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Foundations of the Faith: Ministry Edition

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FOUNDATIONS

of the

FAITH

by C. W. Steinle

Copyright 2016 by C. W. Steinle

Ministry Edition PDF

License Notes:

All rights reserved. Except for non-profit ministry use, no part of this ebook shall be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise – without written permission from the publisher.

Permission is granted for churches, non-profit organizations, and individuals to freely reproduce and distribute this PDF document in its entirety, provided the publication is distributed at no charge to the recipiant and full attribution is given to the author and publisher.

[email protected]

[]Introduction

Foundations of the Faith is a resource for the new believer, and for those desiring to return to the “first works” in order to rekindle their love toward God. This book is an interdenominational reference which will compliment the basic teachings of most Christian faiths. The goal of this work is to educate, strengthen, and encourage the new believer in Christ as quickly and solidly as possible. This new believer’s guide provides easy access to essential Christian truths which are needful for living a fruitful Christian life.

When people come to believe in Jesus, they come just as they are. Some people come with years of biblical instruction behind them. Others come to the Lord with little prior knowledge of God’s Word. Some are young, some are old. Some have endured great hardships. Yet, others have led a relatively comfortable life. Jesus gave a parable describing how different people would respond to His gospel.

“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” Luke 8:4-8

Jesus then explained the parable. “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:11-15

The soil that keeps the seed and bears fruit is that softened ground which has been prepared by the farmer. Similarly, the heart of the believer must yield to the work of the Master. The preconceived assumptions about life must be broken apart and replaced by the solid foundation of God’s truth.

Foundations of the Faith is divided into three sections: Understanding Salvation, Assurance of Salvation, and Following Christ. Understanding Salvation begins with a record of God’s historical work among mankind, and then turns to address the problem of sin. Christian salvation can be understood in simple terms:

-Mankind needed to be rescued from sin and death.

-God sent His Son to save us.

-Jesus’ death on the cross was the sufficient offering for our atonement.

-Those who call on Jesus’ name are delivered from sin and death.

When children receive an extravagant gift they sometimes wonder if it can really be theirs to keep. In much the same way, Christians can soon begin to doubt whether God’s costly gift of eternal life was really meant for them; especially when time only reveals how truly undeserving of grace they always were. Assurance of Salvation contains key Bible verses which will assure and reassure the new believer of God’s great love and His plan for a victorious Christian life.

The last section on Following Christ is an introduction to basic Christian discipleship. The disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and godly living are briefly discussed and encouraged. Biblical instruction on water baptism and corporate worship is also provided. These essential disciplines will help the new believer build upon the firm foundation of Christ, resulting in a life of joy and good fruit.

May the Holy Spirit lead you into all truth.

Contents

Introduction

Part 1 – Understanding Salvation

The Reality of God’s Historical Work

Our Need for Salvation

God So Loved the World

Responding to God’s Grace

Part 2 – Assurance of Salvation

The Lord Knows His Sheep

New Creation in Christ

Inclusion in the Family of God

The Forgiveness of Sins

Sealed with the Spirit

Part 3 – Following Jesus (Discipleship)

Water Baptism

The Discipline of Prayer

Knowing God through His Word

Why Christians Gather (Fellowship)

Learning the Ways of Righteousness

Beware of Hypocrisy

More from C. W. Steinle

About the Author

Connect with C.W. Online

Part 1 – Understanding Salvation

[]The Reality of God’s Historical Work

This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. Deuteronomy 30:11

Christian salvation is not too difficult to understand. God has presented the gospel message in a plain and simple way. Instead of asking us to blindly believe in unseen spiritual concepts, God used the Hebrew people and the incarnation of His Son to show us exactly how we could be saved. Every book of the Old Testament symbolizes some aspect of Christ’s saving work.

Through Abraham God showed us that salvation would come through the Jews. God used Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac as a picture of what God would do when His Son Jesus was offered up for us. Then God allowed the Jews to be kept under bondage in Egypt as an example of our enslavement to sin. To demonstrate that we were unable to free ourselves from sin and self, God appointed Moses to deliver His people from Pharaoh. The blood of the Passover lamb provided the way of escape from God’s angelic executioner, and pointed further to the cross of Christ and its ability to save us from the coming wrath of God.

Jesus lived a sinless life in order to present himself as a sacrifice without spot or blemish. He spoke about the coming kingdom of heaven and taught us that we must be born again into a spiritual life. Then for the joy set before Him (the salvation of our unworthy souls) he willingly suffered torture and crucifixion. After His death He was buried – and on the third day He rose from the grave. Forty days later He ascended to the Father’s right hand to intercede on our behalf until He returns to glorify His followers.

Unlike superstition, history testifies to the undeniable truth of these facts. Archaeologists have located most of the sites mentioned in the Bible. The remains of buildings and villages have been found on the exact locations described in God’s Word. Furthermore, thousands of writings on stone, copper, papyrus, and even vellum (specially prepared animal skins) have been found which confirm the truth of the Bible.

Jesus’ cross would have been placed by a busy highway where hundreds of eyewitnesses would have seen Him die. (This was the Roman practice to discourage rebellion.) Jesus was seen many times by various groups of people after His resurrection. On one occasion he presented Himself in His glorified body to more than 500 people. Our legal definition of a ‘fact’ is satisfied when just two people witness the same event.

It makes sense that God, Who desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth, would establish His truth in an unmistakable way. So He prompted men to record His work among the Jews in careful detail. And even though men have attempted to discredit and even abolish the Bible, God has not only protected and preserved His Word, but has brought about the discovery of the most compelling proofs of the Bible’s authenticity during the last 200 years. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 proving that the Old Testament texts were accurately transcribed as they were copied during the last two thousand years. Biblical manuscripts have been recovered at Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, indicating that the Gospels and Paul’s Epistles were being circulated in mass quantities to the churches by the beginning of the second century.

The cross and it’s risen Lord have marched triumphantly through the last twenty centuries, overcoming every obstacle and saving souls in every generation. Christianity has now spread to every continent and nearly every island throughout the world. It is of the greatest renown, has the most authoritative documentation, is the most personally esteemed, has accomplished the most beneficent causes, espoused the highest ideals; and yet, Christianity has restored the lowest drunkard, humbled the proudest swindler, been a father to the fatherless, and given hope to the poorest orphan. Christ, and His Church, is without rival. . . and, Jesus is the most noble Prince the world has ever known! He is the only God of compassion – our only Savior and Lord. Amen.

Our Need for Salvation

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:10-12

People are born in a state of selfishness, alienated from the will of God. From the time of birth, our desires are focused on getting what we want. Our first interactive words are typically; I want, give me, and mine. We are usually trained by our parents and teachers to be well behaved. And most people mature to acknowledge the virtues of benevolence and compassion. But deep inside lurks the same self-absorbed heart we were born with.

Because nothing has really changed on the inside, we inevitably find ourselves disappointing ourselves and offending others. Even though we might exhibit occasional heroic episodes, we are incapable of putting another person’s wellbeing (or the will of God) ahead of our own – as long as self remains seated on the thrown of our lives. The great enigma lies in the fact that, if we could overthrow the self by our own power, then self would still be glorified in this victory! We can only be saved from self by the independent and superior authority of God.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, . . . Romans 3:23

Because we all fail the test of God’s perfect standard we are all sinners. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” 1st John 1:8,10 When people hold on to the illusion that they are inwardly holy, and that they haven’t done anything really bad, they are prevented from recognizing the value of Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins.

Romans 3:23 (above) also tells us that sin prevents us from entering into God’s glory. The Apostle Paul helps us to understand God’s glorious state. In 1st Timothy 6:16 God is described as “dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see”. Trying to enter this immortal state in our mortality would be like trying to enter into the earth’s sun. We cannot even get close to the sun without being destroyed. This is why Jesus told the Jewish leaders (and the disciples before the crucifixion) “where I am going you cannot come”. In order to get into heaven we must have immortality (eternal life), “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1st John 5:12

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

Even though sin has alienated us from the eternal life of God, He has shown us compassion by providing for our reconciliation through His Son, Jesus Christ.

[]God So Loved the World

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

We know the love of God through the cross. Nature speaks of God’s great creative ability; but in its fallen state, it also brings natural disasters. Neither do we find proof of God’s love in the circumstances of our lives. Each person experiences both blessings and trials during his life in this world. But God has revealed His amazing love toward us by sending Jesus to suffer and die in our place. Nothing can erase or detract from this historic event! We have the cross as an everlasting proof of God’s love, no matter what is occurring in our life. No philosophy, psychology, or other religion is able to assure us of the inseparable love of God found through Christ Jesus our Lord!

God performed this great act of love “while we were still sinners”. Because we have been trained to think of acceptance as a reward for our good behavior, we often mistakenly connect our salvation with our own merit. We suppose that if we could go a certain length of time without giving in to sin; or, if we could become more spiritually minded; or, if we could perform enough good deeds, then God might respond by receiving us into His kingdom. But this sort of thinking overlooks the disparity of our predicament.

What human parent would assess their child’s behavior before taking action to save them from a life threatening peril? If that child were about to be run over by a speeding car, wouldn’t their love compel them to rescue the infant regardless of its behavior? “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” Colossians 1:21,22 Our alienation bears the penalty of treason.

What traitor would come before his tribunal after defecting to the enemy camp and plead that he really tried to be a good person? Even noble character cannot excuse a treacherous crime. And Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35) points out that our indebtedness to God, because of our estrangement, is incomparably greater than any individual act of sin that we may have committed – or any sins which may have been committed against us.

Precisely because we were incapable of overcoming our fallen state, God sent His Son to save us! “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7

From the beginning of history God established that death would be the penalty for disobeying His will. God warned Adam that if he should eat of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, then he would “surely die”. Violating the laws of Moses also incurred the death penalty. In recognition that a life was required to make atonement for an offense against God, He required an offering of blood as part of the prescribed services for dealing with sin. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” Leviticus 17:11

Blood was recognized as a cleansing agent because it signified that a life had been exchanged to pay the debt of sin. “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22 But shedding our own blood cannot cleanse us from our sins by the very reason that we are not acceptable sacrifices. According to the law, sacrifices had to be without defect. Only Jesus lived a sinless life. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2nd Corinthians 5:21 Jesus made the only sacrifice that will ever be made which is capable of redeeming us. The cross of Christ has reconciled us to God and paid our sin debt in full! “Oh precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow.”

[]Responding to God’s Grace

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalms 34:18

Although Jesus is the “Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world”, some people choose to remain in their sins. God has chosen to resist the proud and to give grace to the humble (James 4:6). Those who desire to make peace with God must be repentant for the fallen state of their heart and the sins which have been committed as a result of their depravity. Salvation calls for the surrender of our kingdom; and submission to Christ’s authority. This surrender should acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy, our unworthiness, and our inability to stand on our own in the light of God’s perfect judgment.

Our humility should be expressed in the form of an outward acknowledgement that we have placed our faith in Christ. Jesus said, “whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32 In Acts Chapter Two, when the people asked how they might be saved, Peter replied, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Here water baptism was the declaration that they believed in Jesus. (Water baptism is discussed in part three of this book.) Most often, the Bible equates our salvation with our professed faith and sincere trust in Jesus.

. . if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:9-11

Under the old covenant, the people were instructed to bring a sacrifice to the alter so that their sins could be covered. If they failed to offer the prescribed sacrifice, their sins would not be covered. Under the new covenant, God still requires action on our part. The sacrifice has already been provided for us in the cross of Jesus Christ. Now, in a sense, God is looking for us to bring Jesus as our offering before Him. We do this by acknowledging to God that we are placing our trust fully in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as our redemption from sin and our reconciliation to God.

This confession is made to God; and should also freely be made to the church and to the world. The specific wording is not critical. Professional words often include: I believe, I trust, place faith in, accept, receive, and surrender. Calling on the name of the Lord with a repentant heart is what matters.

Have you taken this step? If not – please take some time in prayer to God. Choosing to follow Jesus is a serious decision for which many have suffered persecution. No one is born as a Christian. This is why Jesus said; “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” John 3:3

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8,9

If you have confessed that Jesus is Lord and embraced His resurrection as the proof of His deity, then “you have been saved”. But we must guard our hearts against the prideful thought that our salvation was a result of some innate goodness within ourselves. On the contrary. We were drawn to the cross because of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of our sin. Grace, as used in the Bible, describes God’s favor toward us in spite of our weakness and imperfections.

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7

Part 2 – Assurance of Salvation

[]The Lord Knows His Sheep

The LORD is good,

A stronghold in the day of trouble;

And He knows those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. John 10:28,29

What an awesome assurance – to know that God is aware that we have placed our trust in Him! Think for a moment about the implications. Have you ever watched the way a mother walks her child across a busy intersection? She isn’t merely holding the child’s hand. More often, she actually has her hand fastened around the child’s wrist or arm. There is no way she is going to depend solely upon the child’s willingness to hold on. The parent knows that the child is trusting in them. Now consider that your Father in heaven knows that you have put your trust in Him by believing in His Son. He knows! And He will never forsake you. “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2nd Timothy 1:12b

Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 1st Peter 2:6

Jesus is the real deal. You will never regret having placed your faith in Jesus. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 No other way to the Father will ever be provided by God. You may have been involved in a non-biblical religion before you became a Christian. If so, you have experienced the disappointment of feeling deceived. God wants you to know that you have now placed your faith upon the firm foundation of Christ – the chief cornerstone. “So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” Hebrews 6:18,19 NLT

For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. Romans 10:13

Sometimes we can feel so unique or eccentric that we question if God can really accept us. Or maybe the circumstances of our lives have been so bizarre that we don’t think that God’s promises could apply to us. But God’s invitation is open to whoever would call upon Him! Every soul whom God has created is a ‘whoever’. And whoever calls upon Him will be saved!

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

God knew who He was getting when he drew you to Jesus. He loves you! Even though Jesus is the only one who deserves to be in heaven – God has determined that heaven shall be filled by those who have believed in His Son. And even though we still battle with our sin nature until we get to heaven, God is now working within us “both to will and to do for His good pleasure” Philippians 2:13. God wants us to have confidence in His power and determination to deliver us all the way into His presence. God never gives up on us – in spite of our doubts, our weaknesses, and our failures. “Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” Psalm 106:1

[]New Creation in Christ

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2nd Corinthians 5:17

When we are born again into Christ, we experience a brand new start. We die to the previously alienated life, and we begin a life that is in Christ. We could think of it as a spiritual change of address. Our identity and our eternal destination now reside in Christ; and God fully accepts us right now – He already sees us as we will be in glory.

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:17-24

People who have been indoctrinated by false teachings, or who have drawn false conclusions about God on their own, must realize the necessity of letting the old ideas go. Reading the Bible and listening to sound teachings are the best remedies for mistaken beliefs. The Holy Spirit that is now living in you will act as a truth detector. Don’t be discouraged. Praying and studying God’s Word will overcome every thought that opposes the truth of Christ (see 2nd Corinthians 10:4-6)

Meditating on sinful conduct must also yield to godly thinking. Without the conviction of the Holy Spirit we were blinded to the devastating effects of sin. Our old man spent its efforts toward achieving sinful pleasures, and grew ever more corrupt. But now we have been re-created into the image and likeness of God – God’s original plan for us. To be like God is to be holy and righteous as He is. God will work in the area of your thoughts to renew your mind so you can know the purity that Adam and Eve experienced before they fell into sin. Sometimes this renewal will come through the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. Other times we are trained by the Spirit’s chastening. But God has promised us that we will be transformed into the image of Christ.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. Galatians 6:15

This verse from Galatians states very plainly that outward rituals, whether at birth or later in life, do not accomplish anything toward our salvation. Obviously an infant is incapable of understanding the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice, and does not hold any spiritual beliefs. Children are typically at least four or five years old (and some quite older) before they realize they are inwardly failing at being good. It is unreasonable to expect full reliance upon a savior when someone doesn’t comprehend that they are lost. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 We can be assured by this verse that God’s mercy and grace covers these little ones until they reach an age of accountability – whether they have been baptized or not.

[]Inclusion in the Family of God

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12

Man’s spiritual union with God was broken because of sin. The right and privilege to be restored into God’s family is necessary because Adam, and his descendants, were disqualified from continuing in eternal life. God has reserved this restoration for those who believe in Christ’s name.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

You have been adopted; and God wants you to embrace Him as Daddy (Abba). God wants you to be certain of your salvation. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1st John 5:13 Imagine for a moment that you are a foster child who has been taken in by a family which is considering your adoption. What if they told you that you could stay in their home as long as you obeyed all of their rules – perfectly!

As you awaken the second morning the father informs you that you broke a few rules the day before. However, they have decided you can stay there and be part of the family as long as you keep all of the rules from now on. As you go through the day you are crushingly aware that you have broken a few more rules. Fully expecting to be returned to the orphanage, you wake up the next day to the same announcement – that you will be tolerated for one more day if you are able to keep all of the rules this time. Etc, etc . . .

This example represents the bondage of the spirit of fear. The fellowship of a relationship can never be enjoyed where there is uncertainty about acceptance. And any good behavior is completely overshadowed by the looming fear of being rejected for a few mistakes. Many Christians live like this. They’re afraid that they’ve already made one mistake too many. And the battle is on to see if they can just overcome their latest failure. And maybe if they can, they will be able to regain their assurance that they still belong in the family of God.

Believers can end up in this mess when they begin to blend themselves in with God’s work of salvation. They think that believing in Jesus – plus their spotless character, plus their perfect behavior – equals salvation. When they stumble, their focus quickly shifts from Jesus to their character and behavior. Instead of praising God for Jesus’ finished work, they can hardly raise their heads because of their innumerable shortcomings.

Paul’s states the key to overcoming this pitfall; “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him”. Colossians 2:6 We received Christ Jesus because our eyes were opened to our inabilities. We must walk in this same humility, recognizing that we are still subject to weakness and temptations. What did God do with the sins we committed before we were saved? Christ paid for them! What does God do with the sins we commit after our salvation? The answer is the same. Christ paid for them. We were saved by our faith that His cross was bigger than our sin. When we fall into doubt, our sin becomes bigger in our eyes than His cross. We must walk as Christians with the same faith in Jesus’ cross that we were saved by. The cross was, and is, sufficient!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

We are accepted. Our adoption is secure. Just as the Father spoke into this world, saying, “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”; so we have become the recipients of the Father’s full acceptance. He has made us accepted in the Beloved. Some have never experienced the loving compassion of a devoted human parent. You can trust – and bond with – your Father in heaven no matter how you were treated as a child. “In You, O LORD, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame.” Psalm 71:1

[]The Forgiveness of Sins

He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19

Picture your sins, and the sins of the whole world, bull-dozed into a big pile – loaded into cargo containers – shipped out to sea – and dumped into the deepest ocean, never to be found or retrieved. Isn’t Jesus Wonderful? Hallelujah!

I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25

The all-knowing God has chosen never to recall our offenses. He forgives and forgets. He has blotted out the records. Our sin files have been shredded. No evidence has been retained to be dredged up at a later time.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalms 103:12

Disregarding the roundness of the earth, the idea represented here is: two opposite directions that can never come together. He has completely removed our transgressions. Our sins are no longer personally attached to us because Jesus personally took them upon Himself.

Inevitably, sins like the ones we have committed will come up in conversation. When this occurs, remember the cross. Those forgiven sins of the past are no longer part of your identity. You can be certain that God is not attempting to reconnect your forgiven sins with you. You can be grateful for the power of the Holy Spirit who convicted you of sin and brought about your deliverance.

Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved.

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed.” (Amazing Grace – John Newton)

[]Sealed with the Spirit

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13,14

When you believed in Jesus you were given a special seal. The Bible gives several purposes for seals. In Ezekiel 9:4 God sealed His people with a mark so they would not be harmed during a time of judgment. Seals were used to bind up documents or to finalize a contract (see Jeremiah Chapter 32). Kings used their signet ring to validate official edicts (Esther). And a seal was applied in recognition that the people had entered into a covenant with God in Nehemiah 9:38. All of these applications may be applied to our sealing by the Holy Spirit.

Our guaranteed inheritance will be realized when we are transformed into our glorified bodies. All believers will experience a transformation from our mortal bodies into new immortal bodies. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1st Corinthian 15:50-53

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:30-32

Although we come to Christ just as we are, God asks us to cooperate with the sanctification process. We have to let go of our old ways – which were based on sin and self. The verse above deals with ill feelings toward others. Some of these unloving attitudes can be hidden below the surface – like bitterness. Other times our vile feelings can express themselves in hostile looks and cruel words.

God wants us to know that it is grievous to the Holy Spirit when we fail to extend to others the same forgiveness which we have received. When we are able to see the ugliness of our own sin and the unfathomable price that God paid for our atonement, then we cannot withhold our forgiveness from those who have offended us. When we truly understand God’s grace and mercy toward us, God’s unconditional love flows through our tender hearts in expressions of kindness and forgiveness.

Part 3 – Following Jesus (Discipleship)

[]Water Baptism

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18-20

These verses, known as the Great Commission, instructed the Disciples to baptize and teach their converts. In obedience to this directive, a believer should submit to water baptism as soon as possible after placing faith in Christ. The Bible contains hundreds of verses relating salvation to faith and belief, indicating that salvation is obtained by placing faith in Christ. There are only a few verses that associate salvation with water baptism. Water baptism is, however, the most widely held method of making a public profession of faith in Christ. Furthermore, orthodox churches have traditionally associated baptism with the forgiveness of sins.

From the time of the second century until today churches have held differing beliefs about the timing and effects of water baptism. The baptism of infants was not documented in the Bible. But church history indicates that some Christians were beginning to baptize their babies during the first few centuries. On the other hand, during the third and fourth centuries many people practiced ‘death-bed’ baptism. They believed that only pre-baptismal sins were removed at the time of water baptism. Therefore, they put baptism off until the last moment so that they might enter heaven in their purist state. The death-bed baptism theory was based on the assumption that baptism, rather than faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, was the agent which removes sin.

Most often the Bible indicates the order of our conversion experience as “repent and be baptized”. The following section of scripture emphasizes the importance of oral confession prior to water baptism. In this narrative, Philip had just explained how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Christ found in Isaiah 53.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Acts 8:36-38

It would appear from Philip’s statement that this baptism depended upon the eunuch’s belief that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of God. Water baptism was identified from the time of John the Baptist as an act which accompanies repentance. When infants undergo ritual baptism they are incapable of contemplating repentance. Most churches which practice infant baptism also acknowledge the need for a confirmation at the age of accountability. This system presumes that the child will grow to understand the lost state of their soul and will embrace Jesus as their savior. But the conviction of sins by the Holy Spirit cannot be induced by man – it is a sovereign act of God.

God has granted free will to every person and each soul will be judged for their own life. A child’s free will is never possessed by its parents. Parents cannot pass salvation down to their heirs. That is why it is said, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren”. Parents can dedicate their children to the Lord after the model of Hannah with Samuel. But God only knows whether they will respond to the cross and be saved. “ Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 2nd Timothy 2:19

Many adult Christians have been blessed by making their own declaration of faith in Christ during a second baptism, although we have no direct biblical mandate that would require a person to be baptized into Christ more than once in their lifetime. Nevertheless, we do find a clear account of salvation prior to water baptism in the salvation of Cornelius. After responding to Peter’s preaching, Cornelius and the people gathered at his house were then baptized after the fact.

Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10:47

[]The Discipline of Prayer

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

What is Prayer?

Prayer is simply communication with God. Communication is a vital part of any relationship; and especially our relationship with God. God reveals the reality of His presence during our interaction with Him. James 8:4 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Prayers can be spoken out loud, but God knows our thoughts and the desires of our hearts.

Prayer is a time of fellowship with God. Fellowship (Gr. koinonia) means to share or to have something in common. Oftentimes God shares His will with us during prayer. Even the prayers which come to mind are directed by the Holy Spirit. We may be led by the Spirit to pray for things that God has already determined to do. We perceive these as answered prayers. Sometimes God appears to wait for us to pray before He takes action. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2nd Chronicles 7:14

General Types of Prayer :

Worship – Praise and thanksgiving. We usually equate worship with singing, but we should also worship God in our prayers. The word “worship” is an English contraction of the words, “worth” and “ship”. Acknowledging God’s worth-ship was simplified into the word we use today; worship. The Book of Revelation gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:12 “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 7:12

Giving thanks to God is a way of life when we are walking in the Spirit. “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1st Thessalonians 5:18 Every time we say, “thank You Lord”, we are praying to God. Because we know that thanksgiving is God’s will for us, we can be certain that each prayer of thanks has eternal consequence! “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” 1st John 5:14 Our treasure in heaven consists of more than acts of service. So thank God for everything good that happens, great or small. James tells us that it is even right to thank God in the midst of our trials. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2,3

Petition – Asking for our own needs. In the Lord’s model prayer, Jesus taught us to ask for our daily provisions. “Give us this day our daily bread”. James tells us that sometimes God withholds because He is waiting for us to ask. “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2

Intercession – Praying on behalf others. The Bible gives many examples of intercession. Paul requested prayer over his own ministry in his epistles. “Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me.” Romans 15:29 Paul instructed Timothy, “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men”. 1st Timothy 2:1 And Samuel said it would be a sin if he failed as Israel’s priest to pray for the nation. “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you.” 1st Samuel 12:23a

Devotional Prayer

During His ministry on earth Christ Jesus often found a quiet place where He could be alone to pray to His Father. Sometimes He rose early in the morning or stayed awake at night in prayer. Jesus said He spoke those things which He heard from His Father, and that He did those things which pleased His Father. Jesus and the Father were in constant communication. If Jesus made special times to focus on His fellowship with His Father – how much more is it necessary for us who have never seen Him face to face!

Devotional prayer is deeper than the circumstantial prayers we lift up throughout the day. Devotional time should be a regular Christian discipline. Most people find it helpful to have a scheduled time and place where they can pray out loud without distractions. Speaking our prayers (even in a whisper) helps us to keep the train of our thoughts on track.

The Bible records several aspects of prayer. Some of these components are: praise and thanksgiving, petition and intercession, and confession. These distinct activities have been summarized in the acronym, A-C-T-S; AdorationConfessionThanksgivingSupplication. ACTS is an easy way to remember the main things that we should include in our prayers.

Adoration – We want to begin our conversation with God by giving proper regard to who He is. Proclaim His greatness – Father, Son and Spirit! Acknowledge the Creator and Sustainer of all things, yet Who stoops down to behold the things of earth (Psalm 113). Praise the Father for sending His Son to save us! As we rehearse the things we know to be true about God, our hearts are brought into the appropriate perspective of worship and humility.

Confession – This side of heaven (until we are changed into the glorious likeness of Jesus) we are still subject to weakness, imperfection, and sin. God chooses to shower His grace upon us even while we continue to struggle in this world because we have believed in His Son. But it is healthy for us to come before God admitting that we are not finished yet; and that we still have no goodness, or eternal life, apart from Christ. God already knows us better than we know ourselves.

King David invited God to search his heart. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalms 139:23,24 During our confessional time before God we should confess and repent of any sin or shortcoming that the Holy Spirit brings to mind. But it is not necessary to keep seeking forgiveness for sins that have already been confessed before and which are already forgiven. If heartfelt repentance and confession regarding a certain sin has already occurred then it has already been forgiven. This is a basic reality of our faith. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1st John 1:9 Hallelujah, “Thank You Jesus!”

Thanksgiving – As we let God sort through the issues of our hearts and find His love overshadowing our unworthiness, it is normal to feel a sense of release. Like a cleansing flood we find ourselves overwhelmed with the knowledge of God’s presence, and yet, perfectly assured and strengthened by God’s grace. Sometimes this is referred to as ‘sweet release’. Please know that you haven’t lost your mind if you find yourself crying and laughing at the same time! As God reveals the depth of our desperation without Him – at the very same moment He touches us with the comfort of His love. Thanksgiving is the appropriate response. “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.” Psalm 28:7

Supplication – Now that God has been praised and our hearts are right before Him, we can enter into a time of petition and intercession. Supplication is an Old English word that describes the process of coming before a lord to ask a favor. A servant took special care when he was entering into the court of his king. Sometimes the servant would fast for a time in order to have a genuinely humble attitude. Often the servant would also bring some token gift to show that the king was worthy of a sacrifice. (We boldly enter into God’s presence because of Jesus.)

It is helpful to keep a prayer list or prayer journal. A list ensures that we do not forget to pray for those who have asked for prayer. It also helps us not to overlook those who need our ongoing intercession. Keeping a journal is a good way to document how God answers our prayers. Many people record the date when they began to pray about a certain person or issue, the date God answered the prayer, and the way the prayer was answered. (God’s general answers to prayer are: yes, no, and wait.)

How long should we pray?

There is no certain length of time that we should devote to prayer. It would normally take at least ten to fifteen minutes to rush through the four elements of prayer. Try allowing more and more time for devotional prayer until you have some time at the end to quietly wait on the Lord. Waiting on the Lord in prayer is simply giving Him an offering of your time. God speaks some of the most meaningful things to us in these moments. If you have the time to spend an hour or so in prayer on your day off, try giving the Lord enough time so that He releases you from prayer, instead of ending your prayer because you have run out of time. This is going to seem like a long time the first time you try it, but the precious presence of the Lord, and unexpected answers to life’s mysteries, are their own reward.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus

Meditating on our Savior is the healthiest and most needful aspect of prayer. Jesus said; “Without Me you can do nothing” John 15:5. After reminding us of all of the faithful saints who have gone before us, the author of Hebrews encourages us to look beyond their great achievements and to set our gaze upon Jesus. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1,2 This verse takes us first to the cross and then to the throne.

Go to the cross in your devotional prayer time. Consider who Jesus is, what He suffered, and the love and obedience that motivated His sacrifice. Meet the Lord at the cross and learn from Him there. But don’t stay at the cross; because Jesus didn’t stay there. He is alive forevermore! Jesus rose from the dead and is now reigning from the throne room of heaven. The Bible says that Jesus is representing us in heaven as our advocate, our mediator, out intercessor, and the propitiation for our atonement. So make it a point to visit the cross and to behold His throne with the eyes of your heart during each devotional prayer session.

[]Knowing God through His Word

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

Studying God’s Word is the fastest and surest way to grow in the faith. The Bible can seem like a daunting book to those who have never read it. But those who have taken the time to read it for themselves have truly found it to be “the greatest story ever told”. There is no other way to know what the Bible says, and what the Bible doesn’t say. The best method to advance through any book is to use a bookmark. There are also many reading schedules available if a more disciplined approach is needed. Most Christians find it helpful to read the New Testament before beginning the Old Testament. By reading the New Testament first, the reader can identify ways in which Jesus fulfilled the types and symbols of His ministry found in the Old Testament.

The Bible is God’s Word

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:16 The Bible was written through men – by the Spirit of God. It is useful for defining the essential truths and principles (doctrines) of the faith. Reproof, correction, and instruction describe God’s sanctification process. When areas of our lives are way out of line with God’s will, we are in need of a swift change of direction – a powerful reproof. When we are generally compliant to God’s plan, we only need to be corrected in the areas where we still fall short. God’s Word also leads us in paths of righteousness so that we will move in directions that bring honor and glory to Him.

Many people live their lives like they are never quite who they should be – like they’ve never quite arrived. God’s Word is able to make you complete! What a wonderful promise. No matter how inadequate or incapable you may have felt before, God’s Word is able to equip you for every task He gives you; whether it be an accomplishment or a trial. “And you are complete in Him [Christ], who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:10

The Bible Is About Jesus

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. John 5:39 Some people are so intent on finding hidden meanings in the Bible that they overlook Jesus. There is no message or purpose greater than Jesus. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” Colossians 1:16b,17 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” John 20:31

Counsel From the Word

He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Psalms 107:20 God wants to bring our destructive behaviors to an end. Because the fallen sin-nature is self-destructive, many people come to Jesus bringing the pieces of their shattered lives with them. Paul observed that God magnifies His glory by restoring the downcast. “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 1st Corinthians 1:26-29 God’s Word is able to stop the cycle of destruction and to heal the wounds of the past.

Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! Psalms 119:11 Knowing God’s Word keeps us from sin in several ways. As we read through the Bible we learn God’s attitude about various behaviors. Those who reject God, and even some church leaders, are approving sinful activities which are clearly contrary to the Bible. But each individual soul will stand before God on his own and give an account for his deeds. Therefore, we must each hide God’s Word in our own hearts.

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts also empowers us to resist sin. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 Jesus used the written Word during His time of temptation in the desert (see Matthew 4:1-11). The Word is called the sword of the Spirit in Ephesians 6:17. It is part of our spiritual armor that is able to make us stand against the enemy in the day of trouble.

Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors. Psalms 119:24 The Lord is the Wonderful Counselor. God is the only one who knows what we need to go through in order to grow and to experience wholeness. Human counselors can be helpful in order for us to experience God’s love and acceptance through another human being. But the Lord always knows the type and amount of testing which will strengthen us instead of harming us. Second Peter Chapter One tells us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through His great and precious promises – which are found in the Bible.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalms 119:105 The lamp of God’s Word shows us how we should walk in the Lord. It is able to keep us from stumbling by giving us God’s perspective. When our focus is on the world we can lose touch with reality – the truth of God. Reading God’s Word daily helps us to walk in the spirit. God’s Word also helps us choose the right paths in life. Proverbs 3:5,6 says; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

Overall Structure of the Bible

The 66 books of the Bible, accepted by most churches, contain two sets of writings: The Old Testament (Genesis through Malachi), and the New Testament (Matthew through Revelation). Most of these books were listed by the early Church Fathers of the third century as trustworthy and inspired writings. Many other ancient writings have been discovered which were not received as the Word of God by the Church at the time that they were written. Some of the apocryphal and spurious writings were even written under the names of the Apostles. A few of the early writings were thought to be useful for discipleship, but the rest of these early writings never received universal acceptance as authoritative scripture.

Types of Scriptures

The reader might initially assume the Bible is assembled chronologically because it begins with the account of creation and ends with prophecy about the future. The Bible has actually been assembled by grouping the books by their literary type. The chronology of the Old Testament Prophets is often provided by the prophets in their documentation of the king under whom they lived. The chronology of the New Testament Letters (Epistles) is generally found within the Acts of the Apostles (abbreviated as ‘Acts’). A general outline of the books by their type is displayed below:

Old Testament History – Genesis through Esther

Poetry – Job through Song of Solomon

Prophetic – Isaiah through Malachi

Gospels – Matthew through John

New Testament History – Acts

Letters – Romans through Jude

New Testament Prophecy – Revelation

Devotional Bible Reading

-Plan quiet time without distractions.

-Pray for the Holy Spirit to be your teacher.

-Read a book of the Bible, a chapter, or several verses at a time.

-Consider what was read to find:

Sins to forsake?

Promises to claim?

Examples to follow?

Warnings to consider?

Teachings about God?

Other important truths?

Applications to my life?

Anything I don’t understand?

Keep a notebook to record insights and answers.

[]Why Christians Gather (Fellowship)

Jesus’ Command to Love One Another

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34,35 The command to love God and fellow man was given in the Old Testament. But the new love that Jesus commanded was a whole new kind of love. And in order for people to love one another with God’s unconditional “agape” love, they had to have a whole new spiritual heart.

After Jesus rose from the dead and people received the Holy Spirit, they were able to love with God’s agape love for the first time in history; fulfilling what the prophets had written: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26,27

So this very ability to love one another with God’s love testifies that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus said everyone would be able to identify His disciples by this unconditional love. The Apostle John said if anyone lacks this kind of love for his brother in Christ, that person “is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1st John 2:11 John’s example conveys the message that when we wander off from God’s people we are actually wandering away from the light.

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body. Colossians 3:15 This little verse reminds us that we weren’t called into the kingdom to stand by ourselves. When we came to Christ we were also joined into His body – the Church. Oftentimes new believers enjoy a special one-on-one time with the Savior. Sometimes they can even feel an unrealistic sense that they’re the only soul who really ‘gets it’; who really understands what Jesus has done for us. But after this honeymoon, the Lord would have His children mature to love one another. “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3,4

Fellowship in the Early Church

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:41-47

The verse above reveals several important practices of the first Christians. The doctrines recorded in the Bible by the Apostles came directly from Jesus. These teachings were the backbone of the early church and should always remain the standard for Christ’s Church. Fellowship (having things in common – doing things together) came right after doctrine; followed by the breaking of bread and prayer. Breaking bread can refer to the regular partaking of the communion elements, or it might refer to community meals. Either way, they both require that believers gather together to participate in these activities. The disciples met together on a daily basis at the temple and they also met with one another in their homes.

And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24,25 The closer we get to Jesus’ return, the more we should be stirring one another to greater love and fruitfulness. Instead some people will withdraw from fellowship just when they need to be exhorted and encouraged. Fellowship is also important so that the body of Christ can serve one another with the Spiritual gifts God has supplied just for this purpose. “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1st Peter 4:10

[] Learning the Ways of Righteousness

For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 1st John 3:8b We should see a change in our desires, our attitudes, and our behaviors after surrendering our lives to the Lord. Sometimes a new believer will recognize a sin in their life and forsake it immediately. But that same brother or sister might continue to struggle in a different area for years. The key to victory often lies in perseverance. Never give yourself over to sin – that is to say, “never give up and make a peace treaty with sin”. If sin is yielded to, always repent completely and confess it as sin – every time – even if it is an area of recurring battle. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Romans 13:4

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1,2 Before a person confesses Christ, they might have allowed many unsavory thoughts and desires to captivate their attention. Instead of trying to sync up with this world, the Christian is in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ. As we submit to God’s plan, we can experience the joy of living in step with His will.

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, . . Colossians 3:8-10 Agitation and anxiety (and the words of frustration that go with them) are all part of the old man – the old life. Old feelings are still familiar to the new believer. Don’t be surprised if feelings like anger, fear, depression, or stress try to befriend you like an old buddy. You may have spent countless hours of the past hanging out with these bad guys, but now it’s time to put them off. In their place, put on the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22,23a

[]Beware of Hypocrisy

Whether the reader has been walking with the Lord for many years, or, is a new believer, I would share the same counsel. Although it is God “who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure,” there is a responsibility on our part. The reasonable response is that we would cooperate with God as He works in us, and the most reasonable way for us to cooperate with God is to let our perception be conformed to God’s perception.

God cares about our perception. This is obvious from the way He uses ‘visual’ presentations for our sake. Take for example the phrase; “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” God is indicating that we should be able to apprehend the presence of God with the eyes of our heart. We should have a clear sense of God’s proximity. The fear of the Lord is tethered to our perception of God’s proximity. . .to our apprehension of Him.

Another example is found in the wilderness campsite of the children of Israel. “And you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.”-Deuteronomy 23:13,14

Certainly there was no danger that the omniscient God would accidentally step in something unclean. This is obviously written to maintain a consistency in the mind’s eye concerning the actual presence of the Lord in the midst of His people. It is this consistency that we, as believers, must guard.

God is also concerned about the continuity of our faith. The offence that grieves the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4:30-32, appears to be the inequity of claiming the forgiveness afforded by God, and at the same time, withholding personal forgiveness from others. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

One of the most valuable precepts of the Christian faith is the difference between the old and the new. The old and the new life. The old and the new creation. The old and the new man. Present Jerusalem will one day be superseded by New Jerusalem. The notion of a physical Temple has already been replaced by the true tabernacle in heaven, that is “made without hands.” Even the present heaven and earth will pass away before the genesis of a New Heaven and a New Earth.

This distinction between the old and new has been established by God. The reality of God’s recognition of that which is old, and that which is new, is both fixed, and just, in the mind of God. God is able to discern, with perfect accuracy, who has received eternal life through faith in Christ, and who has not trusted in Him through His Son. Failure to grasp that God is able to discern between the old and the new prohibits the lost from understanding why they must be born again. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.” Unbelief in God’s ability to create man anew also jeopardizes one’s ability to walk in the fullness of their new life in Christ. This is the sticking point for those who have already entered into the kingdom of God, but are not abiding, or fully resting, in Christ. By faith we must “place our hope fully in the grace which is to be brought to [us] at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”-1st Peter 1:13

There is a natural tendency to believe that our memories of sin will continue eternally, either in our minds, in God’s mind, or both. This false assumption works directly against our confidence that we have [_ “become the righteousness of God”- see 2 nd_] Corinthians 5:21. It belittles the cleansing ability of Christ’s blood – see Colossians 1:20. It questions God’s ability to account us as righteous – see Romans 4:5; and, it opposes God’s determination to be “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”-1st John 1:9

But in fact, God says “our sins and lawless deeds He will remember no more.” God is able to forgive, and to forget. Therefore, we must conclude that, as the image and likeness of God, we are also able to forget the same thoughts and events which God has chosen to forget. But as we engage this truth we must not “use our liberty as a cloak for vice.” And we must not misuse the grace of God, as Paul warns in Romans 6:1. “Shall we go on sinning that grace might abound? Certainly not!” Remember that the yeast of the Pharisees was hypocrisy. It is appropriate, and in fact required, that we synchronize our perspective with God’s perspective. St. Paul expressed man’s responsibility in these words.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”-Romans 12:1,2

God is able to work a transformation in our minds. But if we yield to temptations, we open ourselves up to the memories of similar sins from the past. We cannot successfully forget our former sins, and at the same time, practice sins that stir memories of our former sins. Paul asked us to consider: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”-Romans 6:21

Peter made this observation: “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,  that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.  For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”-1st Peter 4:1-3

There is another important perspective to consider. Namely – the fear of the Lord. This perspective is maintained primarily by “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” Hebrews 12 portrays two images. One image depicts Christ’s work on the cross. The second image is of Christ’s current position at the Father’s right hand.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”-Hebrews 12:1,2

Envisioning Christ reigning from heaven is just as important as remembering Christ on the cross. Many times though, the cross is remembered without “fixing our eyes” on the living and reigning Lord of heaven and earth. Paul wrote in Romans 5:9,10; “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” But we must also realize that the Son who lives to make intercession for us, and lives to impart His life, is also a living witness to the affairs of our life.

Understand, you senseless among the people;

And you fools, when will you be wise?

He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?

He who formed the eye, shall He not see?

He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,

He who teaches man knowledge? – Psalms 94:8-10

 

The book of Ezekiel ends with a unique name for Jehovah; “The LORD is there.” This is the name that will be given to Jerusalem upon Jesus’ second coming. But Emanuel has already come. “The LORD is with us.” Jesus said He would never leave us, nor forsake us, and that He would be with us “until the end of the age.”

So for now, “until His enemies are made a footstool under His feet,” Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is there! The author of Hebrews was suggesting that the way to run free of “every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us,” is to “fix our eyes upon Jesus.” The awareness of the Lord’s proximity helps us to fear God as we should. Fixing our eyes – the eyes of our heart – upon Jesus, edifies our sense of the presence of God.

Now let’s bring these observations on perception together. If we fall back into our former sins, we awaken the same remembrances of sin that we now earnestly desire to forget. We cannot continue in the practice of sin without reviving feelings of guilt and shame over our sins of the past. We cannot maintain our perception of the presence of God, and at the same time, choose to believe He is blind to our post-salvation sinful behavior. The reality is; we are either building up our faith by fixing our eyes on Jesus, or we are tearing down our faith, by pretending that we can carry on in secret by ignoring the ever-present God.

The Old Testament made provisions for those who committed accidental crimes. The perpetrator was instructed to flee to a city of refuge and remain there until the death of the high priest. If a refugee left the city of refuge before the death of the current high priest, a kinsman-avenger could lawfully take the life of the refugee. This Old Testament system foreshadows our refuge, who is Christ. Jesus said, “If you abide in me, I also will abide in you.” Our High Priest is a priest forever. So there is never a time that we can leave our refuge in Christ. When we look away from Christ and ignore His presence, we are taking our circumstances back into our own hands – outside of our refuge. I am not stating that we can lose our salvation, but that we can lose sight of our salvation – as we lose sight of our Savior.

Peter puts it this way. ^ ^[_ “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”- 2 nd_] Peter 1:2-11

Beloved, let us keep the eyes of our heart keenly focused on Jesus, so that we may not become shortsighted. Surely our perspective must agree with our profession of faith. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”-1st John 1:6,7

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:11

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,

And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,

To God our Savior who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power,

Both now and forever. Amen.- Jude 24,25

###

[]About the Author

C.W. and his wife Gwen enjoy studying biblical archaeology, and have visited sites in eight different countries. An authority on the Apostle Paul, Pastor Steinle has held Bible studies on location in Israel, Philippi, Thessaloniki, Corinth, Athens, and Egypt, traveling the route of the Exodus across the Red Sea through Sinai and up to Mt. Nebo in Jordan. Three times the couple has followed in the footsteps of Paul, by land and by sea – along the old Roman highways and by ship throughout the northern Mediterranean, including the course of Paul’s final shipwreck.

C.W. Steinle began his professional career as a CPA because of his knack for organizing information. Many Christian theologians and prophecy scholars have backgrounds in law, accounting, and business. For Christians who believe that the Bible is God-breathed, the ability to gather information and draw correlations is crucial for rightly dividing the Word of God.

To be a good teacher, one must also be a good story teller. Ultimately, unless principles can be explained in down-to-earth, real-life terms, the most brilliant insights cannot be conveyed to the reader. C.W. Steinle can relate to people. His hobbies include: sailing, golf, skiing, jewelry, sculpture, hiking, tennis and flying. He has worked as a tradesman as: carpenter, welder, jeweler, locksmith, cook, electrician, metal sculptor, sales, psychiatric technician, surveyor, painter, security guard, and his three main careers: CPA, pastor, and writer.

[]Connect with C.W. Steinle Online:

http://www.amazon.com/C-W-Steinle/e/B005JK2HNY – Amazon Author Page

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Foundations of the Faith: Ministry Edition

Whether you are new to the Christian faith or you are looking for the edification that comes through reviewing the basics, you're sure to be blessed by the Bible verses and their applications contained in "Foundations of the Faith." These universally accepted standard topics of instruction have encouraged believers from the time of the Early Church. After mentoring new believers in an interdenominational setting for more than 20 years, Pastor Steinle has prayerfully presented these timeless teachings in light of his years of real-life hands-on ministry to people from all backgrounds. Come just as you are and hear once again of the love, compassion, and healing that are in Christ. Excerpt: ["Foundations of the Faith" is divided into three sections: "Understanding Salvation," "Assurance of Salvation," and "Following Christ." Understanding Salvation begins with a record of God’s historical work among mankind, and then turns to address the problem of sin. Christian salvation can be understood in simple terms: -Mankind needed to be rescued from sin and death. -God sent His Son to save us. -Jesus’ cross was the sufficient offering for our atonement. -Those who call on Jesus’ name are delivered from sin and death. . . . . . The last section on "Following Christ" is an introduction to basic Christian discipleship. The disciplines of prayer, Bible reading, and godly living are briefly discussed and encouraged. Biblical instruction on water baptism and corporate worship is also provided. These essential disciplines will help the new believer build upon the firm foundation of Christ, resulting in a life of joy and good fruit.] - end excerpt For more information, Look-inside the book to review the Table of Contents and selected sample reading.

  • Author: C.W. Steinle
  • Published: 2016-04-17 21:20:12
  • Words: 14262
Foundations of the Faith: Ministry Edition Foundations of the Faith: Ministry Edition