Following Jesus - A Course for New Christians

 Lesson 1: What is a Christian?

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Rev John Hibberd

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

Introduction

These lessons are for new Christians.  The pastor will teach some parts of the lesson.  He will ask you to talk about some other parts of the lesson.  You can ask the pastor questions too.

Notes for the pastor:

It would be good to begin each lesson with some worship and prayer.

1.  The pastor should ask people to go into groups of about six people.  The people will then try to answer the question: ‘What is a Christian?’  Tell them that they have about 10 minutes to do this.

2.  The pastor should ask the groups to tell him their answers.

3.  The pastor should then teach them from these notes.

What it does not mean to be a Christian

The Bible is quite clear about what it means to be a Christian.  Many people have wrong ideas about this.  Here are some wrong answers:

‘I am a Christian because my parents were Christians’. 

·   It is good to have parents who are Christians.  They can teach you about Jesus.  They can take you to church.

·   One day, however, you must decide to follow Jesus.  You alone can choose to do this.

·   So, you may have Christian parents, but that is not enough to make you a Christian.

‘I am a Christian because I live a good life’.

·   Christians should try to be good people.  It is not good to live a bad life if you are a Christian.

·   Maybe you are a good person, but that is not enough.  No-one lives a perfect life; we all do things that are wrong.

‘I am a Christian because I go to church’.

·   Christians should go to church.  It is good to meet together with God’s people.  The Bible says that we should do this.  We meet to worship God.

·   But people can go to church even if they are not Christians. The church should welcome such people, and pastors should help them to really believe in Jesus and to trust in Jesus.

‘I became a Christian because someone baptised me’.

·   Baptism is important.  Pastors in some churches only baptise adults; in other churches, they baptise children too.  We are not concerned here about the differences between these churches. 

·   But baptism by itself is not enough.  People can see the water that the pastor uses.   Something that people cannot see must also happen.  The person must really put trust their in Jesus.  That is the more important part.

‘I am a Christian because I prayed a prayer at a meeting many years ago.’

·   It is important for you to ask Jesus to come into your life. I will explain more about this later.

·   But then you must live a Christian life.  Many people pray this kind of prayer, and then do not do anything more.  They do not join a church.  They do not try to learn how to follow Jesus.  They do not try to become a better person.  Such people are not really Christians.


So, what does it mean to be a Christian?  The best way to answer this is to tell you again the good news about Jesus.

How to Become a Christian

1.      God has a plan for the world

The Bible says that God made the world and everything in it.  The first words in the Bible are these: 

‘God made the heavens and the earth.’ (Genesis 1.1, EE draft)

You may think that this great God does not take any interest in you.  Why should he take any interest in you?  He is the great God who made the earth, the stars, and everything else. He made everything that you can see.  God does take an interest in you.  In fact, he knows everything about you.  God made you so that you could know him.  He is your friend.  The Bible promises that:

‘God will make a new agreement with his people’  (Jeremiah 31.33)

When that happens, God says:

‘None longer will they have to teach one another to know the Lord, because all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest.’ (Jeremiah 31.34, Good News Bible, slightly amended)

God wants us to know him.  He has given us the desire to know him.  Why is it that so many people do not know God?  The reason is that there is a problem.

2.      The problem is sin

God made the world, and everything in the world was good.  God allowed men and women to choose.  They could do good or evil.  He could have forced us to do only good things; but he did not force us.  The first people chose to do what they wanted to do.  They did not choose to do what God wanted them to do.  All people have made the same bad choice ever since.  We may choose to do only what we want to do.  That is not what God wants us to do.  The bad things we do are ‘sin’, and we sin when we do such things.  The Bible says:

‘For all people do bad things and fail to make God happy’ (Romans 3.23, WA-EE)

This verse says that we all sin.  It says that we ‘fail to make God happy’; that means that we do not agree with God’s plans for us.  In fact, the Bible says that sin separates us from God: 

‘It is because of your sins that he does not hear you.  It is your sins that separate you from God when you try to worship him.’ (Isaiah 59.2, Good News Bible)

That is why it is difficult for people to know God.  Sometimes they are ashamed of their sins. So they do not want to meet with God, who is perfect.  Other people do not want to change their sinful lives; so they refuse to come to God.  If you say ‘No’ to God, that is dangerous.  Here are three reasons:

A.  Because of more and more sin, there is much evil in the world.  This will continue as long as people refuse to live God’s way.

B.  The Bible says:

‘The result of sin is death’ (Romans 6.23, WA-EE). 

We all must die.  The reason is that there is sin in the world.  A person who sins all the time will die without hope.  When a Christian speaks about hope, he means something good that God will give to those who trust him.  This hope will last forever.  When you think about death, are you glad or are you afraid?

C.  The Bible speaks about heaven, but it also speaks about hell.  The Bible says:

‘If a person’s name is not in the book of life, he will be thrown into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20.15, EE draft). 

God is the judge of all people.  As I said earlier, God wants people to know him.  God knows even those who refuse to know him.  At the end of the world, he will send them to hell.  God does not want anyone to go to hell.  That is why he planned to rescue them.  His plan came about through the man Jesus Christ.

3.      Jesus Christ

God sent Jesus to rescue us.  Why?  God did that because he loves us very much.  He also knew that there was no other way.  Only Jesus can bring us back into true friendship with God. 

When Jesus died on a cross, it was so that God could forgive our sins.  As it says in the Bible:

‘Christ carried our *sins in his body when he died on the cross’  (1 Peter 2.24, WA-EE)

It is sin that comes between us and God.  Jesus’ death was special.  He is the only person who ever lived and never sinned.  So, when he gave up his life, that could only happen once.  He offered his perfect life to God.  At the same time, it was God’s plan that he should take our sins from us.  That is why God forgives us, because Jesus died.

The cross is also the place where God defeated evil.  As it says in the Bible:

‘On the cross Christ defeated all spiritual powers and authorities.  He made that clear to all, when he rose to life again after his death on the cross.’  (Colossians 2.15, EE style draft)

There has only been one really good man.  That is Jesus Christ.  Men and women chose to kill him.  That was an evil thing to do.  If you read the story of Jesus’ life, you will see how evil powers tried to fight against him all the time.  When he died, it looked as though evil had won the fight.  We know that was not true.  God allowed us to do this very bad thing to His Son: he made it the best thing His Son could do for us.  So, on the cross, God defeated evil.

Jesus rescues us from sin and from the power of evil.  And the Bible has more good news.  He also rescues us from death and from the fear that we feel about death.  Three days after Jesus died on the cross, he came back to life.  His friends found that his grave was empty.  Then many of them saw him alive again.  He spoke to them and taught them much more about himself for 40 days.  The message of the New Testament is that Jesus is alive!

Jesus also promises us that we will live again after we die.  As it says in the Bible:

‘I am the one who raises the dead to life. All who have faith in me will live, even if they die.’ (John 11.25, WA-EE)

Every person must die.  But the Christian can look forward to life after death.  We will live with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  Many people fear death, but Jesus also rescues us from eternal death. 

4.      What must we do?

When the first Christian told the good news about Jesus to the crowd, they asked: ‘What shall we do?’  God has made a way for us to know Him, through Jesus Christ.  He has done this for every person in the world, but he does not force us to accept his way.  We must receive this good news for ourselves.  How?

Repent

This means that you must turn away from what is wrong in your life.  You may be aware of things in your life that are wrong.  Perhaps you feel guilty about some things that you have done.  As you get to know Jesus, he will show you other things that are wrong.  What should you do?  As the Bible says:


‘But if we tell God what we have done wrong then he will forgive us. He will take away from us all the wrong things, which we have done. God is true and fair. So, we can be sure that he will do what he promised and what is right.’ (1 John 1.9, WA-EE)

If you want to live a new life with Jesus, you must leave bad things behind.  You cannot live the new life and continue to do bad things. 

Believe

You must believe that the message about Jesus is God’s plan.  He wants to rescue people and to make them his friends again. As the Bible says:

‘Jesus gave some people the right to become the children of God. He gave this right to those who accepted him. They were the people who really put their trust in him.’ (John 1.12, WA-EE, Hillyer draft)

You receive the good news like a very special gift. You must receive this gift for yourself.  This means that you know the truth in your *heart.  You know that God loves you. It does not mean that you just believe or know some facts.  This is truth that God makes real to you.  He does that because he wants you to trust in him.

Declare

It says in the Bible:

‘Tell others that Jesus is your Lord. Tell them that Jesus rose from death.  Then he will save you’ (Romans 10.9, WA-EE draft by Norman Hillyer)

We have already said that your faith must be personal – from the *heart.  This Bible verse shows us that your faith must also be public.  You cannot be a private Christian.  You need to tell other people that you are a Christian.  You need to join with Christians in a local church.

Later in this series of lessons, we will say more about church, about prayer, and about reading the Bible.  This will help you as you try to live as a Christian.

A Verse to Remember

The main point of this lesson is to speak again about the good news of Jesus.  If you do not understand this, then your Christian life will not develop well.  You might even give up. 

We will finish this lesson with a Bible verse for you to learn.  If you learn it, you will remember it.   This verse reminds you of how much God loves you.  That was the reason that he sent his Son into the world.

‘God loved all the people of the world very much. He gave his Son to save them. So anyone who trusts in Jesus will enjoy life with God.’ (John 3.16, WA-EE)

Remember this verse.  Say it every day.  Tell others the good news about Jesus.  You can use this Bible verse to do it!  Next time we meet, we will try to remember the verse as a group.

Word List

heart

Where you see the word ‘heart’, this does not just mean the heart that makes the blood to go around your body.  It is our custom to describe the heart as the centre of our life.  When we speak about ‘knowing the truth in your heart’, we mean that you know it for yourself.  It has become real to you.  It may be your custom to speak in the same way of your mind, or your stomach.  You must use the word that fits your customs.  This will help people to understand the true meaning of the teaching in these lessons.

sin

When people do things against God or against other people

 

© 1997-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

22 May 2003

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