I created this little introductory lesson as a get started kit for spiritual seekers but it is also helpful for those who have been around for a long time.
We Were Made for Eden
In Genesis 3:8 We learn that God and Adam walked in the garden in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve had a deep relationship with God.
Adam and Eve were not the only ones to walk with God, but they were the first to be in fellowship with God before sin was found in them. Others who walked with God included Enoch (Genesis 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God …” and Noah, “… Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” Leviticus 26:12 says “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” When we are without sin we can walk with God and not be ashamed in his presence. God desires to walk with us just as he walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Through Jesus Christ, mankind can walk with God again sinless and blameless.
I said yes
What has happened to me?
The simple answer is that you have had a Spiritual awakening. You have now become aware of God’s presence in your life and responded appropriately. God has set before you life and death, and you chose life. This was made possible through the willing sacrificial blood of Jesus. There is no more strife between you and God. You now have both peace with, and the peace of God. When God created us, He doesn’t leave us alone. He is always with us, and because He is big and we are small, He is careful not to overwhelm us with His presence. God is patient and lovingly at work to draw us into relationship with Him. We call this restorative process by which God is at work in our lives (before faith) prevenient grace.
How Did All This Come About? / What Have I Said Yes To?
What is Prevenient Grace?
2 Chronicles 16:9
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him.”
Prevenient grace is the favor of God that calls us through the power and work of the Holy Spirit, revealing God’s good intentions to us. Since Adam, all have been born in Sin. God’s restorative efforts begin at our birth, long before we recognize God as God. In this process God works to awaken our souls, and speak into our lives. This takes more time for some than for others. He does this in order to reveal Himself and present us with His generous redeeming offer to join Him in covenant relationship. God does not force Himself on us. He longs for us to willingly respond and believe. Salvation is an invitation to enter into the Divine life (fellowship) with God. We were made for relationship. This is the work of the Holy Spirit.
God Reveals His Good Intentions In Four Ways
1. God Reveals Through the Work of His Spirit
The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, that He is ever present and efficiently active in and with the Church of Christ, convincing the world of sin, regenerating those who repent and believe, sanctifying believers, and guiding into all truth as it is in Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (Sanctified by the Spirit, because the Spirit animates the will of God)
1 John 4:13 “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (God’s assurance)
2. God Also Reveals Through Creation
When God created (Genesis 1) He created order out of chaos. He separated light from dark creating space for human flourishing.
Gen 1:27& 28 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…
Much Later, the Apostle Paul writing to the Church in Rome explains more about how God reveals Himself and His good intentions towards those who believe, and the problem of sin.
16 &17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (God hates Sin) because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (God revealed through the created order)
21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; (we were ungrateful) but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Worshiping the creation rather than the Creator)
3. God Reveals Through Scripture
These sacred texts contain within them the wisdom of God that has been retained by the community of faith. The Scriptures are authoritative and divinely inspired providing us a path to a meaningful life with God.
doesn’t want us to simply know about him, He desires authentic relationship, So, God doesn’t stop here. God’s vision for our lives is much greater than we can imagine. God continues to reveal. God reveals Himself through Scripture (the law and the prophets, and He has revealed Himself to us through His historical and physical presence, Jesus.
The Holy Scriptures
We believe in the plenary (full) inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, by which we understand the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, were given by divine inspiration, in-errantly reveal the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
2 Peter 1:20-21 “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
4. God Reveals through His Physical and Historical Presence
Who is Jesus?
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead; that He is eternally one with the Father; that He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, so that He embodies two whole and perfect natures. He is very God and very man. (Nicene Creed)
We believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He arose from the dead and took again His body, ascending into heaven where He is engaged in intercession for us.
1 John 1:1-3 “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life— and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 1:1-5 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Our Part / What Must We Do? (Repent and Believe)
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him”
More than Forgiven
Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Salvation has two components. Salvation includes forgiveness, which is very important but just as important, salvation also restores us to the image of God (our original created state) before the distortion of sin. We were made to love. Sin disrupts our ability to love God, or each other. When we say yes and we repent of our sins, we are forgiven. We call this justification.
We believe that justification is the gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt, and completely releases us from the penalty of sins committed, and thus are accepted as righteous. This status is for all who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior.
Romans 5:1 “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”
Restored in His Image
When we say yes to Jesus, we are healed from sins distortions and able to once again reflect the image of God as originally intended. God’s reigning attribute is Love. When we love, we most accurately reflect the image of God. Hence, Jesus said that all the commandments could be summed up in this, that we love God with all our hearts and we love our neighbors as ourselves.
1John 4: 7 & 8 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
Ezekiel 11:19 “And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-8a “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophesy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
More than Friends
If forgiveness from sin and renewed in the image of God were not enough, we have also been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God. All of this is a lot to get our heads around, but Jesus said “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
Galatians 4:5 “God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.
More than Peace
As we mentioned earlier, a bi-product of forgiveness is both peace with God, and the peace of God. There is no more angst or strife between God and us, and as a result we are now free to enjoy the peace of God. In Scripture you may have heard this described as having a “light burden, or an easy yoke.” With this peace we also experience joy or contentment. This easy yoke and our confidence in a life giving and sustaining God (who has our best interests at heart), fills us with joy unspeakable. This doesn’t mean that life will always be a cakewalk, but there will be more ups than downs, although we generally find God present most often in our times of darkness.
Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness.”
Isaiah 29:19 “The humble will again experience joy in the LORD, and the poorest people will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
Zephaniah 3:17 “”The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”
Living Into A Life of Faith
Growth in Grace
“Search me and know me” Most of us have no greater desire than to know and be known. Deep intimate relationships are enriched and grow as we become acquainted with the object of our affection. If we are to truly live into all that God has for us, we will need to get acquainted. We do this through the study of Scripture, through prayer, and in the community we call the Church; because we learn from one another and are encouraged as we see God move in the lives of those around us. I would strongly encourage you to attend regular weekly worship gatherings and to invest yourself in a small discipleship group with fellow believers where you can learn together.
The Church, The Sacraments- Baptism and Communion
The Church is the bride of Christ here to announce and proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom. This is a place where people come expecting to meet God and to experience the “peaceable reign of Christ.” God’s reign is evidenced and experienced by “signs and wonders,” in that sins are still forgiven, physical, emotional and spiritual healing still takes place, by the effectual working of Spiritual gifts, and by the solidarity of our fellowship and love for one another.
Let’s look at two of our most intimate practices.
Christ left the Church with two ordinances. An ordinance is a religious practice of specific significance. One of the ways the Church lives out its witness is through image or narrative. We refer to these two ordinances as Sacraments. These two Sacraments are called Baptism and Communion.
What is the focus of these two practices and how do they fit together?
- Both focus on the life of Christ.
- Both are a means of grace (something we can’t do for ourselves)
- Both involve deliverance
- Both invite us into something
- One is featured at the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry, and the other on the fulfillment of his earthly ministry. (Alpha and Omega)
- Both require an act of submission and obedience.
- In both we identify with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.
- Both ask us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”
The same but different:
Both of these practices tell a story, one that on the one hand is fully historical, and mysterious on the other. They require us to ask ourselves what actually happened, and what happens as we remember or participate in these ordinances?
Baptism is a divine action in which we receive forgiveness, cleansing, and it also serves as an initiation into the covenant community.
John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
In our participation for this Sacrament, we identify with Christ symbolically acknowledging that we have died to our sins, been buried with them, and are resurrected into new life. This is an act of submission and obedience. It is a place in which we can point back to in our life at a later date and remember when we question ourselves. In our participation, we not only declare our allegiance to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, but we hear God declare, “this is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” This implies Spiritual renewal. Awakening, New Life (something mystical has happened here)
Holy Communion, also referred to as The Lords Supper or the Eucharist, carries on the same theme: One of deliverance, covenant, and new life. It remembers Christ’s willing; obedient, and sacrificial offering Himself on our behalf, and it anticipates the celebratory end time banquet we will all share together with him at the end of the age.
What is the story we are telling? What is the story of Passover? It is a celebration of Israel’s deliverance from oppression and slavery from Pharaoh in Egypt, the same way we are delivered from the oppression and disfigurement of sin resulting in forgiveness. Our deliverance results in spiritual healing and restoration into the image of God for which we were created. This allows us to participate in the divine life, and enable us to enter into the covenant relationship. God has gathered a people for Himself, He set them apart and made a covenant with them.
Genesis 17:7-8 “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
Matthew 26: 26-29 “And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body. And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
1Corinthians 10:16-17 “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread, which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.”
This is a ton of information to digest. It is probably more than you even asked for. It should provide you with answers to most of your questions concerning God’s good intentions, His unrelenting love, and endless advances that has now brought you into an intentional and purposed life with Him. I hope this adds some significance to your worship and will serve as a launching platform for your life within the community of faith. You are valued as a unique creation to God and important in the mission and witness of the Church. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
May God Bless you as you begin your journey, remember you are not alone in this journey. This is something we do together. Welcome to the family.