|Can you walk the walk? Can you really pull it off? All your life, youíve lived for yourself and done what you wanted, and come up empty. If you recently gave your life to God, your world will never be the same! Your eyes will be opened and you will see everything differently. Movies that were once your favorites may now seem misguided or just plain empty. Some friendships may become meaningless to you, especially ones that were strictly based on things you no longer value. Other friendships will take on major importance. The way you spend your time may change dramatically. Why? Because something, or Someone, has gotten a hold of you, and life never felt so
right! Can you pull it off by yourself? Absolutely not. Your human nature is incapable of living this new life. As long as you are in charge of your own Christianity, you are set up for failure. But as you turn over the reins to Jesus, He is faithful to change you from the inside out. He will make you a new person! Trust Him.
What is true Christianity? A personal relationship between a Divine King and a frail but obedient human. And this King comes and lives inside of us, in our heart, as we permit Him. As we permit? Do we really have the power to keep Him out or let Him in? Yes we do. Hear what Jesus says: "Here I am!
stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." (Revelations 3:20)
Two Road Maps to Follow
You have two excellent roadmaps to lead you. One is the Bible which teaches who God is, who we are without Him, and who we are with Him. The Bible teaches us what pleases God and what displeases Him. The Bible teaches us about Jesus: "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:17)
The second guide is the Holy Spirit. Jesus described the Holy Spirit as "The Counselor who the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:25) The Holy Spirit complements the written word of The Bible with specific, moment by moment instructions. Occasionally you may feel or hear Him saying to read a certain scripture. You may feel Him prompting you to pray for a co-worker who is going through a hard time. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ĎThis is the way; walk in it.í" (Isaiah 30:21) And the Holy Spirit will always work in concert with Godís written word. After all, the Holy Spirit helped men write The
Bible! You also have an adversary, the one that Jesus called Satan. Heís like a false guide that wants to lead you away from the True Guide. If he canít lead you away from God entirely, then he will settle for getting you out of balance. A great many Christians have become fervent followers of the Holy Spirit, but have neglected to anchor themselves with Godís word. And a great many have memorized His word, but ignored the daily prompting of the Holy Spirit. If you are wise, you will cling closely to both the Spirit and the Word. We need more of
both! God has a plan and destiny specifically for you. First and foremost, He calls you to seek Him and love Him. You cannot "out love" Him, for God is Love. Never give up, and when you feel like youíre failing, remember that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)And now, here are some basics that will help you in your new walk:
Join a church
If you want to grow closer to God, you should become part of a local Christian church or fellowship. If you are not in one, ask God to lead you to one. God will not send you to a perfect church, but to one that is right for you, flaws and all, one that will challenge you to grow in humility and love as you deal with imperfect people. If your church is dead to God and its spiritual pulse has stopped, find a new church where the truth is taught and where God is welcomed. But donít look for a perfect church; simply look for a church that is open to God and stands firmly on His word, The Bible.Jesus called His followers "sheep". Sheep are not strong enough to fight off their attackers and are only safe under the care of their Shepherd. And He calls them to be together in flocks. Satan will attempt to separate you from the rest of the flock; if he succeeds in this, the rest of his work is incredibly easy and you will become easy prey to deception. The church needs you, and you need the church.
Worship and Praise Him
Something happens when you praise God, when you declare that He is good, when you tell Him what you like about Him. The Bible says that God "inhabits the praises of His people." That means that in a very real way, God lives inside of our praises. Nothing draws God closer to men than praise. You may not feel like praising Him. But you are no longer under the mastery of your feelings; you now follow Jesus, the One who laid down His life for you out of love. Out of trust, you choose to press on through dry times or even seasons of anger and mistrust, and you worship Him; soon you break through, and joy sets in.
As you give God thanks, you are literally entering His front yard. Want to get even closer? Praise is the key to entering His courts, a more intimate setting for meeting with God. When you worship Him, you are changed, more and more. It gets your eyes off of yourself, your problems and puts your eyes on the One who can change everything. In praise, He will change your heart. Never mind if you donít feel like praising Him; just start, and soon you will feel it. Your feelings follow your will, not vice versa.
Join a Small Group or Bible Study
Church services are great for large gatherings, for worshipping God together and hearing His Word. But donít leave out the small gathering of believers. Small groups bring huge growth. This is where you can share your concerns, joys and pains. You need to see other Christians with sharing their struggles and victories. You need to know that you are not alone. And you need a place where you can be real too. Find a safe place to come out into the light. If you find yourself in a group that only paints on happy Christian faces and never gets real, keep looking. Donít settle for pretending to be godly; go for the real thing. Find a bible study, a prayer group, some weekly gathering of people who want to know Jesus better and are committed to loving Him. It will be time well spent. And God will bless the rest of your week for it!
Find yourself a Bible with a modern translation. Study Bibles have commentaries and explanations that provide insights into the context of biblical days. The words of The Bible are God inspired; the study notes try to give rational explanations to miraculous events.Find a regular time of day for reading scripture, and stick to it. Life happens and there will always be other things that need to be done, but these things are not nearly as important as feeding your soul! Thatís why we must fill our minds with Godís word so that we can stand in the truth. Godís word feeds us. Itís not like any other book, where the story loses its punch after the second or third time. There are treasures hidden within every chapter. Paul says that "Godís word is living and active." It gives us
life. When you read The Bible, dwell on each passage. There is hidden meaning there! Jesus declared that the Law and the Prophets (i.e. The Bible) "prophesied until John" the Baptist came. That means the entire Old Testament is a prophecy. It is filled with stories, events and concepts that are veiled secrets, prophetic pictures of the Messiah who was to come.
Pray the scriptures. Our lives and our character changes as we agree with God. We are not trying to bend Him as much as we are trying to come into line with Him. When you read each verse, let that be your prayer; pray it into existence. The book of Psalms is especially good for praying to God.
Pray (Talk with God)
God loves to talk to His children, and to listen. Prayer is more than just asking for things, itís spending time with your best friend, because you love them. Tell God how you feel about things. Find a regular time slot in the day, otherwise it probably wonít happen. Talk to God, out loud. And try journaling - that means writing letters to God. Youíll find that He writes through you sometimes. Make sure you get real. Be yourself. Yes, Heís the King, but if you get too formal when you talk to Him, youíll leave your real self behind (and He wants the real you!) Jesus once spoke about the end of this age when some religious people will not be allowed into His kingdom because "I never knew you." Itís not how much we know about Him Ė He wants to know US! Only with honest talks will you let God in to know the real you, flaws and all. And when we show Him our flaws, He takes them away and gives us His
nature! Bring your needs to God. The Bible says to "cast your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you." To keep your needs to yourself is to sin (sin means to miss the mark). It grieves our Father to see His children stand afar when we are in need. He never meant for us to be self sufficient; thatís not strong, thatís self-worship. He longs to carry your load. Jesus told us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. But if we want to pull His yoke, we have to give Him all the other yokes that we carry.Find a prayer partner, someone that you can pray with on a regular basis. At first it will seem scary to pray in front of someone else. That will pass with practice; soon your attention will be on the God of the universe instead of the mere human next to you. Why canít we go it alone? Jesus made it clear that there is power in numbers: "Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them." There is value to private prayer time with God, but thereís also value to praying with others. We need both if we want to
grow. Wait on God. This is the hardest of all for some people, for those who are used to blazing their own trails in this world. To sit and wait quietly for several minutes, and not hear from God, can seem like foolishness. It is foolishness to the natural mind. But you are gradually trading in your natural mind for the mind of the Holy Spirit. Those who are always in a hurry will miss out on many of the blessings that God had stored up for them.
Ask God for things. Some call that petition. God loves to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7). Scripture says that He "gives us the desires of our heart." Jesus tells us to ask and we will receive, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened. We were never meant to pursue or desire things without involving the Lord, for He is our Provider.
Our prayers will take on much greater power if we thank God for things. Thanks is the opposite of complaining. Thanks causes our faith to grow, and faith touches Godís
heart. Why do we need to pray? If God knows everything, why canít He act without me asking Him? He can. But God chooses to act in collaboration with each of us. "The heavens are the Lordís, but the earth He has given to the sons of men." God has placed the earth under the authority of people, and therefore He looks for people to pray His will. Prayer is not begging God to do good things against His will. His heart is far more broken for us than we are for ourselves. But God is looking desperately for someone to agree with Him, to pray His will into existence. As you pray, remember that God is already at work in the circumstance; He just
wants you to come into agreement with His plan.
Find and Develop Your Spiritual Gifts
There are hundreds of good causes that present themselves. If you say yes to every good cause, you will end up frustrated and you will miss out on what God has called you to. We do not follow needs, we follow a Shepherd. His "yoke" is truly easy and His burden is light, unless we are also carrying yokes He didnít ask us to carry. Every Christian must learn to say "no" to some things, if we want to be available for what God calls us
to. God has spiritual gifts for you. You wonít own them, you are entrusted with using them for the other members of the body of Christ. One day, you will give an account to God for how you used them (see the parable of the talents). So how do you find your spiritual gifts? Ask for them. The Apostle Paul says to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts." And exercise them, step out in faith and use them. And find someone else who has those same gifts in greater maturity. (Not greater power, but greater wisdom and maturity). Learn from them. And when you begin operating in your gifts, be careful not to become proud. Remember these are gifts; we never earn them. We are not greater than someone else if our gift looks more powerful or glamorous. God looks on the heart, at our character, and He looks for humility. It has been the downfall of many a Christian to become proud, once God begins using them. Pride is your deadliest trap, for "God resists the proud, but gives His grace to the humble."
Write Your Testimony
You have a testimony, a personal account that demonstrates Godís awesome love, power and grace. The essence of a Christian testimony is that without Jesus, we are in bondage to self and sin and incapable of changing for the better. Now that Jesus is into our lifeÖall is different. The details are yours alone; no one else has the same testimony as you. You may be tempted to spice up your testimony by painting a great "after" picture, but you donít need to. You are a work in progress, and thatís part of your testimony. If you are currently living a life of compromise and are letting some things compete with your love for God, the testimony is that you are not experiencing the fullness of what He has for you. His ways are true, and our lives are a living testimony to His perfect
ways. Sharing your testimony helps others. In telling people what God has helped you overcome, it gives them faith that God will help them overcome their struggles too. And in being frank about your imperfections gives others encouragement about their own imperfections.
Find Your Calling
First and foremost, you are called to love God and be loved by Him. This will always be your first ministry. Never let any other work rise above this one. Out of this love affair with God, you will begin to do the things that God has called you to do. You have a calling. You are the "bride of Christ." Thatís the people who love Him and are one with Him. His bride is not a stay-home bride; she is called to be a warrior bride. Jesus came to this world to "destroy the works of the devil," and as His bride, you are also called to do this, in a lesser measure and scope. Your calling may be larger or smaller in scope than others; this doesnít mean you are greater or lesser in importance. It simply means that you will have more or less expected of
you. What is the specific nature of your calling?
It may be to tell people about Jesus, and lead them to decide for themselves whether or not they want to give their life over to Him; thatís called evangelism. Your calling may be to teach others about heavenly truths and principles. Or to disciple someone; that means to be a spiritual father or mother, and to help them grow closer to Jesus. You may be called to go to another country to translate The Bible into a different language.God may be calling you to be a prayer warrior, to constantly intercede for other people in prayer. There are many other callings. We donít pick what we want; we ask God to show us what He is asking of us. This class has assigned seats. God has "called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began." (2 Timothy 1:9).Before time began, God created a holy calling for your life. Chances are you already have an idea what it is, or at least some burning desire in your heart. But can you really pull it off? If itís His "purpose" for you, then Heís also giving you the "grace" to do it, says 2nd Timothy. Donít be distracted from your holy calling. Donít settle for other paths, greater or smaller. For the Christian, greatness is to be in your calling, plain and
simple. But sometimes things happen on the way to walking in your calling. Obstacles can get in the way. And sometimes, God allows this! Between the time we hear our calling and the time we start walking in it, there may be weeks, months, or even years where God is refining us and getting us ready. This is not a time of skills enhancement. Itís a time of dying to our self and our own religious ambitions. Picture a top college athlete who is drafted into the pros, only to sit on the bench and watch for a season. It makes no human sense. But there is something happening in the spirit, a pruning process that matures you and trims back the pride and all of the things that could trip you up. When we think we are ready, we usually arenít. And when we think we are not ready, thatís often when God says we
are! Forgiveness and Mercy.
Jesus spelled this one out very clearly. Do you want forgiveness? Then give it. Itís a spiritual law that never fails. You can not break this law, just like you cannot "break" the Law of Gravity. If you let go of a hammer, it will fall. You donít break the law of gravity, you prove it. Same with the Law of Mercy. If you give mercy, you will receive it. If you withhold mercy, it will be withheld from you.It is true that Jesus has purchased all of the forgiveness you will ever need. He was and is the perfect sacrifice. His suffering and death on the cross is sufficient payment for all of your sins. But you alone can apply the payment Ė by believing in Him as Savior and Lord. He is more merciful than any being in the universe. But He is a fair and just God, too. And if He sees that we choose not to forgive others, after receiving His perfect forgiveness, He reserves the right to withhold His
mercy. Jesus drove this point home in a parable in Matthew 18, where He described a man that owed the King close to a billion dollars. The man couldnít pay the debt, so the King forgave it. Later the King heard that this man was beating up a neighbor who owed him twenty bucks. "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Who is this parable for? Christians or non
believers? In the story, itís about one who had received incredible forgiveness. Thatís a Christian! Did you know that we Christians can be "turned over to the jailer to be tortured" if we harbor bitterness against our neighbor? When are we released? When we have paid back all that we owed to the Master. How can we pay Him back? We canít. Only Jesus can pay that debt. And Jesus has placed one caveat on giving His mercy to us: "Whoever gives mercy will receive
mercy. "The Flip Flop
One more thing about the Christian life: Everything is flip-flopped. If you want to find your life, you need to lose it. If you want to be first, you need to be last. If you want to receive, you need to give. Everything the world has taught you about attaining the good life is backwards. Looking out for Number One only sends you deeper into a pit of self centered darkness and loneliness. Being first will make you the last. Self actualization is really self worship and only brings death to your spirit.
Matthew 10:39 "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."
Christ has shown us the way by being last. In spite of being God, He "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant." (Philippians 2:7) When people tried to crown Him king, He took off to the mountains to be alone with God. He took no shortcuts. He knew that the way to the Fatherís will was through the cross. "And anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of
me." The way to true Christian life, joy, peace and fulfillment is through the cross. Jesus will walk that way with you.
Finally, being a Christian is a lifelong commitment. Do not expect to become a mature Christian in a short time. It is a life of being made into the likeness of Jesus by dying to self and obeying Him out of love. If you do not act like Jesus, you are not there yet. You cannot compare yourself to others, but only compare yourself to Jesus. And He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it."
Know the Schemes of Your Enemy
Ever since man chose to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, mankind has been under the deception and mastery of an impostor, Satan, whose goal is to turn us away from God. Satanís grotesqueness cannot compete straight up with Godís beauty, so he relies on deception to lure us. His power lies in getting us to believe his lies. Jesus called Satan the Prince of this
world. For more on mapping the road to eternal life, read
The Purpose Driven Life by Rick