The greatest joy of being a pastor is seeing people experience a changed life. If you recently accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, let me say welcome to the family of God and to the greatest journey of all. The most important decision you will ever make was the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You are at the beginning of a new relationship — a relationship with God that is possible because of Jesus Christ. As with any relationship, your relationship with God will grow stronger and deeper through communication and experiences. As you learn more about God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, you will grow to love God and trust Him more and more. You will also come to a better understanding of how Jesus is relevant to the details of your life. You are going to be seeing God’s grace and love in ways that you cannot even imagine as you begin your journey. And, He will be with you every step and complete the wonderful work He has begun in you.
That can seem like a daunting task to a new Christian. On a scale of 1 to 10 on what an average new Christian knows about God and the Bible (1 being “not much” and 10 being “I have three seminary degrees) most new Christians would rate themselves somewhere in the minus 18 area. Mainly, because there is so much to learn, to experience, and to digest.
So, where does one get started in the Christian life? How can we grow and get to know God better? These are basic questions that most new Christians ask themselves as they begin their relationship with God. Maybe they’re similar to the ones you’ve been deliberating. There are answers to what’s next in this life called Christian. To that end, I would like to give you a few thoughts on the subject.
The first step is baptism. Baptism is symbolic of your union by faith with Jesus in His death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism represents your own death to sin and resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ. (See Colossians 2:12-13 and Romans 6:3-5.) In addition to being symbolic, baptism is a public confession of your new relationship with Jesus and is a visible sign of obedience to Christ. Baptism tells everyone that you have accepted God’s gift of grace and that you now identify yourself as part of His family. (See Acts 2:41, Acts 8:12, and Acts 8:35-38.)
The next step is to belong. One of the best ways to belong is to become a member of a church. The main difference between “attenders” and “members” at Northstar Church comes down to one word: commitment. Members of Northstar aren’t just names in a database—they’re the core of our church. As in Acts 2:42, members here are devoted to a specific local body. Faith needs a relational environment to grow. That’s why it is important to belong to a small group of people who are also committed to growing in Christ. God designed all people to depend on Him. God has also designed Christians to be dependent on one another. We are to help each other understand biblical truth, counsel one another regarding situations in life, encourage one another, hold one another accountable, and work together in meeting physical and financial needs. Jesus set a small group precedent for us in His earthly ministry when He gathered a group of twelve men and poured into them over a three-year period. He chose ordinary men who had very simple faith in Him and turned them into fully devoted followers and leaders of the first churches. They grew because He created an environment where they were able to ask questions, try things, and fail without being rejected. Just like the disciples, newer Christians need to be part of a group to help their relationship with Jesus grow. Small groups will help you continue to grow even as you become more mature in your walk with God.
The next step is to begin contributing your gifts and abilities. Jesus expects his followers to possess the same attitude toward reaching and serving others that He did during his earthly ministry. To embrace the call to care for others you will need to find a ministry that fits you well and where you can serve God joyfully. At Northstar, hundreds of people just like you have found a place to serve. And, as we continue to grow, new opportunities for you to serve are becoming available every week. There is someplace here at Northstar that you can get plugged in and use your unique skills and abilities.
Next, learn how to listen to God. The Bible is the very word and will of God, preserved for us so we can get to know who He is and what He wants for our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” That is why we need to spend time reading the Bible every day. If you don’t have a Bible, I urge you to get one. When we read the Bible we learn how loved we are by God. 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.”
Lastly, talk to God. Prayer is such a vital aspect to a healthy walk with God. It is perhaps my favorite part of my relationship with the Father. Think of it, we can talk with God anytime, anywhere, any mood, and any season of temptation or joy. Hebrews 13:5 tells us that God will never leave or forsake us. And because He is always with us we can always converse with Him. Prayer is simply talking to God. No religious tones or words are necessary. Psalm 62:8 tells us to “pour out your hearts to God.”
Whatever season you are in as a Christian, I want you to know that we are here to assist you in your growth and walk with God and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
If you want more information on getting started in the Christian life, one resource I would suggest is Starting Point, from Northpoint Church in Atlanta.