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Lesson 49: True and False Children of God (John 8:37-47)

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March 23, 2014

Some of the scariest verses in the Bible are Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

Here are people who call Jesus “Lord.” They have served Him in some impressive ways by prophesying, casting out demons, and performing miracles in His name. And yet they will be turned away from heaven at the judgment because they were false children of God, as revealed by their lawless lifestyles. Since you and I will dwell forever in either heaven or hell, you want to make absolutely sure that you are a true child of God, headed for heaven, and not a false child of God, who will spend eternity in hell.

The dialogue in our text follows John 8:30-31, where we saw that although many professed faith in Christ, it was not genuine, saving faith. This is first seen in 8:33, where it becomes clear that these “believers” were trusting their Jewish lineage for right standing with God. They mistakenly thought that being Jewish by birth automatically made them spiritually free. But Jesus said that actually they were slaves of sin. Only those who abided (“continued”) in His Word were truly His disciples. In 8:34-36, Jesus dealt with their claim to be spiritually free by showing them that they were only free if He set them free. Now He deals with their claim to be children of Abraham by showing that their claim was false as seen in their deeds. Their murderous intentions toward Jesus revealed that they were not children of God, as they thought, but of the devil.

Jesus is teaching here what He taught elsewhere, that conduct stems from one’s nature. Good trees produce good fruit; bad trees produce bad fruit. Children of God produce good deeds; children of the devil produce bad deeds. But it’s not quite so easy to tell which are which, because often bad trees seem to us to produce good fruit. For example, we see many people who are not believers in Jesus Christ, but they’re “good” people. They’re caring and kind. They give generously to charitable foundations that help the needy. They’re the type of people that you want to have as neighbors. And, on the other hand, there are some who sure seem to be children of God, and yet they do some horrible things that sometimes even land them in prison.

Only God knows what is in human hearts, so we always have to be a bit tentative when determining whether someone else is a true or false child of God. And sometimes we don’t even know our own hearts! We fluctuate in our desires from loving God to loving this world (which are mutually exclusive, 1 John 2:15). So to the best of our ability, we need to apply the tests that we see in our text, first to ourselves; and then, with a bit more hesitation, to others whom we are trying to help spiritually. The principle is:

False children of God follow Satan and his evil deeds because they have not been born of God;
true children of God love Jesus and obey His Word because they have been born of God.

The text reveals a number of characteristics of both false and true children of God:

1. False children of God think that they’re following God, but they’re actually following Satan and his evil deeds because they have not been born of God.

What makes this dialogue scary is that these Jews who were actually children of the devil were very religious people who professed to believe in Jesus. In other words, they weren’t raw pagans, avowed atheists, Muslim terrorists, or Hindu idolaters. These people professed to believe in the God of Abraham and outwardly they were zealous for their religion. But Jesus plainly tells them that they were deceived. They actually were in Satan’s camp. And so we who profess to be Christians and perhaps even are zealous about our faith need to think carefully through these five characteristics to make sure that we’re not deceiving ourselves!

A. False children of God count on their religion to put them in good standing with God.

This theme is repeated here so that we don’t miss it. In 8:33, they tell Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone.” In 8:37, Jesus acknowledges that they were Abraham’s descendants physically, but He contends that they were not Abraham’s descendants spiritually. But they still repeat (8:39), “Abraham is our father.” When Jesus points out (8:39b-41a) that their deeds were not in line with Abraham’s, but indicated a different father, they retort (8:41b), “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”

There could be a couple of things behind that comment. It could be a subtle slur against Jesus’ birth, alluding to the fact that His mother conceived Him out of wedlock. Rumors about Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus had circulated for decades. So the Jews may be putting Jesus down by saying, “You’re illegitimate because Your mother was immoral, but we’re not!” Or, it could be an assertion that they were not like Gentile idolaters. Often idolatry in the Old Testament is described as spiritual adultery. So the Jews’ retort here could mean, “We were not born like idolatrous Gentiles; rather, as Jews, God is our Father.”

But however you take it, it’s clear that these Jews were counting on their Jewish heritage and religion to put them in right standing with God. The apostle Paul did the same thing when he was a Pharisee. He boasted in his Jewish credentials (Phil. 3:4-6). But after God saved him, he counted all of that as loss. He wrote (Rom. 2:28-29), “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.” And (Gal. 3:7), “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”

It’s a great blessing to be born to Christian parents and reared in the church, as I was. But that blessing increases your accountability to respond to the light that you’ve been given. Your religious upbringing will do you no good and will only increase your culpability on judgment day if you do not respond to the gospel with repentance for your sins and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

B. False children of God are deceived into thinking that they are children of God, while their actions actually show them to be children of the devil.

These Jews claimed that Abraham and God were their spiritual fathers (8:39, 41), but they were blind as to who their real spiritual father was, namely, the devil! In reply to their contention that Abraham was their father, Jesus said (8:39, 40), “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.” Then, in response to their claim that God was their Father, Jesus replies (8:42), “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.”

So they were claiming to be devoted followers of their religion, but at the same time they were trying to kill God’s unique Son, whom He sent to earth for their salvation. Their actions revealed their true nature, that they were children of the devil.

Jesus goes on (8:44) to explain that Satan is both a murderer from the beginning and the father of lies. He murdered the entire human race by lying to Eve about what God had said. As such, he is the author of all the murders and lies ever since that tragic incident in the Garden. Since these Jews were seeking to murder Jesus (8:37, 40) and since they were liars (8:55), they were reflecting their true nature as children of the devil. As they say, “He’s a chip off the old block.” Or, “Like father, like son.” But tragically, these Jews didn’t see how deceived they were. They thought that they were the righteous ones and that Jesus was the liar and deceiver.

Here’s the hard question that each of us needs to ask ourselves, so that we don’t end up being deceived: “Whose child do my actions reveal me to be?” There are far more tests than the two in verse 44, but take them: Do you have murderous intents for others? You say, “Whew, I’m off the hook on that one! I don’t want to kill anyone!” But not so fast! Jesus said (Matt. 5:21-22):

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

Whoa! If you’re an angry person, you need to get radical in eliminating that sin from your life or at the very least, it indicates that the devil has gotten a foothold in your life (Eph. 4:26-27). At worst, it indicates that you may not be a true child of God. But in either case, anger is not a “minor fault.” It’s a major sin!

Or, take the other test in verse 44: Lying. Jesus says of Satan, “[He] does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Are you committed to being a truthful person, or do you bend the truth when it’s to your advantage? Do you put on a “Christian” front so that you look good at church, but you actually live in violation of God’s Word at home or when you’re in private? Hypocrisy is lying. Being truthful is a mark of God’s true children, but lying is a mark of the devil’s children.

C. False children of God seek to eliminate Christ and His Word from their lives because they don’t want to hear the truth about their sin.

These Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because His Word had no place in them (8:37). Jesus tells them further (8:40), “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.” In 8:45, Jesus adds, “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” The truth threatened them because it exposed their sinful hearts. Rather than believing the truth and repenting of their sin, they were trying to eliminate the messenger.

Again, keep in mind that we’re not talking here about atheists or agnostics. We’re talking about outwardly religious people. In modern terms, they were active church members, some of whom served on the governing board. Some were even ministers. So you have to ask, “How do professing Christians today try to eliminate Christ and His Word from their lives?”

Some liberal “Christians” do it by undermining the authority and inerrancy of Scripture. It often starts by rejecting the early chapters of Genesis as history so that they can accommodate evolution. It moves on to eliminating the miracles in the Bible as mythical stories. Then they distance themselves from the parts of the Bible that don’t align with our modern “enlightened” understanding of things. For example, they argue that the biblical roles for men and women are culturally antiquated and not binding on us today. They argue that the Bible’s view of homosexuality is “homophobic.” The overarching virtue in the Bible is love and tolerance for everyone, so we can’t condemn as wrong any behavior or belief, no matter how unbiblical it may be.

But, it’s easy to throw stones at the liberals and ignore how we as evangelicals may be eliminating Christ and His Word from our lives because we don’t want to hear the truth about our sin. One way we do it is simply by neglecting the Word. We don’t read it and seek to obey it. We’re ignorant of what it says because we haven’t taken the time to read and meditate on it.

Another way that we eliminate or at least dilute Christ and His Word from our lives is by mixing it with worldly ideas, such as modern psychotherapy. The widespread self-esteem teaching flooded into the church, not because it was discovered in the Bible, but because it came in through worldly psychologists, such as Carl Rogers. It flies in the face of biblical teaching on humility and it serves to build our pride, which is the root of all sins.

Another way that we eliminate or dilute Christ’s Word so that we can do what we want, rather than what God commands, is by putting other “revelations” alongside the Word, which in effect supersede the Word. I’ve heard Christians say that God told them that it was okay for them to marry an unbeliever. A Christian man once told me that God had told him that he could divorce his wife. A charismatic pastor was separated from his wife, but the elders of his church had not asked him to step down. When I asked why they had not done this, one of the elders replied, “The Lord hasn’t told us to do that.” I persisted, “But the Lord has told you to do it. He told you in 1 Timothy 3.” But he kept saying, “No, the Lord hasn’t told us to do that.” So unbiblical “revelations” take precedence over God’s Word, allowing us to do what we want when it isn’t convenient or easy to do what God commands.

D. False children of God attack or look down on those who convict them of sin.

This is behind the Jews’ comment (8:41), “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” As I said, that either was a slur against Jesus so that they didn’t have to listen to Him, or it was a derogatory remark about Gentile idolatry. But either way, it diverted the issue from their need to confront their own sin by pointing at others and their supposed faults. Invariably, false believers do not let God’s Word confront their sins (John 3:19-21). True believers allow the light of God’s Word to expose their sins so that they can turn from them and grow in holiness.

E. False children of God are not able to understand or obey Jesus’ Word because they are not born of God.

This gets to the root of their problem. It comes up twice here. In 8:43, Jesus asks, “Why do you not understand what I am saying?” He answers His own question, “It is because you cannot hear My word.” He does not say, “You do not hear My word,” but rather, “You cannot hear My word.” The Greek word refers to inability. They lacked the spiritual ability to hear Jesus’ word, which primarily means, to obey it. Then, in 8:46 He asks, “Which of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?” Then He again answers His own question (8:47), “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” In other words, they were not born of God.

The Bible is clear that because of sin, unbelievers cannot do anything pleasing toward God (Rom. 8:8). They are unable to understand the gospel or other spiritual truth (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Cor. 2:14). And yet, God holds them responsible for their unbelief (Acts 2:23). If you say, “That’s not fair,” then you’re contending against the Sovereign of the universe! Be careful! Rather than rail against Him, cry out to Him for mercy! “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). But when you get saved, remember (1 Cor. 1:30), “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus ….” The reason that false children of God follow Satan and his evil deeds is because they have not been born of God.

2. True children of God love Jesus and obey His Word because they have been born of God.

Briefly, here are four marks of true children of God:

A. True children of God give God’s Word the primary place in their lives.

This is the converse of what Jesus said about these false believers (8:37), “My word has no place in you.” The word translated “no place” can mean, “My word makes no progress in you.” Or, as we saw in 8:31, they did not continue in Jesus’ word, which is the mark of His true disciples. As I said last week, continuing or abiding in Jesus’ Word is the key to experiencing consistent victory over sin. True children of God can say with the psalmist (Ps. 119:11), “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”

B. True children of God obey God’s Word.

Jesus says (8:47), “He who is of God hears the words of God; …” “Hears” does not mean just hearing the words audibly; the Pharisees did that. Rather, it means to hear so as to obey. In 8:39, Jesus says that if they were Abraham’s true children, they would do the deeds of Abraham. Abraham was noted both for believing God so that he was justified by faith (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3); and obeying God, which demonstrated that his faith was genuine (Gen. 26:5; James 2:21-23). As John says (1 John 2:3), “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” Is your life marked by obedience to God’s Word?

C. True children of God love Jesus.

Jesus says (8:42), “If God were your Father, you would love Me ….” Jesus repeatedly asked Peter when He restored him after his denials (21:16), “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Paul shows the importance of this (1 Cor. 16:22), “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.” Love is a commitment to seek the highest good of the one loved. Love for Christ is a commitment to seek His glory through all that I do. It certainly involves my feelings, in that I am most happy when I see my Lord most glorified. But the basis of biblical love isn’t feelings, but the commitment to seek His highest good. Have you made that commitment? Do you love Jesus enough to forsake your sin?

D. True children of God love Jesus and obey His Word because they have been born of God.

As we saw, at the heart of why false children of God are not able to understand or obey Jesus’ Word is that they are not of God. The flip side of this is (8:47), “He who is of God hears the words of God; …” Being “of God” means being “born of God” through the new birth. The reason that we now love Jesus and obey His Word is that we have a new nature. The Spirit of God dwells in us and opens up to us the treasures of God’s Word (1 Cor. 2:9-10). So it’s the reality of the new birth that distinguishes the true children of God from the false.

Conclusion

In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul writes, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” It’s possible to go too far and become overly introspective, so I don’t want anyone to do that. But it’s also possible to go glibly through life, assuming that you’re a true child of God because you go through the outward motions of Christianity, while your heart is far from God (Mark 7:6). It would be utterly tragic to hear the Lord say (Matt. 7:23), “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Make sure that you’re a true child of God!

Application Questions

  1. Some evangelism approaches encourage you to give assurance of salvation to a person who just prayed to receive Christ. In light of these tests, is this wise? Why/why not?
  2. Are there any marks of false converts that you need to deal with personally? What is your plan for doing this?
  3. What are some other marks of the new birth than those mentioned here? Cite Scriptures.
  4. How can you sensitively use these tests to help others without becoming judgmental?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Faith, Hamartiology (Sin), Satanology, Soteriology (Salvation)

How Can You Trust Christianity Is True When There Are So Many Unanswered Questions?

Article contributed by Cold Case Christianity
Visit Cold Case Christianity website

As a Christian, I have many unanswered questions. The more I study the Christian worldview, the larger my list seems to grow. While essential truths are easier to identify from scripture, there are many non-essential (and more ambiguous) features of Christianity. The unfathomable aspects of God’s nature typically leave us in awe and without adequate explanation. To make matters worse, the ancient claims and historical details described in the New Testament are sometimes too remote to accurately verify. As a result, I’m often left with questions in places where I would rather have clarity and evidential certainty. How can we trust Christianity is true when there are so many unanswered questions?

After a long career as a cold-case detective, I’ve learned to get comfortable with unanswered questions. In fact, I’ve never investigated or presented a case to a jury that wasn’t plagued with a number of mysteries. As much as I wish it wasn’t so, there is no such thing as a perfect case; every case has unanswered questions. In fact, when we seat a jury for a criminal trial, we often ask the prospective jurors if they are going to be comfortable making a decision without complete information. If potential jurors can’t envision themselves making a decision unless they can remove every possible doubt (and answer every possible question), we’ll do our best to make sure they don’t serve on our panel. Every case is imperfect; there are no cases devoid of unanswered questions. Every juror is asked to make a decision, even though the evidential case will be less than complete. As detectives and prosecutors, we do our best to be thorough and present enough evidence so jurors can arrive at the most reasonable inference. But, if you need “beyond a possible doubt,” rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” you’re not ready to sit on a jury. The standard of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt” for a good reason; no case is evidentially complete; no case maker can eliminate every possible reservation.

Christians, like jurors, need to get comfortable with unanswered questions. Every worldview has them. As an atheist, I struggled to answer a number of critical questions from my materialistic, naturalistic worldview: How did the universe originate? Why does the universe appear fine-tuned? How did life begin in the universe? Why does biology appear designed? How did our immaterial minds emerge from the material universe? How can I explain free will and objective moral truth? As a philosophical naturalist, my answers to these questions were little more than subjective speculation. My worldview was incomplete at the most foundational level. I had many unanswered questions, yet hung on to my atheistic perspective in spite of these mysteries. Every one of us clings to a worldview for which we have less than complete information. Every one of us has a series of unanswered questions.

As a theist and as a Christian, I am far more comfortable with my unanswered questions than I used to be as an atheist. My questions are fewer and less foundational. They are related more to non-essential issues than critical, core claims. The evidence I have points me in a given direction, and the gap between what I have and what I would like is much shorter than it used to be. All of us have to step out from the end of an evidence trail to a place of decision. That step across our unanswered questions is sometimes called a “leap of faith”. As a Christian, I don’t have to leap blindly and jump all that far. Yes, I still have questions, but I have more than enough evidence to make a reasonable decision. I’ve come to trust Christianity is true, even with a few unanswered questions.

Related Topics: Apologetics, Faith, Theology Proper (God), Worldview

13. God Conquers Misguided Faith (Judges 17:1-18:26, Micah)

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

There are a number of ways our faith can be misguided. Believing in the wrong god and believing wrongly about the right God may not be that different. In the book of Judges, everyone does what is right in their own eyes. That includes serving and worshipping God on their own terms rather than His. We do the same thing today when we cannot support our understanding of God from the Scriptures. When we claim we serve the God of the Bible but rely on our own intuition to determine how to live, we exhibit a misguided faith similar to the Israelites in Judges. Is your faith baseless, or grounded in God's Word?

Related Topics: Christian Life, Faith, Spiritual Life

14. God Conquers Cultural Conformity (Judges 19:1-20:11)

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

In Judges 19, we encounter another chapter where God's name does not appear. This godless chapter records the results of Israel's long, slow drift away from the Lord. Instead of remaining faithful to their covenant-keeping God in the Promised Land, the Israelites have chosen to adopt the gods and the godless practices of their culture. They look no different than the world. We should heed this chapter's warning, lest today's church succeed in her attempt to look like the world for the sake of relevance.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Cultural Issues, Failure, Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry, Spiritual Life

Lesson 50: Challenging Jesus (John 8:48-59)

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March 30, 2013

Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) was a German pathologist and politician (interesting combination!) who openly opposed the German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. On one occasion, Bismarck was so enraged at Virchow that he challenged him to a duel. Virchow replied, “As the challenged party, I have the choice of weapons and I choose these.” He held up two large and apparently identical sausages. “One of these,” he continued, “is infected with deadly germs. The other is perfectly sound. Let His Excellency decide which one he wishes to eat, and I will eat the other.”

Almost immediately the message came back that the chancellor had decided to laugh off the duel. (The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, ed. by Clifton Fadiman [Little, Brown, & Co.], p. 565.) The moral of that story is that if you’re going to challenge someone, you had better know your opponent and know when to drop the challenge before you lose more than face.

In John 8, the Pharisees have been challenging Jesus ever since He proclaimed (8:12), “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” They contended that His testimony about Himself was not true (8:13). They sneeringly asked (8:19), “Where is Your Father?” After Jesus told them that they would die in their sins, they scoffed (8:25, giving the sense of the Greek), “Who do you think you are?”

After Jesus told them that the truth would make them free, they retorted that they were Abraham’s descendants and had never been enslaved to anyone (8:32-33). After Jesus countered by saying that their deeds showed that Abraham was not their father, they again sneered (8:41), “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” Jesus responded (8:44) by telling them that their real father was the devil, who is a murderer and liar. The reason that they could not hear God’s word through Jesus was that they were not of God (8:47).

Well, if you can’t win the argument, you can always attack your opponent. That’s what these Jewish leaders did (8:48), “Do we not rightly say that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” After Jesus replies to these insults with an explanation, a warning, and an invitation (8:49-51), they repeat the challenge with more conviction (8:52), “Now we know that You have a demon.”

They can’t believe that Jesus would claim to be greater than Abraham. They ask again (8:53), “Whom do You make Yourself out to be?” Jesus counters by claiming that He is far greater than Abraham, who rejoiced to see His day (8:56). Then He goes further and claims to be the eternal God (8:58): “Before Abraham was born, I am.” By this time, the Jews had heard enough. They picked up stones to kill Jesus. But, since Jesus’ hour had not come, He hid Himself and went out of the Temple. Their challenge to Jesus had failed. That’s an inviolable principle to always keep in mind: challenges to Jesus always fail!

If you challenge Jesus you will lose, but if you keep His word you have His sure promise of eternal life.

Jesus and His Word still challenge those who oppose Him. He also challenges His followers when they’re out of line. The crucial thing is how you respond when Jesus challenges you. Do you get defensive and hostile, as these Jews did? The result of that response was that Jesus left them to die in their sins (8:21, 24, 59). That’s a terrible place to be! But, Jesus says (8:51), “If anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” To state it another way, you will have eternal life. So let’s learn from these hard-hearted Jews not to challenge Jesus when He challenges us!

1. When you challenge Jesus, you lose.

It’s a fight that you don’t want to pick! And yet, people still do it. It’s like getting in the ring with a world champion boxer. You’ll get knocked out!

A. There are different ways to challenge Jesus.

1) Some challenge Jesus in bold, blasphemous ways.

These Jews resorted to name-calling and blasphemy when they said (8:48), “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” For a Jew to call someone a Samaritan was a degrading put-down. It was both a racial and a religious slur. The Jews despised the Samaritans, whom they considered half-breeds and heretics. They would often walk miles out of their way if they were traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee just to avoid contaminating their feet with Samaritan dust. Jesus chose not to respond to that charge, perhaps because He did not want to implicitly support their racism by insisting that He was not a Samaritan.

But He did respond calmly to their more blasphemous charge that He had a demon (8:49): “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.” Dishonoring Jesus is a serious matter, because as He said (John 5:22-23), “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” To dishonor Jesus is to dishonor the eternal Sovereign of the universe! It is to dishonor the One before whom you will stand one day for eternal judgment! If you’re going to court on a charge for which you could be executed, it’s not wise to spit in the judge’s face! But that’s what the person who dishonors Jesus is doing!

Jesus replies with a warning and a gracious invitation. The warning is (8:50), “But I do not seek My glory; there is one who seeks and judges.” God the Father seeks Jesus’ glory and He will ultimately judge all who reject His Son. But then Jesus issues an invitation (8:51), “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” I’ll say more about that in a moment, but for now note the abundant grace of our Lord. Rather than striking dead on the spot these arrogant Jewish leaders, who should have recognized Jesus as their Messiah, Jesus promises eternal life to any of them who would keep His word. But they respond with more blasphemy (8:52-53),

“Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”

Then, after Jesus’ clear claim to be the eternal God (8:59), they picked up stones to kill Him. It never occurred to them that His claims might be true. Because they challenged Jesus rather than believed in Him, they would die in their sins.

Those who challenge Jesus in bold, blasphemous ways often die in their sins. There are exceptions, like the apostle Paul, so that there is hope for all. But the Lord had to deal with Paul in a pretty forceful way, knocking him to the ground and blinding him for a few days, to bring him to salvation. With King Herod Agrippa, who blasphemously allowed people to attribute divinity to him, God directed His angel to strike him so that he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:23). It’s safe to say that challenging the Lord of the universe is not a wise thing to do!

2) Others challenge Jesus by ignoring Him and shrugging off His invitation to salvation.

This is probably the most common response to Jesus and His claims: People just ignore Him and go on about their lives as if He didn’t exist and as if He had not died so that they could have eternal life. They would say that they don’t have anything against Jesus. He was probably a good man who helped a lot of people. But they have other more “important” things to tend to. Like those in Jesus’ parable who were invited to the feast, some beg off because they have just bought a piece of land and need to go look at it. Others just bought some new oxen (in our day, a new car) and need to go try them out. Another just married a wife and can’t come (Luke 14:17-20). But they all dishonored the host and missed out on his banquet.

So, any rejection of Jesus and His claims, whether a bold, blasphemous challenge or a quiet, polite excuse from those who ignore Him and move on with their own agendas, is a serious matter. Here’s why:

B. The result of challenging Jesus is that He leaves you to die and face judgment.

Jesus warns (8:50), God is the judge of all that dishonor His Son. Leon Morris comments (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 468), “Jesus’ hearers may act as though they are supreme and dispense justice. Actually they are men under judgment.” Ironically, although the Jews sought Jesus’ death and finally succeeded in killing Him, this brought His greatest glory. You cannot win if you oppose God. He uses even the wicked to accomplish His sovereign plan and then He judges them for what they did (Acts 4:27-28; cf. Habakkuk). Those who crucified Jesus only brought about God’s predestined purpose. Then they faced judgment for their horrible crime.

John 8:59 states, “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” We don’t know whether this was a miraculous hiding or whether Jesus simply blended in with the crowd. But I do know that it’s always tragic when Jesus hides Himself from you and leaves you to die in your sins. Jesus left the temple, where these Jews purported to worship God. This reminds us of Ezekiel’s vision, when the glory of the Lord left the temple (Ezek. 10:18, 11:22-23). The Jews had their religion, but they didn’t have God’s glory. To have religion without the Lord of glory is to have nothing. Whether you challenge Jesus boldly as a blasphemer or subtly by ignoring Him, the final result will be that He will leave you to die in your sins and face judgment. When you challenge Jesus, you lose!

But, even to these blasphemers, who should have known better, Jesus issues a gracious invitation. He still does that. It applies to you if you will respond:

2. When you keep Jesus’ word, you have His sure promise of eternal life.

Rather than face God in judgment (8:50), Jesus extends this gracious promise:

A. Jesus promises that whoever keeps His word will never see death.

John 8:51: “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” “Truly, truly,” means, “Listen up! This is really, really important!” The one speaking is the eternal Word who became flesh. The promise extends to all (“anyone”). It would be a ludicrous promise on the lips of anyone other than the Lord God: “If anyone keeps My word he will never see death.”

In typical fashion, the Jews understand Jesus in earthly, physical terms, pointing out that both Abraham and all the prophets died (8:53): “Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?”

John again is using irony. His readers know that Jesus is far greater than Abraham, as He Himself will state in 8:58. If the Jews’ question about whom Jesus made Himself out to be had been asked sincerely from seeking hearts, it would have been valid. But as it is, it misses the point that both Jesus and John’s Gospel have been making. D. A. Carson puts it (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], p. 356), “Jesus does not make himself or exalt himself to be anything. Far from it: he is the most obedient and dependent of men, uniquely submissive to his Father.”

But, what does Jesus’ promise mean?

1) Jesus’ promise means that the one who keeps His word will have eternal life and not face judgment.

If the Jews truly had been seeking to know if Jesus was who He claimed to be, they would have asked for clarification. Instead, they confirm their charge that He had a demon (8:52). Jesus here means the same thing that He said in 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” He repeats the same truth to Martha in 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Obviously, all people die physically. Jesus died; all the apostles died. In human history, the only men never to die were Enoch and Elijah. The believers who are living when Jesus returns will not die (1 Thess. 4:15-17). But other than that, all people, including believers, face physical death. But believers are kept from the second death, which is to spend eternity separated from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14). Believing in Christ means that we will not come into judgment, but have passed out of death into eternal life.

2) The condition of Jesus’ promise is that we keep His word.

What does that mean? Does it mean that if you ever disobey Jesus, you do not have eternal life and will face judgment for your sins? If so, there won’t be anyone in heaven, because we all sin (1 John 1:8)! Rather, Jesus means the same thing as He said in 8:31, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” He said that in response to the Jews who professed to believe in Him, but (as the subsequent dialogue shows) did not truly believe in Him. Jesus wasn’t describing the condition for becoming His disciples, but rather the result of genuinely believing in Him. Those who truly believe in Him abide in or keep His word. It doesn’t refer to perfection, but to direction. The new direction of a person who truly believes in Christ is to keep His word.

C. H. Spurgeon (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 36:566-568) developed several characteristics of the one who keeps Christ’s words. He has close dealing with Christ. He hears what Christ says and clings to it. He accepts Christ’s doctrine. Whatever Christ teaches is the truth. He trusts Christ’s promises, especially the promise that whoever believes in Him has eternal life. And, he obeys Christ’s precepts. Jesus promises that the one who does these things has eternal life.

But, how do we know that Jesus’ promise is true?

B. Jesus’ many claims secure His promise that the one who keeps His word will never see death.

We’ve already seen that Jesus claimed that whoever keeps His word will not see death. There is no middle ground with a claim like that. Either Jesus is deluded and you should not trust Him, or He is God and you had better trust Him. Here are 5 more claims:

1) Jesus claims to honor His Father and seek His glory.

John 8:49-50: “Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges.’” Jesus is here identifying Himself closely with the Father so that He seeks the Father’s glory and the Father seeks Jesus’ glory. John Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 355) paraphrases Jesus’ statement here, “I claim nothing for myself which does not tend to the glory of God; for his majesty shines in me, his power and authority dwells in me; and therefore, when you treat me so disdainfully, you pour contempt on God himself.” You have to decide: Was Jesus deluded or lying, or was He uniquely one with the Father, so that they could promote each other’s glory?

2) Jesus claims that the Father seeks His glory.

John 8:54: “Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, “He is our God.”’” Jesus is saying that if He were just promoting Himself, His claims would be invalid. But when the Father glorifies the Son, if we oppose the Son we oppose God Himself.

3) Jesus claims to know the Father and keep His word.

Although these Jewish leaders claim that God is their God, Jesus plainly tells them the truth (8:55): “And you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word.” Jesus calls them liars for claiming to know God. By way of contrast, Jesus claims both to know the Father and to keep His word. He could authoritatively tell them that they did not know God because He knew what was in every heart (2:25). And, as Jesus has just claimed in 8:46, He keeps God’s word perfectly. No one could convict Him of sin. Was He deluded or did He speak the truth?

4) Jesus claims that Abraham rejoiced to see His day.

John 8:56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Jesus’ “day” refers to the time of His incarnation and the whole of His work (Morris, p. 471). It probably also refers to His coming day, when He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). The Jews responded with incredulity (8:57): “You are not yet fifty years old, and You have seen Abraham?” They were not suggesting that Jesus looked like He was fifty. Rather, they were just picking a round number that obviously was older than Jesus (who was in His mid-thirties) and asking, “How can a man who isn’t even fifty claim to have seen a man who lived 2,000 years ago?” Notice, also, that Jesus did not claim to have seen Abraham (although He saw and talked with him; Gen. 18:13, 17, 20). Rather, He said that Abraham saw His day.

Scholars debate what that refers to. I think that it refers to all of the revelation that God granted to Abraham regarding the coming Messiah and His death on the cross. God promised to bless all nations through Abraham’s seed and that kings would come forth from Sarah’s womb (Gen. 12:1-3; 17:16-17). When Abraham met the mysterious Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High, who gave him bread and wine (Gen. 14:18), God could have revealed to Abraham something of the coming priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7). On Mount Moriah, where God told Abraham to sacrifice the son of the promise, He provided the ram as a substitute (Gen. 22). God showed Abraham there how His own Son would be the sacrifice for sins, but also how He would be raised from the dead (Heb. 11:17-19).

Note in passing that if with Abraham you see Christ’s first day, when He came as the offering for sinners, and rejoice in it, you will rejoice to see His second day, when He comes in power and glory to judge the earth. But if you have not rejoiced in His first day, His second day will be a day of dread and gloom for you.

5) Jesus claims to be God.

John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Jesus did not merely say, “Before Abraham was born, I was.” That would point to His preexistence, but not to His eternity. But rather, He says that before Abraham was born, He was continuously in existence. He was claiming to be eternal. Also, the Jews instantly recognized “I am” as a reference to the name of God given to Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:14). Since the penalty for blasphemy was stoning, the Jews picked up stones to kill Jesus. But His hour had not come, so He left them.

The point is, Jesus’ claims are so radical that either He was a deluded crazy man, or He was who He claimed to be. And His claims are backed up by the many Scriptures that He fulfilled, by His sinless life, by His many miracles, and by His resurrection from the dead. Thus we can rely on His promise that whoever keeps His word will never see death.

Conclusion

You face the same choice these Jews faced: Either Jesus was a blasphemer or He is God. He could not have been just a good man. If you challenge Jesus by shrugging off His claims, you will lose big time. If you bow before Him as the Lord God and obey His word, you will see the day of His coming and be glad.

Application Questions

  1. What are some specific ways that Christians challenge Jesus?
  2. How should a believer view death? Is it to be dreaded and put off at all costs? When should believers stop medical treatment and go be with the Lord?
  3. Just as Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ coming day, so we can rejoice to see the day of His second coming. How can we cultivate that hope? What difference should it make in our lives?
  4. Why is Jesus’ claim in 8:58 clearly a claim to deity? How could you use this in witnessing to a member of a cult?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life

Graceful Beginnings: New Believers Guide

“Begin your new life in Christ with confidence and joy!”

Hooray! Someone shared the good news of the gospel with you. You recognized your need, you wanted this good news for yourself, and you accepted it by faith in Christ. You began a new life, one based on a relationship with Jesus Christ and filled with treasure that is yours to know and experience. So, go ahead. Delve into your spiritual riches and experience the kind of life your God has prepared for you. Begin your new life in Christ with confidence and joy!

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

Using This Study Guide

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Graceful Beginnings: New Believers Guide is a series of lessons specifically designed for the new Christian in mind—whether new to the Christian faith in general or new in understanding what one might have only heard about previously. The lessons are basic, introducing the new believer to her God and his way of approaching life in simple terms that can be easily understood. Just as a newborn baby needs to know the love and trustworthiness of her parents, the newborn Christian needs to know and experience the love and trustworthiness of her God.

The seven lessons are:

  • Lesson 1: Beginning Your New Life in Christ
  • Lesson 2: The Focus of Your New Life - Christ
  • Lesson 3: Your New Power Source - God’s Spirit
  • Lesson 4: Prayer - Living in the Father’s Love
  • Lesson 5: Your New Life in Community
  • Lesson 6: A New Life of Obedience
  • Lesson 7: Sharing Your New Life with Others

The Bible verses used in this study are from the NET Bible® unless otherwise indicated.

How to Use in One-to-One Discipling Relationships

Graceful Beginnings emphasizes that Christianity is Christ. It’s all about a relationship with him. The lessons encourage the young Christian to appreciate and enjoy this new relationship with Jesus Christ that is filled with treasure for her to know and experience. Help her to delve into her spiritual riches and to experience the kind of life our God has prepared for us all.

Understanding and appreciating our rich treasure is best done in a one-to-one discipling relationship. A mature Christian, one farther along in her walk with Christ, should be the discipler, meeting with the new believers (disciples)—individually or as a small group (2-4).

Each lesson of Graceful Beginnings consists of two parts:

1) “Together Lesson” for the discipler to work through with the new believer at a weekly session, and

2) “Personal Discovery Guide” for the new believer to work through on her own during the week between sessions.

At the end of the seven lessons, plan a time to get together and share each other’s faith stories (worked on during Lesson 7’s Personal Discovery Guide).

How to Use as an Individual Study

Though designed for one-to-one discipling settings, anyone can go through this study on his or her own. One suggested way to do this is to spend one day going through the “Together Lesson” then follow the “Personal Discovery Guide” during the next 6-7 days. If you have questions about anything you are reading or learning, please ask another Christian you know and trust or email me with your questions.

Guidelines for One-to-One “Together Lessons”

1. Make sure both the discipler and each new believer have a copy of Graceful Beginnings.  

2. Agree to a definite starting and stopping time. Keep to that time, if possible. Expect the discipling “Together Lessons” to take about 60 minutes, depending upon discussion.

3. Make sure that each of you has a modern translation of the Bible to use.  

4. Begin and end with prayer. As you enjoy your instructional time together, give yourselves freedom to address any questions that came up during the week. As questions come up during the discipling lesson, choose to address them if relevant or plan to address them at a later time.

5. It is not necessary that you write answers to the discussion questions while working through each discipling lesson. However, you should read the teaching material and all the Bible passages. Each new believer needs to know where to find these in her own Bible for future reference. Then, give some thought to each of the discussion questions/issues.

6. Make sure you stay in the Scriptures. That is your authority because that is God’s Word.

7. At the end of the “Together Time,” introduce the Personal Discovery Guide that follows the lesson.

8. Reinforce the transferability of these lessons. Both of you can use them with any future disciples God brings into your lives.

9. Enjoy your time together getting to know one another in the Lord. Rejoice in the truths you share together!

Memorizing Bible Verses Together

Help the new believer to begin memorizing Bible verses each week (included in the Personal Discovery Guide). We recommend that you both memorize the verses during the week. The verses printed in Graceful Beginnings are from the NET Bible®. You may each choose to memorize the verse from your Bible rather than what is given. That is perfectly okay. The point is to begin a habit of memorizing Scripture.

The 7 memory verses associated with the lessons are:

Memory Verse 1

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

1. Beginning Your New Life in Christ

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TOGETHER LESSON

Hooray! You have trusted in Jesus Christ. Someone shared the good news of the gospel with you. You recognized your need, you wanted this good news for yourself, and you accepted it by faith in Christ. You began a new life, one based on a relationship with Jesus Christ and filled with treasure that is yours to know and experience. In this series of lessons, you will delve into your spiritual riches and learn how to experience the kind of life your God has prepared for you. You can begin your new life in Christ with confidence and joy!

First, let us review what this gospel “good news” is.

The Gospel

The Gospel is all that God has done, is doing, and will do through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This “Good News” of Jesus is the power of God to eternally save people from the penalty of sin and to unite believers with Christ so that his resurrected life is lived out through them. This revolutionary truth centers a believer’s life on the heart-transforming work of Jesus Christ both for now and eternity.

The Gospel Defined

  • God created us to enjoy relationship with himself.
  • Our sin has separated us from a holy God and caused spiritual death in us.
  • Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became human, lived a perfect life, died, and was resurrected to pay sin’s penalty of death.
  • Trusting in Christ eternally unites us with him and other believers.
  • Our new relationship with Christ gives us his presence and purpose in life.

“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)

1. Learning About Your New Relationship With Christ

The Bible

If you received a special letter or email from Jesus telling how much he loves you and giving guidance you need for your daily issues, would you read it? Of course you would!

That’s what the Bible is — God’s love letter to you! The Bible is God’s words for you and to you. It is the source of truth about your new life in Christ. Like reading a love letter increases your love for the author, reading and studying the Bible will help you to know your God better. You will discover many treasures in your new relationship with Christ.

Some Bible Basics

The Bible is one book containing a collection of 66 books combined together for our benefit. The Bible is divided into two main parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament tells the story of the beginning of the world and God’s promises given through the nation of Israel. It tells how the people of Israel obeyed and disobeyed God over many, many years. All the stories and messages in the Old Testament lead up to Jesus Christ’s coming to the earth. The New Testament tells the story of Jesus Christ, the early Christians, and God’s promises to all those who believe in Jesus. You can think of the Old Testament as “before Christ” and the New Testament as “after Christ.”

Each book of the Bible is divided into chapters and verses within those chapters to make it easier to study. Bible references include the book name, chapter number and verse number(s). For example, Ephesians 2:8 refers to the book of Ephesians, the 2nd chapter, and verse 8 within that 2nd chapter. Printed Bibles have a “Table of Contents” in the front to help you locate books by page number. Bible apps also have a contents list by book.

Throughout these lessons, you will use a Bible to answer questions as you discover treasure about your new life with Christ. Let’s get started!

Key Question: How can a person who trusted in Christ know with certainty that he or she will spend eternity with God?

You can know that you have a secure and personal relationship with God. The next section will highlight some Biblical truth to help ground you in this security in Christ. Read each Bible verse and think through the answers.

2. Confidence In Your New Relationship With Christ

You can be confident in your new relationship with Christ because you have been completely forgiven and accepted by God. Only Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient to provide this proper relationship with God.

Read Ephesians 2:8-9. What is declared in these verses?

Three important words in these verses explain the basis of our acceptance before God:

GRACE: Unmerited favor, an undeserved gift

Q—What role did grace play in establishing your relationship with God?

A—You didn’t deserve this relationship nor did you earn it by any good works. Rather it is a free gift from God that you accepted when you received Christ through faith.

SAVED: Rescued, spared from disaster

Q—What do you think this verse means by saying you are saved? From what are you rescued?

A—Romans 6:23 says that the final result of sin is death. When you received Christ, you put your trust in Christ and his death for your sin. You have been rescued from death and eternal separation from God.

FAITH: Belief, trust, commitment of mind, attitude, action

Q—What does faith have to do with receiving Christ?

A—Simply put, faith is believing or trusting God and his Word. When you received Christ, you put your trust in Christ and his death for your sin. Instead of believing in your own ability to earn God’s favor, you must now trust that you have been reconciled to God through what Christ has done for you.

Key Question: Suppose you were standing before God and he asked you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say?

3. Discovering Truths about Your New Relationship with Christ

Many exciting things are true in your new relationship with Christ. Discovering these truths will help you build a firm foundation to your faith.

Christ forgave your sin. Read Colossians 1:13-14. When you trusted Christ for the forgiveness of your sin, all your sins were forgiven...past, present, and future. What difference does it make to you to know that your sin is forgiven?

Christ made you a child of God. Read John 1:12. When you received Christ, you began a loving relationship with God as his child. How important is that to you?

Christ came into your life and will never leave you. Read Hebrews 13:5. Under what circumstances might Christ leave you?    

According to these last two verses, how many times is it necessary to receive Christ?

Christ began a new life in you. Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. When you trusted Christ to be your Savior and Lord, you began a new spiritual life. God will increasingly produce many new qualities in you as you respond to him. Are you grateful that God has made all things new for you?

Christ gave you eternal life. Read 1 John 5:11-13. On what is eternal life based? When does a person’s eternal life begin? When will it end?

Key Question: If you were to die tonight, how sure are you that you would spend eternity with God? Circle your answer: 0—25—50—75—100%

These wonderful benefits are based on what Jesus Christ has done for you. None of them can be earned. You received them the moment you placed your faith in Christ.  Are any of these truths especially meaningful to you right now? If so, why?

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 Personal Discovery Guide is for you to work on by yourself. It is divided into “days” to help you build a new habit of focusing on Jesus daily as you learn to enjoy your relationship with him. Read the verses and record any reflections and responses you may have to what you read.

You have trusted in Christ’s payment for your sin. In Lesson 1, you have been introduced to the basis of your new relationship with God—faith in Jesus Christ. You have also looked at five truths about your new life in Christ. So, you can now have confidence in your new life with him.

Renewing Your Mind with Truth

To help you as you are becoming confident, memorize 1 Bible verse during each week. Memorizing Bible verses is not just something “to do.” You are planting God’s words to you in your mind. The Bible calls it “renewing your mind” with truth about who God is and who you are.

The Bible has been translated into English many times through the past 500 years. The verses printed in Graceful Beginnings are from the NET Bible®. If your Bible is a different English translation, you may choose to memorize the verse below from your Bible rather than what is given. That is perfectly okay. The point is to begin a habit of memorizing Scripture. Work on it a little bit every day. You will be surprised at how soon it just flows from your mind.

Memory Verse 1

“For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Day 1 Discovery – Review “Beginning Your New Life in 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. Thank God that this is now true of you. Knowing these essential truths are critical to our growth in Christ.

  • You are forgiven: Colossians 1:13-14; 2:13
  • You are a child of God: John 1:12; Romans 8:15; 1 John 3:1
  • You are indwelt by Christ: Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27.
  • You have a new life: 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:4-5
  • You have eternal life: 1 John 5:11-13; John 5:24; 10:27-29

Getting to Know Christ

In this section, you will 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. Tell him what you are thinking.

Day 2 Discover Jesus

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

Day 3 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 1:14-28. Reflect on what you read—

Day 4 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 1:29-39. Reflect on what you read—

Day 5 Discover Jesus

Read: Mark 2:1-17. 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 2. “The Focus of Your New Life – Christ!

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

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.

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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

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