But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:11
What is the starting point for a person who wants to be right with God? Because I didn’t actually read a Bible for the first 2 decades of my existence, I would have told you it was to “receive” the Lord. Many churches I attended made it sound to me as if salvation was something to be “found” by people. I don’t know if this was intentional or not, that was just my perception. Because of this, I lived several years thinking there would be this one big moment where my prayer of repentance would finally “take” and I would be different. I believed if I kept asking for forgiveness, I would eventually feel saved, and thus, actually be saved. I cannot even begin to tell you the frustration this produced in my heart, mind, and life.
I would venture to say that every person who reads this has said the sinner’s prayer of salvation at least once; probably more than once. There is nothing wrong at all with the prayer itself, “Lord, I am a sinner who needs you to save me! I believe Jesus died on the cross for my sins and many have been forgiven through His death and resurrection. Will you now forgive me?” The problem comes afterwards. What are people to do now that they have been forgiven? Is that it? Am I now bound for Heaven because I said a prayer?
I can only speak for myself in this manner, but saying that prayer produced no real, immediate change in my life. I’m not going to say nothing happened. I distinctly remember feeling like a weight had fallen off of me. I remember feeling a real sense of relief. I also remember that the foul words still came out of my mouth, testosterone still raged, and I was still as lazy as I ever was. I would go to church, be reminded of all the sin I still had in my life and feel beaten down again, even unsaved. The very place where I learned of salvation was now beating me up because I still sinned some pretty heavy-duty sins. I felt lost all over again.
I say all that to say this: I wish I had been taught one thing by pastors and other Christians when I was a beginner. Instead of telling me repeatedly that I needed to quit cussing, quit sleeping around, quit watching trashy movies, and basically quit all my sinful habits; I wish I had been told simply to pursue God. I wish I had been told that it is okay to only read your Bible a few minutes a day at first. I wish I had been told it is okay to simply pray to God, “Lord, I don’t get all this and I don’t understand . . . will you help me?”
The starting point of a new believer is to pursue God. Go after Him with all you’ve got. A line in our mission statement at Lifeline Community Church is “pursue God relentlessly.” You will never lack for a reason not to pursue God. Your own flesh and carnal desires will give you more than enough excuses. Let there be no excuses. Carve out time in your day to read His Word and communicate with Him.
You see, eventually I did quit cussing, sleeping around and watching trashy movies. But, it did not come because a preacher, or some other Christian who had been a Christian for decades, judged me constantly or badgered me to stop. I changed because somewhere in the middle of pursuing God, I fell in love with Him and He changed my appetites, my wants, and my desires. All glory, honor, and credit for anything good in my life belongs to Him.
Have you ever taken a year to pursue God relentlessly? If so, how did God change you? If not, today is a great day to start.