1. Who is God?

God is more complex than we can grasp. But the Bible and the creeds tell us a lot. They tell us that…

God is the creator.

God created everything—seen and unseen—out of nothing. And when God first created the universe, all of it was good, including humans. In fact, we were made in God’s image.

God is the “three-in-one.”

God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—all at once. Christians call this combination “the Trinity.” And if it confuses you, you aren’t alone. Luckily, the Athanasian Creed works to explain the concept for us. The Nicene Creed is a statement of faith that has been used by Christians since the sixth century. It insists that “we worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.”

God is unchanging.

We live in a world that is always changing. But God never changes. God is a stable foundation we can stand on when things seem to be falling down around us.

God is love.

Above all else, God is love. Any discussion of who God is needs to begin here.

Suggested reading: Genesis 1-2, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, Hebrews 13:8, 1 John 4:16

  1. How can I know God?

Knowing someone you can’t see, touch, or hear might feel impossible. However, you can get to know God in other ways. For example, you can…

Read the Bible.

The Bible was divinely inspired. By reading it you can learn about God through God’s own words. It’s amazing that a text written thousands of years ago still speaks so powerfully to us today.

Learn from others.

God often brings people into our lives at just the right time to help us when we need it. The love they show us reflects God’s care for us. We can also learn about God by talking about faith with others.

Study creation.

Understanding the world helps us understand its creator. The creativity, systematic design, and beauty of the universe tell us about who God is and how God thinks.

Suggested reading: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 12:1-2, John 1:1-18, John 20:24-31, Romans 1:20

  1. What is salvation?

The simplest answer is that salvation means we are saved from our sins. But it’s so much more than that.

It’s a gift we don’t deserve.

Every single one of us is a sinner. Piling up good deeds isn’t going to change that. So there’s no way we can earn our salvation. God gives it to us, regardless.

Accepting it is only the beginning.

Once we accept salvation, we begin a lifelong process of being shaped into the people that God wants us to be. This isn’t something we do to earn our salvation. It’s something we do in gratitude to God for giving it to us.

It changes the way we live.

The Christian life isn’t just about being saved from our sins. We’re also saved for something: to live lives in service to Christ. We strive to show God’s love to those around us—to reflect the life Jesus led on earth.

Suggested reading: Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23, Romans 10:9, John 3:16-17, 1 Timothy 2:3-5, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Colossians 3:1-2

  1. What is the church?

The church is a lot of things to a lot of people, which makes it hard to define. Ultimately, the church is the body of Christ—all the people who accept Christ’s gift of salvation and follow Christ’s teaching. Strong churches share a few key qualities:

Strong churches are communities.

A strong church is a family of believers who can support you on your faith journey. Community was especially important in the early church—and not just on Sundays. The church was a community that lived together and helped one another throughout the week.

Strong churches are good farmers.

Churches don’t do much farming in the literal sense. But Jesus did compare Christians spreading the gospel to farmers planting seeds. The seeds planted in good soil grow into strong plants, while the others die out. Similarly, Jesus calls the church to plant seeds of faith in rich soil, where they’ll grow strong.

Suggested reading: John 21:15-19, Acts 2:42-47, Luke 8:4-15, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31

  1. What is a disciple?

Disciples have actually been around longer than church. For thousands of years, Jewish rabbis, or religious teachers, have had followers called disciples. These disciples follow their chosen rabbi and listen to the rabbi’s teachings. Their goal is to become like the rabbi. Our goal as followers of Christ is to become more like him.

Becoming more like Christ takes some pruning.

Careful pruning helps plants grow stronger and produce more fruit. The fruit carries the seeds that will grow into new plants. As followers of Christ, we are called to produce spiritual fruit. But before this can happen, God needs to prune the things from our lives that hold us back from discipleship. We have to be open to giving those things up.

Discipleship requires a servant’s heart.

Feet in Jesus’ day were often covered with dirt, grime, and even animal dung. Washing them was not a fun job. It usually fell to the lowliest servant. That’s why it was a big deal when Jesus washed all his guests’ feet himself. He took on the role of the lowliest servant to model a servant’s attitude for his disciples.

Suggested reading: John 15:1-17, Matthew 5:3-12, John 13:1-17, Luke 10:27

  1. Who is humankind?

Genesis 1 sets humans apart from the rest of creation. Humans alone are made in the image of God. And God gives humans the task of caring for the rest of creation. Our sins taint this system, but God hasn’t given up on us.

We are still being molded in God’s image.

On our own, we are too prone to sin to be like God. But the Holy Spirit works in us so we can reflect God’s glory once again.

God doesn’t turn away from us when we mess up.

Jesus’ disciple Peter denied that he even knew Jesus three times during Jesus’ arrest and trial. Days later, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Peter replied “yes” each time. Jesus restored Peter’s faith and forgave him for the denials. He does the same for us. God wants to have a relationship with us, even though we make mistakes.

Suggested reading: 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; John 18:15-18, 25-27; John 21:15-25

  1. What is faith?

Faith is, as Hebrews 11:1 puts it, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Believing in something you can’t see isn’t easy, but…

Holding onto faith can keep you going when it gets tough.

Although we feel pain, hurt, and loss, faith helps us hold onto hope. We have hope because we know that God loves us and will give us the strength to make it through difficult times.

Suggested reading: Romans 8:28-39

  1. What is sin?

This one is a toughie for a lot of us. As with all questions about God and faith, it needs to be answered with love and grace. Yet when we talk about sin, we often sound judgmental—if we dare bring it up at all. That’s a serious problem. You can’t understand God without knowing about sin, so it’s not something we can ignore.

Adam and Eve changed everything.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they brought sin into every corner of the world. Because of sin, Adam struggled to grow crops. Eve faced terrible pain in childbirth. People, plants, and animals began to die. Sin is the cause of all pain, hurt, confusion, and doubt. It is not what God intended for creation.

But we can’t blame it all on Adam and Eve.

Every single one of us sins. We are no better than Adam and Eve.

God still loves us and offers us redemption.

Because God loves us, God offers us a way out of this life of sin. We have a chance to restore our relationship with God to the way it was meant to be. See Question 9 to learn more about how this is possible.

Suggested reading: Genesis 3, Romans 3:23, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, John 3:16

  1. What was the purpose of dying on the cross?

The short answer: to pay for our sins.

The longer answer: the Jews had a system.

In Old Testament times, the people of Israel made sacrifices to pay for their sins. There were laws about what type of animal could be sacrificed and how it had to be sacrificed to pay for different sins. One of the rules was that the animal be “without blemish.” In a sense, it had to be perfect.

Jesus came to replace this animal sacrifice system. It had to be him because…

Only Jesus was capable of living a perfect human life.

Jesus lived a perfect life—a life without sin. He could do that because he was both fully human and fully divine. This enabled him to serve as the ultimate sacrificial lamb. He could pay the sins of the entire world. There never has been and never will be anyone or anything else that could make that sacrifice.

Suggested reading: Isaiah 60:2, Luke 22:1–24:12, Philippians 2:5-11, Romans 5:18-21

  1. What do I do next?

When Jesus first becomes real in your life, figuring out what to do next can be overwhelming. It wasn’t easy for early Christians, either. Here’s some advice that helped them get started on their faith journeys:

Start training.

Preparing well for a race, test, or job interview helps you perform well. The same is true of Christian living. Becoming more godly means changing the way you think. That takes practice. But as Peter tells his young apprentice in 1 Timothy, it’s important. So try to get in the habit of asking yourself what Jesus would do. With time, it will change the way you think.

Share your faith.

We are broken. God loves us and offers us grace anyway. After Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave, he told his disciples to spread the good news across the earth. That call goes out to us, too.

Serve the kingdom.

Whether you’re an engineer, a doctor, a janitor, or a businessperson, God can use your gifts in the kingdom. If you don’t know where to serve, ask your pastor how you can help in your church or community. As you serve, you will feel joy and love that can only come from God.

Suggested reading: Matthew 11:28-29, 1 Timothy 4:7-8, John 20:21, Matthew 25:44, Psalm 25, Galatians 6:9