the good news

©2019 michael martin | ask@lifefellowship.org

← more articles

how to come to Jesus

why you’re considering this choice

If you're thinking of giving your life to Jesus, you're probably realizing that something about your life is broken and needing to be fixed. For that, you’re to be commended!

The truth is, without Jesus, everyone is broken. As you’ve realized, you, along with everyone else, is guilty of sin:

romans 3:23-24

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Happily, you’ve also learning that Jesus can save you from your sin, and you’re considering trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. It's an important decision, but if you do this, there is no question of the ultimate outcome.

romans 10:9-11

...that if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

This is an eternity-changing decision on your part, made possible by the love, mercy and sacrifice of God. As you begin your new life with Christ, it’s important to understand a few basic things:

what this choice is not...

God isn’t a genie who is here to magically grant our wishes. This is about a relationship between you and God, and so it is important to understand what your relationship with God is not...

a quick fix

Jesus isn’t a "quick fix" to give you fast, temporary relief. He’s the permanent solution! While God can and does work in the small details of life, His goal is not to merely treat symptoms, but to cure the disease. Just as a patient needs to abide by a doctor’s prescribed directions in order to improve his life, Jesus’ work in your life will require you to faithfully follow His prescribed directions (the Bible) in order to recover from the symptoms of sin. And it may take time.

The good news is, while it may take some time and effort for you to see an improvement to your life here on earth, you can be assured that Jesus will have already fixed the bigger problem of eternity for you! Instead of being eternally separated from God because of your sin, you’ll be with God for eternity, when all sin (and all the suffering that it brings) is finally, completely gone!

a way to change circumstances

Jesus isn’t nearly as concerned with fixing our circumstances as He is in fixing our hearts. That’s great news, because Jesus isn’t content to merely mask the symptoms of a sinful heart. He wants to change your heart. That’s because our hearts are inherently wicked without Jesus:

jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Since our hearts are the root problem, that’s where Jesus works. While God can (and does) also work in our circumstances, changing our hearts is His objective.

With a heart that is devoted to God, your circumstances may still be difficult, but your attitudes and responses to those circumstances will change, and you’ll find joy and contentment in Christ, regardless of external circumstances!

something that can be faked

God knows our hearts, and so it is important to be real and genuine, both with Him and with others. It is a human temptation to put on a mask and to try to say or do the "right things" so that others will think we’ve got it all together. But God knows better.

He knows whether you are genuine in your relationship with Him, and many other people will know it too.

A genuine relationship with God doesn’t mean that there is no temptation and no struggle with sinful attitudes, words and actions. Rather, it means that we are genuinely regretful when we do stumble, that we are eager to do everything possible to make our failings right, and that our genuine desire is to grow closer to God in every way.

acts 13:22

After removing Saul, [God] made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Here, God speaks of David, an imperfect man who committed some of the Bible’s most infamous sins. But despite his failures, David was a man who faithfully came to confess his sins and who made things right. He sought after God and pursued Him in all things. It was a genuine relationship between a flawed man and a gracious God. And so, David was called a man after God’s own heart. With a genuine relationship with God, you too can be thought of that way!

how would this change my life?

By choosing to give your life to Jesus, you’d be doing something that is, while perhaps physically intangible, spiritually world-changing!

God will do far better than to merely change your circumstances. He will change you!

As we continue, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which God will change you...

you’ll cross over from death to life

john 5:24

"Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

This is not a figurative or symbolic statement. You will literally cross over from death to life!

Think of your body. It’s in the process of dying. As each year passes, your body will age, deteriorate, and weaken, until it finally dies. The body you were born into is perishable, and it will indeed perish. This happens because of sin, and we are all born as sinners:

psalm 51:5

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

Having been born a sinner, you were also born into death spiritually. This spiritual death results from being separated (as a result of sin) from the God who gives life.

Sin, therefore, is the problem, and the cause for death. But God’s solution is to take away your sin!

Jesus will take away your sin

Like all humans, you are a sinner. You were born a sinner, and you made sinful choices to add to that. God’s Word tells us that sin separates man from God:

isaiah 59:2

But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

romans 3:23

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Unless you give your life to Jesus, these verses are true of you too. But if you belong to Jesus, your reality will change:

romans 6:23

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

If you belong to Jesus, you’ll exchange the wages of sin (death) for His gift of eternal life. That’s not because God just overlooked your sin. He can’t do that, because God is unchangeably holy and just. Justice had to be done for our sins, so the death-requirement was met on your behalf by Jesus, who is the only way our sins can be forgiven...

john 14:6

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

There is no other solution for sin, and no other way to be saved except by Jesus. Jesus was able to do this because...

Jesus is God’s Son

In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are all what we call the "Godhead" or the "Trinity." All three distinct persons are fully God, and yet they somehow exist as our singular God.

As such, Jesus was without sin and, being God, His death for sin is sufficient to pay the death-debt required for all sin, including every person’s past, present, and future sins.

Jesus is fully man

When Jesus lived on earth, while remaining fully God, He also became a man. This qualified Him to serve as a "stand-in" payment for the sin of all mankind. Additionally, as a man, Jesus experienced all of the pain, fatigue, hunger, and suffering that we all suffer, making Him fully qualified to understand our plight.

your sin will have died with Jesus!

ii corinthians 5:21

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

isaiah 53:4-6

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

i peter 2:24

"He himself bore our sins" in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; "by his wounds you have been healed."

romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Without ever becoming sinful Himself, Jesus took our sin upon Himself, and when He was put to death on the cross, your sin died with Him! The wages of sin were paid in full!

As a result of all this, the sin that separates you from God will no longer exist. It’s dead! There will be no barrier to separate you from God!

john 3:16-18

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

romans 8:1-2

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

i peter 3:18

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

the Holy Spirit will live within you!

Once you make this decision to make Jesus your Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit will actually dwell in you, as well as in everyone else who has trusted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Creator of the universe, the King of Kings, will live in you!

ii timothy 1:!4

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

john 14:15-17

"If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

i corinthians 3:16

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?

This is an incredible benefit and resource to us! The Holy Spirit will guide us in wisdom and Godliness and will convict us of sin so that we will turn away from sin and turn toward God.

The fact of God’s Spirit living in you also means...

you will be a new creation

ii corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

That’s right. You will actually be a new creation. You’ll have a new Spirit living in you; the Holy Spirit!

ezekiel 36:26

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

This is why people who have come to Jesus as their Lord and Savior describe themselves as being "born again." In fact, this is how Jesus described it:

john 3:5-7

Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

Here, Jesus explains that entering His Kingdom involves being born twice. The first birth, being "born of water," is the natural, physical birth, like the placenta in which babies live prior to birth. But since we are all physically born as sinners, being born of the Spirit is a separate matter.

The decision to give your life to Christ will result in your being born of the Spirit, or "born again." That’s great in terms of the spirit, but what about the physical body?

Physically speaking, you’ll still have your old body for the rest of your time on this earth, but after that, you’ll have a new body too! Check it out:

philippians 3:20-21

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

ii corinthians 5:1

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

i thessalonians 4:13-17

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

A new Spirit now, and a new body in eternity! What a glorious gift! Everything that kept you from God will be replaced!

you’ll have "died" to your former life

Your old life will be over. Whatever sin you once lived in, you’ll be set free from it! That’s not to say that you’re suddenly going to stop sinning; you’ll continue to struggle with that until your old body dies. But, as a child of God, the evidence of your rebirth will be that you will consciously, continually strive and struggle to turn away from your old, sinful ways so that you can have the best relationship with God. And through it all, you can know that you are forgiven and reckoned as righteous in God’s sight because of Jesus.

Some have explained it this way: You now have a new Spirit in you that isn’t sinful, and who will counsel and guide you in how to live. But your old, dying flesh is still sinful. This creates a struggle, as you will have to continuously choose whether to be governed by the Holy Spirit, who wants to please God, or by your old, sinful flesh, which wants to sin.

In Heaven, the old sinful flesh will be replaced just as your spirit has been, but until then, the struggle is real.

i john 2:1-2

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

i corinthians 6:9-11

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

So, if you belong to Jesus (because He paid for you), your salvation won’t depend on "being good," but rather, "being good" is the result of belonging to Christ. We’ll cover this in more detail later on.

you’ll be a child of God

Although God was always your Father as your Creator, if you choose to give your life to Jesus, you’ll become His child by uniting with Him in Spirit.

john 1:12

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

romans 8:14-17

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

i john 3:1-2

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

As a child of God, you can think of God as your Heavenly Father, and He is a good Father indeed! As with any good father, God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but He does expect you to continuously work for improvement and growth. As a Good Father, God will teach you, guide you, provide for you, forgive you, and yes, even discipline you. All of this is part of your new family relationship with God!

Whatever else you are, or however else you define yourself, this is now your primary and defining identity. You are a child of God, and everything you do is now defined by that relationship.

summing up: romans chapter 8

Everything we’ve said is nicely summed up by the Bible itself in the eighth chapter of the book of Romans. Let’s break it down and take a quick look.

romans 8:1-2

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

This is very important. If you are a child of God, there is no condemnation for you! Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death! Let’s read on...

romans 8:3-4

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

The law was (and is) powerless to save us from sin and death. Following all the rules and commands, even to perfection, still leaves us in a state of sinfulness and subject to death. But God accomplished our salvation by sending His Son in the likeness of a man to pay for the sins of all mankind. By doing this, justice was done, but it was done in such a way that we do not have to pay the penalty for our sin. We were all rightly found guilty, but Jesus paid the price for that guilt! Better still, justice was done in such a way that we who belong to Jesus are counted as righteous!

romans 8:5-8

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Here, you can see how your life will be different if you belong to Jesus. Instead of being governed by your flesh, which is not capable of submitting to God and is subject to death, you will be governed by the Spirit of God, able to submit to Him and to gain life and peace.

romans 8:9-10

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Here is another reminder that God’s Spirit lives in those who belong to Jesus. As such, even though your old body will still die (it’ll be remade for Heaven), your spirit remains alive because of the Holy Spirit!

romans 8:11

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

There’s the reminder. When your old body dies, God will remake your body for Heaven.

romans 8:12-13

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

With all that we’ve learned from Romans chapter 8, here comes the "therefore." With all that God has done for you, and because of who you’ll be as a child of God, your priorities and obligations will be different from now on. Now, instead of living to please your flesh (your old, sinful self), your obligation will be to live in such a way as to please God. This will be the evidence and proof that you belong to God; not that you are perfect, but that you are making every effort to put to death your old, sinful ways in favor of a life that pleases God. This is a continual process of learning, failure, repentance, and change, so that each day we become more and more like Jesus.

romans 8:14-17

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Finally, we see the amazing truth that those who belong to Jesus are not only God’s children, but also His heirs! As a child of God, you personally share in His Kingdom and His glory!

the actual prayer...

how do I choose Jesus?

A simple prayer will bring you into God’s family. Prayer is just talking to God. Say something like this:

Dear Jesus, thank you for coming into the world and dying for my sin. I confess that I am a sinner. I ask you to come into my heart, save me from sin, and be the Lord of my life. Fill me with your Holy Spirit to convict me of sin and guide me in ways that are pleasing to you. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

If you sincerely prayed that prayer and intend to live your life for God, your sin is now counted dead. You’re forgiven! An eternal life in Heaven awaits you. Everything we’ve discussed about being a child of God is now true of you!

You’re a new creation. God’s Spirit lives in you. You’ve crossed over from death to life. That’s you!

So, now what? Let’s take some time to examine what comes next and what God expects of you.

what are God’s expectations?

Now that you are a child of God, what is God now expecting and asking you to do? Let’s take some time to explore what this new relationship looks like and what God expects of you:

you have entered into a relationship commitment

We have already mentioned that you are now a child of God, but your relationship can also be thought of as a marriage. As a child of God, you are now part of the church, meaning the family of God throughout the world. In the Bible, the church is sometimes referred to as the bride of Christ.

ephesians 5:31-33

"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Describing the church as the bride of Christ is a metaphor for our relationship with God. In this analogy, we can think of it as being similar to a marriage. In order for a marriage to be shown as true and genuine, and in order for a marriage to work properly, we need to do the following things:

be public about it

A wedding conducted in secret, or a marriage where husband and wife do not acknowledge their relationship to others should rightly be questioned. Is this a real marriage? Why aren’t you telling anyone?

mark 8:38

If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels."

Similarly, it is important to tell others about your decision. Your family and friends are people who should probably be told of your decision, and you should definitely tell the leadership of your church or someone who can mentor you in your new walk with Christ.

get to know your "spouse"

A husband who makes no effort to get to know his wife, and who doesn’t make a continual effort to learn more about her is going to result in a dysfunctional marriage.

The best way to get to know your spouse is to spend time with and talk with him/her. In the case of God, spending time with Him involves talking to Him and listening to Him. This is accomplished primarily through the reading of the Bible and through prayer.

The Bible is God’s Word; it is His love letter to you. Reading the Bible will help us to know and understand God better.

Prayer is simply talking to God and listening to Him.

We will explore the Bible and prayer in more detail later on.

do i have to obey God’s commands?

Yes, but not in order to be saved. That’s a done deal. Rather, your obedience to God is the outward evidence and the result of your love and commitment to God.

Just as in a marriage, where it is important to serve and bless your spouse, it is important to serve and bless God as an act of love. God has defined our love for Him as obedience:

john 14:15

"If you love me, you will obey what I command.

i john 5:3

In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome

As our Creator, our God, and our Savior, God certainly has the right to expect our obedience, and given the price He paid to save us, God surely deserves our love and obedience. But His commands are not burdensome!

While the Bible is full of specific laws and commands for meeting God’s holy standard, that standard has already been met on our behalf by Jesus. As for obeying God’s moral commands, Jesus summarized everything this way:

matthew 22:36-40

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

37 Jesus replied: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Two commands. Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. If you obey these two simple commands, you’re obeying and loving God. This may not always be easy, but it certainly isn’t complicated.

do i have to go to church?

As with obeying God’s commands, going to church, which happens to be one of God’s commands, is a result of our love for God.

hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Being involved in a local church is an important part of your Spiritual growth. The question isn’t, "do I have to go to church," but rather should be, "why wouldn’t I want to go to church?" After all, wouldn’t a newlywed want to take every opportunity to know his spouse better? Wouldn’t a man who wanted a good marriage take every opportunity to know more about his wife?

We will explore the importance of being involved in a local church in more detail later on.

what if i mess up?

You will. God knows this. As you struggle to put off your old sinful ways, you will sometimes fail and do the sins you know you’re not supposed to do.

When that happens, we need to own it and be honest about it:

i john 1:9-10

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

The principle here is that when we sin, we should confess it right away, both to God and to whomever we sinned against. If we confess our sins promptly and without excuses or qualifiers, and with the intent to turn away from (repent) the sin, we are told that God is faithful and just and will forgive us. If we’re not honest about this, pretending we haven’t sinned, we make God out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.

When we truly confess our sins and failings, we will find mercy. As with a Father and His child, the Father will see his child’s honest confession and forgive the child, albeit with possible consequences. These confessions and repentance (the turning away from the sin) ensures a right relationship with the Father.

where do i begin?

We’ve briefly discussed some basic areas in which God now asks you to obey Him. To help you get started, let’s dig a little deeper into some things that can get you started on the right foot.

the bible

The importance of the Bible cannot be overstated. It is the Word of God, meaning that God acted throughout history to ensure that His message to us was written down so that we could know Him. A few important things to know about the Bible:

it is the Word of God

ii timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

ii peter 1:20-21

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

These passages tell us that all of Scripture is God-breathed. It is the Word of God. The Bible does not merely contain the Word of God; it is the Word of God.

it is flawless

proverbs 30:5-6

"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Here, we see that God’s Word is flawless. It is without error. In our limited knowledge and understanding as humans, we may sometimes struggle to fully understand some things, but the flaws are then with us, not with the Bible.

it is living and active

hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

This means that God’s Word is an active part of your Spiritual growth. God’s Word reveals and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart, and it has the ability to teach us anew each time we read it.

it is fully sufficient

ii peter 1:3

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Our knowledge of God, provided through the Bible and the Holy Spirit, gives us everything we need for a Godly life. It speaks to every issue we can encounter in life, whether directly or in principle.

it is authoritative

As the Word of God, the Bible is our primary, overarching authority to define truth, to govern our lives, and to provide us with wisdom.

joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

it is an accurate history book

Historians and archaeologists have repeatedly confirmed the accuracy and reliability of the Bible in terms of historical events and locations. While there are sometimes inconsistencies between the Bible and man’s understanding of historical timelines and locations, further study and new discoveries consistently confirm the accuracy of the Bible.

getting a bible

There are several good options for you when it comes to choosing a Bible. In fact, there are so many choices that it can become confusing.

The Bible was originally written in three languages; Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. All these have since been translated into numerous other languages, including the many English translations available to us today.

The available options we will discuss each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but all of them were carefully translated by teams of scholars and no doubt with the involvement of the Holy Spirit to bring about reliable, accurate results. The best Bible, in addition to being a faithful translation of the original text, is the one you’re most comfortable reading.

bible options

Now, let’s look at some of the most popular Bible options available today...

KJV

King James Version. This translation, published in 1611, continues to be widely used today. The KJV utilizes the English language as it existed in the 17th century and, as such, can be difficult for modern readers today. Nevertheless, the KJV remains a reliable, quality translation of the Bible.

NIV

New International Version. This is a modern English translation of the Bible that is designed to be easier to read. While great care was taken to accurately translate the Bible, it is not a "word-for-word" translation. Instead, it is a "meaning-for-meaning" translation. In other words, the terms from the original text were carefully and accurately translated, but sometimes arranged in different sentence structure so as to allow for a more natural reading experience. All of the Bible references in this publication are from the NIV, which has been and continues to be one of the most popular and widely used versions of the Bible.

ESV

English Standard Version. This newer translation is also written in contemporary English, but with a slightly different approach than that of the NIV. The ESV has already been widely adopted by churches worldwide and, like the NIV, is becoming very popular.

HCSB

The Holman Christian Standard Bible. This Bible is essentially the official Bible of the Southern Baptist Church, having been translated and published by Holman, their own publisher. The HCSB is also a very good, easy-to-read version of the Bible, though perhaps not as widely used in non Southern Baptist churches.

NLT

New Living Translation. This version of the Bible is more like a paraphrase of the Bible than a word-for-word translation. Of all the versions of the Bible, the NLT might be the easiest and most natural to read. This may sometimes come at the cost of missing some of the nuances of the original text of the Bible, but is still considered a good option for understanding the Bible in an easy-to-read format.

the action bible

While this is not technically a Bible, it is a good way to quickly and visually learn the historical events of the Bible in the form of a graphic novel. The beautiful artwork presents the Bible as a comic book, and while the Action Bible is far from being a complete Bible, it can be a helpful tool. Not only children, but also adults who want to quickly gain an understanding of Biblical events can certainly benefit from this well-produced book.

digital bibles

In the Information Age, we have the great benefit of being able to carry the entire Bible with us in digital form on our smartphones. This allows us to have God’s Word with us at all times, and the available software allows us to search the Bible for phrases, definitions, cross-references, and other resources.

There are many digital Bible tools available (in the translations we’ve discussed above). On your smartphone, search the Apple App Store or Google Play for "Bible" apps. One of the best is called "Olive Tree," which provides all of the functionality we’ve discussed, and in all the Bible translations we’ve described. Depending upon the Bible version you choose, there may be a small cost for downloading your preferred Bible version into the app.

how the bible is built

The Bible is actually a collection of 66 books, each written down by men who were under the inspiration and direction of God. These books were compiled together, having all been understood and accepted as the genuine Word of God, into one volume.

The Bible is not organized in a strictly chronological fashion, but rather based upon content. As such, the books of the Bible are organized as follows:

the old testament

Thirty-nine of the Bible’s books make up the Old Testament, which details the creation of the world, man’s fall into sin, and his continual struggle, learning the hard way, that he cannot pull himself out of his sinfulness and is in desperate need of a Savior. All of the events of the Old Testament occurred before the birth of Jesus, and the need for a Savior, as well as some previews and prophecies about Jesus, can be found in each Old Testament book.

books of the law

Genesis

Exodus

Leviticus

Numbers

Deuteronomy

books of history

Joshua

Judges

Ruth

1 Samuel

2 Samuel

1 Kings

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

2 Chronicles

Ezra

Nehemiah

Esther

books of wisdom & poetry

Job

Psalms

Proverbs

Ecclesiastes

Song of Songs

major prophets (longer books)

Isaiah

Jeremiah

Lamentations

Ezekiel

Daniel

minor prophets (shorter books)

Hosea

Joel

Amos

Obadiah

Jonah

Micah

Nahum

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Haggai

Zechariah

Malachi

the new testament

The remaining twenty-seven books of the Bible make up the New Testament, which details the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as well as the early church, and letters written by the Apostles to some of the churches. The New Testament is concluded by Revelation, which details how the end times and the return of Christ will unfold.

the gospels (good news)

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

the acts of the apostles

Acts

letters written by paul (pauline epistles)

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Ephesians

Philippians

Colossians

1 Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians

1 Timothy

2 Timothy

Titus

Philemon

letters written by other apostles

Hebrews

James

1 Peter

2 Peter

1 John

2 John

3 John

Jude

the revelation

Revelation

the bible isn’t a novel

It may seem daunting to read the Bible, but don’t worry; it’s actually pretty straightforward.

You’ll find everything from interesting historical accounts to seemingly boring regulations, blueprints and genealogies in the Bible. You’ll find examples of great wisdom and great foolishness. It is depressing when dealing with man’s failures, and it is encouraging when telling us about the hope in Jesus.

All of it is there for a reason. All of it has value. The words of Jesus in the New Testament tell us about who He is and how we should live. The designs for the Tabernacle or the regulations for the priests in the Old Testament show us how precise and perfect one must be to meet God’s standard. The continuous failures of Israel demonstrate the fact that we all need a Savior, and the words of Jesus’ Apostles in the New Testament show us what it looks like to live for Jesus.

Don’t dismiss a word of it. God put it all there for your benefit!

The bible isn’t a puzzle to solve

While the Bible sometimes presents visions, prophecies and poetic wisdom, don’t get caught up trying to find a deeper meaning than what’s simply presented on the page.

God’s Word is actually very straightforward, and while you should definitely spend time to carefully consider what it says, you can generally take it at face value.

the bible relates to itself

Each book of the Bible shares connections with other books in the Bible. As such, everything you read in the Bible should be considered in its greater context.

Even though scholars have created a "book/chapter/verse" system for finding specific quotations in the Bible, this does not mean that a single verse can always tell the complete story.

You can’t tell what a building looks like by staring at a single brick. You have to step back a bit to look at the whole wall, and even the whole building. The Bible is the same way. Each verse is a brick in a larger context, and it is always wise when considering the meaning of one verse to read the whole passage, or even the whole book, in which the verse appears.

Another principle to remember is that the best tool for interpreting the Bible is the Bible itself. If you’re wondering about the interpretation or meaning of a term in the Bible, look up that term (or related terms) in other parts of the Bible. Most modern Bibles include cross-reference tools to help you do that.

suggested bible reading plan

God’s Word tells us to read Scripture every day, but we are free to choose the manner of our reading. If you’re just starting out, we suggest reading a chapter of Proverbs for each day of the months that have 31 days:

in months with 31 days, such as January, March, May, July, August, October and December, read one chapter of Proverbs to coincide with each day of the month.

1st of month, Proverbs chapter 1

2nd of month, Proverbs chapter 2

3rd of month, Proverbs chapter 3

all the way through

31st day of month, Proverbs chapter 31

On the months with 30 or fewer days, begin with a chapter a day from the Gospel of John. For example, on the 1st, read John chapter one. On the 2nd, read chapter two, and so on. After finishing the book of John, continue your daily reading in the other books listed as shown here:

in months with fewer than 31 days, such as February, April, June, September, November, follow this schedule, starting with John chapter 1. Read a chapter per day until you’ve completed this list.

John (one chapter per day)

Psalms chapter 1

Ephesians (one chapter per day)

Psalm chapter 37

Philippians (one chapter per day)

Psalm chapter 34

James (one chapter per day)

Mark (one chapter per day)

Psalm chapter 119 (section by section each day)

I John (one chapter per day)

I Thessalonians (one chapter per day)

Psalm chapter 73

I Timothy (one chapter per day)

Psalm chapter 139

I Peter (one chapter per day)

Psalm chapter 4

Luke (one chapter per day)

Acts (one chapter per day)

In this way, you will read a well-rounded, goodly amount of Scripture in just about one year’s time. As you continue, you’ll want a plan for reading the entire Bible, but this will get you started.

If not a chapter a day, then commit to reading Scripture for a minimum of two minutes per day for a year. Of course, when you are inclined to read more, do it! But read at least two minutes of Scripture a day to help you build the life-giving habit of being in the Bible regularly.

other resources

Here are some additional resources to help you to get to know the Bible.

Thompson Chain Reference Bible Kirkbride Publishing

This is a complete Bible, available in some of the translations we’ve discussed, that includes a helpful cross-referencing system to help you to gain more insight.

The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John R. Cross

This is a helpful Bible study guide book to read alongside of the Bible.

Find it Fast in the Bible Thomas Nelson Publishing

This is a quick reference book for finding where specific topics are addressed in the Bible.

prayer

What if you could regularly talk with the Creator of the universe, and knew He would not only listen, but would care about what you had to say?

That’s prayer! Talking to God may seem like a highly formal, Spiritual ritual, but it’s actually just the simple act of talking to God. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be respectful when praying; He is the King of Kings, after all.

That’s why people often close their eyes (to remove distraction) or bow their heads (to show respect). But when these things aren’t possible or practical, you can pray to God anytime. About anything. Seriously.

i thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

ephesians 6:18

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

As you can see, prayer should be an ongoing conversation that you have with God, similar to how a husband and wife might carry on conversation throughout the day. It can be spoken or silent, but however you go about it, pray!

Prayer is when you can tell God what’s on your mind, thank Him for the ways in which He has blessed you, confess sins, and make requests. Yes, God already knows what you’re thinking, but to actually talk to Him in prayer is an act of worship.

And, just as you wouldn’t expect a marriage to succeed where the husband and wife don’t talk with each other, you can’t enjoy the best relationship with God unless you speak to Him (and listen to Him) in prayer.

church

Why should you go to church? Because being involved in a local church is an important way to help you to grow in your relationship with God and with other people. Among other things, going to church gives you the opportunity to:

learn about God and His ways

At church, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about God, both from listening to experienced preachers and teachers and by seeing how God is working in the lives of regular people who are at church. It’s a place where you can ask questions, get answers and advice, and even counseling, all from the Word of God.

sing praises to God with other people

While it may seem odd to you at first, the music and singing at church serves an important purpose.

First, it joins everyone together in group worship of God. This is important for each person involved, because it reminds each one that they are not alone, and that God is there for each one of them.

Singing at church is also an important way to offer praise and thanksgiving to God, who delights in the singing of His people, no matter what their voices may sound like.

When you come to church, start off by standing among everyone, listening to and thinking about the words of the songs. And then, when you know the words a bit better, start singing! Don’t worry about the person beside you or what you sound like. It’s beautiful to God. Trust us!

fellowship and family

One of the best things about being in church is that you’ll be able to meet, interact, and perhaps make friendships with other people.

Of all the things that a relationship can be built upon, there is no stronger bond than a Spiritual one. When you’re with other people who follow Jesus, you already have the strongest of personal connections with them. You might say that you’re "blood family," because the blood of Jesus makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.

As such, your local church family can be there to encourage you, help you, challenge you and bless you, and you can do the same for them! All of this will help you to grow in your new relationship with Jesus.

hebrews 3:13

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called "Today," so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

but church is full of hypocrites!

That’s true, because everyone is a hypocrite! Remember, being a Christian isn’t about being perfect, nor should it be about trying to convince anyone you’re perfect.

Church is a place full of imperfect people, all struggling with different sin issues, who are seeking God. It works best when everyone is honest about their struggles and is humble enough to admit their faults.

People are people, and they will disappoint you and let you down. And you are "people." You will disappoint and let others down. But, if we all keep our eyes on Jesus and His truth, love and grace, there’s room for all of us. Including you.

churches to avoid

While it is important to get involved in a local church, you should be aware that some churches do not teach Biblical truth, but instead teach their own man-made ideas. Of course, no church is perfect, but you should definitely avoid churches that do not teach in accordance with the Bible.

some churches to avoid

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons)

Jehovah’s Witnesses (the Watchtower)

The World Missionary Alliance

Roman Catholic Churches

This is not intended as a judgment upon the people that make up these churches. Indeed, there are "nice people" to be found in all of them. But a church has a responsibility to teach the truth of God's Word. All of the above churches use the Bible, but they have either altered the text of the Bible to suit their own purposes (such as the "New World Translation" of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) or they add their own books to the Bible (such as the "Book of Mormon" for the Mormons). As a result, their teaching is not purely from the Bible.

The Roman Catholic Church is perhaps the most widely recognized form of church, and while the Roman Catholic Church does recognize the authority of the Bible and the deity of Jesus Christ, much of their teaching actually stems not from the Bible, but from teaching known as Catechism. Here again, the result is teaching that isn’t fully grounded in the Bible. Scripture itself warns us against this:

colossians 2:8

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

why the warning?

Again, we’re not passing judgment on the people within these churches, but simply calling out the fact that these churches aren’t teaching from a standpoint of Biblical truth and authority. All of the aforementioned churches contain sincere people who have simply made the mistake of adding mankind’s own ideas to God’s Word. Alas, this leads to confusion and to dangerously missing the Spiritual realities of sin, redemption in Christ Jesus, and eternity.

So, we hope you’ll plug in to a church that is committed to teaching good, solid Bible truth. Of course, we’d love to have you here at Life, but there are plenty of other churches teaching Biblical truth too, so find one that causes you to grow!

serving

If you want to make the most of your relationship with God, you’re going to want to serve people.

galatians 5:13

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

We are free in Christ, but the best use of our freedom is to serve others!

matthew 25:40

"The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Here, Jesus states that our acts of service to other people is seen by Him as direct service to God. In other words, serving other people in love is how we serve God.

But here’s a little secret... Serving other people will bless you! We know it sounds backwards, but it’s true. God’s "economy" is very different than man’s economy. In God’s Way, our greatest blessings come from denying ourselves and blessing others:

luke 13:30

Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last."

luke 9:24

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

"Losing your life" doesn’t just refer to actually dying, but to "losing" your preferences, your selfishness, and your prominence so that you can serve and bless others. By losing your life in that way, you’ll gain so much more!

making every choice based upon what brings God glory

To sum it all up, your relationship with God isn’t about what you "can and can’t do." Instead, it’s about how you can best show love to God. So as you endeavor to live your life with Christ, when you are faced with moral decisions, ask yourself, "what’s the best way I can show God my love in this decision?"

This question can guide you in your speech, in your thoughts, in your entertainment choices, and in your actions. It will be a continual growing process as you strive to become more mature in your relationship with God.

what did that mean?

Now that we’ve covered all of these basics, you might find yourself wondering why some Christians or church people talk kind of funny. As in any culture, there is kind of a jargon that you might hear among Christians or churches.

No, you don’t have to talk this way! But if you hear any of these terms and wonder what folks are talking about, this might be helpful. Here are some terms you might hear and their meanings.

amen

This literally means, "may it be so." It is a term of agreement and affirmation. You’ll usually hear it in prayers or when someone expresses agreement.

Heavenly Father

This is an accurate term to describe God. As our Creator, our Provider, and our Master, God is truly our Heavenly Father.

brothers and sisters

You may hear people who are not actually related to each other calling each other "brothers" and "sisters." This is because, as followers of Jesus, they are children of God. Since God is their Heavenly Father, it makes all of His Children brothers and sisters. It is a term of endearment in the context of belonging to God.

salvation

The state of having been saved from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

washed in the blood

Sounds gross, doesn’t it? This term simply refers to the fact that Jesus died for us, meaning that His blood was shed for us. So, poetically speaking, if something is "washed in the blood" or "covered by the blood," it means that Jesus’ sacrifice paid for it and took care of it.

justification

This is the reality of being cleansed from our sin and guilt, made possible by Jesus.

sanctification

This is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus as we strive to follow Him.

devotions / quiet time

These terms describe times that are devoted to the reading of the Bible and to prayer. It is generally helpful for you to have a quiet time and location where you can focus on, or devote, your thoughts and heart to God as you read His Word and pray.

hallelujah

This is an expression of praise and rejoicing, stemming from traditional Biblical language. It literally means "praise God."

hosanna

Another term from Biblical language, this term literally means "Lord, save us."

hedge of protection

If you hear someone praying for a "hedge of protection" around someone, they’re just asking God to place a barrier of protection around someone. Why a "hedge?" Hedges are bushes that are used for creating natural walls and barriers.

theology

This is the study of God.

Trinity / Godhead

The Bible tells us that God the Father is God, and that Jesus the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. Yet, the very same Bible also tells us that there is only one God. Since we hold all of these to be true, this shows us that God is a singular God who exists in three Persons, including the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is sometimes referred to as the Trinity or the Godhead. Although neither of these terms appear in the Bible, the triune existence of God is thoroughly confirmed in the Bible.

calvary

This refers to the location where Jesus died on the cross.

the Word

This simply refers to the Bible, which is God’s Holy Word.

hide it in your heart

This term, found in Psalm 119:11, is sometimes heard in conversation. When reading the Bible, it is important not only to read the words, but to let those words change your heart. This involves committing God’s Word to memory and to letting it change your heart and, by extension, your actions. This is called "hiding God’s Word in your heart."

baptism

The immersion and emergence from water to publicly symbolize and proclaim a washing. Baptism in the Bible could represent repentance from sins, but now represents not only repentance, but also identifying with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

communion / the Lord’s supper

This is a periodical observation/event by the church to remember the sacrifice of Jesus. It involves the consuming of flat bread and wine or juice. The bread represents the broken body of Jesus, and the wine/juice represents His blood, shed for us. The consuming of these items serves as a reminder of the price Jesus paid for us and is best done in a reverent and respectful manner.

good friday

The anniversary of the death of Jesus. It is called "Good Friday" because, despite the horrors that Jesus endured on that day, it resulted in the price being paid for our sin, and therefore our salvation.

asking Jesus into your heart

This is a way of referring to the decision of asking Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. It refers to the fact that you’ve given your heart to Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit dwells in the spiritual hearts of God’s children.

gospel

This word simply means "good news." It can describe the message of salvation as communicated between people, or it can describe the New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Since these four Bible books all give accounts of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, they all communicate the "good news" of Jesus and are therefore called "gospels."

disciple

This word means "follower" or "devotee." As a believer and follower of Christ, you can rightly be called a disciple.

apostle

An Apostle is a disciple who was given authority to instruct and lead in the days of the early church, shortly after Jesus ascended back into heaven. The Apostles are eleven of the core disciples of Jesus (minus Judas, who betrayed Him) and Paul, who had his own personal encounter with Jesus shortly after Jesus had returned to heaven.

epistle

This word is sometimes used to describe many of the New Testament books. An epistle is a letter, written by one of Jesus’ Apostles, usually to a specific church or individual with the purpose of giving instruction in Godly living.

heresy / heretic

Heresy is a belief or opinion that runs contrary to what the Bible teaches, and a heretic is a person who teaches such false doctrine.

tithe

This refers to a person’s giving of their resources to God. Most commonly, it refers to giving money to God via a local church. "Tithe" literally means "one tenth," leading to the guideline that a Christian should give 10% of their income to help support the church and, by extension, serve other people, thereby serving God.

saint

The Biblical definition for a saint is different than what you might be accustomed to. Biblically speaking, all believers in Christ are saints, including you! Saints are not supernatural beings who perform miracles or who have special standing in Heaven, nor are they people who should be prayed to or worshiped. Saints are simply God’s children.