(Reprinted from 2008, still appropriate, unfortunately.)
Sick. Broke. Conflicted. Unhappy at work, at school, at home, at church. Is that normal for a Christian? Where’s the prospering and being in health, as your soul prospers? (See III John 2.) Food multiplying? Storm stopping? I think there’s a clue in that “as your soul prospers” phrase…
Years ago I experienced miracles, instant answers to prayer and faith healing as an integral part of my everyday life. I took them for granted. I was part of a small church where this kind of God-life was taught, expected and experienced from the smallest toddler to the eldest senior. Due to many factors that church disbanded and the members found other church homes across the region, but the life in the Spirit we had experienced didn’t seem to move with us.
Why should we settle for living like the world lives? Curling into ourselves because we’re too busy, too occupied with earning a living, paying the bills, doing the housework, attending committee meetings, hurrying to get to work or church and back home again. We don’t take time to study, meditate, worship, listen, or just bask in God’s presence personally. We let the Sunday School teacher, the praise team and the pastor take care of those spiritual chores, we’re doing good just to get there. And we settle for getting the same colds and flu and heart attacks and car accidents and divorces that the world gets.
We settle for our friends and family getting sick and dying without Christ, because after all, it must have been God’s will for them, right? “I was too busy or too ignorant to help them and nobody else helped them, so it must have been God’s will for them to die and go to hell, right?” I am tired of hearing that excuse.
What’s a normal Christian? One who hears God’s instruction to him and goes out and does it. It sounds simple but the “How to” will take commitment, and work. Here is my outline from a Bible study course l taught several years ago:
The Normal Christian
Week 1 — Introduction
A. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the father.” (John 14:12 NIV)
He went on to say, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name… You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
Why? “…so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.” (John 14:13-b)
This is Jesus’ idea of the Normal Christian. Are you a Normal Christian? Most would say no — and this course is designed to help us learn how to get there from here.
B. Where is here? Survey of where we are — how we would describe ourselves and our progress right now today.
C. What stops us from doing what Jesus did?
Ignorance of what and how; Embarrassment of what others would think; Fear of failure and humiliation; Doubt that it’s God’s will for me or anyone; Sin
Week 2 — Definitions from scripture
God — Triune: Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; Father, Son, Holy Spirit
Man — Also Triune — Body, Soul, Spirit
Satan — Devil, tempter, accuser, murderer, thief, liar, doesn’t fight fair
World — Earth, Spirit World, Universe, Heaven; world system
Life and Death — Natural — has a beginning and an end
Eternal Life — Zoe, God’s life, imparted at salvation, has no beginning, no end; God-life
Sin — Missing the mark — errors, mistakes, omissions and commissions, rebellion
Christian — Christ’s ones, “little Christs”; God initiates, we must respond
Week 3 — Who are we really, according to God?
A. In the beginning — God created man in His image, gave authority & instructions
B. Adam (and Eve)’s sin and fall — temptation and rebellion
C. Jesus’ death on the cross — paid penalty for sin for all who accept Him
D. Holy Spirit poured out — on those who accept that Jesus paid the penalty for sin
Indwells at salvation — like taking a drink of life
Baptized with (filled) upon request — like bathing in, breathing in life
Week 4 — #3 continued — Who are we, really, continued; What are we supposed to do?
A. New identity — child of God, joint heir with Christ of the kingdom
B. New line of command, new relationship to God and the body of Christ
Jesus — older brother, intercessor, head of the body of Christ, captain of the Lord’s Army
Holy Spirit — instant communicator, enabler and empowerer to follow instructions
Father God — director of our activities, now and in the future
C. God’s goal for Himself and us — the Normal Christian life: fellowship / friendship with Him; partnership in His work — exercising authority again
Week 5 — Recognizing and overcoming obstacles to getting there
Ignorance — not knowing how to begin or what to do
Doubt — wavering, believing you can one minute, you can’t the next minute
Fear — of what others may think; fear of failure
Sin — errors, mistakes not confessed, repented of, forgiven and erased
Opposition — from Satan, demons, unbelievers or well-meaning believers
Recognize these obstacles in your own life, ask God’s help to overcome them
Week 6 — How to break the pattern of the subnormal life
Clothing, equipment, communication, tools & weapons, training
Baptism / Filling of the Holy Spirit — upon request, not forced or automatic
Bible — studying, meditating, 2-way conversing with God along the way
Prayer — inspired, instigated by God — “Telling God what he tells us to tell him”
Awareness and obedience of God’s direction in daily activities
Fruit of the Spirit — character development
Faith — how to get it / grow it / exercise it
Week 7 — #6, Clothing, equipment, continued
Armor of God — what it is, why is it called that, why do you need it
Fellowship — with other believers, preaching, teaching, discussion, sharing
Praise and worship — public and private
Gifts of the Spirit — different tools for different tasks
Calling / assignment — be in the right place at the right time, do the necessary thing
Week 8 — What lies ahead?
In heaven — If we die before Christ returns, what will we be doing? Constant R&R? I don’t think so…
Worship / fellowship with Christ and others / training / preparing to return with Him
On earth — Certain things must happen before Christ returns — some done by us: spreading the gospel to the whole world, or people group
Week 9 — #8, What lies ahead, continued
End times — Conflict in spirit world and on earth increases, War of Gog and Magog, War of Armageddon eventually
Second Coming of Christ — timetable debated for years. I’m “pan-trib; it will all pan out”
Thousand year reign — Glorified believers ruling under Jesus’ authority; unchanged people still on earth, some believers, some unbelievers; lots of work to do
Final conflict — Eternal Lake of Fire for Satan and all unbelievers
Heaven and earth united — new heaven and earth; New Jerusalem arrives, God’s headquarters here on earth
I haven’t included all the scripture references I used in the class, but they’re pretty easy to find, if you’re really interested in this subject.