What to do when the Honeymoon is over...
Let’s begin by being reminded of the great joy of seeing other Christians who are growing in the faith (2 John 4; 3 John 3-4). Conversely, it is sad that not all new Christians grow as they should (Luke 8:13-14). At times, problems and disappointments overwhelm such that some fall away. It is the responsibility of the spiritual to help such (Gal 6:1-2;Rom 15:1-2). The newly converted Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39); but it is unlikely that his joy remained with total consistency all of his life. Maybe for him, and certainly for most of us, there came a day that “the honeymoon was over” because of faith-challenging disappointment.
The joy of Christianity is often challenged by disappointment. So, what are the problems which arise? And how do I deal with such?
One common problem, troubling to discover, is the realization that I have the same weaknesses as I had before I became a Christian. Sometimes I have just become disappointed with myself.
Like the Ethiopian (Acts 8:39), I was excited about the forgiveness of my sins and the change to start over in living the new Christian life. But then I discovered the temptations were there as strong as before. So I read about rocky soil (Luke 8:13), and I am afraid.
So how do we help such a one? First, we help by teaching that "transformation" is an on-going process. Baptism is only the beginning. After baptism, the life must be lived (Rom. 12:1-2; Col 3:5-11)! Yes, the temptations are still there; but I am trying to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ who did not sin.
Again, we can help by reminding them of God's willingness to forgive and provide strength (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1). Let us be reminded that God is really at work in our lives (Phil 2:12-13).
Second, the “honeymoon is over” when one discovers that other Christians are not sinlessly perfect either. The stumblingblock to many new Christians is...us! New converts may be disappointed by witnessing inconsistency in our lives!
They see Christians who do not practice what they preach and it really hurts. The real consolation is to realize that this problem is not a new one. Cephas (Peter) in Antioch acted the part of an hypocrite (Gal 2:11-12). Who would have imagined an apostle doing such a thing? And then, other Jewish Christians and even Barnabas joined him in hypocrisy (Gal 2:13).
Expecting sinless perfection from older Christians is a little like the principle of casting the first stone. Do not expect perfection in others until you have arrived there yourself!
Again, the new Christian might observe or even receive ill treatment by Christians. It might involve action, or words. So, what can we do? First, we can set better examples (1 Tim 4:12). Second, we can confess our wrong when it occurs. Older Christians are also going through that same process of "transformation"!
Third, the new convert knows “the honeymoon is over” when they find themselves facing the trials and temptations of the world... and they are disappointed by the world. These may be the pleasures and responsibilities of the world competing for the time and efforts of the new Christian –things like the job, the family, and even recreations and hobbies! These things begin to choke them even to the point of unfruitfulness (Luke 8:14).
Some then will know that “the honeymoon is over” when they find themselves genuinely discouraged by unconverted friends. These are people who want them to come back to the things of the world. We are warned against the corrupting influence of bad company (1 Cor 15:33-34).
So what can we do? First, let us demonstrate in our lives the real meaning of seeking first the kingdom of God (Matt 6:33). Second, we can make it clear, by our own examples, who it is we love the most (1 John 2:15-17). Third, we encourage and participate in their developing close friendships with Christians! All Christians... and especially new Christians need friendships centered around Christ and his work.
Fourth, a problem some new Christians have is a false conception about prosperity which causes them to be disappointed by lack of success. We think because when we obeyed the gospel and our sins were forgiven that all our problems will go away. The problem of this idea of a “gospel of health and wealth” is that “it just isn’t so!” It was not the case even in the First Century (1 Peter 1:6- 9). Such a false idea cannot be made to fit with the admonition of James (James 1:2-4).
All of us ...new Christians included... need to be prepared for possible adversity. And we need to prepare others of adversity as Paul did (Acts 14:21-22). Persecution always comes to the godly (2 Tim 3:12). This need to know is especially great for new Christians.
Finally, the new convert will know that “the honeymoon is over” if he/she realizes that he is not growing (2 Peter 3:18).
The preacher’s duty before God is given (2 Tim 4:1-2). A constant diet of ho-hum, soft-soap, “let’s-all-feel-good-about-ourselves” and “I’m o.k... you are o.k.” preaching... sooner or later starves the new Christian from sound doctrine.
Some only preach things upon which “all agree.” Others avoid all forms of “negative” preaching. Some think that exposing denominational errors is detrimental. All such notions deny the obvious: too little Bible nutrition causes new Christians to become malnourished and ultimately to lose their souls (as well as older Christians) -- much more than a few who quit because they do not desire to be fed upon the truth of God’s word. New converts, zealous of good works (and wanting to convert the world) have great zeal in knowing what is doctrinally right and what is doctrinally wrong. How else will they be able to deal with those they love who have embraced religious denominationalism?
Let us conclude with a reading of Proverbs 4:14-23. We especially note that the path of the righteous just gets better and better (see verse 18). Let us all give attention to the words of God (verses 20-21).
To reach that stage where we will grow steadily, we need to have realistic expectations of problems to come. And we need to be sure we are converted to Christ, not the church, a preacher, a teacher, a relative or a friend.
Have you been converted to Jesus Christ?