New Membership Class
A Definition of Christianity
Scripture: Acts 11:21-26
“And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”
What a sweet, suggestive title “Christian.” They were called after the name of Christ because they had believed on Him, and turned to Him, and were now, with full purpose of heart, living for Him. Would not it be wonderful nowadays if all who call themselves “Christians” would display the identifying characteristics of Christianity?
The “Definition of Christianity” has been blurred. I appreciate the efforts of the leaders of our country to unite during these difficult times, but not to the POINT of further distorting the ability to understand what “Christianity” really is. A very simple definition of Christianity is: To be “Christ-like.”
I. How Being a Christian Begins
A. The ONLY way to get into the HUMAN FAMILY is to be BORN into it.
B. Everybody has a BIRTHDAY every year because BIRTH is the method God has ordained for transmitting human life from one generation to the next.
C. What is true in the PHYSICAL is also true of the SPIRITUAL: the ONLY way to possess God’s life and enter God’s family is through BIRTH. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7).
D. Like PHYSICAL birth, SPIRITUAL birth involves two parents, and these two parents are the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
E. When you believe the Gospel, repent of your sins, and trust Jesus Christ, you are immediately born into God’s family and receive everlasting life: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36).
F. Being a Christian means possessing the life of Christ within, being able to boldly say, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
II. A Changing of Our Nature
A. Birth involves two parents who IMPART life to us, and this life-giving birth determines our NATURE.
B. Those who have been born again are “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).
C. Jesus lived His complete life being directed by God’s “Divine Nature.”
III. How to Know You are Saved
A. One of the GREATEST evidences of salvation is “LOVE.” Scripture says, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14).
B. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
C. “…We know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us” (1 John 3:24).
D. “For His Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children” (Roman 8:16).
E. When we do what the Bible teaches us to do concerning salvation, then we KNOW we are saved.
IV. Living the Christian Life
A. You are the BEST Christian someone knows. The young son of an humble, consecrated pastor became very ill. After having done many tests, it was determined he would only live a few days. The little boy had been saved, but his father had the difficult task of telling him the he was to die very soon. The father went to the hospital to visit his son. He read the Bible passages to fit the occasion and then prayed. Then he told his son, “The doctors say you only have a few days to live. Are you afraid to meet Jesus?” Blinking away a few tears, the little fellow said bravely, “No, not if He’s like you, Dad.”
B. My life helps to paint my neighbor’s picture of God.
C. Jesus’ earthly ministry began by Him being baptized by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit coming upon Him: “And Jesus, when He was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the Heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him” (Matthew 3:16).
D. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).
E. Martin Luther said, “Live as if Christ died yesterday, rose this morning, and is coming back again tomorrow.”
F. God has given us His WORD, the HOLY SPIRIT, and other CHRISTIANS to help us along the way. We really do not have any good excuses to not be a Christian.
G. There was a little boy who kept falling out of the bed. When asked by his parents why he kept falling out of the bed, he replied, “I guess I sleep too close to the place where I got in.” That explains why so many people do not go any further in their Christian life. Their lives are filled with fallings.
Christians should always strive to be like a good watch--open face, busy hands, pure gold, well regulated, and full of good works.
Ten Principles for New Christians
1. Make Sure You are Saved
A man named Saul once struggled with the problem of how to please God. His story is found in the Bible. Before he became a believer in Jesus, Saul had investigated all the possible "religious" things he might do to please God. He considered himself morally upright. Surely, he had done enough "good" things to please Him.
But one day, while traveling on the road from Jerusalem to the Syrian capital of Damascus, Saul heard the voice of Jesus Christ. Suddenly, he realized that he was a sinner, and by the power of God he was gloriously saved. His whole outlook on life was turned around; he would never be the same again. Later, he became known as the Apostle Paul.
After Paul believed in Jesus, he thought about how a person can be saved. He studied the Scriptures, reviewed his own personal experience, he reached the conclusion that a man is justified by faith alone, not through what he does to keep the law (Romans 3:28).
- There is only one requirement for salvation--faith in Jesus Christ. Believe in Him. That is all you need to do.
- You are not saved by belonging to a particular church or denomination. No church saves you.
- You are not saved if the good things you do outweigh your bad things. They never will.
- You are saved only by faith in the Savior Jesus Christ.
While Jesus was hanging on the cross, a thief hung beside Him on another cross. The thief turned to Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). No one could have spoken those words without real faith. He believed. Jesus responded, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise."
- The thief had no opportunity to be baptized.
- There was no time to join the rest of the believers (church).
- There was no chance to do good works.
- The thief was dying.
- All he had time to do was trust Christ.
Like the thief, all YOU need to do is trust Jesus to be saved.
- But this faith must be yours alone.
- You are not saved because your parents believe.
- Your salvation does not come through someone else, not even through a priest, pastor, or rabbi.
Once you have taken this step of faith, you are placed into the security of God's hand.
Here is Jesus' promise to you: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand" (John 10:27-29).
Ask yourself if you have trusted Christ as your Savior.
- If so, you are saved and secure in the hands of our Sovereign God. You could not be in a better position. You have taken the first step as a new Christian.
2. Tell Someone
- Once you have been saved, it is important to share your news with someone. Tell them that Jesus has become real to you; that He has come into your life.
- It means you become a witness for Jesus. He wants us all to be witnesses to His love.
- You do not have to be able to provide all the right answers. You may not fully understand what has happened yourself, but it helps you clarify your thinking and will bring your friends face to face with God's love.
- Talking about what has happened to you helps you separate the questions you have from the facts you know. It will help you solidify in your own mind what has happened to you.
- When you tell people, you will probably be very excited about what has happened to you. It is important that--however much you feel that they must believe--you are patient and kind with them. Do not start an argument. That is unlikely to bring them to Jesus. A testimony that reflects the great love that brought you to Him is far more likely to help them open their hearts as you have done.
3. Establish a Quiet Time
- You need to grow in your new faith in Christ, and to do this it is important for you to establish a quiet time--a time to get alone with God and His Word.
- The Bible is the revelation of God's mind to us. It is what He wants us to know and do. Not only did God give His Son--the Living Word--to save us, He gave His Book, the Written Word, to guide us.
- Some sections of the Bible are difficult to understand and some are not as exciting as others. Still, every section of God's Word has something to say to us, and that makes every passage very important.
- It does not matter when your quiet time is, but it is helpful if we set aside a specific time when we can be alone with God.
A six-step plan for what to do when you have your quiet time:
- Start with prayer. Ask God to prepare you to meet with Him. If there is something in your life that you know displeases Him, confess it. Let Him forgive you so that nothing will hinder your communion together.
- Read a specific passage of Scripture--perhaps a chapter or two. If you are not very familiar with the Bible, you may wish to start with the New Testament. Many people think that the Gospel of John is a good place to start. Perhaps you would enjoy reading one or two of the Psalms every day.
- Meditate on it for a while after you have read a passage. Think about what you read, and ask yourself what it means. What does God want you to do? Remember, even though you may not understand all you read in the Bible, you can still obey what you do understand.
- Write down questions about the passage as you read. It is good to write down the things you learn and the questions you have. Later, you can search out the answers from someone who knows the subject or use Bible commentaries.
- Then read the passage again. Reading it the second time usually brings to light things you did not notice the first time. This is a great way to learn on your own. As you read, you will have God's Holy Spirit as your teacher (John 14:26).
- Finally, pray again. Thank God for sending His Son to die for you. Thank Him for giving you His Word (the Bible) because without it you would have no answers to life's big questions. Thank Him for teaching you from the passage you have just read.
- Many new Christians start a quiet time each day with great enthusiasm, but they soon get too busy and somehow God gets squeezed out.
- Consistency is the key. The person who merely samples the Word of God never acquires much of a taste for it. You must come back to God's Word daily for Him to feed you, just as you come to a table daily to eat physical food.
- Once you start, do not quit.
- Getting to know God better means spending time talking with Him just as we would get to know a friend. Prayer is simply talking with Him and enjoying Him.
- God loves to have intimate and honest conversation with us anytime of the day or night--about anything.
- Prayer is especially good when we are spending time each day reading the Bible and contemplating the things on God's heart.
- Psalm 55:17 says, "Evening and morning and at noon I will pray." This is not a formula for timing our prayers. God wants to hear from us at anytime. However, if we have not been in the habit of praying, then remembering to pray at these times might be a good place to start. We can tell God how much we love Him, talk about the circumstances of our day, thank Him for His nearness and His help, and confess our failures to Him.
- Prayers do not need to be eloquent or long--we are talking to a Friend who loves us deeply. He knows us and wants our honest thoughts.
- The great news about prayer is that we are not on our own with it. Jesus and the Holy Spirit have promised to help us with the whole thing.
- Romans 8:26 says that even when we do not know what to pray, the Holy Spirit prays for us.
- When we have failed, Jesus is there helping us by asking God to forgive us because of His sacrifice (1 John 2:1).
- We can bring anything to God in prayer and know that He will hear us and answer in the way that is best for us. Prayer is not a "shopping list" of things we want changed; it is a conversation with someone we know we can trust. He may even leave us in the difficult circumstances we ask to be rid of so that we can grow. Whatever He does in answer to our prayers, we can trust Him to make it work in our lives to make us more like Jesus.
- Even though our prayer life is so much more than God simply acting on the things we have requested, out of 667 prayers recorded in the Bible, there are an amazing 454 answers also recorded. What an encouragement! God is truly listening to us and responding in love to His children.
5. Make Christian Friends
- After you become a Christian, you may find a need for some new friends. You may find that you are looking for new friends who share your love of the Lord, and who will help you through the ups and downs of your new Christian life.
- This kind of friend will joyfully sing with you when you are on the mountain top, and silently walk beside you through the darkest valley.
- This does not mean that you should abandon your old friends. You will want to continue loving them as well as being a witness for them of the Father's love. You may discover some of them find the changes in you hard to accept, but you can still try to love and accept them.
- Your new Christian friends will help you to stay on track with your commitment to look at life from God's perspective now. They will help establish a setting in which you will build your new life.
- This is a fresh new way of living where the love of God and treating others with love are the important things.
- Your Christian friends will have the added advantage of the same Spirit residing in each of them--the Holy Spirit: "And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1 John 3:24).
- Your new friends can be a blessing and encouragement to you. Their friendship doubles your joy and divides your grief. They can be a support for you; they can share their spiritual wisdom with you. The next best thing to being wise yourself is having a circle of friends who are wise. Ask them to help you understand what you need to know.
- They can also help you in many other ways. They can help you find answers to your questions. They can help you in your Bible study. They can assist you in locating a church where you can worship and grow in the Lord.
6. Be Faithful to the Church
- After coming to Christ as your Savior, it is important that you be faithful to the church and become active in it. Do not delay. It is easy to lose interest in the church if you have never made an investment in it. You are in this orientation class because you have chosen New Welcome as your church home.
- Not only will this help you make Christian friends, but it will help you grow by leaps and bounds in your new Christian faith.
- Being part of a good church enables you to worship God, to honor Him and His Word. The Bible cautions us not to fail to assemble together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).
- A church exists for the double purpose of gathering in and sending out.
- When we gather together in the church, we are blessed. But we do not go for a blessing. We go because we have a sense of calling, a sense of need--a need for God and for others who have trusted Christ.
- While we are in the church, our spiritual batteries are recharged so that we can be sent into the world to let our lights shine before men.
- True believers make up Christ's church (Matthew 16:18). He is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18). The church is His body (Ephesians 1:22,23). When we attend a local church like CPBC, we know that the people here are not perfect; but they are forgiven. That is important.
- Look for a church where the Bible is treated as God's Word--His authoritative Word--where people express a loving concern for those who are still lost in their sins, and where the people worship God with deep respect.
- Avoid a church where you do not need a Bible during the service, where you never hear the name of Jesus Christ elevated, and where no concern for those who do not know Him is ever expressed.
7. Be Baptized
- There are some fine people who believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Another point of view is that baptism is necessary for obedience, but not for salvation. Again and again faith is stated as the requirement for salvation, with no mention of baptism (John 3:16-18; 5:24; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-14).
- Water baptism identifies our desire to obey Christ (Matthew 28:19,20). If you know that Christ wants you to be baptized and you refuse, you are being disobedient to your Master, the One who died for you.
- Water baptism identifies our desire to be joined to Christ (Romans 6:1-4). We have no way to show to others how we are placed into the body of Christ when we are saved except through the symbolism of water baptism. Being baptized shows that when Christ died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. And when He rose from the dead, we rose from the dead--to walk in newness of life.
- Water baptism indicates our desire to follow Christ (Romans 6:4). It symbolizes our final break with our old life, with the past and its sin. And although we will sin even after we are saved, being baptized tells the world we are headed in a new direction; we are on a new road, and we are taking the first steps on that road.
- Following the Lord in baptism means doing what He did (Matthew 3:16, 17).
- Following the Lord in baptism means telling the world you are under new management (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20).
- Following the Lord in baptism means following Jesus and forsaking the way you lived before you were saved (II Corinthians 5:17). It is a way of telling everyone, "I'm a new person, a new creation in Christ. Old things have passed away; all things in my life have become new. I am off to a brand new start."
- Baptism is going public for God. It is saying to the world, "I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back, no turning back!"
8. Learn to Give
- Learning to give is one of the first lessons God teaches new believers. There is good reason for it too. Giving is important to God. In fact, one-sixth of the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and 12 of Jesus' 38 parables have to do with money.
- Learning to give is important because of a divine pattern. God wants us to be like Him. He said, "Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:13-16). And since God is a giver by nature, He wants us to learn to be givers as well. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Giving glorifies God because it makes us more like God.
- Giving is a biblical principle. Throughout the Bible we read about the principles of giving. Giving is to be systematic (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2); it is to be proportionate to your ability to give (1 Corinthians 16:2); it is to be sacrificial (Mark 12:43, 44); it is to be spontaneous (Acts 2:45). Early in our Christian lives we should learn the biblical principles about giving.
- Learning to give is important because of thankful praise. Heart and hand go together. When your heart is filled with praise to God, your hand will express that praise by giving.
- Who is more deserving of our thanks than God? He loves us; He sent His Son to die for us; He saves us. Now we are taking steps to be conformed to the image of His dear Son, Jesus, and one of those steps is learning to give. After all, is not "giving" the last half of the word "thanksgiving"?
- God loves a cheerful giver--one who has learned to give thankfully and with joy (2 Corinthians 9:7). Each week set aside some of your time for God. You may do that through your quiet time or through service to Him through CPBC. And each week set aside some of your income for God. You may then give it to your church and other ministries that have blessed you.
- Whatever you do, get into the habit of giving back to God a portion of what He has generously given to you. Giving is one of the delights of being a Christian and one of the important first steps in the journey of your Christian life.
9. Memorize God's Word
- Memorizing God's Word is a privilege, not a duty. The benefit is all ours, but the pleasure is all His.
- Memorizing God's Word honors Him. Read Psalm 119 and notice the honor the writer heaps on God and His Word:
- Verse 89: "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in Heaven."
- Verse 105: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
- Verse 140: "Your word is very pure; therefore, Your servant loves it."
- Verse 162: "I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure."
- The reason the writer values God's Word so much is that he values God.
God's Word is a reflection of Himself. It is a revelation of His mind.
- Memorizing Scripture is sometimes called "hiding God's Word in your heart." When you do that, you are also hiding God there. Remember, God wrote only one book, and you honor Him when you show respect for that Book (the Bible) by hiding it in your heart. "Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day" (Psalm 119:97).
- Another good reason for hiding God's Word is to keep you from sin. The psalmist said it this way: "Your Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You" (Psalm 119:11). When you are tempted to sin, you need a strong defense. God has provided that defense in His Word. If you have memorized portions of God's Word, you will be ready for the tempter. When he badgers you and tries to get you to fall into sin, you will need the Scripture you have hidden in your heart.
- To memorize Scripture is to prepare yourself to answer those who challenge your faith in Christ. Not everyone may be happy that you have become a Christian. Some of your old friends may be confused and upset by the changes in you. If they come to you with questions, make fun of your faith, or challenge your trust in the Savior, you will be glad you have memorized God's Word. We should always be ready to give a gentle answer as to why we live as we do in Christ (1 Peter 3:15-16).
10. Find an Accountability Friend
- You increase your ability, stability, and responsibility when you increase your sense of accountability to God. One way you can do this is to find another believer who will be your accountability friend.
- What is an accountability friend? It is a mature Christian who agrees to disciple you, to help you grow and mature in your new faith in Christ. It is someone who agrees to hold you accountable, someone who will help you carry through on what you determine to do.
- If you tell your accountability friend that you are going to have a quiet time every morning for half an hour, s/he will call you later in the day and ask if you did. An accountability friend makes sure that you do all that you told God you would do.
- But the accountability street goes both ways. Frequently, two people will be accountability friends for each other. They will hold each other up and lift each other up when they need a lift. And if one should fall, the other will help him or her up.
- There is a striking image of this in Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10: "Two are better than one… For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up."
- This principle works not only when you take a physical tumble, but also when you have a weakness in the spiritual realm.
- If you have an accountability friend, you know that someone is there for you when you stumble, someone who will help you to keep from falling. For example, if you lose your enthusiasm in your walk with the Lord and become lukewarm, your accountability friend can take you aside and kindly, sincerely warn you that you are in spiritual danger.
- An ancient proverb from the Near East says, "A friend is one who warns you." But an accountability friend, a true friend, never stops with a warning. That friend will also pray with you, encourage you, and guide you back on the right track. That is what accountability friends are for.
- Friends do not just criticize, they help. A true friend does not sympathize with your weakness; the friend helps you summon your strength. When you and another Christian make a commitment to be accountable to each other, the best will be brought out in both of you.