Foundations are vital.
The principles established in the beginning of a person’s life will determine the health and stability of that life in the long-term.
The Christian life is no different. Paul, in particular, saw himself as a “father” to those whom he brought to faith in Christ, and he cared for the churches as a mother cares for her newborn child. As an apostle, he was a “wise master- builder” who built the House of God on the foundation of Christ.
Unfortunately, many Christians today are given weak foundations by those who minister to them. With that in mind, here are twelve things I would say to every new Christian in an effort to establish them on the road to being a disciple of Jesus Christ:
God will not meet your expectations. In fact, you’ll be disappointed repeatedly by how He acts in comparison to how you think He should act. Your plans will be upset as you discover again and again that you didn’t know His voice as well as you thought you did. Learn how to deal with this now or you will inevitably become offended and may even stop following Christ because of it.
The kingdom of God is entered through suffering and hardship. This message went hand-in-hand with the apostolic proclamation of the gospel and it should be listed on the syllabus of every seminary and Bible class as “Christianity 101′′ today. So don’t be surprised when the road gets rocky. To know the Lord is to know His cross.
God’s will is bigger than where you work or who you marry. Don’t fret over particulars until you’ve seen the one great end He is pursuing–His eternal
purpose. Without this knowledge you’ll be all over the map and easily led into bondage; with it you’ll be well-equipped to make wise decisions based on their relationship to His over-arching desire.
Your spirit and your soul are two separate things, and you are meant to live from one and not the other. But you have no idea what this means and only the Lord can teach you the difference. Don’t try to figure it out by reading books, just keep it in mind and be on the lookout for His illumination on the matter.
There was no golden age of the church. The first-century was commendable in many notable ways compared to what has prevailed since, but it was not perfect and neither were the people who lived back then. Learn from the past but don’t live in it; otherwise your effectiveness in the present will be severely limited.
Idealism is one step short of idolatry. At one point or another your ideals will hinder your personal growth as well as your ability to relate well with other believers whom you feel to be less advanced or enlightened than you. Let it go and embrace the messiness of the present with your fellow sojourners. Learn humility and low-mindedness.
Your personal convictions belong to you and no one else. Thus they are not meant to be the standard by which you test people for fellowship or coach them to conform. Follow the Lord as He reveals Himself to you in your heart, but don’t expect others to always track with your personal vision.
Other Christians will drive you
crazy, especially the ones who take themselves and their doctrine too seriously. You will often feel like God has more liberty to work among non-Christians than among your fellow believers, and this is sometimes true. Suffer with your brothers and sisters anyway.
The local church is bigger than the particular group of saints you meet with each week. Recognize that fact and find ways to practice a church life that involves all God’s people. Sectarianism is a plague to be avoided at all costs.
Your New Testament in its present arrangement is all out of whack. Before you delve into topical lessons, theological doctrines, and Greek word studies, learn the entire first-century story from beginning to end in the order it actually happened. You’ll be amazed how this helps clear up so many of your questions.
God’s love for you is not determined by your circumstances. Nor is His favor evidenced by how other people treat you. Time and chance happens to us all, and the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. Just trust Him and go on.
Leaders and teachers are a dime a dozen, and they all have a vision or five- step plan for you to implement. But men and women who minister Christ and show you how to follow Him for yourself are inestimable. If you’re fortunate enough to find one of these rare breeds, follow them as they follow Christ.
As a bonus I would add this: Always take time to remember your first love.
When the Spirit’s work inside of you deepens and the cost of discipleship begins to take its toll, the memory of those early days with the Lord is always refreshing and will stir your heart to new life.