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The Uniqueness Of Each Person

I’m always amazed when I think of how God created a world that’s filled with incredible diversity and variety. There are different kinds of colors, tastes, sounds, foods, scenery, animals, ideas, types of leisure… (and the list just goes on and on). But one area that is especially intriguing to me is the variety of people He has created. In fact, everyone is different. There are no two of us alike. We are each special.

In spite of our great diversity, the Bible says that we were all created in the image of God. Therefore, we all have some things in common, things that make up our ‘humanness.’ We’ve already noted that all humans have the capacity to think, reason, make decisions, worship, communicate, create, appreciate beauty, etc. We also have similar limitations and needs. We all need food, shelter and clothing. We also need to be loved and to love others. We are also constrained by our physical capacity and strength, knowledge, mortality, and senses, to mention just a few of our limitations.

But do these similarities make us all identical? Not in the least! Though we have certain traits and characteristics that we share, we’re also very different from one another. Everyone of us is unique, a one-of-a-kind, special, limited edition! This uniqueness doesn’t happen by accident. It’s also part of God’s grand design and plan. Even our striving to affirm our own identity isn’t accidental. When a child pulls away from his parents to assert his own unique personhood, he’s really just trying to discover more fully who he really is. This is healthy and normal behavior, part of God’s plan for self-awareness.

God’s Involvement

God forms each one of us lovingly and intentionally. We’re not just an “accident-of-nature” (as many atheists and evolutionists would have us believe). There’s purpose, planning, and design that led up to our existence. Our parents were certainly involved (obviously), but so was God. Whether our parents rejoiced when they received the news of our pending arrival, or regretted their decision to procreate and conceive, we are here nonetheless, because God wanted us here!

David talks about the unique role that God plays in bringing us into existence in Psalm 139:13-15.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

David has become a voice for each of us, expressing gratitude to God for His creative involvement in making us. God was intentionally involved in making us who we are, both inwardly (“inmost being”) and outwardly (“my frame”). The inner man has to do with our personalities, our mind, will, and emotions, our likes and dislikes, our strengths and weaknesses. The outer man is our physical bodies, our appearance, physical strength, natural coordination, etc.

To show God’s personal involvement in making us, the Bible uses words and phrases that capture the notion of nurture and creativity: “knit together,” “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and “woven together.” The psalmist also indicates that God created us with a purpose and destiny in mind, even determining the number of days we would live. Though this passage doesn’t tell us exactly what that purpose is, elsewhere the Bible makes it clear that we exist to bring glory to God (Ephesians 1:11-12), and to live in a personal and eternal relationship with Him (John 3:16).

Unfortunately, in spite of God’s affirmation to the contrary, there are many people who have become convinced that their life is unimportant or useless. Some even consider themselves a burden to society, thinking it would have been better if they had never been born. Nothing could be further from the truth! God has created each of us in a way that is unique and special. Each of us is designed to bring Him glory in a way that no one else can. He wants to accomplish His good works in each of us and through each of us.

Individual Uniqueness

Some social theorists affirm that children are born as a ‘blank slate’ and our surroundings alone are responsible for determining who we become. In other words our environment determines who we are. According to Scripture that is not totally true. God makes each person unique in many special ways. While the environment has an ongoing and significant impact on our lives, God has already written on our ‘slate’ when He created us (Psalm 139:13). He has given us each a unique personality as well as natural strengths and weaknesses. He has given us unique abilities as well, such as hand-eye coordination, ability to play an instrument, artistic ability, intelligence, etc.

Everyone of us is unique, a one-of-a- kind, special, limited edition!!

When we become a Christian, God’s creative work in our lives begins again in a different way. When we trust Christ, God gives each of us spiritual gifts through the person of His Holy Spirit. These abilities enable us to have a unique ministry to believers and unbelievers (I Corinthians 12:7). In fact, most of us have a combination of several gifts. These gifts become evident as we go about helping others in effective and enjoyable service. God also calls us to specific ministries where we are able to employ our special gifts in ways distinct from others. For example,Paul was called to have a ministry to the Gentiles while Peter was called to have a ministry to the Jews
(Galatians 2:8). Sometimes He will even change our ministries as we mature.

God continues to bring about change in us throughout life. He employs agents that work internally (the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures) and agents that work externally (angels, circumstances) to conform us to the image of Christ. There are other forces that God uses to shape us, but one of the most profound is the influence of our family. This environment creates a climate for both good and bad in our lives. It takes wisdom and maturity to process this influence in a healthy way. Fortunately, God assures us that He can even use the bad to bring good into our lives (Romans 8:28). He uses all of our experiences, even the unique culture and era that we live in, to bring us to Christ and to mature us (Acts 17:26-28).

Conclusion

God has made each of us special and unique. He’s created us in amazing ways and made it possible for us to contribute to what He’s doing in this world. Every person who comes to Christ brings something that no one else is able to offer. Rather than making us arrogant, this knowledge should cause us to remain humble as we celebrate our special place and affirm God’s sovereign plan for us.

Application:

• Write down the strengths God has given to you, and thank Him for them.
• What are some of the experiences that have shaped your life? Thank God for them
and what He has done in your life through them.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.


Have you ever felt confused and frustrated by the behavior of another person? Or been confused by your own behavior? “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” Understanding people—both ourselves and others—is important to our own personal growth and to our ability to impact the lives of others.

This series of Pocket Principles is designed to help us begin the process of understanding people.

We begin with several benefits that understanding people can bring us.

First, understanding people helps us to understand what motivates their behavior. When God created man, He created him incomplete, and this incompleteness drives a person to try to get his needs met. For example, one of the greatest needs all of us have is for value and worth. We see this need revealed in the ways people seek acceptance, recognition, and approval. From the child’s attention seeking to an adult’s basic insecurity, this need is evident. Driven by this need, a child will often act out to get negative attention, which is preferable to being ignored. An adult will make all kinds of sacrifices to win some positive feedback and may even demand it from others. Even if we deny our needs, we still are driven by them, and our words and actions betray us.

Second, we need to understand people so we can be sensitive to them. The more we understand people, their struggles and needs, the more we can come along side them in helpful, significant ways, communicate their “specialness” and show them their need for God and spiritual growth.

A third reason to understand people is to correct inadequate views of man. There are many wrong views of man both outside of Christianity and within. Our understanding of people must be derived from the Bible. What does God say about man? Since God created us, He knows even more about us than we do about ourselves. In the Pocket Principles that follow we will explore how God has created us, the effect of the Fall of man and the restorative ministry of Christ.

In this Pocket Principle we will begin to define and understand what it means to be made in the image of God.

Biblical Teaching about the Image of God in Man

Scripture makes many clear statements about the image of God in man. The first one is found in Genesis 1:27. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”

Although it seems so, this passage is not redundant. The repetition is a Hebrew expression designed to communicate emphasis and builds to a climax. In fact, everything in the creation account builds to a climax: God creates something, steps back from it, admires it and pronounces it “good”. He does this over and over until He comes to the creation of man.

God saved the best for last. It was as if He said, “Okay, what We have done so far is pretty good, but now We need to do something that is even more spectacular. Let’s create man. We need to make him greater than everything else in all of the universe. Let’s do that by creating him in Our image. Let’s make him like Us.”
Mankind was God’s masterpiece, His high point, the climax of creation. Indeed, everything else was made for man, not God. The rest of creation was to be the place where man would dwell and live and move. Man was to rule over, maintain and develop God’s creation. Though all other parts of creation bear God’s mark and design, only man bears His image.

Often Christians don’t appreciate the unique place that God has given them. Psalm 8:3-7 puts it this way: When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than “elohim” and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 

Christians may become too focused on the problem of sin and lose sight of the dignity of man. While it is true that all men, including those who are believers, have an ongoing serious problem with sin, it is also true that all men, including nonbelievers, have been created in God’s image. Psalm 8 tells us that man was made just a little lower than “elohim”. The Hebrew word “elohim” is the name of God used to reveal His might and sovereignty. It is probably best to understand this passage to be saying that God created man just a little lower than Himself. Out of all of creation, man is the only one who reflects God’s image. There is none other like him.

The Meaning of the Image of God in Man

Being made in God’s image means that we are like God in many ways, but not in all ways. We are like Him in that we have a personality, an intellect, a will and emotions. We are also creative, as He is. Look around and see what man has done in architecture, art, medicine, science, and technology. We are advancing in our understanding and in our ability to control the world we live in because God has given us the ability to learn, invent and create, to plan and carry out those plans. We communicate with complex, abstract language. No other animal is able to do this, only man. Man alone bears God’s image.

God’s image is shown in still other ways. Because God is the standard of right and wrong, all men have an inner sense of right and wrong, a moral compass of sorts, a conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Man has a spiritual dimension so he is able to have a relationship with God. He has an innate desire to worship God, although at times it may be misdirected toward false gods (Romans 1:21-23). He has deep longings for a better world, deeper relationships and a more meaningful life. He is capable of having significant relationships and joining with others to do incredible feats (like putting a man on the moon) and creating almost unimaginable objects (such as a space station). Man reflects God more than any other created being.

The Restoration of the Image of God in Man

The fall of man damaged the image of God in man. Although God’s image was marred, it was not destroyed (James 3:9). Mankind is like a classic car that has deteriorated; that seems like a piece of junk. It is rusted, dented and broken. It is easy to discount it as something that needs to be discarded. But it is not a piece of junk. It is a classic car desperately in need of restoration. This is how man is. God’s image in him is marred, but he is an image-bearer who is desperately in need of restoration.

God sent Christ into the world not just to win our salvation, but to restore what has been lost. The goal of the Christian life is to become like Christ. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). So to become like Christ is to restore the image of God in fallen man. This is God’s goal, His commitment to us.

Although God is renewing us on the inside (our spiritual selves), the outside (our physical selves) is increasingly wasting away (II Corinthians 4:16). This wasting away of the outside will eventually cause us to die physically. In eternity God will instantly finish the work on the inside, and when Jesus returns to earth, He will also restore the outside. We will have a new body fashioned after Christ’s resurrection body that will be suited for the new world that God will create.
In light of what it means to be created in the image of God, we should celebrate the majesty of man. Man is God’s supreme creation. All men, whether believers or nonbelievers, are created with great worth because they are created in the image of God. It is that image that makes the weak, the downtrodden, the defenseless, the old and the disabled significant. We cannot reject them as the world often does because as image-bearers they reflect Him and represent Him in this world.

While God’s image in man gives him value, it does not give him salvation. Although all men were created for eternal life, no man is guaranteed eternal life. It is only as a person comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ that he receives eternal life and Christ begins to restore God’s image in him. As God’s image is restored, the person begins to be changed from the inside out. He begins the process of becoming more like Christ and is enabled by God’s power and guidance to use His abilities to glorify God and advance His Kingdom. Man was created for great things but his true and full purpose cannot be realized without God. The great tragedy of hell is that some who were created in God’s image and therefore were destined for great things will spend eternity separated from Him.

There are many significant implications of being created in God’s image.

• It should bring forth praise to God for the unique place and abilities that God has given mankind.

• All people have worth and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

• It removes all basis for racism or feelings of superiority or inferiority.

• It is the basis for saying that only God has the right to take a life or prescribe when a life should be taken.

• It is the only true basis for having a high view of man.

• It provides a basis for the argument that man should play an important role in living the Christian life (Colossians 1:28,29; Philippians 2:12,13) as opposed to God doing it all.

Application Suggestions:

• Meditate on Psalm 8.

• Meditate on and worship God for the high place He has given man in the created order.

• Celebrate the majesty of man as you see God’s image reflected through music, art, architecture, technology, etc.

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

pill-bottleIntroduction 

I heard about a man who wanted to travel by ship from America to Europe, but could scrape together only enough money for a ticket, thus having no money to purchase food at the ship’s restaurant. So, he packed his own cheese and crackers, avoiding the restaurant, where people feasted daily on the most delicious foods.

Days later, as the crackers went stale and the cheese was probably beginning to mold, a fellow passenger pulled the wretched man aside and inquired, ‘’I noticed that you never dine with us in the cafeteria. Would you mind telling me why?’’ He confessed his inability to pay for anything except for the ticket, to which his new acquaintance replied, ‘’But didn’t you understand? The food came with the ticket!’’(1)

Tragically, many Christians are just like this man. They never grew enough spiritually to understand all that came with their ticket to heaven. Existing on spiritual cheese and crackers, they miss the spiritual feast that God says comes with salvation. Today let’s begin to look at a few items in the feast, and the doubts that keep some from enjoying that feast.

As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Present declarations 

Salvation isn’t just about life after death. We possess eternal life here and now, along with its many benefits. Here are just a few:

Forgiveness. Some Christians continue to go to bed at night, racked with guilt for their past behavior. Yet, from God’s perspective, those sins are gone, taken away as far as the East is from the West, flung into the deepest sea. We no longer have to be shackled by guilt! As concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom put it, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.”(2)

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…. (Ephesians 1:7) 

A New Creation. Some people think, “I’ve made such a mess of my life that it would be better if I started over from scratch.” That’s why God did more than simply help us rehabilitate our old lives. He started off fresh, giving us a new birth into His family. As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (II Corinthians 5:17) 

The Holy Spirit. God didn’t save us and then leave us to live the rest of our lives in our own power. At our salvation, His Spirit comes to live inside of us, offering us the power and guidance we need to live successful Christian lives. As we all find out, the Christian life isn’t hard, it’s impossible! That is, it’s impossible to live in our own power. Successful Christians learn to lean on His Spirit to empower them to live the Christian life.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) 

Future Promises 

Years ago, I read an interview with an incredible football player. He was a record- setting, professional superstar—the type hero that fans are tempted to worship. But while this quick and powerful running back was confident on the playing field, he wasn’t so confident about a bigger issue. One day, an interviewer asked him what he feared—an interesting question for a player so intimidating that his opponents feared him. But his answer was revealing. What did he fear? In his own words, “Dying and going to hell. But I hope I don’t, because I’ve been a good person.” 

This man had risen to the top of his profession, but couldn’t find abiding peace because he didn’t know for certain where he was headed for eternity. Many people don’t even think it’s possible to know their eternal destiny. Yet, the Scriptures make it clear:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

To know, not to merely hope or think probable, God wants us to have a confidence and peace about our final destiny. We should be looking forward to spending eternity with Him in our heavenly home!

God promises in His Word that we will:

Escape God’s wrath. Since God is a just God, the penalty for sin must be paid. Yet, because of God’s grace, Jesus took God’s entire wrath for sin upon Himself.

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! (Romans 5:9) 

Be resurrected at Christ’s second coming. Both deceased believers and the ones alive at His coming will be transformed, receiving new, glorified bodies. The more aches and pains my earthly body gets, the more I get excited about my new heavenly model!

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) 

Have eternal life. All believers are promised to be with Jesus forever! We don’t have to wait to see if we get eternal life. We possess it now!

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. (John 3:16) 

Dealing With Doubts

If God promised that we will escape His wrath, receive a new heavenly body and live with Him forever, then why do some Christians struggle with doubts? Even if you don’t personally struggle with doubt, you will run across others who do. Let’s deal with some common causes of doubt.

In the previous Pocket PrincipleTM we answered two sources of doubt. 1)“I’m not sure that I understood everything when I first accepted Christ.” 2)“Sometimes I don’t feel saved.” Do you remember how we dealt with these? Here are some more.

1. “It’s hard to believe God could forgive my past.” 

Listen to the testimony of this great sinner:

…I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 

Do you know who wrote that? It was the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 1:13-16, the man who God used to write most of the books of the New Testament. Do you know what he was like before he became a Christian? He rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He was such a violent man and so furiously enraged at Christians that he persecuted the church, imprisoning Christians and having them beaten and killed (I Timothy 1:13; Acts 7:58, 8:1, 9:1,2,4,5, 22:4,5,7,19,20, 26:9-11). But Paul wants you to know that if God can still have mercy on him, then nobody is too bad for God to save. No matter what you’ve done, remember—

…the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7) 

From how much sin? “All sin.” Even if you’ve abused drugs or committed sexual sins? “All sin.” Even if you’ve killed Christians? “All sin.”

There’s no sin in your past that’s so bad that God can’t take out the stain and leave you as clean as fresh snow.

2. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not very serious about this God stuff.” 

Although Harry prayed to receive Jesus at a high school retreat and presently goes to church a couple of times a month, he really doesn’t give much thought to God in his day to day living. He doesn’t read his Bible to find out how to run his business, raise his children or treat his wife. In fact, his life is really no different from the non-Christians he works with every day. Although he has doubts about his salvation, he’s banking on that high school decision at a retreat to get him into heaven.

Harry needs to read some verses that comfort the disturbed, but disturb the comforted. Harry needs to be disturbed. Do you remember the verse we mentioned earlier in this study?

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

What were “these things” that John had written to give them assurance? The book of I John describes two kinds of lives, the life of those who have eternal life and the life of those who don’t. Look at the characteristics of each life:

Real Christians show evidence of their salvation by their…

Obedience (I John 2:3,4) 

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 

Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation

Faith (I John 5:1) 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 

Love 

Love for God (I John 5:1,2)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 

Love for People (I John 3:14,15)

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

Some of us sensitive types may look at this list and get discouraged. After all, none of us live out faith, love and obedience 100% of the time. Does this mean we’re not Christians? No! When John wrote the book of I John, he often used a tense that in the original Greek indicates a habitual lifestyle. I John 1:8 clarifies that we’re not speaking of perfection.

Some people get so sensitive that when they miss a personal time with God they question whether they are saved or not. But just the fact that you are trying to meet with God, and feel bad when you don’t, shows that the Spirit is working in your life.

When we accepted Christ, a big about face occurred in our lives. Instead of making all decisions centered on “me, me, me,” we’re starting to think about loving others and living for God.

According to I John, my assurance is based, not on how emotional I got at a religious service, but on the general direction of my heart and life, here and now.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

Do you believe in Jesus now? Are you following Jesus now? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ now? Are you following God rather than following self? According to God’s Word you’re a Christian and you have eternal life.

Caution! Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation. Our salvation is by grace through faith, not something we earn (Ephesians 2:8,9).

3. “I’m afraid I’m too weak to hold onto my salvation.” 

I’ve got good news for you! First, you don’t have to wait to see if you get eternal life with God after you die. You already have eternal life.

Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

Think about it. If you could lose your eternal life, then it was never eternal in the first place! You already possess the eternal life that you’re afraid you might not get!

Second, God promises that He’ll keep you. Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us. Jesus said,

And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39, 40) 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29) 

These verses paint a vivid picture of us securely held in Jesus’ and God’s hands. Don’t let that picture leave your mind. We’re not dangling from God’s fingers, holding on desperately for fear that we’ll fall away from Him. His all-powerful hand holds us so firmly in its grasp that nothing can snatch us away. Our salvation is as secure as the power of God to hold and keep us!

 

End Notes:

(1) Found in Bill Bright’s Transferable Concepts (Campus Crusade for Christ). Worded by Steve Miller.

(2) Corrie ten Boom with Jamie Buckingham, Tramp for the Lord (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1974), 53.

pocket principle Getting StartedINTRODUCTION

Just before leaving on a big trip, I always take a final look around to make sure I’ve got everything I need. Do I have my wallet, enough money for gas and food, my plane ticket, the papers with the addresses and phone numbers of hotels? Although I’m almost certain I’ve already put these in the car, I check one last time just to be sure. Why? Because if I’ve forgotten something essential, I may never make it to my intended destination.

In the same way, after making a decision to follow Christ, I had to look back to make sure I’d done everything right. I knew that if I’d misunderstood some essential aspect of salvation, I might never make it to where I wanted to go— heaven. Because of the importance of this salvation experience, it’s only natural that some people question their experience or want to make sure they “did it right.” We know that God’s done His part in sending His Son to pay for our sins. Our concern is that perhaps we’ve not done everything right on our part to receive His gracious gift. That’s what this lesson is all about.

Why not stop reading for a moment and ask God to help you understand His Word on this important topic. If you’re not used to talking to God, you could just say something like, “God, I want to make sure I’ve done everything I need to do in order to be forgiven and to be Your child. Please help me to understand. Thanks for caring about me!”

UNDERSTANDING WHAT GOD DID FOR US

First, there are certain things we need to understand and believe. Some people say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you live consistently with it.” Yet, Hitler believed that he was doing the world a favor by killing off “lesser” races and helping the “superior” Aryan race to dominate the earth. Osama Bin Laden believes that Allah wants him to kill people who don’t believe as he does. Both Hitler and Bin Laden may have lived consistently with their beliefs. Yet, wrong beliefs lead to wrong actions. Having the right belief is critical. What must we believe to be saved?

The Bad News: We are sinful and this sin separates us from God. Because of our sin, we are lost and can’t have a relationship with God through our own efforts.

Imagine that you’re in a math class and your teacher says, “You should know how to work all of these problems by now. The passing grade for this pop quiz is 100%.” Yet, as you take the test, you realize that you’re getting some of the problems wrong. No matter how many you get right from now on, will you ever pass the test? No. Because passing is 100%. No matter how many you get correct from now on, you’ll never get 100%. You’re gonna fail.

Passing that math test after missing some problems is as impossible as making it to heaven, on our own, after we’ve already sinned—falling short of God’s perfection. Imperfect people can’t make it to a perfect heaven on their own merits. This is the first thing we need to believe.

The Good News: Knowing that we couldn’t save ourselves, God sent His Son

Jesus Christ to save us. Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life in obedience to His heavenly Father. When He died on the cross, He wasn’t dying for His own sins, but for our sins. He paid the penalty that we deserved to pay.

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. (I Peter 3:18a)

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Imagine that last year you found a misplaced folder at work that proved your employers were exaggerating their profits to make their company look good to the stock holders. Although you knew you should go public with the information, you thought of your responsibility to your family and didn’t want to risk getting fired. Now you sit in a courtroom before a judge who finds you guilty of participating in the crime by withholding information. He says that you must either pay a fine of $100,000.00 or serve 10 years in jail. You tell him you don’t have $100,000.00. As a righteous judge, he declares you guilty.

Then the judge, seeing the distress on your face and the faces of your children, appears to be holding back tears as he writes something that only he can see. He hands it to a courtroom aid, who delivers it to you. You gasp as you realize that the judge has just written you a check for $100,000.00, offering to pay the entire penalty that you owed.

That’s what the Bible calls grace—God offering a payment for what you owed, not because you deserved it, but because of His great love. How astounding that God would pay our debt with the sacrifice of His Son.

But it’s not enough for God to offer this gift. You could reject the check offered to you by the gracious judge. How do we receive God’s grace?  It’s not enough to believe in God and believe that Jesus died for our sins. According to the Bible, even demons believe in God (James 2:19). We must receive His forgiveness through repentance and faith. Let’s look at these one at a time.

RESPONDING THE WAY GOD WANTS US TO RESPOND

Repent From Our Sins. Repentance is our response to the bad news: our sinfulness and rebellion against God. The simplest definition of repentance is “a willingness to change.” Don’t get confused here! We’re not saying that we change so that God will save us. That would be salvation by works! Besides, we can’t make a lot of changes in our lives until God renews us and empowers us to live a new life. We’re simply saying that we make a mental change of allegiance, from bowing to self to bowing to God.  In repentance we tell God, “I’m willing to change! I want to turn from my sin and serve You!”

From that time on Jesus began to preach, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ (Matthew 4:17)

Believe In Jesus. Faith or belief in Christ is our appropriate response to the good news.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

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. (John 3:16) and worked miracles and rose from the dead.” To believe in Jesus means that you put your trust in Him. It’s like people who say that they believe in aerobic exercise.

They don’t mean merely that they believe that somewhere in the world, aerobic exercise classes exist. They mean that they believe enough in aerobics to be willing to do aerobics. If a person says she believes in Coke, she’s saying more than she believes Coca-Cola exists. She believes in it enough as a refreshing beverage that she’s willing to drink it.

Similarly, faith in Christ is more than an intellectual agreement that He exists. It’s putting our trust in Him to save us. It’s entrusting ourselves to Him. We’re saying that we believe that God has offered us forgiveness through the death of Christ for our sins and we accept the payment that He offers. We’re also saying that we’re willing to follow Christ.

In repentance we tell God, “I’m willing to change!  I want to turn from my sin and serve you!”

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Although repentance and faith focus on two different things, sin and Christ, they are actually one mental act. As we turn away from our sin, we turn toward Christ at the same time. As Jesus said,

‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’ (Mark 1:15)

So, let’s go back to the important trip we talked about at the beginning of this lesson. In order to make sure I could make it to my destination, I asked myself, “Did I bring my plane ticket? Did I bring enough cash?” In the same way, if we want to make sure that we are truly God’s children and are going to make it to heaven, we must ask, “Have I truly repented of my sins? Have I truly believed on Jesus?” If you know that you haven’t, or if you’re simply not sure, why not confirm your decision by expressing it to God in prayer. He’s not so interested in the words you use as He is the sincerity of your heart. If this written prayer expresses the desire of your heart, why not say it to God right now?

“God, I’ve gone my own way. I’m sorry. I’m turning from my sins. Give me the strength to follow You. I believe in You, putting my trust in you to save me from my sins. Make me into a new person and take me to heaven. Thanks for forgiving me and loving me so much!”

If you prayed that prayer and sincerely meant it, then on the authority of God’s Word, you are His child and you are successfully headed to your destination—heaven!

FACTS VERSUS FEELINGS

You’re having one of those days. You didn’t get enough sleep last night. Your boss treats you like dirt. You go to your home fellowship meeting and hope to get some encouragement. Instead, you see this bubbly Christian who never seems down who tells about how God solved all her problems. “All my problems aren’t solved,” you think. Then a new Christian gives a dramatic testimony about how he received Christ and felt something like electricity go through his entire body.

“I didn’t have a big emotional experience when I got saved,” you think. Then you begin to wonder if you’re really a Christian at all.

This is where you must put emotions in their place. The Bible said, “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) It didn’t say, “whoever feels bubbly all the time” will have eternal life. It didn’t say, “whoever has a dramatic emotional experience” will have eternal life. It says that “whoever believes in Him shall…have eternal life.”

So, if I truly believe/repent, but am not saved, what would this say about God? (He would be a liar. And if God’s a liar, we’re all up the creek!) So the salvation of those who repent and believe is as secure as the promise of God, regardless of how we feel.

Hint: Some people offset future doubts by writing down exactly what they understood and prayed when they received Christ. For example, you might photocopy this lesson and write at the end, “I understood this lesson and prayed this prayer for assurance of my salvation on this day” (write out date). Next, put it in a safe place.

Ten years from now, when you have another one of those bad days and Satan whispers in your ear, “You didn’t know what you were doing when you prayed that prayer ten years ago,” you can take it out and show Satan exactly what you did. Your salvation is as secure as the promise of God. Then you can tell Satan to “get lost.”

knowing god for studentsDid you know that our blog offers free online versions of the Pocket Principles® that we publish with our Guided Discussions.  A Group that I am leading at my church is currently studying through the Cornerstone Series.  Knowing God is the second in that set of workbooks.

If you have trouble finding these with our search tool in the header, you can use this blog as a reference.

Relating to God