Teen Seeking God And Finding Him


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This is the teen version of Chris Norman's Seeking God study from Grace Gathering in New Haven, Indiana

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Teen Seeking God And Finding Him

  1. 1. Seeking God and Finding Him An Investigative Journey into the Foundational Claims of the Gospel Written by Chris Norman Adapted by Brian Smeltzer Grace Gathering, New Haven, IN www.gracegathering.com 1
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  3. 3. TABLE of CONTENTS SESSION ONE: 4 - How can I understand God in this Crazy World? SESSION TWO: 10 - One Human Race – One Common Problem SESSION THREE: 16 - Coming to Grips with the Destiny of my Soul SESSION FOUR: 22 - He would do that for Me? SESSION FIVE: 27 - Experiencing a Beautiful and Perfect Love SESSION SIX: 33 - How do I Begin a Relationship with God? SESSION SEVEN: 39 - How can I Know where My Relationship with God Stands? SESSION EIGHT: 44 - How Free and Forgiven am I in Christ? SUMMARY: 50 - What is the Gospel of Christ APPENDIX: 52 - How do I Know if I Should be Baptized? 3
  4. 4. Session One How Can I Understand God in this Crazy World? Most people in this world are on some type of spiritual journey. Maybe you are choosing to be on this journey or maybe you look for it when things get really bad. Deep down, we desire to know about what makes us who we are; our upbringing, family history, why we are the way we are, what makes us tick, what we’re passionate about, our identity and purpose. Are you here by chance or were you uniquely designed and put here on earth by a creator? Having answers to these questions will affect the way you view life and probably the way you live it. This study was designed assuming you don’t have any Biblical knowledge. In fact, you may not even know if you believe in the Christian faith or if the Bible is true. This is an opportunity for you to study the original document of the Christian faith, the Holy Bible, and come to your own conclusion. The goal isn’t to convince you that the Bible is true or even that God exists. It will simply reveal what the Bible states about God, his creation, and how God fits into that plan. As we will see, the Bible states that a personal and loving God uniquely creates every person in this world. God created you and knows you far better than you even know yourself. He wants nothing more than for you to genuinely know and love him. God says he will reveal himself to anyone who truly seeks him. Read the following verses and write down what they tell you about seeking God. (If you are not familiar with where these books of the Bible are located, go to your table of contents in the front of your Bible or to the last page in this booklet. (OT) will mean Old Testament and (NT) will mean New Testament.) • Jeremiah 29:13 (OT) • Matthew 7:7-8 (NT) • Deuteronomy 4:29 (OT) • Luke 19:10 (NT) • Acts 17:27 (NT) 4
  5. 5. God delights and gives promises to those who seek him. Many times God allows both good and bad things to happen in our lives so that we will seek him. From our perspective it may seem that we are doing all the seeking, but in reality, God is the one who is seeking us. Every person is born lost and without God. It’s easy to get confused Mercy means being about life, the struggles we face, and the questions we have that are compassionate or unanswered. What matters is how we deal with those issues. Do we kind towards an let it turn in to baggage that will hold us down and get in the way of enemy or someone who offends you. our relationship with God or do we let it become an experience that we grow from? Often we look for God in the wrong places (e.g. through friends, boy/girlfriend, popularity, looks, possessions, “churchy” things, etc.), but in his mercy and love he seeks us. As this Luke passage says, “He desires to save that which is lost.” It’s amazing that when we finally do seek after God and read what the Bible says, we come in contact with our loving and intimate creator. When you look at your life so far, are there things, either good or bad, that have made you stop and realize your need for God in your life, or realize that God has been seeking you? Remember God’s promise: “Those who seek me, find me.” Perhaps God has allowed you to experience something in your life that has made you realize you cannot do it alone. We all need God, our creator. How Can Everyone Be Right? I’m sure you’ve seen it on TV or the news, maybe you’ve even If something is experienced it at school or with friends. It seems like everywhere we look, relative it is dependent or we see or hear someone saying “Truth can’t be completely true.” or connected to “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” In our day, experience has something else, become the dominating source of authority. In a relativistic society no one it’s not absolute. has a right to tell anyone else he is wrong. There are no absolutes, and everything is relative. What is right and wrong for me is relative to my experience. Nothing outside of man’s own thoughts and opinions has authority. Man and his experience now is the final judge. “Nothing or no one can judge me or tell me I am wrong but me.” This is the difference between a man-centered world and a God- centered world. People today generally do what is right in their own eyes. On the next page are four statements. Which one of them best describes you? 5
  6. 6. 1. “My parents taught me that as long as you love people and are a Our belief system good person you will go to heaven, and that is what I believe.” is formed through these four sources; reason (2+2=4), 2. “The Bible says that God has no beginning and no ending, tradidion (school), experience (coffee therefore, that is what I believe.” will burn me... it’s hot!) and the Bible 3. “It does not make good sense to me that a God would create (what it teaches). people and then send many of them to hell, therefore, I cannot believe this is true.” 4. “I will not believe in the God of the Bible unless he personally appears to me or performs a miracle before my eyes. The way I live right now feels right to me.” If there are no absolutes, and no one can make universal statements about right and wrong, think about the result: morality is based only on the opinion of each person’s own feelings. “If I want to get pregnant at 17, who are you to say I am wrong? I decide what is right and wrong for me… It’s my choice.” This reasoning can be given to verify any action. Man becomes his own final judge. In a sense, everyone is his or her own god. The very first verse in the Bible challenges this thinking, and reveals that we are not our own gods. God as Creator What does Genesis 1:1 (OT) say about all of life and more specifically what does it say about your life? What does Gen. 1:31 say about his creation after the six days? As you read through the first chapter of Genesis, God often states that what he has created is “good” which shows that not only is God the creator but he knows good because he created it. He created the universe (and everything in it) and established a moral basis of right and wrong. Because this world is his creation, he is the one who sets all standards and creates all plans. The creation is always subject to the Creator because he created it. 6
  7. 7. Creator God as a Communicator The God of all creation is not silent, but he communicates and is interactive with his creation. God did not create everything the same. He created man and woman with the special ability to relate and interact with him. This is part of what it means for God to create man in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). God is revealed as a communicator with man and woman within the very first chapter of the Bible. To whom did God communicate in Genesis 1:28? If 2 Timothy 3:16 (NT) is true, how reliable and dependable is the Bible as it relates to God’s communication to man? Explain in your own words. Who is this Creator God? Take a minute and write down how you picture God. How would you describe him? Many people have different views of God. Some think he is like a police officer always looking for us to screw up. Some think he is always mad and always disappointed in us. Some think he is more like a grandfather in the sky who never gets angry. Maybe you have an earthly father who isn’t in your life and don’t want to be involved with a heavenly Father who will do the same or you may see God as Santa Clause who is only there to give you the stuff you want and you only seem to need him when you’re in trouble or need something. Some believe God is nature, others believe he is simply the good in people, and yet others believe God is simply on the sidelines cheering us on with the hope that we will make the right choices. Because God existed before he created the universe, he is totally independent of our thoughts or perceptions of him. He is here because of himself and by himself; he didn’t need to be and wasn’t created. What we believe about God is not nearly as important as what God has communicated about himself. We know this is true so our goal should be to understand God based on what HE says, not on what WE think. We will continue to understand God’s character and nature 7
  8. 8. throughout this study. However, let’s look at one of God’s major Holy means to be set apart from attributes: His holiness. everything else. It also means to be There are many attributes and characteristics that describe God such as: worthy of worship. eternal, infinite, Spirit, loving, compassionate, judging, wrathful, patient, kind, forgiving, right, pure, all-knowing, all-powerful, present everywhere, just, fair, faithful, above us, with us, and the list could continue. One attribute of God that encompasses many of these is his holiness. God is a holy God. As we seek God, it is crucial that we are willing to shed our own ideas about God, as many of them may be wrong. We must begin building an understanding of God based on the foundation that he is a holy God. Holiness describes God’s uniqueness and moral purity. The Creator is different from everything else in all of creation. He does not think the way we think, or live the way we live, and he is beyond the full grasp and understanding of our finite minds. We sometimes wonder why God does this, or says that, or allows certain things to happen, and we quickly forget that God is not like us. God is completely different. God is also morally pure, right, and perfect 100% of the time. He never makes a mistake, never thinks an unwholesome thought, and never commits an indecent act. He is morally perfect. Read the following verses and write what they say about God’s holiness. Exodus 15:11 (OT) Habakkuk 1:13 (OT) (first half of verse) Numbers 23:19 (OT) Psalm 99:9 (OT) God’s holiness (his uniqueness and purity) reveals that God is the most amazing being anyone could ever imagine. Yet, this unique, different, and morally perfect God is the one who created us and desires to have a relationship with us. Who can understand this astonishing truth? It is one of the most humbling realizations we can ever grasp. This is the God who is revealing himself to you. The First Building Blocks of Understanding God The truths shared in this session are the first building blocks to our understanding of God. God is the creator of all things, he is a communicating God, and he is holy. While you may at times question the existence of God, question the reliability of the Bible, or simply refuse to become a follower of Christ, this study will give you the opportunity to investigate the claims of the 8
  9. 9. biblical gospel on your own. Perhaps you already are a follower of Christ and want to refine your thoughts and how you communicate your faith to others. Whatever your situation, this study will be an exciting journey for you! So what was discussed in this session that didn’t really make sense? Were there things that were hard to understand? Are there questions that come to mind that weren’t addressed in this session? Take a few minutes to write some of those thoughts down so we can address them as we move along this journey 9
  10. 10. Session Two One Human Race - One Common Problem Review the previous session. Write down one of the principles taught that you appreciated the most and explain why. Session one built around understanding God and seeking him. God is the ultimate authority in everything because he created everything. He stands independently and is superior to his creation. God is also a communicating God and communicates to man and woman in many ways. He wants to communicate and have a relationship with all people. If you were to think of a diamond for a second, it shines in many different ways. It’s impossible to see all of it at once. It also looks different depending on how many lights there are, how bright they are, where the lights are and how you are looking at it but it’s still a diamond. God is like this, his nature and character are multifaceted and eternal, but most any way you look at him, you see his holiness. God is different and unlike anything else in all of creation. He does not think, act, or live as we do. He is also morally pure and without fault. He is the only standard of absolute perfection. Since God is the creator of all things, and the ultimate authority of all things, he is also the creator of morality. He creates and communicates what is right and wrong. He did this at the very beginning of time with the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. Insight - While discovering things in the Bible, it can be helpful to look at it through your eyes and see how each situation may apply to you. For an example, let’s look at Genesis 2:9-17 (OT). Here God gives many liberties and one prohibition. What prohibition did he give them? From the beginning of time God created certain moral guidelines for men and women as a way of blessing and protecting them. At the same time he also gave man the freedom and the ability to follow these guidelines or to rebel and disregard them. When people follow his moral laws, he calls this obedience. When people depart and go against his moral laws, he calls this sin. We sin anytime we do anything that is not in line with God’s perfect, moral standard. With what knowledge you currently have of the Bible, are there areas in which you don’t follow God’s moral laws? If you don’t have an answer yet that’s okay, we’re going to spend this session looking at those exact things. 10
  11. 11. According to Genesis 3:1-6, what was Adam and Eve’s response to God’s moral standards? Sadly, all of us are too much like Adam and Eve. We get tempted by power, we desire things we shouldn’t, and we buy in to the lies of society and the lies of others. Living selfishly comes more naturally than living rightly for God. We are all sinful before God. Every Person in the World is Sinful Here are three of many verses that deal with sin and how sinful we are. What do these verses say about sin? I Kings 8:46 (OT) (First half of verse) Ecclesiastes 7:20 (OT) Romans 3:23 (NT) We could turn to many verses in the Bible which teach us that everyone sins. All of us can look at our own life experience and realize we are far from morally perfect. There is not one human on the face of the earth who is without sin. Sin is part of our very being. Sin comes so natural to us we often do not even realize it when we do sin. Sometimes, sin can even seem more appealing, at that time, than doing the right thing. Read Matthew 5:17-7:5 (NT) and notice the things many of us do naturally that Jesus calls sinful. Which of these actions did you not know were sinful? TEEN STORY - 15 year old “Life hasn’t been easy for me. I’m only 15 but have been through a lot of things people twice my age haven’t dealt with. In middle school, I wasn’t bad but people always spread rumors about me. Eventually, I couldn’t take the pain and pressure of school and my parents getting divorced so I started drinking ...a lot. It was one of the few places I could go where I didn’t have to worry about things. I just wanted to feel better. In high school, things didn’t get better. I was still drinking all the time and then it wasn’t making me feel good enough so I started smoking marijuana. I was at a party and some friends were doing cocaine so I did some too. eventually, I started crushing pills and snorting them. I was 11
  12. 12. completely out of control and even got checked in to a behavioral facility several times to get clean and get things straightened out. I saw the pain I was causing people, especially my mom, but I was more important. I was sick of felling this pain and the only way to deal with it was to try to forget it was there.” Because all people are sinful, we live in a sinful society. Write down some things about our society that reveals people are sinful. Because sin comes naturally for all people, it comes naturally for you as well. Write down some sins or some areas in your life that are not in line with God’s perfect standards (recognizing that we are sinful and being able to admit sins is crucial to the process of seeking God). This may seem uncomfortable to reveal ways in which we are sinful. It’s okay, as we move through this process, you will see just why this is such an important step. Allow your leader to share some of his/her sins particularly before becoming a follower of Christ. One Human Race There are many things in this world that divide people: racism, hatred, countries going to war against other countries, divorce, murder, stealing, etc. People are in conflict with each other all over the world. The Bible teaches us, however, that every single person on the earth is related to one another. We all come from the same family. Despite all the diversity in this world among people, there is only one race – the human race. We all come from the same original parents – Adam and Eve. Most people think there are significant differences among people in various countries and cultures of the world. This leads to various types of racial tensions. There are far more similarities, however, among all people in the world than there are differences. These similarities are why all people in every nation and culture sin. Everyone descended from the same original father and mother. The first two parents of the human race sinned; therefore, they produced a human family of sinners as well. This is why every person on the face of the earth sins. We are all in this world together because we are all related. Copy Genesis 3:20 (OT) 12
  13. 13. What does Acts 17:24-26 (NT) teach about the origin of the entire human race? Explain. The one man mentioned at the beginning of verse 26 is the first man created by God. This is Adam. As we saw at the beginning of this session (Genesis 3), the first two humans exercised their liberty and freedom to disobey God, and they sinned. Thus, they became sinful. Sinful humans cannot give birth to sinless children. When Adam and Eve sinned, they affected the entire human race. Copy Romans 5:12 (NT) This verse again states that all men and women are descendants of Adam and Eve and have inherited a sinful nature. Because sin is universal, and every person is a descendant of the same first family, there is nowhere we can go in all the earth to find an absence of sin. We can go to the far east, we can go to the far west, we can go to the far north, and we can go to the far south and yet we will never find one society, one tribe, one community, one family, or one human being who does not sin. Sin is universal in all places, for all people, at all times. We all have one common problem in this life, and it is called sin. The Bible gives us Ten Commandments. We’re going to get into them more on the following page but before we do, list as many of them as you can and when we go to the next page, we’ll see how you did. 13
  14. 14. How many of the Ten Commandments have you kept? Many people in our society today could not name even one or two of the Ten Commandments, much less all ten. In the Old Testament God gave his people Ten Commandments or laws that were reflective of his holy and pure character. Because God is a communicating God he wanted his people to know his moral standards. This is the purpose of the Ten Commandments. These commandments were moral standards that God wanted his people to follow. Many people today would assume they have upheld most of God’s Ten Commandments. However, the truth is that not many have kept any of the ten. How many have you kept (Exodus 20)? Commandment #1: Worship no gods but the true Creator God Anytime our supreme focus or supreme pleasure in life is anything other than serving and worshiping God, we have worshiped a false god. Examples of things we all too often worship or become exclusively focused on are: cars, houses, money, food, careers, girl/boyfriend, spouse, children, parents, approval of others, sports, hobbies, sex, power, etc. God is to be number one in our lives at all times and over all these things. Commandment #2: Do not worship a man-made idol God is spirit and cannot be contained within any physical object. We break this command anytime we bow down to a statue, pray to a picture, or worship an object. Because we cannot see God or understand his eternality, we have a tendency to want to portray him in some object or finite entity. Commandment #3: Do not misuse God’s name God takes his name very seriously. His name represents God himself. We are to never use his name in vain, improperly in jokes, or in any inappropriate ways. We are to always use his name with honor and reverence. Commandment #4: Remember the Sabbath In the OT God wanted his people to work six days and to not work on Saturday. Today God wants his people to spend one day in seven to worship him in a local church. Commandment #5: Honor Your Father and Mother Parents are always to be respected and honored because of the position God has given them in the family. Commandment #6: Do not murder This is premeditated murder. However Jesus says you have broken this commandment if you have rage and anger in your heart against another person (Matt. 5:21-22). Commandment #7: Do not commit adultery This is sexual immorality outside the bounds of marriage. However, Jesus says that if you have sexual or lustful thoughts in your mind for someone else you have broken this commandment (Matt. 5:27-28). 14
  15. 15. Commandment #8: Do not steal We are to never take something that does not belong to us. Commandment #9: Do not lie We are to tell the truth and be honest. Commandment #10: Do not covet We are not to secretly desire our neighbor’s car, spouse, clothes, body, income, or anything someone else has that we do not. Write down which commandments you have broken at some point in your life: The bottom line is that sin comes naturally for all people. There is one human race, coming from one original family, and we have one common problem: sin. How would you summarize this session in a few short sentences? 15
  16. 16. Session Three Coming to Grips with the Destiny of my Soul Review the previous session. Write down one of the principles taught that you appreciated the most and explain why. You and your friend are driving to the store. As you are driving, the driver in front of you doesn’t use his turn signal but moves into your lane and nearly crashes into you. You immediately feel a sense of rage, and you desire to yell out an obscenity to the careless driver. However, you are trying to look good in front of your friend, and so you use self-control and do not say anything. As you pass the car you realize it is a little old lady who is hunched over just like your own grandmother. You get to the store, and you are looking for a parking spot. You see a car pulling out of a close spot, and so you back off to let him out. Just as the car pulls out and leaves, another car comes right in and takes the spot. You are boiling mad inside, and you almost lose control of your anger. Yet again you withhold your comments. As you pass by you notice that the driver is handicapped, in a wheel chair, and all the handicap spots were full. The driver struggles to get out of his car and into the store. As you and your friend are walking into the store he is telling you this long story about something that happened to him last week. You are getting tired of listening to him and in your mind you are thinking, “I wish this guy would stop talking for at least five minutes. I should have gone to the store by myself and had some peace and quiet.” As he nears the end of his story he tells you that his parents just told him they are getting divorced. He breaks down in tears right in the store. Can you imagine what life would be like if everyone around us could read our mind? Would we be proud of our thoughts or would we be ashamed? Thoughts of jealously, rage, lust, anger, indifference, pride, arrogance, judgment, etc. come to our minds more times than we like to admit. We can hide our thoughts from other people, but our thought-lives truly reflect our hearts and character more than anything else. We can fake people out with our external words and actions, but we can never fake our thoughts. No one knows our thoughts except God and us. 16
  17. 17. Jesus addresses this issue of connecting our thought lives to the moral state of our heart. Explain in your own words what Jesus is teaching us in Mark 7:21-23 (NT). Would you be ashamed and embarrassed if everyone around you could read your mind? What if you had a bullhorn strapped to your head and it broadcast every thought you had! Does your thought life represent a heart of purity and innocence or sinfulness? What do your thoughts say about the state of your mind and heart before God? Explain. Jesus teaches us that our evil actions and our evil thoughts come from an evil and sinful heart. It is a heart problem. We learned from session two that our sinful disposition has been passed down from generation to generation since Adam and Eve, and that we pass our sinful nature down to our children as well. We are all born with a sinful heart and nature, and that is what causes our sinful thoughts, our sinful words, and our sinful actions. Do you ever get frustrated with yourself because of something you wished you would not have said? Do you ever regret doing something that you knew was wrong? Have you ever not done something you knew you should have? Give an example of something recently you did or said that you knew was wrong. Did you have a sinful thought before you sinned in word or deed? What were your thoughts before you sinned? Allow the leader to share a time when a sinful action that was preceded by a sinful thought. Based on session two and what we have learned so far in this session, can anyone claim that some people or even one person on this earth is without sin? What is the answer to the question raised in Proverbs 20:9 (OT)? 17
  18. 18. Let’s go back to one of the three building blocks of understanding God taught in session one. The God of this world is a holy God. He is different from anything else in all creation, and he is absolute moral perfection. Moral perfection, however, cannot tolerate moral imperfection. Habakkuk 1:13 says this about God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” God cannot tolerate or accept sin. God cannot be with something that separates us from him. God’s holiness and purity requires God’s justice. Justice says that sin demands punishment and judgment. Most people do not like laws when they get caught breaking them (e.g. speed limits, government regulations, paying taxes, etc.). On the other hand people recognize the need for laws and do enjoy the benefits of living in a nation of laws. How would you feel if a drunk driver was double the legal alcohol limit, was driving 30 miles over the speed limit, hit one of your best friends in your front lawn, and yet was not punished for his sinful and lawbreaking actions? Everyone recognizes we need laws in society to govern our sinful nature. Laws are given for our protection and give us boundaries in life. The same is true in the spiritual realm. God has established moral guidelines based upon his pure and sinless character, and he has prescribed judgment to lawbreakers. One of the things God taught Adam and Eve as he communicated moral boundaries and guidelines is that choices have consequences. Obedient choices lead to blessings, and sinful choices lead to punishment. What was the penalty God established in Genesis 2:16-17 because of disobedience and sin? The more we come to understand the character of God and how perfect, pure, and awesome he is, the more we realize how much he despises sin. God takes sin so seriously he communicated to Adam that sin must be punished with the ultimate price – death. Maybe you think that sounds harsh, a loving God wouldn’t send me to hell. Unlike life, when sometimes we can get away with it if we aren’t caught, there isn’t any escaping God. He is always around us, always has been and always will be. We are caught and just like Adam, there is punishment for our sinful choices. There are three types of death addressed in the Bible: spiritual, physical, and eternal. Spiritual death is the natural condition of man’s spiritual heart. Everyone born in the world is born with a sinful nature and is spiritually dead. Physical death is when the soul separates from the body. Eternal death is when the soul is judged to an everlasting place of judgment and punishment. God’s holiness and justice requires all three deaths because of sin. Summarize how the above explanation of the three types of death contradicts the common misconception that people are born with a right relationship with God and only spiritually die if they reject God or do something very wicked in life. 18
  19. 19. Because we are born with a sinful nature and already have a heart that is naturally selfish, small children do not need to be taught how to lie, how to steal, how to throw temper tantrums, how to be selfish, or how to disobey their parents. Children sin at a very early age because they are born with a sinful nature and a heart that is spiritually dead. The only thing that changes as they grow older is the degree of sin and amount of premeditation to sin. Adults are simply more sophisticated about sin than are children. What did David say about the sinful nature in Psalm 51:5 (OT). If everyone on the earth sins, and if the consequence and punishment of sin is ultimately eternal death in hell, does everyone deserve hell? Does hell even really exist? What is hell? How could a loving God send people to an eternal hell? Does sin really deserve that much punishment? What is your opinion about hell? Do you think it exists? Whom do you think God sends there? According to 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (NT) whom will God send to hell? How long will the punishment last and what will these people be shut out from? Although many may not acknowledge the reality of hell or may not fear hell, Jesus challenges these thoughts with his own words. Copy Matthew 10:28 (NT). Take a look at your life. Considering the choices you make, do you feel you fear God or man more? Explain your answer. 19
  20. 20. Do you acknowledge that based on your own sins of thoughts, words, and deeds you deserve the punishment of hell? Do you have a healthy fear of hell? Read Luke 16:19-31 and write down several observations you come to about the passage. Perspective from the Author “I have to admit that for a very long time I did not believe in hell, nor would I have ever considered that God could send me to hell. My beliefs about God and about this world were more based on my own opinions and experience rather than what some book said. Therefore, in my view of God, I could not accept a perfect being sending people to a place of judgment and pain forever and ever. To me this seemed to contradict a God of love and forgiveness. I remember having many arguments with other people about this. When people tried to convince me that the Bible teaches the reality of hell, they usually would not succeed. Because my opinion was more authoritative to me than the Bible, hell was not a part of my belief system. What I did not understand then is that our sin nature rebels against what God says is true. Again, I wanted to play the role of God (even though that is not the way I viewed it). God has ultimate authority in all of life, but if my opinion and beliefs override God’s, I have taken over his rightful place and have placed him beneath me. This is what I did in many areas of my life including my perspective on hell. “God, send me to hell? Yeah, right. I may not be perfect, but I am sure not that bad.” I was the authority, not God. My sin deceived me, and I had no true fear of God and certainly no fear of hell. I was spiritually dead and without a true relationship with God, and yet I did not even know it. I walked around thinking that I knew it all, and yet had I physically died prior to my new birth in Christ, I would have suffered eternal death. I did not believe in hell, and I had self- assurance that I had done nothing bad enough to deserve hell. In the end, however, God’s truth would have been a shocking and eternally devastating surprise to me.” How does Jesus say that some people will be tragically surprised on the Day of Judgment according to Matthew 7:21-23 (NT)? 20
  21. 21. It is interesting that many people talk about the glories of heaven but few ever contemplate the despair of hell. Have you ever heard, at a funeral, someone say “I know that this person is spending their days suffering in pain, grief, sorrow, and loneliness.” We often do not like to think about or meditate on that which is uncomfortable or negative. Who wants to think about people going to hell, or what hell will be like? While it is the natural inclination of man to not want to think about hell, it may be surprising to know that God talks more about hell in the Bible than he does about heaven. He also says that more people in this world will go to hell than they will heaven (Matt. 7:13-14 NT). Like it is stated above, hell will be a place of pain, grief, sorrow, loneliness, and there will be no relief. The worst truth about hell is that it will never end. What does Jesus say about hell in Mark 9:47-48 (NT)? Conclusion We sin any time we do or think something that does not reflect God’s perfect, moral character. We sin so much more often than we ever realize. Because God is holy, he has established a moral standard in this world that reflects him. God is a communicating God and has communicated in the Bible his standards as well as the consequences for breaking his most holy standards. The ultimate punishment for rebelling against God is an eternity in hell. God takes sin far more seriously than any of us do. In the end, it doesn’t matter if we think we have done nothing worthy of hell. The truth is that we all sin, rebel against God, and based on justice will be sentenced to hell. Only self-deceived people question the seriousness and utter depravity of their sinful nature. Your sin violates the law and character of a holy God and there is a high price to pay. You will pay with your life! You cannot escape the responsibility of your past sin, nor can you turn over a new leaf today and never sin again. Our sin places us in a desperate situation. However, God does have an answer to this massive problem. His answer will be communicated in the following two sessions. If you do not want to wait and are overburdened with your sin, or if you desire spiritual freedom today, go to the Summary page at the end of the study. There you can read about the way God has given you an opportunity to be forgiven, thus, changing the very destiny of your soul. We will never be able to fix something unless we know it has been broken. This session has taught you that something is very broken, and your sin is the reason it got that way. Please write down at least two questions or comments: 21
  22. 22. Session Four He would do that for Me? Review the previous two sessions on the issue of sin and write down at least one of the principles taught that had an impact on you the most and explain why. At this time allow your leader to verbally share one of the principles from the previous two sessions that most impacted him/her and why. When we study the nature of sin and we come to realize how often we sin in thought, word, or deed in everyday life, it usually brings a deeper sensitivity to our own sin. Name some ways you sinned this past week in thought, word, or deed. We learned in session three that due to God’s holiness and purity he judges sin with the ultimate price – death. This death is ultimately expressed in eternal death. Sin costs us both our life and our soul. We cannot live with God forever in eternity as sinners who rebel against God in thought, word, and deed. God’s justice requires death as the punishment of sin. Addressing Sin in the Old Testament Sin has been a huge part of our society ever since the first man and woman sinned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3 OT). Murder, rape, lying, stealing, prostitution, adultery, immorality, deception, rage, jealousy, greed, lust, hate, materialism (the need for “stuff”), and a love for everything but God has been around for as long as man has been on the earth. We cannot go to one community, tribe, or people group in the history of civilization and find these sins missing. God dealt with sinful and rebellious people thousands of years ago during the OT time period just as he deals with sinful and rebellious people like us in the 21st century. Although God’s holiness and purity lead to his justice and judgment, they also lead to his perfect love, mercy, and willingness to forgive. However, how could a morally perfect being like God forgive wicked and rebellious people and allow them to escape his justice? Wouldn’t this contradict his absolute holiness? The answer is found in one of the most amazing ideas communicated in the OT – substitution. 22
  23. 23. Substitution Substitution is the act of replacing someone or something with something else. Substitutions are common in sports. Coaches may take out a player and substitute that player with someone else. Substitutions are common in cooking. Maybe a recipe calls for butter, but you substitute margarine for it. Almost everyone grew up in school with an occasional substitute teacher. The substitute would teach on behalf of the permanent teacher. Substitutions are also common in the medical field as people donate their organs to others to help replace organs that are not functioning properly. In theater, the understudy sometimes substitutes in when the lead actor is sick or injured. Everyone in society experiences the idea of substitution in various forms. In the OT God spiritually used the idea of substitution in the area of punishing sin. Because God is holy and because people sin, God’s justice requires death for sin. However, God punished people’s sins by death through an act of substitution to fall upon innocent animals in the place of guilty men and women. A person would come to God’s altar with a lamb or some other type of acceptable animal, and he would first lay his hands on the head of the animal. This symbolized a transferring of sin from the guilty to the innocent. God spiritually and symbolically allowed a person’s sin to transfer onto the animal. The innocent animal became a substitute for the guilty sinner, and the animal would then be put to death. If this was done with true faith in God, God would forgive the sinner, and he would escape the punishment of sin. Because there was death, God’s holiness and justice were not compromised. Sin had been rightly punished. Throughout the OT animal sacrifices were made to account for sin, and thus through faith, people could escape God’s judgment for sin and receive the forgiveness of God. This act of substitution gave people hope that a relationship with God, both temporarily on earth and eternally in heaven, was possible. What does Leviticus 4:28-29 (OT) say? What are some of your thoughts about the idea of putting animals to death as a substitute for judging people’s sins? In the NT, we find out that the OT way of sacrificing to cover our sins wasn’t enough. What does Hebrews 10:1-4 say about this? 23
  24. 24. While it is true that animals for humans are an unequal substitution, finding an equal substitution has many problems. According to God’s character of holiness and justice sin will be punished with death and ultimately eternal death. However, because every human sins and deserves punishment, there are no innocent humans who could act as a substitute for someone else. Substituting an innocent man for a guilty man is impossible for there are no innocent men. For example, you could not be judged in the place of a family member or friend and pay for their sins. You could not become a substitute for someone else and take on their sin because you have your own sin that must be judged. It was not difficult to find animals that were innocent, but where can innocent humans be found? Finding innocent humans who could be put to death as substitutes for guilty humans is impossible because innocent humans do not exist. God did allow the transfer of sin from people to lambs and other animals as a temporary means of substitution and forgiveness in the OT. However, this was simply a foreshadowing of the ultimate lamb that would take away the sins of the world. God had a plan and an answer to a more permanent sacrifice and substitution for sin. Write down what John the Baptist said when Jesus first began his ministry on earth in John 1:29 (NT) INSIGHT - This is one example of how Jesus changed things. Although it may seem like the Bible is saying two different things, it’s not. Jesus came to establish a new way of doing things. He was that way. There are many times that the OT says one thing and the NT says something that seems to go against it. Because Jesus came, the old way of doing things changed and a new way was established. Countless innocent lambs were put to death in the OT as a means of judging sin. Sin requires death, and the ultimate death is the punishment of eternal hell. Many worshippers of God in the OT were spared God’s punishment because in faith their sin was transferred to innocent animals. When these innocent animals were put to death, people’s sins were forgiven. All of these innocent animals pointed to the one and only perfect sacrifice – the Lamb of God. When Jesus was put to death on the cross it was a substitutionary death. On the cross God punished Jesus, his one and only son, for the sins of others. Because there were no innocent humans on the earth who could become a substitute for sin, Jesus came to fulfill this purpose. Jesus left Heaven, became a man, lived a perfect and sinless life, and became the only candidate in the history of the world who could become that human for human substitution. If Jesus was willing, and he was, he could allow guilty sinners to transfer their sin onto him. Jesus died on the cross as the punishment for the sins of others. The entire OT sacrificial system was based on substitutionary death through innocent animals. It was God’s plan, however, from the beginning of time that Jesus would be put to death as God’s ultimate lamb. 24
  25. 25. Read I Peter 3:18 (NT) and notice the language used to describe this substitution. According to the verse, for whom did Christ die and for what purpose? Here are some questions that maybe you’ve heard or thought about. Put a check beside the ones you’ve thought about. • Was the death of Christ really necessary? • Couldn’t God forgive people’s sins without sacrificing his only son on the cross? • Is sin really that bad? • Can’t we have a relationship with God our own way? • Can’t we just believe in God and try to be a good person? • Will God really send people to hell apart from a substitutionary death? • Won’t his love and goodness cover over our failures? • What if I believe in another religion apart from Jesus? • Will God really judge me? • Isn’t it arrogant to suggest that Jesus is the only way to God? • What about all the religions of the world that do not adhere to the substitutionary death of Christ? • Are you going to tell me they are all wrong, and God will judge all of them to hell? • Can’t I simply try to follow God’s universal law in life by treating others the way I want to be treated? • Is there another way apart from the death of Christ? • Jesus was a good example for all people, but did his death really accomplish something eternally significant? • Is all this really that necessary? To answer the above questions, record John 14:6 (NT) and Galatians 2:21 (NT). These passages teaches us a very important truth about the crucifixion of Christ: if there is another way to God or another way to be forgiven and escape hell apart from this substitutionary death, Jesus died for nothing. If Jesus is not the only way to God, and if his death was not required for people to be restored back to God, his blood was wasted. Jesus is the only way to God. In Matthew 16:21-28 (NT) Jesus began to prepare his disciples with the truth that it was necessary for him to go to the cross and be crucified to save people from their sins. There was 25
  26. 26. no other way. One of the most outspoken apostles, Peter, challenged this notion that this was necessary and told Jesus he would not allow him to be murdered on a cross. Read Matthew 16:21-28 (NT) and record Jesus’ response to Peter. The death of Christ on the cross was the most horrific event in human history. Jesus, the Son of God, the only perfect and sinless person to ever walk this earth was crucified on a cross and put to shame – the guilty punishing the innocent. If there were another way to restore sinners to God, Jesus certainly would have chosen a different way. The night Jesus was betrayed he spent time in prayer to the Father regarding the anguish over his eventual crucifixion. He was dreading the cross as he would take on the sins of the world and suffer the wrath of God against sin. In his turmoil he communicated his deep struggle with facing the cross but then said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Read Luke 22:41-44 (NT) and describe the anguish of Christ regarding the cross. Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t by accident. Jesus did not go through the agony of crucifixion so that he could become one of many different roads to heaven. If there were other roads to Heaven, Jesus would have pointed you to those roads. Jesus took on the sins of the world and died in your place, as your substitute. God’s holiness and justice will not allow your sin to go unpunished. Either you will pay for your sins, or God will punish someone else for your sin. The only substitute in the history of the world who is qualified to take on that punishment in your place is a man named Jesus – the Lamb of God. Write down some thoughts or questions about the truth that Jesus went to the cross to do what no one else could do – become a substitute and take on God’s wrath and judgment against your sin. 26
  27. 27. Session Five Experiencing a Beautiful and Perfect Love Love is a very strange word in our society. People get married because they love each other. People get divorced because they no longer love each other. Many times people hurt the very people they love. People love their children, love their families, love their dogs (which is different from puppy love), love pizza, love basketball, love TV shows, and love to be loved. We even talk about love being in the air. Love, love, love – everyone is looking for love. God is said to be a God of love. How can we understand God’s love when we have so many different versions of love here on earth? What does pure love, untainted by sin, look like? Have you ever experienced love without even a hint of self-interest? The love of God is unique to anything we have ever experienced on earth. God’s love is the only pure and genuine love this world has ever seen. God’s love is the deepest and most amazing love known to man. When men, women, and children understand and experience the love of God, they are never the same. It is a love that is life changing. Biblical Worldview As we start the second half of this study we are beginning to form a biblical worldview regarding all of life. Some truths taken from a biblical worldview are the following: • God is the creator and authority over the entire universe. • God is holy. (pure and different from anything else in creation) • God has created morality and has determined some things to be right and some things to be wrong. • God’s holiness and purity cause his justice and punishment of everything that is sinful or impure. • God is a communicating God and has spoken to his creation of men and women through his written word. (the Bible) • Every person is born with a sinful nature, and this is why we commit wrongful acts in thought, word, and deed. • The punishment of sin is death. (spiritually, physically, and eventually eternally in hell) Which of these biblical truths do you feel like you understand? Take a few minutes to talk about them with your mentor. Which of these biblical truths would you like to grasp in a deeper way? Explain why. 27
  28. 28. Allow your leader to express which truth he or she would like to grasp in a deeper way and why. So what is a biblical worldview? It isn’t simply knowing and agreeing to the above facts. It’s when a person lives out what he knows is biblically true and when we look at life the way God looks at it. The above list isn’t complete but simply showing the beginning stages of developing a biblical worldview. We come now to another important piece in developing this worldview, and that is the love and mercy of God. While God’s holy character certainly leads to judging and punishing all sin, God’s character of love, mercy, and grace gives a true and real hope to each person in the world. The reality of hell is a scary thought to all. The hope of heaven and an eternal relationship with God is everyone’s desire. It is only by God’s love and grace that anyone will escape hell and enter an eternal relationship with God in heaven. We learned in the last session that God the Father was willing to punish his only Son, Jesus, in our place as a substitute, so that we can escape God’s eternal judgment. We can have a right relationship with God both on this earth and forever in eternity through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Why was Jesus willing to go through the torture of a crucifixion when he committed no sins? Why was he willing to leave the perfect environment of heaven and accept the judgment of God? Why would he come here to be abused, mistreated, beaten, tortured, and eventually murdered? Why would he take the punishment that you and I deserve? He did this because he loves. He loves like no other. Jesus loves you like no one else has ever loved you because Jesus is not only God’s son, he is God himself. INSIGHT - This idea can be difficult to grasp. I remember going over this with a group of students when all of the sudden, a student cocked his head to the side and interrupted. “Wait a minute, that doesn’t make sense ...how can Jesus be God and man? It’s not possible for Jesus to be 100% God and 100% man ...that’s 200%” Don’t be embarrassed to say that you don’t understand this idea. Take time to go through the next few pages a little slower if you need to. Jesus is both God and Man While there are many passages of Scripture that teach Jesus is God, let’s look at two: Colossians 1:15-20 is a brief description of Jesus. Write down all the characteristics of Christ in this passage that could only be true of God. 28
  29. 29. According to Revelation 1:8 how does God describe himself? The Alpha and Omega are the beginning and ending letters of the Greek alphabet. God is saying that he is both the beginning and the end, in all of life. According to Revelation 22:13 how does Jesus describe himself? Jesus was not only God’s son; he was literally God in the flesh. There is one God in the universe, but he is revealed in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Does that make sense to you?) God is three in one. It is important to remember that God is holy and different from anything else in creation. God is infinite and beyond complete human understanding. Understanding God as three in one is impossible for finite minds to grasp. Many people think God created Jesus or that God and Jesus are different. God the Father and God the Son are different, but they are both God. When Jesus left heaven, became a man, and walked this earth, people interacted with God himself. When Jesus talked with his fellow Jews and made statements to them revealing himself as God, they often picked up stones to kill him for blasphemy (e.g. John 5:16-18, 8:54-50 NT). This is also why Colossians chapter one says that Jesus was the creator of all things. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all involved in the creation because they are God in one. Finite minds cannot understand three in one, but our limited minds cannot understand many things in the universe that are true (e.g. infinity in mathematics, the boundaries of the universe in physics, the complexity of the human brain in biology, etc.) If we could understand everything about God or completely grasp him, he would no longer be infinite, and he would no longer be God. God reveals himself as both three in one. Jesus is God. The amazing thing about God the Son, which is not true about God the Father or God the Spirit, is that Jesus became man. When the Virgin Mary conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit, the eternal creator took on the finite body of flesh. Jesus became the God-man. For the first time in history Jesus the Son experienced bodily growth, aging, hunger, physical pain, thirst, tiredness, and even physical death. What does Philippians 2:5-11 (NT) teach about Jesus’ willingness to become man? Jesus did what no one else could do. Jesus died in the place of others and suffered the punishment for their sins. As we said before, everyone else in the world has his or her own sin that requires punishment. No other human could die in your place. Either God’s holiness and justice would punish every person in the world to hell due to sin, or God himself would come to 29
  30. 30. earth and take on this judgment himself in the place of sinful man. The Father asked the Son to accomplish this task, and the Son willingly came. Throughout Jesus’ time on earth, he stated that he came to do the will of his Father. His entire purpose as the God-man was to live the perfect and sinless life as a man, and then willingly place himself on the altar to be slaughtered as God’s own sacrificial lamb. Jesus became the perfect and only mediator between God and man. Copy 1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NT). Why would God the Father send God the Son to die in our place? If every person is impure and tainted by evil and sin, why doesn’t God simply judge everyone to hell? We certainly do not deserve to be forgiven. If we receive what we deserve, we would receive judgment. God’s grace, however, paves the way for the possibility that we could receive what we do not deserve – eternal life in heaven with God. God owes heaven to no one, but his mercy and grace creates this possibility and reality. God sent Jesus, and Jesus was willing to come because of love. God’s motive was based on a love we have never experienced from other men and women on this earth. God’s motive was based on a love that is pure and eternal. John 3:16 (NT) is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. How does it prove that God’s motive was based on love? Read and reflect on Romans 5:6-10 (NT). Which aspect of this passage stands out to you the most and why? Allow your leader to share what aspect of this verse strikes him/her the most and explain why. God’s character is compassionate, merciful, patient, kind, good, gentle, caring, understanding, forgiving, and based on a love that is deeper than the seas and higher than the heavens. God is more loving and forgiving than any of our minds can grasp. It is this loving character combined with his holy justice and punishment that led Jesus to the cross. The event of Christ’s crucifixion highlights both God’s justice and his love as God poured out his wrath on Jesus for sin, and as Jesus willingly accepted that wrath in love. 30
  31. 31. How does the cross of Christ represent both God’s wrath and hatred of sin, as well as God’s amazing love? Why is God so interested in me? If I sin so often in my thoughts, in my words, and in my deeds, and if I have a nature that rebels against God and his authority in my life, why would Jesus love me enough to die in my place? Why would he suffer and take on my punishment? Why does God love me so much? Why would he be willing to forgive me through Christ? God has a genuine interest in every person in this world because he is intimately involved in the creation of every individual. God creates no two people the same. We are all different, and yet we are all created by the same God. Whether we are Asian, African, Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American, male, female, tall, short, rich, or poor we all come from the same Creator God, and we are all related. Because God created each of us uniquely, he knows us better than we even know ourselves. What do these verses say about how well God knows us? • Psalm 119:73a (OT) • Deuteronomy 32:6b (OT) • Psalm 139:1-18 (OT) One of the reasons that God knows us so well is that everything in life is within his presence. There is no place we can go where we can hide from God. God is always with us and knows everything we do, even before we do it. God is interested in us, even though we sin against him, because he created us and he loves us. Fathers and mothers love their children even though their children do not always obey them. Parents will punish their children for wrong behavior, but they never stop loving them. A parent spends years and years raising their children. There is a bond there that is not easily broken. Of course sin can easily damage that bond and cause division and pain between parent and child. Maybe you or someone you know has personally dealt with this pain. God the Father isn’t a reflection of our parents but our parents should be a reflection of God. Don’t allow an imperfect and sinful parent keep you from who God really is. While it is true that God creates each person intimately, one does not become a true son or daughter of God until our sin is removed at spiritual birth. Sin separates us from God, but God 31
  32. 32. is always initiating a relationship with us. God has created every individual to worship him and glorify him. God created us to love him back. God’s Purpose for Men and Women These are tough years in your life. Not only are you trying to figure out who you are and what you are doing on this earth, You’re probably dealing with other people who are dealing with the same things. Maybe the friends you had when you were a freshman aren’t anywhere in your life now. Maybe there’s a guy or girl you really want to be with, but deep down you know it isn’t right or maybe you’ve been at a party and know that if you just do what everyone else is doing, you’ll be in that group. It’s tough. I’m sure you’ve heard of a mid-life crisis it’s the same thing. Many people struggle in life with purpose no matter what age they are. Why am I here? What am I to be doing in life? What is my purpose or mission in life? When we begin to develop a biblical worldview we start to look at life the way God looks at it. When we do this, we see that God has created all of us to love, worship, and glorify him. Everything in life is for God’s glory. God loves us because this brings him praise and glory. How much easier would things be if you could make all of your decisions based on a biblical worldview? By easier, I don’t mean the actual choice when you need to make it, but many of the other things like consequences, keeping your stories straight, figuring our which “version of you” you need to be with each group of people in your life. Read the following verses and write what they mean for you and your life: • Psalm 34:3 (OT) • Psalm 63:3 • Psalm 69:30 • Psalm 86:12 God the Father loves you and desires to have a relationship with you. He loves you so much he was willing to punish his son in your place. His willingness to do that should tell you the seriousness of your sin and the depth of his love. He created you to worship him, to love him, and to glorify him in everything you do. This is God’s world, and he wants everything in life focused on him. We fall very short of fulfilling our purpose on this earth, but God can change that. God can change us through the power of his Holy Spirit. In the next session we will see what we must do to be forgiven of God, to transfer our sin to Jesus on the cross, and to begin giving him the glory he deserves in our lives. God has been involved in our lives before we even had our first thought, and he has been there ever since. His desire is that we will worship him in spirit and truth (John 4:23 NT). Are you a true worshipper of Christ? Have you responded to his love? Are you fulfilling God’s purpose for your life? Where would we be without the love of God? God’s love is truly amazing! 32
  33. 33. Session Six How do I Begin a Relationship with God? Go over Session Five and write down a question, or make some comments, about at least one principle taught in that session. Allow your leader to make some comments about at least one principle taught in session five. In the last five sessions we have learned a great deal about God, ourselves, and about why Jesus died on the cross 2000 years ago. We come now to the personal application of what this biblical worldview means to sinful people like us. If every person is sinful, and yet God’s character of justice punishes sin, is everyone in the world going to hell? If Jesus was put to death as a substitute for the entire world, does God forgive everyone? Is everyone going to heaven? If some people are going to hell, and some are going to heaven, what will be the deciding factor? If some people do go to heaven and others too hell, is there anything that I can do that will assure me that when I die I will not be eternally punished for my sin but will go to heaven? I know I have sin, and I know that I deserve hell, but what must I do to be saved? This question, “What must I do to be saved,” is the most penetrating question of this study. It is the most penetrating question in all of life. It is God’s desire that every person in the world raise this question at some point in his/her life. Jesus came to the earth to reveal and fulfill the answer to this most crucial question in life. Write down Acts 16:30 (NT). The gospel of Christ is the message of how to be saved and forgiven. Jesus’ death on the cross was not the completion of his payment for people’s sins, however. It was the resurrection of Christ three days after he was buried that completed his substitution on the cross. The foundation of the gospel message is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. According to I Corinthians 15:3-4 (NT) what are the three components of the gospel? According to 1 Corinthians 15:17 (NT), could Jesus save us from our sins apart from his resurrection? Jesus came to this earth to save us from our sins. There are many things people do to attempt to get right with God or go to heaven when they die. They try to clean up their life, they try to 33
  34. 34. love people more, they try to read and obey the Bible, they try to get back in church, they try to get more religious, etc. Some of these things are good, but none of them will remove any of our sin. Removing all sin is the only way you can have a true relationship with God and go to heaven when you die. Jesus has done all the work for us, but he does command us to do two things. God will transfer our sins onto Jesus, just like OT people transferred their sin to innocent animals, if we repent of our sin and place our faith in Jesus. Repentance and faith become the two essential keys to the forgiveness of God. There is nothing we can do to transfer our sin to Christ except repent of our sin and believe in Christ. God forgives us of all sin at our conversion to Christ. Conversion takes place when you repent and place faith in Christ. A Personal Reflection from the Author “I was not converted to Christ until I was 21 years old. I was living in London, England as a foreign exchange student in college. One of my good friends had recently been converted to Christ, but I thought he was just on a religious kick. We were former party buddies, and he certainly lived as sinfully as I did. All of a sudden he supposedly found Jesus. I was very skeptical and considered it a phase. At the same time, I began to sense a stirring in my own mind and heart about the things of God. I began asking questions like: Is the Bible really from God or from man? Do heaven and hell really exist? Are there many religions that are true, or is Christ really the only truth? Do I really want to become a Christian? The word Christian conjured up many negative thoughts to me. Did I really want to make major changes in my life and become a follower of Christ? While I asked myself these questions I knew that if I became convinced that the Bible was true, I would devote my entire life to Christ. I became almost an investigator as I contemplated these questions. As a philosophy major I engaged my fellow students and professors in these questions. I had never been a church attender so I started to visit various churches on my quest for finding the truth. I even talked to various pastors about my questions. I remember sitting in the home of one pastor in London. I had a list of questions for him and told him that I desperately wanted to find the truth. I wanted to either follow Christ as my God or cast him aside as simply another man-made religion. I will never forget his response as we sat in his office. He told me that as a 21-year-old, I was very young and had my whole life to search for these answers. He told me to not be so persistent in finding answers right away and encouraged me to take my time. That satisfied me for about a day, but then my urgency returned the next day. One day after a series of interesting incidences, I asked my host family in England if they had a Bible. They dusted one from off their shelf and gave it to me. I began reading the book of Matthew that night. For the first time my eyes were open, and I truly repented of my sin and believed in Christ. Tears began to roll down my cheek as I read about Jesus. I had read the Bible a few times before and had heard the stories, but it never impacted me. God had touched 34
  35. 35. my heart. Although many changes did not take place overnight, I began the journey of becoming a follower of Christ. I was converted to Christ. Although I did not understand this at the time, at that moment when I repented and believed in Christ, all my sin left me and was spiritually placed on the cross. God removed all my rebellion, all my past wicked behavior, and all my sins of thought, word and deed. He removed all my past sins and all my future sins. For the first time in my life, I was cleansed, and I began a true relationship with my creator. I was now a convert and follower of Christ.” Allow your leader to share his/her story of conversion. Because people are born spiritually dead with a sinful nature, one must experience a conversion to Christ to be saved from sin. Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world. His substitutionary death is sufficient to pay for the sins of every person in the world, but it only works for those who are converted to him. Conversion to Christ takes place when you repent of sin and place faith in Christ. Read Acts 20:21 (NT) and Hebrews 6:1 (NT) and write down the two ingredients to conversion to Christ. Repentance INSIGHT - Repentance is a heart change toward sin. Repentance is a true sorrow for wrong and a desire to turn away from that wrong. Let’s take an example. Suppose you have to fill out a time card at work everyday. Suppose you are required to be at work from 8:00 to 5:00. However, lately you have been arriving about 8:15 and leaving about 4:45. Yet on your time card you continue to mark down that you are arriving at 8:00 and leaving at 5:00. Obviously this is lying, stealing from your employer, and your deception is sin against God. You don’t really worry about it because your supervisor is rarely around at those times and many other people in the company do it as well. However, a fellow coworker tells you that someone just got caught lying on their time card and was immediately fired. You get scared, and so you start reporting accurately. You changed your behavior, but repentance never took place in the heart. Fear of getting caught changed your behavior. Over time your concern over getting caught fades, therefore, you begin lying on your time card again. Then one day out of the blue you become very ashamed of your behavior, and you recognize this is not only sin against your employer but more importantly, it is sin against God. You sense a deep sorrow in your heart for committing this sin, and you are sickened by your own deception. You think to yourself, “How could I do this and have a clear conscience?” Your deep sorrow over what you have done not only leads you to change your behavior immediately and commit to honesty from this point forward on your time card, but it compels you to confess your sin to your supervisor (realizing it may cost you your job). This inner change of heart regarding sin is the nature of repentance. Repentance is a deep sorrow for sin and a desire to turn away from that sin. When it comes to conversion to Christ this repentance in heart is over your entire life of sin. It is an acknowledgment that you have not followed Christ and that you have repeatedly sinned against God in thought, word, and deed. You also desire to turn from that sinful and selfish 35
  36. 36. lifestyle and begin following God. Repentance is an inner change in the heart, and it is necessary to receive God’s forgiveness in Christ. What do these verses say about repenting? • Matthew 4:17 (NT) • Matthew 21:31-32 (NT) • Acts 17:30 (NT) Repentance is a heart issue. Repentance is not an action; it is a state of the heart and state of the will. Genuine repentance from the heart then leads to changed behavior. Once I become repentant in my heart, that repentance leads to changes in my life. The change in behavior shows that true repentance has taken place in the mind and heart. You can have a change in behavior but not have repentance (see the above illustration of the worker who stopped lying because of fear of getting caught), but you cannot have true repentance without it expressing itself in changed behavior. What does the second half of Acts 26:20 (NT) say on the nature and fruit of repentance? If you want to transfer all your sin to Christ and accept his substitutionary death for you, and if you want to be forgiven of all your sin by God, you must repent of your sinful lifestyle. There must be a change in your heart regarding your way of life and a desire to walk a different life with Christ as your leader. You don’t have to change your behavior (that will come later) but your heart must change. This repentance, along with faith in Christ, is the means of your conversion and forgiveness. Faith in Christ While repentance is a heart and mind issue, faith in Christ is a heart and mind issue as well. You have never seen Jesus, you were not there when he was crucified, you never saw him walk on water, and no one can prove to you beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Bible is true. No one can prove that Jesus is God, that his substitutionary death and resurrection really can take away all your sin, and no one can prove that if you believe in him and follow him you will go to heaven when you die. You have to believe in Christ and believe these things based on faith, not logical proofs. God the Father forgives us and pours out his grace and mercy on us when we place our life-changing faith in his son, Jesus Christ. Jesus did it all for us, but we must place our faith in him to receive the benefit from his crucifixion on the cross. Faith is being convinced of what cannot be proven, but God does not call us to blind faith. There is a difference between reasonable faith and blind faith. Faith is only as dependable as what you’re putting faith in. Although reason and experience can never save us, faith is almost always preceded by reason and experience. Let’s look at a couple of examples. When you go 36
  37. 37. home tonight and sit at the kitchen table, you have faith that the kitchen chair will hold you. It is possible your chair could break as you sit down on it, but you exercise faith. Is that faith based on reason and experience? Yes it is. The chair is made from quality wood and is in good shape. Therefore, it makes good sense that it will not break anytime soon. Reason says the chair is reliable. Every time you have sat in that chair in the past you have been supported, and you have never noticed any problems with any of the legs. Your faith in the chair is based on good reason and experience. Nonetheless, it is still faith. It could break. However, if you had recently noticed a separation in one of the legs or if the chair was very old and began to feel wobbly, your faith in the chair might not be as strong. Maybe you would doubt the reliability of the chair. Faith is only as dependable as its object. God has given us good common sense, and we are to use good sense in determining the dependability in the object of our faith. When we drive home at night on a two-lane road we also have faith that the oncoming car will not cross the center line and cause a collision. Again, the dependability of this faith is dependent on many factors that reason and experience help us evaluate. Is it late at night? Is the driver a neighbor who often drinks and drives? How is the weather? Is it foggy? What is the speed of the oncoming car? Faith in Christ is not a blind faith. It is based on reason and experience. Is the Bible reliable? Did Jesus even exist? Does believing in God make sense, or does atheism make better sense? Are people really changed by Christ, are other religions more convincing? These kinds of questions are not opposed to faith; they are simply precursors to faith. At the end of the day one must realize that no amount of logic, reason, experience, or proofs will remove all possibility of doubt. Can we prove that God created this world and that it was not just a cosmic fluke? No, this requires faith. However, this makes far more sense than the notion that everything in the world is simply here coincidently by a cosmic explosion. Faith that Christ is true must take place in the heart. It is faith based on good reason, but nonetheless, it is still faith. What do these two verses say about this? • Hebrews 11:1(NT) • Ephesians 2:8-9(NT). Here we are told that we are saved from our sins by God’s grace. He doesn’t have to save us, and his holy justice requires the punishment of our sin. However, his mercy and grace allows us to be free from our sin because Jesus paid for it on the cross. He took the punishment. The only way we access God’s grace in Christ is through faith. This is not just faith in anything, but this is faith in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. Once we place our faith in Jesus and commit in our hearts to follow him, at that moment we are converted (even before we do one godly act). We are then cleansed from all sin. Our faith in Christ removes our sins, places them on the cross, and we are forever cleansed from guilt. We cannot boast and talk about all the godly things we have done or all the changes we have made in our lives. God does not take away our sin because of what we try to do. It is only by faith in Christ that God forgives us. 37
  38. 38. This repentance in the heart and turning to Christ in faith is the only means to our conversion. It is the only way we can be saved from hell and the consequences of our sin. The fruit of our conversion will be a changed lifestyle, but our conversion takes place in the heart before any life changes. Now that you understand God, the seriousness of your sin, and the gospel of repentance and faith in Christ, God calls you today to repent and turn to Christ in faith. He loves you and desires a relationship with you both on this earth and in heaven for eternity. He has provided a way for you. Jesus did what no one else could ever do – die in your place. However, you must repent of your sin and place your life changing faith in Christ to receive this eternal forgiveness. If you sense this change and repentance in your heart confess Jesus today as your Savior. Accept this grace while the offer is still there. You do not know what tomorrow brings. Will you repent today and turn to Christ, or will you reject him and put him off? Simply pray, telling God how sorry you are for your sins and your desire to follow Jesus. Make today your day of forgiveness! 38
  39. 39. Session Seven How can I Know where My Relationship with God Stands? Explain the idea of repentance from Session Six. Explain the idea of faith in Christ from Session Six. The Bible says that many people in this world think they are Christians, think they are followers of Christ, or think they are going to heaven when they die but will be tragically surprised on the Day of Judgment. What will Jesus say to many on that Day according to Matthew 7:21-23 (NT)? Just because someone claims to be a follower of Christ, or believes he has been converted, does not mean true conversion has taken place. There is no greater tragedy than for someone to think they have been forgiven when indeed they have not. Churches in this country are full of professing believers in Christ who are deceived and are no more converted than the atheist off the street. Church people can often be more self-deceived than non-church people. The reality is that most people in the world, whether churched or not, believe in some sort of deity or god. Most people believe they are going to a better place when they die. This is a universal truth seen in most religions and most people groups throughout the world. Therefore, each of us must do whatever we can to protect ourselves from this deadly, spiritual self-deception. If I fooled myself about my eternal destiny I want to be the first to find out, and I want to make sure I find out before it is too late. There are many passages of Scripture that communicate how we can know if we have come to Christ. There are many passages that reveal the external evidences of true conversion to Christ. As we learned last session true conversion to Christ is a matter of the heart and mind. Salvation in Christ comes through repentance and faith. These are two things that are inward experiences and cannot be outwardly seen. However, there are external evidences that reveal whether an inward conversion has taken place or not. 39
  40. 40. The Bible teaches genuine repentance of sin and true faith in Christ always leads to changed behavior and a changed lifestyle. It does not lead to a sinless life, but it does lead to a life of obedience to Christ. One of the first outward evidences of genuine conversion is a profession or confession of Christ. Write down Romans 10:10 (NT). Here God makes a connection between the inward and the outward. A change or belief takes place in the heart, and the mouth confesses that change or belief. Therefore, when someone is converted to Christ in the heart, he/she will then confess Jesus Christ as Savior. The challenge, however, is that many people in this world do confess Jesus Christ as Savior but have never experienced a true conversion to Christ in the heart. Repentance and genuine faith have not occurred. As we will see in this session a major distinction between a self-deceived, professing Christian and a true follower of Christ is lifestyle. A true believer will live for Christ and grow spiritually, and a false believer will profess but live like the rest of the world. Here are several reasons why many people may think they are Christians, but because their lifestyle does not reflect it are still unconverted: • They grew up going to church and have a biblical foundation • They go to church on a regular basis now • They believe in the Bible • They believe in Jesus • They responded to an invitation to become a Christian at a church service • They said they were sorry for their sins and asked Jesus to be their Savior • They try to treat others the way they want to be treated • They try to do the right thing in life • They believe in God • They believe they have done nothing bad enough to prevent them from going to heaven There are many more reasons people believe they are Christians and believe they will go to heaven when they die. Many of the above beliefs or practices are good and even biblical; however, none of them on their own guarantee true conversion to Christ has taken place. Repentance of sin, and faith in Christ, are the necessary ingredients to a true conversion in the heart. Many people in our society grew up believing in Jesus or had an experience where they prayed, asking Jesus to be their Savior. Even these are not assurances that genuine conversion has taken place in the heart. Churches today are filled with professing Christians who are as spiritually lost as anyone else in the world. What criteria does the Bible use to show us the difference between a professing Christian and a possessing Christian? How can I be protected against my own self-deception? The following passages will communicate one of the major distinguishing factors. Read Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (NT). Jesus teaches his disciples a parable about what happens when people hear the gospel and the message of God’s forgiveness in Christ. Some people just do not understand the gospel. Others understand it but are not interested. Some people 40
  41. 41. receive it, and make a profession of faith, but later fall away and revert back to their old lifestyle. However, some people receive the gospel, truly repent and place faith in Christ, and experience a changed life over time. Read this passage and summarize the teaching of this parable in your own words. Read James 2:14-26 (NT). What message is God communicating in this passage about the relationship between faith and deeds? One of the examples given in the passage is that some people believe in God, and therefore, think this is sufficient for God to forgive them. Is belief in facts about God enough? Copy the answer given in verse 19. What we see in these passages is that the difference between a true follower of Christ and one who professes Christ but is self-deceived in lifestyle. Deeds, fruit, a changed life, works, etc. all refer to the outward lifestyle of a professing believer. Can a person be genuinely converted and yet not worship him consistently in church, never seek him through personal reading of the Bible, not talk about him to others, not pray to him regularly, not be continually convicted of sin and repenting of it, not love others selflessly, not desire others to become Christians, and not desire to obey him in life? Can a person be genuinely converted to Christ and morally blend in with the rest of the world? Can a person repent of sin and yet never change? The answer according to the Bible is no? Looking at the outward life helps indicate if an inward conversion has taken place. Followers of Christ do, in fact, follow Christ in life. This is what follower means. True converts of Christ still sin and are certainly not perfect, but there is a lifestyle difference between the authentic and the deceived. True conversion to Christ leads to an overall lifestyle change of obedience. Read I John 2:3-6 (NT). This passage is addressing the question, “How do I know if I have come to know Christ (how do I know if I have been genuinely converted)?” What is the answer according to verse 3? Obedience to Christ is the evaluating marker. The Bible teaches us that genuine conversion to Christ through repentance and faith is an inward transformation of the heart. God changes your heart when you are converted to him. This is something we cannot see, but the moment 41
  42. 42. God transforms our heart, that is the moment we are forgiven, cleansed, and assured heaven when we die. Even though we cannot see this inward transformation what we do see over time is a lifestyle change that reflects a new love for God. While new believers in Christ do not change overnight they will in time reflect a changed life as the outward fruit of an inward change. If this lifestyle change does not eventually happen over time, or if it only lasts for a certain timeframe, the probable conclusion is that genuine conversion has not taken place. With spiritual birth always comes spiritual growth. People spiritually grow at different paces in life, but if birth has taken place, growth is inevitable. TEEN STORY - 16 year old “I have always gone to church. In my community, it’s just what you do. Everyone goes. Not only did I go to church but I went to youth group and other meetings too. I thought I had it all together through middle school. In high school though, things really began to change. The people I was hanging out with changed and I was changing with them. I drank a little and got caught smoking pot. I had a change to look back at my faith and see what was there and if it meant anything to me. I mean, if I did all of the church stuff why did I still drink and smoke pot? I didn’t get it. Then I remembered what one of the youth directors told me my 8th grade year. He said that unless I focused on my relationship with Christ and truly lived my life that way, I would find myself making decisions based on what was the most popular choice right then and because of that, I was making a lot of bad decisions. I sent him a Myspace message and asked him to help but didn’t know if he would because I didn’t care when he told me last time. He did care. He helped me get Christ back to the center of my life and I am living a new life I never thought I would live. My friends now know that my decisions are based on my faith, not my popularity. More importantly, I’ve started working with some of those same friends who got in trouble with me. Together, we are living life the right way ...focused on Christ. That doesn’t mean that we have it all together but we are trying and continue to rely on Christ and what he teaches each and every day.” Read 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NT). Explain in your own words what everyone has a responsibility to do. *Take the time to examine yourself. Would you say that you are “in the faith” (truly converted)? Explain the reasons for your answer. 42
  43. 43. Everyone in life is on some type of faith journey. You were on a faith journey when you started this Bible study, and now you have a biblical and much better understanding of your journey. Maybe you were a true follower of Christ when you started this study or maybe you simply thought you were. Everyone fits somewhere on the following chart. What line are you at today? Place a T where you believe you are spiritually today. Place a B on the line where you were just before starting this study. Your Faith Journey Obedient Servant in God’s Kingdom (loving God and loving others) Comprehensive and Consistent Growth (begin to surrender all of life under Christ) Spiritual Growth Lifestyle Change (patterns of godly living begin to form) Baby Christian (new to the faith – learning how to live for Christ) Conversion to Christ — Genuine Repentance and Personal Faith in Jesus Christ Crisis (ready to repent and turn to Christ) Recognition of need for Conversion to Christ (realization of spiritual lostness) Unconverted Intellectual Belief in Christ (but no life commitment) Universal God (everyone knows God personally in their own way) Atheist or Agnostic (God does not exist or does exist but we cannot know him) *If your answer is ‘no’ to the question just above the chart (or if you placed a T under the Conversion to Christ line), are you willing to repent today and place life saving faith in Jesus Christ? If you are not, what is holding you back? Evaluating your spiritual condition before God is the most important thing you will ever do. Now that you have studied the gospel you can evaluate yourself biblically in truth. If you have not experienced genuine conversion to Christ, make today that day. Through repentance and personal faith in Jesus you can be forgiven of your sins and experience genuine conversion. Simply communicate to God your repentance and faith in Christ in a prayer, and allow him to take control of your life. Do not let another day go by lost and on you’re way to hell. Jesus is calling you to come to him today. Not making a decision is making the decision to reject him, for yet another day. Jesus paid for your sins, if you are willing to come to him in biblical faith. Make today the day of your salvation! 43
  44. 44. Session Eight How Free and Forgiven am I in Christ? This is the concluding session of this eight session Bible study. What an exciting journey it has been! Maybe you already were a follower of Christ before you started this study, or maybe you were a new believer. Perhaps you thought you were a Christian but were self-deceived when you started this study, or maybe you were an investigator of the gospel. We are all on a journey of faith. You have studied the gospel account directly from its foundational source, the Bible. You have not studied this second-hand, but you have opened and studied the Bible yourself. You now have a first-hand understanding of what God communicates about himself, about you, about your sin, about the eternal consequences of sin, about the need for a substitute, about Jesus, about his holiness and his love, and about what you need to do to receive complete forgiveness from God. You have also learned some of the beginning pillars of developing a biblical worldview. A few of these are: God is the creator of all things, God is a communicator to his people, and God is holy. These truths as well as many more have helped shape an overall understanding of life from a God-centered point of view. This foundation, however, is just the beginning for you. Write out the three most significant things you learned from this study that impacted you the most. Allow your leader to share a couple things he/she appreciated the most while studying these sessions. Go back to Session Seven and reread the answer you gave to the last two questions (with the * in front of them). If you answered no, have you thought more about what is holding you back from repenting of your sins? Would you be willing to repent and place faith in Jesus today? Explain your answer. The hope is that this study either confirmed your conversion to Christ and helped ground your faith in a deeper foundation, or was the instrument God used to bring you to Christ. This session will now focus on the magnificent truth of what the forgiveness of God really means. It is only when we understand the depth and magnitude of our sin that we really come to 44