So, what’s next?
Great question! You have repented of your sins and accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord—and now what?? There are some very important steps we need to take on this journey with Jesus. We need to be intentional in our life with Him, not haphazard. Every Christian whether just beginning or well into their journey, needs to have some important disciplines in their life with Christ.
Life in a Local Church
Many people think of church as a building, but it is the people of God who are the church. The church that introduced us to Jesus is most likely a good place to attend and participate. If they were instrumental in our salvation, they should help us grow in our Christian walk. A good church is one where God is worshipped, Jesus is proclaimed as the only Savior, the Bible is preached, and the Holy Spirit is permitted to change people’s lives. It is also a place where we will be loved and taught the ways of Christ.
We should attend regularly and give of ourselves to the work of God in a local church. Every Christian should generously support the local church financially. Faithfully serving in our church even in the mundane and practical things is a wonderful blessing. Also, a great place to grow and learn is in a small group or Sunday school class.
One of the first steps in a believer’s life after salvation is baptism. Baptism identifies us with Christ and His church. Salvation is initiated by a spiritual urging from God. Our response to God is one of faith in Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Savior, repentance from our sins, and a verbal confession of our belief and commitment. Baptism is an extension of the verbal confession. If we have repented of our sins and accepted Jesus as our Savior, we need to be baptized.
Water baptism is a visual picture of our inner spiritual rebirth. As we are leaned toward the water, it illustrates surrender. When we are placed briefly under the water it shows the death of our past life. Then as we are raised up from the water it demonstrates our resurrection into our new life in Christ.
There are numerous instances of baptism in the scripture, and it is the expected next step for a new follower of Jesus. The disciples of Jesus baptized those who made a commitment to follow Christ. The Book of Acts is filled with examples of baptism for new believers (see Acts 10:44-48; Acts 16:30-33).
The Bible says a person should be baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:19).
Study God’s Word
The Bible is God’s Word. It is our source of truth. The life of a true disciple is lived out in accordance with the principles of God’s Word. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 NKJV).
Where do we need to start in the Bible? We should begin in the Book of John found in the New Testament, so right away we are learning about Jesus and His life. Then continue in Matthew and work our way through the rest of the New Testament. Once we have read the New Testament, begin to read the Old Testament, especially the book of Genesis. Genesis will give us the background of the creation, the Fall of man into sin, and the beginning of God’s redemptive plan for mankind.
Studying the Bible is a lifelong pursuit. We need a steady intake of God’s Word to become spiritually strong and healthy Christians. As we learn little by little, each biblical principle will add to our understanding of scripture. These building blocks of discipleship are a lifelong pursuit of growing strong in our lives dedicated to following Jesus.
Prayer along with studying the Bible are the two most important spiritual disciplines we need to do daily. Prayer is not that complicated; it is a conversation with God. A great beginning point is to study the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and use it as a model or an outline for our prayers. We can pour our hearts out to God and allow Him to fill our hearts as we meet with Him in prayer.
Some of our greatest moments in prayer, will be when we just talk with God. It is a great privilege that we can just sit down and talk with the Creator of the Universe—how great is that?
We learn to hear the voice of God in prayer. Prayer is a conversation, a dialogue which means two people are talking. We talk to God and God talks to us; we should wait and listen for Him to speak to our hearts. When a close family member calls us on the phone, we recognize their voice because we have a relationship with them. It is the same with God, as we listen to Him, we learn to hear His voice more and more.
Our relationship with Jesus is nurtured through prayer and the study of His Word. Through our relationship with God, He transfers His life into ours, making us vibrant Christians.
Becoming Like Jesus
The journey of discipleship is following Jesus to become more like Him. If we have surrendered our life to follow Jesus, we are rightly called a disciple. The definition of a disciple is a student, learner, or follower. Jesus is our Teacher, Savior, and Lord. We are in the process of becoming like Jesus as we learn His ways.
Our best tool to share Jesus with others is to be more like Him. People are more open to listen to us about our life in Jesus if they see us living as a real Christian. It is one of the greatest means of leading others to Jesus. Most people will follow us to Jesus before they begin to follow Jesus.
We learn to be like Jesus by studying the Bible and applying the principles of God’s Word in our lives. As we participate in our faith community (the church), we also learn from other Christians as we follow their examples.
As we mature, we can be an example to others as well. This is the joy of discipleship as we learn from each other and grow in our Christlikeness together.
The Sermon on the Mount found in the Book of Matthew, chapters 5-7, is a great teaching by Jesus that describes the life of a true Christian. The biblical principles in these scriptures are a great basis for Christian discipleship. Jesus’ sermon gives us many real-life basics for living a life that exemplifies the life of Jesus. He tells us how to be a light in this dark world.
Life in the Holy Spirit
When we first believed, the Holy Spirit began dwelling in our spirit which is our inner man. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said we needed to be born again (see John 3:1-21). Our spirit is born again. The lifelong process of growing in the Lord takes place as the Holy Spirit influences our life to become more like Jesus.
Our first steps with the Holy Spirit will be to understand His guidance into the things of truth and the understanding of the Bible. The Holy Spirit will give us direction and understanding. He will direct us in the right way and turn us from the wrong way. We will learn to know Him more as we take this journey.
The Holy Spirit fills us as we surrender to Him and influences more of our lives. As we walk further with Him, we will discover the spiritual gifts given to us that will empower us for life and ministry. We need to obey the still-small voice of the Holy Spirit. He will lead us into the ways of Jesus and protect us from the ways of the world as we listen and obey. The Holy Spirit has been sent to walk with us in this life.
God speaks to us in various ways. Some of the more common ways He speaks are through the Bible, by the Holy Spirit in our hearts, through a trustworthy person, and through situations and events.
God often speaks to give us understanding of scripture, guidance, direction, comfort, peace, to warn about situations, and to give understanding of a variety of things on a “need to know basis”.
We must understand that not every voice we hear is the voice of God. It will take time, practice, and even trial and error to be able to distinguish God’s voice from other voices. Voices other than God’s voice can be our own thoughts, things said to us in the past, or even evil influences.
It is okay and even wise to question the thoughts and influences we sense in our mind or heart. The more time we spend with God in prayer and in His Word, the more fine-tuned our spiritual perception and understanding will become. Our spiritual ears will begin to discern the voice of God from all others.
The Word of God is the filter through which we need to sift information or influences. God’s Word is always right. Any thought or spoken word must be measured by the Word of God. If something does not agree with the Bible, then it is not from God. The voice of God will not conflict with the Word of God. The Bible is the standard by which we judge everything.
This scripture in John 16:13 (NKJV) is a great description of the work of the Holy Spirit leading us in truth, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” We need to listen to the voice of the Spirit.
Knowing God’s Will
The will of God is His plan and purpose for us. God is good and His desire for us is always the best. The best possible life for us is found in God’s perfect will. If we go against God’s will then we are in rebellion against God, but there is great protection and blessing when we are living in God’s will.
It is important to remind ourselves of God’s great wisdom. Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV) tells us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. / For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
How do we know God’s will? When we follow God’s will, there will be a settled peace in our hearts. If we walk contrary to God’s will, our hearts will be troubled (sometimes as only a small “tug” in our heart).
God’s will or leading will often be a lingering feeling in our hearts. We will not be able to cover up or drown out God’s leading. Sometimes, we may even attempt to dismiss the leading of the Holy Spirit but deep down in our hearts there will be a sense of the right way in which we should go.
Life changing decisions such as changing jobs, moving, marriage, etc., need to be saturated in prayer and given time for us to properly know God’s will.
Welcome to the Journey!
We will learn more as we take this journey of following Jesus. Remember, becoming more like Jesus is a lifetime pursuit. Each step we take in our life of discipleship adds to our journey. May God give us all grace and strength as we follow in His steps.
Yours on the Journey,
Harry L. Whitt