"And the Lord shall be King over all the earth ..."
Course #39 - The next step...
It has been our pleasure to share this Bible Study Course with you. We have now reached the end of these lessons and you are probably wondering: What next? What do I do now?
Before we attempt to offer some help with these questions it is important to remember what the Course is all about.
We have been introducing to you the doctrines of the Bible. But the message in these lessons was not simply our message. Every time you opened and read your Bible you were listening to the Word of God. This is the way that God teaches men and women about Himself and His purpose with the world. Because you respected God's Word He was speaking to you and hoping for your response.
The whole of the Bible is inspired by God and it has great power to change your life. If, in preaching the Gospel to you through these papers, we have been able to help you by inviting you to look inside the Scriptures for yourself, then we are very glad.
How have the lessons affected you?
You have probably learnt some things you did not know before. You have thought about great men like Abraham or David. You have seen:
- how the gospel is to be found in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament;
- how the Jews are God's witnesses among the nations;
- how the Lord Jesus lived and died to save men and women who believe in him;
- how the death and resurrection of Jesus provided the guarantee of God's plans for the future;
- how the Lord Jesus Christ will come back to earth to set up the Kingdom of God.
But knowing these things is not enough, in itself.
After all, many men and women go to college to study religion in order to gain certificates or to obtain work as "ministers". But that does not convert them into Christians. Nor does God offer degrees or certificates for Bible knowledge. The reward is far greater, the gift of eternal life.
We preach the Gospel because we know that God is willing to extend His grace, through Jesus, to all who wish to be saved from their sins. God invites every man or woman who will accept His way of salvation to share His Kingdom on the earth.
What it means to be a Christian
True Christians are people who believe in the commandments of Jesus Christ and who have chosen to be baptized and to live as his disciples, preparing themselves for service with the Lord when he returns as King of the world.
True Christians are different from other people because they are being called out and trained for the coming Kingdom of God on earth. The Creator has only one plan for the earth and the way we respond to God's invitation to take part in that plan must be the same wherever we live.
God does not have one set of rules for men and women in Australia, and another for those in India, Arab countries, or Africa, or the Caribbean, or the Pacific Islands. There is only one Saviour, and one way to be saved. As the Apostle Peter said:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12)
Why so many Churches?
You may ask: "Why, then, are there so many different sects and churches?"
That is a question which worries many people who are thinking of joining a Christian community.
But consider this fact: it was not God who divided the churches of Christendom into "Catholics", "Protestants" or "Pentecostals". The answer is that in many cases it was ambitious men who "led away disciples after them" in order to form new groups. Many became too "wise" to listen to the simple truths of the Gospel as taught by Jesus and his disciples. They did what the Apostle Paul foretold:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (II Timothy 4:3,4)
What about me?
The moment of truth comes when we begin to understand that we are sinners against God and that only God, through Jesus, can help us:
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5: 8)
The "next step" for you may depend on how much you have been moved and excited by what you have learned from God's Word. Each of us is on the way to finding salvation when we start to learn the truth about ourselves. As Jeremiah said:
"O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23)
Do you feel like that? Is God's Word beginning to urge you to do something about "seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness" ?
Sooner or later, every Christian must see the need to make a change in his life - a change from being a continual sinner "in Adam" (that is, perishing for ever) to becoming a "saint in Christ" (that is, having the hope of resurrection at the return of Jesus and of everlasting life in his kingdom).
Certain men of Jerusalem, when they began to understand the truth,
"were pricked in their heart, and said - Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
The answer of the apostle was:
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins"(Acts 2:37,38)
It is our hope that you have been thinking very carefully about your position. You probably feel a little uncertain at this point. You do not wish anyone to pressure you. You want time to think. We understand that!
Maybe you would just like to continue your study of the Bible for a little while? Perhaps you would like to meet some Christadelphians to talk things over? Perhaps you are already convinced that you ought to be baptized soon?
Some suggestions, to help you
1. Please go back through Lessons 1 to 38, making a note of any difficulties, and marking important quotations in your Bible.
2. Write and tell us how you feel about what you have learned from the Bible. Did you enjoy the lessons? Were some subjects difficult for you? Would you like to have more explanation of some of the lessons?
3. You have been using the Bible Companion for your daily readings, which is a plan for reading at least three chapters a day, and which will take you through the whole Bible in one year (the New Testament twice). Keep on reading the Bible every day. It is not a book you read and put down. If read again and again, the Bible will influence your heart, mind and life.
4. Would you like to be put in touch with Christadelphians near you? Send us a letter, and we will try to find someone in your geographic area. You might wish to write to them or, if it is convenient to do so, to meet them for further Bible discussion. If they are near enough, would you like to attend some of their meetings? For a list of Christadelphian Ecclesias, click here.
5. Do you wish to do some further reading on Bible matters? If so, please write to us and tell us which subjects you are most interested in. We have useful booklets on many Bible subjects.
6. If you wish to move towards baptism but feel that you need more time and instruction, we are only too happy to help you.
7. Now you have covered all of the subjects in this Course and if you are thinking about being baptized please write and tell us.
How could I be baptized?
As you learnt in Lesson 31, it is essential that you understand the Gospel, how serious it is to be baptized, and the effect it will have on your life. It is our responsibility to ensure that you understand before you are baptized. We would want to speak with you about the essential teachings of the Bible and about some of the practical aspects of living the Christian life.
The next step then, if God wills, is baptism
If there is a nearby Christadelphian group you will become a member of that ecclesia. If not, then we will ensure that you receive a constant supply of helpful articles to read and we will arrange to visit you regularly, if you wish. We would also send you "exhortations" - papers suitable for you to use at you own weekly Breaking of Bread meetings.
If you decide to be baptized, it will be the most important event in your life. To become a Christadelphian is to be born into the family of Jesus Christ, with Brothers and Sisters all over the world who have the same faith and share a very real fellowship with you.
We look forward to further correspondence, and would value the opportunity to meet with you. Please let us help you to the final step of baptism.
If you have questions or comments about this lesson, please feel free to e-mail us with them.