I m a new Christian: Why is it. so hard? Looking Deeper

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1 I m a new Christian: Why is it so hard? Looking Deeper

2 Looking Deeper I m a new Christian: Why is it so hard? The Christian life makes me think of climbing a mountain. When I first came to Jesus, I was thrilled at the new adventure before me. I knew the view from the top would be beyond anything I d ever seen. I had known many Christians who seemed to live on the high places, who heard from God regularly and were full of joy. I imagined myself there with them, enjoying the freedom and blessing they seemed to have.

3 It didn t take long, however, before the road seemed much harder than I expected. It was an uphill climb. I couldn t do the same things I used to do because I didn t feel right about them anymore. But at the same time I wasn t really experiencing the heights that I had anticipated. I started to wonder whether I had been better off before I ever started up this mountain. Perhaps I should go back down to the valley below where everyone else was just doing as they Why does the Christian life seem like an uphill climb? pleased, living for themselves and never giving God a second thought. I knew, however, that I could never do that. I had just been saved from that life without meaning and without God; I couldn t go back. Why does the Christian life seem like an uphill climb? If God s plan for us is to know Him, then why isn t it the easiest life imaginable? To answer these questions, we need to know a little bit about what the Bible says about us, about our life in this world and about the new enemies we have gained since giving our lives to Christ. [2] I M A NEW CHRISTIAN: WHY IS IT SO HARD?

4 In the beginning It is true that God s plan for us is to know Him. When He created the first people, Adam and Eve, there was nothing to hinder that relationship. God spoke with Adam and Adam understood. God used to walk through the garden where Adam and Eve lived. Today that sounds like a fairytale. What happened? The story is found in the Bible in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve sinned, that is, when they disobeyed God, a catastrophic change occurred the consequences of which have been with us ever since. God had warned Adam and Eve that in the day they ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die. When you read the account, there seems an obvious flaw in the story: they eat from the tree, but they don t die. In fact, they didn t die for a long time. When something in the Bible doesn t make sense, instead of assuming it is an error, we should always ask ourselves if there is another possible meaning. In fact, Adam and Eve did die. And in two different ways. Firstly, their physical bodies began, at that moment, to deteriorate. If they hadn t sinned, they would have lived forever in perfect bodies; but having sinned, they sentenced themselves to inevitable death. Since that moment, every living being on earth has been subject to death (Rom. 5:12-14). Death is now public enemy #1. IN THE BEGINNING... [3]

5 The second way Adam and Eve died was spiritually. Let me explain Just as our bodies are the part of us which relates to the world around us, so our spirits are the part of us which relates to God. This doesn t mean our bodies are bad and our spirits are good. After all Jesus tells us to love God with all that we are: heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37). What Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all [people], because all sinned. Romans 5:12 it means is that the spirit is where we are aware of His existence and His influence in the world and in our lives. If our spirit is dead, so is any possible relationship with God. When Adam sinned, his spirit died and he became alienated from God and was banished from His presence. This alienated, spirit-dead state is how the Bible describes us without Christ. It even calls us God s enemies because in our natural state we reject Him and choose to serve and love ourselves instead. You can read about this in Romans 5. Think about enemies for a minute. Have you heard the phrase Friend or foe? It is what a sentry guard might say to an approaching stranger. He s asking [4] I M A NEW CHRISTIAN: WHY IS IT SO HARD?

6 Are you on our side or are you an enemy? If you are on our side, you are a friend; an ally. When two groups form an alliance, they fight on the same side against their enemies. If one has an enemy, it becomes the enemy of the ally also. Now think about what happens when we decide to join ourselves to Christ. We were once God s enemies, but when we trusted Christ, we became His friends. His friends then become our friends, but His enemies are also now our enemies. This is what makes the Christian life so hard and such a daily battle. So who are our new enemies? The Bible talks about three; the world, the flesh and the devil. They are not new enemies in that they were our allies before we gave our lives to Christ the world, flesh and devil have never had, and never will have, our good in mind. But they are new enemies in that before we were Christians we were trapped by them and in many respects were unaware of them. Now God has broken us free from them, we constantly feel them trying to disrupt our lives and drive us away from Him. Let s have a look at these enemies in a little more detail. We were once God s enemies, but when we trusted Christ, we became His friends. IN THE BEGINNING... [5]

7 Who are our enemies? In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul sums up the situation pretty well: And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. Ephesians 2:1-5 (emphasis added) So who exactly are each of these enemies we face as Christians? The world doesn t mean the earth, or all the people on the earth; it means the world s philosophy or attitude. The world around us has a way of thinking and a code of conduct which is totally different from Christianity. Instead of humility, we are told to put ourselves and our own needs first. Instead of disciplining ourselves and abstaining from certain things, our culture tells us to indulge our every desire. [6] I M A NEW CHRISTIAN: WHY IS IT SO HARD?

8 Rather than forgiving those who hurt us, the world tells us to take revenge. Big houses, fast cars, vanity, fame, power and sex all make empty promises of happiness in the endless pursuit of pleasure; while modesty and restraint are mocked as boring and stifling. The end goal of the world is to please myself, removing God from the picture (or simply making the idea of God just a part of life, rather than keeping Him at the centre). The second enemy, the devil (the prince of the power of the air ), is the ultimate enemy of God. He is the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve in the garden, and he is still in the business of tempting people. He is called many names in Scripture, but the bottom line is that he is a powerful spirit-being with his own personality, who is actively against Jesus and anyone who is on Jesus side. The Bible teaches that it is the devil who is the designer of the world s code of conduct. People seem to have an idea that the devil loves his own, supporting those who choose to walk his path. I do not think this is so. Humanity is made in the image of God; we are His creative masterpiece. The devil hates God and therefore hates all of us, especially those who belong to Jesus. He wants to distract us from God, tell us we re better off on our own and make us consumed with our own needs and wants so that we disregard God entirely. The flesh is what the Bible calls the sinful nature or selfish instinct of human beings. It is that inborn selfishness which causes us to live just for ourselves, WHO ARE OUR ENEMIES? [7]

9 and so in rebellion to God. Did you notice that in the garden of Eden, temptation came from the outside? The serpent tempted Eve. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, temptation doesn t just need to come from the outside anymore; now temptation also comes from within! Our desires demand to be gratified, and we instinctively want to obey. It is the flesh that listens to the devil s lures and falls for the world s distractions every time. While we still live on earth, our natural instincts will often still live in rebellion to God. We are our own enemies according to the Bible. It is the flesh that listens to the devil s lures and falls for the world s distractions every time. These are our new enemies. No wonder it isn t smooth sailing! [8] I M A NEW CHRISTIAN: WHY IS IT SO HARD?

10 How to beat our enemies We were dead. We followed the course of the world that the devil set. We carried out the desires of our bodies and minds. Then, God saved us out of that dead, sinful state and made us alive with Christ, letting us share in the life He lives. We belong to God now; we have our relationship with Him restored. We are off the treadmill of pursuing empty pleasures and we can now live with Him and for Him, which is why we were created. The problem is that we are used to the old way of living. Many times in the Bible, we are told things like this: [You have been taught] that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old [self] which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new [self] which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (emphasis added) So the old [self] (our instinctive selfishness which is so susceptible to the devil and the world) can be put off. I think this is what Jesus means when He says that if anyone wants to be His disciple, they must deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow Him (Matt. 16:24). The old self must be denied. HOW TO BEAT OUR ENEMIES [9]

11 That simply means saying no to some of the things we feel like doing. It s hard because those desires are strong, and we are used to obeying them. The flesh used to have us totally under its control; now God has given us a new, free life in Christ. But that doesn t mean the flesh isn t trying to get us back in its grip. Maybe we used to gossip or be dishonest. Now, we know those behaviours are wrong, but we still get tempted to do them. Giving into those things is like walking down a well-worn path with no weeds or obstacles, whereas the new path is a constant battle against overgrown branches and roots. Once we start getting used to going the new way with God, it will eventually feel like more of a clear path. We will sometimes fall back into our old ways, but that doesn t mean we haven t changed. As well as taking off the old, we need to put on the new. The new [self] is just like Jesus. It is exciting to think we can choose to be like Him! It boils down to making daily choices to obey Him rather than our own desires. Two things are of vital importance here: the Bible and prayer. There are a thousand new gimmicks for skipping these two things, but they simply cannot be avoided if we want to live the Christian life victoriously. The Bible reveals what we are to obey, and time in prayer gives us the desire to obey. Both build our faith. It is also important to spend time with other Christians, and live openly with each other. Underlying this is the Holy Spirit who lives within each believer. We can t hope to change or become more [10] I M A NEW CHRISTIAN: WHY IS IT SO HARD?

12 like Jesus on our own. But we are not on our own. God lives in us to help us stay focused and centred on Jesus, our Saviour. The Holy Spirit continues to teach us more about Christ, reminding us of His Words and making Him known to us, so that we can draw closer to Him in a real and active relationship (John 14:26). As we rely on God and spend time with Him, His Holy Spirit will help us overcome the pull of our selfish desires. You can read more about this and the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us in Galatians 5. Sometimes we try to hide our struggles because we are ashamed of them, often thinking nobody else has the troubles we have. We can act like we re fine at church, knowing how far we ve felt from God all week, because we think everybody else is walking closely with Him. The truth is that we all struggle and stumble on our journey and we should never underestimate the help and encouragement we can receive from each other. The Christian life can indeed be a difficult climb at times, but it s not all about drudging uphill. We can also put into place some day-to-day practical things to help us to live lives which are full of joy, peace and victory. Things like spending even a little bit of time each day in prayer, joining a Bible study group, finding a prayer partner or having a friend or mentor who can hold us accountable in any particular areas of temptation. Practices like this will help us to overcome the hurdles that can rob us of the joy of walking with Jesus. HOW TO BEAT OUR ENEMIES [11]

13 The world is full of temptations. It is tempting to indulge our desires instead of denying them. It is tempting to swell with pride when we do something well, or tell a lie to avoid getting into trouble. It is important to remember that many of our desires themselves are not evil, but they must be fulfilled God s way. For example, it isn t evil to want to stay out of trouble; but lying is wrong. It would be much better to tell the truth and trust God to carry us through the consequences. We will find that if we do things that way, He will always help us. In fact, I think this is a key to really moving on with God. These things are what make Christianity feel like a steep, mountainous climb. We aim to follow Christ ever higher, but we are in a constant battle with ourselves. We will experience brilliant life-long victories and sometimes our footing will slip because of some little thing. It s a journey, and all journeys have ups and downs. Walking with Jesus every step of the way is the whole point. If we determine to obey Him with our lives, He will walk with us. And we have the promise of His Holy Spirit to guide and lead us. That is what keeps us going, even when we feel overwhelmed with life s struggles. We know, when we do finally reach the end of our journey, it will be worth it to be in Jesus presence forever (John 14:1-3). And that, to me, is what makes the Christian life the most fulfilling adventure on earth. You can read more in-depth Bible studies on big questions, tough topics and Christian living at ourdailybread.org/lookingdeeper. [12] I M A NEW CHRISTIAN: WHY IS IT SO HARD?

14 Looking Deeper The Looking Deeper series offers great Bible teaching for Christians. Whether you are a new Christian or a mature believer, we have a range of short Bible studies on many crucial topics and questions. At Our Daily Bread Ministries, our mission is to make the life changing wisdom of God s Word understandable and accessible to all. We re passionate about helping our readers draw closer to God and share their faith in Him with those they know. Please do share these Looking Deeper articles with others who may benefit from them. You can request print copies of any of the titles on the Looking Deeper website page. All our resources are available to all without any obligation to donate. However, should you wish to support Our Daily Bread Ministries financially, you can do so by clicking the link below. I WOULD LIKE TO DONATE

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