Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Being a Christian: What Does That Even Entail?

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BEING A CHRISTIAN
What Does that Even Entail?

 
Hey everyone, I have begun writing yet again! Here is what I wrote for all who wish to learn from Christ, and this is a great list to print out to share with other people who might want to know how to be a Christian!

1.      Does God love me?

a.      Heavens yes He does! In fact, God not only lived for you here on earth, but He even died for you just so you could have a relationship with Him at all. Can you even imagine loving someone so much that you would die for them when they don’t even know you did that for them? And simply to have friendship with them! Many people on earth would not die even for family members or spouses that they’ve spent their whole lives with, but God died for you just to be your friend before you were even born.

b.      And remember, this is G O D. If you were God, would you be so generous to people who resent you and disobey you? Boy does He love us all for sure!!!!

2.      What is sin?

a.      Sin is any disobedience to God’s will. There are deadly sins people must avoid and there are also the 10 commandments to obey as well. Furthermore, when a person becomes a Christian (that is, a follower of Jesus Christ), he learns to obey God. 1 John 5 says that when we walk with Christ we walk in the light, and we love everyone as ourselves. And we show love for God by obeying His commands.

3.      How did sin come about?

a.      Genesis 3, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit against God’s wishes. They were deceived by Satan, who tempted them with the power of godhood with playing on words to make them think they would become mighty like God. When they ate the fruit, they then knew what good and evil was, and they saw that they were naked. Nakedness is symbolic of sin. The story shows how pride caused Adam and Eve to want more than their positions allowed. They wanted more than the earth. They “chose” to be autonomous from God. That is the basic meaning of this passage. They did not want to be under God’s authority. But since they were deceived, they did not become gods (powerful), but instead they became “like God” in that they suddenly understood what good and evil is.

4.      Why does sin still exist?

a.      Sin still exists because God is a perfect judge. He cannot tolerate any sin in His presence, but neither was God willing to kill Adam and Eve and restart His creation. Not only that, He could not rightly spare Adam and Eve but then punish Satan since God is a perfect judge. So God chose to relent punishment altogether.

                                                              i.      SICKNESS AND DEATH: Instead of eradicating sin (which would have killed Adam and Eve), God allowed them to  face the natural consequences of disobedience. God withdrew His presence from the earth, and without God’s protection Satan became capable of causing all sorts of awful things to us and to God’s creation. Death is Satan’s ultimate power, just as sickness, murder and all other sins stem from Satan so too does death.

 

It is because God separated Himself from Adam and Eve due to sin that Satan was able to afflict all mankind with aging, sickness, death, and all the horrible things we endure today. God does not and has not punished us for sin, but sin itself has its own natural consequences that God allows.

 

5.      Then what is the point of being alive?

a.      So God chose to spare us all in spite of sin because He values our free will, but that free will also made it possible for mankind to disobey (sin). God now uses our limited time on the earth to TEACH us how to obey with our free will in tact. God’s mission is gather to Himself all humans who love Him freely, just as we ourselves want to find love too, so does God. We love because God loves, but we also hate because Satan hates. We are in an endless battle because both God and Satan speak to us. God leads us to salvation, but we have the free will to follow Satan. In God’s eyes, anyone who does not worship Him actually worships Satan. And we ought not to do that! So we must choose to follow God to overcome sin (disobedience) and in return, we gain God’s love. Following God is very difficult, since He tests the limits of our love and causes us to grow.

6.      If God is good, why does He let us suffer?

a.      First, God does not usually intervene in our lives to stop suffering because suffering is the natural consequence of our sin. Suffering has many good side effects as well. For example, it builds character and causes us to keep our relationship with God strong through prayer and faith. God protects us and guides us THROUGH trials, and without God we can easily fall prey to death.

b.      Second is that love endures all hardships. For example, In the book of Job of the Old Testament, Job was tested if he loved God only because he had many blessing from God, however Job’s love for God remained even when he became sick, lost his family, his home and other material possessions. Job’s love did not waiver. And just like Job, God wants us to love Him genuinely and not because we are blessed. Many people think it is God’s duty to make our lives easier, but that is actually the opposite of what happens. God tends to make our lives a good bit harder so we can grow in Him. True love ENDURES all trials and hardships.

7.      So what do I get from God and what do I give to Him?

a.      When a man marries a woman, in the same way Job endured hardship in his relationship with God, so too is it expected that a man and wife endure similar hardships that life tends to send our way. Marriage vows say “in sickness or health, til death do we part.” This is because we believe in our hearts that love conquers all, and indeed it does but many of us do not know genuine love. So many people want love but do not know how to love back. Job is a great example of how to love others and how to love God. Love God and love all people without expecting anything back and God will love you for it more than you can ever imagine. This is how you give to God, and this is what you can get from God as well. God gives you His Holy Spirit through His son Jesus Christ, whom He sent to die for your sins. Confessing that Christ is the son of God is the first step to a relationship with God. This was a gift from God to enable you to talk to God and walk through life and trials with the Holy Spirit. It is possible to have the Holy Spirit in your heart because Jesus died to cleanse you of sins, making this relationship possible. From the beginning of time til 2000 years ago, the Jews and all people who followed God did not have this Spirit in them, so you should be honored! God took the first step toward a relationship with you before you were even born, so will you take your first step toward Him now too?

b.      And when we fall in love, we like to give and to receive, and God’s relationship with us is the same. God the Father gave His son Jesus Christ to die for us to forgive our sins, so what will you give to God? Well, the only thing we have to give are our hearts! That is all you will ever need in your relationship with Him.

8.      What is repentance? How can I repent if nobody can stop sinning?

a.      Since sin is merely any kind of “disobedience,” that means that repentance means “obedience” by “turning” to God. The word repent simply means “to turn away from.” So if God says wash your hands every day at 10pm and you don’t, that is sin and in order to repent, you will try, try, try to always wash your hands at 10pm. In essence, repentance does not have so much to do with becoming “sinless” as so many think and fail to accomplish, but rather repentance is really more of an “earnest desire” in your heart not to sin anymore that is always followed by strong action to stop sinning. 1 John 5 says that anyone who loves the LORD can only show it to Him by obedience to *****all His commands***** so try to stop sinning.

b.      You cannot obtain forgiveness from Christ if you knowingly sin or disobey God continually on purpose, and the Bible is GOD’s Word to guide you. You must obey every single word. Sure, we all fall, in fact, the bible says a man falls 7 times 70 times, which is a figurative way of saying we sin almost constantly. The issue is not so much sinning as it is your desire to continue sin. This is explained below.

9.      Why does anyone even try to stop sinning when they are destined to fail?

a.      Continuing with the explanation of repentance above, repentance has to do with fighting against sin. We can do this through prayer and God’s revelations to us (that is, revealing answers). When we pray, we should submit ourselves to God’s will. By adopting an attitude of a servant, we are then able to see God as our master and protector who guides us away from sin. The first step is learning to hate sin. Recognizing that it is because of sin that we are blessed less is a great motivator to learn to hate sin. Here are some other ideas…

                                                              i.      Wanting sin is the same thing as a person saying they want to be a slave.

 

Think of it this way: The less you need to be happy then the less reasons you have to be unhappy! It’s a play on words but it makes sense. If a person needs NOTHING to maintain happiness then that person will always be happy. Plain and simple. SO what do you base your happiness on? Sin actually prevents joy and happiness because it is always there with us making demands that we have to fulfill in order to keep feeling ok. Sin makes us want, crave, lust… so thins means sin is our enemy. Without sin we can be very happy if we only try, try, try to fight it, but if we give up in our fight against sin then we are forced to serve it like a slave is forced to labor.

 

                                                            ii.      For example, continuing with the above: Let’s pretend there is a man whose sin is GREED. That is one of the 7 deadly sins, so you can rest assured it is a powerful sin. This man will always need more “things” or “more money” in order to maintain his happiness. Because money and “things” become boring over time, the man is forced to maintain his happiness by continuing to buy more things or by hording more money. This is sad because if he chose to resist that sin with God’s power, then he would not need those worthless things which break over time and become boring and he’d be able to give away his money to help people. But he is enslaved to his wealth and things. He feels that he needs them in order to maintain his happiness, but is he happy? No, you already know this answer. He is not happy. He is actually blinded and he is afraid. He bases his life on greed, so his life has become so shallow and empty that he cannot live without his greed. That is why sin is so dangerous. Sex is the same way. Most sins act like this. So what is the answer to this man’s life problem of sin? FIGHT! Christ can destroy his greed and set him free because the more he tries not to sin and to give his sin of greed to God, the happier he will realize he can be without his things or his money. Instead he will learn that being closer to God is better by far, and one great way to get closer to God is to fight against sin. Thus, his greed will slowly and naturally decrease over time because instead he is learning to want God more.

                                                          iii.      The more you realize that you want God, the less sin will be enjoyable. SO learn to want God, and many sins will simply disappear from your life.

                                                           iv.      Just as sin has natural consequences of misery, affliction, death, and so on, so too does obeying God have consequences…GOOD ONES. God blesses those who obey with a rich life of meaning, purpose, strength, and even can bless them with a longer life on earth. God gives to you, so learn to give to God. You can do this through learning to enjoy obedience, and keeping up your fight against sin.

10.  What are the differences between belief and faith?

a.      Belief in Christ is to admit that He is the Son of God. So is belief sufficient to enter heaven? The Bible says no. In fact, James 2:19 says that “even the demons of hell believe- and tremble!” So if demons believe in Christ, what is belief really for? Actually, belief is the prerequisite to faith. By recognizing that Christ is God’s son, we can then begin to develop faith

b.      So what is faith? Let’s look at Webster’s dictionary to see what FAITH is:

1a.  allegiance to duty or a person :  loyalty

1b. (1)  fidelity to one's promises (2) :  sincerity of intentions

2a. (1) belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) :  belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion

2b. (1) firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) :  complete trust

3. something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially :  a system of religious beliefs <the Protestant faith>

 

                                                              i.      So it seems that faith is actually stemming from belief, and that “belief” causes faith to grow. Faith is a type of belief!

                                                            ii.      Also, faith is a powerful “trust in” and “loyalty to” God based on the bible and our belief that God is truthful, that He is our friend, and that it is safe to believe in His words. Therefore, because of those beliefs we can have “faith” that He is dependable.

                                                          iii.      Notice how I use the words belief in, then faith in? That is because our beliefs form our faith. If we do not believe that God is truthful, for example, then we will never have faith in Him! So in that context, a belief that God is evil will prevent faith.

                                                           iv.      Faith grows from our beliefs

                                                             v.      Therefore, when the Christ said to “believe and do not doubt” he is really saying that we should believe and HOLD FAITH.

11.  So then, since belief is not enough to go to heaven, is faith enough?

a.      James 2:14-26 says that faith is not always enough in Christ's eyes since works for God are also required too at some point. Early Christians may struggle with this, but many feel strongly that since Christ calls us to pick up our crosses every day that the "standard" of living for Christ incrementally increases as we pass through trials with Jesus. To be specific, many people can be saved but actually stagnate in their walk with Christ because they do nothing more than live their day-to-day with no works for God's kingdom. As James points out, what good is their faith then to God except that they are saved? God wants so much more! While the Bible makes it clear that both belief and faith are enough to get to heaven, Christ demands our whole hearts without reservation. We must love and worship Him more than anything in the whole universe, and love Him more than our own children, spouse, or families.  Is faith enough then to be Christ's true friend/disciple? No, because there need to be works out of that faith and here marks the divide between being saved and being a friend of God. Salvation happens at first with belief and faith but later on works are eventually necessary to keep walking with Christ (called picking up your cross daily). As Christians, though we may be saved, we are called not just to believe and to have faith but to ACT on those beliefs and our faith is SHOWN to everyone around us. James writes to us, telling us that we are not merely Christians but we are servants…and what does a servant do best? SERVE. We serve Christ’s kingdom by following God’s commands just as I wrote about far above regarding sin and repentance.
Here is a quote from Billy Graham from My Hope For America:
          "Times haven’t changed that much. There are still many parts of this world where proclaiming the Gospel carries a great risk. Yet it is still our responsibility as individual Christians, wherever we are, to speak up like Paul and Timothy–to do the work of an evangelist and tell as many as we can the Good News of Christ’s atonement for our sins," http://billygraham.org/decision-magazine/october-2009/the-work-of-an-evangelist/

12.  Ok, so what are works and how do I do them so I can be a good Christian?

a.      James gives us an example on the many, many ways we can be ready to serve God’s kingdom.

b.     
Jesus says in Mark 9:41 that if anyone “gives” so much as a cup of cold water to another person simply because they want to please Christ then that person will not lose their reward. This is figurative and very powerful about Christ's view on generosity. Jesus is illustrating to us that when we give, God gives to us in return. Jesus did not want giving to be random or sporadic, neither did He want us to give only when it seemed safe to give or easy to give. Christ's promises us all of our needs in Matthew 6:25-34 and here He is now saying to give abundantly. Do not worry, what you give will be replenished. In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus talks about giving out of love for God and not out of your abundance, because it takes faith to give up what you need and expect God to provide that which you lack. A widow in the verses below gave only two pennies, but those two pennies were all she had left to give at all. In the same way we are called to be generous as well.
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
 
c.       Jesus says to give to the poor whatever they need, Matthew 19:21

d.      Jesus says to give up your wants and desires for His sake, further emphasizing that our bodies are not ours but God’s, Mark 15:16 & 19, Matthew 16:24-27, 1 Peter 2:21-25, Matthew 19:16-30, Galatians 5:24, Luke 14:27-33, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Matthew 10:37-39 and the list goes on and on and on!

e.      Jesus says to spread the Gospel of God’s Grace, that is, to teach other people about Jesus and to help them to develop belief and faith in Christ just as I am to you, Mark 16:15-20

13.  But what in the world can I do to be an effective minister?

a.      I am spreading God’s grace by writing to you. What are your talents? What are you good at? Is there anyway to mix your skills with teaching God’s grace? What can you learn also?

b.      I write poetry about God and grace, I blog about Christian apologetics, I email my friends about Christ all the time and I minister to virtually everyone I meet, even strangers and homeless people.

c.       Other people paint wonderful works of art of God, heaven, the Cruscifixion, and so on. The list is almost endless.

d.      People also travel to other countries just to talk to those who don’t have the benefit of being raised in a country founded on Christ. Pray about it, perhaps the Lord will open a door for a missions trip! Join a missions-minded church and offer yourself to the pastor for any trips they may be planning. It may take months or a year or so, but if you’re patient you’ll get to go and help. People do this because many countries do not allow Christianity at all! People can be thrown in jail or murdered for belief in Christ, so many Christians go over to them anyway and die just to save other people. When you and I die, we simply go to heaven so it’s not bad. But when a person without Christ dies, that person goes to hell because no one can enter heaven without knowing Christ. Your life belongs to God, you are safe, but God left us all with the duty to spread His gospel, and you must.

                                                              i.      2 Peter 1:3-11 says that you must “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” By doing this every day, you are making a habit to be what God wants you to be, and in effect, you are allowing God to forge you into a capable minister. By knowing God’s Word in the bible, you can do as I’m doing and defend the Truth when people say God doesn’t exist or that God hates mankind (etc). Furthermore, when you make a daily habit of good qualities, people see you are different. You make Christ and belief in Christ look appealing just by being a nice person! People without Christ do not inherit the qualities above! So practice makes perfect!

14.  How can salvation even save a person?

a.      Salvation is the verbal confession (belief) of Christ as God by yourself and to others that we are sinners saved by Christ's grace by His death and resurrection on the cross to atone for our sins by His blood, and it is faith in Christ’s promise that He is God’s son and that we are in fact saved that allows us to go to heaven and know Christ personally here on the earth. Asking for salvation is your way of telling God you will follow Him in obedience to His commands and repent of sins (turn away constantly, no matter how hard it is). Therefore, salvation in a nutshell is serving God since both obeying His commands and repenting are "acts" of faith and the beginnings of a relationship with Christ. NO MAN CAN EARN SALVATION. Works cannot cover your sins, nor will being good or acting nice or being charitable cover sins or get you into heaven...only believing and having faith in Christ, repenting and loving Christ will save a man and allow him to enter heaven, and we are saved because we believe in God's promises to us that we will be rewarded with His love and friendship in heaven, which we can experience on this earth as well. Salvation then, is when a person dies but he/she does not actually die because Christ is there at the grave to raise you from the dead because while you were on earth you loved God. It’s as simple as that. Love God and when you die you go to heaven. What bite does death have then? NONE!

15.  What is the purpose of prayer?

a.      Prayer is God’s method of letting us talk to God. When we pray, we talk to God about what is bothering us, we ask for help, we ask Him what He wants us to do with the life we have, we give our sins and desires to God in prayer.

b.      So then, prayer is a dedicated time we set aside for God. We are told in the Bible that it is good to pray on our knees, to clasp our hands together and to confess our sins every day, to ask for Christ’s forgiveness by His shed blood on the cross, and we can even ask for healing from ailments, difficult sins, trials that we may be going through, and the list goes on. There are no bounds to what we can pray for.

c.       Always end your prayers with “…Your will be done Lord, in Christ’s name I pray, amen.” This is because we are servants, and regardless of what we want and how good it may be to want it or need it, God is GOD, He should always be allowed to do as He wishes. He promises to care for us and to do right by us, so by saying “your will be done” to God is an act of faith.

d.      Furthermore, we should always, always, always acknowledge Christ at the end of our prayers because He died for us just so we could talk to God at all. When you pray, say “in Christ’s name I pray, amen!” This is because when we pray to God, we are actually talking to both Christ the Son and God the Father. God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit are the Trinity, which is God. All three are one person, but you can probably think of them as one person divided into “tasks.” God the Father is the Almight, and Christ is the Son who died for us so we could have a relationship with God at all. It may seem confusing, but you can read more and you’ll understand as you learn about God more.

That is all! I hope this helps.

GOD BLESS!

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