FIRST STEPS AS A CHRISTIAN
If you are a new Christian, congratulations, and welcome to the family of God! Besides the joy and gratitude you are no doubt experiencing, you are also probably asking, “OK, now what?” In “What Time Is Purple?” we already looked at four very important first steps you should take as you begin your Christian life:
1. Reading the Bible
3. Attending church
4. Getting baptized
(You can find them on p. 42 of the booklet, which you can download here.)
Here are some additional steps to help you grow in your faith.
5. Be Thankful
For the Christian, every day should be Thanksgiving Day. We should be thankful even in the midst of problems. The apostle Paul said, “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. 7:4), because he knew that God was working all things together for his good—even his trials (Rom. 8:28). Problems will come your way. God will see to it personally that you grow as a Christian, allowing storms in your life in order to send your roots deep into the soil of His Word. We also pray more in the midst of problems. It’s been well said that you will see more from your knees than on your tiptoes.
A man once watched a butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon. In an effort to help it, he took a razor blade and carefully slit the edge of the cocoon. The butterfly escaped from its problem…but immediately died. It is God’s way to have the butterfly struggle. It is the struggle that causes its tiny heart to beat fast, sending the life’s blood into its wings. Trials have their purpose. They make us struggle in the cocoon in which we often find ourselves. It is there that the life’s blood of faith in God helps us spread our wings.
Faith and thanksgiving are close friends. If you have faith in God, you will be thankful because you know His loving hand is upon you, even though you are in a lion’s den. That will give you a deep sense of joy, which is the barometer of the depth of faith you have in God. We have so much for which to be thankful. God has given us “exceedingly great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4) that are more to be desired than gold. Do yourself a big favor: believe those promises, thank God continually for them, and let your joy be full.
6. Be Prepared for Battle
Before you became a Christian, you floated downstream with the other dead fish. But now, God has put His life within you, and you will find yourself swimming against a threefold current: the world, the devil, and the flesh. Let’s look at these three resistant enemies.
1) The world, which refers to the sinful, rebellious world system. The world loves the darkness and hates the light (John 3:20), and is governed by the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). The Bible says the Christian has escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. “Lust” is unlawful desire—whether it be for sexual sin, power, money, or material things. Lust is a monster that will never be gratified, so don’t feed it. It will grow bigger and bigger and will be the death of you (James 1:15).
There is nothing wrong with sex, power, money, or material things, but when desire for these becomes predominant, it becomes idolatry (Col. 3:5). We are told, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him”; whoever is “a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (1 John 2:15; James 4:4).
2) The devil, who is the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). He was your spiritual father before you joined the family of God (John 8:44; Eph. 2:2). Jesus called the devil a thief who came to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The way to overcome him and his demons is to make sure you are outfitted with the spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10–20). Become intimately familiar with it. Sleep in it. Never take it off. Bind the sword to your hand so you never lose its grip. The reason for this brings us to the third enemy.
3) The “flesh,” which is your sinful nature. The domain for the battle is your mind. If you have a mind to, you will be attracted to the world and all its sin. The mind is the control panel for the eyes and the ears, the center of your appetites. All sin begins in the “heart” (Prov. 4:23; Matt. 15:19). We think of sin before we commit it. James 1:15 warns that lust brings forth sin, and sin when it’s conceived brings forth death. Every day of life, we have a choice. To sin or not to sin—that is the question. The answer is the fear of God. If you don’t fear God, you will sin to your sinful heart’s delight.
If we know that the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good, and that He will bring every work to judgment, we will live accordingly. It should put the fear of God in us and help us to not indulge in sin. Such thoughts are valuable, for “by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil” (Prov. 16:6).
7. Trust God
Some people say, “I just find it hard to trust in God,” not realizing the implications of their words. These same people accept the daily weather forecast, believe the newspapers, and trust their lives to a pilot they have never seen whenever they board a plane. We exercise faith every day. We rely on our car’s brakes. We trust history books, medical journals, and elevators. Yet elevators can let us down. History books can be wrong. Planes can crash. How much more then should we trust the sure and true promises of Almighty God? He will never let us down…if we trust Him.
The Scriptures tell us it is “impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Lying, deception, bearing false witness, etc., is so repulsive to God, so against His holy character, that He cannot, could not, and would not lie. That means that in a world where we are continually let down, we can totally rely on, trust in, and count on His promises. They are sure, certain, indisputable, true, trustworthy, reliable, faithful, unfailing, dependable, steadfast, and an anchor for the soul. In other words, you can truly believe them, and because of that, you can throw yourself blindfolded and without reserve, into His mighty hands. He will never, ever let you down. Do you believe that?
8. Share the Gospel
Like a family asleep in their home, unaware that they will soon perish in a fire, the world slumbers peacefully in the darkness of ignorance. There is only one Door by which they may escape death and the flames of Eternal Justice. What a fearful thing Judgment Day will be! The Church has been entrusted with the task of awakening them before it’s too late. If we’re aware of their danger, we cannot turn our backs and walk away in complacency; we must warn them to flee (Luke 10:2). We really have no choice. The apostle Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16).
A Christian cannot be apathetic about the salvation of the world. The love of God in us will motivate us to seek and save the lost, sharing our faith with others whenever we can. For a refresher in what the gospel message is, please see Discover the Gospel above. Remember that you have the sobering responsibility of speaking to other people’s loved ones. Perhaps another Christian has prayed earnestly that God would send someone to speak to his beloved mom or dad, and you are the answer to that prayer. You are the true and faithful witness God wants to use.
Keep the fate of the ungodly before your eyes. Jesus was the “friend of sinners,” so take time to deliberately befriend the lost for the sake of their salvation. Remember that each and every person who dies in his sins has an appointment with the Judge of the Universe. Hell opens wide its terrible jaws. There is no more sobering task than to be entrusted with the gospel of salvation, working with God for the eternal well-being of dying humanity.
9. Give Back to God
It has been said that the wallet is the “final frontier.” It is often the final area to be conquered—the last thing that we surrender to God. Jesus spoke much about money. He said that we cannot serve God and mammon (Matt. 6:24). “Mammon” was the common Aramaic word for riches, which is related to a Hebrew word signifying “that which is to be trusted.” In other words, we cannot trust both God and money. Either money is our source of joy, our great love, our sense of security, the supplier of our needs—or God is.
When you open your wallet, give generously and regularly to your local church. A guide to how much you should give can be found in the “tithe” of the Old Testament: 10 percent of your income. Whatever amount you give, make sure you give something to the work of God (see Mal. 3:8–11). Give because you want to, not because you have to. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:6,7), so learn to hold your money with a loose hand.
Adapted from The Evidence Bible (Bridge-Logos). Used with permission.