First Five Things

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I wondered one day… What would be the first five things I would tell to a new believer?  Then it hit me.  Everyone would have a different answer to this question.  So I started collecting them.  What would be your five?  And who else do you think I should ask?

CURRENTLY COLLECTING ANSWERS!  SEND YOURS TO: james.d.voigt@gmail.com and use the subject line “First Five Things.”

Rachel

Blogger at Cinnamon and Brown Sugar

1.       There is nothing you can do to earn God’s love – you already have it.  Acts 15:11, Ephesians 2:8

2.       There is nothing you or anyone else can do that can separate you from God’s love or make him stop loving you.  Romans 8:35

3.       All of your sins – past, present and future all forgiven and paid for, you don’t have to pay the penalty (regarding future sins, see #’s 1&2).  Hebrews 7:27, 1 John 2:2

4.       We don’t become Christ-like by trying, striving, working for it, earning it. We become Christ-like by getting to know him as you would a friend or spouse: spending time with Him, listening & talking to Him, reading the word, submitting every thought, spoken word, decision to Him. Sometimes it’s a mechanical thing – you do it because you know you should – but it will reap spiritual rewards and victory.  Romans 12:1+2, Colossians 3:1-25, Psalm 1:1-6, Proverbs3:6

5.       Living a Christian life is not as complicated as some people make it seem, that is an excuse for people who don’t really want to do it.  It’s simple but it’s not easy, if you fall, He will help you get back up and keep going. His mercies are new every morning. Dont look back, keep moving forward, keep doing the right things – keep it simple.  🙂   Lamentations 3:22-23, Luke 18:17

The Masked Rabit

Blogger at The Masked Rabbit’s Blog

1) Get ready for the criticism and the mis-understanding from friends, family members and co-workers. Get ready to be laughed at, challenged with the big questions which you’re probably still struggling with yourself. My advice? Keep it real. Keep your answers real. If you don’t know the answer, say so. It doesn’t make you a weak or poor Christian. It makes you honest and most people will at least respect that. Jesus said the world would mock and condemn as they did Him. There’s no getting away from it, your choice to follow Jesus will not be popular with quite a few people. But hold on to the fact that He will never leave you, is always with you even as this happens. You may shed tears, get angry or feel lonely but God will be with you through it all.

2) You will still screw up. You are not perfect. The difference is that God is working on you and as you go to Him each time to say sorry, get forgiveness and work with Him on that recurring sin, He will begin to change your heart. It may take a lifetime, it may be instantaneous or may take weeks/months/years but God will help you. Don’t let yourself come under legalism, don’t be a perfectionist. God is working on you. He is bringing you to completion. Take heart from that.

3) Nothing is wasted in God. Your past, your current struggles, the bad stuff life will have for you down the road (because none of us are free from the day to day struggles and tragedies that is being a human being on this planet) can all be used for God’s glory. You used to get drunk (maybe even still do from time to time)? God will use that to speak to someone who struggles as He breaks you free from that sin. You had an abortion? God will heal you then you will be able to reach out to others who are in similar situations. You were subjected to violence or even perpetrated violence? There are people out there who will need to hear your story and what God does to get you through it, redeem or heal you from it. Nothing is wasted in God, NOTHING!

4) You belong to the worldwide family of God now. I can’t explain properly how amazing that is but, from my perspective, it’s enabled me to be welcomed when I am a stranger in a strange land. I have entered churches where I don’t know anyone and been hugged like a long lost relative. I’ve talked to strangers, discovered our mutual love of God and felt a connection that is unbelievable. I’ve been encouraged online when going through dark places by those that don’t know me, prayed for on telephones by other Christians who have never met me and will never speak to again this side of heaven yet they have given me encouragement to move on. The family of God is amazing. Welcome to it Brother/Sister.

5) Find yourself a mentor, an older Christian, mature in the faith, who will help you find your way in your new path. Let them help you find more out about God. Become accountable and go meet with them regularly so you can talk through any questions, problems and new developments as you grow. Pray with them regularly. It will be so valuable. I wish I had had one when I first became a Christian. Do yourself a favour and find one.

What are your first five?

Hannah Neill

Blogger at Neill Before the Lord

1) Firstly, welcome home.  Following Jesus is not a hobby or a part time social club, this is a family. A family of ordinary people who are loved by an extraordinary God.
2) Hold onto hope.  You may have noticed already but sometimes life can suck. And it doesn’t get any easier when you become a Christian. But always remember that we have a hope that never disappoints
3) Count the cost.   Get ready for an adventure. For disciples of Jesus, apathy is not an option- you give it all but you gain so much more. God loves you just as you are, but he loves you too much to leave you as you are.
4) Don’t ever think you’re disqualified.  Because you’re too young, too new, too old, too bad, too shy, too different- Grace has qualified you and God has big plans for your life.
5) Remember this moment.  Never forget this first love. Because that is what this is all about. Love. Love your friends, love your enemies, love yourself and love God- because he has always and will always love you.

Bill Voigt

1.  Often what we do for others speaks louder than words.  Good works, kind words, generosity, charity, and love for our fellow brothers and sisters (all of them) done in humility is part of our mission.  These things are not necessarily a means to an end, they are why we are here.

2.  Tradition, prayer, the physical act of opening our hearts and minds to God’s love through our actions (and acceptance of the love others bestow on us) is the bread of life.  These things keep us centered in the physical world.  It’s difficult to maintain a God-centered life of love and service to those in need when we relegate God to the space between our ears.  He does indeed reside there, but also in our hearts, in our hands, in our bodies, as much as he does in the lilies in the field.  The difference is when we allow ourselves to think, love, and act in love to God, it’s like breaking and sharing the bread of life for others to be nourished and energized to do the same for others. (side note: the five loaves of bread that fed 5,000?  What a fitting metaphor!)

3.  We are not saved by faith alone.  Faith and works are two sides of one coin.  Pursuing salvation through faith alone excludes us from the opportunity to practice what we believe, what we have faith in.  Christ did not become human to convince us to pursue salvation through a deep faith alone, he opened his arms and died – the ultimate sacrifice – as a physical action taken to save us.  God had the power to save each and every one of us without sacrificing his son, the physical reality of Christ’s suffering and death was done to exemplify the marriage between the physical world and the spiritual faith that aches to be realized through good works.

4.  Prayer, in its many formats from free-form to rigidly structured, is a way to include the physical world into our spiritual hearts, our souls.  What one may find a rewarding and important manner of prayer may not connect the physical to the spiritual in the way it may in another.  For some, speaking aloud to God, free form, in a room of brothers and sisters  brings a closeness and intimacy that nothing else can.  For others, whispering our deepest prayers in a quiet room, hands folded, eyes closed is “home”.  Still others may find recitation of structured prayer to free the mind to allow those words to flow like water through our bodies, souls and minds in a way that connects us to God like nothing else can.  What’s important about prayer is to find your own “home”, your own way of praying and connecting that nourishes your life and softens your heart to receive God’s word.

5.  Love yourself.  Easy, right?  Not for many,  Or at least, not for me.  Maybe you, too.  For a long time I tried and tried to fit the square peg of “religion” into the round hole of my heart, to no avail.  That hole lay gaping and raw for most of my 40+ years of life.  But, when I discovered that what my soul was aching for wasn’t to be filled up and cemented shut by religion, but rather filled up with love for myself, my eyes filled with tears and (finally)….I “got it”.  Once I found true love for my own divinity through Christ, once I could not deny (Eureka!) that cliché of “you’ve got to love yourself before you can love another” is actually TRUE, a whole new world opened up for me, and for the first time I felt the love of God in every atom of my body, every reflection and leap of my soul, in every thought and deed I committed.

Britt Lee

Blogger at East Meets Breast

1. I have nothing to “tell” you, at all, except welcome. Welcome to a community, to a discussion, to a shared notion that there are Good Things in the universe, to the inescapable fact that you are valued and loved.

2. Keep learning. Bible Study, church attendance, CS Lewis… whatever suits you. Scripture can be elusive, contradictory, life changing, and hilarious. Read, discuss, repeat.

3. Awaken your servant heart. Say “yes” more than “no” and reap the rewards of fellowship and friendship with like-hearted do-gooders.

4. Talk about your faith. This comes slowly… for some, it’s never comfortable. But an open willingness to share your testimony, to explain your beliefs… even to admit that you’re going to Bible Study instead of yoga… these small acts honor our God. Learn to insert Him into your day in a way that others will wonder what they might be missing.

5. Pray. Pray. Pray. Pray for miracles, for impossible things. Pray every day. And then put your faith in the noticing. He is Here.

Chris Martin

Author and bloger at Chris Martin Writes and One7.

1)      Truly following Christ isn’t the pretty, safe, cushy, organized, perfectly packaged life that so many churches in America today are saying  it’s like. Following Christ is hard. Jesus said we are to die to ourselves daily and follow Him. That is the complete opposite of our human nature. We are born into this world with our own needs foremost in our minds. His wants and desires for our life need to come before our own. We need to be willing to give up our hopes and dreams if He tells us to. Doesn’t mean He will. We just have to be willing. Am I saying churches are bad? Of course not. We just have to be careful not to worship a pastor instead of our true Daddy.

2)      Just because we accept Christ as our personal savior, it doesn’t mean our poo stopped stinking. We are, and never will be, better than anyone else. We are human, and we are going to fail miserably over and over. And guess what? That’s okay. Jesus allowed Himself to be barbarically murdered on that Cross, so we wouldn’t have to try and live a perfect life. He knew it was impossible for us to accomplish. He desires to have a relationship with us, dirty laundry and all. Besides, it’s in our moments of uncertainty and weakness where God reveals His amazing power and strength. Satan will constantly try and use the guilt over your sin to drag you down. You have to stand strong and keep punching him in the face.

3)      Get out of your comfort zone. When we push ourselves to do things we wouldn’t normally want to do, God shows up. Big time. Don’t like to speak in front of people, and just don’t know what to say? Start talking, God will provide the words. Feel a nudging to give money to someone in need, but you’re afraid you can’t pay the bills? Give the money, God will provide for the bills. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is impossible for our God.

4)      Don’t turn your Christian walk into a methodical, robotic set of rituals. Throw away the checklist that says you have to go to church, read your Bible, or pray a certain amount of times each day and during the week. All of those things are awesome, but not when it comes to a point where we feel guilty for not doing one of them. When we start trying to contain the Holy Spirit in a rigid set of habits, we are no better off than the Pharisees. Our relationship should not be with a book, a building, or a mantra we have to repeat on a consistent basis. Our relationship is with the Creator of the universe. Yes, of course read your Bible. But don’t let that knowledge become a replacement for the Holy Spirit. If you can’t memorize a billion verses, it’s all good. You now have the Living Word inside of you. Yes, go to church and fellowship with other believers. Just don’t forget that Jesus came for the sick, poor, lost, broken, dying, lame, prostitutes, drug dealers, murderers, pedophiles, and the homeless. Ones who would never set foot inside the four walls of a church. Get out there and be a light.

5)      Finally, be Christ to others. He came to serve, not to be served. He loved the ones in society whom everyone else avoided. We are all learning as we go. No one has all the answers. If we could understand God, that would make Him no bigger than us. Why would we want to serve, and live for someone that small and puny? If someone tells you they have it all figured out, run the opposite direction. Don’t ever put all of your hope in a human. They will always let you down. Put all of your hope, trust, and faith in Christ. And never forget that you’ll never walk alone. He is always there.

Pastor PJ Malin

Blogger at Goodbook and Teaching Pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Here are the first five things I would say to a new believer (or anyone for that matter):

1)      Before you come searching for God, God comes searching for you!

2)      Faith is a journey of listening and following!

3)      Travel with others!

4)      Give God your best; He gave his best for you!

5)      Satan will try to take you out, so stay close to God!

You can also hear a full sermon that Pastor PJ preached on these First Five Things at the Good Shepherd Sermons Link.

Nanci Haigler Flynn

Author – My Father’s Hand

1. God is real, a great deal more real than you and I are.

2. God loves you beyond human expression, unconditionally and forever, and you can’t make him stop, no matter what you have done, not done, have been or are or will be, now and in the future, as well as the past.

3. Even if you don’t believe he exists or you flat out hate him, you still can’t make God stop loving you and wanting what are truly the most wonderful possibilities for your life.

4. God understands that we are limited by our minds, no matter how brilliant they might be, so he provided Jesus to be the bridge between our existence in the natural world, with all its severe limitations, and the supernatural kingdom that is filled and founded in his love which has no limits at all.

5. When you’re ready to leave behind the limitations inherent to the natural world we all live in as long as we draw breath, just remember that you can take his hand any time and plant your heart and your mind in the kingdom of God’s love, even while your feet are stuck here in the mud of the natural world.

5.a. It’s all your call, and God is going to love you no matter what you decide.

Then, me being me and never one to be confined by rules all that much, I would no doubt launch into a full blown explanation of the fact that Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship with the Living God in and through the person of Jesus Christ.

I would probably also point out that the only people Jesus ever got harsh with were the religious people of his day, and he’s going to have some sharp words before all is said and done for folks who call themselves Christian while not looking the least bit like he does.

Then I might be quiet, which is not nearly as easy for me to do as it looks on tv. Might be a good idea if I took the duct tape with me, though, just in case.

McDaniels Gyamfi

Blogger at Gravity of Grace

1. I would definitely tell a new believer that all their sins have been completely forgiven (the past, present and the future).

2. I would point to him the fact that there is nothing he can do to separate himself from the love of God (this will require a lot of explanation).

3. Christianity is Christ….a relationship with Jesus Christ. The Christian life does not depend on their ability but on the life of Christ through them by faith (Gal 2:20-21)

4. They should walk in faith to embrace on what Christ has already done. This faith is not a motivation to move God to do something; it’s a life of rest on his faith to appropriate His finished work (For instance 2 Pet 2:24 says by his stripes we are healed. Which means it’s a done deal in our born again spirit)

5. Delve into the word daily to behold the beauty of Christ as He speaks, directs, guides and reflects who we are in the mirror of his word).  Thanks for the opportunity to share the good news with others. Cheers!

My home page is http://graceology.org/

Raul Lopez

Blogger at Bible Questions and Answers

1.       Forget everything you’ve learned and relearn everything again.  God and his word are not American, Hispanic, Black, or any other ethnic/race group.  It was centered on Judaism, written in Greek, Hebrew, some Aramaic taking into account their culture and not yours.

2.       Don’t believe anyone.  Use your own brain to figure out if what someone says is right or wrong.  This includes your Pastor, Commentaries, Church Leaders, and any other Respected Persons.  They are meant to guide and convince you but not to make you believe or agree.  You need to use your own brain for that.

3.       Use your brain. The majority of believers, both babies and grown, seem to believe that they’ve reached the pinnacle of their walk with the most minimal of information. Information is out there and, without you getting to it and applying said information to life, you become stuck as a baby. DIG IN AND EAT!

4.       Take the bible as your sole source of dogmatic information and, BY ALL MEANS, ignore your heart.  The heart of man is naturally deceitful.  Your emotions will steer you AWAY from truth and not towards it.  I guess the best way to say this is: ‘Rule your heart with your mind, not your mind with your heart’.  Make a conscious decision to do, believe, and act in a certain way and then allow your emotions to follow those parameters and not vice versa.

5.       Be always willing to change your mind.  What you believe now about God is not what you will believe about him five years from now, assuming you take the time to comply with the other points mentioned.  What you think you’re doing now that is good may be completely different than what you will think as you ‘get older in Christ’.  Always question everything, including such seamlessly commonly acceptable ideas such as, but not limited to, marriage, sex, love, holidays, bosses, wives, husbands, parenting, and a whole list of other things.  What is socially commonly accepted as the norm is not necessarily what the bible teaches about it.

Some of these answers are based on Romans 12:1-2; I Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:11-14; Acts 17:10-11; Ephesians 4:11-15

My home page is: http://theologystand.wordpress.com/

Photo credit: Judy ** / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
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