Stepping into the light
If you’re new to Christianity, you’ve likely got a ton of questions. I also have little doubt that for each question, you’ve found several answers. That is the reason for the Saved for Later blog. This week, we will be covering an important action step; that is, stepping into the light.
Questions are great. God is not afraid of your questions. Eventually, however, there will come a point where our questions will need to give way to our actions. We will have to step out in faith. From now on, we act out of faith. That is what I mean by stepping into the light.
When I first set foot in a church and the related men’s groups, I got a lot of confusing messages. I hope to help you avoid the same confusion.
True story: I was told that the Bible says that if I am saved, then I can go downtown, buy some coke, punch a nun, kill a cop, and still be forgiven.
There is a lot to unpack there, especially for someone who admitted he believed in God for the first time only 2 weeks earlier. Consider that while we can certainly be forgiven for all these things, if we truly give our hearts to the Lord, the above actions would not be possible (going forward).
We will encounter the ‘prosperity’ crowd in our walks. They would see us relieved of all worry and forsake accountability and chastening. While there is some truth to be gleaned from the idea of prosperity, it is not a promise in the Bible (which does not automatically make it wrong) but we will often hear it being misused.
We cannot lie by our bowls and wait for God to fill them with blessings. We are to take action, but we are to act in faith. This is what I mean by stepping into the light.
Faith – in the biblical sense – does not mean that we will have to act in the absence of knowledge. Rather, biblical faith refers to acting in the knowledge of God’s promises, in which we have hope. And we must rest in the knowledge that God will fulfill His promises in ways that He sees fit, not necessarily in ways that we would have Him fulfill them. Or even in ways that we will ever see.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
By action – or to act – I am referring to the verb that means to take an action. To take a step. Not the verb act that means to pretend.
Stepping into the light can be seen in part as a rite of passage if you will; not unlike a wedding, a funeral, or a graduation ceremony. It is a happening that signifies to you, and those around you, that things are now no longer the same. They are very different.
Wedding – I will no longer be an individual, but half of a team of 2, and can go forth and act that way.
Funeral – This person will now no longer be in this world with us, but hopefully with God, and we must go forth and act that way.
Graduation – I have met the education requirements for this particular discipline and can now go forth and act that way.
Salvation – I am now a child of God and can go forth and act that way.
Now, as a Christians, one of your important first steps, according to Jesus, is to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
In a sense, baptism has a bit of a ritualistic quality to it in that one of its purposes is to state to those around us that we are now part of God’s team.
Not unlike the ceremonies mentioned above, however, baptism is not the act that does or is the thing.
We are not more capable because we were handed a diploma.
We will not now choose to value and be faithful to another person because we hired a caterer and a band.
We are not saved because we were baptized.
We are baptized because we are saved. All of these things happened before their respective events. Here we may start to see the desires of God.
But if you ask any Christian what the first thing is that you should do now that you’re a Christian, baptism will be in the top 2 or 3 answers. I am not arguing with that argument. I am talking about the actions to take once we believe in God and Jesus and all that that entails.
If we accept Jesus. If we truly kneel down and repent of our sinful natures and accept God’s forgiveness, then have a sudden heart attack and die before we have a chance to get back on our feet, we will still be with God in eternity (Ephesians 2:8-9).
If, however, we are successful in getting to our feet, we now have actionable steps to take. But we must be careful not to act in the shadow of some to-do list. Here’s what I mean.
Some of the first things to do once we are born again are:
read the Bible
go to church
This list is not exhaustive, it just may seem exhausting. You can see how carrying around such a list can be a burden. Especially if you approach it the wrong way.
Stepping into the light
Here is where we must come to know the Bible as a whole.
God gave His people laws in (what we now call) the Old Testament. What we should come to learn in our studies is that the presence of all of these laws did not provide us with a path to righteousness, but rather a need for a Savior (Romans 7:7-25).
In the first chapter of Isaiah, God condemned the hollow sacrifices of the Jewish people. They were checking all the boxes, but for the wrong reasons. They were doing what they thought God required of them, but only because they thought God required it of them, not out of willingness and obedience (Isaiah 1:1-20).
They were still worshiping in the temple, they were still bringing animal sacrifices, but they were still corrupt and their box-checking angered God.
They failed to realize that Jerusalem and Juda (the remaining southern territory) were not spared judgment (unlike the northern territory of Israel who had only recently been judged) because of their legalistic behavior. They were spared because God spared them (Isaiah 1:9). He had preserved a remnant from which He would bring forth Jesus in order to save us.
God wants our obedience, not our sacrifices (1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8; Isaiah 1:11; Jeremiah 7:22-23; Proverbs 21:3; Psalm 40:6-8, 51:16-17; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Mark 12:33).
He wants us to get baptized, read the Bible, receive communion, go to church, tithe, serve, pray, forgive, and love. But He wants us to do this because He saved us, not so that we can be saved.
He wants us to love others because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He wants us to forgive because He has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). He wants us to be baptized and receive communion and worship Him with our hearts, not to check a list another church-member rattled off to us. He wants us to step into the light.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
We believe in God
We believe in Jesus
We believe who Jesus is
We believe what Jesus has done
We must fear God
We must love God
We must live lives worthy of God
We must receive Jesus and be indwelt by the Holy Spirit
We must turn away from the world and toward God and be transformed (Romans 12:2)
Jesus said that whoever believes in Him will do what He has done (John 14:12). He said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15). What are His commandments?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
If all of our thoughts and all of our actions accomplish one or both of these things, then we cannot help but please God. We will not be able to help but worship God and give of ourselves, forgive others, and be Christ for others who have not yet seen Him.
The time has come for us to step into the light. When we do, we will start being the light. But that is only a start. There is more to come.
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Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.