It’s Hard Work Getting Started

  • Read Exodus 13:17-18 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (October 25) you can listen to it here.

Exodus 13:17-18 tells us that God perceived that taking the shortest route from Egypt to Canaan would result in the Israelites arriving in Canaan unprepared for the battles that they would encounter there.  So God lead them on the longer route through the desert.

I compared the long route through the desert with the commencement of Jesus’ ministry.  The Gospel of John gives the impression that Jesus took the short route.  John 1:29-34 describe the baptism of Jesus and then the rest of the chapter tells of Jesus calling his disciples.  He hits the ground running.  But the synoptics all detail a gap between Jesus’ baptism and commencement of ministry.  No sooner does a voice from heaven confirm his anointing, than the Spirit leads him into the desert for 40 days, where he’s tempted by Satan.  Yes, God lead Jesus by the longer route through the desert.

I receive the impression from many Christians that once a person commits their life to Christ they should expect to start receiving blessings from God.  To be very honest with you, I’m torn about how to respond to this.  On the one hand, a person who submits to God’s rule over their life, receives forgiveness, freedom from guilt, the presence of the Holy Spirit in their life, and membership into the family of God.  There’s no greater blessing than these.  But on the other hand, I am also convinced that Satan likes nothing better than to attack newborn Christians.  He makes life as difficult as he can, trying to destroy faith before it’s taken root.  I believe this is the message of the 4 soils in Matt 13.

Churches seem to do a pretty good job preparing new converts for blessings, but not so well preparing them for obstacles and spiritual attacks.  Perhaps we worry that talking of long desert roads will deter people from committing their lives to Christ’s rule.  I wonder if Christ was thinking this when he spoke to the crowds in Luke 14:25-33 about their need to “count the cost” before deciding to follow him.

Have you experienced a church/person that does a good job of encouraging people to make an informed decision about their salvation?  Do you agree that Christians often get too excited describing the blessings or a relationship with God and overlook the struggles that come with it?  Is this justifiable or a serious shortcoming?

If we accept that young Christians often encounter particular challenges from Satan, we must ask ourselves “How do our churches provide extra support for new converts?”  I try to set up a regular Bible study/discussion with those I baptize, but it often doesn’t seem a priority to them right then.  (Just as newlyweds seldom schedule a counseling session for the week after the wedding.)

Have you seen effective ways that new Christians have been encouraged/supported?  Did you experience difficulties in the first year of your New Life?  What helped you stick with your commitment?

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4 comments

  1. Carol S

    The one thing that Sunday’s sermon got me to thinking about is … since I am convinced that God uses us to pass on His blessings to others, does He also punish others through us?
    The Isrealites caused the Ammorites and the other groups that occupied the promised land to “be punished” when they lost that land to the Isrealites.
    I really don’t what to be used by God in that way. Is that disrepectful?

    • ozziepete

      Great question Carol, and one I haven’t thought about a great deal. My initial reaction is that under the New Covenant God uses His people more as a conscience for society than as judge and executioner.

      In Luke 5:32 Jesus described His purpose on earth as “to call sinners to repentance”. I see the church sharing that purpose. We might stand up against certain attitudes and behaviours at times, but we’re not given authority to punish people.

      On the other hand, in calling people to repentance, we can certainly serve as a blessing to our community, when the accept the Good News of Jesus. However, the flipside is that I don’t always like my conscience, and many people won’t ever like the church. But having people upset at our message is different from being used as God’s “instrument of punishment”.

      I’d certainly love to hear some other perspectives on this question.

  2. Lisa Lee

    I think that the one way that we can encourage new Christians is to not push them too much. In the past, I have seen people shy away of the pressure to become a Christian. We need to be more supportive and less pushy. I know that I was baptized less than a week after getting married and that it was a perfect time for to start fresh. I also know that in the last year or so I have a lot of support when Satan tempts me. I know that I can call a brother/sister in Christ to help me through it or talk to my family.

    • ozziepete

      Lisa, thanks for sharing your experience. I completely agree that we need to be “supportive” and not “pushy”. God is at work in people’s lives before we meet them, and we need to determine how we can work WITH God rather than impose our own priorities on that person.

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