Moving Beyond First Principles
This lesson is a natural one after having studied How People Became Christians In The First Century and Now That I'm A Christian.
The Bible is about having a relationship with God. At the beginning of every relationship, whether between people or between people and God, there has to be a mutual understanding of some ground rules. The rules do not comprise the entirety of the relationship, but there can be no relationships without some rules. A wise young lady will not date a man if she doesn't feel safe around him, and he will not date her if he thinks that there is no chance of them falling in love. Secondly, this may not usually be stated in such cold-hard terms, but the fact is that there must be some procedures. When will they see each other? Where? How often? What kinds of entertainment or other things will they engage in? About when should both expect the next date to be over? These understandings are common to relationships between humans. Should we expect that relationships should be different with humans and God, seeing that we have been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) ?
The non-Christian initially obeys the Gospel to avoid being destroyed by coming in the presence of a living, all-powerful God. The Hebrew writer said "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (10:31). God told Moses "Man cannot see my face and live" in Exodus 33:20. "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." I Corinthians 15:50. There has to be a way for man to be changed into something that can come into the direct presence of God, for God is holy and flawless, whereas man has acquired sin and is spiritually worthless. God wants a relationship with man, and has prescribed the way for it to happen. Man could not have done this on his own.
You did the right thing in becoming a Christian. It was not God's will that you or anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3: 9). Your actions in hearing God's word, believing it, repenting of past sins, confessing Jesus as Lord, and putting Jesus on in baptism were according to Scripture, God's written word. Respectively, you can read the Bible commands for those things in Romans 10: 17, Hebrews 11: 6, Acts 2: 38 and Acts 3: 19, confession in Acts 8: 37 and Matthew 10: 32, 33, and baptism for the remission of sins in a host of passages including but not limited to Acts 2: 38, Acts 8: 26-39, Acts 16: 30-34, Acts 22: 16, Romans 6: 1-6, and Galatians 3: 27.
So, what now? Now that I am a Christian, what do I do? [What are the procedures?] Cultivate the basic good habits of Christianity such as attending worship services at a church of Christ, read your Bible ever day, pray every day, improve at saying "No" to the temptations that you can readily identify as being invitations to doing wrong. These kinds of things are sometimes referred to as first principles of Christianity. You can read about them in Now That I'm A Christian.
Now let's press on to more maturity. Christianity is more than just getting "fire insurance" at the waters of baptism. You'll become bored if what is listed above is all there is to living a Christian life. And the Bible has much more to say about growing in Christ. The Hebrew writer said in chapter 5 "Of whom we have many things to say, and hard of interpretation, seeing ye are become dull of hearing. For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil." (verses 11 through 14). Let's look at some meatier matters.
"Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ" Paul said in I Corinthians 11: 1. As we study Jesus Christ, we become more like Him. That's a good thing, realizing that going to Heaven one day is more about being with Jesus and His followers than just about escaping the flames of Hell. From Philippians 2: 5-13, "Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure. "
Heaven will not just be the place that is the alternative to Hell. Heaven is the place where God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit live. The invitation to Heaven is an invitation to come live with them forever. If you had just been invited to share a college dorm room with someone, what kind of roommate would you expect? And what would they likely expect of you?
Combine that with the realization that this isn't just for a semester or year. This is for forever! God lives in a perfect place. He isn't going to change His perfect ways to accommodate someone who wants to bring his Earthly habits with him. God doesn't want roomates who will constantly be in conflict with each other, steal from each other, take His name in vain, or bring their drugs with them. He will simply say "No, you can't come." See Galatians 5: 19-21 "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they which practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Or I Corinthians 6: 9-11 "Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye were washed, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. " If you have ever been in one of those categories, ask God for help to get out of it. These are worldly things that God will not allow into Heaven.
As we grow in becoming like Christ, our ways of thinking change. We acquire the mind of Christ. We become interested in the things Christ is interested in and forget the things that Christ did not find important. It's like Paul said in Romans 12: 1, 2--" I beseech you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God."
In being baptized into Christ, we put on Christ (see Galatians 3: 27). When God looks at the Christian, He intentionally does not see a human with his sins. He sees His Son, Jesus Christ, instead, Our continued growth in Christ enables us to put on Christ-like ways. Doing that is practicing for Heaven.
The things we think about change. "Finally, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are right, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think on these things."--Philippians 4:8. What we think about becomes what we do. Eventually we become people who have these virtues, as listed in 2 Peter 1: 5-11--"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
We can spend our lifetimes doing these things and still find room to grow. There is no boredom in the Lord's Kingdom. If we think we're bored, we're not studying our Bibles enough.
Sid Womack, webmaster
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