What do you do after becoming a Christian? You’ve acknowledged your need for a savior, repented of your past sins, confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and received the gift of God’s grace. The foundations are in place. Now what?
There are some Christians, even Christian teachers, who don’t really know how to answer this question. Those who teach we have no role to play in our salvations and that nothing’s expected of us after conversion are left in a tough pickle. One could, according to this theory, have someone convert to Christianity then go out lying, sleeping around, and stealing but still be considered saved as a part of God’s family. And even the good people who wouldn’t dream of doing something like that are still left with the question, “What do I do now?”
God answers this question for us in the pages of His Bible. You can’t do anything to make God owe you salvation; it is a gift that He chooses to give freely to those who respond to His call. But once you’ve been given this gift your life is supposed to change. Salvation transforms the way you live and gives us a purpose.
Choose A Way
In Acts, Christians are described as people who follow “the way” of the Lord (Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). It’s a metaphorical use of the Greek word hodos (G3598), meaning “a course of conduct.” When used literally, hodos refers to the roadway you travel on a journey. In both cases, use of this word implies motion, travel, and activity.
Christians aren’t meant to stagnate. They’re meant to walk through life in a certain way. We get to choose whether we’ll walk in the ways of men or the way of God. And God’s instructions in the New Testament for how to walk look a lot like His laws about how to behave from the Old Testament. The law can’t bring salvation and it was never intended to. But it was a revelation of God’s character and He hasn’t changed. Our conduct still matters to Him.
Ephesians is a fantastic place to start diving deeper into this topic. Here, Paul reminds his readers that they “once walked according to the course of this world.” They were “children of disobedience” influenced by God’s adversary and acting in ways contrary to God’s teachings (Eph. 2:2-3, WEB).
But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)(Eph. 2:4-5, WEB)
Trespasses — sin — kills people. That’s why the choice of whether or not to follow God has always been presented as a choice between life and death (Deut. 30:15-18). Grace lets us choose life even after we’ve done things worthy of death. But it doesn’t give us license to sin or permission to sit around twiddling our thumbs.
Change How You Walk
Grace is free. And once we’ve received grace, God’s work in us makes it possible for us to walk in a different way than we had before. We don’t earn salvation by works, but after being saved we’re meant to do works.
for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, that no one would boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10, WEB)
God has a plan for how we’re to act after He starts working in our lives. In Romans 6:4, it’s described as walking “in newness of life.” Going back to Ephesians, we’re told to ” to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called” (Eph. 4:1, WEB). This has to be different from the way we previously conducted our lives (Eph. 4:17-19).
But you did not learn Christ that way; if indeed you heard him, and were taught in him, even as truth is in Jesus: that you put away, as concerning your former way of life, the old man, that grows corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth. (Eph. 4:20-24, WEB)
You don’t learn to follow Christ by going back to your old way of life after meeting Him. Most of us don’t have a Paul on the road to Damascus type of conversion, but the effect should be the same. We should immediately stop what we’ve been doing that was contrary to God and start serving and obeying Him.
Fellowship With Light
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, WEB). The choice between life and death is also a choice between light and darkness. We can stumble around trying to find our own way or let Jesus illuminate our steps.
If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don’t tell the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:6-7, WEB)
Jesus is the light and to walk in light we must “walk just like he walked” (1 John 2:6, WEB). Scripture also describes this as walking in the spirit by faith. When we “are in Christ Jesus,” we “don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit” (Rom. 8:1, WEB).
Walk With God
In Galatians 5, Paul talks about a New Covenant Christian’s freedom. He then tells us, “don’t use your freedom for gain to the flesh” (Gal. 5:13, WEB). Rather, we’re to fulfill the law by loving our neighbors as ourselves. When we’re walking in the spirit, we’re not fulfilling the “lust of the flesh.” Paul then gives us a whole list of “works of the flesh” and warns “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom” (Eph. 5:19-21, WEB). There are some things we simply can’t do anymore if we want to be part of God’s family.
But walking with God isn’t about a strict list of “thou shalt nots.” It’s about the “thou shalts” that come with Christ working in us to transform our lives. The law becomes part of us — written in our hearts as we become more like God (Heb. 8:10; 10:16). Works of faith and fruits of the spirit are a natural result of God’s work in us. And that answers the “now what?” question. Once we’re Christian, we follow God and do what He says because we love Him and He loves us. That’s what we do.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Ga. 5:22-25, KJV)