New Hope UMC

1: Conversion

August 2, 2019

We begin a new study, Foundations, from www.biblicaltraining.org. This site contains numerous studies and we are starting at the beginning. Foundations consists of 12 lessons. Each contains a lecture and, if you like, a plan for home study. The course is free and signup is easy enough. The home study is available via purchase or free download and can be printed.

Foundations is led by Dr. Bill Mounce. The lessons are:

  1. Conversion
  2. Change
  3. When You Stumble
  4. Listening to God
  5. Speaking with God
  6. Learning More About God
  7. Who Is Jesus?
  8. What Jesus Did
  9. Holy Spirit
  10. Walking With God
  11. Walking Together
  12. Inviting Others to Walk With You

The lecture for Week 1 was based on John 3:16, maybe the most famous verse in the Bible. Bill placed great emphasis on this as a beginning point for new Christians, either contemplating or reviewing conversion. The concept of Jesus giving his life as ransom for our sins is difficult to grasp for non believers and for some of us believers. Bill pointed to the phrase "whosoever believeth in him" as key to understanding it. God has made forgiveness available to all, but there is a condition in that we must believe. Not that Jesus existed and was a good guy, but that we put our faith and trust in him - completely. Lessons that follow will explain why this is necessary for followers of Jesus and why it leads to an abundant life. But for now, the first step is to accept this proclamation from scripture and contemplate its meaning.

At this conversion point, it is perhaps important to note that this is about you. Christianity is about loving and serving others as Jesus did, but conversion is a personal experience. You must walk with Jesus before you can share him with others. So first you must believe in him. Dr. Mounce took some time to explain why forgiveness is necessary for a right relationship with God. He took us back to the creation and original sin that separated us from God forever. Or at least until the slate is wiped clean. The nature of original sin is covered, but more importantly it is to be understood that we are all sinners. Only Jesus, who is God, did not sin.

This idea of sacrifice and forgiveness is hard to grasp and will be developed as we proceed in the study. At this point, it might suffice to review who God is. He is our Creator, the Origin, Infinite, Sovereign. He is from Alpha to Omega. Timeless. It is His World and we are created by him for his pleasure and hopefully for ours. He is just and merciful and wants us to be with Him forever. We experience eternal life and we begin it here on earth. If he wants to forgive us our sins to remove the separation that it causes, fine. If he wants to do it with the only condition being that we believe in Jesus, that's okay, too.

 

2: Change

August 9, 2019

This was the second lesson in this series. A really good one. Most of us experienced conversion years ago so it's hard to remember that much about it. But we undergo change every day. The lecture notes are presented below in reviewing what our new life looks like. One of our discussion points centered around church goers who do not seem to have experienced the change and the joy it brings. This course is aimed at new believers, but it is certainly appropriate for us old believers who need a jump start. We see this in every congregation and in our daily lives. People who profess to be Christians but continue to live without the joy of the Lord.

This lesson and the first one are certainly about the individual coming to God. One at a time. It is not a group thing. That would come later in your Christian journey, if at all. But first things first. Dr. Mounce does an excellent job of letting us know what the changed life is like and how we get there.

What does this new life look like?

  1. Life of discipleship — follower; learned
    • Not a spiritual spasm or a one-time event
      • Conversion is the crucial first step in a new life
    • Mark 8:34 — “deny yourself”: relinquishment your will
      • Hurt, anger, “not my will but yours” forgive
      • Unfair — get even — “not my will …” — kindness, humility
  2. “Fruits of the Spirit”
    • God’s Spirit (Holy Spirit/Ghost)
      • “Monotheism” — Shema — “Trinity” — God is one and yet three (Father/Son/HS) — mystery
      • Holy Spirit: drew you; enabled to respond to gospel; regenerated; guides and empowers you, gives you the ability, to bear fruit
    • “Bear fruit”
      • A healthy fruit tree produces fruit, so also a healthy Christian’s life will change — changes are the “fruit”
      • May already have started to see some of these changes — process; slow; stumbles

Is this change automatic? What is my role, if any?

  1. Not automatic — you can fight against it and win
    • Mastery and tyranny of sin over you has been broken — don’t have to sin
    • Sin is still present, and it is not passive but active force seeks to destroy
    • You’ve made a new enemy — Satan did not like losing you from his kingdom
  2. Can’t change on your own
    • “Now that you are believer, you must show love, joy …”
  3. The desire and ability to live the Christian life is all of God —co-operate (yield)
    • (Not salvation)
    • We constantly need to be reminded to live by God’s power

We are called to be the “Salt of the Earth” — life is different

  • If we understand what happens in conversion
  • Life of discipleship
  • Begin to bear fruit for God — God does his part, and we do our ours
  • Process - come to agree: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11).