The purpose of Journey into New Life is to introduce people to the reasons why they need to believe in Jesus Christ and show them how to get started as His disciple. The need is not just to start this race, but also to finish it. In order to do that, we need to keep our attention focussed on the One who is the author of our faith, the One who will enable us to finish just as He did. It will not be straightforward though, because society in general (as well as the rebellious spirits we have previously mentioned) will work together to take our eyes off Jesus. They act like the wind and waves which distracted Peter from Christ who had called him to walk across the sea to meet Him. When Peter found himself sinking, he had the good sense to call out to Christ for help. We as individuals will need do this too from time to time, but Jesus has also called us to believe in Him alongside others who are doing the same. Provided they are keeping their attention on Jesus, they can help us learn about Him and His ways and to grow in faith through their example and encouragement.
We are told that those who believed in Jesus in response to Peter’s speech on the Day of Pentecost, “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” It is good to ask The LORD to build these four things into your life.
Apostles’ teaching: Of course the first apostles are no longer with us, but by The LORD’s provision we do have the Bible, which we can study. We can study it by ourselves; we can study it with others; we can listen as those whom God has called to teach share what He has taught them. The last two thousand years has seen the Church at large take many side tracks, causing it to be influenced by a lot of wrong ideas. Through His mercy The Lord has preserved the Scriptures so that we can get pretty close to the source documents of His record of His dealings with people throughout history. But please note; it is possible to study these for years and not to get to know Jesus any better. The Bible is only of benefit to us when the Holy Spirit speaks through it and applies the truth it contains to our lives. He can do this in whatever way we study the Scriptures, as long as we are wanting to hear from Him. Do not neglect getting to know the Bible, and always check what others tell you with what it says.
Fellowship: This means spending time with others who are on the Way of Christ. It is not only time spent in worship and study, but also in practical support of one another - we read that these first converts ate together and redistributed their material wealth amongst the community of believers. Elsewhere in the New Testament we are told that the purpose of meeting together is to “stir up love and good works” in one another. Sadly, it is not always easy to find others who have committed themselves to loving The LORD with all they are. Not every group or organisation which calls itself a church is full of people who are serious disciples of Jesus Christ. You won’t find a single group of Christians which doesn't struggle to keep their eyes on Jesus, but there are many churches which never stop to listen to Jesus at all. If you have not yet met anyone else who is carefully walking with The LORD, do pray that He will give you the wisdom to find other such believers through whom He can encourage you and build you up in faith. Look not for a particular style of church, but seek for others through whom The LORD speaks to you and watch how they live. Paul told the recipients of one of his letters, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Do your best to get to know Christians who are living lives which are focussed on Jesus.
Breaking Bread: Like baptism, breaking bread (sometimes called communion) is a physical act which has benefits in the spiritual realm. Jesus initiated the practice the night before He was executed. He took a piece of bread and a cup of wine from the Passover meal, and gave them their full meaning. The people of Israel had always celebrated Passover, looking back to the time when The LORD led them out of slavery in Egypt. Jesus told His closest followers that this piece of bread was His body sacrificed for them, and that the wine sealed the new covenant between God and mankind. Without stipulating how often they should remember His death in this way, He did say that they should do it. Acts suggests that the first converts did so daily; today the frequency varies in most Christian groups from weekly, fortnightly and monthly to yearly and in a few cases, never.
Because breaking bread is of benefit, it is good to meet with others in a way which offers the opportunity to do it regularly. But there is a warning in the New Testament - when we break bread we need to do so with a right attitude towards The LORD and towards one another. Paul warned the Christians in Corinth (which was a church full of bad teaching and consequent moral corruption) that breaking bread with the wrong attitude had caused some of them to become ill and others to die. Why should this be the case? He had reminded them earlier that when they broke bread, they were identifying themselves with the broken body and the shed blood of Christ in an act that was spiritual as well as physical. The best way to respond to this danger is not to avoid breaking bread at all, but to make sure that you eat and drink before God with a humble heart, loving Him above everything else.
Prayers: Prayer, as we have already seen, is a vital part of our fellowship with The LORD. Jesus told His followers to pray in secret without showing off in public, but He also said that if two of them prayed in harmony about a matter, they would receive what they asked for. There is therefore a place for prayer with other believers and again in Acts we read of the early Christians coming together for prayer, sometimes in private but sometimes openly. It is important to remember that prayer is to come from our hearts, as Jesus said that empty, repetitive words are of no use to His followers. When Peter was in prison on one occasion, we are told that the other believers prayed fervently for him. Heartfelt prayer is always better than religious repetition when we talk to our Father in Heaven.
This is where I have to leave you on this journey. I hope I have been able to point you towards Jesus Christ, the only One who can give you the new life I have written about. Walking with Christ, being led by the Holy Spirit, learning to love The LORD our God with all that we are is an amazing path to follow. As I have said, not everyone appreciates those who choose this way. However, it is worth persevering and trusting Him, whatever difficulties lie ahead. Becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ is about finishing the race as well as starting it. Look to Him rather than any person (or church system) to be your guide and He will keep you safe. May He, by His grace, draw you closer to Him day by day and may your fellowship with His Father prepare you for the day when you meet Him face to face.
Next: The names of God
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