First things first!
A great start can make all the difference to a long journey. To help you make good progress in your spiritual life, let us take you through the most significant things you should do after making the all-important decision to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. I presume you have already read my basic introduction to the Christian understanding of salvation. If not, please read it.
Forgiveness and Restitution
After you experience God’s forgiveness for all the sins you committed against Him, it is necessary to seek the forgiveness of those against whom you might have sinned. Even if they do not wish to forgive you, let them know that you are sorry for the hurt or injury your caused. If you had caused harm to anyone or stolen anything from others, please make restitution. It is good to replace things or make payment, along with the offer of a sincere apology. If there are legal consequences, you should be willing to bear it. Forgiveness from God does not eliminate such liability or consequences.
It is also necessary to forgive all who may have sinned against you. To forgive is to abandon a desire for revenge and to replace any ill will with good will. You may not be able to forget the hurts or offences. You still can forgive and start praying for them.
A Clean Break From A Sinful Past
After forgiving the sins of certain people, Jesus commanded them to abstain from sins. Although there are a number of sins that are expressly condemned by the Bible, God commands us to abstain and set ourselves apart from these cardinal sins from the time we make a commitment to follow Jesus:
- Idol worship: The Ten Commandments prohibit the making of idols (graven image) and the veneration of any idol. The New Testament insists that those who follow Jesus Christ should be free from all forms of pollution from idol worship. Besides, it is important to get rid of jewellery that has idols, talismans, ‘sacred threads’, birth-stones, etc. Your house should be free from any pollution associated with idol worship. You should also stay away from foods offered to idols. This is because, the Bible says, food offered to idols is, in fact, offered to demons and evil spirits. Those who do so may not be aware of this.
- Sexual immorality: Followers of Jesus Christ must terminate all immoral sexual relationships and be free from all sexual perversions. Any sexual behaviour outside of a heterosexual marriage is immoral. God wants His people to maintain external and internal purity. That is, we should abstain from lustful thoughts. Jesus said that even a lustful look is equivalent to committing adultery in the heart.
- Substance abuse: Abuse of alcohol, tobacco, narcotic drugs, etc. destroy the body that God created. Our body is the only temple that God wishes to live in. Therefore, we must cease and desist from any activity that ruins our bodies.
- The occult: God commands His people to stay away from all occult activities such as witchcraft, sorcery, fortune-telling, horoscopes, ouija board, occultic role-playing games, occult symbolism, and the like. A Christian has to break free from any secret society that indulges in devil-worship.
- Blasphemy and Foul Speech: God forbids the use of His name in vain. Our society has normalised the casual use of God’s name or the words ‘God’ or ‘Jesus.’ Refrain from such utterances even if it’s done in thinly veiled forms such as ‘omg’ or ‘gosh.’ Similarly, make a clean break from all foul, impure, suggestive language. The four-letter words that get thrown around casually or impure lyrics have no place in a Christian’s life. Pray to God that He will set a guard to your lips; fill your mouth with praises and thanksgiving to God.
The Lord Jesus commanded his disciples to preach His good news (gospel) to all nations. Those who believe the gospel and seek forgiveness of sins are required to be baptized in water. That is, they are to be immersed in water. The immersion signifies the end of the old life and it marks the beginning of a new life. In other words, those who accept baptism accept Jesus’ death as their own. They “die with Jesus.” are “buried” with Jesus, and are “resurrected” with Jesus, to begin a new life. Jesus commanded that his followers be baptized in the “name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
You should request a Bible-believing church to arrange your water baptism. Baptism happens in a natural body of water or a [warm] pool. Some churches baptise people as and when requests are made. Most churches baptise people in two or three batches a year. Make a request in good time so that you will be included in the next batch of candidates.
Water baptism marks the official beginning of your Christian life. Governments too regard baptism as evidence of a conversion, the mark of a new beginning. Therefore, baptism is often a condition for membership in a church.
Holy Spirit Baptism
The Lord Jesus Christ is known as the One who ‘baptizes’ his people with God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God. He is a person just as Jesus is a person. One of the greatest blessings we get on earth is to have the Holy Spirit live inside us. Jesus said,
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:16-17; 23)
The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us. We are encouraged to pray for this gift.
What father among you, if his son asks for[d] a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
The Holy Spirit helps us overcome temptations, to pray according to the will of God, and to boldly tell others about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us wisdom to understand the Bible. He is our teacher. He gives us confidence to address God as our ‘Father.’ Pray that God will baptize you with His Holy Spirit.
Christian Spiritual Disciplines
Prayer, in the Christian faith, is communication with God in one's own words. God doesn’t care about the length of any prayer or the beauty of anyone’s flowery language. God is our Father and he rewards sincere prayers from a heart of faith. There is no set time or place to say a prayer. Like a child that talks to her father, you can talk to God at any time and anywhere.
Jesus taught us to address our prayers to “Our Heavenly Father”. We also need to pray in the name of Jesus because God is not bound to accept prayers that do not acknowledge Jesus as the only way to Him. So, begin your prayers addressing God as “Our Heavenly Father” and end it with “In Jesus’ name.” Jesus taught his disciples to pray along these lines:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom, the power
and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
In our prayers, we should be reverent, thankful, humble, and submissive to God’s will. We should pray believing that God will answer our prayers. If we pray selfish prayers or if we are motiviated by a wicked intention, God will not listen to such prayers.
Feeding on God’s Word
In the Bible, a new believer is compared to a newborn baby who has to feed on God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures. The Bible is God’s inspired Word and is therefore regarded as the final authority in all matters related to faith and actions of Christians.
Please get yourself a copy of the Bible and read it regularly. You could start with one of the Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke or John - in the New Testament. Regular reading and reflection on the holy Scriptures is like looking at ourselves in a mirror. It will instruct us and influence our choices. It will keep us from sin and help us to understand the perfect will of God.
The Bible is rooted in history. Being a set of books that were completed over nineteen centuries ago, there is a geographical and cultural distance between us and the events recorded in the Bible. We will need a little help in understanding the context of each passage or book. Apart from that, the history and teachings found in the Bible is easily understood by any reader. Read more about the Bible and how to study it.
Christians, from the first century, have maintained the practice of coming together several times a week. We meet in homes, prayer halls, and designated buildings referred to as ‘Church’ buildings. Often, we share a meal. There are Christians who meet regularly in prisons, battlefields, hospitals, city parks, forests, and even in caves!
Why does the Bible require Christians to be faithful in attending meetings? It is primarily for mutual encouragement. Like hot coals that stay red hot as long as they are together, Christians tend to remain vibrant in their faith when they receive mutual encouragement. Secondly, fellowship is for causing mutual spiritual growth. Each Christian is differently gifted. When they come together, they contribute to the spiritual upliftment of one another. Finally, fellowship provides opportunities to show mutual care. Sickness, poverty, disabilities of various kinds and bereavement plague everyone from time to time. We need to provide tangible care and love to one another.
Witnessing and Suffering for Christ
A witness is a person who tells others what he has seen or experienced. After having experienced God’s forgiveness in your life, it is your duty to bear witness about Jesus and His saving grace. Share this good news with your family, relatives and friends. This does not need any specialized knowledge or training. Just tell people what God did for you!
Jesus told his disciples:
Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
While there are people who are eager to learn about your experience with Jesus, there will be a lot more people who might be skeptical or even hostile. Just as we are called to share God’s blessings in Christ, we are also called to share in His sufferings. Even when we are hauled up before the authorities, Jesus said, it is an opportunity for us to share the Gospel with them!
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them …
Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:16-18; 21-22)
Our task is to be faithful to Jesus and to love even our persecutors. History teaches us that many persecutors became ardent followers of Christ after observing the good conduct of persecuted Christians.
Honest Work and Generosity
Every Christian is called to make an honest living through hard work and to practice generosity.
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)
We don't live for ourselves. Neither do we earn for ourselves. God gives one man abundance so that he can share it freely with those who are less fortunate. Christians do not practice good works in order to earn salvation or their ticket to heaven. They do good works because they are on their way to heaven.
There are Christians who have devoted their lives to preach the gospel and to teach the Bible. They are unable to pursue a career or to support themselves. In such situations, the Church supports them financially because “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Cor 9:14).
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. (Gal 6:6)
It is the responsibility of every Christian to be mindful of the needs of Christian ministers, evangelists and missionaries and their families. Just remember this golden rule: You are not required to give money to anyone who is richer than you or to any organization whose staff enjoy a higher standard of living than you do! Give to the needy.
This was a brief introduction to the Christian life. Get in touch with a Bible-believing Church to know more and to follow Christ along with His faithful people.