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Introduction

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The Graceful Beginnings Series of Bible studies are specifically designed for anyone new to the Bible—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 books 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: Old Testament and 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 International Version® (NIV®) 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.

New Testament Summary

The New Testament opens with the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. About 30 years later, John challenged the Jews to indicate their repentance (turning from sin and toward God) by submitting to water baptism—a familiar Old Testament practice used for repentance as well as when a non-Jew (often called Gentiles) converted to Judaism (to be washed clean of idolatry).

Jesus, who is also known by the title “Christ,” is God's Son, fully God and fully man. Jesus publicly showed the world what God is like and taught His perfect ways for 3 – 3½ years. After preparing 12 disciples to continue Christ's earthly work, He died voluntarily on a cross for mankind's sin, rose from the dead, and returned to Heaven. The account of His earthly life is recorded in 4 books known as the Gospels (the biblical books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John named after the compiler of each account).

After Jesus’ return to Heaven, the followers of Christ were then empowered by the Holy Spirit and spread God's salvation message among the Jews, a number of whom believed in Christ. The apostle Paul and others carried the good news to the Gentiles during 3 missionary journeys (much of this recorded in the book of Acts). Paul wrote 13 New Testament letters to churches & individuals (Romans through Philemon). The section in our Bible from Hebrews to Jude contains 8 additional letters penned by five men, including two apostles (Peter and John) and two of Jesus’ half-brothers (James and Jude, whose mother was Mary). The author of Hebrews is unknown. The apostle John also recorded Revelation, which summarizes God's final program for the world. The Bible ends as it began—with a new, sinless creation.

Religious Leaders in Jesus’ Day

The Pharisees were a religious society of ~6,000 men who strictly obeyed the law of God as interpreted by the teachers of the law (also called scribes). This law consisted of the written Mosaic Law (found in the first five books of the Old Testament) plus the tradition of the elders (the oral law), containing hundreds of rules and prohibitions that were equally important to God’s Law. They considered themselves to be Israel’s spiritual leaders.

The scribes, also called lawyers or teachers of the Law, were an upper-class group of learned Jews who thoroughly knew and, therefore, interpreted the Mosaic Law. They were associated with the Pharisees. Many of them taught in the local seminary in Jerusalem. According to the tradition of the scribes, there were "secrets" of interpretation that they did not share with the common people thinking that God intended to leave the mass of people ignorant of His reasons for requiring certain things under the Law.

The Sadducees came from the leading families of Israel (e.g., the priests, merchants and aristocrats). The high priests and most powerful members of the priesthood were mainly Sadducees. The Sadducees rejected the tradition of the elders and did not believe in angels or miracles. They tended to be more upper class as comfortable compromisers with the Roman rulers. It has been estimated that in Jerusalem alone there were more than 20,000 associated with the Sadducees. Pharisees, by contrast, were middle class and more religious than the Sadducees.

The Chief Priests usually came from the class of Sadducees. This group included all the temple officers, including the High Priest and the captain of the temple.

Representatives from all these groups sat on the Sanhedrin, a religious governing body of 71 Jewish elders. They were elected, and then ordained by the laying on of hands. Their responsibilities included governing the Jewish community in religious matters related to the Law.

Satisfied by His Love

The Lord Jesus demonstrated in His life on earth how much He loved and valued women. He showed them compassion, taught them truth, forgave their sins, freed them from bondage, gave them hope through dire situations, and assured them of His love for them. Because His care for them was so countercultural to what they had previously known, women responded with love for Him and a desire to serve Him.

Many of them had walks of faith that brought challenges as well as times of joy. They focused on following Jesus and serving Him in their daily lives. Jesus Christ entered into the midst of their lives, visibly representing God to them, loving them dearly, and changing their lives forever! He does the same for you and me today.

My heart’s desire is to encourage you through this study to have an authentic, loving relationship with Jesus Christ for yourself so that your heart is truly satisfied with good things by His love. Hopefully, you will then be willing to share that experience with others around you. Just relax, trust in Him, and begin an adventure that will transform your life and others as well.

Are you ready for adventure? It’s going to be a great journey. And, I’m so glad to be walking beside you!

Elements of Each Lesson

This book covers the lives of several New Testament women. And, to help them seem more like real women, I suggest names in the lessons for those who are nameless.

Each lesson begins with a Bible verse that relates to the focus of the lesson and a prayer. Prayer is just talking to God as conversation with someone who loves you dearly. The beginning prayer simply asks Jesus to teach you through the lesson. This is followed by a brief description of the cultural influences that affected the lives of the women who lived then. Work through each lesson, reading the scripture passages that tell each woman’s “Story.” You’ll be encouraged at the end of each lesson to write something about your own faith experience that relates to what’s learned in the lesson. Your faith walk is your story, your biography of God’s faithfulness to you and your response back to Him. A “Jesus Satisfies” teaching session follows each lesson and encourages your heart to be satisfied by an aspect of Jesus’ love for you. Every “Jesus Satisfies” section is followed by a “Reflect” time for you to respond to what you learned and a prayer of trust that Jesus will satisfy your heart through knowing Him.

Suggested Leader Guide for Group Discussion

1. Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you what He wants you to know through the lesson.

2. Work through the lesson together, reading the Bible verses and discussing the questions.

3. Read the “Satisfied by His Love” summary paragraph and share responses to the application question that follows.

5. Read through the “Jesus Satisfies” section. Reflect on the teaching.

6. Pray for the group members – ask Jesus to satisfy your hearts through knowing Him. Thank God for His grace toward you and His love for you.

7. Remind each person to do the next lesson before the group meets again.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Women, Women's Articles

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