[The] Beginning Day in the Christian Life

New Converts' Day Sermon by W, N. Briney 

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour 
Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. — 2 Pet. 
3:18. 




TO get a good start in any enterprise is impor-
tant. That’s why the pioneers in the movement
to restore the faith and practice of the primitive
church laid such emphasis upon the first principles
of the gospel. In their day, matters of the most fun-
damental importance had become greatly obscured by
undue emphasis upon human opinions, traditions, doc-
trines and speculations. By appeal to the Scriptures,
they revealed the simple steps that make one a
Christian,

It is a slander upon these great and good men to
say, as is sometimes foolishly charged, that they gave
themselves no concern about the spiritual develop-
ment of those who came to Christ under their minis-
try. Of necessity, they stressed matters of initial im-
portance, but did by no means neglect exhortation
to walk in newness of life and to grow in grace,
knowledge and truth.

To grow is the business of the young disciple. He
is a babe in Christ. He is to wax strong in Christian
character, to advance in spiritual wisdom, and in
favor with God and man. His good start is im-

 

portant, but it is not all that is important. The col-
lege student must matriculate, be assigned to the
proper classes and get the right kind of start in his
collegiate career; but the real test of his mettle comes
in the months and years that follow in his student
life. The soldier must enlist, but the proof of his
courage is not so much in enlistment as in his con-
duct and bearing in the campaigns that come after.
He who would be a disciple of Christ must matricu-
late in the school of the great Teacher; he who would
become a good soldier of Jesus Christ must enlist
under His banner; but the real problems and conflicts
come in the subsequent days. Diplomas and distin-
guished-service medals come only to those who go on
unto perfection as disciples and as soldiers of the
Lord Jesus. There is no chance for make-believe in
this final test. The tree is known by its fruits.

Let not the young convert be deceived. He is
full of enthusiasm and new-found joy. But he doubt-
less finds himself, after the initial experiences that
made him a Christian, very much the same person he
was before. Any beginner in the Christian life who
expects to awaken the next morning after his con-
version a spiritual giant, is doomed to disappoint-
ment and disillusionment. Nowhere in God’s word is
it promised that the young disciple may become a
spiritual Samson overnight. Minerva is said to have
sprung full-grown from the head of Jove, but no such
wonders ever occur in the realm of character. The
mushroom comes to perfection of growth in a night,
but there’s not enough substance to it to fill a thim-
ble. The oak, luxuriant in growth, strong in fiber,
driving down its roots to take hold of the rocks and
coming to its splendid perfection by weathering a

 

thousand storms, suggests the process by which young
disciples may become strong in the Lord.

The first principles of the gospel, faith, repentance,
confession and baptism, possess no power to change
one’s nature. These powerfully influence his intel-
lectual, emotional and volitional being, but they do
not in themselves change him from a bad to a good
character. If, for example, one is possessed of an in-
flammable temper before taking these initial steps, he
finds that there is nothing in them to eradicate such a
troublesome characteristic, and that he has a fight on
his hands every day.

In becoming a Christian, one simply adopts a new
program of life, accepts Christian standards of con-
duct, and seeks in all things to make himself well
pleasing to the Christ whose disciple he has become.
He finds that abundant means and agencies have been
provided to help him in his struggle to master his
temper, to control his passions, to overcome his tempta-
tions and to learn the lessons the great Teacher would
have him know. His new program of life brings him
under every obligation to make full use of the means
of growth that God has placed at his disposal.

I. The Word of God.

Of prime importance to the young disciple, as a
means of growth, is the word of God. From the .
Bible he has been instructed how to become a Chris-
tian; now he needs to learn from it how to go on
“unto perfection and bear the fruitage of Christian
life. Perhaps he was presented with a copy of the
Scriptures at the time of his confession and baptism.
He could have received no more valuable or appro-
priate gift at the beginning of his Christian career.

 

The Bible is food to be appropriated. As food is
to the natural body, the Bible is to the spiritual. The
Greeks accounted for the mighty strength of Hercules
by the fact that he was fed in his infancy upon the
marrow of lions. The word of God is marrow to the
bones of the growing Christian. Paul said to the
youthful Timothy, ”From a babe thou hast known
the sacred writings, which are able to make thee wise
unto salvation.” Some one has said that ‘mean
Christians own Bibles and feed on newspapers.” We
should, of course, read newspapers and magazines, but
we must feed upon the Bible. We receive from it
the truth whereby we grow unto salvation. It is
good to own a Bible, but the sacred volume possesses
no talismanic power to bring good fortune or to keep
off evil. It exerts no occult influence to induce magi-
cal growth. It is food. If we grow, it will be be-
cause we feed upon its diet of divine truth; the
truth that develops moral fiber; the truth that makes
strong and vigorous; the truth that knits the muscles,
that calms the nerves, and that warms the blood; the
truth that creates spiritual energy and develops
Christian manhood.

The Bible is treasure to be searched for. Only by
so regarding it may we discover and appropriate its
truth. The word ^’search” is closely related to the
word ” circle.” To search literally means to surround
a thing, as the enclosed plane is bounded by its circle:
This means that by careful searching we are to make
the truth of the Bible our own possession, incor-
porating its teaching into conduct and character
just as the circle includes the plane it surrounds.
There are some Bible readers who complain of not
getting much out of it. If young disciples will form

 

the habit of reading it as it should be read, they will
have no occasion to make this lamentation.

The Bible must he read carefully and systemat-
ically. If young people run while they read, if their
reading is hasty and careless, if to ease conscience
or to keep a pledge they take up the Bible just before
retiring, and with sleepy eyes and drowsy spirit read
a few verses, they need not expect to acquire any
great store of its truth. If you want to get down to
the heart of divine truth, you must meditate upon
it. Prospectors after the earth’s rich deposits of oil
or mineral do not run with a hop, skip and jump
over the territory to be proven, but with pick and
shovel and drill they search with diligence, and ana-
lyze with painstaking care and perseverance. In
searching the Scriptures, you are in search of life
and character, and your search can not be too dili-
gent and earnest.

Tlie Bible must he read sincerely and prayerfully,
and with the desire to abide by its teaching. Eead-
ing it systematically and carefully, one grows in
knowledge; reading it sincerely and prayerfully, in
the real spirit of discipleship, one grows in grace.
*’If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my dis-
ciples.” Some read the Bible for its beauty of ex-
pression, some to find fault with it, and some to sup-
port a theological opinion; but he is most graciously
blessed who reads to discover the will of God and to
live according to that will. Young disciples will find
that many perplexing problems of conduct will be
solved by a knowledge of the Bible and a willingness
to make the life conform to its teachings. Questions
regarding various forms of amusement and recreation
will find prompt and final settlement in the life of

one who knows and is willing to abide by the sug-
gestions of the book of God. Young Christian, you
have the promise of your Saviour that if you abide
in His word, you shall know the truth that makes you
free. If you know and live up to its instructions, you
shall come to know absolutely, beyond all peradven-
ture of doubt, that it is the word of God, and will
be made free from doubt, and from every form of
sin. ”Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall
make you free.” ”If any man willeth to do his
will, he shall know of the teaching whether it is
of God.”

A copy of the American Standard Revised Bible,
with a good concordance, and a one-volume Bible
commentary or dictionary, supply to the young
Christian an inexhaustible mine of spiritual treasure,
and implements sufficient to begin the pleasant and
profitable task of digging up and appropriating those
many precious gems of truth which will adorn life
and enrich character.

II. Prayer.

Of scarcely secondary importance to the careful
and sincere reading of the Bible, is the forming by
the young disciple of regular habits of prayer. Habit
is a thing of extreme moment. A garment that fits
well and adjusts itself to the body is called a “habit.”
Prayer should become a habit, fitting well into the
program of the day. If one does not do a thing
habitually, he will probably lose the capacity to do
it at all. One who does not take regular physical
exercise, loses not only the capacity, but the inclina-
tion, to exercise. The same law holds good in religious
experience. You will probably pray little if you do

not form the habit of prayer. Men of prayer are
men of character and of power. Everything is
promised to those who are faithful in this beautiful
and gracious ministry. Nothing in the way of spirit-
ual growth and prosperity will be denied to that
disciple who is much in communion with God. One
need not be saying his prayers always, but he should
live in such intimacy with God as to speak with Him
at any moment, as one speaks unto a familiar friend.
And yet if one is to form the habit of prayer, regu-
lar times and seasons are necessary.

There should be a place of prayer. Nothing is
better than to hold tryst with God in some particu-
lar place that has become hallowed by the divine
presence. ” Enter thy closet.” ”Shut thy door.”
We read of prophets’ rooms and prayer chambers
among the people of God in the olden time. It would
mean much to young people in these days to have a
revival of the family altar and the place of medita-
tion and prayer in the home. In the multiplicity of
rooms and apartments in the modern house, why not
have one dedicated to prayer and communion with
God? To be alone with God, in a place free from
intrusion, when one bares his soul to his own eyes
and sees himself as God sees him, there is nothing
better than this.

There must be a time for prayer. It would seem well
to have regular seasons of prayer as well as a certain
place. It is especially helpful to pray while the day
is young. Jesus, knowing what problems and burdens
the day might bring, sometimes went out a great
while before dawn to hold tryst with the Father.
”Ere you left your room this morning, did you think
to pray?” is one of the old songs that should never

 

die. Morning prayer makes duty easy and delightful.
It adjusts the compass of the day, so that whatever
storms or vicissitudes may come, or into whatever
strange seas one may run, he is conscious that the
needle of his life has been adjusted to the will of
God. Irksome duty is turned into delightful privi-
lege. ”Hast thou commanded the morning?” If
so, you may be sure of the day, and you can never com-
mand it so well as by prayer. Young Christian, put
the seal of prayer upon the day in its very beginning,
and you may then face all its tasks and responsibili-
ties with spiritual alertness and with great hope and
assurance of success.

There is a right posture in prayer. We are won-
derfully influenced by our bodies, and reverence of
attitude is conducive to reverence of thought. The
priests stood, David sat, Solomon knelt and Abraham
prostrated himself before God. If one is under a
burden, if he feels a real need, his heart will cry out
whatever his bodily posture may be. But in the
trysting-place one will probably get closer to God on
his knees. ”Paint me on my knees, for I have at-
tained unto eminence that way!” exclaimed the first
Christian emperor. Not when seated upon a throne,
or standing in some exalted position of privilege
and power, does one assume his noblest posture, but
when on his knees paying tribute to his divine birth-
right.

There are helps toward prayer. The young Chris-
tian will find Harry Emerson Fosdick’s little book
on “The Meaning of Prayer” very suggestive and
helpful. Take your concordance and find out how
often and under what circumstances Jesus prayed.
It will be a wonderful inspiration to you in your

own prayer-life. It will also assist you to get a clear
conception of the Bible doctrine of prayer to look
up in the concordance, each day, some ten or twelve
passages until you have exhausted the more than
four hundred references to prayer you will find there.

III. Church Attendance.

A third means of growth accessible to the new
convert is attendance upon the services of the house
of God. If the habit of reading the Bible and of
prayer is necessary to the development of spiritual
life and character, church attendance must also be re-
garded as essential. This duty and privilege can not
be safely slighted or ignored.

Neglect of God’s house is sin. Though we have
the Bible in our homes and the altar of prayer
erected there, we must not forsake ‘ ‘ our own as-
sembling together.” We ”sin wilfully” when we do.
Read Heb. 10 : 25, 26. If the new convert hopes
for a successful Christian career, he must not neglect
the house of God. Multitudes of young disciples are
careless about this highly important matter. The boy
Jesus delighted in the privileges of synagogue and
temple. During his public ministry He went into the
synagogue on the Sabbath day ^^as his custom was.”
He felt the need of the sanctuary, and formed the
habit of seeking the helpful associations to be found
there.

Faithfulness to God’s house brings honor. Business
firms prefer young men and women who are regular
church attendants. God will honor those who honor
Him. The probability of success will be greatly en-
hanced in business and professional life if one re-
spects and honors the house of God. The story is

told of a young lawyer in a Southern State who was
invited to deliver an address of welcome to the Gov-
ernor on Monday evening. It was an unusual honor
and opportunity for a young lawyer, and he prepared
his address with great care. But he received a tele-
gram on Monday, saying the visit of the Governor
would be deferred until Wednesday evening. This
Christian young lawyer immediately sent a telegram
to the committee informing them that on account of
a previous engagement he could not deliver the ad-
dress on Wednesday. That engagement was the reg-
ular weekly prayer-meeting of his church, which he
had promised to lead. To many it seemed foolish for
the young man to miss such a great opportunity in
order to attend a commonplace prayer-meeting, but
he decided in the beginning of his Christian life that
nothing should swerve him from the purpose of his
heart to honor God in the appointments of His house.
He missed that fine chance to stand before the Gover-
nor and dignitaries of his State, but God blessed him
marvelously in his profession, and he is now num-
bered among the foremost men of that commonwealth.
Great men are church-going men. The really out-
standing men of our country have been and are
churchmen. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln,
William McKinley, James A. Garfield, Theodore
Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, and
a great host of America’s greatest statesmen, have
been consistent church attendants. A young man is
guilty of great folly and thoughtlessness who spurns
the church and refuses to give it his loyal support.
To the church must be given the credit for the con-
servation of the things we hold most dear and that
make life tolerable. The beginner in the Christian

 

life should suffer nothing to interfere with his regu-
lar attendance upon the sanctuary services. Show
me such a disciple, and I will lay my hand upon one
who is growing strong in Christian character, whose
faith is being confirmed, and across the horizon of
whose experience comes no cloud of doubt and
misgiving.

IV. Christian Service.

The last means of growth suggested to the new
convert is to engage in every possible form of
Christian activity. This will include financial support
of the church and all its missionary, educational and
benevolent enterprises, personal service in the Bible
school, the young people’s societies, the prayer-meeting
and other departments of church life, the promotion
of social and community welfare, and the many other
forms of Christian service so abundantly provided in
the complex life of our day.

There must be the stewardship of means. No
greater blessing could crown the life of a young
Christian than to determine from the very first to
recognize the principle of stewardship in all his life.
This means acknowledgment of the obligation to make
the best possible use of that which has been com-
mitted to him. It means the development of any
kind of talent or possession to the highest point of
efficiency. It means recognition of the fact that ”God
never made a human body or an immortal soul to be
a depository.” He wants us to be channels. What
we take in and pass on through heart and life, we
keep to bless and refresh our own souls, and to make
us like ” sweet Galilee,” which receives and more
generously gives. What we keep, without passing on.

 

stifles and kills and makes us like the ”Dead Sea”
which receives and gives not. Young disciples ought
to begin by recognizing the principle of stewardship
in the use of their money, and determine to bestow
at least one-tenth of the income upon the altar of
God. No Christian has a right to do as he pleases
with God’s silver and gold. It is His. ”The silver
is mine, and the gold is mine.” Even the ability to
procure it is from Him. “It is he who giveth thee
power to get wealth.” Great spiritual wealth is in
store for the young disciple who faithfully meets the
obligation of the tithe. Recognition and practice of
this obligation has never been known to hurt, but it
has been known to help thousands. Accept the chal-
lenge of the Lord, and put the law of the tithe to
the test. “Prove me now herewith” is His ringing
challenge. Bring the first sheaf to the Lord, not the
last remnant. Conscientiously adjust your expendi-
tures to your giving. Don’t reverse the process, as
thousands of the spiritually lean and poor do. Make
your expenditures conform to your giving by putting
aside at least the tithe, and do it first. You will
not suffer materially by giving a tenth of your in-
come. “It is the soundest and safest economic in-
surance it is possible for one to carry.” Put it to
the test. You will not suffer materially and will be
wondrously enriched spiritually.

And there must be stewardship of life. But
Christian stewardship is more than a question of
Christian giving. It includes all life. Find your
place in church and community activities. If you
fail to make the most of your talents in Christian
service, you are guilty of a breach of divine trust, and
of a sin against yourself and the kingdom of God.

 

The test of your sincerity and courage is your will-
ingness to serve the Lord in the use of the talents
with which he has endowed you, in whatever place
you can serve Him. That may be in the Bible school,
or in some auxiliary society of the home church. It
may be down in the slum district of your city. It
may be in China or Africa. It may be in the gospel
ministry. Be willing to go where the Lord wants
you to go and to do what He wants you to do.

In conclusion, don’t allow depression and dis-
couragement too large a place in your life because
of failure to grow up to your highest ideals. The
man who wrote our text was, for a time, shifting and
unstable. He was more like sand than rock. He was
a sort of diamond in the rough; blunt, headstrong,
given to profanity, and altogether unpromising. But
Jesus, recognizing his underlying qualities of strength
and leadership, by delicate use of the hard friction
and compression of experience, molded him into the
man of rock. The Christian life does not call for a
special type of character. It calls for untiring devo-
tion to high ideals, and the development, in spite of
obvious faults and weaknesses, of men whose faith
and purpose fail not. Out of rough-hewn stones
Christ builds the church of the living God, which,
after all, is ^* nothing more than a church of living
men. ‘ ‘

A sculptor was working patiently one day upon
a block of marble. His blows upon the chisel were
so slight as to scarcely raise a little cloud of marble
dust. A friend standing near finally said: ”Give me
your mallet and chisel. I can strike harder blows
than you and will finish the work sooner.” But the
sculptor only smiled as he continued his slow task

and said: ”That may be your way of making a statue,
but it is not mine.” Months afterward, in that same
room, the sculptor unveiled a figure so beautiful that
his friend bowed his head in recognition of the genius
and untiring patience that could work such per-
fection. Even so God would have us bring our char-
acters to perfection. After we have patiently wrought
under His direction and in the use of the means He
has given, for a lifetime, He will reach down and
lift from us the veil of humanity, and we shall
stand pure and resplendent and perfect in His pres-
ence forevermore.