If we have lived the Christian life for any length of time, you can recall times where we have felt God beckoning. Pushing you to get more serious with your Christian faith, your walk with Christ, even specific circumstances that you might have been in.
Each of us have different experiences of these moments. Where God prompts and where we either respond in obedience or ignore.
The question is, if you feel convicted to get more serious in your walk with Christ. To return to the love you first had with Jesus, to recommit your ways and work on any number of areas. If you feel convicted and sorry for your sin. Not as a way to earn God’s favor or do better, but an earnest desire to live a more fully Christian life.
Than the question becomes how do I get started?
Christ the Author and Finisher of Our Faith
The first starting point is realizing that you are saved by grace alone. No amount of your effort to date or ever after will have been the means of contributing to the saving grace offered in Jesus Christ.
Christianity has made God much more personally familiar to people. And that is good and right. For Christ through the Holy Spirit has made God known to us in very personal ways.
Yet we must recall our heritage. We are connected to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The separation from God and man because of sin was so significant that to approach God, who was all holy and all righteous was indeed a dreadful thing. God spoke to Moses through the burning bush with the words, “I am.”
This is a God who commanded that no graven images be made of him, because he was holy, right, and other. To appear before God in the Temple was a dreadful thing.
Only Christ and Christ alone could have bridged that gap.
Now that Christ has reconciled heaven and earth by being fully God and fully man and made an atonement for our sin.
We have fellowship with the Living God.
Consider the words of Jesus as he responds to the woman at the well in the Gospel of John 4:21-23 (NABRE)
Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews.But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him.”
Jesus has accomplished what he spoke of. Through him and the gift of the Holy Spirit to all Christians, now is the time where we can worship the Father in Spirit and truth.
As we inhabit this life we realize that apart from God we are subject to judgement, from the hellish things that are in the hearts of men and women and the hellish things in the very created order which have rebelled against God. We know the weight of sin and where it leads. Separation from God yes but separation from the fountain of life itself. Separation from our own createdness into any number of lesser forms of ourselves.
Now that the gap has been bridged in and through Christ the question remains what does it mean to draw near to the Living God. Yes he is our constant guide and companion in our short-comings and sins. He is our refuge and our rock of confidence when we fall short, but belief on its own is not sufficient.
Consider the Epistle of James 2:19 (NABRE):
You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.
Belief is the beginning of faith. Sanctification the process from justification and into the life to come.
The parables of Jesus are full of these warnings. Being the servant who falls to invest and therefore has a wrong view of his master (God). Being the older brother who is bitter that God has not simply chosen a people who follow the rules, but consistently brings in the worst of humanity, the worst in his immediate family, for grace, salvation, and change.
We can not rest on belief. Our belief can be the fuel for a deeper walk with Christ and indeed the Lord has and uses a multitude of Christian traditions and focuses to bring about the sort of non-arrogant peaceful change.
The Apostle Paul says we must be careful on how we build. Yet with all of this the question remains how? How do we respond to God asking us to consider the areas of our life we have let become attached to other priorities, lesser gods.
If we have failed to use the gifts entrusted to us, and we have a conviction on this what shall we do?
I think there are at least three areas to consider in the Christian life.
Though there are undoubtedly more, but for what I know let me point your attention to what I think are the first three cornerstones.
The Apostle Paul admonished Christians to pray without ceasing. Jesus taught us to pray simply with the Lord’s prayer and without pretense.
Central to the Christian life and identity is prayer.
Prayer is the gateway to repentance. It is our reorientation to ourselves and to God. Prayer is the anchor.
Prayer is also difficult for many people to sustain. In part because of the teaching around prayer tends to be of such poor quality that Christians get discouraged to even sustain and grow prayer.
I have seen very few things impact the prayer life of every day Christians as badly as overzealous Christians teaching other Christians only one form or type of prayer. I have seen this consistently in prayer ministries, in healing prayer gatherings, and/or prayer in small groups.
Prayer must be of the heart to grow. To get our hearts to pray means finding a form of prayer that lets our hearts speak.
- Ask yourself do you enjoy prayer?
- If so how long can you pray and for how many minutes (1 minutes, 5 minutes, no minutes)
- Do you enjoy prayer with others?
- Do you not like to pray what you just said as a prayer request?
- Do you not like to hear others praying for you?
Answers to these questions should give you a sense of where you really are with prayer. We are often still in the mode of asking Jesus to teach us to pray. So our starting point with prayer should be asking God for his help. If you want some tools and other growth areas. Consider clicking here for more teaching on prayer.
To know God and his work and his ways requires knowing the scripture. Living the scripture. Reflecting on the scripture.
Cultivating a familiarity with the scripture including and up to daily reading is a particular challenge for many Christians. We know that understanding the whole counsel of scripture begins with an understanding of what scripture is.
We believe that the whole Bible is worth knowing and understanding. We also believe that the Bible reflects the character of God through a range of human experience.
If you have never considered the themes contained throughout the Old and New Testaments, you may want to consider picking up one of these resources.
If you are well familiar with the themes and structure of Scripture, then the question becomes how to grow in a pattern of sustained reading.
There are many places to start, but we suggest picking up a habit of reading the Psalms. There’s no best number to start at, but reading 2-3 or 5-7 Psalms each day can help you grow in both your habit of regularity as well as in your ability to digest scripture. Next, adding a reading of the regular portion of the gospels is recommended. Then, adding an epistle reading. Then, adding one or two Old Testament readings. If it is easier for you to follow a suggested format, here’s a list:
Community as Family
In the Gospel of Mark we find these words from Jesus Mark 3:33-35 (NABRE):
“But he said to them in reply, ‘Who are my mother and [my] brothers?’ And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.[For] whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'”
And a very real sense Christians are a family. We’ve lost the meaning of that in many traditions. But from the beginning this new community of believers were coming into their new identity as belonging to one another.
One way we can practice this is committing with others to keep faith in our affections with them. To keep up with them throughout the changes that life brings and to commit to the principle of openness and charity.
The Epistle of James gives us this admonition James 5:16 (NABRE):
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.
Our witness in community in charity and openness bond together by a mutual pursuit of righteousness is a powerful witness to a world which is rapidly losing touch with itself.
Unfortunately, many Christians live in contexts where a degree of openness and confession are overladen with guilt and shame. While confession should be marked by repentance and a turning away from sin, repentance plus shame often pushes people into secrecy, which tends to breed even more sin. Discovering how to listen to others without reacting or caving into a desire to “lord over” the other is fundamental to cultivating an atmosphere of openness and charity.
Openness is easy to emulate but hard to control in terms of degree. The best principle for fostering openness and charity is to be open yourself, but just because you have chosen to be open doesn’t mean you can make that choice for the person you’re being open with. Confession in a friendship context tends to lead to transformation only when there is trust between the individuals and a mutual pursuit of the right.
Openness can take many shapes and forms, but does require a degree of “opting-in” from both persons. It is this opting-in that is more essential than any particular formula to learn more click here and go to the Openness section.
Getting Right with Christ as a Christian
There are many ways to pursue a fully Christian life. What I have listed are three cornerstones for a particular way of doing so. But the point is. Our hearts tell us. The Spirit points out to us. And our conscience commends to us that the Christian life requires full devotion.
There are no half-measures to be had.
If this convicts you and you need to dialogue on this please consider sending a note.