Friday, January 8, 2016

The Next Step in Your Christian Walk

"But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil." -Hebrews 5:14 (ESV)

Our entire lives, we are always moving towards the next big thing. After we are born, we next say our first word, then take our first step, then go to school for the first time, then our first day of high school comes, after that our first day of college, then our first day at our first real job, then our wedding day, then the day that we have our first child, then the day they say their first word, and so on, and so on. As humans, we are created to always want to move forward. But what is the next thing in Christianity? Are we done as soon as we're baptized? Is that our peak?

We always are pushing for the net big thing. Always improving ourselves, and structuring our lives to make everything better. Better for ourselves, better for our families, better for our communities, and just better for everyone around us. But when it comes to Christianity, some people get discouraged. It seems as if once we are baptized, we're good. We're saved, and then we just kind of go into autopilot. Especially if we grow up in the church, this can be very true. We forget that we still have steps to go after that. Being baptized is the equivalent of taking our first steps when we are a child. Of course it is crucial to taking more steps, so to speak, but it's certainly not when we stop trying to improve.

Hebrews 5:12-14 sheds some light on this when it says, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principals of the oracles of God. You
need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."

How does this verse shed light on what I was just saying? Well, it clearly says that there are some Christians that are more mature in their Christianity than others. Does this mean that newer Christians are less of Christians? Certainly not! However, If you are diligently studying God's Word every day, are you not going to be much wiser after ten years, than after five? Or after two?

1 Timothy 3:6 is discussing qualifications for elders, and pretty far down the list it states, "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil." Does this mean that just because a man is not, in this manner, qualified to be an elder, he is not a true Christian? Not at all. This just means that clearly, there are different struggles for new converts. This also implies, then, that as you grow in your Christianity, you will achieve more steps, and you will be going on further and further in your walk with Christ.

So what is the next step? This is different for every person. I wish I could say that it's to work on being so good, that the things that used to tempt you don't even bother you at all anymore. However, that is not going to happen. I know of one man that has not smoked a cigarette in decades, and yet he still has the urge to smoke sometimes. Many people will try to tell you that you are sinning just by having temptations, because that is "attachment to things of the world", and use verses such as James 1:14-15 to give evidence for this. However, Christ Himself was tempted as we see mainly in Matthew 4. Temptation itself is not equal to sin, it is simply a gateway to sin.

Our next step as Christians is not to get to a point in which we are no longer tempted, but it is to get to a point in which we no longer give into each temptation. Of course, we will never reach perfection, but that does not mean that we will not be closer to it than when we had started. The things we strive for in life will ultimately be what we obtain in eternity. If you are constantly perfecting yourself, and constantly striving to be like Christ, then you will spend an eternity being perfect, and being with Christ.

Whether it's no longer gossiping, no longer giving into the temptation of being rude, or making sure that you only put things into your mind that are pure and good, there are always things that we struggle with. But I have good news for you: the more we struggle with, the more in our lives we get to fix. And don't think that just because you grew up in the Church, that just because your parents are Christians, and just because being a Christian isn't hard for you, that you get a free pass. Because that is very likely the most common mindset of many Christians. It's easy to want to go into autopilot, and it's easy to say "I'm a Christian. I'm good." and give into temptation, and be completely absent on Sunday morning, and to not try to improve.

No matter where you are, there is always room to improve. There are always steps to take, and there is always something to refine. The point at which we decide that we do not need to improve is the time in which we need to take a step back and realize that we have so much to improve on.

Today I would like to encourage you to take a step back, and observe your life. What is the next step you can take? What is the next thing you can improve on? Take a day, a week, a month, or however long it takes, and focus on that. Set up goals and achievements for yourself. Baptism isn't a point to where we stop, but our first step in our walk towards heaven. So what's your next step?