Christianity 101 Lesson 02

Things you should know before you attempt to know other things

Intro

Greetings friends. This is Evan Plante, Director of Mainsail Ministries, and welcome to the second lesson in our series, Christianity 101. In the first lesson, I offered some definitions and went through my proposal for the scope and sequence of this course. In this second lesson, I will lay out some fundamental principles about life, learning, Bible study and discipleship. These are designed to keep you moored as you navigate through the world — not only as Christian disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) — but also as ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

As disciples, you should always be doing the right things... like praying, growing in Christ and serving others. But as ambassadors, you should be saying the right things… yet saying them in the right way (1 Peter 3:15). But first things first. Let’s make sure you are a Christian.

You see, millions of people around the world call themselves Christians who are not true Christians; they are nominal Christians. All this means that they identify with the Christian vocabulary and culture more than they do with those of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Taoism, Judaism, Confucianism, Baha’i, Shinto, Jainism, Zoroastrianism. Judaism or Wiccan. These nominal Christians are not regenerate. They have never “received’ Christ (John 1:12), so they have not been “born again.” (John 3:3).

So, here’s the problem: the Christian culture saves no one! (Matthew 7:21-23). But the Christian person saves everyone… all who come to him, that is (John 3:16; Romans 10:11-13). If you have not received Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are not a child of God (John 1:12). If you do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, there is no evidence that you are a Christian (Romans 8:15).

Make sure you are a Christian

This course is designed for true believers... although all are welcome to look over my shoulder while I teach. But I need to state clearly what makes a person a Christian before we continue.

Christians are people who have received Jesus Christ as Savior and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. That “indwelling” is the defining condition for God’s children in this age (Acts 2). So, how do you get to a point where this Spirit will move inside of you? Just relax… give in to God. He’s been drawing you to Jesus all your life! (John 6:44). The trick is to make sure to find the right Jesus.

Who is the “right” Jesus? The historically corroborated and biblically revealed Jesus — the Savior of the world. Here’s what you have to know to become a child of God and be saved.

God wants a relationship with you — and no… I can’t figure that out either! The problem is that our sin has disqualified us from having such a relationship (Romans 6:23) ... and that is not something that we can fix on our own. This is why he sent Jesus to the earth: he became one of us, so he could live a sin-free life; this qualified him to be sacrificed for us (Hebrews 2:17). His resurrection proved that he had the goods (Romans 1:4), so our job is to lay our sin on him. Here’s how that goes.

You come to Jesus, hat in hand... not with any superior attitude or any “good works” you have done on this earth (Ephesians 2:8-9). You see, you are a sinner — both ontologically and functionally — and until you realize this, you cannot be saved. You must lay your sins at the foot of the cross... because there is nothing you can do about them. Jesus will save you if you ask him. Furthermore, it’s a job that only he can do (Acts 4:12).

How do you actually do this? You stop resisting the Father’s pull and lay all your sin at Jesus’ feet. A prayer could be helpful here… something like, “Lord, I realize that I have no right to your fellowship because of my sin. I also realize that I can’t atone for my own sins. I accept your offer of salvation and lay all my sin at Jesus’ feet. I wait on the Holy Spirit. Help me understand what it takes to be a disciple.”

If you’ve done the actions in that prayer honestly, then you are saved. You have become a “New Creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit has moved in, and he will help you live a Christ-centered life. I can’t overemphasize how important this is. People who do not “get” Christianity are the people who did not “get” the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

Click here and here if you want to explore salvation in more depth.

So now what?

God has a purpose for every one of us. But unless you’ve thought about it systematically, you might not realize what that purpose is. You are where you are for a reason... so until you have more information, do the work that’s in front of you. Do not, however, neglect “The Big Four.” Every Christian should pray, study the Bible, fellowship with other believers and serve.

Think of these disciplines as four legs of a stool. If one or more is missing, your “Christian life” will crash to the ground. Now, it is also possible that all four legs are in place, but your stool feels wobbly. This means that these four parts of your Christian life are not in balance. You should touch down with God about it, or confer with some Christians whose judgment you have learned to trust.

If you engage with these four disciplines earnestly, God will speak to you through the Bible, through his Spirit and through other people... but here’s a word of warning: it is easy to get busy and it is good to be busy. But it is better to busy with the things that God wants you to be busy with. If you seek his will for your life earnestly, you will find it.

Now, it is good to make plans and have objectives. That’s how we humans make progress in life! Just remember the adage, “Man plans, and God laughs.” You will not know God’s will perfectly, and your life will morph as you live it. Be patient with God. He has been patient with you. Just know that not only does God play the long game, but he also plays it as an omniscient being.

The Big Four: Prayer

Prayer is how we talk to God — and he wants to hear from you! This is funny when you think about it because there is nothing you can “tell” God that he does not already know. So, what is prayer about? It’s about communication, not information. God wants us to keep the lines open. Some religious traditions use memorized prayers in their liturgy — and even recommend “saying your prayers” personally. But these kinds of prayers work against speaking your heart to God.

Note also that you do not have to be highly organized about prayer to honor God. What I mean is, you do not have to pray at the same time or place every day… although there is nothing wrong with that. But, since we are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) if you only pray in your prayer closet — you will starve!

The only way you can pray without ceasing is to integrate prayer into your daily life… and that implies different locations, different times and differing degrees of isolation. I go back and forth between the mundane and the holy seamlessly throughout the day. This is how I “pray without ceasing” — and I don’t know how else one would accomplish that.

The Big Four: Bible Study

Now that we have a way of talking to God through prayer, we should explore the ways God talks to us — and the Bible stands alone here. It is the only revelation that God has put in writing. We may argue about what God means by the words he put in the Bible, but we need to understand that this is God’s only written revelation. If the Bible is the only place where God has “put it in writing” so to speak, then it deserves our earnest study.

That being said, we should not neglect God’s other revelations — like his revelation through nature (Romans 1:18-20) and through the human conscience (Romans 2:14-15). But all revelation must be interpreted in a way that makes sense of all other revelations. The advantage of the Bible is that its purpose is to reveal God’s will through language... and we humans are optimized for language.

The Big Four: Fellowship

Christianity is about people. This is one of the reasons why you must establish yourself in a local church. Being a Christian is about fellowshipping, learning, growing and serving — but be warned: there is no perfect church. But that’s no excuse. It’s on you to find the best church possible. And if such a church does not exist, it’s on you to found the best church possible!

The thing you cannot do is forsake fellowship because some of the people get under your skin. That’s cowardice... that’s an abdication of duty. But you do not have to “settle” for a church that is not the “right” church. Do not let a church “sell” you on membership. Let the Holy Spirit do that. Once you find a church home, however, you are responsible to help that local body perform the Great Commission. So, find a church, dig in and serve.

The Big Four: Service

God’s overarching purpose for every believer is to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Perhaps you will do this directly by becoming a missionary. But most of us will do this by serving at home. Jesus commanded us to make disciples — to teach and baptize... but you don’t have to go to Botswana to do this. I’m a Christian today because someone from my hometown shared the gospel with me.

Once you are established in a local New Testament church, there will be plenty of work directly in front of you. Do that... but be discerning. Don’t just be busy. Confer continually with God about what he wants you to do in your church. By giving money, teaching Sunday school and encouraging a fellow believer, you may be building a missionary who will bring thousands to Jesus Christ. Since you never know, work reasonably and steadily within your congregation — and pray continually that God might use you.

Close

One of the chief purposes of Mainsail Ministries is to prove that Christianity is a reasonable enterprise. But here’s the thing: if it is reasonable, then Jesus is Lord... and if he is Lord, then you must surrender him your all. Don’t let that discourage you, though. None of us actually accomplish this! But don’t let anybody fool you; that’s the target… and we’ll talk more about this more in future lessons.

 

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210503 Things you should know before you attempt to learn other things).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)