Friday, March 8, 2013

How to Run Well (Part 1)

A GOOD START 
•Conversion. If you have just been converted, you stand on the doorstep of an absolutely new era in your life. No doubt things seem new to you, and the path you now begin to walk is a little mysterious. I want to point out a few things which may, with God’s blessing, help you at the start of your Christian career. 

We will not say much about your past – that is settled; nor about your future – that is secure: both through the value of the precious blood of Christ. Our thoughts will be concentrated on the present. You are a total loss to Satan for eternity, and he knows it. He will therefore concentrate his efforts on spoiling your testimony for the Lord here on earth. 

If he can cause you to dishonor Him, so much the better from his point of view. If not, he has some very successful ways of stunting spiritual growth and making his poor victim anything but a successful Christian. 

The animal kingdom is divided into two great classes: the vertebrate (with backbone) and the invertebrate (without backbone). Believers also may be classified in the same way. We hope that you would be a vertebrate Christian – having backbone and being marked by decision and spiritual vigor, not by stagnation and decay. 

Be warned at the beginning against the idea that in your conversion you have reached the summit of Christian experience, the goal of the Christian race. The truth is, conversion is just the starting point; the race is just beginning! It is definitely not the time for you to take things easy, but rather to prepare for action. It would be well if every convert asked the same questions that Saul of Tarsus (later the Apostle Paul) asked at his conversion: “Who are You, Lord?” and, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:8,10). 

Jesus is not just your Savior – He is also your Lord. Of course you acknowledge this, unless you are not a true convert. So prepare to get up and follow His direction like Saul did. In the epistle addressed to converts from the Jewish religion to Christianity, we find the exhortation: “Let us go on to perfection” (Heb. 6:1). Take these words, “Let us go on,” as a motto, and think continually on them. Just as a bicyclist must go on if he would keep on, so we must advance if our Christianity is to be much more than a meaningless name. 

You want a good start; then first of all be real. If you still have lingering doubts and fears about your standing with God, have courage to admit it. Don’t say everything is all right if you are not sure. Don’t worry if you have told a preacher or friends, even many times, that you are saved. Your doubts should not surprise them if they know their own hearts, and they may be able to encourage you. At all costs, be real. Don’t say, “I see,” if you don’t see. Don’t go one inch beyond where you are to please your best friends. Take time to get a firm foothold or you will never start well. 

•Confession. Once you have taken your stand on the Word of God and have assurance, confess Christ immediately; don’t let anything hold you back. This proverb is all too true: “He who hesitates is lost.” The Scripture says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). You will not be happy without it, because you will be a hypocrite: inwardly a Christian, outwardly still a man or woman of the world; drifting with the tide, doing as others do; weakly smiling when unbelievers direct their humor at sacred subjects, for fear of making yourself conspicuous; and hating yourself for acting so cowardly. How miserable this is! 

Don’t stand shivering on the shore – plunge bravely in. Never mind the shock, the ridicule, the sneers, the cold shoulder. They will not be half as bad as you imagine, and will be followed by the after-glow of divine peace and joy you never knew before. Begin at home: “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you” (Mark 5:19). 

Having confessed the Lord, you have made a good start as a Christian. Now do you know what will give vigor to your Christianity and ensure a successful and God-glorifying career? Be whole-hearted. 

You may have heard of the General who, having disembarked his men, burned the ship from which he had landed, deliberately throwing away his only chance of retreat. He did it so that none of his men might be tempted to look longingly behind him. Act on this principle yourself; make a clean break with the world behind you. 

Make up your mind that by the grace of God, Christ and His claims will be supreme – your chief consideration in every circumstance. In the world, the man succeeds who follows his pursuit (whether money, education or power) unwaveringly and persistently. His object controls him; everything else submits to it. Eventually he becomes a millionaire, a great scientist, or a prime minister, as the case may be. If you make Christ your object, He will control you. You will be able to make everything count for His interests, and ultimately you will get the greatest of all rewards from His own lips: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). 

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