Three Things You Have to Know Before You Read this Book
#1 - Some of this book cannot make sense to you if you are not a believer.
Let’s define (by scripture) what a believer is. A believer is someone who has confessed with his/her mouth and believed in his/her heart that Jesus is Lord. Walking down an aisle at church and saying some words that you don’t actually believe does not make one a believer. Simply put, believers believe that Jesus is Lord.
If you are not yet a believer, there’s good news—you’re still breathing! The gospel is not reserved for people of certain backgrounds or nationalities. If you hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit within you, you have to know that the only reason you CAN hear His whisper or discern the yearning in your heart to come to God is because He is drawing you near (John 6:44). If that’s YOU, do exactly what Romans 10:9 says. Confess Christ as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. You are saved. I am honored that God is using this book as a steppingstone in your eternal walk with Him.
If you are not a believer in Christ, much of this book will be a bunch of nonsense to you (1 Corinthians 2:14). I mean no disrespect to the people who ascribe to other gods. But the gospel of Christ is so uniquely based on His death, burial, and resurrection that I cannot assure you your god agrees.
#2 - Assume that the Bible is all true, even if you don't yet understand it all.
If the part about salvation is true, then the part about heaven also has to be true. If the part about Lazarus is true, then the part about the talking donkey is also true. If the part about Adam and Eve is true, then the part about being submissive to your spouse is true. Granted, there are times when there seem to be contradictions. There’s the law in the Old Testament, but grace in the New Testament. Uzza died for touching the ark (1 Chronicles 13:9-10), but David didn’t die for sleeping with a married woman and having her husband killed (2 Samuel 11). Paul persecuted the saints (Acts 8), but got to write a whole buncha books in the Bible—how did that happen?
I make no attempt to answer all of your questions. The beauty of Bible study is that it is full of endless revelation. If you have a question, ask God to show you the answer. Believe that He can and will at some time. (Believers believe, remember?)
#3 - As a believer, the ways of the world don’t work well for you anymore.
God has committed Himself to transforming you into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Did you read that correctly? Yes, He has committed Himself to you, which means He will never give up on your transformation. Whatever God commits Himself to doing, He does. He can’t lie (Numbers 23:19). Sometimes, the only question is if we’re going to undergo this transformation the easy way or the hard way. Take my advice: It’s easier to surrender your will to His, and keep it moving already.
The things He does in you are meant to make you just like Christ—selfless, full of love, forgiving, ever-magnifying our Holy Father. Whatever you do, whatever challenges or joys you encounter in your marriage, your career, your family—all of it is part of a set-up to make you just like your Big Brother.
Which begs the question: why can’t you just be YOU? Answer: because you’re dead. The old you is dead. (Colossians 3:3). Let me try to explain.
When a loved one dies, you still know what that person would have said about a situation if they were here and how they would have reacted to a problem. You still have memories of that person. Sometimes, it may even seem as though you can feel them. You may be prompted to say and think things by their memory. But however hard it may be to accept, they are not here anymore and you will reach a point where you no longer make concessions for them.
It’s hard at first. Shortly after my mother-in-law passed away, I was doing my Christmas shopping. Out of routine, I actually took the time and effort to select the perfect Christmas gift for her. I made it all the way to the purchase counter, then suddenly remembered she was no longer with us. Saddened, I set the item aside and collected myself long enough to pay for the other gifts. A part of me wanted to buy it just because...I don’t know...maybe if I bought it I could feel like she was still with us, like Christmas was going to be the same for our family. But I knew it wasn’t reasonable for me to live as though she was still alive.
We all know that letting a loved one go (in your heart and in your actions) is paramount if you plan to move forward. Likewise, the old you died on the cross in Christ. You remember the hurts, the sins, the good times, the talents, the friends, your old way of thinking. But you must let the old you die if you plan to move forward in your life in Christ.
The good news is that the new you in Christ gets to live and function in this world as He did (1 John 4:17). This new you is better. All the talents, knowledge, and experiences you had as the old you are now submitted to God and will be used for His glory.
Be it unto you as you have believed.