When I first gave my life to Christ, I could never have imagined the joys, hardships, blessings, and lessons that were to come. During this journey with Christ, I have learned many things; God has pruned my heart, removing things that were not like Him. He’s provided me with tests so that I can develop in certain areas; He’s removed things and people from my life that served as a distraction. At the time, this process of God molding me did not feel awesome; I cried and felt pain, but I emerged better with a little fruit on my tree! The lessons I have learned so far are valuable for anyone, especially the new believer. If anyone is experiencing anything similar, HAVE HOPE, because the end result is excellent and worthy of praise. No way am I saying that I have arrived because I am still a work in progress; however, I can say that previous lessons have matured my trust in God and allowed me to endure present hardships. I pray this is a blessing to someone and you realize that God is preparing your heart and mind for what is to come. Enjoy
Valuable Lessons for New Believers (Part One)
1. Spending time with God is essential (That is why this is the longest section!!!)
I know this seems cliché, but personal time in the presence of God is what strengthens you. When we sit at the feet of Jesus and release everything (I MEAN EVERYTHING), He begins to deal with the underlying causes of our issues. I remember going to God so messed up! I was struggling with feelings of worthlessness because of failed relationships and things that happened in my childhood. In addition, I was tired of living a lie…..I was tired of going to church on Sunday, but living like Hell during the other 6 days of the week. I was tired of putting on a façade that everything was ok. So every day, I set aside time to pray and ask God to change my heart. In addition, I read about God’s Character and His love for me. I was so intertwined in what God thought about me that the feelings of worthlessness that was branded onto me by this world begin to fade away. Once I had found my worth in Christ and fell head over heels in love with Him, my life began to change. I stopped viewing God’s commands as things that kept me from enjoying life, and I started to see His commands as boundaries set in place for my protection. When I felt discontent, I prayed and meditated on scriptures about being content. When I felt lust creeping into my heart, I prayed and meditated on scripture that covered Holy Living and marriage. When I felt angry, I prayed and meditated on scripture about joy, peace, and the dangers of anger. Becoming a follower of Christ DID NOT stop all my negative feelings; but, being a follower of Christ allowed me to press through my feelings by seeking wisdom and peace that comes from God. While I would sit before God, he would reveal to me if I was prideful, jealous, selfish, or wicked in my thinking. He would wreck me about my sinful behavior while drawing closer to me. Til this very day, I have to spend time with the Lord. When I don’t spend time with God, my day is hectic. I tend to have a little attitude, and I easily fall away from His will. It is essential that we sit before God more than 2 hours on a Sunday. We need to be in His presence every day. My life changed when I stop leaving God at Church and I truly allowed Him to dwell within my heart. Remember, we must be desperate for Christ. For without Him, we are dead!
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. — John 15:5 (NIV)
2. Forgiveness Frees You
To forgive is to be free!!! Remember God forgave us when we didn’t deserve an ounce of His mercy. Unfortunately, forgiveness was a struggle of mine; I battled with this thing for a while. I would constantly replay in my mind the things that were done to me. My heart was hardened and bitter because I was holding onto the actions of someone who had probably forgotten about me. One day, I sensed a block in my relationship with God. When I asked God, why I felt separated from Him, He revealed to me that I had failed to forgive. Now let me be honest… I didn’t want to forgive people, I wanted them to suffer. I didn’t want to pray for them, and I surely didn’t want to treat them with kindness. But living for Christ is not like Burger King, YOU CAN’T HAVE IT YOUR WAY. I became serious about forgiving others because I couldn’t fathom my unforgiving heart separating me from the presence of God. So, I started to sincerely pray for the people that hurt me. I would pray for the Spirit of God to fill their hearts and the love of Christ to radiate from within them. I would pray for prosperity in their lives and for their obedience to the Will of God. Gradually, the bitterness began to melt from my heart and love soon replaced the hurt that once lingered. I urge anyone who is struggling with un-forgiveness to (1.) Seek God and ask him to take away you hardened, stubborn heart and replace it with a loving, responsive heart. (2.) Genuinely pray for those who hurt you. You cannot sincerely pray God’s Will over someone’s life and not begin to love them.
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins. —Mark 11:25 (NIV)
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. —Matthew 5:44
3. God standards have to be your standards
This world has its standards, and God has His standards. This world sells a false vision that we must place our hope in wealth and material things, when Jesus says to place our hope in Him. The world says that success is measured by money, clothes, cars, etc., when God says success comes from living according to His will. This world says it’s ok to do things according to how we feel, when God says there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. As a follower of Christ, I had to make up my mind that God’s standards would be my standards. Well that sounds powerful, but it’s not that easy when you’ve been feeding on this world and its views for so long. So every day, I ask God to make my heart like His and make my thoughts like His. Then and only then can my standards line up with His standards. God is still working on me in this area. There are times when I learn that my trying to control my life only leads to death. I am learning that trying to see how far I can go without sinning only leads me toward sinful desires. I recognize my faults, but I look to the Lord to create in me a clean heart so that I can live according to His Word. I do not debate the Word of God; I just study it and rely on the Holy Spirit to help me live according to it!
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. —Romans 12:2 (NIV)
4. Freedom from people bondage
We sing and talk about freedom, but are we truly free from the thoughts of people? God truly wrecked me in this area this year. I never knew how much I cared about people’s opinion until I ended a relationship/friendship and had to face the wrath of people! I never knew how much I cared about people’s opinion until my own family thought I was “doing the most” concerning my relationship with Christ. I never knew how much I cared about the thoughts of people until people begin to dislike me because I was posting truth that pointed out the sin in their lives. These weren’t just the people “down the street,” these were dear friends, loved ones, and mentors. These were people who I thought would never say the things they said. These were people who led me to only seek God’s approval and not men’s approval. Although people were talking about me and calling me “extreme,” I begin to see the fruit in my life that came from following God. When I got rid of the RANDOM and stopped holding on to someone who wasn’t sure if he wanted to be with me, God begin to work on my faults and shortcomings. He started to prepare me so that I could pursue a relationship with a godly man. When I continued to pray and turn away from my sinful behavior, He began to birth purpose into me. When one person would message me upset because my post hit close to home, five more people would message me to say that my post ignited their desire to live for God. See, God’s approval triumphs over men’s approval. Now I can care less what people say! As long as I am doing what God has called me to do, I am in the right place. Remember this world hated Christ and this world will hate you. We live for God’s approval, not men’s approval.
Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem? —Isaiah 2:22 (NIV)
Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant. —Galatians 1:10 (NLT)