A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

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Goal and Reward

A GOOD START

  1. Make helping people your one and only goal.
  2. Run the race to win.
  3. Get to know God as your Dad, and get to know Jesus as your Lord, big brother and best friend.
  4. Learn the Bible well, both the Old and New Testaments.
  5. Choose to forgive everyone who offends or otherwise hurts you.

 

  1. Make helping people your one and only goal.

We need to live our lives like Jesus lived his life during his ministry years. As Paul pointed out, Jesus is our example. That doesn’t mean that we have to grow beards and wear clothing that was culturally appropriate 2,000 years ago; it means that we have to make the same choices that Jesus made regarding how to treat people and how to relate to God.

There is not one issue that we will encounter in our lives that has not been dealt with by Jesus. As he indicates throughout the New Testament – his job is to show us God’s way. He did this by helping people who came to him for help. Note that he didn’t try to help people who didn’t want his help. This is a very, very, VERY important distinction. Too many times, we get discouraged by trying to help people who don’t want our help, such as preaching God’s word to people who don’t want to hear it.

Just because you think that someone needs your help doesn’t mean that they’re ready to receive help or even know they need help.

Jesus is our example of how to help people. He chose only to help those who expressly asked for help, and so must we. God will send us those people to help and then give us the means to help them.

In this, as in all things, trust in and lean on God.

  1. Run the race to win.

Paul says: “Run the race to win”. We should be training for heaven the way that Olympic gold medal contenders are training for the medal. We may not know anyone personally who’s trained for the Olympics, but we certainly known the effort that goes into such training. Without a 100% commitment by the athlete well in advance of the actual competition date (the athlete’s Day of Reckoning), there is little to no chance of winning.

We likewise must make such a commitment to our goal of helping people, but instead of doing it for a medal, we’re doing it with the reward of heaven in mind. Remember what Paul said about heaven – that he’d bear any amount of hardship and suffering on Earth if it meant he would make it to heaven. Sometimes helping people means we have to suffer hardship and suffering. Just do it, like Paul did, and like Jesus did. Jesus was the greatest of all helpers, right up to his final breath, and he certainly suffered for the help he gave. The difference is that Jesus suffered without earning the pain (he was sinless), whereas we only get back what we put out.

Don’t run from helping people, if God sends them to you for help. Run to them and run with them.

Back to our Olympic contender analogy – athletes need more than just commitment: they need a support team around them that keeps them going and reminds them of their goal when their focus wanders.

Thank God, we have just such a support team. First and foremost, we have God, through his Holy Spirit. We also have Jesus. These are our every-present supporters who are never farther than a thought away. We also have our brothers and sisters here on Earth. We don’t know most of them, but they are praying for us to keep our focus, just as we are praying for them. We also have our training manual (the Bible) that we can make constant reference to. We should always keep it on hand, night and day, and get to know it as well as we can. In addition, we have the holy angels. Make sure to ask your heavenly Dad to make you open and willing to accept their helping hand, in whatever guise it appears (keeping in mind that strangers we encounter in our day-to-day lives may well be angels).

Paul called this our “cloud of witnesses”, and so they are. God has surrounded all of his adoptive children who are yet in the ‘testing years’ (still on Earth in an earthly body) with immeasurable help, so there is no excuse not to take advantage of it.

Run the race to win. You haven’t won it (i.e., got yourself a guaranteed ticket to heaven) just because you’re in the race. This assumption that you’re guaranteed a spot in heaven just because you’re born again or a Christian is an outright lie that contradicts scripture and basic common sense. The Jews in Jesus’ day likewise believed this lie (i.e., they thought they had a guaranteed ticket to heaven based on their being children of Abraham), and he had it out with them a few times over it. Don’t fall for the lie. Remember the scripture where people are astonished that they haven’t made it to heaven, since, as they claimed, they performed miracles in Jesus’ name and ate at his table? And what does Jesus say to them? “I never knew you”. So you see, it’s not enough to call yourself (or have someone else call you) a Christian or even enough to be born again. There’s far more involved.

Start by helping people. That won’t guarantee you a ticket to heaven, but it will put you on the right track.

RUN THE RACE TO WIN.

  1. Get to know God as your Dad, and get to know Jesus as your Lord, leader, big brother and best friend.

Get to know God as your father, understanding what a true father is. Talk to him, but more importantly, listen to him and follow his advice. He’s there to counsel you, as well as to console, protect, applaud, warn, punish, and even entertain you. He’ll never order you to do anything, only advise you, and if you’re wise and want the same thing as he wants for you (to get home to heaven), you’ll take his advice.

Remember – he’s your Dad, and he loves you unconditionally and more than you can ever imagine. He knows everything about you (even the things you’ve forgotten about). He’s seen everything you’ve done, heard everything you’ve said, and knows everything you’ve thought and felt. He’s also seen everything you’ve seen, heard everything you’ve heard, and read everything you’ve read – and he’s still your #1 fan. You’re his one and only, the apple of his eye. He’s moving heaven and earth to help you get home to heaven. Let him be all he wants to be for you. Let him be your Dad, like he was (and still is!) for Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus – he’s your big brother as well as your friend. If you’re born again, you share spiritual blood with him. At the same time, Jesus is also the Lord over all creation, as designated by God. But he comes to you first and foremost as your friend.

Your best friend.

He’s got your back, but he’s not afraid to let you know when you’re being an idiot or are just plain wrong. That’s the measure of a good friend – to support you when you’re right, and to steer you right when you’ve gone off course.

His aim for you is the same as God’s – to help you make the right choices that will get you to heaven.

Model Jesus’ choices in everything you do. He always made the right choice. He also faced every temptation that you’ve faced (or ever will face), and made the right choices with God’s help. Like Jesus, you also have God’s help at your disposal. Like Jesus, you should use it.

  1. Learn the Bible well, both the Old and New Testaments.

Read the Bible until it’s ingrained in your brain, and then keep reading it some more. You should read every day and should always keep a copy of the Bible close at hand. God will show you what to read. It’s good to read from Genesis through to Revelation at least once, but after that, let God guide you. Just ask him what you should read today, and he’ll tell you.

Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Paul – these are your spiritual brothers. Jesus said whoever does the will of his Father in heaven is his brother or his sister or his mother. So, when you’re reading the Bible, you’re reading your family history.

  1. Choose to forgive everyone who offends or otherwise hurts you.

The way to true and lasting peace and happiness starts with the decision to forgive. I do not say “through forgiveness”, because humans are incapable of forgiveness: only God can forgive. When you make a decision to forgive, God works through that decision to make the forgiveness happen. It is his forgiveness, working through your choice to forgive.

Keep in mind that the decision to forgive is not the same as the feeling of wanting to forgive. You might not feel like forgiving a person, but you should still choose to forgive. Choosing to forgive is always the right choice. Again – it’s not a feeling, it’s a choice.

Then, when you make the choice to forgive, God also forgives you (and trust me, we all, always, have something that we need to be forgiven for!). That is where your peace and happiness come from. It’s actually God’s peace and happiness – a sign of God’s spiritual presence with you and a validation of the sincerity of your decision to forgive. God’s spirit cannot go where a soul is harbouring unforgiveness.

I have a little saying that I say to myself several times a day: “If I’m holding anything against anyone, I choose to forgive.” Choosing to forgive means not to think bad thoughts about people you’ve forgiven, not to do something that you know will hurt them, and not to talk meanly about them.

At the same time, though, it doesn’t mean putting yourself back in the same position to be hurt by those people again. God gave us a brain and expects us to use it. Wisely. You can forgive people who are abusive towards you and give them a second chance, but if they abuse you again, the wise choice is to remove yourself from their influence until they’ve proven that they are no longer abusive. This could take some time (and might not ever happen). But remember – you’re a Christian, not a doormat.


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