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Section 4 .. The Heart Of The Matter/
What’s Next

003white  Index To   The Heart of The Matter ...  Sin,  Repentance, Salvation, Born Again Etc.

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After The Beginning

Carol Brooks

What you can now expect to happen in your life and how should you go forward nurturing and developing your relationship with God.

A New Beginning
The New Birth
Your New Relationship to God
Approaching The Throne
A Cautionary Note
The Struggle

The Journey
Reading and Learning
Dealing With Doubt
Communication (aka. Prayer) - Thanksgiving, Confession,Complaining and Casting Our Burdens On Him, Petitioning:
Quiet Time
The Company We Keep
The Fellowship of Like Minded Believers
Finally


A New Beginning

The New Birth
I have to hope that you are reading this because you have placed your confidence in Jesus Christ as the God who chose to come to earth as a human and by dying on the cross payed the ultimate price for the sins of those who would trust Him. (If not I suggest you read The Message of The Bible   and   Salvation).

The Scriptures tell us that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17) This is also called the New Birth or being "born again"

And this is perceptibly true.

From the time you first put your faith in Christ, something inside of you changed. You may not have felt a rush of emotion or an emotional "high" because the changes are often subtle - you see things in a new light, notice things you never did before, and have a heightened sense of right and wrong (with less inclination to do the wrong). Some of these changes may be almost immediately noticeable - other may take months or even years to come to fruition. But with God's help our consciences will get more sensitive and more accurate and even failures will play a part in shaping our characters.

NOTE: While the Bible tells us we have to be reborn of the Spirit, it tells us nothing of the mechanics involved. Being 'Born Again' is commonly believed to be in a figurative rather than a literal sense. But what if it is not? What if it involves very literal physical changes, which leads to a total transformation of the person? If, in all likelihood (as shown in the linked article) Adam and Eve's epigenome underwent some drastic changes, why wouldn't true Biblical repentance and a conscious decision to follow Christ result in God 're-setting' the altered Epigenome which, in essence, would be a new birth from above. While we certainly inherit faulty gene function from our parents, it is only God who can instantly reset the expression (behavior) of those genes after we make a conscious decision to turn back to Him. See Original Sin or Epigenetics

If no change at all occurs in your life, the Scriptures say that there is a very good chance true conversion never took place to begin with.

 Water baptism and The Lord's Supper (communion)
are the only two ordinances instituted by our Lord. While neither one is a means of salvation or should be a prerequisite for church membership, both should be observed by all Christians. These rites are outward symbols of inward spiritual grace but do not of themselves create spiritual change. We can however publicly and privately demonstrate our belonging to Christ by being baptized and having Holy Communion.


Your New Relationship to God
The changes are not only internal -  your relationship with the God of the universe has also been radically altered. As sinners who did not accept our Creator's authority we ignored and transgressed His laws which set us at odds with Him. But now, as Romans 5:1 says, "having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".

And peace with God means more than we can imagine.

It means we are not longer just his creation but have received mercy and been adopted as His children.

    But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (John 1:12 NASB)

    But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NASB)


Approaching The Throne
In the Old Testament, the priests of Baal cut themselves with knives to get their god's attention. Now for the first time ever, you can

    ... draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  (Hebrews 10:22 NASB)

    "... draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16 NASB)

This is huge! Remember that we have an open invitation to approach the Being who once descended upon Mt. Sinai in fire causing the mountain to quake violently (Exodus 19:18). The God who spoke the universe into existence, parts seas, effortlessly defeats armies and raises the dead. The God who will come once more to shake not only the earth but also the heavens one final time.

And that is the good news.


A Cautionary Note
However, what needs to be strongly borne in mind is that although you have been forgiven of your sins and have taken the first step towards eternal life in God's kingdom - it is only the first step. Not only are there are many miles to go in order to successfully traverse the temptations and sorrows of this world, this new relationship with the Father has to be cultivated, nurtured and developed. This means attitudes and behavior have to be changed and one has to surrender to Jesus not only as Savior but also as Lord. (Note that over half of the New Testament books never mention Jesus as Savior even once) See Why Isn't it Enough To Just Acknowledge Jesus as Savior?

Remember that, as Galatians 5:22-24 says "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" and "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control".

While there is no question that walking with the Lord brings a great deal of peace and even joy, none of the good traits magically appear overnight.

The initial weeks and months of an infant's life is a very formative period during which they grow, learn a language, develop reasoning skills, etc. Similarly, the initial stages of your walk with God are also formative. This the time to make good habits a part of your routine, not the least of which is learning. Learning about the God you may have just met - what He is like, what His plans are and what He expects from you. 


The Struggle
The bad news is that we will all probably live in a constant struggle between our 'old selves' and the new self. The scriptures describes this struggle

    "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want." (Galatians 5:16-17)

    "...but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." (Romans 7:23)

And you will, in all likelihood lose some of the battles that could become a major source of discouragement  but through it all remember the words of Proverbs 24:16 - For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.  The battles can be likened to a spiral - Resisting temptation only pushes you upward making it just that much easier to say no on the next go-around. Paul instructed the Galatians to

    ... consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

    Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (Colossians 3:5-13 NASB)

Glenn Miller offers a few things to think about, that may help arm you,

    The best defense is a good offense. The same passage in Galatians begins like this: "live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature" (5:16). In other words, be so busy doing good, that you do not have time to even notice the temptation to sin! Be constantly thinking about the Lord, His will, His ways, His works, what He wants you to do each minute at your job, and talk to Him, and about Him, and study His word, and be involved in Bible study and share groups and...don't ever even finish this sentence! (But, be careful of burn-out. It can be just as dangerous as being idle.)

     Starve the little sucker! Like all natures, it needs 'food' to maintain its vitality. Spiritually 'starve' it. Stop reading bad and/or questionable material. Screen what TV/movies you watch. Kill thought-life fantasies early. Ignore it whenever possible. Re-configure your social life. Cut down on your drinking. Shorten your periods of arrogance. Avoid people that bring up bad associations or memories. Create new ones. Feed the new nature instead: Bible, singing, friends, church, prayer, a phone-encouragement Christian friend, Christian reading, Classics. "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8) [01]


The Journey

Reading and Learning
Since none of us have ever conducted an informative interview with our Creator, not only does everything we know about Him comes from what He has chosen to reveal about Himself in the pages of His book, but every bit of the information we need to realize eternal life is also contained between its covers. This obviously raises the question of whether or not this book can be trusted. The answer being "yes - very much so".

See Choose Life That You May Live
Many non-Christians seem to be prejudiced against the Bible, but well disposed towards other 'scriptures'. This is a rather illogical situation, because there is far more evidence in favor of the Bible being true, than there is for any of the other 'holy books'.  This evidence includes the Bible's humanly impossible authorship, fulfilled prophecy, and it's archaeological and scientific accuracy... none of which are seen in the books of other religions.

However, we need to have more than a passing familiarity with the Book of Books. If man cannot live by bread alone but by every word which proceeds out of the mouth of God, then God's Word must have a place of priority in our lives and we have to make all effort to study and rightly understand it.

Unfortunately, many seem to be under the impression that the Bible is too difficult to understand.

I beg to differ.

God nurtured the Jews for thousands of years so that the nation would bring forth the Messiah who suffered a terrible death to save us from the wrath of the Father and offer us salvation and eternal life. Jesus then instructed His disciples to preach this good news (the Gospel ) to all who would listen. In light of which it wouldn't make a whit of sense for His message to be so obscure that few could understand it. Although there are some portions of the Bible that take some work to rightly understand, God made sure that His main message is in language that is straightforward, comprehensible and repeated over and over again.

However, there are some rules that need to be followed many of which fall under the acronym KISS - or 'Keep It Simple Stupid'. All though i tis not so easily applied to Revelation - the last book of the Bible - God's message, His dealings with people, and what He both offers and expects is very easy to understand.

Note" Revelation is a book of striking contrasts and admittedly difficult to understand because it is written in the field of apocalyptic writing, which was never intended to be a kind of puzzle in which every symbol has to be cunningly interpreted. Revelation was not written to satisfy our curiosity about future events, nor to make any of us into 'prophets', but to assure believers that God's redemptive program will go forward and give us a general idea as to what to expect. Very importantly, this book helps prepare believers for what is to come. See An Overview of Revelation

Unfortunately when it comes to Bible interpretation man has outdone himself at several things - esoteric interpretation, long and extremely complicated interpretations of extremely simple verses, reading into verses what they were never intended to say, and dragging them out of context. Complicated and highly complex scenarios seems to be something modern man seems to delight in.  The more seven syllable words used, the more 'learned' the speaker/author is assumed to be.

See Is The Bible is Too Difficult To Understand?

Also see Bible Study - Some Useful (And Very Important) Guidelines

In fact, the entire section Reading and Understanding your Bible, which includes a short overview of each book of the Bible, has many helpful articles.

Dealing With Doubt
The Bible clearly defines faith in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith is "trusting in something you cannot explicitly prove.”

There are two kinds of belief - intellectual and emotional. Emotional belief is based solely on how one feels about something - however, that something may or may not be true.  Intellectual belief is a mental assent to a fact that one may not necessarily do anything about.

In Christianity both kinds of belief have to be in lockstep - Emotional belief can survive on it's own but is far more stable if under girded by intellectual belief. On the other hand, intellectual belief is absolutely useless if not acted on. However, when the two kinds of belief are combined faith literally becomes the rock ones house is built on.

    Intellectual belief: A large number of non-believers know that someone called Jesus once lived. However, just as believing that Adolph Hitler once lived does not make you a Nazi, simply believing that Jesus did, does not make you a Christian. In fact, the Scriptures themselves tell us that the devil himself believes in Jesus, but it would be a very safe bet that he is not saved. One may 'know that airplanes fly. However, acting on that faith and trusting what you know to be a fact is an entirely different matter. You have to actually buy a ticket, board a plane and go somewhere. Similarly, we have to rely on Christ as the sole path to forgiveness of sin and eternal life

    Emotional belief: Without the benefit of knowing it stands very firmly on a solid base, faith can easily be blown about by ill winds. The secular world often takes great delight in scoffing at what Christians believe and do their best to repudiate the truth of the Bible. One example is when both Time and Newsweek ran articles in December 2004 the central theme being that much - if not all - of the story of the birth of Jesus was an invention of the early Christian church. Articles such as these that sound 'scholarly' may stir a niggling doubt in those believers who are not very familiar with the evidence in favor of Christianity. They may begin to get a little worried wondering if the Nativity story was nothing more than pious legend invented by the early church. See The Birth of Jesus: Hype or History?

But let me stress that not only is the intellectual strength of the Christian worldview a well-kept secret, but your Father is not afraid of honest questions most of which have already been asked (and answered) a million times. Christian belief is not a hope-against-hope, grit you teeth and hold on kind of faith. It is a quiet, calm, confidence in the all-powerful, all-knowing, compassionate God of the universe. (make no mistake - sometimes we have to grit our teeth and hold on just as we have to in any relationship when troubles arise.)

 Skeptics often ask for 'proof' that this event or the other actually occurred - Jesus' resurrection being a prime example. I('d like to see the kind of 'proof' they are looking for advanced to support for instance the story of Hannibal crossing the Alps). While we may not have Jesus' DNA on a tomb in Jerusalem, there is a literal mountain of evidence that supports the Biblical narrative.

 See Section Choose Life That You Might Live (especially chapter 7 and on)
Many, if not most, non-Christians assume that Christianity is a "blind faith"... that Christians ignore reality and have unquestioning loyalty to an absolute belief system without proof or evidence. In fact, that they believe contrary to all evidence and facts. What most people do not seem to realize is that Christianity is perhaps the only religion that does not demand 'blind faith' from its followers. Much to the contrary, the Christian faith is a commitment based on evidence. The Judeo-Christian faith consistently stresses the importance of truth, and makes appeal to evidence to support it's truth claims. In fact, it is actually quite remarkable as to how many times, God, Jesus, and the prophets of both the Old and New Testaments, appealed to facts to support what they said and taught. This evidence includes the Bible's humanly impossible authorship, fulfilled prophecy, and it's archaeological and scientific accuracy... none of which are seen in the books of other religions.


Communication (aka. Prayer)
Just as one of the critical side of a successful relationship with another human being is communication it is also a crucially important part of our relationship with the Father. However, believers (especially new believers) are often confused as to what they can talk to God about. The Scriptures do provide some clues, recording that people in the Bible gave Him thanks, confessed their sins and wrong doings, made requests and even complained. They obviously had an open and honest relationship with the Father.

For example, you will see in the Psalms every positive and negative emotion known to man, including sadness and despair, happiness,  worry and anxiety, terror etc. taken to the Father in prayer.  Many can be worked into your own life and experiences and can be a major source of comfort and strength.

    Thanksgiving: You are my God, and I will give you thanks." (Psalm 118.28)

    Confession: Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not hide my evil. I said 'I will confess my wrongdoing to the Lord' - and You forgave the guilt of my sin.'" (Psalm 32.5)

    Complaining and Casting Our Burdens On Him: : I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble" (Psalm 142.2) - Cast all your anxiety on him, because He cares for you"(I Peter 5:7) - Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition (while giving thanks), present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6)

    Petitioning:

Let's take a brief look at each of these.

Thanksgiving.
"He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me..." (Psalms 50:23 NASB)

The above statement says a great deal. To honor God means to respect Him, to regard Him very highly, to hold Him great esteem. One of the primary ways to do this is to give Him thanks - a word that occurs over 100 times in the Scriptures. Here are just a few examples.

    I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.  (Psalms 139:14 NASB)

    O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.  (Isaiah 25:1 NASB)

    but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  (1 Corinthians 15:57 NASB)

    Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15 NASB)

    always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;  (Ephesians 5:20 NASB)

Note how often Daniel gave thanks

    Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.  (Daniel 6:10 NASB)

Thanksgiving not only honors God but does us a great deal of good as well - bringing to our attention all that we have to be grateful for. A secular site called The Benefits Of Positive Thinking hits the nail on the head when they say

    The only obstacle to being thankful is simply not observing with attention. We grow used to our blessings and we start taking them for granted, without realizing that they truly are blessings. For instance, we take for granted having running water out of a tap - but go camping for three days and you will quickly notice how difficult and time-consuming the most common tasks become when you don't have running water. [02]

However, while counting your blessings all year and being grateful for what you have can be good for your mental health and well-being, increase your satisfaction with life etc. the most important thing is to learn to always remember to give credit where credit is due.

Let me see if I can elaborate.

I personally know Christians who watch David Attenborough or National Geographic's very remarkable nature shows. They marvel at the abilities and capabilities of so many of God's creatures, yet never once say a word about (or seem to spare a thought for) the one who designed and made them. Doesn't it occur to them that the ONLY reason animals and birds do so many amazing things is because the Great Designer made them that way. How can you not see God in a rose or in the wings of a bird of paradise?

I have also come across many Christians who love flowers. Yet, while they will spend much time arranging a bouquet in a vase, not a second is given in praise of the One who designed and made this unbelievable beauty.. Yet, these same people will go into rhapsodies about the talented humans who refinish antique cars, or can accurately throw a football half the length of the field.

There is something very wrong with this picture.

So, on the next clear night, spend some time looking up at the stars and imagine how great a Being it took to create, then put each one in it's place. The next time you gaze at an unbelievably gorgeous sunset, don't just look at the pretty colors, but think of the God who invented every element necessary to put on that spectacular show. See How The Bible Tells us We Can Get Closer to God

Thanksgiving In Trying Circumstances
However the Bible takes it a step further instructing us to not only give thanks when we are doing well, but even when we are not.

    in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB)

Note the verse doesn't say give thanks for everything, but in everything. We are recognize that although we are having difficult times, God is still sovereign and, in ways we cannot understand, many difficulties can have positive effects - They can, as Glenn Miller says, "produce a stronger character, a more gentle and kinder spirit, a wiser and more gracious heart, a more committed will, and a greater potential for enjoyment". [03]

    My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord Or loathe His reproof, For whom the Lord loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11-12 NASB)

    All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11 NASB)

As the Psalmist said: Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word.  (Psalms 119:67 NASB)


Complaining.
Quite the opposite of Thanksgiving. However, as long as it is done respectfully there is nothing wrong with complaining to the Father.

All throughout the Scripture you read of God's people expressing pain, dissatisfaction, resentment and even fear.  They bemoaned their enemies, sickness, financial woes, betrayal, and the inequalities of life. However, it was all done with the reverence they showed God and often amounted to pouring out their hearts to him and often requesting that He help them.

Casting Your Burden on The Lord:
I Peter 5:7 says casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 

Perhaps the best example in the Bible of someone laying their troubles out before the Father is when, as we read in 2 Kings 18, after carrying Israel away into exile, the king of Assyria sent a great host against Jerusalem. His general, Rab-shakeh then sent king Hezekiah  insulting and blasphemous message (Vs. 17-35) that terrified him and his people as they did not have the strength to save themselves from such a powerful enemy. After reading the message the King went up to the temple and spread it out before the Lord beseeching Him to deliver them so "that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God."  (2 Kings 19:19 NASB)

The end result was that ".. that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians...  (2 Kings 19:35 NASB)

The King took everything that Rab-shakeh wrote and 'turned it over' to God. Glenn Miller writes how he was shown a similar technique

    You simply take a sheet of paper and list on one side everything you worry about--big, little, immediate, in the future, etc. And then you 'spread it out before the Lord' -- you write "I Peter 5:7" and then the verse in big bold letters on top of the worry list. Then tear it to little shreds. You 'cast them' upon Him, because He cares for you. Talk to him about the worries, how they got there, specifically what it is you fear the most, what are the possible outcomes that you can think of (He can think of more, in most cases!). Lift the bills up to Him, the grades, the medical report, the eviction notice, the pink-slip, the IRS notice, the legal document, the orders to move, the 'downsized' headcount number for your department. I use this often and I have two phrases I consistently say: "See this, Lord?" and "HELP!" (He's your Father, remember--and a good one at that). [04]


Petitioning
Many people have a very one-dimensional view of prayer, seldom doing anything but approaching God with a laundry list of things they need/want, or problems they want Him to fix. While there is no question that the Bible teaches we are to pray for everything that worries us (Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6 NASB) and that we are instructed to pray for our daily necessities like food and clothes (Matthew 6:6) and good health (James 5:16 NASB).

However, the Scriptures point to many other things we can and should pray about. For example,

    Our Enemies: "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44 NASB)

    Government: First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NASB)

    Not To Fall Into Temptation: "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41 NASB)

    Wisdom: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  (Ephesians 1:17 NASB)

What can be discouraging are the times when our prayers seem to go no higher than the ceiling.

There is no question that many of our requests will not be answered immediately. For example, Saul once asked God whether  he should go after the Philistines and would the Lord give them into his hand". (1 Samuel 14:37 NASB) However, the Lord did not answer him on that day.  Others will be met by a 'no' simply because either granting the request is not in our best interests, or because it does not fit into the Lord's long-term plans. Other reasons that our prayers are not answered usually involve wrong motives, selfishness or evil deeds.

    If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear;  (Psalms 66:18 NASB)

    Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord. (Proverbs 1:28-30 NASB)

    They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof. He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13 NASB)

    Then they will cry out to the Lord, But He will not answer them. Instead, He will hide His face from them at that time Because they have practiced evil deeds. (Micah 3:4 NASB)

    And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen," says the Lord of hosts; (Zechariah 7:13 NASB)

    You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.  (James 4:3 NASB)

Through it all, we need to remember that whether we are met with a 'not yet', a 'no' or 'I'm going to do it a different way' every single one of our prayers are heard.


Confession.
In 1 John 1:7-10 the apostle John, who quite obviously did not believe for a moment that a Christian can become sinless, tells us that

    ..if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess (Gk. homologeo ) our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

The word rendered 'confess' is the Greek homologeo - assent or acknowledge, to admit or declare one's self guilty. In other words, to confess one's sins is to honestly admit that we did wrong, and ask for His forgiveness, based on what Jesus has done on the cross for us. However, people can have an amazing talent for self-deception never really thinking of themselves as sinners.  Saying "I made a mistake", "I'm not perfect" or "I'm only human" is not the same thing as admitting that you have sinned. As Proverbs 28:13 says,

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

But do remember that many sins have two forms of consequences - the internal and the external. Not confessing and receiving forgiveness for our sins can be a very slippery slope making it all too easy to get fall further. One unrepented of 'small' sin can lead to a bigger sin which in turn may not be repented of. Eventually, the person's lifestyle is a far cry from the righteous life demanded by God. Or, as Jesus once said, they might not pay attention to the fact that the cares of this world are gradually choking out the seed that was planted.

If there are external consequences these have to be taken care of as well. For example, someone may have to be apologized to, wrong actions may have to be put right in some way (ex. property may have to be returned).

Also See Jesus' Blueprint For Prayer

Quiet Time.
This term is often used for the period of time a believer sets apart for spending one-on-one time with God in a quiet undisturbed setting.

Some prefer to start their mornings with quiet time, giving the Father thanks, reading the Scriptures, and possibly planning out their day before Him. Other people prefer to do this before bed time, reading their Bibles and talking to God about their day.

The time of day makes no difference and there is no set agenda nor formula. It is simply spending time with someone you have a relationship with, not a formal routine you are obliged to adhere to. Although you must do what works for you, you could consider starting with confession, go on to thanksgiving and any requests you may have, then Bible study. Finally, plan (or review) your day before Him. Excluding Bible study this can take any where from 15 minutes to an hour

What is important is that you make this a daily routine, choosing a time when you are unlikely (or at least less likely) to be disturbed.

However, you can also have little 'snatches' of conversation with the Father throughout the day. When you see or hear something that you are thankful for (a beautiful sunset, a child's hug, a kind gesture, a warm meal etc.). Or send him up a petition when trouble looms at the door, someone gets sick, you have a problem or are perplexed about what to do. The list is endless.


The Company We Keep
Virtually from the time we are born we begin to learn how to do things and how to act based on what we see our parents and other adults do. Children imitate the mannerisms and characteristics of Mum and Dad - be they good, bad, or indifferent.

As adults, we may not consciously imitate the people around us, but seem to have chameleon like qualities taking on the 'color' and characteristics of those we have significant interaction with. So much so that, as the old saying goes - "Show me his company, and I'll tell you the man". And well the Bible knows to what extent we can be influenced for good or bad and that we often allow the negative influence of others to sway our better judgment.

    He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.  (Proverbs 13:20 NASB)

    He who walks with the wise will grow wise (Proverbs 13:20)

    Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. (Proverbs 22:24-25)

    Bad company corrupts good character (I Corinthians 15:33) -
    Interestingly this last statement made by Paul was a quote from Thais written by Menander - an ancient Athenian dramatist. Pagan or not, Menander was absolutely correct.

Our first step is to identify the people whom Scripture warns us to beware of. The book of Proverbs that outlines unacceptable behavior is very helpful in this regard.

    Violence: A man of violence entices his neighbor And leads him in a way that is not good.  (Proverbs 16:29 NASB)

    Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord, But pleasant words are pure.  (Proverbs 15:26 NASB)

    Bribery: He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, But he who hates bribes will live.  Proverbs 15:27 NASB)

    Lying: Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal faithfully are His delight.  (Proverbs 12:22 NASB)

    Lack Of Compassion The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern. (Proverbs 29:7 NASB)

    Temper: A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.  (Proverbs 29:11 NASB)

    An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression. (Proverbs 29:22 NASB)

    Pride: A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor. (Proverbs 29:23 NASB)

We are also to watch out for wolves in sheep's clothing i.e. those who pretend to be godly but have their own interests at heart.

lthough living in our current world makes it impossible to completely avoid immoral people, the Bible very clearly states that we have to scrupulously avoid so called Christians who are guilty of the same behavior. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians

    I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler — not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11 NASB)


The Fellowship of Like Minded Believers

It may not be a good idea to try and go it alone.

Both Paul and the author of the book of Hebrews tells us not to forsake the assembling together, but to encourage one another, which becomes more and more crucial as the days get darker and more difficult.

    and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NASB)

    Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NASB)

This next verse obviously applies to the time believers assemble together.

    Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 NASB)

The Greek word translated admonish, is noutheteo, which means to caution or reprove gently.

1 Corinthians 14:26 clearly states that everything done in a church assembly is done for edification.

    What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)

The English word 'edify' translated from the Greek oikodome, means to encourage intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement. In other words, it is "building up" of a person. In the context of Christianity, building up a person encompasses several concepts. The believers need to be encouraged, taught, and even admonished. Besides which, The church and its services should not resemble a theater in which one or more paid actors dominate the stage, while every one else looks on and occasionally applauds. The church is a living, breathing, dynamic organism thus all believers and the gifts imparted to them are necessary to make the whole body function smoothly.

Unfortunately, in the average traditional church, very little real "fellowship" take place. It is usually limited to a short time after the service when some of the congregation get together over some refreshments. This is supposed to provide people with the opportunity to socialize with each other and greet visitors or new members, which it does to a very small degree. Many if not most members of the congregation never really get to know each other, much less edify and encourage one another, which was the New Testament church's reason to exist. 

In the larger churches you are likely to be met by a 'professional greeter' (whose dentist probably got very rich) with whom you interact for less than five seconds. The greeting sound to me as phony as the K-mart employee who asks you if you "found everything all right"  This is done to make the shopper/visitor feel they have entered a warm and inviting place. In actuality both are meaningless and shallow routines.

What all believers need and should look for is a small group of like minded believers who conduct the 'church' assembly as outlined in the New Testament. People you get to know and trust as an extended family.

See The Church Then and Now.

and Why The Fire Hasn't Fallen
Christianity is not alive and well in spite of loud declarations to the contrary. We don’t seek God because we are wholly convinced that we have already arrived.

Finally
Ask as many people as you know what changes they would make to this world in order to make it as perfect as possible... somewhere it would be an absolute pleasure to live.

I am willing to bet good money that what you will not hear is they want to attain an ineffable transcendental state. Much to the contrary there will be a number of subjects common to most people's answers, and an astonishing similarity in the details that will be along the lines of peace and safety, an absence of crime, hunger and disease, unpolluted air and water, pesticide free food, more love among fellow men, and an honest government.

In other words, what they will describe is their idea of Utopia - something that everyone dreams of, but cannot get anywhere near.

Christianity, which appears to millions to be outdated, out of touch, and largely irrelevant to modern society, not only promises exactly the utopian world that mankind dreams of, but also has the answers to man's deepest questions. When it comes to the afterlife, the world most men and women would choose to live in is, in every respect, precisely what the Bible describes, except the Bible calls it heaven, the kingdom of Heaven, or the kingdom of God. In fact the kingdom of God, not love, was at the heart of Jesus' ministry.

Therefore, perhaps the best advice I can give you is no matter how treacherous the path may get, no matter how discouraged you may feel at times, no matter the circumstances, the one thing you need to do is keep your eye on the ultimate prize - everlasting life in a perfect world.

But remember the Lord Jesus Christ paid an enormous price to get us there and only those faithful to Him will be citizens of His kingdom.

See The Message of the Bible

and

What and Where is Heaven?
Christians who believe they will spend an eternity in "heaven", seem to have little or no idea where this heaven is,
what it will look like, or what they will do there

 

End Notes
[01] Glenn Miller. What's Next... http://christianthinktank.com/whatnext.html

[02] https://www.the-benefits-of-positive-thinking.com/being-thankful.html

[03] Glenn Miller. What's Next... http://christianthinktank.com/whatnext.html

[04] ibid.

Cathedral-Back

Heart Of The Matter

www.inplainsite.org