For millions of people life on this earth is very difficult. Day after day they face sickness and sadness, poverty and hunger, disappointment and frustration, dishonesty and injustice. Even the rich and the powerful have to deal with at least some of these things. No one is totally beyond the reach of failures and frustrations, floods and storms, disease and death. Everyone dies eventually, whether rich or poor, young or old, wise or foolish–leaving everything behind.
All this leads many people to wonder: “Is this really all there is to life? Will things always be this way? Is there no hope for the future? Must we all just struggle to make our way through this broken world and then someday leave this world to plunge into an unknown future?”
By studying this course you will discover that there is meaning to this present life and there is a sure hope for the future. This course will not deceive you into believing that you can live on this earth without any trials or frustrations or disappointments. But it will teach you how you can begin to enjoy a joyful and meaningful life already now and how you can enjoy an eternal life of love and joy and peace when your earthly life is over.
If this is something you would like to know more about, we encourage you to faithfully read and study each Lesson in this course.
In this Introduction to the course, you will find a brief overview of the main teachings of the entire course. Each of these teachings will be explained at greater length in the lessons that follow. By getting an overview of the entire course from the very beginning, you will be able to understand more clearly how each teaching fits as a part of the “whole picture.” It’s like seeing the picture of a completed puzzle before you try to put each of the pieces together.
Though people honor and worship many different gods or idols, there is only one true God in this world. We learn about this God in various ways. God has made himself known to us through his marvelous creation, through the voice of conscience within us, and through his mighty works throughout history. However, we can learn much more about God through the written word which he gave us. This written word not only teaches us many things about God, but it also teaches us how to live our lives in a way that most pleases him. God’s written word is known to us asThe Bible.
The Bible teaches us many things about God. Though we cannot perfectly understand everything God teaches us in the Bible, we can learn everything we need to know in order for us to love him, serve him and trust him. The God of the Bible is a God of love, holiness, justice, compassion, and mercy. He has neither beginning nor end. He knows everything about everyone and can do anything that he chooses to do. He is not a physical being like we are but is a perfect, invisible Spirit who is present everywhere.
In the beginning of time, God created the earth and the rest of the world out of nothing. After he had created all the plants and animals, he created human beings to rule over the earth, to take care of it, and to enjoy it. The earth was initially a beautiful place, free from all forms of evil, sin, and destruction. After a while, however, the people that God created chose to disobey him and tried to become equal with him. Because of their sin and disobedience, God punished them as he said he would.
After the first people sinned, they lost the unbroken joy and fellowship they had with God in the beginning. Instead of enjoying peace and harmony, they experienced suffering, sickness, trouble, sorrow, and death. In addition, the entire creation began to experience ruin and decay. However, God did not leave people without hope. He promised that someday he would send a Savior into the world. This Savior would pay the penalty for man’s sin and would pave the way for the creation of a beautiful new world in which everyone who trusted in the promised Savior would enjoy eternal peace and love and joy.
Though God revealed many things about himself in the Bible, herevealed himself to us most fully by sending his only Son into the world. This Son is the Savior whom God promised to send to the earth after people fell into sin. Though the Son was fully God like his Father, he came to earth in the form of a human being and was born to a young Jewish virgin named Mary. When he was born, he was given the name Jesus which means “Savior” or “God Saves.” Jesus is also called “Christ,” which means “the anointed one,” since he was anointed by God the Holy Spirit. As the God-Man, Jesus was the only person who ever lived a perfect life. However, in spite of his perfect and sinless life, Jesus was hated by many of his countrymen and was eventually crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. But three days later he rose again from the dead! For forty days he visited with his followers and then returned again to Heaven from where he now rules over the entire world.
After reading the wonderful story of Jesus, it may still not be clear to you just what Jesus accomplished while he was here on earth. Jesus is called the Savior, but the world still seems to be lost. Suffering and sorrow abound, and people continue to die as they always have. Even the natural world around us suffers from ruin and decay. In some ways life seems to be getting worse rather than better. So what does it mean that “Jesus saves”? In this lesson we learn how Jesus paid the penalty for the sins of all who put their trust in him as their Savior. God graciously forgives their sins and gives them the gift of eternal life. When believers die physically (as all people do), their spirits are taken immediately into the presence of Jesus in heaven while their bodies await a future resurrection.
While Jesus was still on earth, he promised his followers that he would send the Holy Spirit of God to them when he returned to heaven. Up to that point Jesus’ followers (called disciples) knew very little about the Holy Spirit. So Jesus explained to them who the Holy Spirit is, how the Spirit would come to them, and how he would empower them to live as Jesus had taught them. The Holy Spirit would also serve as their counselor and guide, bringing to their minds everything Jesus had taught them while he was on earth. And through the Holy Spirit in their hearts, believers would be able to produce spiritual fruit that would glorify God the Father.
Some people are eager to receive the salvation Jesus gives, but have many questions about what it means to live as a Christian. They seem to think that Christian living is primarily a matter of do’s and don’ts and are afraid that Christianity will take all the fun out of their lives. But that is definitely not true. Christians certainly should stay away from everything that displeases or dishonors God, but the basic “rule” of Christian living is that we love God above everything else and that we love others as ourselves. We may often fail to live and love as God wants us to, but through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we will increasingly do the will of God and find joy in doing so.
One of the greatest privileges believers have as they seek to live a Christian life is prayer. Prayer is simply communicating with God through our thoughts and words. When we pray sincerely, we are speaking directly and personally with our Father in heaven who always hears us. We do not have to use special words or “formulas” or a special tone of voice, but simply and sincerely bring our deepest feelings and desires directly to God. Through prayer we express our needs, confess our sins, bring our thanks, and enjoy fellowship with the one who created us and saved us and loves us.
Christian faith affects every area of our lives and every choice we make. Of special importance is marriage and family life where our joys can be the greatest but where tensions and frustrations can be the strongest. The Bible therefore teaches us many things about the proper relationship between husbands and wives and between parents and their children.
Christians who live on this earth are not yet free from trials, problems, failures, sickness, disappointments, or even from sin. In addition, Christians often suffer persecution or opposition because of their faith. But God is faithful to all his promises and will forgive those who sincerely repent of their sins and seek to live a life that is pleasing to him. God has also promised that he will never leave or forsake those who love him and put their trust in him. So, even in the midst of their failures and trials, Christians continue to love and serve and trust their Savior and look forward to the time when they will live forever with him in glory.
When believers die, their spirits immediately go to be with Jesus Christ in heaven where they await the time when Jesus will return to earth and raise up the bodies of all those who have died. God will create a new world in which believers will live forever in glory, joy and praise. It is impossible for us now to fully understand how wonderful and beautiful it will be to spend eternity with our Lord and with other believers from all over the world. However, we know that it will be even more glorious than anything we can even imagine. We shall give thanks and praise to God for ever and ever and enjoy a life that is perfect in every way.