Summary: A sermon designed to highlight the importance of continually growing in Christian maturity.
The Next Step 5-6-07
Somewhere this morning a young man is standing holding on to the back of a pew with moist hands and a heavy heart. For quite awhile now he has struggled with a decision that he is about to make. He feels the calling of the Holy Spirit and while he isn’t sure he knows everything he should, he does know that he needs Jesus Christ in his life. In some Church somewhere in just a few minutes he will make that decision. Somehow, I pray, he will release the back of that pew and he’ll make his way up front and make a public profession of his faith in Jesus Christ. While for most of us this happened long ago and is today just a memory of our youth, we still sit here today with more in common with this frightened young man than we would probably like to admit. His very salvation hangs on his decision this morning to take the next step, for many of us the fate of our Christian maturity depends this morning on our willingness to take the next step. This journey of Christianity is a never ending, filled with hills and valleys, rain and sunshine, disappointment and despair, joy and peace. It is a lifetime of deciding to take that next step or allowing ourselves to stagnate in fear of what may lay ahead. We must be constantly deciding to move ahead or we must again face the empty feeling of hearing the last few words of an invitation hymn that we were just to afraid to respond to. Did you have many of those Sundays as a child? I know I had a few Sundays before I went forward where I had honestly intended to make a decision for Christ but was just unable or unwilling to do so. I know that feeling of despair that comes with knowing “ I lost my chance, I’ll have to wait until next week.” I know the inner feeling of both cowardice and failure that accompanied my inability to stand up and profess that which I knew in my heart to be true.
Most of us have been there and that’s O.K., as long as we don’t spend our lives there, stuck in a permanent limbo, unwilling to take the next step.
We must be willing to take that next step; many will ask what is the next step; For each of us its different because we are all in different places in our Christian walk. But as long as we profess Christ we must realize there is always that next step that we must not only accept but that we must pursue. For some it is easily recognized and prepared for, on the other hand many simply don’t seem to know what the next step is and for them it may very well be pursuing a closer relationship with God so that He may reveal it to them.
Sometimes we act as though Christianity ends at baptism, we rejoice after working with a non-believer for months and months as he finally accepts Christ and obediently follows in baptism. And then somehow we consider that the process is complete and accomplished, but baptism is not the final step it is merely one of the first steps. Christianity is a marathon that we cannot complete, and that we must never quit. We must run this race for all we are worth knowing we cannot finish, but rather relying on the blood of Jesus Christ to make up the difference from where we stand to the finish line. He does not command me to win the race he only requires me to take the next step. Grace will do the rest.
I often think of Christianity as a man on foot chasing a train. The train moves at such a speed that it is always getting further and further ahead of the man, it seems more and more distant each time the runner lifts his head trying to catch a glimpse of the ever more distant train. Our salvation does not count on us ever catching the train, only on our willingness to take the next step in the pursuit of the train. Those who are condemned are not those unable to catch the train but rather those who decide to forget the train and wander off another way.
Noah professed obedience when he said, “yes Lord I will build you an ark” yet it was not that profession that saved Noah and his family. His salvation from the flood was a direct result of his building of the ark. Our profession of faith is the first step, however if it is the only step you ever take, you will not survive the floodwaters of this life. You must continually take the next step.