Saturday, May 7, 2016

Welcome to Christianity

MANY people who respond to winsome messages to commit to Christ do so with certain expectations in tow, and some evangelists won’t do a thing to unhitch those false hopes.
Those hopes almost certainly, inevitably, shove us over the cusp into an abyss, eventually.  The lies need to be corrected, right-sized to life’s reality.  As much as possible.  Of course, no matter how much telling many will believe vainly in naivety.  And sometimes people who are converted are more than well aware of the nature of life.
So this is the fact: without earning the new believer’s trust, to help them enter into a journey of discipleship about what life and faith and Christianity is really about, the seed of the Spirit can take no root.
The following is the type of letter all new converts to Christian faith should be handed.  Because I’m sure to miss some things in this letter, please, I’d be grateful, if you could add your own in the comments area.
Dear New Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ,
You know now that you’re a sinner, saved by grace alone, by your faith alone.  Hold onto that truth and pray God anchors it deep into your heart.  Your faith will set you apart as a true believer, and please know that you can only please God by your faith.
Life is unfair.  Just because you’re a Christian now doesn’t change that fact.  Life is unjust.  Being Christian won’t help you understand or accept that any better than before.  Life is flat out full of suffering.  Welcome to Christianity; a club about reality.  You will be hurt and betrayed.  And don’t be shocked with this: your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ will hurt you worse than anyone else.  It’ll seem that way.  But, of course, that won’t be the truth.  It’s a deception.  Now you know Christ, you’re Satan’s target.  You’ve entered active spiritual warfare.  Be on your guard.  Surround yourself with those who love God.  Learn to love Christ, and how to draw near, and you’ll find He will draw near to you.  Keep a watch over your thoughts and make them captive to Christ.
Always remember, if you weren’t a sinner the hurts of life wouldn’t hurt so much — they wouldn’t hurt at all.  If they weren’t sinners, they wouldn’t hurt you in the first place.  But get this: you being a sinner means you’ll hurt people.  Yes, you will.  Don’t think you’re better than that now.  Being a Christian now won’t change you that much in love, sorry to say.  It’s Satan who wants you to believe you’re above sin now.
Which brings us to another important matter… you won’t ever be perfect.  Remember that Jesus was perfect in your place so you’d have no need of legalistic perfection.  Be gentle with yourself; do not be your harshest judge, now you’re a Christian.  Be yourself, and don’t hide those parts of you that you think others — especially other Christians — might reject about you.  You won’t be perfect until you reach glory.  Isn’t it good that, because of Jesus, you don’t need to be perfect to be loved by God?  That’s the good news!
Now, about suffering.  It’s likely you have much more suffering ahead of you; times when you’ll seriously consider the value of your Christian faith.  Don’t give it up when the going gets tough, because it’s the only thing that will get you through and to viable hope.  Don’t bargain with life saying “God’s got my back now.”  Of course, God’s been with you eternally and would never depart from you, but God won’t be bargained with.  Don’t say, “God, if I do this, you do that.”  God does not work that way.  We’re all in the lap of life, and until our lives end we’ll be at the mercy of the elements of this world, and that’s no mercy at all.  But God has got your back from an eternal perspective, and these eighty years or so you have here aren’t even a blip on God’s radar.  Learn to suffer well.  But you’ll only have the opportunity to learn that lesson when that lesson comes.  Bear life well.
Time is something to get your head around.  It has its limits but you need to make the most of it.  Christianity is about finding the balance between being and doing.  If you really ‘get’ God you’ll want to serve your heart out.  You’ll possibly get burned out before you learn a valuable lesson.  God doesn’t need you, but working in His Kingdom is your privilege and responsibility.  Don’t do your service for any other acclaim than His, and wait for that acclaim to be a crown in heaven.  It’s your responsibility to rest.  Nobody else can pace your time other than you.  And try not to be impatient, with either the moments as you manage them or with your progress in the faith and in life.  Manage your anger, seek God in your frustration, learn submission, and plumb the depths of humility.
Life does not get perfect the moment we become Christian, nor do we become perfect.
Life is full of winter seasons, amongst times of autumn, flourishing summers, and promising springs.  Everything possible in life is possible.
When new believers receive Christ into their hearts via the Holy Spirit, it’s incumbent on those leading the way to lead well.  That involves being honest about faith in the midst of life.
Evangelism is not a license to hoodwink people into the Kingdom.  Life will not all-of-a-sudden get sustainably better.  It does for a while.  But ultimately, the tests of life, sponsored by God, come our way, for our growth and sanctification, because God loves us.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

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