If You Are A New Christian
James L. Martin

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If you are a new Christian who very recently received the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, you are enthused about your new experience. That is right and good. The angels of God are rejoicing, too. Jesus said, "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth" (Luke 15:10).

Therefore, as a new Christian, it is very important that you recognize your personal need of daily growth in your spiritual life. To become a strong, spiritual person, you must follow the "training rules" that are found in the Word of God. Six basic rules for spiritual growth are:

1. Feed on the Word of God Regularly

God designed and created us; therefore, He understands us perfectly. He knows our every need. He is well aware of our doubts, fears, and weaknesses. And that is why He has given us His Holy Word. By studying the Word of God, we learn to understand ourselves. The sinful tendencies of our human nature are clearly exposed, and we are warned to flee those things which would defile us and lead us away from God, "Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word" (Psalm 119:9). Read also Psalm 19:7-1 1.

The Word of God is very nutritious to the inner man. That is why the apostle Peter likened it to milk in I Peter 2:2: "As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." Just as an infant has a natural hunger for milk, the Christian should have an inward hunger for the Word of God. When "hunger and thirst" (Matthew 5:6) are present, and there is a regular feeding on the Word of God, the result will be spiritual growth!

But you may reply, "I recognize that my appetite for the Word is not what it should be, How can I improve it?"

Examine your attitude toward the Word. Have you truly surrendered your life to the authority of the Word? Do you recognize your need of looking into God's mirror to see those things which otherwise you cannot see? Do you really believe that "the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful…" (Hebrews 4:12) and can change your life? Have you spent enough time with the Word of God to be truly filled? Or have you been feeding on other things and "snacking" on the Word of God?

Exercise true faith as you read the Word. Believe that God is speaking to you in a very personal manner. Claim the promises as given to you personally (when you have met the conditions). Exercise diligence and zeal in seeking out the "gems" that are beneath the surface. Be assured that the deeper you dig, the more precious those gems become. Look for God's prescription for your daily needs, and then apply it in daily action.

A proper feeding on the Word of God will not only keep you from dying spiritually, it will enable you to "endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). When battling temptation, use "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus exemplified the use of this weapon in Matthew 4.1-11.

Also, a personal study of the Word is essential to be "sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Timothy 2:2 1). If you desire to he a worker for the Lord, then "study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).

Now let us consider a few practical pointers that may help you in your Bible reading and meditation, If possible, choose a time and place that you can shut out distractions and be alone with God. Be sure that you are mentally alert and unoccupied with thoughts of other responsibilities. View this time as an appointment with God and give it proper priority. Spend sufficient time to receive a real blessing, Meditate on that which you have received, and share it with others as you have opportunity throughout the day.

2. Fill Your Life With Prayer and Praise

When you meditate on the Scriptures, God is speaking to you. When you engage in prayer and praise, you are expressing your thoughts and feelings to God. Prayer and praise are very closely interwoven. Prayer should always include praise to God for His greatness, His love, His mercy, and so forth. Praise should always be uttered in an attitude of reverent prayer. Together they produce a spirit of worship which you should maintain at all times. This is how we can fulfill the commands of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which says, "Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

To maintain this spirit of devotion throughout the day, you need to begin the day with private, personal prayer. If Jesus, the divine Son of God, found it necessary to spend much time in private prayer, how much more should we sense our need of spending much time in personal prayer. The Bible record indicates that the great men and women of God became great through giving themselves to much prayer.

As you fill your life with prayer and praise, you will soon discover the value and rewards of prayer. What a blessing it is when we learn how to cast all our cares on the Lord (I Peter 5:7) and leave them there! What strength it brings to our lives when we ask in faith, believing that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)! What richness and joy it brings to our hearts to have a father-child relationship with the perfect Father (Romans 8: 15)!

3. Fellowship With True Believers

The psalmist wrote, "I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts" (Psalm 119:63). Proverbs 13:20 says, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." This Scripture tells us that we will become like the company we keep. We find similar warnings in the New Testament. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians , "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33) Or, in other words, evil companionships corrupt good rnorals. In his second letter, Paul also told them,

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14). These Scriptures clearly teach that a child of God does not belong in the company of unbelievers. This may mean that you will have to cut off some friendship ties which you now have and make new friends.

The best Place to find the right kind of associates is in a Scriptural, Bible-believing church, If you are not presently fellowshiping with such a church, you need to find one. Do not allow yourself to think that you do not need to identify with an organized church. That is one of Satan's modern tricks. A Christian without a church is like a child without a home. Something very important is missing.

When you have found a Scriptural, Bible believing church, give your full support. Attend services regularly and get involved in the spiritual activities of the congregation. Submit yourself to the standards and regulations of the church (a Scriptural church will surely have some) and willingly obey them.

The spiritual blessings of a close relationship with a body of fellow believers cannot be compared to earthly values. Sharing in the ordinances; expressions of true brotherly love; a perfect trust and confidence in each other; a willingness to share and help in time of need; brotherly counsel and admonition -- these are a natural part of a warm, spiritual fellowship. As a Christian, you certainly need such a fellowship.

4. Forsake the Sinful Pleasures of This World

In order to do this, you must have a proper understanding of the Christian's relationship to this sinful world. The apostle John wrote, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him, For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (1 John 2:15-17). This Scripture, as well as many others, tells us that the world is full of evil and wickedness. Satan is the one who is ordering the course of this world. He is the spirit that is working against God, producing all the wickedness and sin that is all about us (Ephesians 2:2).

Some of the pleasures of this world may appear to be rather innocent and harmless, but closer examination would reveal that following them is the beginning of a course that leads one farther and farther away from God. Serving the pleasures of the world is an attempt to gratify the flesh, but the sinful nature within our body can not be satisfied by indulgence. It just craves for more and more and involves one deeper and deeper in sin.

The Bible answer is, Crucify the flesh. They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh lwl ith the affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24). "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Romans 8:13). We must say no to all sinful desires. Any involvement in the sensual pleasures of this world will surely bring spiritual death. As a child of God, you are called to a life of purity and holiness.

5. Face All Opposition With the Shield of Faith

Opposition? Yes. Many Scriptures speak of the Christian experience as a warfare and a battle with the enemy of our souls. Satan is determined to win you back, so prepare for the battle. Satan has many different tricks, schemes, and devices that he uses to accomplish his purpose. One of his most effective tools is discouragement, The devil knows that if he can get us to the place of discouragement, we will usually lay our armor down. Then we are an open target for him, Some of his devices that lead us to discouragement are doubt, worry, and fear.

Another one of Satan's schemes is to send ridicule and mockery. He knows that we all like to be accepted and well thought of, so he sends scoffers and scorners to mock us. He may even use those of our own family, fellow workers, or whoever he can. And they will have things to scoff at because we are different-new creatures in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul also said concerning the apostles, "We are made a spectacle unto the world …..we are fools for Christ's sake . . . we are made as the filth of the world, and are as the offscouting of all things unto this day" (I Corinthians 4:9, 10, 13).

One of Satan's oldest tricks that is still very popular today is the enticement to sin. He makes sin look very attractive and appealing. He appeals to the lusts of the flesh that are within us. He hides the consequences of sin from our eyes and says, "Go ahead, enjoy yourself. Everybody else is." But it is one of the devil's many lies. The end is remorse and shame. This appeal is nothing but the deceitfulness of sin. This is a common temptation that you must watch.

But, praise God, divine enablement is available so that we can be victorious in this battle, One of God's great warriors penned these words: "My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil . . . Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (see Ephesians 6:10-18). When opposition comes, do not turn your back; face the enemy in the strength of the Lord and wield the shield of faith. God will give the victory.

6. Follow Jesus' Example of Servitude and Submission

Jesus came to this earth to be our example so that we should follow in His steps (I Peter 2:21). He came not to be served by others, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). Jesus always went about doing good (Acts tO:38). He ministered to the needs of the sick; He spoke words of comfort to those who were troubled and brokenhearted. He offered deliverance to those who were bound by the shackles of sin. He is our perfect example of divine love and compassion for the souls of men. Now that you are a child of His, Follow His example.

This demands a complete surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. This means that you do not only receive Him as your Saviour from sin, but that you also proclaim Him as King of your life. Truly we owe our entire life to Him. We are His property by creation and by redemption. "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:19, 20).

True beauty of character; true peace, joy, and happiness; and true purpose and meaning in life are found only in being a voluntary, wholehearted disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires a daily commitment on your part. Each day you must purpose in your heart to faithfully follow the example of Christ and let the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22, 23) overflow from your life. If you faithfully follow day by day, you will become more and more like the Master. Certainly every Christian's goal is to be conformed into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). May God bless you as you press on and, like Christ, keep your eyes on the heavenly goal, realizing that after the cross comes the crown.

- James J. Martin

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