The Bible uses two terms to describe what happens when people say Yes to God and join His family. This experience, which was explained earlier, is being born again. New Christians are part of God's family just as certainly as they are part of their earthly parents' family. He is their Father, and they are His children. (See John 3:3-8.) The other term used to describe this relationship is adoption. Even though all humans are born in a condition that inevitably leads to death, Christians are adopted into God's family and given all the inheritance rights of God's Son. Because Jesus rose from the dead, those who trust in Him will, too. Because Christians are part of God's family, they can feel completely secure. He will not disown them or rewrite His will. He has promised to be faithful to His children, and God always keeps His promises. As children of God, Christians can have power to follow Jesus even when the way is hard, power to make Jesus known to others, power to love and to serve. His children also have hope. No longer will they fear that death will ruin their plans and destroy their relationships. Instead, they have confidence that God will raise them to life in a new world where all is life and peace and joy.
Since Christians have opened the door to Christ and have come home to God, they have acquired a new set of spiritual brothers and sisters-God's other children on earth. It is important for God's family to meet together regularly. As God's church with God's power, we can expect miracles.
People begin life in God's family just as they began it in their parents' family — as babies. Baby Christians need to be nurtured, protected, taught, and loved, and the church is the best place for them to gain the support they need to grow tall and strong.
Baby Christians need rich nourishment, and no source is better than God's Word. The Bible, a collection of 66 books, is a portable library that contains enough nourishment for several lifetimes of rapid growth.
To help you grow in this new life, here are some suggestions.
You will still have many questions as you begin your new life with God and His family of believers, but now you know the One who has the answers.
For a complimentary copy of the Gospel of John, visit www.pocketpower.org.
Solid biblical teaching is a must when deciding which church to attend. After that, consider what other characteristics you're looking for in a church or other spiritual community (check all that apply):
___ positive spiritual, moral and social training for my child
___ a broader network of potential friends in my community
___ local resources to strengthen my marriage
___ local resources to enrich our family
___ pastoral encouragement and support
___ opportunities for service
What else are you looking for?
What would you say are the two most important things you're looking for?
Anyone can have a bad church experience. Just ask Colleen and Eric.
At first, Colleen and Eric felt great about the church they attended. After all, that's where they had met, were married, and had started raising their family.
At that point in their lives, Colleen and Eric weren't really searching for God — just the acceptance of a group of peers. So when they started noticing the church leadership's apparent contradictions and deception, they kept quiet. What they didn't know for several years: their church was part of a now-discredited cult.
After Colleen and Eric left the cult, pain, guilt, and doubts plagued them. The experience "caused me to question my own ability to see the truth," Colleen says. "I had guilt for seeing red flags along the way, but not doing anything about it. You ask God for forgiveness and He gives it, but it's hard to forgive yourself. I felt cheated, like I had wasted all those years."
Within a year, however, Colleen and Eric joined the Vista Del Sol church in El Paso, Texas, and began the second religious journey of their life — this time in a healthy church environment.
Colleen's desire to be accepted was met — this time in a positive environment. "We felt genuinely loved by everyone," she says. "Walter Muller [the pastor] embraced us and loved us. I think his Austrian background made him have a heart for people who were a little different."
Despite the guilt that Colleen felt from being in a cult, she wouldn't change her past. Why? God has allowed her to share her story with and assist others who have had bad church experiences.
You don't have to join a cult to have a bad church experience.
Approximately 22 million Americans say they are Christians and made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, and say that commitment is still important to them, but they have struggled with faith or relational issues and therefore quit going to church.
Tens of thousands more will join their ranks this week.
Like a safe harbor, local churches can be a second home for many people.
Sadly, churches also can be the setting for some of the harshest attacks against our faith.
Problems can arise when you and I are:
If you're still struggling with a bad church experience, you're not alone. The good news: like Colleen and Eric, it's possible for you to make a healthy recovery.
Many people have found it helpful to use a journal to record some of their recovery steps. Pursue whatever steps sound most applicable to you:
Perhaps, like Colleen and Eric, it's time for you to begin a new spiritual journey — this time in a healthy church environment. Research studies have documented numerous benefits for couples and families.
Here's how to find a good local church that's right for you:
Leaving your church under bad circumstances can lead to the temptation to abandon church entirely. Here's what some prominent Christians have had to say about spiritual drifiting:
"At a deep level I sense the church contains something I desperately need. Whenever I abandon church for a time, I find that I am the one who suffers. My faith fades, and the crusty shell of lovelessness grows over me again. I grow colder rather than hotter. And so my journeys away from church have always circled back inside." — Philip Yancey
"Life is full of people who 'used to believe.' But because things turned out darkerand tougher than they supposed, they have decided that 'there can't be a God to let things like that happen.' But 'things like that' have always happened, to all sorts of people; even to Christ." — J. B. Phillips
"Maybe if you have money, health and a busy schedule, you don't feel the need to fellowship with other Christians. But when the storms of life hit — and they will — suddenly you'll find nobody's there. If you remain shallow in your relationship to your local church, you will lose out on the support of other Christians when you need it most." — Luis Palau
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink." — John 7:37 (NKJV)
Those of us living in the drought-parched West developed a new appreciation for water last summer. The snow melt that usually sustains us throughout the hottest months was sparse. It was gone before we celebrated the Fourth of July — a celebration without fireworks because they were banned for fear of sparking wildfires.
Week by week our lawn felt drier and crunchier under our feet as we abided by the water restrictions. I watched the tomato vines dry up in my garden, tied to their stakes like so many scarecrows in a row. What flowers survived in my pots were devoured by the deer that regularly came down from the mountains in search of anything green to eat.
Ranchers sold their cattle because they could neither water nor feed them. Farmers abandoned fields of dying crops.
And then, in the middle of September, it came. A long, soaking, gentle rain that began one afternoon and lasted until the following morning.
The sound of the first few drops hitting the roof confused us. It was a familiar sound, but what was it? It had been so long since we’d heard rain.
Sleep didn’t come easily that night. Not because the symphony of the rain kept us awake, but because it was so invigorating, so welcome, that we didn’t want to miss a single note.
Since living through the driest summer I can remember, every Scripture I read about water holds more meaning for me than ever before. One of my favorite passages in the Bible is the one where Jesus goes out of His way to greet the Samaritan woman at the well. His first words to her are, “Will you give me a drink?” (John 4:7, NIV)
The woman was stunned by His request, and we don’t know if she offered him a cup of cool water, but we do know that He told her about the living water only He can provide.
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)
The older we grow, the more parched we can become, and the thirstier we are for the living water Jesus offers. How blessed we are that in His wisdom it’s never too little or too much, but just the life-giving amount we need.
Focus on the Family is a donor-supported ministry.