Every now and again a video of a famous sport star’s baby goes viral. The baby taking their first steps as the proud olympic sprinter mother looking on, or the toddler kicking a football around for the first time like their famous daddy. Those wonderful first steps!
So it is with a sports friend who says that they want to become a Christian. There is something quite remarkable, breathtaking, and yet serious as we help a sportsperson take the first steps in becoming a Christian.
So what do we do and how do we do it?
Yes, angels rejoice in heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15 v 7) but we need to know, as far as we can tell, that our sports friend understands what Jesus has done for them, trusts in Him for their and is repentant of sin. How do we discern this and help them take their first steps?
John 3 v 16-18 are some of the most well known verses in the Bible and for good reason. What a place to go to for a clarity in discerning what your friend really believes.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
So find a good time, in a pub, coffee shop, park bench with John 3 open and ask some questions. Questions such as ‘Who do you think Jesus is?’ ‘Why did Jesus come to earth?’ and ‘How do these trust affect you personally?’.
In a most friendly and informal way, your job is to make sure your friend is right in their understanding of the gospel. This way, you are getting your friend to verbalise in their own words the truths that are found in these theologically rich, heavyweight verses.
It’s priceless to hear a friend say something along the lines of ‘Jesus is God’s son’ and ‘Jesus died to save sinners’ and ‘I do believe that God has forgiven my sins as Jesus has taken them upon himself and is punished for my sins’.
Growing up you may have heard people ask “have you prayed the prayer?” when people came to establish if you had committed your life to Jesus. Let’s be clear, praying ‘the prayer’ doesn’t make anybody a Christian. It isn’t like a magic spell that works only when the right words are uttered. God, through His mercy and grace, opens the blind eyes of an unbeliever and:
“gives us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Cor 4 v 6).
God does the work in salvation. The prayer a friend prays works as a means of response to God’s salvation work, through admitting sin, believing in Jesus and asking for His help to commit a life and future to Him.
How marvellous to hear the prayer of somebody whose eyes have been opened to their need of rescue as they are filled with wonder and awe seeing Jesus as their rescuer!
John Bunyan in his famous children’s book ‘Pilgrims Progress’ brilliantly depicts a Christian’s journey from start to finish through valleys and mountain tops, snares and trials, meeting helpful people along the way and others wanting to mislead him in his faith. The one thing his main character carries with him all the way to the heavenly city is a book (the Bible) which helps him see things clearly. The new believer needs to learn how to open the Bible and read it for themselves.
In John 14 v15-18, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the constant helper for every Christian. Constant, because the “spirit of truth” takes residence in the new heart of every believer. He is called the spirit of truth because he takes God’s word and guards and guides and enables every Christian to finish the journey, the race of life! The new believer needs to see and understand the role of the ‘Spirit of truth’ within them.
The Christian life is not to be lived in isolation. The new believer needs to see what a good Bible teaching, loving community of believers in the local church looks like.
Why not help them work out the privilege and practise of daily prayer? Start helping them to identify areas in their life where the ‘spirit of truth’ can expose, guide and convict where change needs to happen if they are to be obedient and joyful in following him.
It’s no small task to walk alongside a new believer. But its worth travelling with them and praying consistently that God would lead those first steps to a transformed life, all the way to their heavenly home!
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A weekly devotional for sports people