Tuesday, December 01, 2009

What's Next?

Recently I was talking with a man preparing to be baptized. He asked me, “What happens after my baptism? What’s next? I don’t want to stumble out of the gate” (my paraphrase). That’s a good question! Too often in the church we baptize someone and say, in effect, “We wish you well; keep warm and well fed” (James 2:16). We tell them to get involved in the life of the church and we assume that will provide the care and sustenance they need. Sometimes it does; often it does not.

I found myself answering this man’s question off-the-cuff. It’s not like I had a now-that-you’re-a-Christian training program to give him (though that intrigues me greatly!). Here is what I told the man:

“Jesus does not leave us on our own (John 14:18). God’s Spirit comes into our hearts as a pledge of our inheritance towards redemption (Ephesians 1:14; Acts 2:38) and as an active presence (advocate, counselor, comforter, helper, friend) in our life. God’s Spirit will urge you to be God’s man and to fulfill the purpose for which God created you (Ephesians 2:10). Your Christian life will not be only a matter of self-discipline; you will have a Helper.

Having said that, the Christian life is one that takes discipline. After all, we are ‘disciples’ of Jesus. You should plan on developing certain practices and habits. The first of these is to actively worship God in the weekly assembly of the saints. Make Sunday mornings a priority. This is when you will praise God in song, participate in the prayers of the church, come to the Lord’s Table to celebrate and remember, hear the Word preached, and encourage and be encouraged by others. There is no substitute for this. You can’t live the Christian life well apart from a community of faith.

Develop the discipline of reading and studying God’s Word. Commit to an adult Bible class. Some of it will be over your head in the beginning but you will absorb and learn more than you realize. I have several personal Bible-reading plans I can recommend.

Develop Christian friendships. Tell people at work you were recently baptized. You might be surprised to find there are Christians in your workplace who have been quiet about it but who will encourage and support you. We’ll help you find a Life Group to be a part of. This will become an important part of your Christian journey. Fellowship, encouragement, and accountability within a small circle of Christian friends will be invaluable for you.

Paul says in I Timothy 4:8, “Train yourself in godliness, for physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for both the present life and the life to come.” Just as an athlete trains for her sport, a Christian trains for the often rigorous life of service and sacrifice that characterizes following Jesus. Godliness is both personal and social. Do your best to put away selfishness and put on generosity and self-giving. Consider yourself part of the people-of-God deployed into the world to help redeem and reconcile it. You are not your own. You are a redeemed child of God and follower of Jesus.”

That’s what I told him, with great excitement! New beginnings are exciting, and God’s mercies are new every morning.

How about you? Are you willing to train for godliness? What’s next for you?


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