I PRAYED TO RECEIVE JESUS. WHAT NOW? — Should I Join a Church? How Do I Know God’s Will and Avoid Satan’s Deceptions?
“I said the sample prayer on your website to accept Jesus into my heart and now I am wondering what am I suppose to do? Does it matter which Christian church I attend (Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, etc.)? Does it matter if I choose not to attend any and simply read and study the Bible and pray daily without attending any Sunday services? How do I know if answers to my prayers are coming from God or Satan? Can Satan imitate feelings of peace? I did not feel any different after saying the suggested sample prayer on your website. I have received answers to prayers where I have heard an exact answer and then felt a feeling of peace and knew the answer I received. For example, one time I was trying to decide if I should stay where I was living at or move and I just felt very unsettled about the whole thing. I prayed for days about it and after a few days I heard the words in my mind ‘you should stay,’ and then I felt peace and it was not even a question about whether or not I should stay or leave — I was staying. So, I do believe in the power of prayer and I do believe in God and in his Son Jesus Christ. I believe Christ atoned for our sins and I believe God loves us very much. That much I do know. Everything else I am just really confused about.”
Thank you for sharing how you prayed to receive Christ on our website. You are asking very good questions and these questions indicate that you have a real desire to live a life that is pleasing to God. Seeking God’s will for your life is the first step and it is a sign that you have truly placed Jesus as Lord of your life (Romans 10:9). Welcome to the family of God!
You asked if answered prayers are always accompanied by feelings of peace when God is giving His approval. Often God does give us peace when He is leading us in the right direction, but this is not always the case. There will be times when God withholds giving peaceful feelings because He is teaching us to live by faith in trusting His Word (the Bible) whether we feel like it or not. Consider the following examples from Scripture:
- Noah was moved by “fear” not “peace” to obey God.“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house…” —Hebrews 11:7 1.
- Abram was commanded to leave without feelings of security about where he was going.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” —Hebrews 11:8
- Sarah obeyed God’s promise to conceive a son in the midst of feelings of disbelief.
“And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him… Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”—Genesis 18:10, 21
“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.” —Hebrews 11:11
The Bible warns us not to trust our own understanding or the feelings of our heart (Proverbs 3:5; Jeremiah 17:9), because our heart is deceptive and Satan roams about with his deceptive spirits who are able to imitate God’s signs (Exodus 7:8-12) and give false feelings of peace in an attempt to dull one’s judgment into accepting his deceptions (1 Peter 5:8; 1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 24:24). Consider how Satan was able to deceived Eve by getting her to focus off of God’s Word and on to her feelings. You can always tell when you are facing deception from Satan when he gets you to:
- Question the truth of God’s Word:
“Now the serpent was more subtil …he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? …And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” —Genesis 3:1, 4
- Rely on your feelings:
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise…” —Genesis 3:6a
- Disobey God’s Word:
“…she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” —Genesis 3:6b
If you learn how to recognize these three tactics of Satan, you will be able to spot Satan’s deception immediately. This is why the Bible emphasizes the importance of trusting God’s Word and His Truth, rather than your feelings. When you make a conscious decision to obey God’s Word in spite of your feelings, you will find that your feelings will soon follow. As the following picture graphically illustrates, if we desire to go anywhere in our Christian walk, we must always place our faith (gas) in the Word of God (truck) and not our feelings (trailer):
“(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth😉 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.” —Ephesians 5:9-10
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” — 2 Corinthians 5:7
Finding God’s will and learning how to listen to His voice is one of the most important aspects of daily Christian living. The bible study workbook by Henry T. Blackaby & Claude V. King called, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing His Will, discusses four ways that God speaks to us today:
1. The Bible: “When the Spirit directs my attention to a truth, I write it down, meditate on it, and adjust my life to it.” (p. 83) 2.
“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” —2 Peter 1:3
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” —Joshua 1:8 3.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—2 Timothy 3:16-17
2. Prayer: “Prayer is a relationship, not just a religious activity… If I have been working and praying in one direction and I see God working in a different direction, I adjust my life to what God is doing.” (pp. 87, 92)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:6-7 4.
3. Circumstances: “To understand your bad or difficult circumstances, God’s perspective is vital… Jesus was always looking for where the Father was at work, and joined Him.” (pp. 95-96)
“Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.’ ” —John 5:19
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”— Romans 8:28
To find God’s will in our circumstances, we need to ask God for His perspective, look for where God is working and join Him. We must not blame God when we obey Him and things don’t work out the way we think they should. Consider the example of Moses. When he first went to Pharaoh to give him God’s command to let Israel go, Pharaoh refused and added additional burdens upon Israel (Exodus 5-6). Moses was so discouraged at the circumstances, he blamed God (Exodus 5:22-23) and he was ready to quit (Exodus 6:12), but God was patient with Moses. He revealed to Moses His purposes in the circumstances (Exodus 7:1-5). Then, in obedience to God, Moses went on to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 7:6; 12:33-36).
4 The Church: “As I function in relationship to the church, I depend on others in the church to help me understand God’s will.” (p. 105)
“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” — Hebrews 10:24-25
You asked if it is important to join church, and if so, which denomination one should choose (Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, etc.). Since our salvation is completely dependant upon our personal trust in Jesus Christ and the day-by-day development of a personal relationship with Christ through Bible Study and guidance from His Holy Spirit, some may feel that corporate church attendance is unnecessary. However, the Bible gives us clear direction about the importance of being connected to a local fellowship of Christian believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Scripture explains that the Holy Spirit gives every Christian a spiritual “gift” to use in ministering to other believers in a church setting (1 Corinthians 12:1-11). This “gift” determines one’s place in the “body” of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). As Christians minister to each other, each believer is challenged to grow and mature in the faith.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”—Ephesians 4:11-15
So, how does one find a healthy church? Does it matter which Christian denomination one chooses to join? There are a few insignificant differences between the denominations of Christian churches. Many of these consist of variations in worship style and baptismal practices. For example, you will find that liturgical churches such as the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Orthodox, Anglican-Episcopalian, Methodist, and some of the Reformed Church denominations practice “infant baptism” (the act of baptizing babies to impart God’s special “grace” to the child), while other denominations like Baptist, Pentecostal, Vineyard, Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Plymouth Brethren, and the Disciples of Christ (Christian Church) and non-denominational Bible, Community and Calvary Chapel churches, reject infant baptism in favor of “baby dedication” and “believer’s baptism” (where babies are dedicated to the Lord but not baptized until they reach an age of accountability to make a conscious decision of faith). Still others such as the Nazarene and Evangelical Free denominations practice both infant baptism and believer’s baptism.
When it comes to worship style, individual churches vary between traditional liturgical styles and contemporary services. Many traditional worship services are accompanied by formalized prayer books and/or hymn books and are led by the organ, piano and/or a choir. Contemporary services often consist of praise choruses and variations of traditional hymns led by a worship band, guitars and drums. All these differences are preference issues and do not matter as long as the Word of God is being taught accurately and Christians are being encouraged and equipped to reach out to their communities in the love and truth of Christ.
With all the different flavors of Christian Churches, how do you know which church or denomination you should join? We encourage you to visit many different denominations and non-denominational churches to see which worship styles you find most comfortable. In your quest it is important for you to use the four principles we discussed earlier about how to discover God’s will for your life. We have put together the following list of questions and suggestions based upon these four principles for you to use as a guide when evaluating individual Christian churches:
1. The Bible: Do the Doctrines and Practices of the Church Meet the Test of Scripture (Isaiah 8:20)?
How does the church you are evaluating view the Bible? Do they believe that God’s Word has been fully preserved in the Bible (Matthew 24:35)? Or do they add additional books to clarify or add doctrines they claim are missing in the Bible?
What is their Doctrinal Statement of Faith? Do they believe God is a Trinity consisting of three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who are distinct in their personhood, but one God (Matthew 28:19)? Do they believe Jesus is God (John 1:1; 20:28)? Or do they make Him into a creation of God the Father? What do they believe about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do they emphasize that man is a sinner and that he is unworthy and unable to approach God apart from trust in the blood of Jesus Christ alone for salvation?
Is there a strong emphasis on the grace-oriented, spirit-filled Christian life (Romans 6-8) where people are encouraged to come to God “just as they are” for Him to make them righteous “in the blood of Christ”? Or do they emphasize a legalistic performance-driven atmosphere where people are required to make themselves “worthy” before acceptance into the group and are held to a high standard of man-made rules that “go beyond what is written” 5. in the clear teachings of the Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 John 1:9; Luke 11:46)? Do they emphasis Christian love for each other (Ephesians 1:15-16) balanced with spiritual discipline when needed (1 Corinthians 5:1-5, 9-13; 2 Corinthians 5:5-8; Luke 15:11-32)? Or do they prohibit any communication with those who leave or are ostracized from the faith due to “unworthiness” (2 Corinthians 5:5-8)?
Do they conduct orderly church services consisting of sound verse-by-verse expository preaching (1 Corinthians 14:19, 26; Acts 2:42) and teaching that keeps Biblical Scripture in context (2 Timothy 2:15)? Or do they engage in godless, foolish discussions (2 Timothy 2:16), Scripture twisting (2 Peter 3:16) and disorderly services where people speak in tongues without interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:23, 27-28), and practice unbiblical activities, such as “holy laughter” and “slaying in the spirit” (falling down and rolling on the floor uncontrollably)? Remember that one of the fruits of the spirit is “self-control” (Galatians 5:23). “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:33). 6.
Do the church leaders exercise servant-leadership with an emphasis on bottom-up, laity-led ministry (Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 23:8-12; 2 Corinthians 1:24)? Or do leaders “lord it over the flock” in a high controlling, top-down organizational structure (Mark 10:42; Luke 22:25)?
2. Prayer: Ask God For His Wisdom in Evaluating the Facts You Learn About the Church (James 1:5):
Spiritual Discernment: Are there any unscriptural doctrines or practices you need to be made aware of before you commit to membership? Ask God to give you discernment as you evaluate the church’s teachings according to Biblical Scripture.
Sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s Leading: Ask God to give you confirmation about your part in this church. Is this where the Lord wants you to join Him in His work? This confirmation may come as a feeling of peace, an affirmation by something that is said to you by an individual church member, or in an idea that is communicated in a worship service, sermon, or in a prayer request that is shared and/or answered in a small group setting.
3. Circumstances: Is This Where You Can Join God in His Work (Acts 2:42, 47)?
- Is this where God is working? Are people being saved and new believers are being encouraged to grow in their faith through personal Bible Study and one-on-one mentoring and/or weekly home fellowship groups?
- In what way can you join in what God is doing here? Does the church teach courses on how to discover your spiritual gifts and how to use your gifts in the church setting? Is there a place for you to plug-in to the church and use your special gifts? How welcoming is the church leadership to laity-led ministry?
- Can you be held accountable to grow and mature in your walk here? Are there home fellowship groups and/or bible studies where you can connect one-on-one with other believers for in-depth Word-in-Life discipleship and mentoring?
4. The Church: Is This a Fellowship of Mature Believers Whom You Can Trust (Proverbs 15:22)?
Do the people you meet overflow with love for God, His Word, and their Christian brothers and sisters (John 13:35; Ephesians 1:15; Matthew 7:16-20; 22:37-40)? Do you feel like the Christians at this church really care about you and welcome you with the love of Christ?
Is this a place where you can confide your deepest struggles and receive unconditional love and support? Can you trust the church leaders to give you Godly counsel in humble, gentleness (Galatians 6:1)? If someone falls into sin, how are they handled? If that person has a repentant heart, are they embraced with love and genuine support to facilitate healing, or are they kicked out of the church without any form of support until they make themselves “worthy” enough to return (Matthew 9:12-13)?
For more information see:
WHO AM I? …ACCORDING TO GOD – Your behavior is motivated by what you believe. Discover who you are in Christ so that your behavior will begin to reflect your new identity and you will learn how to live the victorious Christian life.
WHAT IS A CULT? ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM SPIRITUAL ABUSE? – What is a cult? What are the mental and emotional signs that you are “under the influence” of an unhealthy religious devotion? What are the symptoms of cultic control and manipulation? How does one know if he or she is involved in a destructive group or a cult? Take this quiz to evaluate your religious experiences.
1. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Bible Version.
2. This quote and the following quotes under each point are from the Blackaby and King: Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing His Will workbook, 1990 (Lifeway Press, Nashville, TN).
3. This Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible.
4. This Scripture is quoted from the New American Standard Bible.
5. 1 Corinthians 4:6: “…so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not take pride in one man over against another.” quoted from the New International Version.
6. This Scripture is quoted from the New International Version.