The Beginning of a Journey:
A Letter to New Christians
Dear Babe in Christ:
Coming to Christ for salvation is both the end and the beginning: it is the end of a life of darkness and despair, a life of sin and guilt, a life of emptiness and heartache. But it is also the beginning of a new life in Christ -- full of light and hope, holiness and happiness, and contentment and peace. Your journey, then, is just beginning. What then, are you to do as a new Christian? How are you now to live?
Perhaps the best way to answer is to start with understanding the ultimate goal of the Christian life, which is aptly summarized in the Westminster Confession: “The chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” In this simple statement we see the goal of being a Christian is, first, to honor and “glorify God” in all that we do. As you grow in the faith you will learn just how comprehensive this goal is. It applies to every area of your life: your home, your friends, your money, your job, and on and on it goes. There is no aspect of your new life in Christ that is separate from this requirement. Now that you are a Christian, you are a Christian at all times and in all places.
Moreover, you are also to “enjoy Him” forever, both now and hereafter. But the only way to really enjoy God is for you to get to know Him personally. Indeed, one key difference between biblical Christianity and other faith-systems is that true Christianity provides the means whereby fallen sinners may come into a living relationship with God. Having your sins washed away by the blood of Christ is the initial step in knowing God. But now you must learn to meditate on His Word and to pray. When you read God’s Word, He speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to Him. You are to now approach God as a loving Father who accepts you (based on Christ’s merits) and who loves you. You are now His child, and the Bible tells us that God has given you His Holy Spirit in your heart so that you now cry out, “Abba, Father.” You will find that your new heart longs to be with God: you will yearn for His Word and His presence, and you will call upon Him in prayer.
Next to the Scripture and prayer, you must become a member of a local church. God, in his great love for us, has given us other brothers and sisters in Christ to instruct us, to encourage us, to warn us and to help us. The notion of an “unchurched” Christian is unbiblical, and the idea of a “lone ranger” Christian is the invention of modern American evangelicalism. The Church is a blessing from God for your protection and growth. And as a new believer God requires that you join His Church, be baptized and to regularly partake of the Lord’s Supper. At your baptism you must make a profession of your new faith in Christ’s death and resurrection, and also of your commitment to follow Him as a disciple. When you partake of the Lord’s Supper, you are remembering His death, and publicly proclaiming your “communion” with Him and His Church. Do not postpone or make light of God’s ordinances.
As a member of the Church you will have the privilege of participating in public prayer and worship, hearing the preaching of God’s Word, and receiving pastoral care. True pastors are a gift from God, for they are given by Him to “watch out for your soul.” Your duty is to support them with your prayers and finances, and to receive their teaching and counsel with meekness and humility. Never reject their counsel lightly. And, if you find that you cannot accept their spiritual leadership, then you must be diligent to immediately find a new church home. Do not stay separated from God’s people or pastoral care for very long.
Perhaps one of the greatest joys and privileges of being a Christian and being a part of God’s Church is that God will use you to minister to others. What could be more exciting or rewarding than knowing that the God of the Universe has condescended to use you for His eternal purposes: that through you He might heal the sick, strengthen the faint-hearted or even save a soul from everlasting death. As you grow in your faith and relationship with God, you will learn how to hear His voice and be led of Him so that He can use you to minister to others. To that end, God has given you not only His Holy Spirit but also certain gifts of the Spirit. Over time you will discover your gifting, yet perhaps the place to begin is by praying for wisdom and then serving wherever you are needed. Don’t wait for a Damascus Road experience. If you see a need, fill it. If there is a call for help, respond. Your service will prove to be important training for future ministry.
There is much more that could be said but don’t try to be St. Paul overnight. And don’t make things complicated when they are not. Learn the fundamentals well. Learn how to read, pray and serve. Learn the basic doctrines of the faith. Get deeply grounded in your relationship with Christ, and the growth and knowledge will come in time. Remember, you continue to be saved by grace, not works. You don’t practice the “disciplines”, as they say, in order to earn God’s favor. You stand in His favor because you are now in Christ. What you now do, you should do out of gratitude and love, not a slavish fear.
One final word: there is an Enemy of your soul who is seeking to destroy your faith -- Satan. He is, as the Bible says, “walking about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is real, as you will soon find out. So don’t be surprised when troubles come. He will tempt you to sin; he will try to discourage your faith; he will tempt you to doubt God’s love for you; and he will try to divide you from the Body of Christ, isolate you and then devour you. Do not yield to him! Be strong in faith, walk in obedience, and stay close to Christ and His people daily. Though the battle is real, remember that God has promised you the victory in Jesus. So do not give up or give in!
Never lose sight of the ultimate goal: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If you are teachable as a little child, God will show you all that this means. This is the beginning of the journey of your new life in Christ.
Your brother in Christ,
David J. Vaughan
Dr. David Vaughan is the pastor of Liberty Christian Church in O'Fallon,
MO, an accomplished author (his books can be found on Amazon.com), one of
the hosts of the talk show Encounter heard on Christian Radio Station KSIV AM 1320 and Consulting Editor for
the St. Louis MetroVoice.