New Christian Helps

Short and practical Bible lesson for new Christians.

1 – Welcome to life in Jesus Christ

Welcome to God’s family!

We want to encourage you in your new life of following Jesus Christ through a short series of foundational Bible lessons. Life in Christ is a wonderful exploration of knowing God and incorporates many facets of personal development as Jesus impacts our lives.

As Christians, we find our identity, our motivation, and our strength for life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our relationship with Jesus is discovered and advanced through our exploration of God’s Word, which is the Bible. In this lesson we shall introduce some of the foundational aspects of knowing God through Jesus and the Christian life.

Because you are reading this lesson, we assume you have Christian friends, that you believe in Jesus Christ, that you have a Bible, and you can attend a Bible teaching church. We pray that these lessons will help and encourage you while clarifying some of the common questions about God and the Bible.

We suggest pausing throughout this lesson to read the Bible passages that are referenced but not quoted. By doing this you will maximise the impact of God’s Word in your life. Also, write extra notes that will help you to remember the lessons learned. It is also helpful to highlight verses in your Bible that had impact upon you. We suggest using coloured pencils or a fine-tipped pen.

Amongst the wonderful gifts God gives to believers in Jesus, is eternal life.
John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God says we have eternal life as His response to our belief in His Son Jesus.

Jesus explained to His disciples, that He gives them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:28). And God testifies in 1 John 5:11-12, that He gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all endorse the gift of eternal life. When this body ceases to operate, our spirit/soul will appear with God in heaven and never experience death or separation from God.

Eternal life is possible because believers in Jesus are forgiven.
Sin separated us from God from birth, but that is now history because of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul explains this change in our lives from God’s perspective in Colossians 1:12-14. He says, it is God the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

In response to us confessing our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Not just the past, but the present and future sins also.  Furthermore, God promises not to remember our sins again in Hebrews 10:17.

This can take a little time to accept because we tend to remember our sins. Our minds often remind us of past wrongs and present failings with the associate guilt. But that is past. Because our forgiveness is from God, and not from self or from other people, we are truly forgiven with a lasting forgiveness.

Forgiveness enables adoption into God’s family.
God not only gives eternal life and forgiveness, but He adopts believers into His family. This makes you His son or daughter through the Lord Jesus (John 1:12, Galatians 3:26). The gift of adoption was received by you when you repented of your sin and believed in the Lord Jesus. And that was precisely God’s intention all along. In fact, God predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:5). Your salvation and adoption into His family was the direct expression of His specific will for your life.

Adoption into God’s family is wonderful because we can never be adopted out of God’s family. We are now part of a very large and eternal family of believers in Jesus Christ.

Believers are given the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
At the moment of your belief in Jesus Christ, God gave you His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of ownership (Ephesians 1:13-14). This is one of many invisible things that took place on that occasion. You would not belong to Christ if you did not have His Spirit (Romans 8:9). You have been baptised (immersed) with the Holy Spirit into God’s family (1 Corinthians 12:13). Consequently, you can never fall from this Holy Spirit secured position in Christ (Jude 24). You cannot lose the Holy Spirit, and you cannot receive any more of the Holy Spirit. But we do have a say in how we allow the Holy Spirit to live through us. We shall learn more of this in another lesson.

1 Corinthians 6:19 says, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. And Philippians 2:13 says, it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good pleasure. We are to allow God’s Holy Spirit to control our lives. As we live in surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit will produce His fruit as explained in Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

Believers are secure in Jesus.
Even though you may fail God at times and feel discouraged as a result, remember, God promised in Hebrews 13:5, never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. The security of your relationship with God is not based on your performance. Romans 8:1, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. In Christ, our default position is one of positional innocence before God. Condemnation from God is no longer valid for everyone who by faith, lives in Christ.

As Christians, our future is with the Lord, both here on earth and later with the Lord for ever in heaven. Romans 14:8, for if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. It is our perseverance in the faith which provides us with assurance of the authenticity of our salvation (John 15:4, 7; 2 Timothy 2:12). Therefore, we live knowing that nothing in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God [which is] in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

Believers pray and study God’s Word.
As the children of God, believers are able to daily walk and talk with God in prayer, praising Him, thanking Him, and making your requests to Him. Pray to God the Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3:17).

Read, meditate on, and obey God’s Word, then you will prosper in your relationship with God (Joshua 1:8). Don’t neglect God’s Word but crave for its spiritual nutrition (1 Peter 2:2-3).

Keep yourself in the Word of God, which is called the Sword of the Spirit in Ephesians 6:17. The Holy Spirit uses His sword to teach us the things God wants us to know. In John 16:13-15, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit speaks truth, and He only says what the Lord Jesus gives, so Christ receives all the glory. Plus, the Holy Spirit has given us everything needed to live a successful Christian life (2 Peter 1:3) through our growing knowledge of Him found in the Word of God which the Holy Spirit authored (2 Peter 1:21). All that remains is for us to walk in obedience and dependence on His truth.

Believers desire holiness.
If we truly want to live for God, it is our obedience to Him that will show our authenticity and that we do genuinely belong to Him (1 John 2:3-5). Because we want to be like Jesus, we possess a desire to be holy as Jesus is. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (1 Peter 1:14-15). This happens progressively over time and requires much patience with ourselves.

Believers love other Christians.
Another indication that we belong to Christ is a love for other Christians. The Holy Spirit causes us to prefer their company because you and they belong in God’s family. Showing love to other Christians is a sign to unbelievers that we belong to God. In John 13:34-35, Jesus gave a new commandment… that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Believers desire to tell others of Jesus.
Wanting to share the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ with others is a healthy sign of God’s love living in you (Acts 4:20). Andrew, in John 1:41-42, immediately found and introduced his brother Simon to Jesus. Many people are secretly hungry to know the gospel truth without all the man-made trappings. Ask God to bring you into contact with such people so that you can share the Gospel with them. Show the love of Jesus and tell them how Jesus Christ saved you.

Believers want to live a victorious life.
If you are putting into practice the things taught from God’s Word in this study, you will live victoriously. Not because you have gained lots of knowledge, but because you are allowing God, by His Spirit, to control your life. Even though problems and struggles remain part of life, we look past them to attach our thoughts to Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:18).

We look past present difficulties to the Lord’s return for us (1 Thessalonians 4:16-19, John 14:3) which inspires hope within us. We give thanks to God for everything (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18), talking with God daily in prayer, listening to Him by reading His Word, and learning the wonderful benefits we have inherited as a child of God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

As we continue to study God’s Word, we shall discover that the truths mentioned in this lesson are just the beginning.

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9 – Water baptism

Sooner or later, as a new Christian, you will hear about water baptism. Baptism is the next important step after putting faith in Jesus. So, we want you to know what it’s about and help you understand the importance of it. Sometimes there are unspoken questions in the minds of people when they hear about baptism in water, such as:

  • Do I really have to be baptised?
  • My parents had me christened, so I’ve covered that, haven’t I?
  • I was water baptized before I repented, so I don’t need to do it again, or do I?
  • I’m following the Lord OK just as I am, so what’s the big deal?
  • What difference does it make anyway?
  • Just as I thought, rules and regulations. Can’t I just live the Christian life the way I want?
  • I don’t know if I really want to, it’s so old-fashioned, isn’t there something more relevant?
  • I don’t feel anything special about it, so why bother?
  • I’m simply not ready. Can’t you give me more time?
  • I’m too young, or I’m too old.
  • I don’t know enough about the Bible. Can’t it wait until I’m more knowledgeable?
  • Do I have to wear funny clothes?
  • It will be so embarrassing etc. etc. etc.

What is Baptism?
Water baptism is when a believer in Jesus Christ is completely immersed under water by another believer, then raised again. It is simply a physical act expressing a spiritual reality.

The original Greek word used in the New Testament of the Bible is “Baptizo,” from which we get the English term “to baptise”, which means to dip, or to immerse. Therefore, baptism, by definition, and by usage in the Bible, means to immerse a Christian under water.

  • Baptism is not sprinkling, christening, dedication, or confirmation.
  • Baptism uses ordinary water with no additives.
  • Baptism water has had no incantations or special blessings prayed over it.

Water Baptism Practised in the New Testament
Water baptism was a common practise in New Testament times.  John baptised many people, and it was always for repentance of sin.  John was reluctant to baptise Jesus because He had no sin to repent of.  Jesus requested John to do so in order to fulfil all righteousness by identifying fully with mankind.

Below are examples of water baptism from the books of Acts:
Acts  2:41                   3000 gladly received Peter’s gospel words and were baptised.
Acts  8:12                   They believed the good news and were baptised.
Acts  8:35-38             The Ethiopian believed and was baptised.
Acts  9:18                   Saul, 3 days after his conversion was baptised.
Acts 10:43-48            Gentiles believed the message of forgiveness and were baptised.
Acts 16:14-15             Lydia, whose heart the Lord had opened was baptised.
Acts 16:30-34           The Philippian Jailor and his household believed and were baptised.
Acts 18:8                    Crispus, the Synagogue Ruler, believed and was baptised.

Water baptism was, and is today, for people old enough to understand and believe in the Gospel that they have heard and are willing to repent of their sin.  The individual person had to do this for themselves, making it impossible for a baby.  This also excludes sprinkling of babies with water.

Does Baptism Save Me?
The answer is NO!
The Bible says that He (God) saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” (Titus 3:5).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Salvation is received as a gift from God in response to our faith in Jesus Christ shedding His blood, giving His life in our place, for our sin penalty, on the cross of Calvary. All the various components of salvation are lavished on us by God without any effort on our part other than belief. Water baptism does not qualify us for salvation, nor is it able to save us from our sin.

Why Should A Person Be Water Baptised?
It’s Commanded by Jesus Christ
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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you… (Matthew 28:19-20).

It’s the pledge of a good conscience towards God
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ… (1 Peter 3:21).

Because Jesus himself was baptised
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”  (Mark 1:9-11).

It was a foundational teaching of the early church
“And those who believed Peter were baptised – about 3,000 in all”     (Acts 2:41).
“… then immediately he and all his family were baptised.”                   (Acts 16:33).
The pattern found in the New Testament, was that Baptism took place soon after a person received Christ as Saviour and Lord.  In many instances, Baptism was entered into immediately after profession of faith.

Water Baptism pictures the Holy Spirit’s Baptism
It expresses our identification with Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord (Romans 6:1-11). Water baptism forms a picture through the act of immersion the wonderful spiritual truths of salvation in Christ by symbolising that when we were saved, we were “buried” with Christ in his death, and that we “rose” to newness of life just as Christ rose from the dead.  This new, resurrected life is where the believer is liberated from the enslavement to sin.

The act of water baptism is our public declaration that at a past time we experienced Holy Spirit baptism that saved us. Therefore, water baptism is our outward expression of that event. The apostle Paul explains in Romans 6:3-4, Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Colossians 2:12-14 “having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Paul tells of the spiritual transaction that takes place in our lives when we become Christians.  Water Baptism is a public demonstration, forming a picture in onlooker’s minds of what we have experienced spiritually as shown in Romans 6:1-11. Very simply, baptism is an outward testimony of the inward change in a believer’s life.

Water Baptism pictures your entrance into God’s universal Church
When we were saved, we were spiritually “baptized” by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, which is the church. As the apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.”

Is Water Baptism Necessary?
Yes!  It certainly is, if we want to obey the Lord.

Christian water baptism is one of two ordinances (Authoritative rules) that Jesus instituted for the church. As we’ve already seen, Jesus commanded the disciples (which we believers are) to baptise in Matthew 28:19. The Apostle Peter, commanded people to repent and be baptised (Acts 2:38). Jesus Himself set the example in order to fulfil all righteousness by being baptised in water (Matthew 3:16). However, we should want to be baptised because it pleases our Lord to see us obeying out of love for Him, which is the only correct motive (John 14:15).

While Baptism does not make us a Christian, it does mark us out as a Christian. Publicly identifying with Jesus Christ as Lord is inherently the reason for being baptised.  This shows everyone watching, that we have repented of our sin, believed in and received Christ as Lord of our lives, and that we intend to follow Him for the rest of our lives. We are stating that we are finished with our old lifestyle (died to self and sin), and with God’s help, we intend to live a life pleasing to Him.

How Does A Person Qualify For Water Baptism?
First, we must have repented of our sins and received forgiveness in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts   3:19                  Repent and turn to God
Acts 16:31                  Believe in the Lord Jesus to be saved
Acts 10:47-48             Receive the Holy Spirit

It is interesting to note in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that all believers have been baptised by the Spirit into one body.  In fact, Romans 8:9 makes it clear that anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Therefore, to belong to Christ we must have receive d the Holy Spirit.

In other words, a person needs to believe in the Lord Jesus to be baptised by the Holy Spirit, which in turn qualifies that person to be baptised in water.  To receive Christ is exactly the same as believing in Him (John 1:12).

In the New Testament, the words “believe in”, means to put our wholehearted trust in dependant surrender.  It is an action that takes place.  We decide to put our trust in the one we have believed about.  In that moment of time we are transferred from being a child of Satan to a child of God.  We are given eternal life and can never perish (John 10:28).  We are immediately sealed with the Spirit of God as a guarantee of ownership (Ephesians 1:13).

The Method Of Baptism
Water baptism in the New Testament is always in accordance with the Greek meaning of the word “Baptizo”, meaning to dip, to plunge, or to immerse in water.  It is noticeable that there was always much water needed for a person to be baptised.
John 3:23    …much water…
Acts 8:38    …went down into the water…
Acts 8:39    …came up out of the water…
Matthew 3:16    Jesus came up out of the water.

In the New Testament, at least two people were always involved, the candidate for baptism and the baptiser. The candidate was always put beneath the water by someone qualified to do so.
John baptised Jesus in the river Jordan (Matthew 3:13).
…and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him (Acts 8:38).

Do you qualify according to the Scriptures? 
If so, you are a new person in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So, be baptised publicly in water.  Christ will be glorified, others will experience your testimony of Christ, and your life will be blessed.

Matthew 28:19-20   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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

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8 – Developing your testimony

An Evangelistic Testimony is simply a thought through account of how you came to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord. It can be either an oral or written presentation of the facts surrounding the events, not a clever argument or exciting fictional story, but a clear presentation of facts.

Every human has a testimony relating to Jesus Christ. Some of how they’ve ignored or rejected Jesus, some of how they know nothing or little of Jesus, some of how they’ve casually entertained a distant awareness of Jesus Christ, and some of how they have turned their lives around to live for Jesus Christ as Lord. But everyone has a testimony relating to Jesus whether they realise it or not.

An Evangelistic Testimony is just that, evangelistic. It tells the gospel story through your life. It’s not an end in itself, but simply a tool that you can use for Jesus Christ.


  1. So that you can present a clear account of what has happened in your life in relation to Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15).
  2. Because knowing how to present your personal testimony brings increased peace, confidence, and assurance. Be able to coherently share your faith with others gives greater credibility because of the clarity of your explanation.
  3. Your testimony gives a personal touch to the presentation of the gospel which helps others relate Jesus Christ to their lives.
  4. A memorised testimony equips you as a Christian, with a ready tool for evangelism in daily situations.
  5. Lastly, preparing your testimony gives you the opportunity to test yourself, checking how genuine you are for Jesus Christ.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5).

It may be that through this exercise you come to realise that you believe about Jesus for the wrong reasons and that you need to repent of your sin that separates you from God (Romans 6:23; Acts 3 :19; John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). This could be your time of spiritual awakening, when you genuinely turn to Jesus Christ, confessing Him as Lord and receive the gift of eternal life.

A biblical example by Paul:            Acts 26:4-23 (NIV)
4 “The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem.
5 They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee.
6 And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today.
7 This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me.
8 Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
9 “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of  Nazareth.
10 And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
11 Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
12 “On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.
13 About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions.
14 We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
15 “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied.
16 ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.
17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them
18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.
20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.
21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me.
22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen —
23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

Ask God for wisdom in preparing your testimony (James 1:5; 1 John 5:14-15). We need His help in order to be honouring to the Lord and effective at communicating our testimony.

Write down a list of all the facts you can think of from before you believed, through the actual believing transition, and following. Remember, simplicity with clear and accurate thoughts are the building blocks of an understandable and usable testimony. 

Now, from the facts you have gathered, develop a 3-point outline for a clear and logical presentation.  Keep it relatively short (3 minutes).

  1. Before I believed in Jesus Christ.
  2. How I believed in Jesus Christ as Lord.
  3. Since I believed Jesus Christ as my Lord.
  • Be specific. Write a few specific things that occurred in each of the 3 categories. Tell it the way it was, in the correct order.
  • Keep Christ central. Highlight what He has done. This testimony is about Jesus Christ not just you. This is the Saviour’s story of you.
  • Keep it simple, memorise it and share it with others. Remember, this testimony is only a tool. You can present it in many different ways and tell your story from different vantage points, but make sure you tell so that Christ gets the glory and others get the benefit of learning what Jesus Christ has done in your life.

a]        Before I believed in Jesus Christ
As a child I remember attending Sunday school and church. My relationship with God was impersonal and to me He was someone who was way out there somewhere. I never thought seriously about Him. My parents went to church each Sunday because they thought it was the respectable thing to do. But their attitude towards Christianity was luke-warm.  As a child I enjoyed church and the bright singing and atmosphere made me feel good.

As a teenager and young adult, that superficial relationship went by the way, until I began to experience a hopelessness and lack of real purpose in life.  Even though I had friends and fun, along with most of the things I thought essential for life, I still felt empty.

b]        How I believed in Jesus Christ
I came in contact with people my own age who seemed to have what I lacked, a genuine joy and purpose in life, not an off again, on again thing. They had life with a steady, durable quality about it. I found as I looked and listened, that the difference was that these friends had received Jesus Christ into their lives as Lord and Saviour, and I hadn’t. I came to a time of decision, I acknowledged my sin and need of salvation. I believed Jesus died for me, He paid the price for my sin by giving His life on the cross for me.

So, I prayed, “Lord Jesus, I believe you died in my place, taking my punishment for my sin. I now turn from my sinful ways and take you into my life to be my master from now on”.

I didn’t hear a great sound or see bright lights, but I knew by faith that He had answered my prayer. The hopelessness vanished and was replaced by peace and joy that none of my pleasures were able to give me.

b]        Since I believed in Jesus Christ
Since then Christ has been working in my life. I thank Him for the changes He continues to make.  He has given me the desire and strength to change and live for Him.  I have found the Bible to be reliable and an up to date guide for living (2 Timothy 3:16).  He has given me purpose for living.  Serving Him, telling others the good news of the gospel and helping others in the Christian family all helps me to be less self-centred.  As I trust and obey God’s Word my confidence in God becomes greater.

Your turn:     Now, write your own testimony using your own words.



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7 – Growing a right conscience

What is the conscience?
Conscience is part of our humanness, and everyone was gifted with it by the Lord at birth.

However, God has entrusted the maintenance of our conscience to us. In Romans 2:15, Paul explains the two-sided operation of conscience. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them. Therefore, cconscience judges our thoughts and actions by the highest, or strongest, standards we know.

When we violate, or go against our conscience, it condemns us, triggering feelings of shame, regret, anxiety, and even fear.  When we follow, or obey our conscience, it commends us, bringing joy, peace, self-respect, and a sense of well-being.

The role of conscience is NOT to teach us moral or spiritual values, but to hold us accountable to the highest, or most pronounced values that we have. These high values may, or may not, be right or good. But they are the values which will fire the conscience into action.

Conscience can be informed by culture, tradition, and society’s values in addition to God’s truth.  This means, the standards society holds us to may not be God’s standards. For example, in Romans 14:14, Paul says, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself.  But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.

This is not because God says any particular food is unclean, but because the misinformed conscience tells them that it is unclean (see also 1 Corinthians 8:4-7). Because our conscience can be directed by the world’s many, and often contradicting views, it is important to have a conscience that is educated by the truth of God’s Word.  Error, tradition, human wisdom, philosophy, and wrong moral influences can all wrongly educate and even cripple conscience (Colossians 2:6-8, 20-23).

This means conscience is educated through all sources of information, good, bad, and everything in between. The standards conscience holds us to may not necessarily be biblical or even good standards. Conscience is NOT the voice of the Holy Spirit, but it can, on occasions, be fired to levels of Holy Spirit conviction. It’s possible for our conscience to become so insensitive, or even crippled, that we may become ruled by hypocrisy (1 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 1:15).  This occurs when a life becomes dominated by sin.

How efficiently our Christian conscience works is determined by two things.
First, the frequency that we take in and agree with God’s truth from His written Word. This is right education of conscience.
Second, by the degree to which we obey God’s truth and keep ourselves clean from sin.

Following are a few ways in which conscience operates:
Jeremiah 17:1
           Conscience REMEMBERS and writes a record of wrongs in our hearts.

Romans 2:15             Conscience ACCUSSES us when we are guilty and DEFENDS us when we are innocent.

2 Corinthians 1:12    Conscience is a WITNESS, testifying either for us or against us.

1 John 3:19-21          Conscience is a JUDGE, condemning or vindicating us begore God.

1 Samuel 24:5           Conscience fires MEMORY, inflicting grief when we discover fault in ourselves.

Society’s Weak Views Can Infect Conscience
The world has a desensitised conscience towards God and His truth (Romans 2:14-15; Psalm 36:1-2), meaning the world is not able to educate our conscience accurately with truth. At best, the worldly person compares itself with others and often concludes that it is not as bad as others. This is NOT a correct way for conscience to operate. Whereas the believer compares themselves with the law of God’s Word (James 1:25) and with the character of Jesus Christ. This creates a more accurate platform from which our evaluation can fire conscience into action.

As believers, when our conscience triggers sorrow because of a wrong we have done, the correct response to this guilt is repentance and seeking forgiveness. A conscience trained by truth seeks to expose sin for what it really is – SIN (Ephesians 5:11). Whereas a worldly person prefers a more superficial approach, ignoring or silencing signals of guilt, which leads to spiritual death because sin is never dealt with (2 Corinthians 7:10). Therefore, worldly sorrow does not lead to repentance, rather, it leads to denial and justification of the wrong done and never gets cleansed (Proverbs 28:13; Mark 2:17).

Some deny the conscience freedom to operate and seek treatment for the guilt rather than repenting of their sin which may have caused the guilt. Instead of confession, repentance, reconciliation, and forgiveness, they turn to denial, self-justification, blame shifting, self-forgiveness, or anything else that could silence the conscience. This practice flows from the idea that mankind is inherently good, and just happens to occasionally do wrong. Many deny they are sinful because they see only the big crimes as sin.

Typically, today’s world doesn’t like the word sin to enter it’s thinking. Instead, sin is replaced with words like error, mistakes, superstition, or delusion. People suffering guilt from doing wrong are often regarded as victims of some past or current dilemma. This approach seeks to justify and downplay wrong behaviour as an appropriate response to being wronged by others.

Simply excusing sin away or thinking of it as an impairment or addiction fails to deal with the seriousness of what a truth trained conscience is warning of. It also fails to accept the deadly consequences of sin which is death (Romans 6:23). In this scenario, a rebellious attitude may get falsely labelled as a medical or mental health disorder. Many of our day-to-day wrong choices act out our heart’s desires, which are often our sinful desires waring within us (James 4:1-3).

God’s response to this:
1 Samuel 5:20           Woe to those who call evil good and good evil…

1 John 1:10                If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives.

Romans 14:12           …each of us will give an account of himself to God.

Sin’s effect on an unbeliever’s conscience
The world has many people who deny God’s existence and subsequently their own sinfulness.  If people can’t or won’t see their sin for what it is, they will not be able to apply the only remedy God has provided for them (Mark 2:17).

Romans 1:20 and Psalm 19:1-6 tell us that God has made His existence plainly evident to everyone so that mankind is without excuse.  When people choose to ignore their awareness, or conscience of God, God allows their thinking to become foolish and futile (Romans 1:21-22; Psalm 14:1).

Notice in Romans 1:18-32 how God’s judgement works in the lives of people who refuse to listen to the truth God put in their hearts/conscience. God’s judgment appears in three progressively worsening stages. The damage a person does against his own conscience is God’s immediate judgement against them.

  1. In verses 23-24, because they worship images resembling man and animals, God gives them over to sexually immoral relationships.
  2. In verses 25-27, because they continued in sexual immorality while under the pretence of man-made religion, God gives them over to shameful lusts, that is, homosexuality.
  3. Finally, in verses 28-32, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gives them over to a totally depraved mind. They are now totally controlled by the sin they love. God’s judgement is active within them through their evil desires and behaviour, which they love.

Read Ecclesiastes 11:9 and James 1:14-15. List below the consequences of simply doing what you want without God?

Of mankind’s own natural ability, a non-Christian is not able to respond to their conscience about the existence of God in a way that would express genuine faith in Jesus Christ. For this to happen, the Holy Spirit needs to get involved, stimulating faith and repentance (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25). Although humans have a conscience about God, the inescapable consequences of being dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) means they are helpless without God’s intervention. The fact is, it takes much more than human conscience to move a sinner, who is happy in spiritual darkness, to recognise and respond to the light of Christ (John 3:18-21).

Cleansing the conscience
When we believe that Jesus died in our place on the cross, taking the judgement for our sin, God grants us salvation. Consequently, our hearts are sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience towards Him (Hebrews 10:19-22). The sprinkling spoken of there is the spiritual cleansing by the blood of Christ, that is, His life being sacrificed in death on our behalf on the cross (Hebrews 9:14).

Despite enormous effort, the Old Testament animal sacrifices could not take away the worshipper’s guilty conscience (Hebrews 9:9-10, 10:1-4). This is because the law was designed to remind people of the high cost of sin and to supply their conscience with the knowledge needed to work correctly in identifying sin (Romans 3:19-20).

Now, through faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross, God cleanses our conscience perfectly through His cleansing and forgiveness of our sins. This is because Christ paid the death penalty we deserved (Colossians 1:19-22; 1 Peter 2:24). Not only do we get our sins forgiven, but we are implanted (imputed) with God’s righteousness when we believe (Romans 4:22-24; Philippians 3:9). Because of this, God declares us innocent, and He receives us as righteous (Romans 8:33-34). This is our new position in Christ; washed, regenerated, innocent, and righteous.

Even though we enjoy a new standing before God in Christ, we are still responsible for maintaining our right living, ensuring our practice matches our position in Christ. And it is our conscience which plays an important role in this day-to-day part of Christian living. We educate our conscience through God’s Word. We also check the correctness of our beliefs through prayer, Bible study, and accountability to more mature Christians, then we listen to conscience. A rightly educated conscience will warn us with guilt of sin and affirm us of right behaviour with peace and joy.

It’s important to keep our conscience clear by dealing with sin that causes guilt as it occurs. Through confession and turning from sin will reset our conscience. Similarly, we should acknowledge when conscience confirms our right behaviour by praising God for His work within us.

As wonderful as conscience is, it is not a faultless mechanism, as it works with our deceitful hearts and can get caught in all kinds of traps. In the grace of God, He has provided for our safe standing before Him even when our conscience either misbehaves, or we fail to respond correctly.

When we sin, we have one who speaks to God the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, who is our righteous one (1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 7:23-25). This does not mean that Christians can deliberately continue in sin while maintaining a clear conscience (Romans 6:1-2, 15-18; Psalm 32:1-5). No, and God’s children should not procrastinate over clearing a guilty conscience (Act 24:16). Act as soon as you become aware conscience is speaking. Sin must be dealt with quickly, otherwise your conscience will become hardened (Hebrews 3:13). Denied sin signals dulls the conscience. It leads to us falling under the slavery of sin more and more, until the conscience becomes desensitised and corrupted.

Conscience plays an important role in relationships also. If you allow your Bible educated conscience to guide your relationships, they will flow much more smoothly. Forgiveness will happen, offenses will be avoided, hurts will be reconciled, and wrongs will be put right (Numbers 5:6-7; Proverbs 6:30-31; Matthew 5:23-24; 6:14-15; Luke 19:8; Philemon :18-19).

To sum up, conscience is a brilliant part of life gifted by God and only Scripture can rightly educate our conscience (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Let’s choose to cultivate our conscience according to God’s Word and we will enjoy the blessings while He will be honoured. 

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6 – Healthy relationships

God is a god of relationships. From beginning to end, the Bible speaks of relationships; the good, the bad, and everything in between. And, throughout human history, we see God’s purposes for humanity being worked out through relationships. Therefore, it’s understandable that the Bible instructs us to be imitators of God, as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1). As God’s children, we can live His grace through our relationships as we assimilate God’s character.

The phrase “one another” appears approximately 90 times in the New Testament, showing us that God considers Christian relationships to be a high priority. Relationships, especially with fellow believers, are the most revealing disclosure of our relationship with God. The apostle Paul explains in Colossians 3:12-13a, that collectively and individually, we are to put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another. Again, we see that our vertical relationship with God guides the nature of our horizontal relationships and serves as a template for Christian character and relationship development.

As believers in Jesus, we can positively impact the relationships that exist around us. As we are transformed in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour, this makes an important statement for Jesus Christ to others. We could be the person who introduces someone to Jesus, and ultimately directs them on a path to salvation and a relationship with God.

So, how do we go about living an impactful life that pleases God and influences others towards Jesus?
The answer comes as we grow to know God through His Word; then, we live His character through our lives by the strength of His Holy Spirit.This requires Bible study, a soft-hearted attitude towards learning, and a self-sacrificing love for God that chooses to love others with the love of Jesus.

Let’s consider just a few essentials for healthy relationships.

Seek to know God better in your friendships
Psalm 73:28  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
When we experience a close walk with the Lord, and we feel the safety of the relationship with Him, we are part of something unmistakable. It’s only natural that we would want to talk to others about this major shift in life. Obviously, the people who will understand your closeness with God best will be other believers. However, we should maintain friendships with our non-Christian friends and family as you will be the vehicle God uses to communicate His love and truth to them.

Psalm 22:26 …those who seek him shall praise the LORD…
It’s a fact, those who genuinely seek to know the Lord will be those who praise Him. Their love for Him will flow through appreciation which will look for ways to be expressed.

Psalm 9:10, those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. The security found in the Lord invariably causes a believer to seek a more intimate knowledge of the Almighty. Seeking greater intimacy with the Lord is normal as you walk and talk with Him in your new life of growing trust.

1 John 2:3, by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Those who seek the Lord will find Him and knowingly walk with Him. These people’s lives are increasingly characterised by a growing obedience to Him.

1 Peter 3:15a, in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy… It is appropriate for believers to elevate the knowledge of Christ, and their relationship with Him to the highest place of respect.

Therefore, as Christians, it’s important to develop relationships with people who will walk through life with us as we seek to know God better. These people should increasingly form our primary friendships while recognising that other friendships are also great to have. Remember, it may be that you will be the influence which inspires others to know God better.

Nurture a servant attitude in friendships
A servant attitude rises directly from knowing Jesus, who said about Himself, the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Jesus willingly gave His life to serve sinners on the cross as His ultimate act of service. As we walk with the Lord, getting to know Him better, obeying Him more, the Holy Spirit will seek to mature within us a humble Christlike quality of service to others.

Through the many relationships of life, we should watch for two qualities in friendships.
First, do others make it easy for me to serve them? Or do they make serving undesirable and almost impossible?
Second, do my friends enjoy serving others? Or do they want the upper hand in friendships where they get more than they give.

The answers to these two questions will help direct us towards good friendships. A servant friendship will be a mutual friendship with give and take. It will have flexibility that looks out for the other and should be the normal flow of the friendship. Just as we are to serve others, so we are to allow others to serve us.

Jesus’ younger brother James had a very practical belief in God which effected the everyday events of his life. Amongst other things, James said we are to be …pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). What a wonderful set of qualities to bring into any relationship. I suspect none of us would complain if we were surrounded by friends like this.

Once again, as Christians, we seek to duplicate Jesus’ qualities into our lives. So also, the Holy Spirit seeks to express Jesus’ qualities through us. Galatians 5:22-23 explains that the fruit (the expression) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Attitudes and acts of service best give expression to the Holy Spirit’s activity and Christ’s character. Therefore, we should do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). This is the servant heart we see in Jesus, and we pray will be seen in us.

With service in mind, we nurture friendships which have a servant nature. This can take time, and patience will be required. Again, it may be that your servant attitude will influence others to follow Christ more closely.

Recognise God’s activity in friendships
When we pray, it is not simply to get what we want. No, prayer’s priority is worship. In its simplest form, worship speaks of God with thankfulness which flows from appreciation and gratitude. Jesus’ prayer template, explained in Mathew 5:9-15, begins with worship…
9   Our Father in heaven, hallowed (holy) be your name.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10).

Recognising God in any way should stimulate a worship response.
The forward movement of worship desires to see and experience God’s will being achieved here on earth just as it is perfectly achieved in heaven.
When this is true in a Christian’s life, the instruction by Paul happens naturally. Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2). Seeking to know the Lord causes a cycle of events. We pray, we worship, we ask, we watch for God’s activity, we respond with thanks or more questions, we worship more, we ask more, and we watch for Him more. This is a healthy cycle of watchful prayer for believers in Jesus Christ.

This pattern also applies to our relationships. We talk with God about our relationships as they initiate, as they grow and change, and as they either strengthen or struggle. We look for God’s involvement in our relationships, seeking to distinguish between the friendships which inspire healthy Christlike character and those that don’t. Christians want to participate with God’s activity in our relationships, so we follow His lead, beginning with good prayer communication.

Manage friendships wisely
For the most part, humans are social creatures who live through relationships. Generally, we desire good quality relationships which bring benefit and don’t cause pain. No matter what the situation, good quality friendships are pleasing to God and a blessing to us and others.

However, as we know, there are people who use friendships to extract from you whatever they can get. Therefore, we need to be wise in our choice of friendships. Paul cautioned the Corinthian church of this, as they struggle greatly with the whole concept of healthy and unhealthy relationships. 
1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.
1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.

Just as we are to be intentional in our friendships, so we are to evaluate the quality of friendships. Evaluation enables us to make changes within a friendship, and, if needed, to separate from an unhealthy friendship that won’t permit change.

James 4:4 points out that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Now, James is NOT saying that we can’t have friends who are not Christian. No, James is simply highlighting the fact that when a person’s primary love, or friendships, are of the world and governed by worldly values and behaviour, these friendships are in opposition to God. Believers in Jesus as Lord desire to develop friendships with godly characteristics and values, not worldly ones. This may require some thought as we navigate a changing lifestyle from worldly living to God honouring living.

Relationship transformation was included in Paul’s thinking when he wrote, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… (Romans 12:2). Again, Paul is NOT saying that we should isolate ourselves from the world. No, but as Christians, we are not to be molded or directed by worldly values. Instead, as our thinking is progressively transformed by the Word of God we allow the new biblical values to become our values.

When Job lost everything in life, which you can read about in Job 1:6-2:10, he unexpectantly discovered the falseness of the relationships which surrounded him. My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me… All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me (Job 19:14, 19). What a tragic discovery. When financial disaster hit Job, plus the grief of losing all his children through death, then becoming desperately sick himself, Job’s friends and family abandoned him. Obviously, we wouldn’t wish that on anyone, so we look to be deliberate in how we manage our friendships with God’s love and the wisdom of His Word.

We do this, not only to spare ourselves the extreme pain of Job, but to spare those close to us such pain also. As we commit to being a true friend that lives the love of God, we prove that we don’t abandon others when we or they are in great need or suffering.

Honour God’s design for marriage
God’s distinction of marriage is that He created the template of one man united with one woman for life when He created Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:18–24). God’s design of marriage is a life-long, exclusive, heterosexual union of two people, which is consistent throughout Scripture wherever marriage is spoken of.

God has provided resources for Spirit filled believers to overcome the natural struggles in marriage. Through obedience to God’s Word spouses can experience fulfilment, satisfaction, and longevity of a peaceful relationship (Matthew 19:1-9; 1 Peter 3:7; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:18-33).

Through God’s resources, couples can avoid the pains of a failed marriage relationship (Malachi 2:10-16). Instead, both spouses can increasingly mirror the loving relationship of Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:18-33). This is where husbands love and lead as Christ does the Church, and wives respond as the church responds to Christ (Ephesians 5:21–28).

Having Jesus Christ as Lord impacts every relationship in life. Marriage, family, business, employment, educational, neighbourly, social, sports, hobbies, no relationship goes untouched by Christ. We don’t want to be the type of Christian friend who rams an unwanted gospel into our friends, but we do want our speech [to] always be gracious (Colossians 4:6) and encouraging of our friends. Therefore, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness is the most powerful expression of God’s love, it prevents offence being taken, and it builds robust long-term friendships.

God wants you to be a great friend to have, and, if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). A necessary quality in our contribution to all relationships should be that we do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:14-15). Our character, and especially the way we treat others, makes a powerful statement to the world about our relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Through Christlike character in our relationships, we will be given opportunities to encourage and comfort fellow believers. Similarly, our non-Christian friends will give us opportunities to tell them about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our relationships have enormous potential for glorying the Lord and blessing one another, and it only takes a little love and effort.

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