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Welcome to the FAQ for module 11—jump. The following questions include video and/or written answers and are also included in the guide for your leader. You may like to raise these questions during your group time, and we also place them here for you to explore and re-explore at your leisure.
Q 1. What do I need to believe to become a Christian?
Someone becomes a Christian when they can say that they sincerely believe five things:
1. That Jesus of Nazareth was a real person.
2. That he was the Messiah.
3. That as the Messiah, he was both God and human.
4. That he died to take God’s punishment for their sins.
5. That he rose again on the third day and returned back to his Father.
Believing that much, that person then turns in faith to this risen, glorified Christ, abandoning any confidence in self or anyone or anything else to make themselves acceptable to God, and embracing (receiving, taking, trusting) that living glorified Christ as the only one who can make them right with God.
Q 2. How much faith do I need to have to become a Christian?
It is not the amount of faith but the object of faith that is important.
Becoming a Christian is not about having a lot of faith—as if there were something ‘special’ about faith. Jesus said that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds (Matthew 13:31–32) and that his disciples needed faith only the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20)! Salvation is not about the amount of someone’s faith but is a matter of where that faith is placed—is it in Christ? It is Christ who saves—not faith (John 1:11–12)!
Q 3. How do I get faith?
Faith is simply believing that Jesus the Messiah died to take God’s punishment for our sins and rose again from the dead as a result, and personally receiving (owning, trusting) the Jesus who died (see Q 1 above). The good news about Jesus is not hard to understand but it is very hard to accept. It is wonderful to realise that anyone can understand the good news about Jesus!
1. The good news about Jesus is not hard to understand. Anyone can understand John 3:16 and, if we gave ourselves a couple of minutes, we could put it in our own words or explain the meaning of it in simple terms to a friend. We do not have to be Christians to understand the simple good news message about Jesus. That’s why this message is to be taken to every person in the world (Luke 24:46–47)—because everyone can understand it.
2. But the good news about Jesus is hard to accept. This the case for at least two reasons:
a. The good news about Jesus seems so absurd. The idea that God can forgive us for all our sins and make us acceptable to him forever, because of something a man called Jesus did, when he died, way back in AD 30, sometimes in a place on the other side of the world, in a culture completely different from our own, just doesn’t seem to make sense to us. How can something that happened way back then, in a completely different culture, make me acceptable to God now?
b. The good news about Jesus seems so insulting. The idea that we are made acceptable to God—not because of who we are, or what we have done or haven’t done, but solely on the merits of another (a man called Jesus)—seems very insulting. We don’t like it that we are not considered to be good enough for God the way we are, and we don’t find it easy to accept that our works do not and cannot count, but that his do. It feels degrading. It makes us look like spiritual beggars, totally dependent on God’s charity. So we reject the good news about Jesus as very foolish—not because we don’t understand the concept—but because we do understand it! This is what the Bible means when it says, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The message of “Christ crucified… [is] foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). In other words, we think the whole idea is too ridiculous and too insulting. We can be thankful to God for the convincing work of the Holy Spirit who enables us to acknowledge the ‘wisdom’ of the good news about Jesus and to believe and embrace the message.
Q 5. What changes can a person expect to see in their life after they become a Christian?
Becoming a Christian leads to some big changes. This is to be expected because when someone becomes a Christian they are born into a new family (John 1:11–12). These changes come as a result of being ‘born again’—they are not the means to being born again. We are saved by faith (Romans 4:5; Ephesians 2:8–9), not by making changes.
When someone becomes a Christian, they can expect to discover a whole range of new experiences:
1. Enormous relief. There is enormous relief in knowing the following:
a. The penalty for being a sinner has been paid for us by Jesus himself (Mark 10:45).
b. Our sins can never be counted against us (2 Corinthians 5:19).
c. Christians never need to worry about God’s eternal judgment again (John 5:24).
d. Christians have been freely credited with a perfect righteousness from God (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).
2. New confidence. Christians are boosted with a super-confidence (or inner assurance):
a. Christians know they have eternal life (1 John 5:11–12).
b. Christians know God is their Father (Romans 8:14–17).
c. Christians know they can never be separated from God’s love by anything or anyone (Romans 8:31–39; John 10:28–29).
d. Christians know they have an ‘understanding helper’ in heaven (Hebrews 4:14–16).
e. Christians know Jesus constantly appears in heaven as their advocate (1 John 2:1).
f. Christians know they will be with God forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
3. Deep joyfulness. As Christians discover all God has done for them and all God has planned for them, they are deeply joyful. This joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness comes and goes because it depends on circumstances. Joy doesn’t depend on circumstances. Christians are joyful regardless of their circumstances. Joy comes from knowing we belong to God and from experiencing all the blessings of salvation (Ephesians 1:3–14).
4. Changing values. The moment someone receives Christ, they are ‘born again’ into God’s family and become his child (John 1:11–12). In this spiritual rebirth, they receive God’s nature (2 Peter 1:4). And this new nature starts making itself felt. Old ways of living are slowly but gradually replaced with new ways of living (Ephesians 4:17–32; Colossians 3:1–14; 2 Peter 1:3–11). Christians soon realise not only that Jesus died to take their punishment but that, in his death, he also ‘bought’ them for himself (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 1 Peter 1:17–19)! And they begin to look for new ways they can serve him and bring honour and glory to him.
5. New interests. With the new birth come new appetites and interests. Christians want to pray, to worship God, to confess their sins, to express their gratitude and to bring their needs to him (Matthew 6:9–13). Christians develop an appetite for the Bible. They have a desire to bring glory to God by the way they live (1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31). And Christians want to share their faith and show others the love of Christ.
6. Vital relationships. They realise that, in the family of God, they are not the only child… and they find they have a whole new world of relationships to discover with their Christian brothers and sisters.
7. A fresh set of problems. This new life creates new problems, too:
a. New relational problems. Christians will sometimes experience tension in friendships and family relationships as people adjust to a ‘Christian’s’ new thinking, priorities and lifestyle.
b. New issues. Things that once weren’t important become important. As a result, there are ‘growth pains’ as we move from one way of living to another (Ephesians 4:17–32).
c. New conflicts. The new nature comes into conflict with the old nature (Galatians 5:16–26); then we discover our new enemy, Satan (1 Peter 5:8–9; Ephesians 6:10–18).
Q 6. Can new Christian be certain about their salvation? Is assurance important?
Yes, a new Christian can be certain about their salvation. When the Bible talks about someone becoming a Christian, it uses the language of absolute certainty. It is vitally important that a person is reminded that they know for sure that they have salvation.
The modern mind seems to reject certainty when it comes to issues of spirituality. But when the Bible speaks of someone becoming a Christian, it uses the language of absolute certainty. In fact, the good news about Jesus carries its own guarantee! Here are some of the certainties:
1. John 1:12–13. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”
a. It is certain that those who receive Christ have the right to call themselves the children of God.
2. John 3:36. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
a. It is certain that, the moment a person believes in the Son, that person has eternal life.
b. It is certain that a person who does not believe does not have life but is under God’s wrath (condemnation).
3. John 5:24. “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
a. It is certain that the believer has eternal life (now).
b. It is certain the believer will not be condemned (then).
c. It is certain that, at the moment of believing, the Christian has passed out of death and into life.
4. John 6:40. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
a. It is certain that everyone who believes in the Son has eternal life.
b. It is certain that the one who believes in the Son will be raised at the last day.
5. 1 John 5:11–12. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
a. It is certain that God has provided eternal life.
b. It is certain that eternal life is in his Son.
c. It is certain that, if someone has the Son, they have eternal life.
d. It is certain that if someone doesn’t have the Son, they do not have eternal life.
It is vital Christians have the assurance of eternal life:
1. Assurance is part of the good new about Jesus. The same verses that promise eternal life for the one who receives Christ also declare the certainty of eternal life for the one who believes! The good news about Jesus carries its own guarantee. It is impossible to believe the good news about Jesus without believing the words of assurance. They cannot be separated from the same Bible passages.
2. Assurance is necessary for Christian living. No one can begin to move into the new lifestyle (Galatians 5:16–26; Ephesians 4:17–32) if they are not sure they have the new life itself!
Q 7a. Why is it important to think about hell?
Because everyone will exist forever in either heaven or hell.
Jesus made it clear: there were only ever two destinies—eternal punishment on the one hand and eternal life on the other (Matthew 25:46; John 5:28–29). Revelation 20:11–15 clearly teaches that there will be a judgement called the Great White Throne. At that judgement, the Book of Life will be consulted and anyone “whose name was not found written in the book of life [the record book of all who have faith in Jesus] was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). We have only this life to determine our destiny… after death comes judgement (Hebrews 9:27)—not reincarnation (rebirth of a soul in another body) or another chance to get it right.
Q 7b. What is hell like?
Hell is a place of everlasting, irreversible conscious torment.
Jesus described hell in these terms:
1. A specific place. Jesus referred to hell as “a blazing furnace. In that place there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42, 50 (ISV)). Revelation describes hell as a place of “burning sulfur” (Revelation 14:10). It is called “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). For the unbeliever, “they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 21:8).
2. Inescapable torment. More than once, Jesus said people would be thrown into the fiery furnace (Matthew 13:42, 50). Revelation says unbelievers (including the beast and false prophet) would be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20; 20:14–15). The imagery suggests total immersion in inescapable torment.
3. Conscious torment. That people suffer consciously in hell is clear from the words Jesus used to describe hell—it is a place “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42, 50). Revelation describes people in hell being “tormented” (Revelation 14:10).
4. Intense torment. The use of words like “blazing furnace” (Matthew 13:42) and “lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 21:8) suggests the most excruciating pain ever known.
5. Physical and spiritual torment. The Bible teaches that unbelievers will have resurrection bodies suited to eternal judgement, just as believers will have resurrection bodies suited to eternal life (Daniel 12:1–2; John 5:28–29). The Bible consistently teaches resurrection bodies for all, believers and unbelievers alike. This suggests the suffering will be mental, physical and spiritual—exactly the kind of suffering Jesus experienced for us on the cross.
6. Everlasting torment. Jesus referred to hell as a place where there is an “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41) and an “eternal punishment [because the people are never destroyed]” (Matthew 25:46). This describes unending suffering. Revelation puts it this way: “the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night…” (Revelation 14:11); they “will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).
Q 8. Isn’t hell just the absence of God?
No. Hell is torment because God is there exercising his judgement (Revelation 14:10–11).
God is everywhere (Psalm 139:7–10) including hell! At the final judgement, the Bible says that “those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel [good news] of our Lord Jesus… will be… shut out from the presence of the Lord…” (2 Thessalonians 1:8–9). But the Bible also says God is in hell. Those who suffer in hell suffer “in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:10–11). Is this contradictory? No… we are best to understand that both descriptions are true: people in hell are shut out from God’s loving presence and shut in to God’s dreadful presence as he executes his eternal judgement.
Q 9. Isn’t hell just for Satan and his angels?
No. Hell was designed for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41) but is shared by human beings who do not believe in Christ (Matthew 25:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:8–10; Revelation 14:9–11; 20:11–15).
Q 10. Are there different levels of punishment in hell?
That’s what is strongly implied in the New Testament.
God is infinitely righteous. His judgement is always perfectly measured. Jesus speaks of judgement day being more bearable for some than it will be for others (Matthew 11:20–24), suggesting that greater sin brings greater judgement (John 19:11). The picture of the final judgement (the Great White Throne) suggests the same thing—John sees people judged “according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12–13), which indicates the judgement is according to (appropriate to) their works. It could not be any other way with an infinitely holy God. Clearly, one lie cannot be punished to the same degree as one murder.