If you have recently chosen to give your life to Jesus and begin following him, welcome to God’s family! There is so much joy from saints present and past over your new faith in Jesus.
Now that you’ve made this decision, there are some critical things you need to know up-front. These key points are as real as it gets—and they’re important reminders even for longtime Christians.
1. Following Jesus is not just a one-time decision but a lifelong journey.
Deciding to follow Jesus is not like picking out what socks to wear or what to eat for dinner. It’s more analogous to choosing someone to marry. It’s a lifelong commitment to a God who is deeply personal and who calls you to give up everything for him.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Notice the word daily. We are Christians at every moment, and called to live that out in the world. Our whole lives are meant to reflect the life-changing decision we’ve made.
Christianity is not an add-on to your life; it is a completely new life. And it’s not something you only participate in on Sundays; following Jesus encompasses every part of your week.
2. Every great movement of God starts with prayer.
You are a son or daughter of the living God. And you have unhindered access to the God of the universe. Imagine the possibilities that brings!
Your desires—the degree to which you want God to do amazing things in your life, or the degree to which you want your life to be effective—will be determined by your depth in prayer. The people God used mightily in Scripture were men and women of prayer: Moses, David, Samuel, Esther, Daniel, Paul, to name a few.
But prayer is also key because being a Christian means being in an actively growing relationship with the Lord to become like Jesus. And in every great relationship, there needs to be communication—hence the need to pray.
Bring to God everything that’s going on in your life. Talk to him as your best friend, as your Father in heaven who knows your every need. Invite him in daily and let him captivate your heart and mind as you seek him. Prayer draws you closer to God like never before.
3. There is no such thing as a solo Christian.
Loving God and loving others is the ultimate definition of the successful Christian life (see Mark 12:29-31). In other words, it’s all about relationships.
It’s easy to think we can live the Christian life on our own, however. We can be tempted to keep faith a private matter. But it’s pretty hard to learn to grow in love for others without actually building relationships!
The image of a Christian without community is like that of a small burning coal separated from the fire. A coal, by itself, will eventually lose its heat. But when a coal is burning in a pile of other coals, a powerful blaze can be sustained. Your life as a Christian is meant to flourish and come alive in the presence of others who are pursuing Jesus with you.
So get connected. First, join a church. And then find a Bible study or campus fellowship to get involved in as well. Become an active participant, not just a passive spectator. God works powerfully in and through people who love each other and bear with each other through successes and failures, joys and sorrows.
Even Jesus himself—God incarnate, the only perfect person to have walked this earth—lived life with his twelve disciples. Becoming like Christ means we too need to live connected to a community.
4. The Christian life is hard.
Now that you’re a Christian, you may feel like everything in the world is suddenly going to be perfect, as if God’s going to make life smooth sailing. But let me be real: being a Christian does not exempt you from suffering.
After the initial honeymoon phase of falling in love with Jesus, life with Jesus often gets challenging. Doubts begin to surface. Persistent sins continue to hurt you and damage the people you love. Healing doesn’t happen right away. Painful trials come. You will even be persecuted. Friends and family will not always approve of your newfound faith. You will be misunderstood, mistreated, and possibly alienated from certain social circles just because you are a Christian. It comes with the territory.
Don’t misunderstand me—God does heal, restore, redeem, and bring new life in so many ways. But he will not spare you from all trials. Christians get cancer. Christians mourn the deaths of loved ones. Christians lose their jobs. Christians suffer from mental illness, addictions, and abuse.
Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean suffering goes away. It means that, within your suffering, you get Jesus. And your faith in Jesus Christ is meant to shine in the dark moments.
5. Jesus is bigger than your failures.
As a Christian, you will mess up. You will fail, wander, struggle, and fall short again and again. And the longer you follow Jesus, the more aware you’ll become of your sin and brokenness.
But the greatest truth is the amazing grace found in Jesus.
As Philip Yancey says in What’s So Amazing About Grace? “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more; there is nothing you can do to make God love you less.” When you fail at obeying God, remember that he has already forgiven you through Jesus, and he loves you unconditionally.
If that doesn’t convince you of the graciousness of God, consider these failures from Scripture:
Jacob deceived his brother and stole his father’s blessing.
David committed adultery and lied about it.
Peter denied Jesus three times.
Paul murdered Christians before he became one.
Yet God used all these people in mighty ways and still blessed them, not because they earned it, but because they came to him in repentance with nothing to offer but themselves in their brokenness. Jacob became one of the “fathers of Israel.” David became the greatest king in ancient Israel. Peter became the leader of the church. Paul became an apostle and a missionary to the Gentiles. Your failures do not exclude you from being used by God in powerful ways.
Following Jesus for Life
I promise you—you won’t regret the choice you’ve made to follow Jesus. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime, and there’s no turning back; your life is changed forever.
As you go forward, allow Jesus to walk you through the messiness of life and show you just how amazing he truly is in the midst of it.
Keith is a medical student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. He calls the San Francisco Bay area his home and is an InterVarsity alumnus from the University of California, Davis.