Welcome to the Body of Christ! The life of a new Christian is both exciting and daunting. Your early experiences as a Christian will be filled with opportunities and challenges. What do I do now? Should I attend church? Where should I go? Who should I tell? What if I have doubts? How often should I pray and read the Bible?
We are here to offer guidance to help you as a new believers navigate your first steps in the Christian life, and the insights offered here are also helpful to established Christians as reminders of what the Christian life is about.
Where did you come from and where are you going?
If you are new to Christianity, there’s a good chance you’re an adult or young adult. This means you obviously came from somewhere in reference to your ideas, background, beliefs, and habits. Maybe you have come to Christ after involvement in another religion or philosophy. Or perhaps you were raised in a Christian home, drifted away from beliefs you were brought up with and have now committed your life to Christ.
Of course, there’s no way to anticipate every aspect of your background and what brought you to Christ and Christianity. But it’s important for you to keep in mind where you have come from because your past may influence your present life in Christ.
As a new Christian you may find yourself somewhat confused as to what your next steps should be. While there is a general route you may follow, such as gathering regularly with fellow Christians, there is no exact plan spelled out in the Bible regarding your next steps. God does have a plan for you and your life, but it is something you will discover as you grow as a Christian and mature in your relationship with Christ.
Emotion: Too Much or Not Enough?
One area where you may be confused is in reference to emotions in relation to Christianity. Maybe when you became a Christian you went through a very emotional experience. But now that your life has settled down you’re wondering where this emotional experience has gone. Or perhaps you are experiencing the opposite – your commitment to Christ may not have been emotional at all, or at least not very much so.
Don’t worry. Christians come to Christ in all sorts of ways. Some are highly emotional experiences, others are not. C.S. Lewis, for instance, one of the great Christian thinkers of the 20th century, described his conversion more like someone who had been asleep realizing he is awake, but not in any extraordinary emotional sense.
In fact, as a Christian you will have your ups and downs. It’s important that you do not base the reality of your relationship with Christ or what He has done for you on your feelings. Your feelings will fluctuate from day to day, but the foundation of your beliefs should not. As you develop a solid foundation in Christ and Christianity, that foundation rooted in a real relationship with Christ is what will support your Christian life.
Some people are “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7, NIV). Being a Christian is in many respects a lifelong education, but unlike some who are always learning but unable to acknowledge the truth, you have a foundation in truth (Christ). There will be much to learn throughout your Christian life, just be careful not to try and absorb too much information at once.
One area you will want to learn more about has to do with the Bible. You may have heard many myths about the Bible and maybe you’re not all that familiar with it. This article can only provide you with brief information about the Bible and what it teaches, but if you want to learn more you can try a few helpful resources.
First, the book From God to Us by Norman Geisler and William Nix (Moody Publishers) will provide you with some helpful general information about the Bible. Second, the book The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? by F.F. Bruce (InterVarsity Press) offers a short and helpful summary of the evidence for the reliability of the New Testament, where the story of Jesus and the early Church is recorded. Third, Basic Christianity by John Stott (InterVarsity Press) provides a brief overview of essential Christian beliefs.
The Holy Bible
The Holy Bible is actually a collection of many books written by several authors inspired by God over a period spanning some 1,500 years or so. The Old Testament contains books written before the time of Christ, while the New Testament contains documents about the life of Christ and the early Church. The Gospels include Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books contain accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Christ. John is a good place for a new Christian to become introduced to Christ and His message.
Next you will find the book of Acts, which records many exciting and challenging events in the life of the early Christians and the early Church. It introduces a key individual known as Paul, who went on to become one of the most important Christians in the early church.
Following Acts you will encounter a number of epistles, or letters, from various individuals writing to other Christians. These are highly practical letters, emphasizing the Christian life. James is a good epistle to read for practical insights into the Christian life.
The last book in the New Testament is Revelation, a work of apocalyptic literature that contains many images and predictions (prophecies). Although it tends to get a lot of attention in popular books and discussions, Revelation is generally not the best place for a new Christian to begin studies. This is not because it is not useful or helpful, but because approaching it and being able to make helpful sense out of it requires a fairly broad background in Bible history and other passages that it references. Revelation also provides wonderful imagery of a future time when Christ will return and evil will ultimately be overcome.
Doubts and Challenges
Most likely you will have a number of questions about Christianity. Don’t be discouraged if you do, but do your best to get your questions answered. There are a number of resources available addressing questions about the Bible, other religions, other philosophies or worldviews. The field of defending Christianity is called apologetics, so you might want to learn more in that area, especially if you have many questions.
Christianity is not a belief system that discourages questions or the life of the mind. All truth is God’s truth, as has been said, and if Christianity is true as we believe it to be, then any reasonable question should have reasonable answers.
In fact, 1 Peter 3:15 calls every Christian to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” As a new Christian you can’t be expected to have answers to everything about Christianity, but you can begin to learn more about the faith so you know why you believe what you believe.
It’s important that you begin to gather with other Christians regularly. You’ll want to find a solid Christian church that you can attend regularly, as well as a stable small group where you can meet with other Christians. You’ll also want to make sure you take time to pray and read the Bible regularly. A pastor will offer guidance as to how you can go about maturing in your faith.
Growing in your faith is important, but you can’t do it alone. Kingdom Life Ministries would count it an honor to be a part of your Christian growth and development.
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The New Believer’s Short Survival Guide
Three Essentials for a New Believer
- Prayer. Some time each day should be spent alone with God away from the distractions of family even if it’s only for a few minutes. Prayer is not formal: we are simply talking to God as we would to a friend. If you are not sure how to pray, begin by thanking God for all the good things that have happened to you, then pray for others, and finally pray for your own needs. You may want to spend some silent time waiting on the Lord to speak to your heart. Also, it is good to learn to pray throughout the day, for example: while driving alone in the car, or while doing some task which requires no concentration. And as good things happen during the day, take a moment to thank God for them.
- Reading the Bible. You need to spend time reading God’s word. At least once a day read a portion of the Bible. You can read a chapter or a column or, if you have a modern translation, even a short a paragraph. A good place for a new believer to start is the book of John which is known as the ‘Gospel of Love’. Use something like the New International Version or better yet, the New Living Translation. Ask God to speak to your heart before you start…and then listen to your heart as you read.
- Meeting with other believers. Attend a good church every Sunday, join a Bible study, get together with other Christians. You need the encouragement and support of others who have an understanding of how God works in our lives.
Don’t Let These Get You Down…
Impatience. We want to become a mature Christian overnight. We want to have an understanding of spiritual things, and we want everything to be changed immediately. Be patient! Good things only come through perseverance and with time.
Our failings. Now that you have committed your life to the Lord, it’s easy to expect yourself to always act with pure intentions and to walk perfectly before God. When we fail, which we all do, we can become very disappointed with ourselves and become discouraged. The Christian walk is one of learning to turn over areas of our life for God to handle. When we try to do things in our own strength, we will fail. But as we mess up, we learn to trust God in those areas of our life. So God uses our failings to help us grow in him. Don’t become frustrated when you fail. Think of it as an opportunity for God to teach you how to better trust in Him.
Not understanding the Bible. As a new believer, it’s easy to become frustrated at our lack of Biblical knowledge. Often, we have no idea where any of the books of the Bible are located, and it seems that everyone else is so much more spiritually mature than we are that we will never catch up. Like anything else, knowledge of the Bible comes from reading and studying the Bible. When you entered kindergarten, you didn’t think that you would understand algebra, did you? It’s the same with God’s word. God will give you understanding as you learn his word one day at a time. You will be amazed at how quickly the Holy Spirit will reveal God’s truths to you as you read the Bible.
Feelings. When we make a commitment to Jesus, we are often filled with tremendous feelings of God’s love, peace, and joy. We are excited! But then when something bad happens to us, we may lose that initial joy, and since the feelings are gone, we may question whether we are saved or not. We are not saved by feelings. We are saved because God did a work in our life. The Bible confirms this to us. Sometimes we have to walk by faith. Whether you feel glad or sad, know that God still loves you, and he is with you to help you along the way.
Doubts. The Bible tells us that after God plants His word in our heart, the enemy comes to try to fill us with doubt. You may question whether God really did something miraculous in your life. Remember, we are saved by faith, and we live by faith. Doubt can only grow in our heart if we allow faith to take a vacation.
Reaction of friends and relatives. The reaction of those who knew us before we were saved can be unexpected. We may lose friends: we no longer have the same values as they do. Our family may consider us weird or fanatical. Old friends may get mad at us when we don’t do the same old things with them like we used to, such as partying or doing drugs. We don’t want to shut out friends or relatives, but we may have to choose between them and the Lord. We can still show them love, but we soon discover that the way we look at things has changed.
Answers to prayer. As a new believer, you may have a desire to get everyone in your family saved, and see your whole neighborhood come to church with you. Or you may pray for God to instantly heal you or solve your financial problems or deliver you from bad habits. We sometimes pray and expect God to immediately grant our prayer request. God wants to see your family saved. But He allows them to decide: He forces no man to serve him. God desires only good for you, but He wants you to learn step-by-step how to trust in him. If God would instantly deliver us from all of our problems, we would never learn how to trust Him. When we pray, God always answers. But sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no, and sometimes wait. We need to trust that he knows what’s best for us. So when you pray, always pray “according to Your will.” But don’t ever forget that prayer changes things. Pray for your loved ones, pray for healing, pray for deliverance. God has promised that our prayers are very effective.
A rosy outlook. When we first become a Christian, we may have the idea that everything is going to be wonderful and all our problems are solved. As long as we live in this sinful world, there will be problems, confusion, and turmoil in our life. We are not immune from these things. The difference is we have someone to guide us through our difficult times, and someone who has promised that whatever happens to us will work out for our own good. As we learn to trust in Jesus, we will discover that we can have peace even in the most trying of circumstances.
AN OVERVIEW OF THE BIBLE
The Bible is not just one big book, but actually a collection of 66 smaller books written over a period of at least 1600 years by about 40 different authors. Everything they wrote was inspired by God. In the front of your Bible is a Table of Contents which lists the names of all the books in the Bible. The Bible is divided into two sections: the first section which contains three-fourths of the Bible is called the Old Testament, the second section is called the New Testament.
What do the numbers mean? There is a handy abbreviation that Christians use to specify verses in the Bible. They list the name of the book first, followed by the chapter number, and then the verse number. For example: John 3:16 means the book of John, chapter 3, verse 16. This way you can quickly and easily locate scriptures.
The New Testament
The New Testament reveals to us Jesus and the plan of salvation. It begins with the book of Matthew and ends with the book of Revelation. It is divided into four general areas:
The first four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell us the story of Jesus when he was on this earth.
The book of Acts tells us the history of the early church after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The letters (from Romans to Jude) are correspondence from early Christian leaders to other churches or individuals.
The book of Revelation tells us the future story of the end time when Jesus will come back to this world and reign on earth.
A new believer should always start reading the Bible in the first four books of the New Testament, called the gospels. The book of John is especially easy to understand. Some short letters in the New Testament (also called epistles) which are helpful to new believers are the books of Philippians, James, and 1 John.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament reveals to us how God dealt with the nation of Israel. It looks forward to the coming Savior of the world, Jesus. It begins with the book of Genesis and ends with Malachi. It is also divided into four general areas:
The first five books (Genesis to Deuteronomy) tell us the beginning of man and the establishment of the nation of Israel with the promise of the Savior of the world coming from this chosen people. It not only contains the early history of Israel, but also the Law of God as revealed through Moses. For example, Exodus chapter 20 records the Ten Commandments.
The next twelve books (Joshua to Esther) are the historical books of the nation of Israel after it became a kingdom in Canaan. Two short books in this section which reveal God’s hand on the life of believers, which new Christians may enjoy, are the books of Ruth, and Esther.
The next five books (Job to Song of Solomon) are the books of poetry and wisdom in the Bible. Especially helpful to new believers are the book of Psalms, which was the hymnal or songbook of the nation of Israel; and Proverbs, which contains the sayings and advice of the wisest king Israel had.
The last seventeen books (Isaiah to Malachi) are the books of the prophets of Israel who God sent to warn, admonish, and encourage his people toward the end of the history of Israel as a nation. A short book in this section which is good for new believers is the book of Jonah.
Pray and ask God to speak to you before you start… and read it as though God will speak to you through it (and He will)!!