Tag Archives: Before & After

“After you’ve been a Christian a while” Bible Study

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Background Information

An issue that often arises in the mind of middle school students who were baptized at a young age is whether their decision “counted.” What tends to happen is that students get baptized somewhere between the ages of 6 and 10. Then, somewhere in their middle school years, they begin to wrestle with the assurance of their salvation. This may occur due to the emotions fueled by a camp or a retreat or an impassioned sermon. Sometimes students feel that they were pressured into making the decision or question whether they truly believed in Christ at the time. And other times, the question comes out of the guilt that comes from not living a God-honoring life. However the question arises in the heart or the mind of the student, the solution for them tends to be rebaptism.

There are a few biblical sources that can help us understand that this is not necessarily the action step that needs to be taken. Paul tells us at Ephesians 4:5 that there is only one baptism. Peter tells us at 1 Peter 3:21 that baptism is a plea to God for a good conscience. In baptism, a person is regenerated into a new creation, adopted into the family of Christ, given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and forgiven of all of their sins. All of this happens in the one baptism, so there is no need for a second baptism. Peter also tells us at Acts 2:38 that baptism is always accompanied by faith, so the only time that rebaptism might be necessary is if faith where not involved (such as in the case of an infant baptism).

When middle school students begin to understand that their baptism is the point at which their sins were forgiven (all of them), they can be assured that their salvation is secure. The only time in a person’s life that salvation is not assured is when faith in Christ is not present. So what might be a necessary action step? Well, for some it may just to be to cling to the memory of their baptism as the landmark of their salvation. For others it may be a rededication in their heart to follow Jesus in all aspects of their life. This Reading Guide will help your students understand what to refocus on in times when they feel far from God and unsure of their standing before him.

 

 

Reading Guide

Day 1: Hebrews 6 (K. V.: 1 – 8)

Day 2: Revelation 2 (K. V.: 1 – 5)

Day 3: Matthew 25 (K. V.: 35 – 40)

 

 

Questions to generate discussion

  • Have you ever questioned whether you were truly saved?
  • How can we know that we are truly saved?
  • What are some things that we can do to refocus our life on God?
  • Why do you think that Paul tells us that we only need to be baptized once?
  • How does being assured of your salvation change your perspective?

 

 

Action Step

Write a letter to yourself this week telling yourself why you can be sure that you are truly saved. Read it anytime you question your standing before God.

“After becoming a Christian” Bible Study

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Background Information

            The life of a typical middle school student is primarily about determining identity in the midst of constant change. Middle school students experience a great deal of physical and emotional change, but deeply desire to know who they are and where they fit into this world. For a lot of middle school students, their identity is shaped by other students. What they say about them and where they say they fit in. But the great thing about placing your faith in Christ is that your identity is no longer defined by other people, but it is defined by Christ. This week’s Reading Guide is all about who a person is after they put their faith in Christ and are baptized.

The life of a Christian is a life of love. Whereas, most middle school students are focused inwardly on who they are, Christ calls us to look outwardly at how we can impact the lives of others with his truth and grace. When your middle school students begin to understand their identity in Christ, they will begin to be able to impact their schools and their neighborhoods with the gospel. Their identity in Christ is four-fold. The primary identity is the family of Christ that they become a part of. Many middle school students feel alone. They feel like they are weird and that there is nobody else like them. However, once they place their hope in Christ, they become part of a family in which they belong.

Secondarily, their identity is also that of a disciple, a servant, and a missionary. Even though middle school students are young, they still have an opportunity to make a difference in the kingdom of God. They can follow Christ by serving them and treating them with Christ-like love in order to lead them into a relationship with him. Middle school students have the opportunity to influence other middle school students in their school and their neighborhood and to build community with other middle school believers through a small group. In a small group, middle school students are able to build community around a shared faith in Christ and encourage one another to continue to follow Christ, serve others, and lead others to Christ.

 

 

Reading Guide

Day 1: Ephesians 4 (K. V.: 11 – 16)

Day 2: Colossians 3 (K. V.: 12 – 17)

Day 3: 1 Thessalonians 5 (K. V.: 15 – 23)

 

 

Questions to generate discussion

  • As a middle school student, how can you follow Jesus in your school and neighborhood?
  • How is living a Christian life different than living the life of a typical middle school student?
  • How can you influence your friends to follow Christ?
  • How is it difficult to follow Christ as a middle school student?
  • How can being in a small group help you follow Christ?

 

 

Action Step

Plan a service project with your small group that will impact other middle school students.

 

Printable PDF Version

 

Relevant Links

Week 1 Bible Study

Parent Resources

Series Summary

Before & After Parent Resources

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Sermon Series: Before & After

January 4/5: Before Becoming a Christian

January 11/12: After Becoming a Christian

January 19/25: After You’ve been a Christian for a While

 

Parent Resources

This series is essentially about the spiritual journey of the believer. A person starts out without a relationship with Jesus and then they come to a pivotal moment in their life when they are introduced to him. At this point, they have a choice to make of either accepting the claims Jesus made or rejecting them. If the person accepts them and accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they embark on a lifelong spiritual journey of becoming more and more like him. Choose resources depending on where your student is on his or her spiritual journey. Some resources will be helpful for students that are in the “before” stage of their spiritual walk and other resources will be helpful for students in the “after” stage.

 

Books

Before Books:

Answers to Tough Questions  by Josh McDowell

Set Free!: What the Bible Says About Grace by Jack Cottrell

The Case for Christ  by Lee Strobel

The Reason for God by Tim Keller (advanced)

Why Does God Allow Suffering and Evil? By John Ankerberg & Dillon Burroughs

After Books:

            Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson

The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer

Knowing God by J. I. Packer

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Radical by David Platt

 

 

 

 

Articles

Before Articles:

            Tons of answers to tough questions that are hang ups for people before putting their faith in Christ.

Lists arguments in favor of the truth of Christianity

Ultimately, the power behind grace is what convinces us all that Jesus is who he said he was.

After Articles

An article by Dallas Willard about what true discipleship is.

C. S. Lewis’s thoughts on discipleship

Following Jesus requires all of us.

 

 

Blog to Follow

Man of Depravity

Here are some great posts to read:

 

 

Sermons to Listen To

Preached by Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

Great sermon by Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York about the exclusivity of Christianity. For those whose hang up is that all religions must have validity.

Sermon series from Savannah Christian Church about spiritual growth.

“Before becoming a Christian” Bible Study

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Big Idea: Jesus is bigger than our “hang-ups”

Background Information

            Statistics show that if a person does not accept Christ by the age of 13, it is unlikely that person ever will. It is so important to have intentional conversations with middle school students about putting their faith in Jesus. For most middle school students, the thought of putting their faith in Jesus Christ sounds foreign and has not likely crossed their mind. In order for them to put their faith in Jesus, they must understand what that means and what that looks like. A good illustration to use is the Law of the Pendulum, which states that when a pendulum is dropped from a specific height, it will never return that height again. So if a pendulum is dropped from five feet off the ground, it will swing out and when it swings back, it will only reach 4 feet 11 inches at its highest point.

If someone were to tell you this law and ask if you believed it, you may take a step back and think about it for a second. Maybe you would think about how trustworthy or intelligent this person is that is telling you. You may look it up in a science textbook or on the internet. You might even seek out science experts to find out if this law was actually true. And at the end of it all, you may come to the conclusion that you do in fact believe that the Law of the Pendulum is true. Now imagine that this person attached a very sharp blade that could cut a person in half to the end of a pendulum and brought that blade right up to your nose. Then that person dropped it and let it swing out. Now while that pendulum is swinging back toward your face, the moment of truth arrives and what you truly believe will be revealed. You will either stand there confident that you will not get hurt or you will jump out of the way.

Similarly, putting your faith in Jesus means that you do believe that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for your sins. But saying that you believe or agreeing in your mind that it is true is not enough. The moment of truth that reveals what you believe is your actions. Faith is more than saying you believe that Jesus died for your sins. It is repenting and being baptized. 1 Peter 3:21 says that in baptism, we ask God to give us a pure conscience. In baptism, our sins are forgiven because it is an act of faith. Most middle school students are still in the “Before” stage of their spiritual walk. It is important to use this week’s reading guide to help your middle school students what baptism means for them and their faith in Christ.

 

Reading Guide

Day 1: Acts 2 (Key Verses: 37 – 41)

One hang-up that a student might face is that they do not know what steps to take to follow Christ. This chapter helps us know what steps to take by seeing what steps other people took.

Day 2: Romans 6 (K. V.: 1 – 6)

Day 3: Ephesians 1 (K. V.: 7 – 14)

These two chapters are beautiful descriptions of what the “After” looks like. When we make the decision to follow Christ, we are declared righteous, adopted into Christ’s family, and we become heirs to all the riches of heaven.

 

Questions to generate discussion

  • Name some things that you know to be true.
  • How do you know they are true?
  • What are some things about Jesus or the Bible that you struggle with believing to be true?
  • How are saying something is true and acting like something is true different?

 

Action Step

Try to think of some things that you say that you believe, but do not act like you believe and ask yourself if you truly believe them to be true.

 

Relevant Links

Before & After

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Sermon Series: Before & After

January 4/5: Before you become a Christian

January 11/12: After you become a Christian

January 18/19: After you’ve been a Christian for a while

  

Sermon Descriptions

The ancient Greeks had two different words to describe time. The word chronos is where we derive our word chronology. This Greek word referred to chronological time. If you wanted to ask someone what time it was, you would have used this word. However, the other word for time was kairos. A more appropriate English translation of this word might be season or opportunity. This word refers to an indefinite, but distinctive period of time. It is a significant moment in time. It is an opportunity. It is a crossroads in your life that will define your future.

There are moments in time that split life into two categories: Before & After. Suddenly, a person’s life is divided between the time before the event and the time after the event. Sometimes, the Before can be romanticized and viewed as a time of utopian bliss, whereas the After is considered a time of unrivaled despair. A child may refer to the time “before the divorce,” or “before the big move.” The Before was awesome and the After is viewed as terrible. Other times, it may be the complete opposite. You may say, “Things are looking up ‘after the promotion,’ or ‘after the cancer went into remission.’” In our student ministry, we call these “kairos” moments, “pivotal circumstances.” Something happens, a decision is made, and our life goes one of two ways. These pivotal circumstances are opportunities for us to either become better or to become bitter.

There is no bigger pivotal circumstance than when a person comes face to face with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The moment the gospel is presented, the person stands at a crossroads. They are given an opportunity for a life-dividing kairos moment. They can either reject the notion that Jesus died for their sins or they can accept it and instantaneously partition their life into Before & After. This series is based on this idea.

Before you become a Christian: For all Christians, part of our life is defined as “Before Christ” and part of our life is defined as “After Christ.” Even if we put our faith in Jesus at a young age, we lived part of our life apart from Christ. The Bible is very clear that a person must have faith in Jesus in order to become a Christian. But what exactly does it mean to have faith? Is it simply agreeing that it is true or is it something more? What barriers do we face when it comes to putting our faith in Christ? These questions will be addressed in this sermon. Our hope is that barriers will be torn down and questions will be answered for those students who have not yet put their faith in Christ.

After you become a Christian: So, you’ve decided that you believe all this Jesus stuff and you were baptized. What now? Is that it or is there something more? What does this whole Jesus life look like? There are a bunch of new Christians that do not know what they are supposed to be doing or what Jesus asks of them after they give their life to him. What does it mean to be a disciple, a servant, or a missionary? All these questions and more will be answered for new Christians in our student ministry.

After you’ve been a Christian for a while: We become a Christian and we experience a spiritual high. Everything is new and exciting and we make all these big promises about how everything is going to be different, but then life happens and we fall back into the same person that we were before we became a Christian. What do we do when we become a Christian and the spiritual high fades and sin still hangs around? What do we do when we want that fire and passion back that we once had? Many students think that since that first happened when they were baptized, they need to be baptized again to get it back. But that isn’t the purpose of baptism. That misconception and many others will be cleared up in this teaching.

 

Around the Dinner Table

When students express a desire to be baptized or begin asking questions about it or other aspects of the Bible, the parents’ first instinct is often to send them to a student minister, mostly because they feel unequipped to handle these situations. While we love talking to students about Jesus and helping them develop a firm grasp on their faith and their understanding of Scripture, we also want you, as parents, to feel more than adequately equipped to handle any questions that your student might pose.

On the flip side of that, there are instances that a student may be interested in baptism or have questions about it, but they do not come to you for answers. This may be due to their inability to specifically articulate the thoughts bouncing around in their minds or that they feel that their parents are not the right person to discuss this particular topic with. Because of our desire to help you create “kairos” opportunities with your student, we have provided a veritable treasure trove of resources to empower you to start conversations about the questions they may have about becoming a Christian and what it means to be a disciple.

One of the resources that we are providing is a study guide that correlates with our Sunday morning teaching. You and your student can do this weekly study together and have a conversation around the dinner table. Make an effort once a week to have dinner as a family and ask your student these three questions:

  • What did you read?
  • What did you learn?
  • What are you going to do about it?

Each week, a Reading Guide will be provided in each study, but here is the Reading Guide for quick reference:

Before becoming a Christian:

Day 1: Acts 2 (Key Verses: 37 – 41)

Day 2: Romans 6 (K. V.: 1 – 6)

Day 3: Ephesians 1 (K. V.: 7 – 14)

 

After becoming a Christian:

Day 1: Ephesians 4 (K. V.: 11 – 16)

Day 2: Colossians 3 (K. V.: 12 – 17)

Day 3: 1 Thessalonians 5 (K. V.: 15 – 23)

 

After you’ve been a Christian for a while:

Day 1: Hebrews 6 (K. V.: 1 – 8)

Day 2: Revelation 2 (K. V.: 1 – 5)

Day 3: Matthew 25 (K. V.: 35 – 40)

 

 

Scripture Memorization

As a family, memorize this verse and recite it to one another periodically throughout this series:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1

 

Monthly Action Step

Tell your student your personal spiritual journey. Include the “Before” and the “After” and clue them in on your own thought process and what ultimately brought you to make your decision for Christ. If you have not made that decision yet, talk to your student about the hang-ups about that decision. Chances are, they are dealing with similar hang-ups.

 

 

Word of Encouragement

A great book for parents of middle and high school students is And Then I Had Teenagers by Susan Alexander Yates. (Recently available on Amazon for a penny) Here are a few excerpts from Chapter 8, entitled “Encouraging Your Teen’s Faith”:

A wise parent will understand that the teen years are a time of decision in the area of faith. Is it my faith or theirs? Will they own their own faith? We won’t really know the answer until they have left home. And it may take longer than we want… Now we have to shift from predominately parental influence to utilizing positive peer pressure and we have to shift from direct teaching to personal sharing… A wise parent will take advantage of the importance of peers. Teens need peer relationships. As our kids approach their teen years, it’s easy for us as parents to fear the influence of “those other kids” and to resent their power. We want to pull back as a family, to protect our child, to protect our “family’s faith.” This can be a mistake. Instead of withdrawing, we need to encourage our teen to pursue relationships with other kids who are seeking to follow Christ.

This is great advice and a great reason to encourage your students to get involved in a Life Group. To find out more about that visit: http://necchurch.org/middleschoollifegroups