Misconceptions, we all have them about something. Sometimes new Christians get discouraged when a mental picture they had of something or someone is shattered. Replacing misconceptions with facts is something we'll do our entire life as we learn more and more from the Bible.
Misconceptions which new disciples sometimes have
I can tell I'm in good standing with God if I have a "better felt than told" experience. A person who becomes a Christian and has their sins erased by all means should feel positive about their new commitment. There is nothing like the feeling of having a clear conscience and a clean slate that comes with having our guilty feelings and burdens removed. What a weight off of our shoulders! However, emotions don't tell the whole story and indeed can be deceiving. Our conscience cannot be completely trusted. For example, God's envoy Paul, before becoming a disciple, did much damage to the cause of Christ (Acts 8:3, Acts 26:9-11, I Timothy 1:13). Paul could claim he did all these things in good conscience toward God (Acts 23:1) because he did them ignorantly in unbelief (I Timothy 1:13). Paul's conscience did not condemn him even though he had imprisoned and killed Christians! Our conscience must be trained properly and only then can it serve us well.
The idea that knowing we are "right" with God based on feelings is a major mistake! The emotions and feelings that we experience will vary depending on a number of factors such as our attitude, diet, health, sleep habits, pleasure, pain, and other circumstances and situations in our lives. Emotions cannot be trusted when it comes to our spiritual condition. It is not enough to "feel" that you are a child of God. Emotions must not be the basis for the conclusions we make nor the rule of our conduct (e.g., “It just felt like the right thing to do. I knew at that moment the Spirit led me to do it”). To “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians. 5:25) or “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7), the Christian must make decisions that are based upon the Bible (Psalms 119:105, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Bad things don't happen to good Christians. Some people think that when they become a Christian, God won't allow bad things to happen to them and if bad things do happen, its because they aren't what they ought to be as Christians. This simply isn't true. Jesus never sinned yet He was mistreated terribly. God's emissary Paul suffered beatings, shipwrecks and many other dangers (2 Corinthians 11:24-26). The Bible doesn't teach that we will live pain free lives because we are pleasing to God. Even very good disciples suffer tragedies sometimes. We might even suffer because we are His disciples (1 Peter 4:16). Even during bad times, God has promised that He will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).
Being a Christian means a lifetime of rigid rule keeping. For the Jewish people who lived under God's Old Contract this was true. There were hundreds of rules that composed the Old Law they lived under. This all changed when Jesus died because He ushered in a New Contract that His disciples are under today. Under this New Covenant the only law we have is the "law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2). This law has only one requirement: to love each other. The requirements of the New Covenant are really more like training aids that teach us how to love. So you see, these requirements are not so much "rules" as expressions of love.
For example, the Bible says it is wrong to commit adultery. Why is adultery wrong? Is it because it is against some arbitrary set of rules that God has legislated? No, it is wrong because it hurts others therefore God has told us to avoid it. Cheating on my wife would hurt her, my children, and everyone else who cares about us. Sin hurts people; sin is the opposite of love. Sin comes about because we give in to our own selfish desires (James 1:14) and fail to put the welfare of others first. I do not refrain from cheating on my wife because a rule forbids it. I am faithful to her because I love her.
When identifying a healthy marriage, we don't start by asking what the rules in the household are. A healthy marriage is not defined by rules. I might not cheat on my wife, but merely keeping this rule isn't nearly enough to make it a good marriage. We define a good marriage by looking at relationships. Do they love each other? Do they support each other? Do they cooperate? Do they resolve conflict in healthy ways? Do they enjoy being around each other?
Likewise, our relationship with God is not defined by rules. Actually, the Bible likens Jesus' relationship with His followers to a marriage (Ephesians 5:22-31). Like a marriage, certain expectations of proper behavior are present but these "rules" do not describe the relationship. The requirements of the New Covenant teach us how to love and if we love God and one another, we'll want to do what is right!
Christians are always loving, caring people. Christians are not perfect. We don't cease sinning when we become a disciple. Christians do not want to sin and hate it when we do, but since we are less than perfect it will happen. Like everyone else, Christians have bad days, weeks or months. We get angry, tired and sometimes have a bad attitude. As disciples of Jesus, we can't allow these negative times to rule us though. There is a great deal of diversity among God's people and sometimes this causes friction. We are a spiritual family and as with our physical families, it isn't always smooth sailing. However, a family that is committed to each other will find a way to work through difficulties and end up stronger for it. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).
Preachers, missionaries and church leaders have a special connection or "calling" from God. Under the New Covenant, there is no longer a special priesthood like there was under the Old Covenant. The Bible teaches that all disciples are priests to God (1 Peter 2:5). There are no clergy/laity distinctions; there are no second class Christians. Some people devote their full time to teaching the good news about Jesus. They do this, not because they have some mystical calling from God, but because they have a strong desire and aptitude to tell the good news to others. They are just normal people like you.
Christians are always people you can trust. Actually, this is a true statement if you are considering a true disciple. Unfortunately, not everyone who claims to be a disciple really is. Some people start out as good disciples but lose their love for God and stop following Jesus (Matthew 13:3-30). Others may have never been true disciples at all. Jesus warned us of those who are really ravenous wolves but come to us in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). We can know more about people by watching their actions than by listening to their words. (Matthew 7:16-20).
Christians always feel close to God. Emotions are very tricky. Sometimes they cause us to feel on top of the world and other times they make us wish we could leave it. We must not assess our spiritual condition solely upon how we feel. Many heroes of the Bible had spiritual ups and downs. This is normal and is to be expected. When we don't feel like things are as they should be spiritually, there a few things to consider. Do I have sin in my life that I haven't given up? Am I praying as I should? Am I reading the Bible as I should? Am I frequently spending time with other disciples who can support and encourage me? Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you... (James 4:7-8).
Christians shouldn't have a lot of money. There is a Bible passage that is often misquoted to say, "money is the root of all evil". Actually, the verse says, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10). There is nothing wrong with being prosperous. Abraham, who was called the friend of God, was very wealthy by the standards of His day. The problem with money is when we put our trust in it instead of God. If we place a higher value on money than on spiritual things, we will stray away from following Jesus. Money isn't the problem, the love of it is.
Disciples of Jesus cannot associate with sinners. It is true that you may have to sever some of the relationships from your past life of sin. You may need to spend much less time with them until you are strong enough to resist the temptations of your old lifestyle. Jesus made it his mission to associate with sinners. How will we help those who need a Savior, if we don't build relationships with them and set a good example? As difficult as it may be, we must never let those who live in sin set our standards for us. We must be a positive influence on them but never allow them to be a negative influence on us. We must not commit sin while attempting to help sinners. A good lifeguard doesn't drown with the drowning swimmer! Likewise, we can't allow the spiritually drowning to take us under. Save yourself first and then you can help others.