Jesus Changes

What you hold in your hands is a guide to help you get started on the right path. Of course, there is more to following Jesus than what is discussed in this guide. Think of this as a foundation for a lifetime of learning and growth.

If you are a new Christian or trying to figure out what it means to trust God with your life you are reading the right thing!

At Central, we exist to Amplify the Hope and Life of Jesus to all people. This mission is driven through our belief in one God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the Savior of all people who put their faith in Him alone for eternal life.

Our desire is that everyone will have a dynamic relationship with Jesus and discover what it means to love Him more and more every day. To that end, we want to partner with you and help answer some of the foundational questions like: “What do I do after I made the decision to follow Jesus?” and “What does it really mean to have a relationship with God and trust Him?”

The Bible is a gift from God. However, we recognize that it initially can be difficult to read, study and apply it to our lives – so we will give you some tools to not only study the Bible but also help you see that the Bible is trustworthy.

The idea that we can have a personal relationship with a God who loves us certainly takes some getting used to! We’ve no doubt that you have many questions you’d love to ask and things you’d like to know. Don’t panic - these are two of the reasons we’ve put this course together. While we can’t guarantee to answer all your questions during this course, you will be in a better position to grow in your relationship with God as a result of it.

We believe that God created the world and everything in it, including you, and He wants to begin a personal, one-on-one relationship with you today.

It Starts
With Jesus.

Everyone has an opinion about Jesus. Maybe you think He’s a great teacher or a prophet. Maybe you think He is the Savior. Whatever you believe, we can probably agree that Jesus changed things. We believe He wants to change you, too.

Jesus claimed He knew God. No big deal, right? Plenty of people make the same claim. But Jesus also said He was God. And this upset the religious leaders of His day so much that they killed Him. But that was 2,000 years ago. Why does it matter to you now? How does who Jesus is and what He’s done affect your life now?

Everyone has an opinion about Jesus. Maybe you think He’s a great teacher or a prophet. Maybe you think He is the Savior. Whatever you believe, we can probably agree that Jesus changed things. We believe He wants to change you, too.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.

If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,‘ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

You don’t have to be perfect. Through Jesus’ death on the cross and rising from the dead, Jesus took all of your wrong and gave you all of His right. If you believe that and commit to following Him, your life will never be the same. It’s as simple as repenting of your sin, declaring you want to follow Jesus, and believing He is who He says He is.

Believing in Jesus is the first step on the greatest journey of your life. You haven’t finished the race—you’ve just gotten started.

After someone has made the decision to follow Jesus it’s important to identify with the global church through baptism and learn what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Most people who are married wear a wedding ring on their finger. It symbolizes publically that they are in love, taken, and belong to one another. In a comparable way, public Baptism is the symbol of a Christian’s love for God.

Baptism is going public about your faith in Jesus and communicating to the world your heart-felt, covenant commitment to following Him. It is the next step after salvation.

Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and is your public declaration that you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

NOTE: Baptism does not save you, but it shows the world that you have already been saved. And while baptism is not required for salvation, it is a biblical command and demonstrates your love and obedience to Christ.

What is the Bible?

It has been reported for over 50 years that the Bible has been the largest seller of all books published in the history of mankind.

This alone should encourage both the Christian and the non-Christian to pick up a copy and read it to experience all it has to offer.

Baptism is going public about your faith in Jesus and communicating to the world your heart-felt, covenant commitment to following Him. It is the next step after salvation.

Generally, when you hold a book in your hands, you assume it is one book, composed by one author, with one thought or story in mind. In reality, the Bible is not just one book, it’s a collection of 66 books.

The 66 books in the Bible were written by 40 different authors, over a period of some 1,500 years, in three languages, and on three continents. Each author was supernaturally inspired by God to write his book. Obviously these 40 authors didn’t sit down and collaborate on a ‘god’ they were going to invent.

They simply recorded the facts of what they observed. When you consider that each of these unrelated authors all said the same things about God over such a long period of time, it is a miraculous proof of His existence!

The Bible is the authority on life. Someone once suggested that the BIBLE stands for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” This is of course not literally true, but practically speaking, it is the true purpose of the Bible. Some view studying the Bible as little more than preparation for some sort of Biblical trivia contest down and collaborate on a ‘god’ they were going to invent.

But the primary purpose of Bible study is not information, it's transformation.

As we learn and apply the teachings of the Bible, we begin to experience a change in our attitudes, thoughts, and lifestyle. In the Old Testament, King David put it this way, “Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path,” (Psalm 119:105).

Every question we have about conduct, morality, and daily living must be answered through the teachings found in the Bible. It is our roadmap for following and becoming like Jesus. While the Bible contains instructions for the living, it is not just an organized, boring list of dos and don’ts.

The Bible is basically a story. It is the story of real people, living in real places, dealing with real life issues, and interacting with the real, living God. The same God who interacted with people like Noah, David, Jonah, Peter, and Paul is interacting with each of us.

As we see how He interacted with people in the past, we learn more about how He interacts with us today. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”

If the Bible truly is God’s word and can help us on our life’s journey . . . it is so very important to read it and let its words sink into our hearts.

Make a commitment to read a little bit of the Bible every day. Begin in one of the first 4 books in the New Testament, or read the Book of James which teaches on faith and read one chapter a day. Or turn to Proverbs and read with the calendar. From that one chapter in the Old or New Testament, underline a verse or two that really speaks to you and spend a couple of minutes thinking about the meaning. This habit will be very helpful to get you started on living a life of “hiding God’s Word in your heart.”

After reading these few paragraphs you might have a few questions about the validity of the Bible. Check out the “Extras – Appendix” where some “FAQ” questions have been answered to help you process what you might be thinking.

How To Study The Bible

Writing to his young disciple Timothy, Paul says, “All Scripture is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” We are told that Timothy knew the Scriptures from his infancy. He grew up with a godly mother and grandmother (1:5) who fed him upon God’s word. Timothy was taught Scripture as a child. He was rooted in The Word.

Roots have a number of critical functions. They both absorb and store water and nutrients essential for growth. They also anchor the plant’s body to the ground for support. From this foundation shoots begin to grow up from within. While these first shoots appear to be weak, many can push through concrete! Imagine that this concrete represents the problems Timothy faced in his ministry. Being soundly rooted in The Word from his infancy sprang up to form the characteristics Paul wrote about in 2 Timothy 3:10.

First, it takes time (Col. 2:6-7; Ex. 23:28-30; Acts from 7:23-34). We know that Moses needed 40 years of preparation before he encountered Pharaoh. Jesus was about 30 years old before his public ministry begun. Paul took three years to prepare and stayed inconspicuous for another fourteen (Gal. 1:18; 2:1). Time is a factor that many people would like more of. Getting rooted in God’s Word takes time. It is something that can’t be rushed because getting rooted in God’s Word is synonymous with getting rooted in God. We can’t separate the two.

There are seasons in life and the challenge you face is not to stop the things around you and root yourself in God. No, the challenge is to deepen your roots in God and bring Him into your daily grind. By studying the Word in ways that encourage you, you are allowing God to become more involved in your life. The bottom line: rooting yourself in God’s Word takes time. So, don’t rush it!

Second, developing deep roots takes trials. The warning Paul is giving in 2 Timothy 3:12-13 is of the difficulties and persecution Christians will face. It takes incredible strength for a disciple to prove themselves faithful (see James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:5-7). When troubles come our true character is revealed. In times of trouble we either run to God or away from Him. The choice we make reveals how rooted we really are. Getting rooted in God’s Word also involves trials.

Third, it takes desire. Paul said that he desired to know Christ and nothing else (see Phil. 3:13-15). To Timothy he calls this desire, single-minded dedication (2 Tim 2:4f.). If you want to be rooted in the Word, desire it. At Central we want to provide you with tools to help your roots grow deep and strong. These are, we’re sure, the first of many tools. We trust they will be of help to you as you continue to root yourself in God’s Word.

Each of the 66 books has plenty of wisdom for living as a follower of God, but some books are easier to understand than others. Some new Believers start reading in Genesis and want to read through to the Book of Revelation. Although admirable, let us share a few alternative suggestions. Begin reading your Bible by choosing one of the biographies of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. These are known as the Gospels (‘gospel’ means ‘good news’) and are found at the beginning of the New Testament. Since following Jesus is at the heart of being a Christian, reading the first-hand accounts of what He did and said is a wonderful beginning to the process of learning to live like Him.

Start by reading one chapter a day. Read each one slowly, and try to picture the events described by the author. Perhaps read each chapter twice. Reflect on what following Jesus in your life would look like if you did what He did and obeyed what He taught. As you read, have a pencil or highlighter at your side. Highlight or underline verses that jump out at you. Keep a notebook handy to write down any questions or thoughts you have as you read. Take your time.

We believe prayer is foundational to spiritual growth and effectiveness and is intended to permeate every aspect of our individual and corporate lives. Prayer is an essential component of growing deeper With God, In Community, and On Mission. Prayer realigns our will to the Father’s and is the pathway to experiencing God’s empowering presence as we Amplify the Hope and Life of Jesus to All.

Understanding the importance of prayer is not enough. Prayer needs to become part of our life and something we love doing. Is it possible that a lot of people don’t love praying because they have never been taught how to pray?

Once you learn how to pray, prayer can become your lifestyle.

We believe we can pray to God in every and all situations:

Before your day starts—Before you go to bed—Before you go to work or school— Before you send a text or an email— Before you eat, drive or travel— When the bad things happen— When the good things happen—In every situation— we have the ability to PRAY FIRST!

Throughout scripture people show us how they pray to God and we read about how God listens to their prayers. There is not some 1 + 1 formula for prayer but we believe we have constant and direct access to God . . . and He is listening.

As you begin praying, it may be helpful to have a framework around building your prayers. There are many excellent outlines to choose from (check out the Lord’s Prayer in your Bible- Matthew 6:9–13). Here is one common outline many people have found helpful. It’s known as the ‘A.C.T.S.’ outline for prayer.

Adoration. Start your prayer with worship, adoring God for who He is and what He has done for you. Recognize the greatness, majesty, or power of God. If you are looking at reading the Bible when you begin to pray, the book of Psalms in the Old Testament is a great place to start. The Psalms were the worship songs of the Jewish people and they contain many beautiful and poetic expressions of God’s wonderful qualities.

When we recognize God’s greatness in our lives it reminds us that He is worthy of our worship and able to handle whatever needs we may have.

Confession. Spend some time reviewing your day or your week, acknowledging and confessing your sins. Confession means that you are identifying and admitting you have done something that is sinful. The good news is that God is not surprised by these confessions. He knows what you’ve done. Confessing your sins is your way of agreeing with God that you have fallen short of what He wants you to do.

Confess those failures to God, get them out in the open, and spend some time asking for God’s help to resist those temptations in the future.

This is a great way to clear the air between you and God, and get your heart right with Him.

Thanksgiving. Let God know how grateful you are for the blessings He has given you. Look through your prayer list, and thank Him for the prayers He’s answered in your life. Thank Him for the simple things you might take for granted, like your home, family, health, work, community, etc.

This kind of grateful soul reminds us that God is our provider. He is involved in all of our lives, and He does answer prayer.

Supplication. Supplication is simply bringing your requests to God. They may be personal requests, or the needs of someone you know. God invites us to bring all of these requests to Him. Often, our prayers are predominantly these kinds of prayers.

Prayer is bringing your requests to God for His help and inviting Him to be involved in your life.
This A.C.T.S. model is not a magic formula for prayer –– no such thing exists. But it is a great starting point and helps you to pray in balance as you learn to communicate with God through prayer.

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