Growing up I had very little religious knowledge until I moved to Houston in the 5th grade. At that time, I began learning about Judaism and through the years until I graduated high school, I attended Hebrew School regularly and Synagogue on occasion. Although I went to Hebrew School at least once a week, I don’t remember anything I learned there. Being Jewish was something that I just was because my parents were and therefore I was. But it never held much meaning to me on a personal level. In fact, in high school and some of college, I called myself an agnostic or an atheist. I didn’t really know if God existed and if He did, I didn’t know anything about him. I had no relationship with Him to speak of that is for sure. The only things I could really tell you about being Jewish was that we did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and that we celebrated different holidays than Christians. Some holidays I could try to relate what they meant to Judaism, but most of the time, I had to be reminded what the holiday we were celebrating was about. I am sure part of that was just being young and self-centered and not interested in remembering these things.
One day in college, I was walking through campus on my way to find out if I had passed a class. I stopped on the East Mall by the Tower and looked up and said to myself, “Please, God, just let me pass this class.” Nothing too profound there, but in that instant it became clear to me for the first time in my life that I believed there was a God. Why else would I be talking to him?
Now that I knew that I believed in God, I did little to pursue what that meant or to further my relationship with Him. I went along living my life the way I thought was best, with little regard to what place God had in my life. During these years, I would argue with Christians about the Bible and its validity. I argued that it was just a history book. That Jesus was just a really great man, but not the Messiah. I mistakenly thought that the Old Testament was the Torah and the New Testament was the Bible. I didn’t know that the Old Testament was actually more than just Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I didn’t know that the Bible included the Old Testament and the New Testament, I thought it was just the New Testament. I argued against all that the Bible stood for, without knowing anything at all about it. I was naïve and stupid to argue against something I knew nothing about, I just never argued it to anyone who really knew much about it either, so I was never really challenged about my beliefs. A lawyer doesn’t go into court without studying all the facts, yet for years I had been walking into court blind so to speak without having ever read the Bible, yet arguing against it.
When I first met my husband, I did not know anything about his religious beliefs until day he told me that he was finding his faith again. He was not a Christian when I met him although that was his background, but it didn’t mean anything to him at that time. As we dated, he grew in his faith and was led to start reading the Bible more often. When we got married, we knew that our religious differences would be a difficult part of our marriage. We thought love would be enough to get us through those difficult times. In the past three years we have argued more over religion than anything else. When I got pregnant with our daughter our arguments increased because I grew worried about how we would raise our child (as did he). I worried about the view point of Christians and how we would separate my husband's viewpoint and mine.
During my pregnancy, my friend Tami lost her baby at 38 weeks and for the first time in my life the only thing I knew to do was to pray. I relied on God to help me with this difficult time and somehow I made it through my pregnancy without worrying more than any other mother that something horrible would happen to my baby. The death of Ethan caused me to rely on God like I never had before. Because Tami was a Christian and I wanted to help her grieve, I asked for Bible verses and Biblical advice that might help her in regards to what she was going through. Watching Tami go through such a horrible experience and come out the other side still loving and glorifying God and thanking Him for this experience in her life was a huge testament to the power of her faith.
A couple of months before Savannah was born, my husband had asked if I would just read the Bible with him. I agreed, but wanted to read from the beginning. The Old Testament was at least a little bit familiar to me. We started reading a little bit every once and awhile. It was interesting to hear how it all started in Genesis and it got me thinking more about who God was, but I found no real joy out of reading and I thought I wasn’t getting much out of it. But it turns out that I was. (Romans 10:17 “17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”)
When Boo Bear was about three months old my husband and I had one of our fights and we seemed to be at a standstill. I even was thinking that maybe our marriage wouldn’t work. My husband asked if I would talk to a couple from the Church because us talking to each other about religion always ended up in an argument and I had questions my husband couldn’t always answer. We would both get defensive and offensive and it never turned out good. The couple my husband asked me to speak to are in their 50’s; J. is from Chile and was raised Jewish and is now a Messianic Jew. Ja. is from Venezuela and was raised Catholic. They both attend the Church where my husband has gone for the past 2.5 years. On the day we had agreed to go over to their house, it was one of the hardest days I had experienced as a new mom. I had just had a really, really difficult day. It was not the ideal day for me to go talk to strangers about religion, but for some reason I did not back out. We went to J and Ja.’s house and I asked J. a lot of questions about how he became a Messianic Jew, how he dealt with having been brought up Jewish and reconciling what he knows about Jesus being the Messiah. I felt as though I had known them for years; they were like old friends and although I was nervous at first, I felt very comfortable with them. They have become very dear friends of ours.
After we met with J. and Ja., they asked if we would want to do a Bible Study with them on Genesis. I agreed and we started going once a week. We read a chapter and then answered questions. Each question would tie together pieces of Genesis with other verses in the Bible. It was amazing to see how it all connected. After awhile though, I started feeling like I was forcing myself to do Bible Study. I felt like I was trying to please everyone else and knew I was doing Bible Study for the wrong reasons. I felt like I should want to be doing it, not forcing myself so we stopped altogether and I stopped reading anything even on my own.
I would occasionally go to Church with hubby and initially did not like the Church at all. In my mind I had this idea of what church should be like. I of course did not want to feel bad about myself when I went to church and that is how I would feel leaving that Church. I would tell hubby that and he would tell me that the reason I would feel bad was because I hadn’t accepted the truth. The words sinner, saved, unbeliever were words that made me uncomfortable. I always thought that God was a “good God” and that he loved all people and that all people would go to heaven. This was the god that I had made up in my mind. I didn’t like hearing that wasn’t the case. I would soon find out that the God in the Bible is a just, holy, righteous, all powerful God. The God of the Bible is loving and kind, pure and perfect, Holy, unchangeable, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, gracious, merciful, He forgives iniquity, rewards those who seek Him, and hates sin. All of these are attributes of God. We cannot pick and choose the ones we like best and ignore the others. God made us in His image (Genesis 1:27), and because He is holy, He wants us to be Holy. (1 Peter 1:15-16 “15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy."(Leviticus 11:44) We are not to make God in our image, what we think we want Him to be.
God does want everyone to go to Heaven: 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” But Deuteronomy 32:22 says, “For a fire has been kindled by my wrath, one that burns to the realm of death below. It will devour the earth and it’s harvests and set afire the foundations of the mountains.” And Psalm 9:17 says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."(Exodus 33:19) 16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.
After awhile I decided to start reading the Bible again on my own. I finished Genesis and moved onto Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and I am now in 1 Kings. I would occasionally pull out my Torah that I got at my Bat Mitzvah to use as a reference. I wanted to see if they both said the same things, told the same story, and sure enough, they do. Except one night, I was reading something in Isaiah about the Messiah and went to reference it in the Torah. I was reading from about Chapter 52 which in my Torah goes to 12 verses. In the Bible it goes to 15 and then into Chapter 53. The Torah has no Chapter 53 at all. I found this to be strange. The Torah goes onto Chapters 54 and 55, but then skips to 60. I found it especially interesting that verses 13 – 15 of Chapter 52 and all of Chapter 53 describe in detail the Messiah (Jesus Christ). (Edited to add that some Torah's do have Chapter 53.)
This led me to realize that the question is not necessarily, “Do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God,” but “Is the Bible the Word of God?” If I believed that the Old Testament was the Word of God, then I had to believe that the New Testament is the Word of God.
History and Accuracy of The Bible
I used to argue that the Bible was just a nice history book. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t. Maybe the people who wrote it changed the story to enhance or embellish what really happened. Who wrote the Bible and how do we know it is true? What proof is there that these things really happened and so on and so forth. Is there any evidence other than the Bible that Jesus really existed and that the events of His life actually happened?
-The Bible was printed in 1454 A.D. by Johannes Gutenberg who invented the "type mold" for the printing press. It was the first book ever printed.
-The Bible was written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek. (all languages that are still spoken in the world and can be understood)
-The Bible was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by over 40 different authors from all walks of life: shepherds, farmers, tent-makers, physicians, fishermen, priests, philosophers and kings. Despite these differences in occupation and the span of years it took to write it, the Bible is an extremely cohesive and unified book. (God's Word is perfectly related and interwined, each book depending on and relating to another)
-The entire New Testament as we know it today, was canonized before the year 375 A.D. The Old Testament had previously been canonized long before the advent of Christ. "Canon" is derived front the Greek word "Kanon," signifying a measuring rod. Thus, to have the Bible "canonized" meant that it had been measured by the standard or test of divine inspiration and authority. It became the collection of books or writings accepted by the apostles and leadership of the early Christian church as a basis for Christian belief. It is the standard by which all Christians throughout the ages live and worship.
-The Bible is the best selling book of all time. According to the British TIMES newspaper in 1996: "Forget modern British novelists and TV tie-ins, the Bible is the best-selling book every year. If sales of the Bible were included in best-seller lists, it would be a rare week when anything else would achieve a look in. It is wonderful, weird ... that in this godless age... this one book should go on selling, every month."
For example, the Bible reports that Jesus of Nazareth performed many miracles, was executed by the Romans, and rose from the dead. Numerous ancient historians corroborate the Bible's account of the life of Jesus and his followers:
-Cornelius Tacitus (A.D. 55-120), an historian of first-century Rome, is considered one of the most accurate historians of the ancient world. An excerpt from Tacitus tells us that the Roman emperor Nero "inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class...called Christians. ...Christus [Christ], from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus...."2
-Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, and Thallus also wrote about Christian worship and persecution that is consistent with New Testament accounts.
-Even the Jewish Talmud, certainly not biased toward Jesus, concurs about the major events of his life. From the Talmud, "we learn that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock, gathered disciples, made blasphemous claims about himself, and worked miracles, but these miracles are attributed to sorcery and not to God."
This is remarkable information considering that most ancient historians focused on political and military leaders, not on obscure rabbis from distant provinces of the Roman Empire. Yet ancient historians (Jews, Greeks and Romans) confirm the major events that are presented in the New Testament, even though they were not believers themselves.”
Interestingly our dates are still based on BC and AD-Why would the entire world base its dating system on “just a man named Jesus Christ” and thereby differentiate years by "Before Christ" and Anno "Domini"?
This chart shows the comparison of the New Testament to other ancient writings.
*McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), p. 55. -- http://www.everystudent.com/features/bible.html#arch
The Gospels, The Truth
The chart below shows some of the events that each Apostle wrote about.
God used the prophets in the Old Testament and the Apostles in the New Testament to give us His message through the Bible, the Word of God. God gave us the Bible so that we would have His written Word to guide our lives. The people of Israel had God himself to guide them and they still disobeyed Him. God then sent his Son down to earth in the form of Man, (in a form that we could understand), as an example of how He wanted us to live our lives. And God has given us the Word to always turn to for guidance.
8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
What about the Bible “getting lost in translation? This used to be one of my many arguments against Christianity and the Bible. Surely it lost some of its meaning being translated and passed along right? I was wrong.
For instance, we know the New Testament we have today is true to its original form because:
“The Holy Bible has been translated into 2,018 languages, with countless more partial translations, and audio translations (for unwritten languages). (This is an enormous amount of translations. In comparison, Shakespeare, considered by many to be the master writer of the English language, has only been translated into 50 languages.)” -- http://bibleresources.bible.com/afacts.php
Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a visiting professor at Oxford University, also comments: "In real terms, the New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the documents, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity."
The New Testament is humanity's most reliable ancient document. Its textual integrity is more certain than that of Plato's writings or Homer's Iliad. For a comparison of the New Testament to other ancient writings, click here.
The Old Testament has also been remarkably well preserved. Our modern translations are confirmed by a huge number of ancient manuscripts in both Hebrew and Greek, including the mid-20th century discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These scrolls hold the oldest existing fragments of almost all of the Old Testament books, dating from 150 B.C. The similarity of the Dead Sea manuscripts to hand copies made even 1,000 years later is proof of the care the ancient Hebrew scribes took in copying their scriptures.
Romans 10:17 “17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
Does God Exist?
“One question which inevitably comes up in a discussion of this nature is what is the origin of God? If God created matter/energy, and designed the systems that have propelled matter into its present arrangement, who or what accomplished that for God? Why is it any more reasonable to believe that God has always “been” than it is to say that matter has always “been”?” http://www.doesgodexist.org/
This page talks in detail about the scientific proof of the validity of God’s existence.
“The purpose of this booklet is to take a literal acceptance of what the Genesis record really says in the original language and compare it with the scientific evidence--the purpose being to see how closely they match.”
Does God Exist?
1. The complexity of our planet points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today. (example of the watch without a watch maker, nothing is made without a designer)
2. The human brain's complexity shows a higher intelligence behind it. (Could chance really create a human body that functions like ours, or a brain that functions so highly like ours?)
3. "Chance" or "natural causes" are insufficient explanations.
4. To state with certainty that there is no God, a person has to ignore the passion of an enormously vast number of people who are convinced that there is a God. (This is displayed in the radical life changes that are apparent in true believers)
5. We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him. (I know this personally now.)
6. Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God pursuing us. (He gave his only Son to die for us)
http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html (items in quotations are my comments)
Romans 1:18-20 says “18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
God has shown us in the things he has made (creation in Genesis) that he exists and that he is eternal and divine. This site has a great explanation in short detail on some of the amazing things that point to God’s existence.
There are so many things in this world that lead me to believe in God. The way women are made to have babies, the way certain animals in different parts of the world differ slightly to endure their environment. There are some amazing examples of God’s design in food. The average ear of corn has 800 kernels, arranged in 16 rows. There is one piece of silk for each kernel; Striped watermelons always have an even number of stripes; Citrus fruits always have an even number of sections. These are examples of God in existence, in all He created.
Some people try to explain creation without God. They call this the theory of evolution. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines theory as “1 A speculative plan 2 a formulation of underlying principles of certain observed phenomena which has been verified to some degree 3 the principles of an art or science rather than it’s practice 4 a conjecture; guess”
God is the ultimate designer. He is eternal and beyond anything our brains can fathom. To try and box him into our understanding and knowledge is a mistake. That would be making God in our image instead of the other way around.
Discovering My Sin
When I finally realized that I did believe in God and I did believe that the Bible is His Word, I then had some tough times ahead of me, for this is when I had to face my sin, something I had been avoiding for a long time. People call sin all kinds of things -- mistakes, unawareness, ignorance, circumstances. I called sin "normal" - everybody does it, right? Well, that part is true, everybody does it. Since Adam and Eve, we live in a fallen world. God gave Adam and Eve everything they needed, but Satan tempted them and caused them to sin, throwing us all into sinful lives. God says that even sin that is unintentional still has to be atoned for.
22 "Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses- 23 any of the LORD's commands to you through him, from the day the LORD gave them and continuing through the generations to come- 24 and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. 25 The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have brought to the LORD for their wrong an offering made by fire and a sin offering. 26 The whole Israelite community and the aliens living among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong. 27 'But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. 29 One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. 30 " 'But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. 31 Because he has despised the LORD's word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.' "
This implies that they would not have had to experience death had they not sinned against God. They would have had eternal life with God, but because they sinned, they were separated from God and condemned to death. God is righteous and He would not be righteous if He did not follow through with what He said He would do. Adam and Eve both eventually died as has every person since them. No one escapes it, no matter how rich, popular, good-looking, etc.
Romans 5:12-13 “12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.”
19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
Another example of God’s righteousness regarding sin is the fact that after God used Moses to lead the people of Israel all the way to the edge of the land that He had promised them, God did not allow Moses to enter due to what would seem to some to be an understandable moment of frustration, but to God was disobedience and failure to trust in Him In Numbers 20:7-8. “7The LORD said to Moses, 8Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.’”
In Numbers 20:9-11 Moses disobeys God. “9So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. 10He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" 11Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
Numbers 20:12 12But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
Because Moses hit the rock instead of speaking to it, and in doing so, disobeyed God, God would not allow Moses or Aaron to enter the land He had promised the Israelites because of their disobedience.
God has given us rules in a way that seems simple, The Ten Commandments, but when you really read each one and think about what each one really means, and what it means to obey each one, you see how we are sinful by nature because we cannot keep God’s Commandments. (The only Man to ever live a completely sinless life was Jesus Christ)
God prefaces the Ten Commandments with "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2) God is reminding the people that He is the one that brought them out of Egypt. God heard their cries for help and brought them out of Egypt. In return, God expected reverence and obedience. God gave us these Commandments so that we might honor him in our actions. The people had just left a land full of false gods and idols, so God addresses these issues first.
You shall have no other Gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. (Note: this is the only Commandment with a promise.)
You shall not murder.
As you can see, I have broken all Ten Commandments through out my life and continue to do so no matter how hard I try. I am thankful that God is a merciful God and that He has forgiven my sins through the death of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner and always will be, but I will strive to be more like Christ and the Lord will use trials and events in my life to make that happen. He will call me on my sin and force me to face it and turn from it.
Psalm 51:5 states,
“5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
We are sinful from the day we are conceived. It is our human nature. Adam and Eve’s sin caused us all to be sinners.
In the Old Testament, God spends countless verses explaining the different offerings that were to be given for each type of sin and the ways to act as a community. God lays out clearly how we should act and what to do when we sin. Offerings were very specific and all offerings of animals had to be unblemished. Offerings of all other things had to be the top portion, the best of the grain, etc. God’s system shows us that a life has to be taken for sin. Sacrifices were for worship and forgiveness of sin. There were five main offerings, Burnt Offerings, Grain Offerings, Fellowship Offerings, Sin Offerings, and Guilt Offerings. Leviticus 1-7 details the offerings and how they are to be performed. I imagine the people back then spent the majority of their time atoning for their sin by giving sacrifices or worshiping God.
All of the offerings in the Old Testament are a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ being the ultimate lamb, the ultimate sacrifice. Old Testament offerings had to be unblemished, Jesus led an unblemished life, a life without sin and He is the only human to have ever done this. God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins so that we would no longer have to make continuous offerings for our sins. God came down from heaven in the form of man (Jesus Christ) to atone for the sins of many. Hebrews 9:28 “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” John 3:16-17 “16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The ultimate offering has been made.
Isaiah 53(note this is the chapter I found to be missing from my Torah) in the Old Testament foreshadows the coming of Jesus (the Messiah) and what He would be like and how and why He would die.
Isaiah 53 (comments and emphasis mine)
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (he would not outwardly look like the Messiah; that would have made it easier to follow him because he “looked” like what a human mind would conjure a Messiah to be; remember God's ways are not our ways.)
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. (Jesus suffered greatly, was tested, but never faltered, never sinned) Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, (He died for our sins, God poured out his wrath against sin, all sins for all time for all people on His one and only Son so that we might have life, a life with God.) yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Jesus dying on the cross enabled God to forgive our sins, past, present and future.)
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Even during his crucifixion, Jesus did not speak against those that tortured him, in fact he prayed to God for them. Luke 34, “Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”)
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life (be raised from the dead) and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many (note it does not say all, for all will not choose to follow Him and believe in Him), and made intercession for the transgressors.
Hebrews 9:14 “14How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God. 15For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new Covenant that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 “8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.” (If we could get to heaven just by being good people or doing good things, where would the line be and what if someone changed their ways, would they be condemned for how they used to be or how they are now; the point is, none of us is perfect, can be perfect, etc, it's not possible, therefore we must accept this wonderful gift from God that is His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins)
Hebrews 10:12 “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.”
John 3:16-18 reads, “16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.”
“20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.' 22Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. (The new covenant or second covenant)
23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.”
Exodus 33:21- 23 “21 Then the LORD said, "There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen."
God wouldn’t even let Moses, said to be the second most humble man ever (next to Jesus) see His glory. Yet, Moses was so close to God, that when he came down from Mount Sinai, his face was so radiant it scared the people. (Exodus 34:29-30)
Jesus explains how we can have a relationship with God and the way in which that relationship is possible.
John 14: 6 “6Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (The only way to heaven is through faith in Christ, not by works or good deeds or being a good person)
The Holy Spirit works in my life
In the Old Testament, God put the Spirit of Himself into a person for a time or purpose, for example with Saul in 1 Samuel 10:10 “When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came about him in power and he joined them in prophesying.”
With the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is now in all of us if we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Holy Spirit will fill our hearts if we will open our hearts and allow that to happen.
“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
The Holy Spirit is not a vague, ethereal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son. He is considered to be the third member of the Godhead. Jesus said to His apostles...
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt. 28:18-20)
I truly know that the Holy Spirit has been working in me. For about 6 months to a year now I have been praying for God to show me the truth in regards to my beliefs, whatever the truth was. If that meant that I would become a Christian, then so be it. I put it in God’s hands and trusted Him enough to lead me where He wanted me to be. As I mentioned above, I did Bible Study for a little while, answering the questions “correctly”, but not really getting the whole truth out of what I was reading. When I truly let go and let God take over my life, that is when reading the Bible changed for me. I all of a sudden saw things clearly. Things that I had read before, but gotten nothing out of, now impacted me greatly. The words held different meaning, it was like I had been reading in a different language before and now I understood that language.
About 8 months ago I decided to go to Church with my husband one week. I don’t know why this week was any different than any other week, but I felt led to go. At Church they mentioned a ladies Bible Study that was coming up for the summer. I later mentioned to my husband that I thought I might like to go. These things came out of my mouth without me thinking about them really or realizing what I was doing. Why would I want to go to Bible Study?
I started ladies Bible Study at the beginning of June and missed only one all summer. We read a book called Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick that helped me to see the idols that I make for myself and the things we worship other than God. It was a great way for me to connect with other women who struggle with the same things I struggle with. It was also an eye opening experience to be around Christian women and learn that a)Christians really are that at peace and nice because they are believers and have the faith, b)are sinners just like me and struggle with many of the same things I struggle with and c)learn more about God and having a relationship with Him through these women and their experiences/struggles.
At the same time, I started going to Church every Wednesday evening. Where as before, the Pastor would rub me the wrong way with his preaching, now I was learning from it. It was touching my heart and teaching me things. I was then asked to volunteer at Vacation Bible School. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn along with the kids the story of Jonah. I learned more than the kids I think.
Then I decided I would start going on Sunday mornings as well as Wednesdays. So now I was going to Church Wednesday nights, Friday mornings for Bible Study and Sundays. Before, I never wanted to go to Church because it took up my free time. Before, the words sinner, unbeliever, and saved made my skin crawl. All of a sudden, my heart had been changed and it can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit working in my heart to show me the truth. I know that sounds far fetched, but it is the only way I can explain it. All of those decisions regarding going to Church were made without thought, without intent, without my husband encouraging me to do so. Nothing in my life had changed, yet everything in my life had changed.
This summer I was having an issue in my life and wanted some counseling on it. I knew that I wanted Biblical counseling because that is now where I get my guidance. I met with the Pastor from the church and he gave me some wonderful advice. I discussed with him some of my lingering questions about Jesus and his explanation seemed to clear up the last bit of doubt in my mind. After that point, I knew that I had become a Christian, a believer. I know that God created this world, including me. I know that God sent His only Son to earth to teach the world how to live a holy life and to die so that our sins would be forgiven. I know that Jesus rose from the dead to prove that He was truly the Son of God. I know that The Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17 -- 16All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.) and that the Lord gave us The Bible as an instruction manual on how to live our lives, as a history to remind us of His promises and His righteousness, His Holiness, His expectations. I know these things in my heart.
Before I became a believer, I had many misconceptions about Christianity. I thought that Christians were zealots, overly strict, stifled by the rules of some “book.” What I have found about being a Christian is that it is the most freeing experience I have ever had. I have had such peace in my life since June 20th when I became a believer. I know that my life will not always be easy, but I can always be thankful for what happens because I know that God has a plan for me and that His plan is good and that any trials He gives me are a direct result of my sin and are to be used to conform me more to the image of His Son.
“4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
11In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.”
This transformation was not an easy one. At times, I struggled immensely with pride, with letting go of the person I had worked so hard to become. With letting go of my selfish desires, with facing the fact that I am a sinner and that I do need a Savior. I had to fight against everything I had ever known. We cannot do this without the help of the Lord, but with His strength all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 -- Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
I am so thankful to God that He led me to this place in my life and I look forward to the ways in which I can live my life to glorify Him. I cannot tell you how much peace this decision has brought to my life. I am not saying that I don’t have hard times or that I don’t struggle daily, but I have peace that all things are in God’s plan and that His plan is good and that I should be thankful in all things (1Thessalonians 5:16-18 “16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”). This gives me peace. I also have strength in prayer now. Knowing that I am not alone, that God is with me at all times, helps build me up in times of need.