Used by permission for ISOB students - Handbook for followers of Jesus Winkie Pratney author
Bethany House Publishers Copyright 1977 not authorized for resale
HOW TO BECOME A CHILD OF GOD:
By Winkie Pratney, reprinted from his web page tracts by permission
If you have never really met Jesus, you can, right now.
You may not have much in common with Christians you've met or read about. You may be from a different nation, with different abilities, a different income, a different educational or religious background. You may be saying "What's all this got to do with me?" Or "That's fine for them, but my situation, my problems are hopeless." Well, here's good news! The answer they found is the same answer you can find for yourself. Victory over any adversity may be found by living for Jesus Christ. Whatever you are going through, there is hope in Jesus.
God is real. Jesus is alive! He loves you and is concerned for your well-being. He is the absolute Reality on which all truth is ultimately grounded. His message for you and your world is contained in the collection of 66 books called the Bible. Its transcendent teachings have stood the test of time, the scrutiny of scholars and the furnace of practical experience. They speak not only about history but how to live today in every level and facet of life.
The Bibles' theme is God's plan of freedom from sin and death, a message that has delivered millions in every nation from self-destructive habits and given them a life both abundant and eternal. By first entering into and then developing a personal relationship with this living God, you will find everything you need for life on earth and for all eternity. Your life will have a sense of purpose marked by confidence and peace of mind. You will understand the true meaning of life. And God Himself will be your loving Father and your great Friend to give you power and to guide your steps. From the Bible we learn these facts:
(1) God created humanity and nature for a wonderful purpose, but a stupid act of rebellion and self-centeredness by the first man and woman caused our race to lose our original relationship with Him and fall into a state of sin. Our sad legacy is now a nature wholly self-centered and impure in thought, word and deed. Our best efforts are selfish; apart from God we cannot even agree on what "good" is.
(2) Gods laws revealed in the Bible are not inventions, but descriptions of reality. They truthfully tell us how things actually are in the moral world. We do not actually "break" Gods laws; they break us. We are punished by our sin as much as we are punished for our sin. All true law has a penalty as important as the law it is designed to protect. The penalty for sin, the violation of Gods moral law is endless death and eternal separation from God; if we live like hell here, our death will only confirm to us the reality of Hell forever. Whether we consider our violations large or small, the sentence must be the same; the "wages of sin is death; the soul that sins shall die."
(3) On our own we can do nothing to cancel or escape this sentence. We deserve to be judged. Nothing we can say or do can possibly justify the life we have lived and the things we have done to hurt ourselves, others and most of all, God.
(4) But God has no personal problems in seeking to forgive and restore us. God has never stopped loving rebellious man nor seeking to pardon us. At great cost to Himself, God found a way to provide a way back to His heart and our true home.
(5) In Jesus Christ God became a man and lived among us. He put on display Gods love, wisdom, power and compassion. Born like no man before Him, He lived a sinless life without historical equal, spoke in wisdom like no man ever spoke, and demonstrated beyond contention Divine power and love in His miracles of healing, provision and deliverance. He even raised three people from the dead. Then to the astonishment of the world He did it decisively Himself!
(6) What seemed at first tragedy turned out to be Divine strategy. To liberate us from our death sentence and reconcile us to Himself, Jesus laid down his sinless life as a substitute for the penalty you and I so thoroughly deserve. He gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sin and made our forgiveness and pardon possible. Now if you will trust Him as your substitute, you can go free. The God-Man on the middle cross has taken your place!
(7) After three days in the tomb Jesus rose from the dead by the power of His Father. He was seen then by hundreds of witnesses, has been met since then by millions all over the world and lives today as the Ultimate Victor over sin, death and the grave. Because of what Jesus did, anyone who believes Jesus Christ is God's Son, and trusts in His complete work on the cross for pardon and cleansing will be forgiven of sin and be restored to friendship with God. By His Holy Spirit God Himself will enter your life and break the enslaving power of sin once and for all.
(8) You will not only be given the gift of His eternal life to live forever with him, but life here and now will be forever different. But to experience this you must make a deliberate and conscious decision to surrender your life to Christ as your Lord and Savior.
(9) This experience is called the "New Birth." God tells us in the Bible that the only way a person can become a true Christian is to be "born again." The essential conditions for receiving this new life in Jesus are:
Conditions Of Real Conversion To Christ:
(a) Honesty: All your life you have been living a lie. When you come to God, you must face for the first time the truth about your wrong. To do this you must be utterly real. God will not do business with people who do not mean business with Him. "He that covers his sins shall not prosper; but whoever confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy." (Prov.28:13)
(b) Repentance: "I confess that I am a sinner and I cannot save myself from sin." True repentance means turning completely from your selfishness, with the determination to sin no more. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see, hate and forsake your sin. True repentance means giving up of all rights to your life; you must die to all your own plans, dreams and ambitions and put yourself into Gods loving hands for whatever He wants of your life.
True repentance also means the willingness as far as humanly possible to make right all known wrong. Whatever the Holy Spirit speaks to you about, whether it is forgiveness of those who have hurt you, confession of wrong to another, restoring or repaying someone, the Lord Jesus will give you the courage and words to make it right.
(c) Faith: "I believe that God is real, and that Jesus Christ is His son. I freely confess He died on the cross for the penalty I deserved. I believe that I can receive both His forgiveness and a new life through the power of His Spirit living within me." This act of faith is neither an idea or a feeling but an intelligent and deliberate act of the will. Give Him your doubts, your weakness and your loneliness. Your heart will never have peace, your doubts will never clear up, you will never die to the world until you trust, surrender, believe from your heart!
Why wait any longer? Jesus Christ is knocking at the door of your heart, waiting to come in. You can pray a simple, life-changing prayer right now.
In your own words confess to Him that you are a sinner and you hate your sin. Ask him to forgive you and cleanse your soul from all that is not right. Surrender your life wholly to His mercy and power, and ask Him to take over the total control of your life, now and forever. Thank Him for His forgiveness and ask Him to show you how to live for Him.
The Bible says "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation ... the same Lord over all is rich to all that call on Him. For whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:9-13)
What he has done for countless other young men and women around the world - He can and will do for you. Just ask.
a handbook for FOLLOWERS OF JESUS
(Short Form with various chapters omitted)
Used by permission for ISOB students in Africa and other countries Handbook for followers of Jesus Winkie Pratney author Bethany House Publishers Copyright 1977 not authorized for resale
A letter from the Lord
Don't be afraid anymore, My child, From now on, I will be with you always; I am your God, for you have asked Me to control your life, And I will give you the strength you will need to live it for Me; You can count on this strength always, no matter what faces you; I will always hold you up with My strong hand of perfect goodness. Yes, I know, I know how little you are beside the vast powers that move My heavens; You are just like a worm-blind to the fullness of My power, With a very definite liking for the old, safe dirt Afraid to go out into the sunlight of My Presence. But, I am in control of all this universe; I give breath to all people on the earth, And I have called you in goodness and mercy. I promise you I will go with you and keep You if you stay close to Me; None of them will ever be turned away. I give such rich gifts to My children! The gift of peace is one of them; All the world cannot give you this You don't have to worry anymore, nor be afraid In the house of My Father, I have made a home for you It will be there, waiting for, you, when you fall asleep in My arms.
The most Priceless gift I give You is the gift of living forever! The real you will never die. Nor will any man be able to pull you from the shelter, of My hand; The God of Forever will be Your safe hiding place, And underneath you are the strong arms that hold you up and never let go.
You are like a little lamb, newborn, and I am Your Good Shepherd. From now on You can learn to recognize My voice; You will know Me someday just as I know you, now, And now you can learn what I want you to do for Me. If You REALLY love Me, promise Me you will do what I ask; The tasks I give you will never be too big , too hard. Read what I have said in My Book; It is given to You to make you fit and right in all matters of life. You will discover its hidden riches now that you can spiritually see. Every word I have spoken is full of living power; It will help you, to decide differences Between My will and the way You used to walk; It will stab right down deeper into hearts than a switchblade, Showing what is really going on inside them. I have caused it to be written so that you will trust Me more and more, And that through trusting, You and all others you meet might have the life that I want You to have. Talk with Me all the time. Never let Yourself get into the place where you can't pray. It will help you keep a brave, trusting heart in all places at all times - Yes, even when the, way is difficult and hard. From now on you ca, expect trouble from the world around you; You don't belong to the enemy's world anymore, but to Mine. So, whenever You are hurt for Me in any way by the world, You can have a secret cause to be glad: You are doing it for My sake. so you an be happy about it; It is one sure proof that your life is now truly different.
Work for MY wages; I don't pay My friends in the same evil way the world usually does. Every unselfish act you do for Me, lays up treasure for you in our unearthly palace So don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.
Don't worry over material things like food, drink or clothes to wear; Only people without Me as their Friend have cause to do that! No, always look for what You can do for, God and His world first (Remember, He is the spring of goodness, and He knows your real need). And I promise you - I give You My word - Every single one of these things will be taken are of. I want You to tell others about Me too, Just as My Father and I shared that someone called you was down there, lost - Someone I was willing to die for because I loved and valued you so much.
So, tell Your friends-everybody you meet in the whole, wide world That there is Someone in heaven who longs to love them Back unto the great family of God. That if any one of them is really sorry enough to give up his sin, Call on My name, ask Me to rule in his heart, I will save him and make him Powerful to become a son of God, Just as simply and wonderfully as I changed you. Be careful, child; beware, of Your enemy, the devil; He walks Your earth like a raging lion; He searches for those he can tear and kill; He comes for one Purpose: To steal and kill and destroy.
So-watch and pray in case you feel like toying with temptation. Never doubt Me in anything I tell you! I would never, ever lie to you; I want you to, remember that, For doubt will break the contact between us, And You will again feel lost and afraid. Here is a tremendous fact I will give you all power over any of the devil's forces of darkness and evil.
If you solidly resist him in My strength, he will run in fright from you. You can do anything I tell you to in My power; If GOD is working with you, nothing will be impossible! What I give you to do will never be impossible! Don't forget to meet with others who also belong to Me. If you are really walking in the light of My life, You will want this friendship to share the glorious thing My Father and I are doing in your life. Then you will learn just what it means to know that My blood can clean you utterly from sin. If you slip, if you fall, and an old habit catches you off guard, Don't cover it or pretend; Tell Me about it; bring it all out in the open. I promise to forgive you and clean you up again, No matter how much you have hurt Me I promise to put it all behind My back and get you started again. My child, above all else, love me! With all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength - More than houses, lands, careers, families, friends, children. Not until you begin to do this will you really be able to love others Just like I love you. -
The Lord Jesus
How to become God's child.
THESE ARE THE FACTS...
God loves you. He made you. He knows how you feel. He understands all your problems. He
knows your background. He knows your name. And God loves you and wants you
to have the best for your life.
Everything God does, He does out of love. His love is not just a good feeling about His Universe, but an unselfish CHOICE to will our highest good.
"Herein is love; not the we loved God, but that He loves US and sent His Son
to be the way through which we could be forgiven and come back to Him."
SIN HAS COME BETWEEN YOU AND GOD
Sin is really selfishness; a "me first" attitude of heart and life. It is denying God's right to be God in your life; it is breaking His laws, and
scorning His guidelines for happiness. It is putting ourselves first above everyone else; living first of all to
serve and please ME instead of God, and refusing to treat all others according to their rightful place and value in the Universe.
"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil..."
"ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
GOD HATES SIN BECAUSE IT COST SO MUCH
Sin is the cause of all the heartache in our world. God didn't plan sin. He never plans unhappiness. He wants man to be happy and free. Sin is the
reason why there is pain, misery and death in our land. Sin enslaves us to our feelings instead of our doing what is right and reasonable. Sin makes us
feel guilty and afraid and alone. Sin is the most expensive thing in the Universe. It cost God His only Son. It cost Jesus Christ His life. God, Who
must be just, never can allow sin to go unpunished, or the Universe would begin to collapse in evil. When God's infinitely important law of love for
happiness is broken, the law-breaker must pay the penalty. A law without a penalty is only advice. The penalty must be as important as the law it is
designed to protect. For such a terribly important law as God's law, that was made to direct and protect His intelligent, moral creatures, God set a
penalty as high as possible - endless death, or separation forever from His Universe and all the rights and privileges of living and growing in it
through eternity. "The soul that sins shall die...The wages of sin is death."
YOU, AS A SINNER, DESERVE TO BE PUNISHED
You know that deep inside. By rights, you should pay the penalty of your sin. You knew what was right, but did not do it. You have made a mess of your life. If you are really honest, you know you have no excuses to make. Nothing you could say to God could possibly justify the choices you have made to please yourself. "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of law...for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified...If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His Word is not in us."
BUT - IN HIS GREAT LOVE AND WISDOM, GOD FOUND A WAY TO FORGIVE YOU, AND STILL BE JUST... IF ...you are willing to meet his CONDITIONS....
The Lord Jesus humbled Himself and became man. He lived a perfect life and never broke His Father's law of love. He offered His own perfect life as a sacrifice to provide a substitute for the penalty of your sin. His death on the cross shows at once how much God loves you and how much He hates your sin. You can choose one of two things: pay the penalty for your sin OR resolve to turn your back on the past and give your life to God, letting the Lord Jesus be your substitute. God CANNOT forgive you unless you are willing to stop fighting Him and make Him your Boss. His Holy Spirit makes you willing to change, and He draws you now by His love. He wants to help you make a life-changing decision NOW. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me." "He that trusts his life wholly to the Son is experiencing eternal life; he that does not believe on the Son of God shall not see life; but the anger of God abides on him."
SALVATION is God's plan to restore man to a holy, happy relationship with Him. All problems of sin, doubt, failure and lack of victory or God's power can be conquered by the following steps:
Stop running away from the Voice of God and look at your life. We do not naturally want to obey God; only if we let the Holy Spirit show us our sin as GOD sees it will we realize just how bad we have been.
To do this, you MUST be TOTALLY HONEST!
* Don't pretend.
* Don't "play down" your sin.
* Stop making excuses!
* Admit it from your heart! "God, I am all wrong!"
If necessary, get paper and pencil and WRITE DOWN the things that have come between you and God, and stopped you from serving Him as you ought.
Turn your back on your old way of life. Be WILLING to lose any habit, any plan, any friend that you have been living your life for instead of God. This is not easy, but Jesus said if we wanted to follow Him, we must first count the cost. (Luke 14:25-33) Salvation is like a real marriage. Two people promise themselves to each other, pledge their love to each other before a watching world, and give up all their old dates. This is what God wants you to do to know His love.
Give up all RIGHTS to your own life. If you are going to be a part of God's world-changing family, you cannot be your own boss any longer. You must DIE to your own plans, dreams and ambitions, and be willing to do whatever God wants you to do. He knows EXACTLY what will make you most happy. It may hurt to surrender everything at first, but God knows best, and will never ask you to do anything that you will regret in the end. A true Christian has nothing of his own; time, talents, money, possessions, friends, career, and future - all must be surrendered for his King's service wherever and whenever He wants them
Be prepared to make many changes in your life! The very moment you make this heart-choice for God, the old "you" will die, and a new person inside you will begin to live. If the Holy Spirit is speaking to you about getting something right with someone, you must be willing to do it for God to help you. Wherever you need to confess wrong, or restore or repay something to someone, the Lord Jesus will give you the courage and the words to say. Becoming a Christian implies the WILLINGNESS, as far as is humanly possible, to right all known wrong. (Prov. 28:13) If you have written out a list of things that have come between you and God, ask NOW His forgiveness for those against Him; plan to make right all others with people you know you have wronged, and feel guilty about. The circle of confession must fit the circle of committal of sin. Those against God, confess only to Him; those against one person, to that person alone; those against a group, to the group.
The Lord Jesus Christ by FAITH (a loyalty of love to the Word of God) to rule in your heart as King. He must be your absolute "Boss" from now on! This act of faith is neither an "idea" or a mere "feeling" but an ACT, a CHOICE of your WILL, made intelligently and carefully. Give Him your doubts, your weakness and your loneliness. Your heart will never have peace, your doubts will never clear up, you will never die to the world until you trust, surrender, BELIEVE from your heart! Be totally honest with Him. Receive Christ into your life as your Lord and Master to live for Him from this moment on, forever. (Rom.10:9-10)
* THERE IS NO TIME LIKE NOW...
* GOD HAS DONE EVERYTHING HE CAN FOR YOU...
* THE NEXT MOVE MUST BE YOURS!!!
Are you willing to trust His love? Will you choose His life, or turn your back on His love and choose a future without Christ, without hope and without an end? Will you be very honest with Him right now? Talk to God before the touch of His Holy Spirit lifts off your life. Tell Him in your own words something like this:
"God, I'm sorry I've been selfish and rebellious so long. I'm sick of my old life and I want to change. Please forgive my sin, and give me the power to live my life from this moment on for You. I give you my heart; take over everything I have and am, and be my Lord and King. Amen."
The Marks of a True Disciple
"The one who says he abides in him, ought himself to walk even as he walked" (I John 2:6).
If You have given Year life to the Lord Jesus, You have entered an exciting new world. Things should be different for you. Your life will feel fresh and new. If God has really taken the throne of Your heart, You will see these changes in your life.
1. A desire for scripture. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." A, a true disciple, you will want to find out in His Word what God wants You to do. The Bible is Your spiritual bread. It is Your weapon to defeat the devil. It is a manual to show You how to live True disciples are People of the Bible (Job 23:12; Jer. 15:16; Deut. 6:5-7; Romans. 10: 17; 1 Pet. 2:2).
Make a solemn vow to God to spend a certain amount of time or read a certain number of chapters a day in God's Word (Eccles. 5:4-6). God will take you t Your word on any promise you make to Him. Decide sensibly how much time you can spend with your King each day in training. Make your vow and stick to it,
2. A difference in standards. "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new" (2 Car. 5:17). A real disciple is different in habits, actions and purpose; is different in word, thought and standards. No person really belongs to Jesus who is not trying and trusting to live like his Lord!
Becoming a Christian is like learning to drive on the other side of the road. You must be careful for a while until you learn to think and act by habit in this new way. It will take time and discipline to develop) the right habit patterns. Beware of the crisis In times of stress and sudden temptation you may strongly feel like going back to your old way of life. This is especially true if past habits have taken deep root in your memory. But "there is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; (,God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
3. A discipline of self. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-(,control" (Gal. 5:22, 23). If you are a true child of God, you will begin to tighten up old areas where you used to let yourself "hang loose." You will look at food and drink (in both quality and amount) more carefully so that you won't go on either a gluttonous or macrobiotic trip. You will stay away from all drugs and harmful stimulants. You will lose your desire to show off by the way you live and the way you dress. God will begin to deal with your late nights and late mornings! The Holy Spirit will begin to clear the decks in your life.
Your life will show constant changes for the better each day. God will show you the things He wants changed. The disciple of Jesus will be twelve months closer to God a year from now, He will keep on growing-growing in knowledge of his own weakness, and growing in his knowledge of Christ's power. He will learn how wide are God's arms, how high His standards, how deep His compassion and care, how great His strength. He will learn that God is very easy to please, but hard to satisfy. The Father never gives up halfway! Once the disciple of Jesus has asked Him to take his life, He will do it. And He will keep dealing with him until his life is like that of His Son. "Every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure" (I John3:3 see also Matt. 16:24; Luke 3:11; ICor.9:25-27).
4. A despising by society. Jesus said, "Because you are not of this world the world hates you.... If they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you" (John 15:19, 20). A real disciple will have trouble from the world. This trouble will come from those who do not understand Your new life and those who are afraid to understand; from those who are angry because you don't belong to their selfish crowd anymore and from lukewarm, back slidden church members who are being shown up for their formality and deadness by the light of your new life.
Real Christians are the only truly sane persons in a mad, selfish world. The disciple of Jesus is the only person who can be truly called wise he is not a slave to his lusts and does not live in sin. His life is like a light in the dark pits of the world. When this light shines on selfish lives, sinners caught in it can do only one of three things: run from it, try to put it out or destroy it, or surrender to it and give their lives to (,o(t. Make no mistake if you will live for God, you can expect real trouble from the world around you. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 'Tim. 3:12). "Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be exceedingly, glad, for great is your reward in Heaven" (Matt. 5:10 12; see also 2 Tim. 2:12; John 15:18-21; Romans. 8:18; 12:20 21; 1 Pet. 2:20 21).
5. A seeking of other disciples. "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples if you have love one to another." Find a true church with true faith. That and only that which saves from sin and exalts (loves, talks a lot about) the Savior, the Lord Jesus, is true faith. All else is false religion and will slowly wipe out your new found joy and love in Christ Jesus. Just as live coals stay aflame in fire, so spending time with others on fire for God will help keep you aflame for Christ. Go where you feel at home, where you feel the love of God, where truth is preached with compassion, then work with the disciples there for the Lord Jesus. Don't just trip out on listening to services on radio or TV-hang in there yourself. And remember, your aim is to be like Jesus. He is your standard. He is your example. Keep your eyes on Him. Never lower His standards to try to "fit in" with the crowd, whether that crowd claims to be disciples of Jesus or not. You cannot please Christ and the crowd too (Romans. 15:5-6; Acts 2:42; Eph. 3:17-19; Heb. 10:25 1 Pet. 1:22; 1 John 1:2, 7; 4:7-13).
6. A serving of the, Lord. "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!" said Paul, a mighty love-slave of Jesus his Lord.
A true Christian is a witness! The task of world evangelism is not given only as a lifetime work to the preacher or evangelist; it is given to each of Christ's true disciples as a lifetime work. We have a responsibility regarding the souls of men and women, boys and girls, who pass into eternity around us each day. We must consecrate all we have and are to this task and ask God for His power to carry it out. Jesus said, "You shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and you shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem (at home), and in all Judea (in the immediate neighborhood) and in Samaria (among the out-
casts of society), and even to the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Every Christian is a missionary every sinner is a mission field. One of your fellow disciples may cross the world and you may only cross the street, but all of us have a call to serve the Lord and help Him reach His world (I John 3:16-24; 1 Pet. 2:21; 2 Cor. 9:6-7; Phil. 1:21; Matt. 10:32; John 14:12).
7. A Sticking to the Task. God hasn't planned a continuous up and-(town life for any of His children. You are not expected to be infallible, but you are expected to keep going on with Hi God has promised to keep you safe and protected from all out dangers; the world, the flesh and the devil will have no power over you as long as you stay close to the Lord Jesus, but y must go on, and not took back (Luke 9:62).
A true disciple of Jesus must be determined to stay true to Christ. The express teaching of the Bible is that we live life of habitual victory over sin out of love to God (Matt. 5:13-1 7:12-27; Mark 12:28 34; John 15:8-14; Romans. 13:9-11: I John 3:3-1 No other life is truly Christian. All of us will be confronted each day with temptation, weakness and possible failure; but by Go grace we can make overcoming a habit. Nowhere does the Bible present forgiveness as automatic as long as sin is practiced. lot of people who have claimed the name of Jesus but have lived filthy lives are going to get shocked on the day of judgment. Sit to it, saint! God will uphold you. Paul said, "One thing I d forgetting what ties behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13, 14; 1 John 1 4; Ps. 37:23-2 Romans. 6:1-14; 2 Pet. 1: 1-10; John 5:37-39).
Chapter 4 You Are Important to the Lord
"The Father himself love you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God" (John 16:27).
You are important to the Lord Jesus! One marvelous thing about being a disciple of Jesus is that you never get lost in the crowd. God's amazing knowledge covers every tiny detail of His universe. He knows all about you. Not one thing that happens to you is overlooked. If you comb your hair and lose some of it, God's recorders go "minus 22" ("the very hairs of Your head are all numbered"-Matt. 10:30). Nothing happens in this universe without God knowing it. He comes to the funeral of every tiny bird (Matt. 10:29-31). He is the totally aware One, experiencing ev-erything from the vibration of the smallest meson to the pulsation of the greatest star. And this same God says, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yes, they may forget, but I will not forget you. See, I have graven you on the palms of MY hands" (Isa. 49:15-16).
Have you ever read those "telephone directories" in the Bible? You know, those lists of people with strange names who never seemed to do anything more than take up a lot of Bible space? Remember reading lines like " . . . of the sons of Issachar after their families: of Tola, the family of the Tolaites; of Pua, the family of the Punites: of Jashub, the family of the Jashubites . . ." (Num. 26:23, 24)? If you ever set out to read the whole Bible right through, you probably wondered why on earth God put in all these genealogies. (The only thing I could think of to do with names like Zelophehad, Jahleel and lzrahiah was to play Bible scrabble: double points on a Bible proper name; one of these on a triple square would "wipe the board" in one move!) The Bible has all sorts of long lists that seem to be a waste of ink. Maybe you have thought, "Why didn't God fill this space with something like Psalm 23 or John 3:16?"
But we can learn from these lists. First, they are lists of ancestors-my ancestors, your ancestors. The Bible is a history book; what it records actually happened in time and space. It is not a set of fairy tales. It records stories of real people, and their stories are part of my story. These people really didn't do anything special except to have families with names that are hard to pronounce. And yet God knew them. He knew each one.
They never did anything that the world would call important. They probably didn't get their names even once in their local newspaper. No one wrote them up in sports or dramatics, much less in politics, crime or war. Yet God cared enough about them to record them in His Book that will last forever. This is the God that you serve. You are important to Him. To Jesus you are worth more than all the world.
Disciples of Jesus do not have to protest against being treated as nothings. They know that with their Lord, no one is ever lost in the machine. They know they are made in God's image, and that God has now put them into His royal forever family. He has pulled them from the gutters and made them clean. He has clothed them in royal robes, crowned them as princes and princesses in His kingdom (Ps. 113:7, 8). Our Father is the King of all kings. We can hold our heads high. To be a true disciple is the greatest privilege in the universe. God has called us into His very own family! We are special subjects of His love. Anyone who messes with us touches the "apple of his eye."
So what if you are different? So what if you don't look as far out as your friend next door or don't have the talents of your brother? None of these things matter to the Father. You matter because you are important to Him, exactly as you are. The Bible tells us that man is important, that he is of great value. He is not a nothing. He was made to share in God's happiness. For this reason, disciples of Jesus love all people-from proud prince or president to filthy wino or burned-out street hooker. And He who humbles kings and honors beggars knows our names.
You can relax in God's love. You don't have to "prove yourself" to anyone. You don't have to struggle to be someone you know you can never be. You can be content that Jesus loves you as a special person, exactly as you are. Look at yourself. God never mass produces. Your finger prints are different. Your voice is different. Your brain wave channel is different from that of anyone else in the world. Even the hair on your head is not quite the same m that of your blood brother or sister. If God took all this trouble to make you so unique, will you be content to let Him
East, West, and the True God There Is One God
The God of the whole earth, the God of the Bible, is not the God only of the West. As a matter of fact, people in the West have not usually had a true picture of God because they have not read and obeyed the Bible. And the God of the Bible is not like man's idea of Him in either the West or the East.
The God of the Scriptures is the God of the whole universe. He is beyond all barriers of nation, race, country or people. He is "the God of the spirits of all flesh" (Num. 16:22). The Bible does not say, "God so loved the western world..." It does not say, "Christ Jesus came into the eastern world to save sinners . . ." All men under heaven have sinned the same. They will be judged the same, and can be saved the same way by coming back to the God who made all men of one blood and one race.
He Is the God of the Bible
Why, then, are there so many different ideas of what God is like? Sometimes people do not know enough about the true God. We can find out some things about what He is like by looking at the work of His hands in creation, or by thinking about ourselves and the wonderful way God made us. But if we use only these standards for finding out what God is like, we are left wondering which parts of nature and man show us God, and which parts show us something else. This is why God gave us the Bible. It tells us exactly what He is like. It is the divine standard to correct our strange ideas about Him.
He Is Not a God Made by Man
If ignorance were the only reason that people worship different gods, we could conclude that most people really love and serve Him, even though they don't know much about Him. They just use different names for Him. But ignorance is not the real problem. The Bible tells us that the reason that people do not know more about God is sin. We are made to know God. All men know some things about Him. But we also know that He wants us to live right. If men want to find God without being willing to live right, God must hide himself from them. Then what will a person do if he is empty inside but does not want to change his selfish ways in order to find God? He will do what people in both the East the West have been doing-create his own god to serve.
What will a god created by man look like? It will be just like he himself really wants to be deep inside. When a man refuses to serve the true God and creates his own, that god will reflect his own sick mind. It will be his own lusts turned into a picture or a statue, a creed or a religion. The Bible tells us that when people "knew God, they did not give Him glory as God, but became proud in their thinking, and ... worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever" (Rom. 1:21, 25).
The western man's gods were just like him, only a bit bigger. They were thought of as real persons, but had all of the same sins as man did. The gods got drunk, were bitter with each other, lived immoral lives. Also, the western gods were not infinite. They could do little more than humans. No western god was big enough or wise enough to take care of everyone. So the West invented whole families of gods, each one in charge of a different department of heaven or earth. These gods were feared or toasted, respected or resented, but never really loved.
No western civilization ever created a god which came up to the Bible picture of God-the wonderful, unselfishly loving, in-finite Creator. No, the West did not have the right picture of God. Even modern western man who says that he believes in only one god has a poor picture of the Lord of lords. To many men and women of the West, God is a "grandaddy god in a rocking chair" who is smiling worriedly and feebly over what his naughty children are doing. No man who has ever been in the awesome presence of the holy God can call the western god the God of the universe.
Long ago the East saw the foolishness of the West. God must be far bigger than these feeble human excuses for a god. In some places, such as India, the idea of "families" of gods got so big it became ridiculous. They had as many as thirty million gods to worship! Everytime a new discovery, problem or idea came up people would make up another god to be in charge of it.
The eastern man also reacted to the western humanizing of God and went completely the other way. God became the "Infinite
Everything, the Cosmic Ultimate, the Oneness of All." God was in everything and was everything. He was in the sky, the sun, the trees, the grass, the birds. God was in man. God was man! God was the earth, the heavens, the universe itself. He was beyond understanding, beyond feeling, beyond human limits. The East pictured God as free from human problems. Unfortunately they also took away His personality. The God of the East has no face. He is beyond understanding because there is nothing in His being that we can relate to. We can only surrender to Him. But to say God has no feelings, thought or choices is to take away His love also, and to invent yet another god who is alien to the true God of the Bible.
It is true that God upholds all things. It is true that He is infinite and that He fills all time and space. But it is not true that He is all things. He and His creation are distinct. The God that the Scriptures reveal to us made this universe outside himself And it is not true that He is unable to feel, to think and to share with us. The God of the Bible is a person, someone we can speak to face to face, like a friend. He is not the finite, selfish tribe of western gods. He is not the impersonal, ultimate force of eastern ideas. He is an infinite Person, infinite in power but truly a person. And He is big enough both to take care of the universe and to love us.
It is not shameful to have questions about what God is like. He is big enough to handle any question you can throw at Him. One of the most complete descriptions of God is in Isaiah 40:9-31. Notice the phrase in verse 9, "Behold your God!" God wants you to see Him, to "take Him on." He's saying, "All you have to do is look at Me, if you have questions." Read these verses. How well can you answer His question in verse 12? verse 13? verse 14? verse 18? verse 25?
In the light of this passage, what would you like to say to God? Why don't you just "talk" to Him on paper for a few minutes?
How to Tell What Is False in Religious Groups
"The Spirit expressly warns us that in the latter times some will revolt from the faith; they will listen to spirits of error and to doctrine that demons teach ... be on your guard as to yourself and your teaching; if you do that, you will save both yourself and those that hear you"(Tim. 4:1,16).
You can get very confused listening to religious men today. So many people talk as if they were the only ones that are right. While real Christians all agree on some basic things, we can agree to disagree on other things that are not so central in being a Christian.
There is an amazing unity across the world among the followers of Jesus. However, every year hundreds of new ideas about God and religion happen all over. If we believe in right and wrong, these ideas cannot all be true. Different groups often say opposite things. To point out what ideas and movements are wrong, we don't need to call any groups by name. That's a great relief because we could never put down in any one book all the titles of funny religious ideas that mixed-up people can think up each month. When we want to know what is right and real, we should go back to the Bible. All we have to do is read it carefully and prayerfully. God has told us the signs of false faith, the marks of wrong re-ligious thinking. No one ever begins a wrong idea about God without first throwing out something true that God has shown us clearly in His Word. And all strange religious trips, no matter how different or how many, will have the same marks about them. Here are six signs that you can spot if you get close enough to see:
1. Desire for Money or Merchandise
People living by false religions always want things. They are covetous at heart. They use their religion for making money off other people or for getting their belongings from them. False religious teachers are greedy for other people's things. They are money-centered. They have the "love of money" which is the root of all evil. God says, "Woe to you ... hypocrites! for you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer; therefore you shall receive the greater damnation" (Matt. 23:14). "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make mer-chandise of you, whose judgment for a long time does not linger, and their damnation does not sleep" (2 Pet. 2:3).
2. Drive for Power
One key mark of a person presenting false faith is some form of "power trip." These people try to build UP their own kingdom in the name of building up God's kingdom or in the name of bringing freedom to others. The true disciple is not power hungry. He knows that all power belongs to Jesus (Matt. 28:18). He knows that the earth is the Lord's and all that is in it (I Car. 10:26). He understands that God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the weak to confound the mighty, that no flesh should show off in His presence (1 Cor. 1:27-29).
But the man or woman who is building a human religion is power hungry. This power may be social, sexual or "spiritual."
Social. He may want power over people. His "trip" may be to have lots of people listen to him and obey his orders. He may use religion to build his status, In his church, a crowd is his real creed and he is its self-appointed god.
Sexual Some religions or religious teachings have as a key offer the promise of unlimited sex without guilt. Forms of sexual sin have been used before and will be used again in false teaching or worship. If people will not bring their sexual lives up to God's standards, they will try to bring God's standards down to their own perverted levels. The Bible marks this teaching as from hell. Leaders in this false faith lure people in by appealing to the lusts of the flesh. They promise freedom when they themselves are the slaves of sin (2 Pet. 2:10, 14; Jude 17-18; John 8:34).
"Spiritual. " People from other false religions offer their de-votees superior "spiritual" power or positions to get them to join. Serving in this false religion is presented as having the power to place your throne right beside God's. The selfishness and pride that lies underneath this is not hard to see. A man can join and yet never give up his sinful and selfish ways. He just baptizes them and makes them look religious. Jesus said, "If any man will do his [God's] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself; he that speaks of himself seeks his own glory; but he that seeks the glory of him
that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him" (John 7:17,18).
3. Denial of Absolutes
One key mark of religious deception is the rejection of right and wrong as revealed in the Bible. Such religions teach that truth constantly changes, or that truth evolves, or that what we once held as true from God must now be changed as man has advanced in knowledge.
The denial of real rights and wrongs extends into many areas, such as denying any authority or government other than their own; discrediting any existing systems of control or direction, often with bitterness and anger; denying any outside source of correction, including that of the properly understood Bible taken as a whole. (Often false religions quote large parts of the Bible, but ignore that which points out their own wrongs.) They may deny that Christ is truly God, or that the Father or the Holy Spirit is God. Sometimes this denial of truth results in a mystic "feelings only" faith where clear thinking is avoided and every-thing practical is made symbolic, complicated and strange. Other times it leads to rejecting responsibility for sin and the need for Jesus' death and bodily resurrection. The Bible warns us about men who despise authority, often betraying deep hurt and bitter-ness toward God (Jude 8-10; 2 Pet. 2:10-12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).
We must be people who accept God's word at face value. We must do what Jesus tells us to do if we are going to be true Jesus people (John 8:31-32; 14:15, 21, 23; 15: 10).
4. Deception of Onlookers
The man in a false faith is always a hypocrite at heart. No one ever gets into a wrong religious trip and stays in it unless he refuses to believe or act on what God has said. False faith begins only when people reject true faith. To protect their pride, people who join things that they later know or find out are wrong must try to cover over all the exposed unreality in what they are doing and saying. This leads to lies or deliberate pretenses, especially by the leaders of the group. They will keep real beliefs and practices secret from an interested new member until the novice is too deeply involved to leave without a great cost to his or her own pride and reputation. False faith always puts on a nice front, but is not what it seems to be on the outside (2 Pet. 3:15, 16; John 3:20).
It is here that so many mystery cults and secret orders fit
in. Secret doctrine or practice has no place in the life of a true disciple. God's work is "not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Je-sus people have nothing to hide. We do not fear exposure (Matt. 24:4, 5, 11, 23, 24). Jesus says, "He that does truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be shown to be done in God" (John 3:21). Beware of any work that has concealed doctrines or teachings only for their own members.
5. Deviation from Christ
One test every disciple of Jesus should know and always use is, "Does it make me hate sin more, and love the Lord Jesus more?" No faith is true faith that does not both save from sin, and love and talk about the Jesus of the Bible. Phony religions always get away from the things God considers most important. Any religion that does not, in word and deed, center around the Lord Jesus and His kingdom is a false religion, no matter how spiritual it sounds and no matter how good it looks (John 3:24; 31-36; 10:25-28; 12:44-49; 14:6; 15:4-6, 23). This does not just mean saying Jesus is Lord. It means living like it. It means putting Him first in everything-in teaching, living and speaking (Matt. 7:21-27; 15:8-9; 1 John 3:18-19).
6. Division of the True Disciples
Any teaching or religion that splits up true disciples and tries to turn them against each other does not come from heaven, but from hell. True faith is marked by the love described in the Bible, not by envy, strife or contention. It is true that disciples must stand up for the right and constantly be on guard against wrong. And we do not unite by just overlooking anything that is against God and His Word. However, all true Jesus people love each other, despite differences of opinion. The group that goes on an exclusive trip, the group with the "we are the people and wisdom will die with us" attitude is not a group with the mark of true faith (Rom. 16:17, 18; 1 Cor. 11:18-19; 12:20-26; James 3:14-16; John 15:12-14, 17; 17:20-26).
Each of the following Scripture references refers to one specific sign of a false religion. Look up each verse in your Bible and try to match it with the appropriate sign, without checking back in the material which you have just read. Then check your answers by reviewing this section on how to tell false faiths. When you are convinced that your answers match up properly, spend some time memorizing each of these six ways of identifying false re-ligions.
1. Romans 12:5-desire for money or merchandise
2. 1 Peter 1:23-25; Proverbs 30:5, 6-drive for power
3. 1 Timothy 6:9, 10-denial of absolutes
4. Luke 4:5-8-deception of onlookers
5. Matthew 23:27, 28-deviation from Christ
6. John 14:6-division of the true disciples
Whenever you are faced with a decision regarding some new religious group, draw on this storehouse of knowledge and take the time to evaluate that new religion in terms of these standards. Then you will decrease your chances of getting sucked into a false religious cult, and you may be able to help a brother or sister facing a similar situation.
"Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21),
Not all people who use the name of Jesus are true disciples of Jesus. Some said they were when being disciples became popu-lar, because they did not want to feel left out. Today some come from homes where Jesus is known in some way by others of the family. Because their parents say they know Jesus, the children assume they know Him too. How can you tell the counterfeit?
People can be led only in two ways: by force or by trust. We can live by rules based on fear, or we can live by love based on trust for the One who leads us. Someone who is not a true disciple is still selfish at heart and is motivated only by bribes or punishment. But true disciples know what it means to be free from the rule of threats and bargains. They are free to love Jesus. They are confident that the Holy Spirit can direct them by God's Word, and they obey the Father because they really trust Him.
Think of two children in a home. One obeys his dad because he trusts him. He has a faith in his father which works by love. The other wants all he can get from his father. He obeys only under force because he does not really love or trust him.
So are the lives of the true and false disciples of Jesus. God's true child has a confidence and trust in Jesus that leads him to wholly give himself to God and His will. The phony, like the devil, submits only partially and still has a selfish heart. He "believes, and trembles" (James 2:19). This person may believe Christ came to save sinners, may want to be saved (for his own safety), but yet never gives in at heart to be led and ruled by Christ. His "faith" is based on the selfish condition that God will make him happy. It never results in unreserved trust and love that leads God's true child to say, "No matter how tough it gets, your will be done."
False faith is a religion of law, not love. It is totally selfish and totally unlike Jesus. It is outward only, and plastic. True faith is a faith of the heart, and this is the only faith God hon-ors.
You can recognize the person who has not yet discovered the faith that works by love. Here are some of the signs:
1. He Somas God Like Taking Medicine
The phony obeys only to get something good for himself The true child of God delights in doing God's will because he loves God. If you love Christ for His own sake, you will not find it a weary struggle to do what He says. His commandments are not hard (I John 5:3; Matt. 11:30).
The man or woman in the religion of fear does Christian things because he knows he should. It would not do for him to say he is a disciple of Jesus and not act like a Christian, even though he doesn't enjoy being one! This person's only real happiness is the hope that life will be better for him in the next world. He never enjoys serving God in this one. But if you are a true disciple, you already enjoy peace in Christ, and heaven for you has already begun. You know you have eternal life, not just hope for it some day. You are sure of God's love, and because you can relax in that love you do not have to drive yourself to do His will.
2. His Heart Is Ruled by Fear Not Love
A phony lives by conviction and condemnation, not by af-fection. He is driven by warnings, not drawn by God's love. He is filled with a spirit of fear. He is always afraid that he will make the wrong move or do the wrong thing. He has never known God as a loving, compassionate Father. His picture of God is always that of a ruler and judge because he has never found mercy him-self. He may be very active and strict, and he may know a lot about what God asks. But the more he learns, the more it hurts if there is no love. Here is a key difference. The true disciple prefers to obey; the phony person purposes or intends to, but usually fails because his heart is not really in it.
3. He is More Afraid of Punishment Than Sin
'The man in the religion of fear keeps on sinning because he is not saved from sin. He doesn't really hate sin-only the punish-ment for it. As long as he is not found out, or as long as he gets away with it, he will go on sinning. He loves the things that hurt the God he says he serves. He talks himself into committing the same sins again and again by telling himself that God will overlook it and that he can always repent afterwards.
The person who doesn't really hate sin may even argue about how secure his salvation is, because he does not have relaxed assurance in his heart. Listen to a phony, and you will soon discover his whole life revolves around his own salvation. He still worries about it because he doesn't really have it! The true disciple enjoys his salvation, and he doesn't need to talk about what he knows by experience is his. His own salvation is not his main concern at all. Instead his thoughts are taken up with worshipping Christ and working to see others saved (I Car. 10:23-33; Rom. 14:5-8; Matt. 25:31-46),
4. He Is Ruled by a Spirit of Get, Not Give
True disciples of Jesus enjoy giving and helping others because they really love. Their truest, deepest, sheerest joy is to be able to do good for others But counterfeits are always looking for ways to get from others what they can. This may be anything from money or possessions to new members in the particular re-ligious group they have joined. This is especially true in business. If selfishness rules there, as sure as God lives they are still in the religion of fear. Men in this religion find it hard to give any-thing to God. They give only if they can get something in return (Luke 6:30-35; 16:11-16; Matt. 25:41-45).
The true disciple of Jesus denys himself many things in order to give to the work of God and to help others. The phony never enjoys self-denial unless he feels it will earn him a reward from God. The true disciple sets his heart on God's kingdom, and enjoys saving everything he can to give to it. The more he saves from other things to give to it, the more he is excited and pleased. Can you see why the phony finds it hard to give to the work of Christ? His heart is not in it at all. He can't understand the joy a Jesus person experiences in giving, because giving drains money and time from his own little world where he still rules asking(Deut. 15:7-21).
5. His Concern for Others Comes from Being Paranoid Over His Own Life
A counterfeit is desperately afraid of hell or punishment and of being wrong. His witnessing may even be a reflection of this fear. He drives to win others only to convince himself that he is right, The phony has only two ways to spread his faith. One is scaring others into his religion. He is more likely to do this when he is talking to strangers and he doesn't have too much to lose if they don't listen, The other method he uses is to promise rewards. He is more likely to use this method on friends or relatives. In either case, however, his words will be full of tension and judgment.
Many counterfeits feel sorry for lost sinners, but not for the right reason and not God's way. He feels more concern for the sinner than for the God whose heart the rebellious sinner has broken. He can never understand how God could allow a loved one to go to hell, so he will try to explain it away if he can. Christ's words asking supreme love from His followers over all earthly loves mean nothing to the counterfeit. He does not really love God at all; he loves himself and everything connected with his own happiness.
It is sad to say it, but many people do not meet these Bible tests of true faith. The religion of fear is radically wrong. It is bad, right at its heart. It differs from true faith just as much as the Pharisees differed from Jesus; as much as the gospel differs from legalism; as much as hell differs from heaven. We must ask ourselves and our friends, "Is Christ the center of our lives, or are we still trying to fit Him in for our own happiness? Is our faith the faith that war by love, or are we still trying to live in the religion of fear?"
TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS
Love - JESUS - Joy
COUNTERFEIT DISCIPLE OF JESUS
Fear - SELF - Frustration
How to Stay Close to Jesus
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4,5).
Christianity is not a set of rules but a daily friendship with a living, loving Lord. It is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). In this life of grace and faith we will be marked by the sign that "sin shall not have dominion" or rule over us (Rom. 6:14). Christianity is Christ who, alive and real, brings peace and power to the heart (2 Car. 3:18).
Since staying close to Jesus is the secret of being His disciple, three things will help us to live in the glow of His love:
1. Be clean. Always turn away from every harmful and sinful practice. Learn to repent, confess and be forgiven of every sin. Sin as a way of life is always spoken of in the Bible as in the past of the true disciples of Jesus (1 Car. 6:11; Tit. 3:3). The true disciple must be able to say, like Paul, "I am dying daily " (I Car. 15:31), and know what it means to take up his cross daily to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). This means simply that we are to renew our attitude every sunrise for the new day (Rom. 6:11).
Remember, too, that sin can foot us. Satan knows how to paint pretty pictures, even from an ugly past. You can fall back into fol-lowing old mind habits of the past unless you take great care. Some of you know, for example, what it is like to fall again into the slavery of selfishness. If you have given in, you know what it means to lose the smile and sense of God's friendship.
God tells us to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Car. 7:1) We have His promise: "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Fattier, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1), and "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). So, never let the sun go down on unrighted wrong. Learn to keep short accounts with God. Pay your dues quickly. The only real way to stay close to Jesus is to stay far from sin.
2, Be unchoked. No disciple of Jesus can afford to waste time. ,The sin of wasting God's time has led more disciples back into their old ways than any other. Satan knows that no sold-out young man or woman of God would ever deliberately do some gross sin.
Knowing this, lie works to divert their attention to good things that are not the best things; to get them into things they could do that Jesus has not led them to do; to turn their concern into some sidetrack that leads away from what God has for them. It is, for instance, important to relax. We must take breaks from the pressure and tension of working as a Christian in a rotten world. But our free time must build us up in Christ, not take our minds far from Him. We cannot keep a vision for a war
with a diet of too much television; the music of heaven can be drowned right out by rock from the radio or records; souls go to hell as Christians read comics; many young men and women have gone down the moral drain with too much time on their hands.
Every disciple of Jesus, must dare to completely give up all acts that they know Jesus would not smile on. Avoid things that have no value for His kingdom. The Bible tells us that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we are to "do all for the glory of God" (I Car. 10:31).
Plan your relaxing times so that you will become a better man or woman for ("ad because of them. if you really enjoy serving God, a break time should be either some form of rest or some exercise before tire Lord that is not like your normal tasks. When you relax, do the things you enjoy as an offering of worship, joy or thanks to God. God says, "No man that is in a war entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:4). Many things do not seem sinful in themselves, but we must watch so that we don't get so involved in them that Christ is crowded out of our heart's first place. This is what Jesus meant in the parable of the soils when He said, "'The cares of this world, and the deceitful-ness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Mark 4:19).
The little poem by Robert Frost is good to remember:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.
3. Be Christ-dependent. Jesus is your power, your strength, your wisdom! He said, "Without me you can do nothing." In the book of Hebrews God tells us the secret of spiritual victory. "Let us lay aside every weight (be unchoked), and the sin which does so easily beset us (be clean, especially from that form of sin you find your strongest temptation towards), and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:1, 2a).
The Lord Jesus himself is the secret of power over sin. No disciple can beat sin in his own strength. The more you fight sin, the greater it grows in power. But look in faith to Jesus and you will experience instant deliverance.
Hebrews 12 gives us an awesome picture of a giant athletics track or stadium. In it are the disciples of our generation. Watch-ing on the stands are those that have loved and served the Lord Jesus in the past. Hebrews 11 tells us some of their names. There are Noah, Moses and David. There is Enoch who loved God so much that God took him home before he had a chance to die. There are the prophets like Elijah and Samuel. Up there also is Samson, whose last repentant act was to pull down a temple on those who laughed at his God's power. They are all watching us. They are onlookers to see how well we run the race. In the stands are all those we love who have died in Jesus.
And if through some form of one-way television screen they can see us run, what do they say and how do they feel? Do they cheer or cry? If you knew that someone you really loved could see you, how would you live? How would you act if you knew the one whom you admired was watching from heaven? That is how you can have courage. That is how to draw strength from heaven. Remember, Jesus is watching. He has trusted the work done in your heart. You must not fail Him.
Look over the three steps for keeping close to Jesus. Which of these do you feel most lacking in?
If you were to measure your life by His standards, would you say that you have been giving Christ the proper place that He deserves in your affections?
Admittedly, you can't really measure a relationship. But you can tell something of the quality of any relationship by looking at the amount of time that two people spend with each other. How are you using the time God has given You? How are you using your time with Jesus?
Your day's schedule is the best place to look for ways of getting yourself "unhooked," as the second step suggests. Look at how you spend your time, and, more important, why you do what you do. Is the Lord speaking to you about putting some things right that have been put off too long? Here are some questions to help you in your evaluation:
Is there a goal to each day and a purpose to everything you do? Are there any activities which you would be afraid to share with Jesus? What "cares of this world" do you need to "lay aside" for Jesus' sake right now?
You know what you have to do. Now do it. Isn't it time you had that talk with God?
Enough said. Now it's up to you. Why don't you write down what you would like to say to Jesus right now? Then pray the prayer you have written.
How to Read the Bible
"Now faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).
1. What Is the Bible?
Your Bible is the most important book in the world. There are keys in it for finding the solution to every basic problem you will ever face. It is a manual of miracles. It is a book from God about God, written by His men about how to be His men and women. It is the story of His love for people.
The Bible's central figure is the Lord Jesus Christ-God who became a man. It is the record of His origin, birth, life, death and resurrection. Its message is stranger than science fiction: that God who spun the worlds into space has visited our earth to show us the way to heaven, and that we may join His love kingdom and be in His very own family forever.
The Bible is no ordinary book. It is strangely different because it was written by men who listened to the voice of God. The words they wrote were more than human. They are like fire to each new generation. In the power of the Holy Spirit they are as fresh as wind and rain on a mountain.
The Bible is not just a book of history, although the truth of its records has been clearly upheld by modern archeology. It is not a book of poetry, although it has inspired the writing of count-less songs and poems through past centuries. It is not an adven-ture story, though few novels have matched the sheer drama of its pages. It is not a book of ethics or morals, although civilization's finest and fairest laws have been forged from it. It is not a textbook, but it still astounds scientists and scholars from fields as different as sociology, medicine and nuclear physics. The Bible is the unique record of man's problems and God's answers; the good news of the love revolution begun by the Father, given by the Son and operated by the Holy Spirit.
Disciples of Jesus are people who read, use and live according to this book. There is no way to follow Jesus without also knowing and loving the book He gave us (John 14:21-23). It is no accident that Jesus and the Bible are both called the Word of God (John 1:1; Rev. 19:13). Both are divine. Both speak with power and authority. Both are fully true and can be trusted. The Lord Jesus is the living Word; the Bible is the written Word. The world needs someone to see, and something to study. God gave us a book and His Son. We must obey both. We do not love, Jesus more than we love His Word. We do not obey Jesus more than we obey His Word. We do not want to know God any more than we want to know His Word.
2. How Much Should I Read?
Stop a minute and think about the last seven days. How much time did you spend per day reading or studying in the Bible? How much time over the entire seven days? How much time would you have to spend each day reading the Bible in order to read the whole Bible in one year? Take a guess.
If you read the Bible only about five minutes a day, you could finish it easily in less than a year. You would read the whole Bible through in seventy hours and forty minutes. The Old Testament would take about fifty-two hours, twenty minutes; the New Tes-tament, about eighteen hours, twenty minutes. On some holiday period, if YOU were willing to spend eight hours a day reading your Bible you could finish it in just nine days.
If you read by chapters, you could finish the whole Bible in eighteen weeks by reading just ten chapters a day. That is only four chapters in the morning, two at lunchtime and four at night. The Old Testament would take only fourteen weeks; the New Testament, twenty-six days. If you wanted to read through the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and, John) and Acts, you could read them in twelve days; all the rest of the books of the New Testa-ment would take another fifteen days.
How much of God's book have you read? Remember, you will never know any more of Jesus than you know of His book. Jesus did say, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." But the context of that statement should not be ignored. What He really said is, "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free" (John 8:31, 32).
Why not start now to read the Bible regularly? Read the sec-tion again. Ask God how much time He would have you spend reading the Bible each day. Then commit yourself to reading a certain number of minutes every day, or a certain number of chapters every day. Then ask God to help you to be faithful to this commit-ment-to read more, maybe, but never less. if you miss a day or more, confess your negligence, ask God for forgiveness and help, then start again. God will forgive you and help you. But start again! Remember, Satan will be trying to get you to stop reading the Bible any way he can.
3. How Can I Better Understand What I Read?
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand what you read. Take colored pencils (ball-points) will go right through the pages of most Bibles and ruin them) and mark the verses that God uses to speak to you.
There are a few simple things to remember when you read the Bible. Keep them in mind, and you will not get funny ideas from the devil or from people who don't know either the Scriptures or the power of God:
1. Read everything in the light of where you find it. Don't pull bits out here and there and try to make them say something they don't say when read where they usually belong. (If people would read "Little Red Riding Hood" or "The Three Bears" like they often read the Bible, they wouldn't understand those either!) Com-pare verses with other verses. Be sure you have read all that you can find in the Bible on a subject before you teach about it. God says that those who teach from the Bible have a solemn charge before Him to be right. So don't teach others on subjects you are only guessing. about.
2. Remember, God's Book means exactly what it says. Once you know what He is saying, take it exactly as it is. The only time you should think a verse is symbolic is when the verses all around clearly show that God wants it to be understood that way. Use the big passages to help you understand the little ones. Care-fully study verses that are details about things to help you under-stand other sections that are more general; and study also the ones where the writer is explaining carefully and factually what to believe, to help you grasp other ones where the writer is just talking about what he feels or is enjoying in God.
3. If some verses do not seem to fit, don't try to force them. You just don't see the whole picture yet. Later on, as you read more of the Bible, the Holy Spirit will help you to understand. Have you ever done a jigsaw puzzle? The completed picture was at first impossible to see. Later, as you found bits that fit together, the whole picture became clearer. It is the same with the Bible.
Don't try to understand it all at once. Just read and believe in faith that God will show you what He means as you learn more. If you can't understand something at first, try reading it in another translation or two. Read it again a couple of times. If it still doesn't make sense, leave it, and go on to something else. But mark the verse so you will remember it is something you want to find an answer to.
Used by permission for ISOB students in Africa Handbook for followers of Jesus Winkie Pratney author Bethany House Publishers Copyright 1977 not authorized for resale
Used by permission for ISOB students in Africa Handbook for followers of Jesus Pratney author Bethany House Publishers Copyright 1977 not authorized for resale
Is the Bible Really God's Word?
The Bible does not try to prove its claim to be God's Word; it simply states it. The writers of Scripture keep saying their message was not human opinion but divine revelation. Genesis opens with the words "and God said" 9 times in the first chap-ter. The statement "saith the Lord" appears 23 times in Malachi, the last Old Testament book. "The Lord spoke" is used 660 times in the first five books of the Bible; Isaiah claims at least 40 times that his message was from God, and so do Ezekiel and Jeremiah 60 and 100 times, respectively. Bible writers claim that their mes-sage was God's message at least 3,800 times in the Bible.
The Lord Jesus quoted from at least 24 Old Testament books. He quoted from Daniel 22 times, Isaiah 40 times, the first five Bible books 60 times. He also quoted from the Psalms. He never implied that the Bible's stories were just fables or folklore. He talks of Bible people as real, historical people. In Luke 24:24-27, Christ said that He was the subject of prophecy throughout the Old Testament. He also said many times that the Scriptures must be fulfilled (Matt. 13:4; Luke 21:22; John 13:18; 16:25; 17:12). He told people that His own words were given from God and that the "scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35; see also Mark 13:31; John 6:63; 8:42-47; 12:46-50). His own claims as God in human flesh and the claims of the Bible stand or fall together. We cannot say Christ was true but the Bible is not, nor that we believe the Bible but not Christ.
New Testament writers who knew Jesus likewise said that God had in a special way inspired their words. Paul preached that his message came from God in God's power (2 Car. 2; Gal. 1:11-17), and Peter said that Paul wrote by "wisdom given to him" (2 Pet. 3:16). There are at least 600 Old Testament quotes and references in the New Testament. Both are locked together as a whole.
The Bible says about itself, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God [God-breathed]" (2 Tim. 3:16); "No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation; for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man not just human ide-as], but holy men of God spoke as they were moved [carried along by] the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
Why has the Bible survived century after century of determined persecution? No other ancient book has such a vast number of surviving copies. There are thousands of Old and New Testament manuscripts. Variations between these are minor and insignificant and great care must have been taken in copying them. It is said that Jewish scribes would use a new pen each time they came to the word Lord and at that point carefully compare everything they had written so far with the original copy. Men have been killed for owning copies in every century. Each era brings a re-newed attempt to stamp out the Bible, but history shows that it has been impossible to destroy the Scriptures.
Voltaire said, "In one hundred years, this book will be forgot-ten." Voltaire is forgotten. Exactly one hundred years after his boast, his house was being used as the headquarters for the Geneva Bible Society.
Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away" (Matt. 24:35). God's Word is "quick" or living (Heb. 4:12). It has stood the test of scholarship and the trials of all its enemies for centuries.
A book's true nature is revealed by the effect it has on society. The Bible gives laws for human relationships that have never been excelled or equaled. Whenever the Scriptures have been taught and lived, they have transformed nations. The Bible has brought consideration for others, tenderness and compassion for the elderly, sick and needy. It has dignified womanhood and guided childhood.
Whenever the Scriptures have been freely circulated in the lan-guage of a people, it has released astonishing power for good, elevating society, overthrowing superstition and opening the door to progress in the sciences, arts and humanities. The Bible message has delivered thousands from the chains of fear, sickness and sin. It is the most powerful book in the world for the renewal of man,
Practically applied it teaches and inspires industry, fairness and justice; it stands for the welfare of the individual, the family, the community and the state. It has created more benevolent enter-prises than any other book in history. Study for yourself the record of history. Watch what has happened to the nation that has hon-ored the Bible and its Author; see what has happened to progress in countries that have tried to suppress, reject or misinterpret its message.
Wherever the Bible is loved and applied, the nation is exalted. Whenever men become forgetful of its Author and ignorant of its truths, fear, war, disease and hatred will stalk their streets. The Bible injunction is clear, "Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord."
Its Span of Time in Prophecy
If there is one thing the Bible dares to do that no other book in the world does, it is to accurately predict the future. God arranges the situations of history to bring about His glory in the lives of those who respond to His call. Working with the moral choices of men, He directs circumstances together into a pre planned series of patterns laid down before the foundation of the world. The outline of many of these patterns is revealed in the Bible.
There are about 3,856 verses directly or indirectly concerned with prophecy in Scripture-about one verse in six tells of future events. God's challenge to the world is that we might Prove Him). "I am the LORD: I will speak, and the word that I shall speak shall come to pass" (Ezek. 12:25; see also Jet. 28:9; Ezek. 24:14; Luke 21:22). Buddhists, Confucianists and the followers of Moham-med have their sacred writings, but in them the element of prophecy is conspicuous by its absence. The destruction of Tyre, the invasion of Jerusalem, the fall of Babylon and Rome-each was accurately predicted and fulfilled to the smallest of details.
In the life of the Lord Jesus himself there are over 300 ful-filled prophecies. It is ridiculous to imagine that these prophecies would all be fulfilled by accident by one person. Only one chance in a number followed by 181 zeroes! To give you some idea of the size of this immense figure, think of a ball that is packed solidly with electrons (two and a half million billion make a line about one inch long). Now in your mind imagine this ball expanded to the size of the universe-some four billion light-years in di-ameter (a light-year being the distance that light travels in a year at the speed of over 186,000 miles a second). Multiply this by 600 quadrillion. Out of this vast container of electrons, remove just one electron, and "color" it red and return it to the con-tainer, and stir it with tire other electrons for a hundred years. Then blindfold a man and send him in to pick it out the first time. Impossible? With the same chance, Christ lived and died according to the Scriptures by "accident! "
Why Is Jesus the Only Way to God?
A lot of people get defensive when a disciple of Jesus says, "Jesus is the only way to God." The usual thing they answer is that words like these show nothing but prejudice and a narrow mind. 'The next thing they say is, "What about all the other great religions or teachers?" We will talk about this next. But first of all, we must see that to stick up for something based on true facts is not prejudice. Do we call a man narrow-minded if he sticks up for the fact that a man who steps off a ten-story building without aid will fall down? It is up to us to find out whether what we believe is based on opinion or truth and to change our views as we learn more.
When disciples of Jesus say "one way" it is not because they are prejudiced. Of all the people in the world, the true disciple must be the one most open to truth, and change his views because of truth when necessary. We say "one way" because the Lord Jesus said it. If there is a real truth at all, there is also untruth. If there are real rights, then there are real wrongs. And if there really is only one true God. then it is wrong to serve any other. When Jesus came, He did not speak like any other man. He did not say, "Follow me, and I will lead you in the way." He did not say, "I will teach you the truth," He was not like any teacher who says, "I will show you life," He said, "Follow me. I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life." And no other important religious teacher has ever said that before and proved it. Jesus said things like this, making Him unlike any other spiritual leader in history. If someone does not agree with this, his contention is not with us. We did not say it. Jesus himself said it.
It is one thing to say things like that. Anyone can say, "I am the way." But when someone as important as Jesus Christ said it, there are only four things that can be true about Him. You see, Jesus made the biggest mark in history. There is more space given to Him in the Encyclopedia Britannia that given to any other religious leader of all time. He never wrote a book. He never marched an army. He was born poor. He only lived about thirty-three years. But He made the biggest impact on our world that any man has ever made. And someone this important cannot be ignored if He says the kind of things that Jesus said.
C. S. Lewis said that Jesus can only be one of four things:
(1) He was a legend. He did not really exist. But that is silly. We have records in history besides the Bible that Jesus really did live here on earth. And if you read on a calendar "1977" it tells you that about one thousand, nine hundred and seventy-seven years ago, someone came who split history in half. Our time is broken into two big pieces-BC and AD-before Christ and after His birth. No one else has ever been thought so impor-tant as this. No, Jesus was not just a dream or myth.
(2) He was a liar. Some kids say, "Oh, I believe Jesus was real, but He was only a great moral teacher." If Jesus was not what He said He was, then He was no great moral teacher. He was the biggest liar in history, because He made the greatest claims in history. But the life and words of Jesus are without fault. Not even His enemies could show that He had ever tied or been untrue to His word. He could say, "Which of you can convict me of sin?" (John 8:46), and no one could. He was no liar.
(3) He was a lunatic. About the only other thing you can say (apart from trying to prove that He did not actually say what He said in the Bible) is that perhaps Jesus really did think He was what He said, but He was mad. However, we know a lot about madness today, and Jesus showed none of the signs of madness, even when He was in great - or pressure. No, He was not mad.
(4) He was who He said He was the Lord of glory. Hundreds of thousands of people of all ages, races and cultures have come to him and found Him to be all that He claimed to be.
What About People Who Never Hear of Jesus?
"When they do what the Law tells them to do, even if they do not have the Law (written down) it shows they know what they should do. They show that what the Law tells them to do is written in their hearts. Their own hearts tell them if they are guilty" (Rom. 2:14-15).
How can God judge people who have never heard about Jesus?
First of all, know this-God is very, very fair. He is the Judge of all the earth, and will do right. He is kind and loving. He will always show mercy and pardon whenever He possibly can, as long as it is wise for Him to do so. The Bible says, "God will give His greatness and honour and peace to all who obey the truth. Both Jews and those who are not Jews will receive this. God does not show favor to one man more than the other" (Rom. 2:10, 11). Every man, no matter what his culture or religion is, is going to be judged fairly and justly by God. He will never overlook anything or make a mistake.
The trouble with our world is that people do not want to honor God. 'They all know some things about truth and right, but do not obey even this. No one is lost from God just by ignorance. People who have never heard about Jesus are not judged for rejecting the name or person of Jesus. They will be judged for rejecting what they knew about the Truth, which one day every man will see is Jesus. 'the man who has not heard of God's law is judged on what he really did know about right and wrong from his own life and the world around him. The man who did hear God's law has twice as big a responsibility. The more we know, the more will be held against us if we do wrong. You can see it is no help to know more about Jesus than someone else if we still do not obey Him. It is worse for us to know more and then not do it. The more we know, the more we are held responsible before God.
God is not lost. He is always here. All men can know something about Him. "This True Light, coming into the world, gives light to every man" (John 1:9). If any man will only obey the light God has already given him, God will find a way to bring that man more, enough to bring him to Jesus. The man who is willing to do what he knows is best and to try to honor all that he knows about the true God, will be shown more about Him. God will find a way to speak to him about Jesus and His sacrifice for am. Cornelius (Acts 10) and the Ethiopian (Acts 8) are examples of this. There are a number of people in history who have been found by Jesus in this way, like Sunder Singh of India, and Sammy Morris of Africa. If any man really wants to know about the real God, God will speak to him, even if He has to do it directly as He did to the Apostle Paul. That proud Pharisee fought the Lord Jesus out of his zeal for what he thought was the One True God. "The Lord's hand is not short that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear you" (Isa. 59:1, 2). All that God asks of any man is true honesty towards Him. He says, "Then you shall find me, when you seek for Me and search for Me with all your heart." God cuts himself off from us only because of our selfishness and dishonesty. He is not lost. Man let And when He is drawing us and calling us to come back to reality in His love and light, the next move is not up to Him. It is up to us.
God does not judge us for things we don't know about. He does not get angry because people don't understand. These are not the reasons why God is going to judge the world. God only judges men for, what they do know about right and wrong, and have not been willing to obey. And what do people know of right and wrong who have never even heard of Jesus? Think about a man who knows nothing about the Bible. He may belong to some religion; he may not be religious at all. His parents may believe in God; he may not even know who his parents were. He has never met a Christian. He has never read a gospel tract. He may not even be able to read. He says he does not know anything at all about the laws of God. Is this true? How much can he know about what God expects of his life? Is it true that you can only know about real rights and wrongs by being taught about it from parents who learned it from the Bible?
The Bible tells us that such a man knows quite enough about true rights and wrongs without any of the advantages that a child from a Christian home may have. Many people today do not realize just how much a man or woman can know about right without ever being taught by someone else. And remember, to grow up in a Christian home, to go to church and to listen to the Bible being preached is no advantage if all this moral light is not obeyed. it is a terribly scary thing to learn a whole lot about God and the Bible and not do anything about it. It is better that you had never heard at all, than for you to have heard and then rejected, because your judgment will be far worse. In the next chapter we shall see how God judges a man who says he didn't know right.
If Hell Is Real, Is It Fair?
"As the weeds are gathered together and burned in the fire, so will it be in the end of the world. The Son of man will send His angels; they will gather out ... all things that cause people to sin and those who do sin. they will put them into a stove of fire" (Matt. 13:40-42).
Perhaps one of the main reasons why people do not think hell is real or fair is because they do not believe people are bad enough to be given any kind of punishment. Today most people in the world live their lives as if man himself was god. Human life has become the ultimate value. And human life is very im-portant. Life, freedom and happiness must be guarded for all moral beings. That is why God has given us His laws. They protect everyone's happiness, including God's. And we have already seen that the law of love is the most important law in the universe. It is even more important than the life of the individual who vio-lates it because it cannot be safely broken without beginning a chain of sin that would finally end in the ruin of the whole universe.
Human life is very, very important. But if a man does some-thing that is worthy of death, his life must be forfeited as a punishment. And sin is the ultimate wrong. Sin, if left unchecked, would murder the universe, and would, if it could, tear God off His throne. The Bible fixes the most serious penalty for this most serious crime. It tells us that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 3:23).
But what about the man who does not know right and wrong? If there were such a man, you can be sure that God would not punish him. If he really did not know what right and wrong was, no one could accuse him of the crime of selfishness. First, think about the idea of "right." We all know that some thin seem more important than others. When we have to choose, we ought to act on what we really see to be the best choice.
The value of something tells us how important it is. This is a simple, first truth idea of our minds and hearts. We all know we must pick the most important of two things when we have to decide. It is the real value of an object, its own true importance that tells us what to do, This is true for little things (like picking between two pairs of jeans in a store with similar prices), and for big, important things like fair play between nations. It is also true in peoples' responsibilities to one another and to God. The most important things must be put first. All things known to be of lesser value are to be put second. Anything known to be actually harmful or wrong to us, others or God is to be refused.
With this goes the idea of fair play too. We all know we ought to be fair with others. No culture or land has ever admired people for being selfish. Every person in the world knows he ought not to be selfish, even if he is selfish. No one likes to be badly or unfairly treated by others. This is true all over the world. It is true with people in lands that are cultured or primitive, religious or agnostic, advanced or backwards. People dislike and despise selfishness. So does God. He calls it "sin."
These two things are the basis on which God judges people. it all depends on what they really know of right. God has a way to find out how much a man really knows about right. It is very fair. He will put every man to the test to see if they have done what is right in all that they knew about right. He will judge them for nothing else. And when someone does wrong, he must be punished for it. this does not help him, but it does help other people to see that what is right must be honored. God's love-law does not work by force. He only shows us what is best, and we must do this for happiness.
No one ought to be selfish. Selfishness costs too much and hurts too much. It can only hurt our elves, others and God. Arid no man or woman who insists on being selfish can be trusted in the universe. They would turn it into a hell. Something must be done to stop people from hurting each other and God. And God has done something. He has given us limits to stay within. If we break these rules, we ought to be punished. A penalty must be as big as the law it is designed to protect. T, bigger the crime, the bigger the penalty must be to be fair. And sin is the worst crime in the universe. God must judge sin. He would not be wise if He did not, Whoever is in charge of the universe must see that everyone is fair.
God has put a very serious penalty on sin. It is the worst one He could think of. It is endless death-being cut off finally and forever from the good things that come from serving God and living right. Hell is simply the place a man sends himself without God. Arid what is hell like? Think about a man who has lived all his life to please himself, He has, not honored God. He has pushed from his heart all that God did to try to bring him to reality. He has said in his heart, "No God for me!" He rejects everything that God's love can use to bring him to surrender up his sin. Now if a man cannot he changed by God's love, nothing, not even a million years in Hell will change his mind. Punishments do not encourage happy trust. And bell is the kindest place God can think of for the man who dies still selfish. All his life he has refused to honor God or other's happiness, except where it served his selfish ends better. He has always wanted to live for himself, and not have to think about God or others being happy. And at death, God in infinite sadness gives him his last request. He goes to a place where there is no one else he can hurt or injure. He can be with himself, and live for himself forever. And that is hell. Heaven would be worse than hell for the sinner. Hell comes out of the love of God. It is the kindest place God can put a man who refuses to live under God's loving rule. No sinner would be happy in the holy light of God and with the saint, of God. He gets very uncomfortable just going ear a church or listening to someone praise the Lord!
What If Your Friend Says He Is an Atheist?
An atheist is someone who says there is no God or who does not believe in God. A better way of thinking about the atheist is to think of him as a man who lives as if God did not exist. A lot of church people live like that anyway, The man who says, he is an atheist is perhaps a little more honest than others like him about his life.
Why do people say they are atheists? Is it because they have sat down and with honest and true study looked at all the facts and were not able to believe? Is it too hard for a man or woman who really thinks to believe in the Bible God? Do people call themselves atheists because they are so smart and brilliant that it is impossible to have any faith at all'? No, that is not true.
The Bible tells us many times why people will not trust God or have faith in Him. It has nothing much to do with how smart a man is. There have been many smart men who did not believe in God. There have been many more who did, although not all of them would serve Him. There have always been a number of really wise men who not only believed in God but also loved Him. Being an atheist has nothing to do with being a thinker or not. Many people who are atheists are not very smart at all. No, people call themselves atheists for a different reason.
People call themselves atheists for four main reasons. All of these reasons are not based on reason. Usually what happens is that they begin to live in a certain way that hurts God. Deep inside they know this is riot right. God bothers them. He begins to show them their sin. Now if this happens, what can he do?
Think of a man who walks into a dark room with a flashlight The room is full of people doing evil things. He turns on his light and shines it on someone. What do you think that person will do? He can do one of three things: (1) He can let himself be shown up by the light, He can be honest and admit he is doing wrong and stop his sin. When Jesus does that with a me , he becomes a child of God. (2) He can run away from the light to another dark place so he can go on sinning. (3) He can try to put out the light so it will not show him up. Which one of these do you think the atheist you know is trying to do?
The atheist's problem is not mental but moral. His real prob-lem is not that he does not have enough facts to trust in God. His problem is that he is bothered already over the facts he does know about truth and God. His problem is not with his head, but with his heart. Do not forget this. He is not an atheist because he lacks facts, but because he does not want facts to think about God. The Bible says, "They did riot like to retain God in their knowledge" (Rom. 1:28). Jesus said, "Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light" (John 3:19, 20)
The four kinds of atheists all have this same problem. People choose to reject talking or thinking about God because of these four kinds of sin:
1. Pride. 'The man who is on his own ego trip is trying to live like he is God. He really does believe in a God, but his god is himself. He worships himself, and finds it rotten to have to care about the real God.
2. Bitterness. Some kids get hurt at home, school or in the system. They blame God for what happens, like Judas Iscariot on the "Superstar" album. little do they know how much ore God has been hurt by the things that have happened to hurt Him.
3. Sex sin. Many times a man's chase after pleasure trips gets blocked by one of God's limits, like his conscience, or the Bible or a Christian's witness. This man finds it easier to pretend he doesn't believe in God than defend his sin. A lot of people who like to argue about God or the Bible fit in here. Check out their lives and you will see.
4. People-pleasing. What if you grew up in a home where Daddy was a Red Guard or president of the local Rationalist Society? What if your crowd were all into the three kinds of sin above, and called themselves atheists? Well, if you wanted to stay "in," you would call yourself an atheist too. And you may not even bother to find enough arguments to defend your sin before a disciple of Jesus who gets on your case. That would be a shame because, even at best, an atheist's "faith" is very shaky. It takes a lot more blind faith to not believe than it ever takes to know and serve God.
She made a little shadow-hidden grave
The day Faith died;
Therein she laid it, heard the clods sick fall,
And smiled aside.
"If less I ask," tear-blind she mocked,
"I may be less denied."
She set a rose to blossom in her hair
The day Faith died;
"Now glad," she said, "and free at last I go---Arid life is wide."
But through long nights she stared into the dark And knew she lied.
,..-Fannie Heaslip Lee
Used by permission for ISOB students in Africa Handbook for followers of Jesus Pratney author Bethany House Publishers Copyright 1977 not authorized for resale
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