This past Sunday at Southbridge we had an incredible day of worship. At the conclusion of the sermon I gave an old fashioned altar call, inviting people to come forward and kneel at the altar and do business with God. There were a lot of people who responded in both of our Sunday morning services. I do not know all of the reasons why people came forward, but undoubtedly there were many decisions of repentance, commitments, re-commitments and other significant decisions being made between people and God. Maybe you were one of those who made one of those decisions, but now it is Monday. What is next for you?
I am composing this blog with the goal to give you a simple guide for what to do next after making a big decision in your relationship with God.
1. New believer, go public!
Tell someone. The best way to solidify your decision to follow Jesus is to let someone in your life know. I encourage you to tell two people right away. First tell someone else who is a Christian. That could be the person who invited you to church. You could also tell a neighbor, parent, spouse, friend, co-worker, classmate or someone whom you know is also a Christian. It is very likely that person has been praying for you to become a Christian, even if you did not know they were. They will be very encouraged. The Bible says all of heaven rejoiced over your decision (Luke 15:7 &10), no doubt these people will too. Next, I encourage you to tell someone who is not yet a Christian. This will be beneficial to you in that it will increase your accountability with this person. They need to know Jesus too (just like you did before trusting Jesus) and God wants to use you to share the good news with them (Romans 10:17).
Also, the Bible tells us that after trusting Jesus as our Savior we should go public with our faith through what is known as baptism. Jesus commissioned us to baptize people in Matthew 28:18-20. We see the New Testament model for baptism through Acts is that after (not prior to this decision) people believed they were then baptized. You should be baptized. If Southbridge is your church then our next baptism will be on July 30th. You are invited to be baptized. You can get more information on baptism and sign up here.
2. Other decisions, tell your community
Like with a new believer this is a way to solidify your decision, increase your accountability and invite someone into what God is doing in your life. Your relationship is personal but it was never meant to be private. There are approximately 59 commands in the New Testament that require you to be in close community with other believers. In other words you cannot be an obedient Christian and not be in community. There are numerous benefits to you sharing what God is doing in your life. The person you are sharing with may have a different perspective on what God is doing in your life that may help you see things you would have never seen on your own. Simply by telling them you increase your accountability for the decision you just made. Your vulnerability in sharing may encourage them to take next steps in their relationship with Jesus. God’s plan is to use each other to grow our faith Romans 1:12. These are just a few of the ways sharing your decision with those you are in close community with is an important next step.
If you don’t currently have close relationships with other people in your church I encourage you to get in one of our small groups. Here is a link to our currently available small groups.
3. Replace, don’t just remove
Most significant decisions in following Jesus begin with repentance (stopping sin, turning from it and turning toward God). Oftentimes people make the mistake of saying, “I am turning from this idol in my life” (porn, substance addiction, anger, money as a source of trust, etc) with no real plan for what to do next. Then one often feels like they are left to their own strength to white knuckle their way into resisting this temptation and it is only a matter of time before this idol again takes a prominent place in their life. One of the reasons for this is because these people have never learned the principle that you can’t just remove an idol; you must replace it. They miss the second part of repentance. It is not just turning from sin, it is turning to God. If you want to stop trusting in money and start trusting in Jesus then how will Jesus be where you turn when you are used to turning to money? If you are used to using food, sex, or a substance as your way of escape, what steps will you take to discipline yourself to turn to Jesus in those moments when you know you used to turn to your idol? God does not want to merely clean up the sin in your life, His desire is to do a work in your heart that changes you from the inside out. You must replace your idol with the one true God (Exodus 20:3-5; Matthew 22:37; Matthew 23:25-26). The next principle should help you in applying this one.
4. Draw near
Sometimes when we make a decision to follow Jesus, recommit to Him or repent of some sin we expect to then passively sit by and watch hoping something will just happen. You made a decision to be in close relationship with God. That relationship, like any important relationship, requires time and effort. James tells us if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). So, how does one draw near to God?
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few ways to draw near to God. First, pray. Set aside a time and place where you regularly pray to God. Praying to God is simply talking to Him and listening to Him. Be still in His presence. Acknowledge that He is God. Confess your sin. Bring your requests for yourself and for others. Praise Him for who He is and what He has done in your life. Ask Him to use you to fulfill His plan. Ask Him to open your eyes to how He is leading you. Ask Him to give you great joy and delight in Him. Second, read the Scripture. (Start with the Gospel of Mark. Here you can see how Jesus interacted with different people and learn how He wants to relate with you). God has revealed Himself through the Bible. If you want to grow closer to God, go to the place He has clearly revealed Himself (the Bible). Prepare your heart through prayer and listen to Him speak through His word. Third, worship the Lord with other believers. One way to ensure your heart does not get desensitized to sin is by being a weekly part of a local church (not just an online experience, as the point is not simply to download more content). Check out what Hebrews 10:22-25 says about this topic and write down what this passage says about the importance of regularly meeting with other believers for worship. Fourth, journal. Begin to write out your thoughts, feelings, prayers, and other elements of your spiritual journey. This is a way to slow down and reflect. Fifth, regularly repent. Repentance is not a one-time event; it is a regular part of the Christian life.
“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” – Martin Luther in the first of the 95 Theses
5. Who’s ahead of you?
Wherever you are, there is someone who has already been down that road. Begin praying for God to lead you to a mentor. Start praying about and looking for someone who you respect and who you believe could help you get to the next place in your spiritual journey. Prayerfully approach that person and ask them if you could meet with them periodically and ask them questions about their relationship with God. Often we have professional mentors, marriage mentors, educational mentors, etc., but we think we can just figure out a relationship with God apart from a mentor. Be wise and seek out a mentor.
These are some of the next steps to encourage you to continue on in the work God began in you when you made your decision. I am praying for you as you seek God’s leading in your life.