When people receive Jesus and are “born again” spiritually, (John 3:5-7) they enter a new world for which they seem poorly equipped. Like weak and helpless natural babies, if our new spiritual babies are going to survive, they are going to need a lot of help-and who could God better use to help them get off to a good start in their new lives than you, their “parent in the Lord” (1Corinthians 4:15) ? If you don’t, who will?
As anyone who’s had a natural baby will tell you, babies are a lot of work, but they are also tremendously rewarding. The same is true of spiritual babies. You may feel that you’re not up to the task or that you’re not much more than a spiritual babe yourself, but if God has given you “children,” you can rest assured that He will also help you care for them (1 Thessalonians 5:24). A person passes from childhood to adulthood when he or she learns to sacrifice to care for and help others, and that is also true in the spirit. Nothing will help you grow and mature spiritually like helping younger Christians progress in their spiritual lives.
You don’t necessarily have to take on the full responsibility of your new “babe’s” spiritual care and training, especially if you know other Christians who are grounded in the faith and are able to help, but you should try to provide all the spiritual and moral support you can.
To grow into happy, healthy, well-adjusted, and productive “adult” Christians, newly born-again Christians need five major things:
1. Prayer. Most new Christians aren’t in the habit of praying or don’t understand the importance or power of prayer, so they don’t pray-or they don’t pray for the right things. That’s why they need others to pray for them, to intercede for them. And one of the most important prayers that we can pray for people after they get saved is that they will “desire the pure milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) God knows exactly what they need, beginning with a sincere desire for more truth and the things of the spirit. The more earnestly we intercede for them, the sooner and better He is able to meet those needs.
2. Love. Spiritual babies thrive on love, just like natural babies. They need to feel God’s love, and they’ll most likely feel it first and foremost through you, their spiritual parent. They may also need continual reassurance of God’s love and your love in order to become the “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17) God wants them to be. You are God’s hands, His feet, His eyes, His mouth, and His face to help them feel and find security in His love.
3. The Word. The Word is our spiritual nourishment. How much and how quickly new Christians grow spiritually depends on how much spiritual nourishment they take in, and that depends largely on their spiritual hunger, how much they desire to be fed and grow. (Luke 1:53) Faith comes; it grows by taking in the Word of God (Romans 10:17). But the Bible is a big book–not to mention all the Bible commentaries and other Christian literature available. How is the new Christian supposed to know where to start or how to make sense of it all? Spiritual babies need spiritual milk, (1 Peter 2:2; Hebrews 5:13-14) and when they’re very small they need someone to feed them. Start your “babes” on the Gospels–beginning with the gospel of John–and titles in this Get Activated! series that explain the fundamentals of their newfound faith. Stimulate their hunger for God’s Word by telling them how reading and applying it to your life has helped you.
4. Jesus. People have Jesus if they are saved, of course, but they need to build a personal relationship with Him. They need to find security in the fact that Jesus loves them unconditionally, and they need to learn to return His love. They also need to learn to let Jesus guide them in their day-to-day activities, and to depend on Him to solve their problems, rather than depending on themselves as they have done all their lives (Proverbs 3:5-6; Philippians 2:5). None of these things happen automatically. They come through spending time with Jesus each day, communicating heart to heart as they talk to and listen to Him in prayer, and as they read His Word.
5. Fellowship. New believers need the support of other Christians-especially those who are older and stronger in the faith. New believers also need to see examples of Christian love in action. They need to see others excited about reading and living the Word. They need to see God answering others’ prayers and working in others’ lives, and as they do, they’ll better understand and appreciate how He is also working in theirs. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
What makes parents wonderful?–That self-sacrificial spirit that is willing to sacrifice their own time and strength and other pursuits to care for their children. The same goes for those who give of themselves to “parent” new Christians. Caring for spiritual children is a big job, but with a big job comes a big reward. In fact, bearing and caring for other new Christians is just about the greatest experience a Christian can have this side of Heaven!
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“Feed My sheep” (John 21:16)
The Lord wants us to have real love for the lost, to tell others about His love, and to feed them spiritually with His Word. Jesus alone can save you, but He can’t save you alone. If you’re saved and you really love the Lord and others, you’re going to share His love; you’re going to witness and tell others about Him.
What can you do for Jesus? You can reach the lost. You can feed His sheep. You can love His little ones. This is the greatest work in the world, so keep on loving Jesus and continue to search out His dear little sheep and love them into His fold, till the Great Shepherd returns for His own (Isaiah 40:10-11; 1 Peter 5:2-4).
You’ve got to help your new converts learn to put their faith in the Word, not their feelings. Without faith in His unchanging Word, what will happen when they don’t feel so good? The Devil will get them to doubt God and their connection with Him, and they’ll get discouraged. They must have the Word in their hearts; that’s the foundation of faith. The strongest Christians and the strongest witnesses for the Lord are those who are strongest in the Word. You can fail, others can fail, the whole world can fail, but God’s Word will never fail! “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will by no means pass away!” (Matthew 24:35). It doesn’t matter if everyone else in the whole world turns their back on the Lord, they’ll still keep going for God if their faith is in the Word!
Where are the shepherds?
One of God’s greatest needs is good shepherds who are concerned for their flocks-patient pastors and teachers who have the faith, vision, and burden to trudge along day after day, feeding the sheep as they gradually grow to be productive and fruitful. A lot of Christians seem to like to scatter seed, but not many people seem to want to take care of the results. Anybody can go out and scatter seed: It takes a true farmer to patiently weed and water and fertilize and prune the little plant to fruitful maturity. Anybody can go out and witness and invite folks to receive Jesus, but very few want to patiently, painstakingly care for and train the spiritual babes they bear till they are able to bear and care for children of their own.
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
–The apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:2-3)
Although God can do anything, He has committed Himself to work through our prayers. He wants us to show concern and pray. We have to visualize the people we’re praying for and ask the Lord specifically for what we want Him to do, then the Holy Spirit goes to work right away on their behalf.