Have you ever asked why God’s forgiveness is of any value? Or what about eternal life? Have you ever asked why a person would want to have eternal life? Why should we want to live forever? These questions matter because it is possible to want forgiveness and eternal life for reasons that prove you don’t have them.
Take forgiveness, for example. You might want God’s forgiveness because you are so miserable with guilt feelings. You just want relief. If you can believe that he forgives you, then you will have some relief, but not necessarily salvation. If you only want forgiveness because of emotional relief, you won’t have God’s forgiveness. He does not give it to those who use it only to get his gifts and not himself.
Or you might want to be healed from a disease or get a good job or find a spouse. Then you hear that God can help you get these things, but that first your sins would have to be forgiven. Someone tells you to believe that Christ died for your sins, and that if you believe this, your sins will be forgiven. So you believe it in order to remove the obstacle to health and job and spouse. Is that gospel salvation? I don’t think so.
In other words, it matters what you are hoping for through forgiveness. It matters why you want it. If you want forgiveness only for the sake of savoring the creation, then the Creator is not honored and you are not saved. Forgiveness is precious for one final reason: it enables you to enjoy fellowship with God. If you don’t want forgiveness for that reason, you won’t have it at all. God will not be used as currency for the purchase of idols.
What is Christianity? Some say it is a philosophy, others say it is an ethical stance, while still others claim it is actually an experience. None of these things really gets to the heart of the matter, however. Each is something a Christian has, but not one of them serves as a definition of what a Christian is. Christianity has at its core a transaction between a person and God. A person who becomes a Christian moves from knowing about God distantly to knowing about him directly and intimately. Christianity is knowing God.
“Now this is eternal life; that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Why do I need to know God?
Our desire for personal knowledge of God is strong, but we usually fail to recognize that desire for what it is. When we first fall in love, when we first marry, when we finally break into our chosen field, when we at last get that weekend house—these breakthroughs arouse in us anticipation of something which, as it turns out, never occurs. We eventually discover that our desire for that precious something is a longing no lover or career or achievement, even the best possible ones, can ever satisfy. The satisfaction fades even as we close our fingers around our goal. Nothing delivers the joy it seemed to promise. Many of us avoid the yawning emptiness through busyness or denial, but at best there is just a postponement. “Nothing tastes,” said Marie Antoinette.
There are several ways to respond to this:
By blaming the things themselves – by finding fault in everyone and everything around you. You believe that a better spouse, a better career, a better boss or salary would finally yield the elusive joy. Many of the most successful people of the world are like this – bored, discontented, running from new thing to new thing, often changing counselors, mates, partners, or settings.
By blaming yourself – by trying harder to live up to standards. Many people believe they have made poor choices or have failed to measure up to challenges and to achieve the things that would give them joy and satisfaction. Such people are wracked with self- doubts and tend to burn themselves out. They think, “If only I could reach my goals, then this emptiness would be gone.” But it is not so.
By blaming the universe itself – by giving up seeking fulfillment at all. This is the person who says, “Yes, when I was young I was idealistic, but at my age I have stopped howling after the moon.” This makes you become cynical, you decide to repress that part of yourself that once wanted fulfillment and joy. But you become hard, and you can feel yourself losing your humanity, compassion, and joy.
By blaming and recognizing your separation from God – by seeing that the emptiness comes from your separation from God, and by establishing a personal relationship with him.
In order to form a personal relationship with God, you must know three things:
1) Who we are:
God’s creation. God created us and built us for a relationship with him. We belong to him, and we owe him gratitude for every breath, every moment, everything. Because humans were built to live for him (to worship), we will always try to worship something – if not God, we will choose some other object of ultimate devotion to give our lives meaning.
Sinners. We have all chosen (and re-affirm daily) to reject God and to make our own joy and happiness our highest priority. We do not want to worship God and surrender ourselves as master, yet we are built to worship, so we cling to idols, centering our lives on things that promise to give us meaning: success, relationships, influence, love, comfort, and so on.
In spiritual bondage. To live for anything else but God leads to breakdown and decay. When a fish leaves the water, which he was built for, he is not free, but dead. Worshiping other things besides God leads to a loss of meaning. If we achieve these things, they cannot deliver satisfaction, because they were never meant to be “gods.” They were never meant to replace God. Worshiping other things besides God also leads to self- image problems. We end up defining ourselves in terms of our achievement in these things. We must have them or all is lost; so they drive us to work too hard, or they fill us with terror if they are jeopardized. 2) Who God is:
Love and justice. His active concern is for our joy and well-being. Most people love those who love them, yet God loves and seeks the good even of people who are his enemies. But because God is good and loving, he cannot tolerate evil. The opposite of love is not anger, but indifference. “The more you love your son, the more you hate in him the liar, the drunkard, the traitor,” (E. Gifford). To imagine God’s situation, imagine a judge who also is a father, who sits at the trial of his guilty son. A judge knows he cannot let his son go, for without justice no society can survive. How much less can a loving God merely ignore or suspend justice for us—who are loved, yet guilty of rebellion against his loving authority?
Jesus Christ. Jesus is God himself come to Earth. He first lived a perfect life, loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind, fulfilling all human obligation to God. He lived the life you owed—a perfect record. Then, instead of receiving his deserved reward (eternal life), Jesus gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins, taking the punishment and death each of us owed. When we believe in him: 1) our sins are paid for by his death, and 2) his perfect life record is transferred to our account. So God accepts and regards us as if we have done all Christ has done.
3) What you must do:
Repent. There first must be an admission that you have been living as your own master, worshipping the wrong things, violating God’s loving laws. “Repentance” means you ask forgiveness and turn from that stance with a willingness to live for and center on him.
Believe. Faith is transferring your trust from your own efforts to the efforts of Christ. You were relying on other things to make you acceptable, but now you consciously begin relying on what Jesus did for your acceptance with God. All you need is nothing. If you think, “God owes me something for all my efforts,” you are still on the outside.
Pray after this fashion: “I see I am more flawed and sinful than I ever dared believe, but that I am even more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I turn from my old life of living for myself. I have nothing in my record to merit your approval, but I now rest in what Jesus did and ask to be accepted into God’s family for his sake.”
When you make this transaction, two things happen at once: 1) your accounts are cleared, your sins are wiped out permanently, you are adopted legally into God’s family and 2) the Holy Spirit enters your heart and begins to change you into the character of Jesus.
Follow through. Tell a Christian friend about your commitment. Get yourself training in the basic Christian disciplines of prayer, worship, Bible study, and fellowship with other Christians.
Why should I seek God?
On one hand, you may feel that you “need” him. Even though you may recognize that you have needs only God can meet, you must not try to use him to achieve your own ends. It is not possible to bargain with God. (I’ll do this if you will do that.”) That is not Christianity at all, but a form of magic or paganism in which you “appease” the cranky deity in exchange for a favor. Are you getting into Christianity to serve God, or to get God to serve you? Those are two opposite motives and they result in two different religions. You must come to God because 1) you owe it to him to give him your life (because he is your creator) and 2) you are deeply grateful to him for sacrificing his son (because he is your redeemer.)
On the other hand, you may feel no need or interest to know God at all. This does not mean you should stay uncommitted. If you were created by God, then you owe him your life, whether you feel like it or not. You are obligated to seek him and ask him to soften your heart, open your eyes, and enlighten you. If you say, “I have no faith,” that is no excuse either. You need only doubt your doubts. No one can doubt everything at once— you must believe in something to doubt something else. For example, do you believe you are competent to run your own life? Where is the evidence of that? Why doubt everything but your doubts about God and your faith in yourself? Is that fair? You owe it to God to seek him. Do so.
What if I’m not ready to proceed?
Make a list of the issues that you perceive to be barriers to your crossing the line into faith. Here is a possible set of headings:
Content issues. Do you understand the basics of the Christian message—sin, Jesus as God, sacrifice, faith?
Coherence issues. Are there intellectual problems you have with Christianity? Are there objections to the Christian faith that you cannot resolve in your own mind?
Cost issues. Do you perceive that a move into full Christian faith will cost you dearly? What fears do you have about commitment?
Now talk to a Christian friend until these issues are resolved. Consider reading: Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis (MacMillan) and Basic Christianity, by John Stott (IVP).
Ministry is using whatever God has given you to serve him and others. Identify some influences in your life that would lead you to serve in an area that brings attention to God and fulfillment to you. Life in Christ does not change your natural abilities but brings them in line with a holy purpose. They are raised to a new effectiveness. Helpful Resources: Ministry Teams Page
The great commission…Matthew 28:18–20. Live a sent life by praying, giving, and going. Living on mission…glorifying God when engaged in the daily tasks that make up the bulk of your life. Helpful Resources: Missions Page
Generosity is diverting the things God has given to us and directingthem to meet the needs of others. As a part of a local body of believers, a generous heart supports that body with its time, talents, and treasure. Honor the Lord with your wealth…Proverbs 3:9. Helpful Resources: The Treasure Principle
Bible Reading Plans
God’s love for you is so personal and constant that He desires to speak to your heart through His Word. The privilege of hearing from God daily is surely one of the most thrilling gifts of the Christian life.
There is certainly not a heaven-sent plan for reading the Bible, but through the years, people have found various systems helpful. As people read the Bible, there are many parts they do not understand. Yet their lives are filled with great peace as they read the Bible. Why? Because they are not reading for information but rather to experience the presence of God. That’s why the Bible benefits us. Through it we encounter the presence of God.
The best place to begin reading is in the New Testament book of John. While reading John, its also good to read one chapter each day from the Old Testament (beginning with Genesis) and a chapter from Pslams and Proverbs.
Whether you’re new to the Christian faith, returning to church after being away for a while, or you’ve been a Christian for many years and simply need to reconnect with the essentials of the faith, we’re glad you visited this page. No matter where you are in your journey with God, our hope is that the following information will help you grow to trust and serve Him.
Growing in your relationship with God works best when you are doing the things that allow it to work. There is no special formula to follow, but the following areas will provide the best process to help you grow in your faith.
Begin with the Bible. The best place to discover God is in the Bible. Use the resources on this website to help you get started reading and studying your Bible.
Pray. Your words matter to God. Prayer is one the most magnificent invitations God extends to us.
Worship and study with other Christians. Its important to find a church in your area that you can connect with. When you search for a church, visit church websites. You can learn what a church believes and what’s most important to them. Avoid disappointment in the long run by looking at the church’s statements of faith and make sure they effectively teach the Bible. It may take several visits before you get a feel for a particular church. Above all else, pray and ask God to reveal where you should worship.
Serve in a ministry that brings attention to God and fulfilment to you. Most churches have ministries where people can use their gifts and abilities to help others. Ask a church leader if they offer a class or training to help people discover where they could serve.
Scripture Questions to Ask
Asking application-oriented questions of Scripture is one of the best ways to understand what it is saying and how you can apply it. The following are some application-oriented questions that can help you become a doer of the God’s Word. These questions come fromSpiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. We recomend this book if you desire to cultivate spiritual disciplines in your life. Click here to purchase this book. (You will be directed to an another website.)
Does this text reveal something I should believe about God?
Does this text reveal something I should praise or thank or trust God for?
Does this text reveal something I should pray about for myself or others?
Does this text reveal something I should have a new attitude about?
Does this text reveal something I should make a decision about?
Does this text reveal something I should do for the sake of Christ, others, or myself?
“There are times when a verse of Scripture will have such evident application for your life that it will virtually jump off the page and plead with you to do what it says. More often than not, however, you must interview the verse, patiently asking questions of it until a down-to-earth response becomes clear.” Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. Page 60
Click the image to download and print a bookmark with these questions.
Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” Every time you read the Bible, God does something inside you. When you are weak, he empowers you. When you are discouraged, he comforts you. When you are rebellious, he confronts you.
The Bible has 66 books. It’s important to know that you do not have to understand all of the Bible before it speak to you. The Bible will speak to anyone at any time as long as they possess a genuine desire to love and obey the living God.
The resource below is a “An Overview of the Bible” that our Teaching Pastor, Richard Smith, wrote. We believe it will help you discover that you can understand the Bible and receive great blessings from it.
Click on the image below to download “An Overview of the Bible.”
According to the needs of readers through the years, the Bible has been translated into many different versions or translations (i.e. King James Version, The Living Bible, The English Standard Version, The New International Version, etc. The latter one mentioned, known as the NIV, is among the most popular today)
Some people like to purchase study Bibles. Among the most useful are the NIV Study Bible and the Life Application Study Bible (this one is available in different versions)
So which translation is best? To borrow a response from one teacher, “The best translation is the one that you will read and apply.”
Most book stores sell Bibles. If you do not live close to a Christian book store and need some help, check Christian Book Distributors.
Planning Not to Drift
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.
With tears in her eyes she asked the question, “How did I get here?” This young lady wasn’t talking about the cosmos or how she got here on earth. She was referring to how her life was filled with such ruin, regret, and emptiness. “How did I get here in such a short amount of time?”
Like many people, she grew up in a good church, but she slowly began to drift. At first she could see the shoreline and it really didn’t scare her. She drifted a little more. She could still see the shoreline even though it was becoming more and more distant. Then one day she looked up and had no concept of the shore, where to go, or how to get home. It all started with a little bit of drifting.
No one ever plans to drift from God, but people do drift away from God because they do not plan not to drift. The following are some strategies to help you not to drift.
Tremble and rejoice when God confronts you with your sin. Psalm 96 – worship God with joy and fear
Identify anything that can uniquely harm you. Do you know what area of life is going to be your downfall? You can know the condition of your heart based on how close you want to be to a certain sin. If you are walking closely with God the desire will be how far can I get away from this sin. If your heart is not loyal to God you will see how close you can get and still not fall. 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22
Fear sin but love blood–bought grace. James 1:15 – when you sin, something is going to die – joy, purity, love, hope, etc. But don’t stay in this hopeless, guilty state. Romans 5:9, 20 – grace!
Get a word from God everyday. Deuteronomy 17:18-19
Meet with God at the beginning of every day. Mark 1:35
Fill your head with something besides worldly noise. Read good books. Philippians 4:7
Invite someone who loves you to know your struggles. James 5:16 When you hear yourself tell your sin to another human being, you hear the depth of that sin more than when you tell it to God. You get a much better grasp of God’s love when you hear from someone who loves you. (see post on accountability)
Marry someone who stirs your heart for God. If you are married to someone who does not stir your heart for God, you need to work on stirring your spouses heart for God. Ladies, if you are dating a guy who does not lead you right now he will probably not lead you later; if he doesn’t love you in sacrificial ways right now, he probably won’t love you in sacrificial ways later. Ephesians 5:24-27
Cherish your destiny. Psalm 138:8, Acts 20:24
Find a church that causes you to tremble before God. Psalm 96:9
Keep growing because the battle only increases. As you get older you become more vulnerable to temptationbecause of work stress, family responsibilities, expectations you cannot meet, children, and the list goes on.Acts 14:22
Material was compiled from a sermon preached by Richard W Smith, HopePoint Community Church.
The local church is a gathering of sinners who have been cleansed by Jesus Christ and filled with the Spirit of God. Through the varied ministries of the church, believers experience maximum spiritual growth as they come to know God, yield to His will, and join Him in His work. God has poured out His love into the church so that His people would declare and display the hope of Christ to a stained and suffering world.
Jesus established the church with the full knowedge that it would be home to flawed disciples who would fail to honor Him. Yet this does not affect His love for the very people He calls His bride. It is the Lord’s will to speak to and through the church until the end of history. He has no other plan. The New Testament makes the following affirmations of the church:
The church is treasured by God more than anything else on earth.
The church is uniquely chosen to reveal the will of God.
The church is the dispenser of Divine Truth.
The chuch is the gathering place for true worshippers.
The church is the launching pad for world evangelism.
The church is a place to equip beleivers.
The church is a place to develop spiritual leaders.
The church is a place for faith-building fellowship.
The church was established by God and cannot be defeated by any human or demonic power.
Referenced John MacArthur sermons on the chuch.
Guilt - I Have Failed
Satan is so good at doing bad he can make you feel bad for doing good. When you’ve blown it, be honest about your sin, don’t conceal it. It’ll only make things worse. We often try to do enough good to erase the bad that we’ve done. If we take that approach, how much good must we do so we won’t feel guilty anymore? We can never do enough good to erase the bad that we’ve done. When you’ve blown it and feel the weight of guilt, be thankful that you do feel guilty. The Holy Spirit is at work in you and wants to restore the joy of your salvation. Hebrews 4:16 says,“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
When you think of a throne you normally think of a king. And when you think of a king, the last thing that comes to mind is an invitation to go see him.
But when the Bible speaks of the king of the universe, it describes His throne as one of grace. It implies invitation, access, and acceptance. I love how God is described in this verse. Though He is indeed a person He is not described as a person. The writer doesn’t say the throne of God but rather a throne of grace. He does this in order to stress this particular attribute of God. It is as if the writer wanted you to walk into the throne room of heaven and to see God’s throne surrounded by holiness, wisdom, power, and judgment. But there seated on the throne itself is grace.
It was this grace that punished Christ for your sins that you might escape judgment. Jesus was separated from God on the cross that you might be brought near to Him in heaven. God could have sent you to prison but instead He welcomes you into His palace.
And that grace is what fills your heart with confidence that God is ready and eager to hear you pray. You are invited to enter the very room where angels gather and bow with covered faces. But you, child of God, are invited come into that room and look at the beauty of God and pour out every one of your needs to Him.
You are a coming to a king so come with respect.
You are a coming to a king so come in submission.
You are a coming to a king so come with purpose.
But you are coming to a king whose throne is grace, so come with confidence.
Bring all of your defects and come with confidence.
Bring all of your failures and come with confidence.
Bring struggling faith and come with confidence.
Bring simple words and come with confidence.
Bring every need and come with confidence.
Understand that mercy proceeds grace. Mercy is God’s answer for past failures. Grace is God’s answer for present stuggles. If you’re still thinking, “How can I benefit from God’s mercy when I still feel so guilty?” or “Why should I try when I continue to fail?”
Trust the reliability of Scripture instead of the instability of your feelings. Our emotions change directions like the wind.
Honest confession (Proverbs 28:13) connects you with heaven’s kindness.
You can spend your life strangled by failures or strengthened by His grace. (Romans 8:1)
Affirm forgivenss (1 John 1:9) and don’t allow Satan to rob you of the joy of confession and forgiveness.
Give yourself continually to hope saturated prayers.
Every time you resist giving into temptation, it produces progress in your walk with God.
John 8:1-11 – “Neither do I condemn you”, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Embrace the cross and seek glory from its imfamy.
Material compiled by Richard W Smith, HopePoint Community Church.
How Can I Forgive?
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins
Through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God is saying to you; “I am releasing you from what you owe me. Though you rebelled against me, I am giving away my right to punish you for that rebellion. Rather than requiring payment from you, I will require it of my Son. Rather than hurting you, I will hurt Him. I release you because I love you.”
When you forgive someone who has taken something from you, you have chosen to not require that they pay you back. When you forgive someone who has hurt you, you have chosen not to hurt them in return. Though you have the right to demand payment, you have chosen to give away that right. Though you have the right to retaliate, you have chosen to give away that right. That’s what forgiveness is, the release of your rights to get what is due you.
But in giving away the right to hurt that other person you are absorbing that hurt into your own heart. In order to forgive someone of the debt they owe, you are also making a decision to willingly accept loss that you will now experience since they will not repay. Forgiveness means that you are now willing to suffer so they will not have to. So in essence this is the second time that you have suffered because of this person. You have suffered because of their offense and you have suffered because you are not requiring that they pay what they owe you for that offense.
That becomes very clear from the following economic example. Let’s say that a friend borrows your car. And on the one way out of your driveway he knocks down your basketball goal and it falls on your car and shatters the goal. Let’s suppose your insurance company will pay for your car but not the goal. At this point you have two options. Either your friend can pay for it or you can pay for it.
But the cost of the damage must be born by someone. Either you or he absorbs the cost, but the debt does not vanish into thin air. If you forgive your friend from an economic standpoint it means that you yourself will choose to bear the cost of his action.
Let’s apply this at deeper level than economics – one that is painfully real to each one of us. Supposed that you are seriously wronged by someone. They have willfully done something to hurt you. At this point you only have two choices.
You can withhold relationship from them, viciously confront them, smear their reputation by telling others what they did – you can even wish them harm and rejoice when trials come to them. Many people go this route. Not only does it make them hard and cold, but they soon discover that their passionate revenge did not make the evil go away.
There is however another option. You can forgive. Which means that you refuse to make them pay for what they did. And if you choose this route, you must be willing to suffer again. Because now you are absorbing the debt they created. You are taking it upon yourself instead of placing it on them. The choice not to retaliate can hurt so much that it will feel like a death. True forgiveness is always a form of suffering.
This is what the cross of Jesus Christ is all about. Many who reject the gospel ask the same question, “Why would Jesus have to die for sins?” In other words, if God is powerful and loving, why can’t He just speak or act in such a way that sins just go away. Why can’t He just accept everyone who says they’re sorry? Why does Christ have to suffer.?
The answer is the same as what we saw with the broken basketball goal except on an infinitely larger scale. When you add up all the sins that we have committed against God, it makes sense that a massive payment is required if forgiveness is to be granted. If God is going to forgive us, then He would have to absorb the hurt for our sin. And He did by sending Christ.
Our sin actually inflicted a double pain upon on God. Not only did He suffer the hurt of watching us rebel against Him, He then suffered the hurt of paying for that rebellion by absorbing the pain of crucifixion in His own body. Someone had to suffer. In love He chose to suffer instead of demanding that we suffer.
Therefore, whenever we forgive someone else, what we are doing is modeling what God did for us. We are absorbing the pain instead of requiring that someone else pay.
As Tim Keller says;
Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change. Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself. Everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection, and experiences nails, blood, sweat, and tears.
Referenced Tim Keller and John Piper.  This is virtually a direct quote of Keller.  Ibid.