The other day as I was meant to be starting an essay, I started thinking about my own upcoming communions. I went forward three years ago and I have been a Christian for around six years. I know that in the bigger picture that I’m only still just a child in the faith. But in these six years God has taught me many things, mostly through me getting things completely wrong, but also through his Word and his people.
Whilst I was staring at my blank screen, waiting for 2500 words worth of reasonably coherent essay’n to appear, I started thinking what advice I would give to a 13 year old me as I began my life as a servant of the Lord:
You do not know it all.
As a new Christian, you are like a new born child. And as a new born child you need to be fed on milk and be looked after by others. In his first letter Peter words it like this:
“Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1Peter2:2)
By spiritual milk he means the basics of the Christian faith, you have to know the basics of what you believe, and know why you believe it. Only then will your spiritual bones grow strong and you will be ready to have some solid food. Don’t run before you can walk, in this case don’t even walk until you can crawl properly! But how do you get this spiritual milk and food, how do you grow?
Read your Bible.
One of the ways you will grow up into an older and more mature Christian is by reading the Bible. And no, don’t just flick through and see where you land. And really don’t just read Jeremiah 29:11 or John 3:16. The Bible contains a theme, a narrative that runs right from Genesis through to Revelation. That theme is God working through people and situations and eventually sending Jesus down, all so that you would be saved from eternal death and Hell. If you jump around random chapters, you won’t see the way that God worked throughout the Old and New Testament, you wont see how all his promise to Adam and to Abraham came true, you won’t understand correctly all the things and people that pointed towards the coming Saviour, you won’t see to the full extent the love and care and example of Jesus in his all that he did , you won’t learn well from the carefully laid out instructions in all the letters of the early Church and finally you won’t see properly how it all culminates in an eternity with your saviour. Use a reading plan, the Murray Mc’Cheyne one is especially good, makes notes of verses that stand out to you and ones that you don’t understand. Don’t just ignore the hard bits, ask another Christian about them and ask your minister, that’s what he’s there for! And don’t forget to pray, before you even touch the Bible ask God to reveal himself and his will to you as you read.
Pray, pray and pray again!
Another way you will grow up into a stronger Christian is by praying. As a Christian you now have a mediator between you and God, that mediator is of course Jesus, as it says in first Timothy:
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5)
In other words because you are now a brother/ sister with Jesus, you can now offer up your prayers to God. Jesus is called the eternal high priest, in the Old Testament days the priest would sacrifice and pray for the people. But because Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us we can pray any time we want, and we can know that with Jesus taking all our prayers to the Father, God will hear all the prayers of his children. Our ability to pray to the creator of the universe is incredible, and it’s a privilege that we should make the most of. I guess the next thing is how should you pray?
In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus taught the disciples the famous Lord’s Prayer. Jesus says to use this prayer, I was taught by an old lady in the congregation to use the prayer as a template:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Start off by praising God for what he done for you and for who he is. When times are tough it is hard to do this, but that is when we need to give God the most praise.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Pray that God’s will would be accomplished, that he would prepare you to be used for his purposes and that people both near and far would also come to love him as their Saviour.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Give thanks for all that God has provided and ask that he would provide physically and spiritually for those around you and yourself. Remember those who are not as fortunate as you, and especially the persecuted brothers and sisters across the world.
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Admit our own sins to God, remember that through Christ we can always offer our prayers to God. Ask for help in forgiving everyone who does us wrong.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
Ask God to help us in our daily life and help us with the war against sin.
Of course this is just an idea of a template, but it is a good starting point. It is also a good practice to pray (and read the Bible) first thing when you get up in the morning , as John Bunyan said:
” He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day”
In reality we must spend our day in prayer to God, Paul tells us to “pray ceaselessly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), of course we couldn’t function if we spent all day with our hands folded and eyes closed! But John Piper provides three ways of understanding this command:
1. In all things we should depend on and trust God.
2. Pray repeatedly and often.
3. We should never give up on prayer.
The Christian must pray, without prayer we live a life on our own strength, and if we try and live on in our own power then we will faint and fail, as Murray Mc’ Cheyne put it:
“A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more.”
Times will be hard.
At the beginning of your Christian life you are entering into a whole new world, and it is incredible, it is beautiful and it is a whole new beginning for you. But the truth is that this initial wonder will wear off, and you will be faced with sin, both in your own life and in the world around you. But God has not left the Christian unprepared, in Ephesians 6: 10-18 we find out about the armour and the weaponry that God has provided to the Christian.
As a Christian you will be tempted, remember to be tempted is not sin, but to give way at all to temptation is to sin. Even at the slightest inkling of temptation you must remember again the last phrase that is found in the Lord’s prayer, without God’s help and guidance we stand no chance against sin. We must us our shield of faith, we must believe that God is more than capable of protecting his children.
You will go through tough times, sad times and times of great trial. But always remember that Christ suffered all things, and is able to help us through all things, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5: 6-7)
This post will be added to, and the list will grow. All the things in the list are facts which apply to me as much as the new Christian, they are things which will apply to all of the family, no matter how far along in the walk they are.
Here are some pearls of wisdom from some brothers who are
older more experienced in their walk:
” Two essentials of discipleship – from the outset, adopt a disciplined personal bible reading plan for everyday in life and, secondly – pray. Spend time in prayer every morning in particular. Commit each day to God”
– Calum Iain Macleod, Back Free Church
“If you are a new Christian welcome to the family! My advice as someone who has been in it for a number of years? – get to know your brothers and sisters, make sure you eat the food of Gods word (be a doer as well as hearer), and talk often to your Father. With Jesus as your elder brother and the Holy Spirit as your counsellor, even though you face many enemies, you cannot lose. ”
– David Andrew Robertson, St Peters Free Church Dundee, Solas centre.
“Submit your life entirely over to God; Make him Lord of ALL. Read the word, pray the word, study the word and LIVE the word then you will do great things for the Lord and his kingdom.”
– Malcolm Macleod, Steadfast Global