When we have come to know Christ (Phil. 3:10), received him (Rev. 3:20; John 1:12), or come to him (John 6:37) — they are all pictures of Jesus and ourselves getting in touch — we need to know where we stand. You cannot build a satisfactory house on an insecure foundation.
Scripture anticipates — and answers — the immediate questions that assail us:
Can I be sure I am accepted? (John 6:37).
Will God hold my past failures against me? (Rom. 8:1).
When I fail, do I get thrown out of the Christian family? (1 John 1:9).
Can I keep it up? (2 Cor. 12:9).
How can I overcome temptation? (1 Cor. 10:13).
One of the most pressing early problems is doubt. How can I be sure I am accepted? Here are three grounds for a quiet confidence, which will grow with experience:
What the Father promises us (1 John 5:10-12).
What the Son achieved for us (1 John 4:10; 1 Pet. 3:18).
What the Spirit does in us (1 John 4:13).
And what does the Spirit begin to grow in the garden of our lives, once he has been planted there? Gradually we shall find clear marks of his presence if we have asked him in. They will not all come at once or in any special order, but they will come! And it will all be wonderfully new. The first letter of John tells what they are:
A new desire to please God (2:5).
A new assurance of pardon (2:1-2).
A new willingness to face opposition (3:13).
A new delight in the company of fellow Christians (3:14).
A new generosity of spirit (3:17).
A new experience of victory over temptations (4:4; 5:4).
A new discovery of answers to prayer (3:22).
A new understanding and set of priorities (5:20-21).
We are not meant to guess or hope that we belong; we are meant to be sure of it (5:12-13).
Verse to learn
Learn 1 John 5:12 (NIV): "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."
Bible study section
The Bible passage for study is Acts 9:1-22.
Much of the story of Saul's conversion was unique, but much applies to every person who discovers Jesus for himself.
1. Saul of Tarsus was intelligent, religious, virtuous, enthusiastic and sincere. Surely such a man needs no conversion, then or now?
2. Later on Saul called his conversion "an example" (1 Tim. 1:16). In what ways is this true?
3. Was any "Ananias" a help to you in your discovery of Jesus?
4. What differences began to be seen in Saul's life to convince him and others that the change was real?
5. What struck you most in this story?
God has no stupid children. He wants us to talk to him as naturally as we talk to each other. Many of you will not have joined in a time of open prayer before. Praying silently is just as valuable as praying aloud, but if we pray out loud, it helps us to concentrate our prayers and it enables others to say "Amen." Just a one-sentence prayer of thanks, of request, or praying about some thought from the Bible study. Incidentally, it helps your concentration if you pray out loud when alone.
Michael Green, Come, Follow Me.
Michael Green, New Life, New Lifestyle
Michael Green, World on the Run.
John Stott, Becoming a Christian.
John Stott, Being a Christian.
John White, The Fight.
A biography or two about the power of God to change lives (e.g., Charles Colson, Born Again) would also be helpful.