New Believer

New life in Christ is a wondrous, exciting experience, and at times can be overwhelming. God knows how powerful emotions can be (remember, God became man! See John 11:33-36), how limited our understanding is (see Isaiah 55:8-9), and how vulnerable we are as a result.

In response, our heavenly Father has provided three primary ways to nurture and nourish our relationship with Him, and protect us when our life with Him is threatened. At SJR we refer to these three things as the “three legs of the Christian life.” These three spiritual practices (sometimes called, “disciplines”, from the term, “disciple”) anchor and empower our spiritual life and growth. If practiced regularly, these three disciplines effectively “root” us…in Christ (see John 15:1-5)

The first ‘leg’ or spiritual practice is our individual, personal, devotional life with God.

This first leg (practice or discipline) of the Christian life we sometimes refer to as “our secret life”, because Jesus talks about his followers doing this “in secret”, and God visiting His follower “in secret.”


6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

– Matthew 6:6 (ESV)

Now, the importance and value of public prayer, as well as corporate or group prayer, is taught, encouraged, and modeled many places in Holy Scripture, but in Scripture and throughout history, the clear witness is that one’s personal, private, individual devotional life is indispensable for a vibrant and vital Christian faith.

The Church has always taught that daily prayer is a key element in one’s personal devotional life, and since the Reformation, Bible reading/study/meditation/reflection has been incorporated into this daily exercise. SJR encourages everyone to follow this practice, and provides a number of different resources to help individual believers develop their own personal devotional life into one that is rich, rewarding, and meaningful to them.

This second leg or spiritual practice of the Christian life can be referred to as “our Sabbath life”. It is rooted in God’s will for us, revealed to the Jewish people hundreds of years before Jesus even appeared (see Exodus 20:8-11), and modified and adapted by the early church in recognition and celebration of the resurrection of Jesus (see Acts 20:7).

Martin Luther taught that the heart of the Sabbath commandment centers around two things: worship and rest. The clear witness of Scripture and believers in both the Old and New Testaments is that at least one day in every seven I am gathering with the larger community of believers, to worship, to praise God, to pray together, to share my resources for the empowering of the larger faith community, to hear God’s Word, and to be prepared to go out in my community, full of faith in my heart, and a love for the lost and hurting around me.

Historically, Lutheran worship follows the predominant practice in almost all Protestant denominations in the United States, in that it is “word” centered. This means that hearing, reading, and preach/teaching from Holy Scripture,…along with prayers, hymns and other songs of praise, and recitations,…represent the fundamental core of Christian worship. The celebration of the Sacrament of the Holy Communion (the Eucharist, the Lord’s Table, Sacrament of the Altar,…it is called many things) is historically secondary in Lutheran worship, as reflected in the fact that most Lutheran churches celebrate the Eucharist only monthly. However, in the past fifty years, there has been a movement amongst Lutheran to bring Holy Communion back to the center of worship, by celebrating it more often, and in some cases every Sunday.

The other center or aspect of “observing the Sabbath Day to keep it holy”, that Martin Luther taught, involves taking a break from your normal routines and responsibilities…the consume your time the rest of the week,…including work.

In the Gospels Jesus frequently maintained a schedule that was extremely hectic, and, as a result, he either alone or with his disciples, often sought out “a quiet place” or “a lonely place” (see Mark 3:20, 6:31, Luke 5:16). One reason he did this is because of the busyness of the constant crowds around him. And in those “quiet places”, Jesus was restored and renewed.

In a similar fashion, God wants to lead us to “quiet places” in our lives (“still waters”, is a term used to describe such a place in Psalm 23), places where we too can be renewed, restored and refreshed. And to experience this on a regular basis!

In this way, the Sabbath…is truly a gift to us, as God’s plan is that it be a time and place for us each week, to hear and know God’s love for us in Christ (through worship), AND experience his gentle care for our souls (through rest from labor).

This third leg or spiritual practice of the Christian life we call our “small group life”, or our fellowship life. This is where close relationships of meaning and significance are intentionally created, nurtured and developed, with brothers or sisters in Christ, in my church.

St. John’s small groups ministry is called “Emmanuel Groups”, and is relatively new (started a little over a year ago). The goal of Emmanuel Groups is to enable the creation and nurture of relationships in the body of Christ that enable individuals to genuinely experience Christ’s love and care for them, through their brothers or sisters in Christ, and to enable them to become instruments of that same experience of love and care for their brothers or sisters in Christ.

Martin Luther talked about believers becoming “little christs” to those around them. Emmanuel Groups (“Emmanuel” means “God with us”) helps people “know and be known, love and be loved, celebrate and be celebrated”. Click here* for more information about St. John’s Emmanuel Groups.