Come Forward, Go Forward
The preacher calls out “Stand to your feet!” and for an inexplicable reason, my heart is pounding uncontrollably. I feel anxious, and somehow I know that if I don’t follow his exhortation to stand, this could very well be the last opportunity I have to choose God. A tug-of-war in my mind ensues; excuses and fears pull my heart away from Jesus, but then unexpectedly, instantly, and boldly, in a moment of faith and courage that was not in me before, I stand to my feet. The crowd disappears, my worries dissipate, and now I don’t care what they think; it’s just Jesus and me. Tears flood my eyes as I realize it is my sin that He paid for on the cross at Calvary… and yet He loves me. God isn’t angry with me; He accepts me even with my extreme imperfection. Then the preacher instructs us to come forward. We gather near the stage, and while I know that he encouraged and prayed for us, I really can’t recall what he said. What I do know is that this moment was both the end and the beginning. It was the end of my life, as I had known it and the beginning of my new life in Christ. It was the most imperative day of my life; the day I was transformed by the grace of God.
Easter provides a unique opportunity for the Gospel as we focus in on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Above is glimpse of what coming forward may have looked like. Perhaps you heard the call to “come forward” as the Spirit of God brought conviction of sin upon your heart. While physically getting out of your seat does not determine the validity of your response to this call, it can be discernably measured. James 2:17-18 says it this way: “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead…I will show you my faith by my works.” The proof that you have come forward is conveyed by how you go forward.
Having a distinctly clear end and beginning displays that you have placed Christ at the center of your life, and are now progressing in your walk with Him. Your former life, with yourself at the center, has been extinguished; making way for your new life whereby Jesus is at the center. In John 3:3, Jesus termed this transition as being “born again.” Jesus’ death and resurrection are much deeper than simply a religious experience. The purpose behind His ultimate sacrifice is to purchase the opportunity for a relationship with you; it’s the highest of prices to pay, and completely worth it from God’s perspective.
As you begin to go forward in Christ, here are 5 disciplines you can institute, which delineate the life of every mature Christian:
1. Read the Bible daily.
The Bible, Scripture, or the Word of God, is God’s primary source of communication with you. It is one book, comprised of 66 books, written by over 40 different human authors, over a timespan of about 1,500 years. Each book in the Bible contributes to one unified message, never contradicting one another. This is only possible because God is the true author of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). As you read the Bible, you will learn about who God is and who you are. God explains how to have a healthy relationship with Him, as well as with your fellow man. Wisdom for every possible situation of life is discovered in the pages of the Scriptures.
2. Pray every day.
Prayer is to the spirit what breath is to the lungs, a vital exercise that perpetuates life and health. As we spend time in prayer to God, we develop a deeper and more vibrant connection to Him. Through prayer we can express our hopes, ambitions, desires, worries, burdens, fears, and failures. The Bible describes prayer as a weapon that we can employ in spiritual battle. We are commanded to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The design of prayer is not so that you can influence the heart or mind of God, but instead that He might change your heart and mind. It is His tool by which He can mold us more like Christ.
3. Attend a Bible believing, Bible teaching church.
The church is more of an organism than an organization, with Jesus being the one who builds it (Matthew 16:18). Christ functions as the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22;5:23). The church is also likened to a body (1 Corinthians 12:27) in which each believer discovers his or her distinct role that fits together as a whole under Christ. When finding a church to attend, it is important that the leadership both believes in the Bible and teaches the Bible to ensure that you are being brought closer to Jesus, rather than being fed the empty philosophies of man. God created mankind to be relational. We have an innate need to have a relationship with Him, as well as with one another. The church helps to fulfill both of these relational needs through corporate worship, so make it a habit to attend church regularly.
4. Join a small group.
It is quite possible to attend church diligently and yet not be a part of the church. The difference is in the depth of your relationships. Deeper relationships, fostered through fellowship, cause you to enjoy an ownership in the church because you care for the people (Acts 2:42). Spending time together and growing closer to one another enables us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). At Reliance, we utilize Growth Groups to meet this need. Growth Groups are small groups that meet in people’s homes to provide an opportunity for close-knit discipleship and fellowship. Through Growth Groups, you are able to study the Bible in an environment where you can discuss what you are learning, forge lifelong friendships, pray together, and eat together.
5. Give to others.
Maturity engenders the understanding that you are not the center, and everyone else does not find his or her purpose in pleasing you. Jesus taught that greatness is measured by how many people you serve, not by how many people serve you (Matthew 20:26). As you serve God and people, you are essentially giving to them. Giving may constitute offering your time, effort, money, or talent. Giving needs to cost you something, as cost is what supplies value to what you are giving (2 Samuel 24:24). There are many ways to give, so look for the opportunities that God places in front of you daily.
Growth is a sign of health. Recognize that maturity in your walk with Christ does not happen instantaneously, but it does happen on purpose. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18