Below is the introduction to my new book, Learning to Walk. Eventually, the whole thing will be posted here, and you can download the e-book in its entirety from the Kindle store on Amazon.com for only $0.99! Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions below.
Becoming a Christian is no small thing. It means that you have recognized the supremacy of Jesus Christ above all other options and that you have surrendered to his truth, and authority. More than that, it means that you have responded to his invitation to be welcomed into his family. Being a Christian means that you live with God, and he lives in you.
When we talk about God living in you, we mean that he is present and active throughout your life. The Bible says, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). This is monumental and marks the beginning, not of a new stage in your life, but the beginning of a whole new life.
It’s important to note here that, though we talk about the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, God is one; and this one God reveals himself through these three distinct persons. We call this the Trinity. God’s name is Yahweh (or Jehovah, which is the German transliteration of the Hebrew name Yahweh). God is what he is, Yahweh is who he is.
Yahweh has always existed in three persons: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus) and God the Holy Spirit. Much like you may have one family (the Smiths), that one family is expressed through separate and distinct persons: the husband, the wife, and the kids. All of them together are the Smiths, and individually they are the Smiths. Each individual will always be a part of the whole and is equal in value, yet they differ in function. So it is with God. We are saved to the Father, through the sacrifice of the Son by the work of the Holy Spirit who leads us.
The reality of the Trinity is a great mystery, and you’ll grow in your understanding as you grow in your relationship with God. You don’t have to try and grasp it all now, but it is important to note that when we talk about God (Yahweh), we are talking about all he is. When we name Father, Son (Jesus), or Holy Spirit we are still talking about God, but also specifying which person we are interacting with.
Being made a member of God’s family is an amazing experience, and it takes some getting used to. Your feelings may deceive you in this new birth of your spirit.
Just like when you have a birthday and you don’t necessarily feel older, when you come to Jesus you may feel the same, but you aren’t. You are a new creation. God now sees you as pure, whole, and perfect through Jesus Christ who stands before the Father on your behalf. You are a new creation, which means you will not receive, process, and respond to information, situations, and circumstances the same way you used to. You will find this to be true more and more as you grow in your new faith.
The other side of feelings is that you may feel like you are totally different, and you are … but not yet. This may seem like a contradiction, however, it’s just the reality of living in two worlds: the temporal (the physical world which doesn’t last) and the eternal (the unseen reality which lasts forever). In eternity—unbound by time and space—you are completely new; you stand complete before the Father, made holy by Jesus’ sacrifice by virtue of your belief and trust. You live in time, however, and have to learn what it means to “walk with God” and live in a relationship with him. That is the purpose of this book: to help you take those first steps into a bigger, brighter world full of the majesty and presence of the God who loves you and who has saved you through Jesus Christ.
In these pages we will look at some steps you can take that will give you a strong start along your journey of faith. The Christian life is not a playground. It’s a battlefield. You should expect, as things get fuller and better, that other things will become more challenging.
One reason things can get challenging is that you have an enemy who hates you. As real as God and his angels are, Satan and his angels (demons) are just as real. Satan lives for his glory, though he was created for God’s glory. He is a defeated enemy, but because you bear the image of God, he hates you. He is your real enemy. When you lived apart from God, he worked to keep you there. Now that you are living with God he will work to ruin that relationship. People, circumstances, and temptations are tools in your enemy’s hands that he will use to drive a wedge between you and God. This is where you’re commitment to seek and trust God will be most tested.
Jesus said to his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). What he means is that circumstances may not change but you have, and you will begin to respond to circumstances in the power, grace, hope, peace, truth, and love of Jesus.
Jesus was also saying that when you went with the flow of culture, you fit in with culture. Now, you live counter to culture in many ways. As you live by the truth some will feel conviction and others will simply take offense. Jesus said it this way, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:18-19). That is another reason some things may become more challenging: resistance and persecution from people you thought loved and accepted you.
All this is to say that there will be a wide range of responses to your new faith. Some will rejoice with you. Some will rejoice for you, even though they do not share your faith. Others will be indifferent while still others will be offended or even hostile. It’s in those times that we need to remember who we live for: the One who gave everything to give us life. We live to please the One who loves us so much that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Life in right relationship to God is the most fulfilling, rewarding, and joyful thing you will ever know. The less we cling to the old life—a life built on dying things—the more we will experience abundant and eternal life in Christ. Learning to walk with God and live in his presence demands devotion, but is not complicated. As you begin to nurture this relationship you will hunger for more, you will be filled until your life overflows into the lives around you, blessing them with the love and truth of Jesus that you are experiencing.
Your very first step in your new relationship with Jesus is to follow him into baptism. Baptism comes from the Greek word baptizo which means “to immerse.” It’s the same word use to describe a sunken ship, or utensils being washed for use.
The practice of baptism has its origin in the ceremonial washing of various objects used in worship. The Jews would wash candle trimmers, bowls, knives, pens, and other objects that were to be set apart (sanctified) in service to God so that they were clean and unblemished (holy) and suitable for use. In the Old Testament, people would wash themselves after a purification ceremony if they had become unclean by touching mold, body fluids, or a dead body.
The practice of baptizing people “with water for repentance” (Matthew 3:11) first shows up in the gospels when John the Baptizer begins to perform baptisms in the Jordan River in preparation for Jesus’ ministry. In coming to be baptized, people were trusting God to cleanse them and make them holy as they set themselves apart for communion with and in service to God.
Though Jesus’ parents did for him what the law required as an infant, Jesus came to the river as an adult to be baptized by John saying that, “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). This act of going under the water and emerging again was a commitment to and foreshadowing of his own death and resurrection, by which we are saved.
When you follow Jesus into believer’s baptism you are taking your first step of obedience as a new member of the family of God. When Jesus sent his disciples into the world in Matthew 28:19, he commanded that they make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them. The call to us is to repent (turn from our own way and start to go God’s way) and be baptized (see Acts 2:37-39).
Baptism is not essential for salvation. You are baptized because you are saved; you are not saved because you are baptized. The thief on the cross next to Jesus was never baptized, but was promised by Jesus entry into the kingdom (see Luke 23:32-43). It was not possible for him to be baptized before his death, but it shows us that salvation is from Jesus and it is received by our repentance, not our religious observations. Baptism is not a legalistic, religious obligation; it is an expression of love, gratitude, and commitment on the part of those who have received such an indescribable gift.
Your baptism is not only your first step of obedience to Jesus, but it is an important beginning to your Christian life. Much like a rite of passage, it ushers you into the kingdom and family of God here on earth. Your brothers and sisters in Christ who witness your baptism rejoice with you and you with them. Others who witness your baptism see a statement of faith and a testimony that your old self is buried with Christ, and that you are raised with Christ to live a whole new life (see Romans 6:1-14).
If you have not yet been baptized as an act of your decision to trust and follow Jesus, you will want to talk to your pastor, church leadership, or whoever talked to you about Jesus. Even if you were “baptized” as an infant—it was good for your parents to give you that foundation, and you are not invalidating what they’ve done for you—you will need to follow Jesus by your own decision and will. It’s a remarkable first milestone along your new journey of faith.
My prayer is that this book will encourage you in your new faith, and equip you to grow in your love for, and life in, Christ. You are now part of a revolution that will transform people, and change the world with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.
May the Lord bless you and keep you and make the light of his Treasure shine to you and through you.