Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting Started in Newness of Life

So you have prayed a prayer of faith and accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord!

Hallelujah! What a savior we have in Him!

And now you are ready to begin taking your first steps in this newness of life which He has so freely given to you.

That's fantastic. Ask Him for specific guidance as well, but here are some important, general pointers for you to work through to help get you started.

It might be a good idea to read just a couple (or a little more perhaps) of the ideas listed below a day at first. You can review them later more quickly once you have begun to work through each point individually.

Do make sure you take each of these points very seriously though. They are all important to your new life in Him.

1. First of all, keeping praising Him about all of His goodness towards your past, present and future. Praise Him with your heart, your mind, your spirit, and with your actions too.

Now it is time to thank Him. How can we best do that?

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Colossians 3:17


If you do better with writing down your thoughts, here are some ideas to get you started:

Some people find it helpful to list things they are thankful for in a journal of sorts. It's not something you must do. You do need to praise Him and thank Him throughout the day, but you don't have to write anything down. Some people just find it helpful to do so.

Here's a list of amazing things He has already done in your own life to get your started:

--He has removed the shame which was a burden to you in the past.
--He has enabled you to turn away from sin today.
--He has empowered you to do what is right today.
--He has also removed the penalty of eternal death in the future.
--He has created some amazing things in the world around us.
--He died for you and rose from the dead! Hallelujah!
--He gave you His Word in the Bible to help guide you in walking in newness of life.
--He overcomes evil with good!

If you decide to keep a praise and thanksgiving journal, make sure that the words you write in your notebook are not merely from your head, but that you take time to be still and look at Him. To be still regarding thanksgiving, simply take time to see each of those blessings as having come from Him.

If you want to keep a journal, you can use a simple notebook, or a nicely bound journal of your choice, or journal online, or jot some things down to help you think 'out loud', then let the paper go if that is best for you.

Another thing you might do in a journal is keep a running list of things He means to you. Ladies at my own church encouraged me to do that recently, and it is a wonderful blessing. They referenced the rather well known Shepherd's Psalm and pointed out that the first line says, "The Lord is my _____".

They suggested filling in the blank each day with whatever God has been for you that day.

If you have time, let me know what God has been to you, so I can praise Him with you!

2. You are now able to overcome sin in your life. It is a daily choice to live according to the new spirit which He has given you.

First of all, depending on your life before receiving Christ, you might need to go through your belongings and give away or even destroy things which have to do with things that are contrary to the love, goodness, and righteousness of God. If you have actually worshipped another 'god', you should actually burn anything related to that worship. Any statues which are formed in the images of idols should be treated in the same way, even if you only collected them as 'art'. Other items that God puts on your heart to remove from your home might just need to be given away.

If you are unsure about some things, pack them away until you find a godly mentor to help you know the right thing to do with them. It is probably a good idea not to get back into that box until you have the help that you need to make the right decisions.

Simply go through your home prayerfully considering if there are things which He would want you to get rid of. There might not be anything, but then again, there might. Taking care of those things now can help you to overcome sin tomorrow.

Then, just keep casting your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. We aren't in heaven yet, so our life won't be perfect around us. We are now free to trust Him to work out the details of our life that might not look so good.

He is an amazing god who promised that He will use all of life's circumstances for our good simply because we love Him. We might not know how God will use tough times in our lives, but He has provided us with lots of examples in the Bible, and in the lives of Christians whom you can go out and meet for yourself as well. Here is His promise to you:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

You might not know yet how He will work your imperfect world out for your good, but you can wonder how He will and look forward to those blessings when He is ready to give them to you.

Think of those future blessings as presents that you will be allowed to unwrap later. They really are something to look forward to.

So praise Him and thank Him again.

3. Forgive those who have hurt you, or who are hurting you.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12

Trust Him to work out any problems in your life in His time. In the meantime, be sure to forgive others the same way He has forgiven you. You did not deserve forgiveness when He died for you. You don't have to climb up on a cross to forgive others, but you can forgive them even before they accept that forgiveness from you.

Actually, God expects you to forgive everyone. He considers it ungrateful, unloving, and prideful to be frustrated with, angry, or bitter towards others who have wronged us while, at the same time, accepting His forgiveness of our own sins towards Him.

If this seems difficult for you, then read this story which Jesus told, and then pray fervently for God to help you to forgive others as He forgave you.

Thank Him again for forgiving your sins. Thank Him for helping you as you work through forgiving others too.

4. Ask Him to help you find a solid church home. Not all churches are alike. Some churches seek God earnestly. Some churches are filled with people and leaders who like to hear whatever they simply want to hear, convincing themselves that what they want to hear is right.

Don't worry. God can help you recognize other Christians who believe in Jesus as He revealed Himself to us (as per His Word found in the Bible).

Look for a church where the people who attend there regularly carry the Bible, read it, love it, learn to love others more fully by studying it, are ready to be corrected any time the Bible says something different than they thought it said, and believe that the Bible is inherently true and can lead us to increasing grace, peace, and righteousness.

Ask the more mature Christians there who have experience relying on God's Word as a guide to help you in your new walk with the Lord.

God tells us to meet with other Christians and to worship with them, encouraging each other in righteousness, worshipping and singing songs of worship.

He always keeps His word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on. Hebrews 10:25 (The Message version of the Bible)

5. When God has provided you with a church home, ask the leadership there about baptism and ask them to baptize you as soon as possible. When God helped you to pray the prayer which you prayed a minute ago, you were saved right then. It is faith that saves you, but you will need to walk in obedience, and one of the things He tells us to do is to confess to others that He is our savior.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33

Baptism is one important way to let others know that you have been saved.

He also tells us specifically to be baptized if we have relied on Jesus for forgiveness.

Repent, and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Acts 2:38

6. As soon as possible, get a Bible. You will need to grow in understanding. God's thoughts are higher than the thoughts of man, and without learning from Him and rejoicing in His thoughts and His ways, you will find that your physical mind will be inclined to lean back into your old ways of thinking, or that you might listen to another man's ways, or the world's ways, instead of continuing in the newness of life.

Study at least a little every day with patient prayer, asking God to protect your mind from misunderstanding scripture. Listen to guidance from men who respect and study God's word since we can sometimes misunderstand the Bible on our own, but always test their counsel with what the Bible says itself.

There are many versions of the Bible today. If you are unsure what you will want to use down the road, pick up an inexpensive Bible for now to get started, and then in time, you will have time to discern what God wants you to use for your own study. Don't be deterred from getting a Bible because of the growing number of translations to chose from. I might personally recommend the New American Standard Bible and/or the King James Version, but it might be that you should study another version. Be careful, the Living Bible and the Message Bible have been a great encouragement to many, but they are not translations and are less likely to be fully in line with the original languages (the Bible was not written in English first....). In other words, I do recommend that you get a direct translation of the Bible first.

Ask God where to start, but many people do well starting with the Gospel of John, so you might do well to simply start there.

As you start to read and study, you might find that some things seem confusing to you at times. Ask God and your church for help. There are answers for anything that is confusing to you. He might take His time to help you find the answers, but if you continue to seek Him, He is always faithful in answering your concerns.

You can do this. He does not ask you to do anything that you cannot do. (Phil. 4:13)

It is important that you know that God has provided you with a guide, His own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to help you understand His Word. Jesus Himself said:

But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. John 14:26a

If you find yourself tending to slip back into old ways, then you should seek to be renewed in your mind (once you are saved, your spirit is born incorruptible, but your mind can be tricked into leaning on old ways; at which time it needs to be renewed in order to be in line with your new, righteous, incorruptible spirit). (Romans 12:1-3)

You need to learn to listen to His thoughts using your new spirit which you received at the time of salvation. Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit's guiding of your spirit instead of following your fleshly mind's reasoning. Test your own reasoning against scripture often.

The best way to learn to listen to His thoughts and to guard against leaning upon your fleshly thinking is by studying and meditating on His word as revealed in the Bible, which tells us His thoughts.

7. Memorize verses that help to build you up in your new life.

Thy Word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee. Psalm 119:11

It is powerful to meditate on His works, his promises, His prinicples, and His instructions.

There are helps online if you need help getting started. You might try printing off memory verse cards. If you like those, you can find others, hand write some yourself, and/or /make your own online. This particular rotational review method is the method with which I am most familiar. It has been very useful in my own home. Some families report using this method using a notebook to track previously memorized verses with good success as well.

Ask someone at your church to hold you accountable regarding your Bible study and scripture memory work. It can be encouraging for them as you share with them what God's word begins to do in your life.

I have not used this approach from The Navigators. Of those who seem to retain individual verses the most, this seems to be mentioned as the supporting source most often.

After first memorizing scripture, continue to review it and think about it often.

8. Share your faith in Jesus Christ with others.

Sometimes they might give you a hard time - especially your friends who are not Christians yet. Most often, they will just be testing you out to see if you are really different and if what you have would actually do them any good too. Assume this is true when they start in. It can help you to roll with their proddings when you realize where it is coming from.

Sometimes others might actually hate you because of your love for Christ. Don't be surprised when/if that happens in your life. Jesus explained that to His disciplines when He was here with us:

He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth Him that sent me. Luke 10:16

Remember that even Jesus was despised to the point that he was murdered upon the cross. He knows what it is to be despised and rejected by men. He can bring you comfort when/if you actually face that.

There are also promises that come with being persecuted as Jesus was, so there is something to be thankful for, even if you are being persecuted!

Whatever happens, remember to praise God in all things (see point #1 above!).

9. Praise Him and thank Him again and again, casting your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. I cannot emphasize this point enough, which is why it is included more than once.

Praise Him!

10. Then be quiet!

Just be still and look at all that you have learned about Him.

Just look at Him in wonder.

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

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