosophical concepts, especially as they might be related to God’s existence. Another set of evidences may be far easier to assess and communicate. Is God real? The presence of objective moral truth validates the existence of God and this evidence may be much easier to communicate to others.

We live in a world filled with moral truths and most of us, whether we are aware of it or not, believe these truths are more than a matter of personal opinion, evolutionary development or social convention. “Torturing babies for fun” is (and has been) morally repugnant regardless of the time in history, place on the planet, or identity of any particular people group. Moral truths of this nature transcend and precede us. We don’t invent or construct them, we discover them. Transcendent, objective moral truths such as these form the foundation of the Axiological Argument for the existence of God. “Axio” means the “study of values” and the Axiological Argument uses the existence of objective values or “mores” to prove the existence of God:

(1) There is an Objective (Transcendent) Moral Law
(2) Every Law Has a Law Giver
(3) Therefore, There is an Objective (Transcendent) Law Giver
(4) The Objective (Transcendent) Law Giver is God

If objective, transcendent moral truths exist, an objective, transcendent moral truth giver is the most reasonable inference.

Living in a world filled with moral choices, we often confuse description with prescription. It’s one thing to describe “what is”, but it’s another thing to prescribe “what ought to be”. Humans are good at the former, but have been historically uneven with the latter. Individuals and groups often allow their own selfish interests to color the way they evaluate moral truth. When this happens, we sometimes come to very different conclusions about the “rightness” of our beliefs or actions. When we disagree about the moral value of a particular action, we usually try to convince the other side to accept our position. But why would this be necessary if all moral truths come from individuals or groups? If humans are the source of moral truth, why should we consider one group’s values to be any better than another? When we argue for what “ought to be” we’re not simply asking someone to accept our subjective opinion; were asking them to see the “rightness” of the objective moral truth we happen to hold.

When a group of societies come together to discuss the moral value of a particular action (as is often the case at meetings of the United Nations), they are appealing to a standard transcending the group in an effort to convince any one member of the group. When one nation asks another to conform to some form of moral behavior, it’s not saying, “Do it our way,” it’s saying, “Do the right thing.” Our appeal to a particular behavior isn’t based solely on our collective, subjective opinion; it’s based on an appeal to objective moral values transcending our opinion. We can argue about the identity of these values, but we must accept the transcendent foundation of these moral truths if we ever hope to persuade others to embrace them. Nations may dislike one another and resist the subjective values held by other groups. That’s why we argue for the transcendent moral value of an action, rather than appealing to a subjective national opinion.

If transcendent moral truths exist, from where do they come? In the next few blogs at ColdCaseChristianity.com, we’ll examine the possible alternatives and make a case for God’s existence along the way. Is God real? The evidence from the existence of objective moral truth points to God as the most reasonable explanation.

Related Topics: Apologetics, Theology Proper (God)

15. God Conquers Drifting (Judges 20:12-21:25)

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Judges: A Drifting People, A Delivering God (part fifteen)

Judges records our delivering God rescuing His drifting people…over and over and over again. As the series draws to a close, we see Israel recommitting herself to holy living. This will require a difficult, honest examination of their own lives and relationships. It will also involve loving correction of others in order to protect the community's holiness. Where there is unrepentant sin, it must be dealt with from a position of brokenness. The community of saints today should not be so different. We must help one another identify any slow drift away from the Lord before we drift too far.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Church Discipline, Discipleship, Discipline, Failure, Relationships, Spiritual Life

希伯來書第11章對你適切嗎?(希伯來書11:1-6)

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11:1 信就是對所望之事的肯定2,是對未見之事的確認 311:2 古人因着信得了 神的稱讚。11:3 我們因着信,就知道諸世界是藉 神命令生序;以致所看見的是出自所看不見的。4 11:4 亞伯5 因着信獻祭與 神,比該隱所獻的更大,因此便得了為義的稱讚,就是神以他禮物作的稱讚。他雖然死了,卻因這信仍舊說話。11:5 以諾因着信被接去,不至於見死;人也找不着他,因為 神已經把他接去了。只是他被接去以先,已經得了 討神喜悅的稱讚。11:6 人非有信,就不能討 神的喜悅,因為到 神面前來的人必須信有 神,且信他賞賜那尋求他的人6。(希伯來書11:1-6)

引言

我記得數年前我讀過一本有關基督徒婚姻的書7(從人的角度寫的書),當中有一章是關於丈夫和妻子之間的性關係,盡我所能記起,這章的開始是這樣的:「我預期很多男士會先翻到這章……」我記得當時我不禁笑了起來,因為我也沒有按這書各章建議的順序跳到這章。

我也知道一個不吸引的標題,不能贏取「第十一章」應有的讀者來閱讀這篇文章。在面對經濟衰退的時期,相信有可觀的人數以「第十一章」作為他們面對經濟困境的解決方法 – 我指的是別的文章。也許我可以誇口地說,第十一章可能是那些對將來充滿恐懼和憂慮不安的人,首先翻開來看的章節。這章經文通常被稱為「信心巨廊」,這名稱十分適切。在這章裡,我們被提醒那些忠於神的男女被激勵走那信心的路,沒有因面對外在壓力的日子而崩潰,因此我殷切地希望你們容忍我,並且審察希伯來書第11章對你是否適切。

希伯來書第11章為甚麼重要?

希伯來書第11章對於原來的收信人是重要的教導。那些聖徒極喜愛舊約聖經和舊約的聖人,這11章裡,他們會發現那些信心的偉人是因他們的信心而得救,而非因為遵守律法或舊約的獻祭制度;故此在這章經文裡,你會發現作者並沒有引用和這兩方面相關的經文。

希伯來書第11章對今天的我們來說,也是十分重要的。這章對全卷書信的論點,扮演了重要的角色。簡單來說,第1-10章是描述主耶穌的神性和人性,我們的主是至高無上,足以成為大祭司。在第1-10章的真理是我們信心的基礎,有這樣的一位救主,不單這生,我們可以永遠完全信靠祂。希伯來書的作者在第12-13章向讀者作出特別的勸勉以先,他在第11章稍作停頓來列出舊約無數憑著信而活的例子。舊約的信心偉人因信而得救,故此他們憑信而活。他們因此得到神的接納認可,也以此得以親近神。

希伯來書第11章對今天的讀者十分重要,因為它道出憑信而活是怎樣的。如作者所言,這些信心偉人雖然死了,但他們今天仍繼續向我們說話。8 我們若聽從他們,對我們會有好處。

關於第11章的觀察

觀察 1:這章的主題是信。「信」(或是同字根的字),在羅馬書和希伯來書中經常出現。在這兩卷書中共出現了36次,比起其它的舊約或新約的書卷為多。「信」這字單在希伯來書第11章便已經出現24次,當中「因著信」這片語從希伯來書11:3開始出現,全章經文出現了19次。

第11章為信下了定義,而作者透過無數舊約的例子,更精確地闡明信是甚麼。這章的重點並不是信的來源,而是在現實生活中活出信。在這裡,信並不是單純的信念,而是行為(基於信念所產生的行為);作者並非勸勉讀者回想信,而是勸勉讀者要以神所賜的信 9而活。作者在這裡所述說的信並不是最初得救的信,而是信心的生命。

觀察 2憑信而活的例子是按時序排列。初讀這經文時,我們或許會忽略了這一點,但卻會逐漸清晰。第一個信的例子是和宇宙萬物的創造有關。那即是說,作者從創世記1:1節創世開始,接著是亞伯(創世記第4),繼而是以諾(創世記第5)、揶亞(創世記第6-9)、亞伯拉罕的事蹟(創世記11-22)、以撒、雅各和約瑟,這些都是記載在創世記的人物;另外摩西和喇合也是加以詳細記述的最後兩個例子。作者列出信的例子,似是從創世記直至舊約時期的終結。

觀察 3作者刻意讀者注意在律法頒以前(或在律法以外)信表現。誠然,作者的例子涵蓋了整個舊約時期,但大部份有詳細描述的例子全是出於舊約早期(即創世記或出埃及記),而出於舊約後期的例子,只作簡潔的交待或在11:32-38以「名單」形式出現。我們知道亞伯、以諾、挪亞和亞伯拉罕都是活在神在西乃山給以色列人頒佈律法以前的世代,因此,他們的義明顯並非守律法的義。

就是有關摩西的記載(他是在第11章除亞伯拉罕以外最突出的人物),也都和律法連不上關係。若我們細心留意經文,便能察覺這一點。當作者談及摩西父母的信心時,明顯是講論在摩西出生時,他的父母把他收藏三個月;而論及摩西的信,重點是他拒絕稱為法老女兒之子,從而與神受苦的百姓認同。10 經文亦記載了摩西守逾越節、離開埃及和過紅海,不過這些都是以色列人還未到達西乃山、在神頒佈律法以先的事蹟。

那麼,經文的重點是甚麼呢?那就是在舊約和新約,義都是藉著信,不是出於行為。我們不可忽略這封書信的其中一部份希伯來收信人,正打算回轉猶太教、回轉舊約、回轉到舊約時代的祭司和獻祭制度;仿似那舊制度勝過基督灑寶血所立的新約和基督的大祭司身份。希伯來書第十一章給予猶太教和舊約引人的地方重錘一擊。既然舊約聖徒沒有一個是因守律法而被稱義,那麼守舊約律法又如何能夠勝過新約透過信基督而稱義呢?這章所列舉的舊約英雄,名單中的每一位都是因著信而被稱義,沒有一個是靠守律法的。這些舊約英雄不單有信心,並且是信心的偉人。故此,在這章中,「因著信」出現了十九次。

這讓我記起羅馬書在第四章以前,保羅展現所有人都是失喪的罪人,無法靠自己的行為稱義,人的終極是那永遠的審判;他接著帶出福音,並宣告基督透過把自己獻上作為贖罪祭,成就了人守律法所不能達到的,因此人透過信基督得救,那並非是靠行為可得。保羅的希伯來讀者或會存疑:「等一等,保羅說人不能透過守律法而得拯救,而只有透過相信耶穌基督在各各他所成就的十字架救恩;那麼舊約時代的信徒得救嗎?」回答這問題,保羅引用舊約期間最偉大的英雄 – 亞伯拉罕作為例子,他並不是因為守律法而得救(那時還未有律法),而是透過信(信那要來的彌賽亞)。

希伯來書的作者使用完全相同的進路。他引用亞伯拉罕的同時,還擴闊了他的論證,把所有舊約聖徒包括在內。不單亞伯拉罕的得救是在守律法以外,他因著信而得拯救;就是每個舊約聖徒都是「因著信」而得救,「因著信」過著英雄式的生活、常常是「因著信」,而不是靠善行。

觀察四:死亡是希伯來書第11一個十分突出的主題。希伯來書第11章有超過20次和死相關的經文,這些經文用了十分直接的字詞(死、死了、臨終、滅、滅亡);除了這些字詞外,還有和死亡相關的事件。作者希望讀者明白,信除去對死亡的恐懼;並且因著神應許11的實現,信超越死亡。

觀察信並非以受苦和死亡彈」silver bullet或「靈丹妙藥」的式呈現。在這段經文中,我們被告知亞伯因著信而死,而以諾卻因著信並不至於見死。這章經文稍後的地方,我們讀到因著信而得拯救的例子(10:32-35a);同時亦有因著信而受極大的苦、甚而死亡的例子。(10:35b-38)。那些「兜售成功神學的牧師」,他們承諾只要有足夠的信心,便得醫治、受歡迎和成功(還有很多別的);我從未聽過他們用希伯來書證道。

「信」的發展式定義和描述 – 第1-6節

第11章第1節為「信」作了一個基礎、概括的定義來作開始:

11:1 信就是對所望之事的肯定,是對未見之事的確認。(希伯來書11:1).

作者在第十一章的開端,給我們為信下了一個由兩部份組成的定義,而這兩部份卻又是互相關連的。信包含我們希望和我們看不到的東西。這定義極其寬闊,足以把世俗的信和基督教的信也包含在內。一位未得救的同工,他信他的訓練或工作技能,他自信升職將會成真;賭徒也有某些被扭曲了的「信」、那些相信假宗教的也有他們所信奉的。令人遺憾的,是他們信仰的根基並不穩固。

基督徒相信在將來會得到神所應許的,基督徒熱切地期望這些應許。這「有福的盼望」12是主再來並且成就一切;這盼望是死人復活13;這盼望是成為神的兒女,我們的身體得贖14。向信徒述說我們在基督裡的盼望的經文眾多15,下面是其中兩篇:

8:22 我們知道一切受造之物一同歎息勞苦,直到如今。8:23 不但如此,就是我們這有聖靈初結的果子的,也是內裏歎息,等候得着兒子的名分,就是我們的身體得贖。8:24 因為我們得救是在乎盼望,只是看得見的盼望不是盼望,誰還要盼望他看得見的呢?8:25 但我們若盼望那看不見的,就必耐心等候。(羅馬書8:22-25)

1:3 願頌讚歸與 神、我們主耶穌基督的父!他照自己的大憐憫,藉着耶穌基督死裏的復活,使我們重生在活的盼望裏,1:4 就是那不能朽壞、不能玷污、不能衰殘、為你們存留在天上的基業。1:5 你們這因信蒙 神能力保護的人,必能得着所預備到末世要顯現的救恩,1:6 這為你們帶來大喜樂,雖然如今你們也許暫時在百般的試煉中受苦。1:7 這些試煉顯出你們信心的真實,比那經得起火的試驗、最後仍要衰殘的金子更為寶貴,必能在耶穌基督顯現的時候,得着稱讚、榮耀和尊貴。1:8 你們雖然沒有見過他,卻是愛他;你們現在雖不見他,卻是信他,因此你們有無法形容、榮耀的大喜樂,1:9 因為你們達到了信心的目標,就是靈魂的救恩。(彼得前書1:3-9)

信讓我們對神的應許有信心,因我們所盼望的是將來的和屬靈的事物,這些事物我們不能用我們的眼睛去看。

8:24 因為我們得救是在乎盼望,只是看得見的盼望不是盼望,誰還要盼望他看得見的呢?8:25 但我們若盼望那看不見的,就必耐心等候。(羅馬書8:24-25)

信是對看不見的事有信心,相信他們是存在的、或在將來會成真。一個人甚至能肯定聖經所述那看不見的才是那終極的存有:

4:17 我們這至暫至輕的苦楚,要為我們成就極重無比、永遠的榮耀。4:18 原來我們不是定睛所能見的,乃是定睛所不能見的;因為所能見的是暫時的,所不能見的是永遠的。(哥林多後書4:17-18)

5:6 所以我們時常坦然無懼,並且曉得我們住在地上就不能在主那裏;5:7 因我們行事為人,是憑着信心,不是憑着眼見。5:8 因此我們坦然無懼,是更願意離開身體,回家與主同住。(哥林多後書5:6-8)

在希伯來書11:2,作者認為堅定的信是一個人和神的關係中不能或缺的部份,信是這關係的基礎。

11:2 古人因着信得了 神的稱讚。 (希伯來書11:2).

對神的信是一個人得到神的認可和讚揚的基礎。

第6節是這強而有力的述說的一個跟進:

11:6人非有信,就不能討 神的喜悅,因為到 神面前來的人必須信有 神,且信他賞賜那尋求他的人。(希伯來書11:6)

3:3 我們從前也是愚笨、悖逆、偏行、被各樣情慾所困、以惡毒、嫉妒、懷怨,又是彼此相恨的活着。3:4 但到了 神我們救主的恩慈,和他向人所施的慈愛顯明的時候,3:5 他便救了我們,並不是因我們自己作的義行,而是以他的憐憫為基礎,藉著新生的洗,和聖靈的更新。3:6 聖靈就是 神藉著耶穌基督我們救主,厚厚澆灌在我們身上的。3:7 因此,我們既已從他的恩得稱為義,就成為後嗣,有把握的期待永生。(提多書3:3-7)16

雖然提多書並非這篇信息的中心經文,不過我卻想指出作者在接著的章節中會繼續發展這信的定義,另一個重要的開展在第13-16節。

信心的例子

對創造的信

11:3 我們因着信,就知道諸世界是藉 神命令生序;以致所看見的是出自所看不見的。(希伯來書11:3

希伯來書第十一章使用「憑著信」來述說的第一個信心的例子,超出我的意料之外。在這章裡別的例子都是舊約的聖徒,但這個例子卻將讀這書卷的讀者包含在內。「我們因着信,就知道諸世界是藉神命令生序……」;而其它的例子卻是所述的人物,在特定的環境中表達他們的信,而我們卻不會經歷一模一樣的處境。然而每個信徒卻被呼召運用他們的信,信宇宙萬物是神手所造的。聖經並沒有給我們別的選擇:

1:1 太初神創造諸天和地。(創世記1:1)

1:1 太初有道,道與 神同在,道就是 神。1:2 這道在太初就與 神同在。1:3 萬物都是藉着他造的;凡被造的,沒有一樣不是藉着他造的。(約翰福音1:1-3)

1:16 因為天上和地上的萬有都是他造的,無論是能看見的或不能看見的,有位的或主治的,執政的或掌權的,一概都是藉著他造的,又是為他造的。1:17 他在萬有之先,萬有也靠他維繫。(歌羅西書1:16-17)

1:1 神在古時藉着眾先知多次多方1的曉諭列祖後,1:2 在這末世,藉着他兒子3曉諭我們,又早已立他為承受萬有的,也曾藉着他創造了世界。(希伯來書1:1-2)17

我們很容易看到相信萬物的創造是神手所作的工,十分附合第一節為信所立的定義。因著信,我們對所看見的創造確是由那看不見的而來有把握。那就是宇宙萬物是那看不見的神所造的。如果我們的世界是從無有創造而成,那我們現在所能看見的,他們的根源是從那看不見的而來。

為甚麼我們信宇宙萬物是神的創造是那麼重要呢?讓我建議最少兩個原因。首先,聖經告訴我們的第一件事情就是神創造這世界(參創世記1:1)。信神透過相信祂的話語,因此信始於創世記1:1,並且繼續相信聖經直至啟示錄22:21;其次,福音始於創造的時期。使徒無須強調神創造天堂和地球,因為猶太人相信神創造世界,所以福音多從神給亞伯拉罕立約的應許和先知預言彌賽亞的來臨作開始;但當福音傳給外邦人時,就需要從聖經一開始就記載的創造開始。因此,我們讀到:

17:24 創造宇宙和其中萬物的 神,既是天地的主,就不住人手所造的殿,17:25 也不用人手服事,好像缺少甚麼;自己倒將生命、氣息、萬物,賜給萬人。17:26 他從一人造出萬族的人,遍住全地,並且預先定準他們的年限和所住的疆界;17:27 要叫他們尋求 神,或者可以摸索而得,其實他離我們各人不遠;17:28 因為我們生活、行動、存在,都在乎他;就如你們的詩人說:『我們也是他的後裔。』17:29 我們既是 神的後裔,就不當以為 神的神性能用手藝和心思所雕刻的金、銀、石來形容。17:30 因此世人蒙昧無知的時候, 神當作不看見,如今卻吩咐所有的人都要悔改。17:31 因為他已經定了一日,要藉着他所設立的人,按公義審判天下;他也曾叫他從死裏復活,給萬人作憑據。」(使徒行傳17:24-31)

在這裡我們沒有時間探討創造對信的影響,我建議讀者們思考這課題。然而這真理對護教學和傳福音都極之重要。我們必須明瞭論點是一個個疊起來的,假如創造論是信心課題,那麼我們若不信,就不能感染失喪的人。因信是從神而來的禮物,我們要仰望神賜人相信宇宙萬物是神創造的。我們不再和別人爭拗,使他們相信創造論,而把人贏進神的國度。因信是神的工作,我們可以透過禱告,求祂打開人的心來信靠祂,並相信聖經有關祂的述說。

亞伯的信

11:4 亞伯因着信獻祭與 神,比該隱所獻的更大,因此便得了為義的稱讚,就是神以他禮物作的稱讚。他雖然死了,卻因這信仍舊說話。(希伯來書11:4 )

12:24 有新約的中保耶穌,並有所灑的血;這血所說的,比亞伯的血所說的更美。(希伯來書12:24)

4:1 那時,那人和他妻子夏娃同房,夏娃就懷孕,生了該隱。她便說:「我創造了一個男子,正如耶和華所做的。」4:2 她又生了該隱的兄弟亞伯。亞伯是牧羊的,該隱是種地的。4:3 到了指定的時候,該隱拿地裡的出產為供物獻給耶和華,4:4 但亞伯將他羊羣中頭生的,甚至最肥壯的獻上。耶和華喜悅亞伯和他的供物,4:5 卻不喜悅該隱和他的供物。該隱就大大的發怒,變了臉色。4:6 耶和華對該隱說:「你為甚麼發怒呢?你為甚麼變了臉色呢?4:7 你若做得對,豈不是很好?你若做得不對,罪就蹲伏在門前;它想轄制你,你必要制伏它。」4:8 該隱對他兄弟亞伯說:「讓我們到田裡去。」二人正在田間,該隱襲擊他兄弟亞伯,把他殺了。(創世記4:1-8)

23:35 叫世上義人所流的血都歸到你們身上,從義人亞伯的血起,直到你們在殿和壇之間所殺的巴拉加的兒子撒迦利亞的血為止。23:36 我實在告訴你們,這世代要負責這一切的事了。(馬太福音23:35)

對我而言,我們必須明瞭聖經無須將神對舊約聖徒啟示的一切都記錄下來。18 當我們讀到約翰福音第八章,我們就明白到神對亞伯拉罕的啟示,必須多於聖經的記載:

8:56 你們的父亞伯拉罕歡歡喜喜的仰望我的日子,既看見了,就歡喜快樂。」(約翰福音8:56

我們從經文得悉有關該隱和亞伯的獻祭,該隱拿「地裡的出產」為祭獻給神;亞伯獻的是血祭,他將羊群中頭生的獻給神。神悅納亞伯和他的祭,但卻不喜悅該隱和他的祭。反過來說,這並非單純是祭牲,而是獻祭者的問題。如同神簡潔地讓亞伯知道神悅納他和他的祭牲,祂也簡潔地讓該隱知道祂不喜悅他和他的祭牲。該隱對神的不悅感到憤怒,神找該隱告訴他如他「做得對」就會很好。換句話說,我們並不知到該隱和他的祭到底在那裡出錯(我們或許會有些概念),但該隱是清楚知道他在那裡出錯並且拒絕按著神的指示作,取而代之,他騙他的兄弟往某處將他殺害。希伯來書的作者並不想我們忽略了亞伯蒙神悅納是因著信。

我最感興趣的,是作者有關亞伯最後的話:「他雖然死了,卻因這信仍舊說話。」(第4節)第十一章的重點教導是對神有信心的人,死亡並非生命的終結。我們將在第13-16節讀到就是已死的舊約聖徒,也會得著神對他們的應許。這對死後有永生的肯定,在族長死亡時的行動進一步得到強化(第17-22節)。

當作者宣告亞伯仍舊向我們說話時,他還有更多的含意。亞伯被神接納,是聖經記載的事實,這例子在他死後很多年以後被引用,是要讀者留意憑信而活對他人的巨大影響力 – 就是那些在我們死了很多年後才活著的人,仍受影響。試用少許時間來想一想,想想希伯來書第11章裡的所有例子怎樣啟迪我們過信心的生活。想想那些在舊約時期完結後的人、教會歷史中給我們激勵的男女信徒;這些人仍輔助我們。這些讓我記起保羅在羅馬書第15的話:

15:4 從前所寫的聖經,都是為教導我們寫的,叫我們因聖經所生的忍耐和鼓勵,可以得着盼望。(羅馬書15:4)

那些持之以恆的敬虔男女,他們所得的鼓勵來自信。

以諾的信

11:5 以諾因着信被接去,不至於見死;人也找不着他,因為 神已經把他接去了。只是他被接去以先,已經得了 討神喜悅的稱讚。11:6 人非有信,就不能討 神的喜悅,因為到 神面前來的人必須信有 神,且信他賞賜那尋求他的人。(希伯來書11:5-6)

5:18 雅列活到一百六十二歲,生了以諾。5:21 以諾活到六十五歲,生了瑪土撒拉。5:22 以諾生瑪土撒拉之後,與 神同行三百年,並且生兒養女。5:23 以諾共活了三百六十五歲。5:24 以諾與 神同行, 神將他取去,他就不在世了。(創世記5:18, 21-24)

1:14 亞當的七世孫以諾曾預言這些人說:「看哪!主帶着他的千萬聖者降臨,1:15要在眾人身上行審判,判決每一個不敬虔的人所行的一切不敬虔的事,又判決不敬虔之罪人所說頂撞他的剛愎話。」(猶大書14-15)

以諾是活在黑暗、導致洪水滅世的時代,那時代要以洪水清洗大地;假如我們能夠回想這些背景,能夠幫助我們更明白這段經文。假如我沒有弄錯,挪亞是以諾的曾孫19。創世記第6章最初的幾節經文,描述了人的罪行,解釋了為何全球必須受到審判,也解釋了為何只有挪亞和他一家幸免於難。

我們必須留意亞伯因他的信死了,而以諾因他的信卻不見死。雖然在前面我以經提及,在這裡我再重覆一遍(因為有部份傳道者否定這點):信並不保證我們不會受苦;信卻保證神宣告我們為義,保證我們擁有神給那擁有永生的人的應許。在希伯來書11:32-38中,我們看到有些人因著信被拯救或經歷神在地上的祝福;但有些卻受極大的苦楚。不過,所有因著信而活的人,都會得到神的接納和神賜予的永恆福份(11:13-16, 39-40)。

我們必須加以留意希伯來書的作者記述以諾時,強調以諾因著信「被神接去」天堂,他並沒有提及或要讀者加以注意以諾作了甚麼才使以諾被神稱為義;在以諾被神接去以先,作者只簡單地宣告他討神喜悅和稱讚。從創世記第五章,我們知道「以諾與神同行」,故此神「將他取去」(創世記5:24)。縱使以諾生活於一個很快便被剷除的墮落、腐化和邪惡的文化裡,他的信是透過他恆常敬虔的生活被見證出來。以諾被神接去,很明顯是一個很例外的例子,這例子成了所有信徒將來進天堂的預示:

4:15 我們現在以主的道告訴你們,我們這活着還存留到主降臨的人,斷不能比那已經睡了的人先去。4:16 因為主必親自從天降臨,那時有發令的聲音,有天使長的聲音,又有 神的號吹響,那些在基督裏死了的人必先復活。4:17 以後我們這活着還存留的人,必一時之間和他們一同被提到雲裏,在空中與主相見。從此,我們就要和主永遠同在。4:18 所以你們當用這些話彼此鼓勵。(帖撒羅尼迦前書4:15-18)

結語

希伯來書第11章為我們給「信」下了一個極佳的定義和列出無數的例子作支持。透過經文,我們得悉:透過信來肯定神所應許的,但那是人不能用肉眼看見的;這可能是因他們是屬靈和看不見20,或要到將來才成就;又或許他們超出人的想像,在人的角度看來並不可能發生。21對於基督徒來說,我們深深盼望神的應許22,但那些事我們卻又需要等待他們的來臨23。我們十分肯定我們肉眼所看見的被那看不見的光明取代了,這些看不見的會成為真實,並且成為生活的基礎。

信和希望並不相同,但兩者之間卻緊密連在一起:

如今常存的有信,有望,有愛。這三樣,其中最大的是愛。(哥林多前書13:13)

8:23 不但如此,就是我們這有聖靈初結的果子的,也是內裏歎息,等候得着兒子的名分,就是我們的身體得贖。8:24 因為我們得救是在乎盼望,只是看得見的盼望不是盼望,誰還要盼望他看得見的呢?8:25 但我們若盼望那看不見的,就必耐心等候。(羅馬書8:24-25)

基督徒的盼望是渴望和期待神的應許,而信是對我們所盼望的有信心,相信所希望的能夠實現。

雖然有些人發出嘲弄,但我卻相信任何人都活在某些信念中。當人登上一架飛機時,他們希望能安全到達目的地。他們信那架飛機、相信機上的飛機司、地上的飛機維修人員(雖然沒有看到他們);對於一些人,就是沒有超出墳塋的存在物他們也信。問題並不是「你有信心嗎?」而是「你的信建基在甚麼上呢?」世上並沒有比神的話語和神信守祂的承諾更好的信心基礎。在希伯來書首十章描繪了人的墮落和基督是神所安排至高無上的大祭司。我們可以信靠祂和祂灑寶血所立的新約。這是我們罪得赦免的唯一途徑,以致我們能親近祂,並且能夠肯定直到永恆都如是。你是否已把信放在耶穌基督在各各他為人的罪代贖而死之上呢?

這經文強調那些因著信而活的人,不論是男是女,都帶來極大的貢獻,給我們立了一個遵從的好榜樣。在第11章到目前為止,我們看到亞伯和以諾信心的例子僅僅是個開始,接下來還有很多其他例子。敬虔的例子,不只適用於舊約聖徒,對今天敬虔的男女信徒同樣真確。當我回想我們教會的歷史,我能說出好些男女信徒的名字作為我們追隨基督的好榜樣。讓我們不要輕看我們生命對別人的影響力,不論善行或惡行的影響力:

73:13 我定論說:「我實在徒然守着純正的動機,徒然持守純潔的生活。73:14 我終日遭災難,每早晨受懲治。」73:15 我若公開這些思想,就是出賣了跟從你的人。(詩篇73:13-15)

無怪乎我們的作者會這樣寫:

13:7 從前引導你們、傳 神之道給你們的人,你們要記念他們,效法他們的信心,留心看他們為人的結局。(希伯來書13:7)

這經文提醒我們,在面對危機時所表達的信心是不間斷地憑著信而活的結果。當我讀那些好像但以理的人怎樣處理他們所面對的危機時,我明白到當危機臨到他們時,他們只是堅持做正確的事的原因是因為他們恆常地憑信而活。例如,大利烏王被騙而簽署了一份禁止向王以外的其他神祈禱的命令;讓我們來看但以理的反應:

6:7 國中的總長、知事、總督、謀士和巡撫彼此認為,求王立禁令並雷厲執行,三十日內不拘何人,若在王以外,向神或向人祈求,就要扔在獅子坑中。6:8 王啊,現在求你書寫這禁令,照瑪代和波斯人的例,不得更改。」6:9 於是大利烏王立這禁令,加蓋玉璽。6:10 但以理知道這禁令蓋了玉璽,就到自己家裏(他樓上的窗戶開向耶路撒冷)。他一日三次雙膝跪在他 神面前,禱告感謝,與素常一樣。(但以理書6:7-10)

那些每天都憑著信生活的,就是面對災難性的危機時,是最大機會仍憑著信而活的一群。

那憑著信而活的,從那對神欠缺合乎聖經的信的群體突顯出來。我們曾經過著舒適的生活、失業率很低,而有優厚的薪金(特別是和第三世界國家的薪金作比較),很多美國人享有醫療和生活保障,甚至退休保障,很多人認為他們並不需要神。雖然在911事件發生後,很多人從倚靠財富轉向宗教信仰,但這情況很快便消失了。我們發現我們正處於全球經濟衰退,失業率以高速上升,職位消失,退休人仕考慮再工作來彌補他們在股票市場的損失。恐懼正蔓延,抓住很多人;這正正也是憑著信而活的人突顯出來的時候,這也是我們向別人解釋我們為何有盼望的時候24。這是基督徒展示彼此相愛和關懷有需要的人的時候。也許這相對我一生中的其他時間,讓我操練信心與及和別人分享信心的來由。讓我們好好抓著這機遇。

3:14 即使你們為義受苦,也是有福的。不要怕人,也不要驚慌3:15 只要心裏尊基督為主。有人問你們心中的盼望,就要常準備好答案,禮貌尊重的回答。(彼得前書3:14-15)

福音書都是關乎信。如果我們相信自己、自己的好、自己的善行、自己的努力來取悅神,我們便完全弄錯了。耶穌基督的福音首要告訴我們:我們是失喪的罪人,與神為敵,不論我們靠守舊約的律法或是其它方法,都無法取得神的喜悅:

3:19 我們曉得律法所說的話,都是對律法以下之人說的,好塞住各人的口,叫普世的人都要向 神交代。3:20 沒有一個人因律法的功效能在 神面前稱義,因律法是叫人知道甚麼是罪。(羅馬書3:19-20)

我們必須承認我們是罪人,只配得神永恆的忿怒;我們必須放棄相信自己和自己的善行,而去相信那唯一的犧牲,使我們的罪得永久的赦免,與神和好的那位。

3:21 但如今神的義在律法以外已經顯露出來(有律法和先知為證),3:22就是 神的義,因信耶穌基督,加給一切相信的人。其中沒有區分,3:23 因為世人都犯了罪,夠不上 神的榮耀。3:24 如今卻蒙 神的恩典,藉着基督耶穌的救贖,就白白的稱義。3:25 神定意展示耶穌的死77為施恩的寶座,使凡信的都可以近前;這就顯明了神的義,因為 神用忍耐的心,寬容人以前所犯的罪;3:26 也在今時顯明他的義,使人知道他是稱義者,叫人因耶穌的信實得以活着。(羅馬書3:21-26)

3:3 我們從前也是愚笨、悖逆、偏行、被各樣情慾所困、以惡毒、嫉妒、懷怨,又是彼此相恨的活着。3:4 但到了 神我們救主的恩慈,和他向人所施的慈愛顯明的時候,3:5 他便救了我們,並不是因我們自己作的義行,而是以他的憐憫為基礎,藉著新生的洗,和聖靈的更新。3:6 聖靈就是 神藉著耶穌基督我們救主,厚厚澆灌在我們身上的。3:7 因此,我們既已從他的恩得稱為義,就成為後嗣,有把握的期待永生。(提多書3:3-7)

當我們信靠耶穌基督,我們便得到救恩。這是神所提供赦罪和永生確據的唯一途徑。故此,我們是藉著信耶穌基督而得救,並不是出於我們自己的努力:

2:1 雖然你們從前死在過犯罪惡之中,2:2 那時,你們行事為人隨從今世的風俗,順服空中掌權者的首領,就是現今在悖逆之子心中運行活躍的邪靈。2:3 我們從前也都在他們中間,放縱肉體的私慾,隨着肉體和心中所喜好的去行,本性是可怒之子,和別人一樣。2:4 然而 神有豐富的憐憫,因他愛我們的大愛,2:5 當我們死在過犯中的時候,叫我們與基督一同活過來──你們得救是本乎恩──2:6 他又叫我們與基督耶穌一同復活,一同坐在天上,2:7 要將他極豐富的恩典,就是他在基督耶穌裏向我們所施的恩慈,證明給後來的世代看。2:8 你們得救是本乎恩,藉着信;這不是出於自己,乃是 神所賜的;2:9 也不是出於行為,免得有人自誇。2:10 我們原是他的工作,在基督耶穌裏造成的,為要叫我們作善工,就是 神所預備叫我們行的。(以弗所書2:1-10)

我們無需懷疑我是否已透過對耶穌基督的信成為神的兒女。在這經文中,作者已清楚地說神見證亞伯25和以諾26;神也為每一個真正的神的兒女見證,他或她已藉相信耶穌基督而得到神的恩典,永遠得救:

8:14 因為凡被 神的靈引導的都是神的兒子,(羅馬書8:14)

8:16 聖靈向我們的靈見證我們是 神的兒女8:17 既是兒女,便是後嗣(就是 神的後嗣,又和基督同作後嗣),如果我們和他一同受苦,也必和他一同得榮耀。(羅馬書8:16-17)

5:13 我將這些話寫給你們相信 神兒子之名的人,要叫你們知道自己有永生。5:14 我們在他面前的確信就是:我們若照他的旨意求甚麼,他就聽我們。5:15 既然知道他聽我們一切所求的,就知道我們所求於他的無不得着。(約翰壹書5:13-15)

希伯來書第11章的重點在於信的表現,它比別的重要。在這章經文中,我們看到信的樣貌和行為表現;然而我們不要因此為信的來源帶來疑惑。神是我們信的來源,祂把祂的律法寫在人的心板(希伯來書8:10)。耶穌基督是我們信的對象,我們必須相信祂的超越和祂在各各他的犧牲已然足夠。這正是希伯來書的作者在下一章要說的:

12:1 我們既有這許多的見證人,如同雲彩圍着我們,就當放下各樣的負擔,脫去緊緊纏住我們的罪,存心忍耐,奔那為我們預備的賽程,12:2 仰望我們信心創始成終者耶穌。他因那為他預備的喜樂,就不顧羞辱,忍受了十字架的苦難,便坐在 神寶座的右邊。(希伯來書12:1-2)

人的信應當如聖經所啟示基於耶穌基督和祂的工作。信並非我們想像出來的神秘體,神的話語是信仰的基礎。

10:8 他到底說甚麼呢?他說:「這道離你不遠,正在你口裏,在你心裏。」(就是我們所傳信主的道。)10:17 可見信是從聽來的,聽是從所傳基督的話來的。(羅馬書10:8, 17)

在這教會,我們承擔傳揚神話語的義務,因為神的話語告訴我們有關神的兒子,我們透過祂而得救。在這教會,我們每星期都領聖餐。因為基督的超越和祂的犧牲已然充足,是我們信的基礎,我們又怎能偶爾慶祝、怎能用其他的活動來代替記念基督的祭司工作呢!我們當反省,初期教會是每日或每星期記念主的死27,我們當然不應比他們少啊。

希伯來書第11章對你適切嗎?那絕對可以肯定的。這是為信下定義的文本,那是所有人都需要的 –人的信和基督的工作。在這文章中,亦描述了信在人面對困境時如何工作。願神將這內容鑲嵌在我們心裡,並且幫助我們在生活中活出這信,為我們帶來永遠的好處,也為神帶來榮耀。


1版權屬於 Robert L. Deffinbaugh。這是Robert L. Deffinbaugh在2009年2月的著作,希伯來書研讀《貼近神的心》系列(Near to the Heart of God – A Study of the Book of Hebrews)第25課編輯出來的稿件。任何人可以自由使用這課的內容作教育用途,是否列明出處均可。

2原文同一個辭彙「hypostasis」亦在1:3和3:14使用。

3參哥林多後書 4:18; 5:7。

4參創世記第一章,詩篇33:6, 9。

5創世記4:1-8; 馬太福音23:35; 路加福音11:51; 希伯來書12:24。

6除特別標示之處外,中文經文選用 CNET譯本。在世界任何地方、任何人都可以在網絡免費連接、使用和印刷這譯本作個人閱讀。若任何人有意和別人分享聖經,可以自行打印和免費贈閱。以下是這譯本的連結:(加入)。

7這是一本我多年前所看的書。這書和這位作者不經意在我的腦海裡出現。

8參希伯來書 11:4。

9參希伯來書 12:2。

10比較10:32-34。

11參希伯來書2:14-16; 11:13-16作為例子。

12提多書2:13

13哥林多前書15(特別是第19節):帖撒羅尼迦前書 4:13-18(特別是第13節)。

14羅馬書8:18-25。

15以下是新約更多關於「希望」的經文。參羅馬書4:18; 5:1-5; 8:20-25; 12:12; 15:4, 12-13; 哥林多前書13:7, 13; 15:19; 哥林多後書1:7, 10; 3:12; 加拉太書5:5; 以弗所書1:12, 18; 4:4; 腓立比書 1:20; 歌羅西書1:5, 27; 帖撒羅尼迦前書 1:3; 2:19; 4:13; 5:8; 帖撒羅尼迦後書 2:6; 提摩太前書1:1; 4:10; 5:5; 6:17; 提多書1:2; 2:13; 3:7;希伯來書3:6; 6:11, 18-19; 7:19; 10:23; 彼得前書1:3, 13, 21; 3:15;約翰壹書3:3。

16保羅在接著的那節(提多書3:8)明確地表明信心會帶來善行,但這些善行對我們的救恩帶來甚麼幫助,他們是我們的救恩所帶來的成果。

17許多其他和創造相關的文本,參詩篇19:1; 以賽亞書40:26; 42:5-9; 45:12; 馬太福音19:4; 馬可福音13:19; 使徒行傳17:22-29; 啟示錄4:11。

18值得我們留意的是給以色列人的舊約律法,有些在律法給以色列人以前,已經長期實行。例如在創世記38:1-11「娶寡嫂」,在摩西律法作出規定很久以前已經存在。在創世記中,那是頒佈律法以前很久的時間,我們亦能從中得到一些對安息日的認識;分別「潔淨」和「不潔」亦然。在創世記7:1-3,神吩咐挪亞帶七對潔淨的動物,但不潔的只帶一對。我相信神給該穩和亞伯有關獻祭的指示,要比記載在創世記的經文要詳細多了。

19參創世記5:21-31。

20參哥林多後書4:18。

21參哥林多前書2:6-10。

22參羅馬書8:18-25。

23參羅馬書8:18-25; 希伯來書11:13-16, 39-40。

24參彼得前書3:15。

25參希伯來書11:4。

26參希伯來書11:5。

27參使徒行傳2:46; 20:7; 哥林多前書11:17-34。

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