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Introduction

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The Graceful Beginnings Series of Bible studies are specifically designed for the new-to-the-Bible Christian—whether you are a new Christian or you just feel insecure about understanding the Bible. The lessons are basic, introducing you as an inexperienced Christian to your 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 new Christian needs to know and experience the love and trustworthiness of her God. Graceful Beginnings: New Believers Guide is the first study in the series, laying a good foundation of truth for you to grasp and apply to your life. The other studies in the series can be done in any order.

Some Bible Basics

Throughout these lessons, you will use a Bible to answer questions as you discover treasure about your life with Christ. The Bible is one book containing a collection of 66 books combined together for our benefit. It 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 to mankind 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 New Testament 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 and chapter.

The Bible verses highlighted at the beginning of each lesson in this study are from the New English Translation ® (NET®) unless otherwise indicated. You can use any version of the Bible to answer the questions, but using a more easy-to-read translation (NET, NIV, NIRV, NLT, ESV) will help you gain confidence in understanding what you are reading. You can find all these translations in Bible apps and online.

This study capitalizes certain pronouns referring to God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit—He, Him, His, Himself—just to make the reading of the study information less confusing. Some Bible translations likewise capitalize those pronouns referring to God; others do not. It is simply a matter of preference, not a requirement.

Painting the Portrait of Jesus

Have you ever worked on a paint-by-number or color-by-number picture? How easy is it to tell what the picture is before you paint or color it? For some, you can look at it and guess what the picture might be. For others, you can’t really tell what it is. So, what do you need to do to start finding out what the picture will really look like? If you are like most people, you usually start with one number that represents one color and fill in all the spaces having that number with the appropriate color. After you’ve colored in that number, the picture begins to be revealed. Then, you do the same with the other colors. After adding each color to the picture, you can finally recognize what the picture represents. You get the complete picture.

You can also paint a picture with words.

1. Think about 3 words true about you that you could use to describe yourself.

2. Now say, “I am…” followed by those three words.

You just painted a picture of yourself with those words. That’s similar to what Jesus did with His “I Am” statements. Just like adding each color to a paint-by-number picture enables you to recognize the picture, Jesus used the “I Am” descriptions to paint His own portrait.

A portrait is a painting, drawing, or photograph of a person. Usually, a portrait reveals someone’s physical appearance. It is a true likeness of that person. When you look in a mirror, you see a likeness of yourself. In a sense that’s a portrait.

Jesus’ portrait does not reveal His physical appearance. Instead, Jesus did what I asked you to do above—describe yourself with a few words to “paint” a portrait of yourself.

Jesus painted Himself with words that reveal a “picture” of who He is, how He meets our needs, and why we can trust Him enough to follow Him.

The Painting the Portrait of Jesus lessons focus on what are commonly called the “I Am’s.” The “I Am’s” are statements that Jesus made in the gospel of John. They are called the “I Am’s” because each one of them starts with the same 2 words, “I am.” Then, Jesus follows the words “I am” with a phrase to describe Himself to those who are listening.

As one who lived as a man among us, He understands the spiritual needs of men, women, boys, and girls. These “I am” declarations are like colors Jesus used for the canvas of His own self-portrait so His followers could know Him better and understand His significance in their lives.

These “colors” reveal the Jesus that we follow. And, studying them is in a sense “Painting the Portrait of Jesus.”

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.

Following Jesus

Here’s what you are going to learn in the Painting the Portrait of Jesus lessons—Jesus is the answer to the spiritual needs of every person.

He is the answer to every inner need that you have. And, you will see that His self-portrait describes that.

With each lesson, you’ll be adding to your portrait of Jesus as you study the “I Am’s.” As He reveals Himself, you will long for a close relationship with this same Jesus, the one to whom you belong. And, you will want to follow Him because He is trustworthy!

As fully God and fully man, you can be confident that Jesus understands how you feel.

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)

And, Jesus is powerful enough (as God) to take care of your every need.

Now to him who by the power that is working within us is able to do far beyond all that we ask or think… (Ephesians 3:20)

Through faith in Him, you are completely 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. Following Him involves trusting Him to guide you in your daily life through what you read in God’s Word and through talking to God.

You can enjoy a relationship with Him—now and forever!

At the end of each lesson, we will include three things to help you follow Jesus: “Bible verse to learn,” “Response in prayer & praise,” and “Filling in the Portrait of Jesus” readings.

1) Bible verse to learn

This will help to renew your thinking and make what you are learning part of your life as you journey on this adventure. 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.

If your Bible is a different translation from the one given in Painting the Portrait of Jesus, feel free to memorize the verse from your Bible rather than what is given. The point is to begin a habit of memorizing Scripture. You will be surprised at how soon it just flows from your mind.

2) Response in prayer & praise

This will help you begin regular conversation with your God who loves you dearly. You will be encouraged to talk to God about anything and everything. Tell Him what you are thinking and feeling. He is someone you can trust. You will be encouraged to praise God for who He is and what He does. Praise is appreciation of God and giving Him credit for who He is.

3) Filing in the portrait of Jesus

Keep filling in the portrait of Jesus through Bible reading of the life of Jesus as told in the gospel of John. Christianity is Christ so spend a few minutes each day reading the verses and reflecting on Jesus—His life, His relationships, and His teaching. Get to know this One who loves you dearly.

What You Will Learn

The eight lessons cover these truths for you to know:

  • White represents the presence of God. Jesus is the “I Am.” He is the answer to the spiritual needs of every person.

Jesus answered, “Before Abraham was born, I am.” (John 8:58 NIV)

  • Purple represents abundance & being satisfied. Jesus is the Bread of Life. His abundant love satisfies our hunger for a relationship with God.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35 NET)

  • Yellow represents light & guidance. Jesus is the Light of the World. His light directs us to follow Him.

Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NET)

  • Orange represents safety. Jesus is the Gate for the Sheep. There is safety in following Jesus and doing life His way.

“Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep…whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” (John 10:7,9 NIV)

  • Green represents relationship. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. You can enjoy a forever relationship with Him.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me.” (John 10:11, 14 NET)

  • Blue represents the hope of eternal life. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. To His followers, He gives eternal spiritual life now and eternal physical life in a new body after death.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NET)

  • Red represents love, life, and celebration. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He gives us His life so that we are completely loved and accepted by God our Father. Celebrate!

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)

  • Brown represents nourishment to bear fruit. Jesus is the Vine. He nourishes us with His life so we can bear fruit in our lives that represents our connection with Him.

I am the vine. You are the branches. If you remain in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5 NIV)

Jesus painted Himself with words that reveal a “picture” of who He is, how He meets our needs, and why we can trust Him enough to follow Him. Enjoy your study!

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