© Jeff Stacey 13 May 2020
What comes next?
This “new birth” is the beginning of a whole new life journey. God’s intention for all Christians is for them to share with him in expressing his own glorious nature. They are to show what he is really like by what they are and the way they live. So a Christian is to be a wholehearted follower of Jesus Christ always, as he said:
“The most important commandment is this . . . ‘The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” [Mark 12:29-31]
How do we go on living as Christians?
Jesus Christ explained that his followers will continueto be taught and guided by the Holy Spirit:
“When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth . . . the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” [John 16:13,15]
The main way the Holy Spirit guides us is through reading the Bible and “hearing” what it says. This reading is preferably daily. Other Bible-based Christian media can help too. All Christians need to be increasing their understanding of Jesus Christ – all that he was and is, said and did – and how this applies to them now.
But the key thing is to DO what the Bible says, not merely know aboutit. This meanskeeping on“feeding” and stirring up God’s new ways of thinking – and doingthem (as well as “starving” and killing off any old bad ways and influences). So the Holy Spirit within will empower us to change– if we obey him.
This also leads into prayingoften to God, honouring him and asking for his help to live in his ways. As we respond to God wholeheartedly like this, he will be changing us. He will even begin to make himself known throughus to others. We will be sharing with God in fulfillinghis primary purpose!
We can’t do this all on our own
Even God is 3-in-1 . . . So likewise we are meant to join in with other Christians and live this new life together. It’s basic to join a church that is aiming to be Bible-based. Early on, we should be baptised in water as the biblical way to declare to everyone that we have become committed Christians.
Then keep on learning from the Bible and the church’s teachers, and encouraged by our fellow Christians. This will help us understand how to live as a Christian and to treat all people with respect and compassion. We will also learn how to tell other people about God’s great gift, our experiences of receiving it and living for him.
These are basics for continuing and growing in our new life “in Christ”. We will actually be getting to knowGod – developing a relationship with him! This can be the ultimate joy and reality for any person to experience! Christians typically start speaking about God more personally as “my Lord”, “dear Jesus” and so on. Hesaid:
“You are my friends if you do what I command . . . I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. [John 15:14-15, John 10:10]
What about if we have failures in trying to live as a Christian?
Obviously this Christian life is not easy and can result in many conflicts, including struggles to maintain a full commitment. Why?
The Bible reveals that God is surrounded in Heaven by angels – other powerful spiritual beings. Yet even theyalso love him only on a voluntary basis. And many of them chose notto love and submit to him! Therefore:
. . . they lost their place in heaven. . . that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him . . . But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! [Revelation 12:8,9,12]
This has much to do with why we live in a troubled,un-lovingworld. Life is often difficult to understand and can be personally devastating.
How are we supposed to cope?
It’s not easy to keep on living for God. Even basic things can challenge this priority, such as concerns for personal security, comfort, people’s friendship and approval, or just being busy with other things. To be a follower or ‘disciple’of Jesus Christ involves self-disciplines,experiencing and learning to apply what the Bible says, for example:
You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations.[1Corinthians 10:13]
There will still be difficulties, discouragements, fears, mistakes and sins. God’s enemy Satan will keep trying to draw us away from God. He targets our motives, thoughts and emotions, through our circumstances, what we see and hear, and the influences of other people. We just need to admitany failures to God and ask him to forgive us and help us not to sin again. We can trust him that he always will. The Bible states:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]
Then re-commit ourselves to fully following, obeying and serving him. This is for our whole life. That will probably be a long time and the Bible is a big book! So we must stick at it, persevere, one day at a time. As we do, we grow stronger:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.[James 1:2-5]
God has always been “on your case”
There is another inspiring fact in this struggle. The Bible says about you and God:
He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion . . .[Philippians 1:6]
So he clearly intends you to “make it”. In fact, he also often says that he chose all those who become Christians, even beforethey believed:
God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.[1Peter 1:2. See also Romans 8:28-30, Ephesians 12:4-5, 2Thessalonians 2:13-14]
Looking back now, you may be able to see that your becoming a Christian was actually not only up to you – to make a totally freewill choice. God was drawing you to himself [John 6:44]. After all, he loved you already and was working on winning your love! So, were there many significant people and incidents along the way that influenced your decision? Do you think that God could actually have been behind these too?
What specific activities may God intend a Christian to be involved in?
God has gifted every Christian in some way to be able to really benefit others:
In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
[Romans 12:6-8. See also 1 Corinthians 12:4-31]
As we grow in Christian maturity, our concern for others and influence for good shall increase. God even wants to change whole communities through Christians. He intends them to be good examples personally, to care for the needy and also address wider social issues such as exploitation, oppression, injustice and other evils:
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. [Isaiah 1:17]
Again, remember the overwhelmingly good news
Christians are alreadyOK with God! He has accepted usbecause we have accepted the gift he offered us. This gift is forever! There is nothingfurther to be “earned”. Amazingly, despite ongoing imperfections, God now regards us as perfect! From his point of view, he only sees our substitute – Jesus Christ!
Continue to NT4