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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Three Things I Wish I Could Tell a New Christian

This week, I have been reading No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green, which was written by his widow, Melody Green. The book covers the singer/songwriter's search for God, how he and Melody came to know Jesus (even though both of them were of Jewish heritage), and the development of his message and ministry in the Jesus Movement in California in the 70s and early 80s.  The flow and content of the book explains a lot of the reasoning behind the decisions he made, to help those readers who might be struggling with the same issues. I haven't finished reading the book, but I recommend that you check it out (and I'm not getting paid for that endorsement).

This book seems especially written for those who are contemplating becoming a Christian, new Christians, and those who know them. I found myself thinking about what basic advice I would give to these readers. I cut it down to three main pieces of advice:

God's truth will outlast and outshine any lies we encounter.--The world is filled with lots of things that pass for truth (many of them very cleverly disguised), but they turn out to be hollow when we scrutinize them closely.  Until then, those lies can fill us with doubts.  If something has come along and made you doubt God, I encourage you to seek out the answers to your questions in the Bible, and don't give up until the question is settled (Matthew 7: 7-8; Psalm 34: 8). After all, the Bible was written to make known who God is and to record what He stands for, as it says repeatedly (for example, Isaiah 46: 9-10). I know from experience that the answers are there for anyone who wants to find them.

God's righteousness is greater than any stupidity you might encounter from His followers.--One of the biggest deterrents for new Christians and those considering becoming a Christian is the stupidity, cruelty, and hypocrisy of those claiming to be Jesus' followers.  This is because (1) not everyone claiming to be a Christian really is, and (2) Even those who really are Christians can do things that are wrong from time to time.  Good news! God sent His son, Jesus, to redeem and purify messed up people. Since He condemned their sin as something so bad that it was worthy of death and then paid that penalty on the cross, nothing He has said or done can be construed as an endorsement of sin, even among His followers.  In fact, the only reason sin is tolerated at all is to allow time for a few more to find out about Him (Romans 9: 22-24). So if you see a so-called Christian behaving badly, it reflects back on their character, not on the God they claim to follow.  Don't let them discourage you from finding out what God's character is really like (Romans 5: 6-8).

God's strength is greater than the worst troubles in life.--The last big obstacle to growing (or sometimes even beginning) faith in Christ is the trouble and struggles we all face. Jesus even talked about this in His explanation of the Parable of the Sower, in which He said, "The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away," (Matthew 13: 20, 21 NIV).  The "root" here symbolizes the strength of the hearer's convictions and faith and the value they put on their relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is important to remember as a new Christian (and also important to know, as someone interested in Christianity) that this faith that we hold is in a real Savior who has redeemed His followers from death and will carry them through all the troubles of today.  There is no reason to be afraid or lose hope.  The Bible says that Christians can depend on God's supernatural strength to both help and defend them (Psalm 9: 9; Joshua 1: 9).

Parting questions: As a new Christian, curious seeker, or friend of a new Christian, what do you think are the biggest obstacles to faith? What questions do you need answered in order to have that deeper, stronger relationship with God?