(PART 1) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
(PART 1) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
You are a Christian. Now, what?
What is the Christian life all about?
Are we simply to find a church to attend in our home town or city that provides: entertaining music, personal counseling, and opportunities to engage in community outreach that assists others in various ways? Do we seek teachings that support our political affiliation and personal behavior?
For the newly converted, this pathway sounds good. We are often encouraged to get involved with helping others. We volunteer in church activities, participate in political action and receive acceptance from the assembly regarding the conduct or behavior which we have chosen to adopt. Surely, this is the pathway that God would want me to be on, right?
Hopefully, this book will answer these questions. It will begin by providing you with a perspective as to how a person becomes a Christian. It will then talk about what the Christian life is all about. This will be followed by how you can recognize those things that might inhibit us in our walk with God and how we can address these areas so that we can fulfill our spiritual destiny.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)
Except a Corn of Wheat
I would like to thank a young woman named Vivian for providing me with a spark to write this book. As I was attending an evening worship service at a local Christian church, she was asked to share the notes she had taken while listening to a message that was delivered by the head pastor at the headquarters of the affiliate ministry earlier that morning. The message was centered on the following verse taken from the Gospel of John.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (John 12:24)
As a corn of wheat needs to fall into the ground and die to bear fruit, so must a Christian learn to die to self to bear fruit. How does a Christian die to self? What is it that causes Christians to continue to think, feel, and act the way they were before they were saved? What is it that can bring about the necessary changes for a Christian to evidence Christ-likeness? Much needs to be said to answer these questions. However, there is one crucial decision that must have been made before any of these questions can be answered. Let’s take a look at this life-changing decision and go on from there.
Are You a Christian?
Before Christ-likeness can be manifested in a person’s life, what do you think is needed that would cause them to be able to manifest the same spiritual qualities (e.g. love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance) of Christ that He exhibited when He lived on this earth? The answer to this question can be confusing. Why is this the case?
In many of the churches today, there is a misunderstanding as to what it means to be a Christian. Many of them will say that if you were brought up in a Christian home, then you are a Christian. Other churches will say that if you commit minor sins, attend church regularly, are faithful in giving financially, and are engaging in performing good deeds for others then you are a Christian. And still, there are others who say if you believe in the Trinity (three persons in one God; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) along with being baptized in water then you are a Christian.
So what does it really mean to be a Christian?
And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:26)
In the book of Acts, it says that Jesus’ disciples were first called Christians in the church at Antioch. “Christians” mean those who are followers of Christ or those who are of Jesus party. It is evident they had adopted the name Christians from CHRIST their master; as the Platonists and Pythagoreans had their name from their masters, Plato and Pythagoras. As these derived their names from those great masters, because they attended their teaching, and credited their doctrines so the disciples were called Christians because they took Christ for their teacher, crediting his doctrines and following the rule of life laid down by him.1
This probably is what many who call themselves Christians would describe as their outlook. If this is what it means to be called a Christian, then there would be no distinction between the followers of this faith or of any other. In other words, you simply choose whosoever appeals to you as your teacher, letting their name reveal how you would like to be recognized by others. You would give assent to their doctrines, and follow what they would like you to do or not do in your daily life. If this is the way a Christian should follow Christ, then nothing more needs to be said. However, what I have found whenever I have undertaken a study on any Biblical topic is that there is always more to it than what meets the eye. In Christianity, unlike any other faith, two conditions need to be satisfied for a person to be called a Christian.
At the young age of eighteen, I went to a liberal arts college for four years to obtain certification to be a high school math teacher. I had to follow the guidelines of the college which mandated that I take certain courses, each with a specified number of credits assigned, to fulfill the requirements for obtaining a teaching certification. This is another way of saying that I had to exhibit competence to achieve this goal. In Christianity, competence in ourselves is not a condition that would cause anyone to become a follower of Christ.
Please go to Acts 20:21
Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
The background to this verse is as follows. Paul had been living in Greece for three months and decided to depart for Jerusalem. He carried with him financial assistance for the poor saints who were living there. While on his journey, he decided to stop and reside in a place called Miletus. From there, he sent someone with a message to the elders of the church at Ephesus requesting that they meet up with him, which they did. He told them that when he was with them (at a different time), he had kept back nothing that would be profitable (of help). He had taught them in public and on other occasions in the privacy of house churches. He had given warning to both the Jews and Gentiles that they should repent to God the Father and believe in his Son Jesus Christ.
So, there you have it. The distinction of the Christian faith is that there is to be a warning (to testify of in order to remove all doubt) given to both unbelieving Jews and Gentiles to repent (a change of mind about their sin; the denial of ourselves; the displeasing of ourselves) to God the Father. This is a willingness to make acknowledgment to the very Being whom we have offended or injured.2 This is to be followed by faith in Christ as to who He is and what He has done.
For what purpose does a person repent and believe?
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
We repent and believe so that one of the other members of the Trinity called the Holy Spirit might come inside our body, thus providing us with a new nature. Why is this so important? Because the indwelling Holy Spirit can accomplish in us that for which we are unable to accomplish for ourselves such as:
- Causing us to be washed (made pure), sanctified (the setting apart to be wholly employed in the service of the true God), and justified (accepted as righteous; brought into a state of favor with God).
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, (1 Corinthians 6:9)
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
- Providing us with divine power and divine perspective.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)
- Communicating to us truths that He hears from God the Father.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. (John 16:13)
- Delivering us from the dominion of the sin nature with its affections and lusts, along with freeing us from reliance on any of the demands of the Mosaic Law (following the Ten Commandments, observing the 7th Day Sabbath, tithing, etc.).
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. (Romans 7:7-8)
- Causing the righteousness [the requirements of the moral precepts of the Mosaic Law (e.g. thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, etc.)] to be fully satisfied or accomplished in the believers when they walk after Him.
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)
- Being the evidence that we belong to Christ.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)
- Giving us witness of His presence with our human spirit when He produces in us the effects of His influences.
These influences are:
His love - Self-sacrificial for the benefit of the one loved.
Joy - Inner rejoicing which does not depend on circumstances, because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things.
Peace -Tranquility of mind as a result of a right relationship with God; of the restoration of right relationships between people;3 the calm, quiet, and order, which takes place in the justified soul, instead of the doubts, fears, alarms, and dreadful forebodings (a strong inner feeling or notion of a future misfortune, evil, etc.)4; peaceful sense of harmony with God and compliancy in all things with his providential appointments.5
Longsuffering - Remaining quiet when persecuted; patient endurance of wrong under ill-treatment, without anger or thought of revenge.6
Gentleness - Conciliatory to others; unruffled disposition.
Goodness - Gracious giving, no strings attached; to do good to the body and souls of men.
Faith - Faithful to one’s word and promises; faithful to God’s promises.
Meekness - Compliant to the teaching of the word.
Temperance - Being able to say no to one’s own desires; mastery of one’s own desires and impulses.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: (Romans 8:16)
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
- Interceding to God for us by praying according to the plan of God for our lives when we are immersed in our infirmities (trials and troubles; physical, emotional, and spiritual disabilities; the general weakness of the spiritual life).
Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
- Helping us to examine, investigate, and understand the things (the blessings of redemption; the blessings of salvation) that are freely given to us of God.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:12)
- Giving us at least one spiritual gift which is proof of His presence.
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Corinthians 12:11)
- Giving us at least one spiritual gift which is to be used for the benefit (edification) of the church.
These are the gifts:
Divers kinds of tongues
Interpretation of tongues
The working of miracles
The word of knowledge
The word of wisdom
Discerning of spirits
Giving with simplicity
Ruling with diligence/governments
Showing mercy with cheerfulness
(Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1, 8-10, 28)
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
- Giving us at least one spiritual gift which constitutes our appropriate place in the church.
For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; (1 Corinthians 12:8)
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. (1 Corinthians 12:18)
- Transforming us on the inside which over time will reveal a gradual change on the outside into the image of Christ-likeness in coordination with our choosing to meditate upon God’s word.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- Being the seal which indicates that we are owned by God.
That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:12-14)
- Allowing us when we pray or worship to have access to God the Father’s presence, being confident that He will minister to us and answer us.
For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)
- Building us together with the other members of the church by means of a process of construction, growth, and eventual completion for a place where God lives.
And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20-22)
- Producing divine love in us, which when accompanied by our obedience to the word of God will enable us to love others with a self-sacrificial love that is free from all evil thoughts and feelings in a continual manner.
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: (1 Peter 1:22)
So, do you want to become a Christian? If you do, then you can confess these words in silence or out loud.
I acknowledge that I am a sinner who needs a change of heart. I don’t want to continue in my sinful behavior anymore. God, I confess to you these sinful actions (e.g. lying, stealing, slander, fornication, murder, homosexuality, rape, lesbianism, prostitution, worshipping of idols, practicing black magic; drunkenness, jealousies; pedophilia; extortion, gossip, etc.).
I believe in your Son Jesus Christ, who, as God, preexisted time. He came to earth in the form of a man, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and died on a cross. He paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world, thus satisfying the demands of the payment for sin that God the Father required. He forgave (wiped away the debt of) all sin and rose from the dead after three days, not to die again. He ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father.
Upon your acknowledgment and belief, God the Holy Spirit has now entered your life. So, now that you are a Christian where should you go from here? This really refers to the question which was asked earlier. What is the Christian life all about? Now that you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you, you need to learn how to walk in the Spirit. What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
To walk in the Spirit means to conduct ourselves under His guidance, impulse, and power. How does the engagement of the Holy Spirit become operational in my life, you might ask? I believe that the Holy Spirit interacts with us when we make certain decisions. You might be thinking that you know what these decisions are all about. Go to church, try to stop committing certain sins, be good to others, etc. This sounds all well and good.
It’s not just about going to church, but it’s knowing where I should go to church. It’s not just about trying in my own energy to stop committing certain sins, but it’s knowing what will truly assist me so that I will not continue to commit certain sins. It’s not just about doing good for others, but how to operate in a different quality of goodness.
The decisions that we need to make will be presented in the following chapters. As you read and learn about what these are all about, hopefully, you will appropriate the recommendations for yourself and as a result, be conformed (transformed; an inner change; to express the gradual change in us) to the image (likeness) of God’s Son.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The first decision that we need to make is with regard to the following question. Where should I go to church that will benefit me spiritually?
1Adam Clarke’s CommentaryPc Study Bible version 5, 2004, 26 Jan. 2015 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
2Barnes’ Notes.Pc Study Bible version 5, 2006, 26 Jan. 2015 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
3UBS New Testament Handbook Series Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 28 Jan. 2015 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
4Dictionary.com, 28 Jan. 2015 ˂http://dictionary.reference.com>.
6Weust’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 29 Jan. 2015 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
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