“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.”
In a world of death, sorrow, and confusion, it is wonderful to know that Jesus Christ came that we might have life!
You received “natural life” when your mother gave birth to you. When Christ comes into your heart, you receive “spiritual life.” It is “life abundant,” an inward fountain of surging, powerful LIFE that changes every area of your natural life!
In fact, Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
This entire book is about one subject: “LIFE!” If you don’t know Christ yet, it is for you. If you do know Christ, it is all about the new life that belongs to you in Christ.
Join us on this “journey into life.” Bring someone along with you if you want to. Let’s go!
You can’t understand Christ’s “life” until you understand sin’s “death.” Let’s go back to the beginning of time to see how sin and death got here in the first place.
Adam and Eve were created PERFECT. They understood who they were and why they existed. Here are four amazing parts of the life Adam and Eve enjoyed with God:
1. They were created righteous (sinless)!
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” .
2. Adam and Eve had amazing, daily communion with God . . . with no sense of fear, guilt, or inferiority! God made the Garden of Eden where they could “fellowship” and “do life together.”
“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed”.
3. It was “natural” for Adam and Eve to obey God because God ruled within them.
4. Not only did God rule “in” them, but He ruled “through” them. God gave them authority to rule with Him over the entire planet!
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’”
The moment Adam and Eve sinned, everything CHANGED. They lost that innocence, righteousness, and ability to rule with God. In fact, the Bible says they received spiritual “death.” (They did not die physically right then, but they died spiritually to God and His eternal life.)
“And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’”.
Like dominos, here is what took place immediately:
We became SINFUL—Humanity's nature changed to the unrighteous (sinful) nature of Satan. All people subsequently inherited this sinful nature from Adam.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”.
We became SEPARATED—Spiritual death is separation or alienation from God, being void of the life of God in one’s soul, thereby being spiritually alienated from God.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.”
Because of man’s separation, three things happened:
1. We became the ENEMY of God. When man fell, we lost our “intimacy” with God and became the “enemy” of God.
2. We became IGNORANT of God. “Ignorant” doesn’t mean you are dumb; it just means you “don’t know.” Not only did man’s HEART become dead, but his MIND became darkened and confused about God.
3. We became SLAVES of Satan. He took over and ruled mankind ruthlessly. Lust, pride, and rebellion rose up in our hearts instead of love, humility, and obedience to God.
“In which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [SATAN], the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”
Satan went to work in every area of our lives—our hearts, minds, bodies, friendships, finances, and EVERY other area of life.
What a MESS one sin caused!
Satan now rules the world through human beings. Sounds desperate, right? Here, however, is the GOOD, GOOD NEWS!
Jesus lived the life we should have lived but could never live.
He lived a perfect, sinless life so that He could become the perfect Savior.
“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”
He died the death we should have died.
Jesus willingly gave His life for us on the cross so that He could defeat sin and its consequences in our lives. Because He died, we can live!
“Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”
We can now be saved in Him.
Jesus died on the cross to pay our sin debt. We are TOTALLY FORGIVEN.
He nailed our sins to His cross! (Colossians 2:14, ESV).
We can now have a life WITH Christ and FOR Christ.
Everyone loves a present. We love to receive an Amazon delivery or a free gift card.
The question is, Have you OPENED the present? Would you just leave it in the box and smile that it is here? What good is a gift card you never “activate”?
After chapter 1, you understand the awful price of sin. You also understand the solution God has for us. Now you need to “open the present”! You need to RECEIVE (“activate”) this wonderful gift of life.
There are three milestones in the journey of ACTIVATING eternal life:
Step 1: REPENT
After Christ died and went back to heaven, Peter preached to thousands of people in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. After his message, they all asked him the same question: “What do we need to DO to be saved?” “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38 NASB).
The first step to activate life is repentance. What does it mean to repent? Three simple phrases explain it:
1. Repentance means to RECOGNIZE that you’ve been wrong.
There comes a moment in the salvation experience when your eyes are opened and you realize that your thoughts, actions, and attitudes are not right. You recognize there is a need for change.
David, in Psalm 51:4 (NLT), recognized his sin and wrongdoing, saying, “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”
2. Repentance means to REGRET who you’ve been and what you’ve done.
If we are honest, we’ve all caused a lot of hurt and pain to others and to God. God is actually giving you this remorse to change your life.
Second Corinthians 7:10 (NLT) describes this sorrow: “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.” Thankfully, we don’t have to stay in this place, because we receive the forgiveness of God and shame is washed away!
3. Repentance means to REVERSE direction.
It’s not enough to just know that you are wrong and be remorseful about it; you must decisively change your course! You must go in the opposite direction of the sin you were involved with. We call it a “spiritual YOU-TURN,” a spiritual “180.”
Lamentations 3:40 (NLT) says, “Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord.”
Step 2: Receive Forgiveness
“If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 ESV).
JESUS WANTS TO FORGIVE YOU! One of the most important features of the ministry of Jesus was His readiness to forgive sin. He forgave prostitutes, people divorced five times, a thief on the cross, and a host of sinners like you and me!
John the Baptist pointed at Jesus as He walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 ESV).
We receive forgiveness by confessing our sins to Jesus. To confess means to own up to the fact that we are guilty of having committed sin and wrongdoing.
Psalm 51:17 (NLT) teaches, “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”
Simply ask for His forgiveness, and He will show you His mercy and love. If we confess our sin, He is just to forgive our sins. Regardless of what you have done wrong in your entire lifetime, CONFESS IT.
The psalmist David prayed: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins” (Psalm 51:1 NLT).
Step 3: Make Jesus Savior and Lord
We cannot save ourselves; we need a Savior.
Often people try to earn their salvation by doing good things or performing religious activities, but none of these things can save us. Actually, salvation is by what the Bible calls GRACE:
“For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV).
Jesus must be our only Savior.
We must embrace Jesus Christ as God’s only provision for our sin.
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Jesus must be our only LORD. Jesus as your LORD means that He is now in charge of your life. He must take over everything--absolutely everything!
Romans 10:9 (ESV) says, “If you confess with your mouth that JESUS IS LORD and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Here are a few things it means practically to make Jesus Lord:
1. Lordship means that you walk in obedience to Jesus. According to the Bible, if you call Jesus Lord, then you commit to obey the things He taught us.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46 ESV).
2. Confessing Jesus as Lord means that your heart belongs totally to Him.
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).
3. Confessing Jesus as Lord is a continuous walk with Him.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him” (Colossians 2:6 ESV).
Now, you know how to “open the present”!
Philip, the deacon who lived a few years after Christ, was walking along a dusty road in the desert south of Israel. He spotted a fancy chariot with a well-dressed man from Africa riding and reading. He overheard the man reading from the book of Isaiah . . . and found himself up in the chariot leading the man to Christ!
Then, the Ethiopian man asked Philip, “…Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.” (Acts 8:37–38 NASB).
This POWERFUL story raises this important question:
Now that Jesus is the Lord of your life, the first command that He gives you is to be baptized. The last thing He told His disciples was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 ESV).
Water baptism is sort of a “first step” for you as a new believer. It is a step toward what Christ called “discipleship”: “obeying His commands and following His example for the rest of your life.”
You may remember that Jesus Himself was baptized (Luke 3:21–22). If the Son of God was baptized, don’t you think we should be also? It is obviously not just some little religious ceremony; there is real power and deep meaning in the act of baptism.
In fact, one jailer in the New Testament received Christ in the middle of the night and “he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God” (Acts 16:33–34). THAT’S POWERFUL STUFF!
Water baptism is a “physical act expressing a spiritual truth.” It is saying, in effect, that we are dying to our OLD life and beginning a NEW life. That’s it, plain and simple. We are totally identifying with Christ now in these ways:
1. As Christ died FOR sin, so now those being baptized proclaim that they, too, have died TO sin.
As they go into the water and are completely immersed, the burial of their old sinful life is what is being symbolized.
Romans 6:3–4 (NLT) teaches, “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” Our old, sinful nature is left (buried) under the water, and we are then symbolically raised up to new life in Jesus!
2. In water baptism, the one being baptized is declaring that he or she will live for Jesus as His disciple.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV) says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” This means that the person being baptized is literally letting the whole world know that they are going to live for Christ alone!
The main reason for full immersion (like the man in the desert Philip baptized by the side of the road) is that only full immersion can properly symbolize burial, that is, a watery grave. You are “burying” your old person into the “grave” of sin. By the way, the New Testament term for baptize means to “dip” or “immerse.”
Colossians 2:12 (NLT) says, “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.”
The Bible accounts of baptism were that people were baptized as soon as possible after the moment of their receiving Christ as Lord. Here are three of many illustrations in just one book of the New Testament (Acts) where people were immediately baptized:
AT SAMARIA: “But now the people believed Philip’s message of Good News concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, many men and women were baptized” (Acts 8:12 NLT).
AT CAESAREA: “Then Peter asked, ‘Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?’ So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:47–48 NLT).
AT PHILIPPI: “As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. She and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:14–15 NLT).
You are in good company when you follow the Lord in baptism just as these New Testament believers did!
A few last statements about baptism:
1. Baptism removes a guilty conscience. Some people wrongly teach that baptism actually saves you. It does not. You are saved by grace through faith (see the last lesson). Baptism is merely your conscience wanting to be washed and clean. Peter told us that it does not “remove the filth of the flesh, but is the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21 NKJV).
2. Baptism is a public confession of your faith. There are usually witnesses of your baptism who hear you testify with your own voice that Jesus is now Lord of your life.
Here are a few things that baptism is a “confession” of:
Are you ready to “GO PUBLIC”?
No wonder that man in the desert asked Philip, “What prevents me from being baptized right here and now?”
Why should believers be baptized in the Holy Spirit?
God has not only given believers a heavenly, righteous position with Christ, but He has also made available to them the power to live in that position (Acts 1:8; John 1:33). The baptism in the Holy Spirit gives us power to live the Christian life. It is a command of Scripture: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NLT). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not a baptism of water; nevertheless, the believer is just as surely immersed—not in water, but in the Holy Spirit. It is a separate experience from salvation and water baptism, and it is available to all believers.
The Holy Spirit gives new power and boldness to be witnesses of all Christ has done in our lives and brings a fresh understanding and love for the Word of God (John 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9–16).
Who needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit?
We all need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Before we can be filled, however, we must have clean hearts. We need to confess our sins and forgive others, no matter how blameless we may think we are (1 John 1:7–9; Luke 6:37–38). Believers who want to be filled need only to ask, and they can freely receive (John 7:37–39). It is not to be struggled for, agonized about, begged for, or bargained for. It is a gift of the Lord Jesus Christ to His disciples to enable them to walk as He did (Luke 11:11–13).
The sign that we have been filled with the Holy Spirit is the presence of Jesus’ work and empowerment within us. When baptized in the Holy Spirit, all believers also have the ability to speak in tongues (Acts 2:4; 4:31; 10:46; 19:6).
Baptism in water and the baptism in the Holy Spirit are landmarks in a new Christian’s journey. Water baptism identifies believers with Christ, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit gives them power to live out that identification. Both experiences are part of the foundational doctrine of our Christian faith.
DNA is amazing.
It causes our kids to look just like us (for better or for worse!).
They gradually grow “into our image.” Nothing makes us happier than for them to grow up, to mature, to get jobs, families, and children.
We are a family (see chapter 4). God’s ideal, therefore, is for us to “look like His Son Jesus, think like His Son Jesus, talk like His Son Jesus, and grow up to be mature like His Son Jesus.”
We call that maturing process “discipleship.” It is “imprinting,” watching the “spiritual DNA” work deeply inside us until we are “fully formed” spiritually.
Jesus made it very clear that He has called us to become His followers, His disciples. In Matthew 4:19 (NLT), Jesus issued an invitation to Peter and his fellow fishermen: “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” That invitation still stands for us today.
Discipleship changes your life priorities. Your number one priority becomes knowing Jesus in a deeply personal level. Your decision to be a disciple leads you to become like Jesus in character, attitude, and actions through spiritual transformation and empowerment. This includes accepting God’s call to participate in Jesus’ mission in the world.
Paul told Timothy: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2 ESV).
To live as a disciple means to grow closer to Jesus and learn all about Him. We can summarize the principles of discipleship we taught you above with five things you can do to begin to grow in your relationship with Jesus.
"Spend time with Jesus every day in prayer."
Jesus taught His disciples how to pray and why to pray. A runner puts on his tennis shoes every day to develop the “runner’s habit.” Devote yourself in the same way to prayer, as Colossians 4:2 (NLT) says: “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”
"Spend time with Jesus’ family in relationships."
You’re a child of God but you’re not an only child. God wants you to be in relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Being a part of our regular Sunday gathering and a B-Group is how we do this.
"Spend time with Jesus in DOING the Bible."
READING Scripture is very important in “renewing your mind” and thinking the way God thinks. Whatever you read, put it into practice that day. DOING Scripture is ACTING on the Scripture. James 1:22 (NLT) teaches, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.”
"Spend time with Jesus serving others."
Christ fed the multitudes. He washed His disciples’ feet. He visited and healed the sick. He went out of His way to go to the homes of people. He told us that he who would serve would become the “greatest of all.”
"Learn from Jesus by becoming a giver. "
The world teaches us to “take.” Christ taught us to “give.” He said, “It is MORE BLESSED to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35 ESV). He said, “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, it will be put into your lap” (Luke 6:38 ESV).
Stinginess, covetousness, and greed have no place in a mature disciple of Christ. Learn to share like “planting seed.” Your gifts are going to grow, multiply, and produce a massive harvest in your life!
Everybody needs a family.
Geese fly in a “V” formation to increase their speed and diminish their drag. Several geese drop out of the “V” if one of their flock gets injured or shot. When it recovers, they all rejoin another “V” together.
Belgium horses pull up to 500 percent more together than alone. The greatest load is pulled by horses who have known each other for many years.
A branch cannot bear fruit unless it remains “connected to the vine.”
“Church” is not a service, an institution, or an activity. It is a FAMILY. Every child who is born into the world desperately needs a loving and caring family. The exact same thing is true when we are born into God’s family called the church!
God called His church a family and a household. Ephesians 2:19 (NLT) says, “So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.”
We are BORN into this family by the Holy Spirit. John 3:6 (NLT) says, “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” When you accept Christ as Lord, you are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 ESV).
God has adopted us and given us a heart to call him our Father. Romans 8:15 (NLT) says, “Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’”
Being “born again” is a miracle! We did absolutely nothing to deserve a place in this family. GOD’S GRACE, and His grace alone, gives us the gift of sonship and daughterhood.
“But to all who did accept him and believe in him he gave the right to become children of God. They did not become his children in any human way—by any human parents or human desire. They were born of God” (John 1:12–13 NCV).
As a spiritual family, we care for each other. FELLOWSHIP could be defined simply as “fellows in the same ship”! In other words, it involves sharing ourselves with others.
Check out these “one another” commands that teach us what it means to be part of the family of God:
Love one another: “But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to LOVE one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9 NLT).
Encourage one another: “So ENCOURAGE each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT).
Care for one another: “This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members CARE for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25 NLT).
Build up one another: “We should help others do what is right and BUILD them up in the Lord” (Romans 15:2 NLT).
Jesus said in John 13:35 (NLT), “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” Love is what rules the relationships in the family of God. People will notice your “family love” with other Christians and greatly desire to be a part of that community!
The church is called the “body of Christ.” Every single tiny member of your physical body is important. If you don’t think a little toe is important, just bang it into something in the dark and see how much you try to kiss it!
1 Corinthians 12:12–13 (NLT) explains it this way: “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.”
As a member of the body of Christ, you have been given a special gift to serve the other members and your community. Your function as part of the body is CRITICAL!
Romans 12:4–5 (ESV) says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
The church is where you discover your God-given gift and learn to grow in the use of that gift. Each of us has been handpicked and placed in the body for a special purpose.
As 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT) says, “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”
We are not saved by our works, only by grace through faith. However, the church has been created to serve God, to serve others, and to do the work of God in the world. God has created you for good works. Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Being part of the family means being part of God’s “family business.” Everybody has their place, their gift, and their responsibility. We all have a PURPOSE: “to fulfill the mission of Jesus to help others to know Christ.”
Jesus told us His life mission in Luke 19:10 (NLT): “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
“Get connected” to God’s family. Don’t be a “Lone Ranger” who is disconnected from the rest of the body of Christ. Find your place, plug in your gift, and start to make God’s DREAM of populating heaven become a reality!
Bethany’s leadership wants to help YOU discover your PURPOSE, gift, and calling. Now that you’ve finished the Life Book, we’d love to invite you to Next Steps. Next Steps happens after every service at each of our campuses. It’s a four week class that’ll get you connected more to the life of the church! See you there!