An Open Letter to a New Christian
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Crossway.org in their Open Letters series. For more on this topic see Sam Emadi’s mini-book, What Should I Do Now that I’m a Christian? in the new 9Marks Church Questions Series.
Jesus Christ rose from the dead. You now realize that this one historical fact changes everything. If Christ is risen, he must be who he says he is—the Son of God. If Christ is risen, he must be able to do what he promised—save us from our sins. If you’ve repented of your sin and you’re trusting in Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead, you are a Christian.
So now what? What should you do in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead? Allow me to offer a few practical suggestions as you seek to follow our Lord.
NEVER GROW TIRED OF THE CROSS
Salvation is a free gift. That fact was true the moment you first believed the gospel, and it will remain true for the rest of your life. But you will struggle to believe it. In the years ahead, you may find yourself tempted to believe that even though you were saved by grace, you need to maintain God’s love by your performance. Satan will constantly try to convince you that you need to smuggle your own righteousness into your relationship with God. Your heart will be tempted to think of God as miserly, distant, coldhearted, or indifferent toward you—a God whose love must now be earned.
But God’s love for you never waivers. His faithfulness does not ebb and flow according to your obedience. His love is never as fickle as ours. We continue to walk with the Lord the same way we began, not by trusting in our performance, but by believing God’s promises (Gal. 3:1–6).
Therefore, make it your primary ambition each day to set your heart on the cross and resurrection of Christ. At the cross, we remember our sin. At the cross, we most clearly see God’s love for us. In the cross and resurrection, we see God’s unswerving commitment to fulfill his promises. Never grow tired of meditating on the cross.
CONSIDER THE END
You’ve only just begun your new life in Christ, but it’s already time to think about how your earthly life will end. Consider regularly how you can persevere in faith, holiness, and love for God and for others. After all, the Bible teaches that one way our faith proves genuine is that it lasts and produces holiness throughout our life (Heb. 12:14).
Don’t pursue emotional highs, spiritual “quick fixes,” or any fad that promises immediate victory over sin. Set yourself on the long road of obedience. Following Christ requires denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following him wherever he may lead (Luke 9:23). The gospel promises us salvation from God’s wrath and freedom from sin; it doesn’t promise an easy life. You must always remember the example of your Savior. Our life will mirror his own: suffering comes before glory, and the cross precedes the crown.
Once again, never tire of returning to the cross of Christ and the empty tomb. You began your Christian life by believing the gospel, and so you will persevere to the end by continuing to believe that same gospel.
COMMIT TO GOD’S PEOPLE
All of this may seem quite daunting. Obedience is costly and the road of perseverance is long. But God, in his kindness, does not want you to walk this road alone. The gospel may have given you a personal relationship with God, but it is not a private one. Jesus Christ created local churches of men and women who profess the same faith and follow him as Lord to encourage you to persevere in love for Christ (Heb. 10:23–25).
The gospel doesn’t just reconcile us to God, it reconciles us to his people (1 Pet. 2:10; Eph. 2:11–21). In fact, just look at how the New Testament describes Christians and you’ll see how central the local church is to the Christian life. The Bible describes us as parts of a body (1 Cor. 12:12–27), stones in a temple (1 Pet. 2:4–5), and members of a family (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 4:17). We’re not saved for monkish isolation. We’re saved into the church. In fact, Jesus said we show the world that we are truly his disciples only as we live in committed, loving relationships with our brothers and sisters (John 13:35).
So don’t think of the local church as an add-on to the Christian life—one thing you do among other acts of devotion. Instead, the church is the primary context where you live out your commitment to Christ. In the church, we study the Bible, pray, learn, evangelize, suffer, grieve, give, and worship with God’s people. In the local church, we practice forgiving others as Christ has forgiven us, we encourage our brothers and sisters to follow the Lord and persevere in faith, and we receive the accountability, care, and correction we need as we strive to follow Christ.
In the local church, you’ll find older saints modeling Christian maturity. You’ll find suffering saints teaching others by example how to trust God in the midst of pain. You’ll sit under teachers of God’s word who care about your spiritual well-being. You’ll find yourself swept into the prayers of others and profiting from their knowledge of Scripture. You’ll also have the opportunity to reflect your Savior’s love for you by forgiving those who wrong you and exercising patience with folks who may annoy, or even wound, you. If you’re committed to following Christ, commit yourself to his people.
In sum, if you’re a new Christian (or an old one), make it your everyday ambition to know God through Jesus Christ and to walk the long road of faith and obedience in the company of other brothers and sisters in a local church.
Your brother in Christ,