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    Mar 09, 2016

    Class 5: What Is a Christian? (Part 1)

    Series: Explaining Christianity

    Category: Core Seminars, Sin, Faith, Repentance, The Gospel



    • This class is for Christians and non-Christians….
    • What is a Christian? To put it another way, how would you complete the following sentence? “A Christian is someone who…”
    • To complete this sentence the way Jesus would, we need to understand what he thinks a Christian is.  And that is the purpose of these last two studies.  With the framework of the first four weeks in place, we want to spend the last two weeks learning what it means to be a Christian.  For by learning what a Christian is, we will understand just what is involved in becoming a Christian, and what isn’t.


    Review [NOTE TO TEACHER: select elements to review based on individuals in class]

    • Jesus: Authority…
      • Teacher (taught as one with authority, not as teachers of the Law (1:22))
      • Evil spirits (evil spirits recognize Christ as Holy one of God capable of driving them out – as occurred in the synagogue in Capernaum (1:26))
      • Forgive sin (2:1-12)
      • Sickness (heals paralytic by His word!(2:11))
      • Nature (calms storm in Sea of Galilee, again by His word. (4:35-41))
      • Death (raises daughter of Jairus (5:21-43))
      • People (calls Simon and Andrew (1:16-20))
    • Q: Crucifixion: How do you define sin?
      • Sin = An attitude of rebellion against God in thought, word or deed.  It involves a failure to conform to and a breaking of the moral law of God. We don’t do the things we should do and we do the things we ought not to do.
      • Substitute
      • Tearing of Temple Curtain (Mark 15:38-39) à removal of separation between God/man
      • Jesus Paid Our Ransom (Mark 10:45)
    • Resurrection
      • Validated claims. Demonstrated divinity and power.
      • “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile: you are still in your sins.  Then those also who have died in Christ are lost.  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”  (Corinthians)
      • Victory over sin and death (Sin is dealt with completely; God’s wrath has been fully exhausted; “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4)
      • Those who believe in him are united to him and therefore have been/will be resurrected.
    • Q: Salvation by Grace: What is our case before God?
      • Works – Do, Faith – Done
      • It’s not that we’re sinners because we sin. It’s that we sin because we are sinners (repeat).
      • “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)
      • “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.” (Eph 2:8-9).
      • “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:19-24).
      • God’s standard is 100% perfection, and the only hope we have is found not in our own works but in Christ – his divine authority, substitutionary death and resurrection.
      • So we've learned that:
        1. All are guilty of sin and God will judge everyone
        2. Christ died as our substitute taking on God's punishment in our place
        3. This salvation is God's gift
        4. But what do we do to receive this salvation?  How can this substitution apply to us?


    What is a Christian? (Mark 1:15)

    • Q: If someone were to ask the question we opened with – what is a Christian – what might you expect to hear as an answer?
    • So to return to our original question – “What is a Christian?” – we look to Jesus’ very first words in the book of Mark.  Chapter 1, verse 15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
      • Christian = someone who belongs to the kingdom of God = First, it means that we repent of our sins, and second - believe the “gospel”—which simply means “good news.”
    • For the rest of this morning we will focus on what it means to “repent”.  Next week we’ll think about “believe.”



    • We saw Jesus’ command to repent and believe.  Let’s now look to the book of Acts where we see Jesus’ followers, Peter and Paul, preaching to crowds and calling for repentance to see what we might learn about what repentance looks like.  As we read the passages, jot down notes and afterwards I’ll ask what you noticed about repentance from the passages.
      • Acts 3:19: Peter told an on-looking crowd “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”
      • Acts 26:20: Paul describes his ministry – “[I declared] that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”
      • Luke 13:3: Jesus warned, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
      • 2 Cor 7:10:  “Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereasworldly grief produces death..”
    • Q: What do we learn about repentance? (underlined above)
    • Common misconceptions: Being sorry / is it a feeling, an emotion - Child caught with hand in cookie jar
      • Fear of punishment not remorse over wrong
      • “I’ll do the dishes all week” à This is penance, not repentance – as if an unrelated good deed will make up for or cover the bad thing done
    • Real repentance #1: True and deep remorse for having offended God:  We need to recognize that repentance presumes sin
      • If we don’t understand ourselves as sinful people, then we won’t understand our need to repent.  We’ll have nothing to repent of. 
      • Remember the spiritual picture we have of ourselves from week 2 is that we are in bondage to sin, we’re in shackles and chains, helpless in our sin before a God who hates sin and will judge it accordingly.  We need Christ to ransom us, set us free from the penalty of sin.  And this requires us to put Him first.
      • One who is truly repentant does not try and excuse or justify his error, but rather recognizes the wrong, tries to make restitution, and turns away from it.  This means that repentance is not the same thing as just feeling bad or guilty.  Repentance may include these emotions, but it is more than that.  We can feel guilty, yet not want to turn from the wrong and trust in God. 
    • Real repentance #2: True repentance isn’t guilt or sacrifice, but a turning from sin and surrendering to the God-given right of Jesus to be our King.  Put simply, repentance is to put Christ first in all aspects of our lives.
      • 1 Thess 1:9b-10: “They themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”
      • The Thessalonian Christians had not just felt guilty about their former way of life. They had turned from that former life in order to serve Christ, to put him first.
    • Westminster Shorter Catechism describes repentance like this [written in HANDOUT]:
      • Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, does, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it to God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”
    • Though a true Christian will always fight sin, we will not be sinless
      • “The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that the one has sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.” (William Arnot)
    • For the remainder of the class we will talk about what it looks like to put Christ first in our lives.  We'll look at this in 5 different ways as you see on your handout.


    • READ Mark 8:34-38.  After each section we'll consider what the passage teaches about putting Christ first.


    Repentance – Putting Christ First… Before My Will (Mark 8:34-35)

    • READ Mark 8:34-35
    • Q: So what does this passage teach us about what it means to put Christ first?
      • “Denying of self” lies at the heart of biblical repentance.  In practical terms, you repent when you acknowledge that you are a sinner and resolve to put not yourself, but Christ first.
      • In denying ourselves, taking up our own cross, and losing our life to save it, Jesus is saying we must give up – or die to – the right to run our own lives.  We must put Christ first, before our own will.  In repentance, His will comes before MY WILL [that's what you could put in the blank on your handout].
    • House Illustration: buying a new home
      • Move-in day: happens only once
        • When we become Christians, God sends his spirit, which the Bible calls the Holy Spirit, to live within us and gives us the grace to repent and surrender to Jesus Christ.  This happens genuinely only once, even if you cannot specify the exact day on which it took place.  We call this the “new birth”, or regeneration.  Think of this as “move-in” day.
      • Renovation and redecoration: progressive work that never ceases
        • However, in our house we have many rooms that represent various aspects of our life such as family, job, ambition, leisure, money, marriage, sexuality, etc. 
        • The Holy Spirit is not content to remain in the entry-way.  Once he has entered my life, he will want to change me into his image of what I should be like.  This does not happen all at once. It is a progressive or gradual work, like renovating a house.  We call this new life, this transformation to be less like we used to be and more like Christ – sanctification.
    • Summary
      • When I become a Christian à I must be willing for Jesus to become Lord of all.  This willingness is the beginning of repentance.  What this means in practice will be worked out progressively as I grow in this new life, by his Spirit.
      • When we repent, we turn from sin and surrender our lives, and our willto the God-given right of Jesus to be our King.


    Repentance – Putting Christ First… Before my Ambitions (Mark 8:36-37)

    • Let’s now focus on the next two verses in Mark, verses 36-37.
    • Q: So what does this passage teach us about what it means to put Christ first?
      • Putting Christ first = place Him before our AMBITION.
      • Throughout history people have been laboring to gain the whole world.  To a small or large degree, the aim is to accumulate power, money, popularity, pleasure, prestige, business success, etc. 
      • Are we, any different? 
      • These things are not wrong in and of themselves.  For example, there is nothing inherently wrong with money.  Money can be a very good thing.  But if we lust after it, if we allow it to become our master, then we are no longer putting Christ first in our lives. 
      • 1 Tim 6:10: That’s why the Bible says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
    • Summary
    • When we put Christ first, we’re putting him before our will, and our worldly ambitions.  It’s not to say that our ambitions are wrong in and of themselves, or having them is wrong, but it is to say that they must not be our King and ruler above Christ.


    Repentance – Putting Christ First… Before my Reputation (Mark 8:38)

    • Let’s now turn to the final verse in this passage.
    • Q: So what does this passage teach us about what it means to put Christ first?
      • In this passage Jesus clearly warns those who would place their own reputation before Christ.  In repentance, we’re called to put Christ first, before our REPUTATION.
    • Putting Christ first is not always popular
      • Sometimes putting Jesus first isn’t easy.  In verse 34, Jesus says that we must take up our cross and follow him.  At times, we must take up the burden of being a Christian if we are going to be faithful, and it is not always popular to follow Jesus sincerely.  One author has put it well, “Either we are unfaithful in order to be popular, or we will look unpopular in order to be faithful.  We can’t be both.” (John Stott)
    • No secret disciple
      • We must not be ashamed of Jesus in this life, no matter how difficult it may be - even if it means ridicule from family and friends who disapprove of our faith.  There is no such thing as a secret disciple. We are called to publicly follow Christ in obedience and live a new life.


    • Summary of Mark 8:34-38: So to summarize this entire passage, to put Christ first is to put him before our will, our ambition, and our reputation.  That’s not all that repentance involves, but these are fundamental components of putting Christ first in all things.  Those ruled by sin, according to its very nature, look first to self.  Christians look first to Christ.


    Repentance – Putting Christ First… Before My Pride (Mark 9:43-48)

    • READ Mark 9:43-48
    • Q: So what does this passage teach us about what it means to put Christ first?
      • Heaven and Hell
        • One thing that is jarringly obvious is that Christ believes in a literal and eternal hell. 
        • Fear of this hopeless place ought to be so great that we take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that we rid ourselves of those things that hinder us from surrendering to Christ. 
        • Jesus does not mean that we are to literally cut off body parts; but he is emphasizing the importance of radical surgery to remove sin from our lives
      • Often, reluctance to submit to God is caused by our PRIDE.
        • Are you too proud to accept salvation as a gift?
        • Proverbs 16:18: The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
        • Are you too proud to submit to Jesus Christ as King?  Do you trust that on your own merit, apart from Christ, God will look at you favorably and say, “Well done good and faithful servant?”  This verse is intended to unsettle us, as is Jesus’ image from Mark 9.  Do not let your own pride be the cause of your destruction.

    Repentance – Putting Christ First… Even When it Seems Too Hard (Mark 10:29-31)

    • At this point you may be thinking, “All of this is just too hard.  All this talk of submission, of denying self, it’s too difficult.”
    • READ Mark 10:29-31: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’”
    • Jesus doesn’t promise that the Christian life will be easy and trouble free. 
      • Christianity isn’t a crutch.  In fact, we are promised in scripture that with Christ comes persecution.
      • So, where’s the good news of this gospel? Well, consider the promises Jesus makes: (1) he will repay us “a hundred times” for hardships, and (2) in the next life, he will give us eternal life. What a beautiful promise!  That we would be considered worthy of suffering, if need be, for the name of Christ, and that for our devotion and trust in Jesus God would grant us eternal life in heaven with Him!
    • Jesus told a story about what it looks like to give up everything for him.
      • “’The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.’” (Matt 13:44)
      • We never give up things for Jesus simply to give them up.  We give them up to take hold of what is far better.  That’s why this man sells everything he has with joy!  For him, selling everything is the only economically rational thing he can do—because what he gets (the treasure) is worth so much more than what he gives up.
      • It’s like carrying some old rags and having to drop them so someone can hand you a baby.  You’ve got no problem with that, do you?
      • Teacher: tell the class some of what you’ve taken hold of by giving up everything for Jesus.
    • Q: Any questions?



    • We began with asking the question, “What is a Christian?” We learned this morning that, according to the words of Christ himself in Mark 1:15, the first part of the answer is:  A Christian is someone who has repented of their sins.
    • This repentance involves putting Christ first as we:
    1. Turn (from sin)
    2. Trust (in Jesus) and…
    3. Obey (Him)
    • The question Jesus puts before you is, “Will you serve Me first?” 
      • Consider this final promise of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt. 11:28-29)
    • So will you put Christ first?



    �I)ai0���ri","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-family:Calibri'> we see that Jesus has been appointed by God to act as judge over the living and the dead.  We are not simply free agents on this earth.  Someday we will give an account to God for our lives. 

    • Romans 2:6 states that, “He will render to each one according to his works.” In this day and age we can be so focused on the here and now.  We avoid talking about death and remove it as far from our lives as possible. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ challenges us to consider our own death, because death is not the end. All of us will be judged by Jesus.

    o   All people will be divided into two groups

        • *Mark 8:38 reads, “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

    §  *Acts 10:43 - “Everyone who believes” implies there are some who believe and some who do not believe.  Once judged by Jesus, people will be divided into two groups: (1) those who believe in Jesus now and are forgiven at judgment, and (2) those who reject Jesus now and will be rejected by Jesus at judgment.

    o   The division is forever

    §  In the Bible there is no concept of a second chance after death.  Hebrews 9:27 says, “just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”

    §  Matthew 25:32-46 – Jesus teaches: “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.… Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels… And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    o   The life we have now is our one and only opportunity to believe in Jesus.  Know that your attitude to Jesus in this life is the same as His attitude to you in the next.  If you accept Him now, He will accept you then.  If you reject Him now, He will reject you then.


    • Clearly, the resurrection has tremendous significance for it ensures that; (1) we will be raised, (2) we will then be judged by Jesus, (3) we will be separated into either the wicked, or the righteous, and (4) that division is eternal.
    • When Christ rose from the dead, God the Father was in effect saying that he accepted Christ’s work of suffering and dying for our sins, that his work was completed, and that Christ no longer had any need to remain dead.  There was no penalty left to pay for sin, no more wrath of God to bear, no more guilt or liability to punish – all had been completely paid for, and no guilt remained.
    • So in the resurrection, Christ is victorious over sin.  He conquered sin and death on the cross so that we who repent of our sin and trust in him are forgiven and will receive eternal life.
    • So there is the final pillar of the Christian faith: (1) Jesus is the Son of God, (2) Jesus substituted himself for our sins by dying on the cross, and (3) Jesus got up from the dead to declare victory over sin and to be the judge of the world.
    • Any questions?


    • Romans 6:6-9 – “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.”