Smoother Sailing Article – Welcome to God’s Family (for new believers)
By Pastor Barry Black
“Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.” Hebrews 6.19
2 Peter 3.18 “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.”
Welcome to God’s family! The Bible describes the moment that we become a Christian as being “born again” (John 3.3,7). With life comes growth. Babies grow to childhood, adolescence, and then adulthood. However, growth does not occur overnight. Babies drink milk and eat soft food. Over time, the appetite and ability for solid food grows. Growth happens gradually – it does not happen all at once. Growth comes in stages. With growth comes “growing pains”. As you grow in your walk with the Lord, you will eventually be able to see how you are maturing. You will be able to look back at how you have grown in understanding and applying God’s word (James 1.22-25). This is certainly not a complete list of helps for Christian growth, but these are written to help you as you begin and continue your walk with the Lord.
1 Peter 2.2 “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”
The Bible is God’s message to us about Himself, and within its pages we will find all that we need to know about faith and living the Christian life.
Remember, the Bible is our final authority in all matters of faith (doctrine, theology, etc.) and practice (practical daily living). If we did not have the Bible, we would have to rely on our own thinking, our feelings, or the opinions of others. Since we do have God’s word, we must read it, study it, and apply it.
1 Thessalonians 2.13 “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.”
Begin with the gospel of John. Read through it several times and look closely at the times that the words “believe”, “faith” and “eternal life” appear.
Read God’s word every day. While you read, it is a good practice to have a notebook for writing verses that get your attention. This is a good way to remember verses or passages of which you have questions – leave some space for answers. Write out key verses to memorize. Make notes from sermons and Bible studies. God’s word is eternal, and it is His message to us. We are to study it (2 Timothy 2.15) and apply it in our lives (2 Timothy 3.14-17) to equip us for spiritual growth and to serve our Lord.
Prayer is talking to God. We have the great privilege of talking with the God who created us and loved us enough to send His Son to die for our sins! He tells us to come boldly to Him in prayer (Hebrews 4.16). There is nothing too big or too small in our lives – He is concerned about everything that concerns us. The Lord invites us to pray, and to talk to Him any time about anything! If it is on our mind and heart, it is important to our Lord (Philippians 4.6.7).
I once heard someone say in a sermon something to the effect of:“You will find that when you became a believer that your problems not only did not end, in some cases they increased!” I do not say that to discourage you, I say that because it is true. You had problems before you became a Christian, and you will continue to have problems from now on (Job 14.1). Some days can seem quite dark or lonely. Some of the friends you had before you became a Christian may look at you differently now. No matter what you go through, it is always wise to remember that your worst day with the Lord is far better than your best day without Him.
Every Christian needs a group of believers with whom he or she can fellowship on a regular basis. God designed us to be dependent upon Him, and interdependent upon each other (Romans 12.3-5; 1 Corinthians 12.12-27). It is also good for a new believer to have a Christian friend or small group of Christian friends with whom they can fellowship daily. We all need someone with whom we can pray and share prayer requests and encourage and motivate each other to spiritual growth (Proverbs 17.17; 27.9,17; Matthew 18.20; Hebrews 3.13, 10.25).
Below are some important practical truths to keep in mind. If I had been told these early in my Christian life, they would have been such a tremendous help and saved me a lot of heartache. If you keep these in mind, they will help you. However, unfortunately, many of the lessons we learn during our walk with the Lord come to us as we live through them.
Understand that faith and feelings are not the same.
Some people are by nature more emotional than others, and when they are born into God’s family, they may experience overwhelming happiness. However, there comes a time when those emotions begin to fade. When that happens, it is easy to become discouraged. Sometimes people watch or listen to evangelists and teachers that say something to the effect that “everyday should be a spiritual high”; or that if you do not have an “emotional high” every time you worship, or go to church then “you do not love the Lord”. Many a Christian has forsaken Biblical truth for feelings. Our faith is founded upon God’s truth, not our feelings. Feelings come and go. They are up and down. God’s truth remains firm no matter what we feel, or even what we think.
Learn from others.
Mature Christians have an obligation to help those who are less mature in their walk with the Lord (Romans 15.1-3; Romans 14.1; 1 Corinthians 8.9). As a new believer, you can learn positive and negative lessons (hopefully mostly positive) from other believers. However, remember they are imperfect; they have their faults and failures as well.
Keep your eyes on the Lord, not on people.
Although other Christians are to be an encouragement, and help you in your walk with the Lord; people can unfortunately let you down – even when they do not mean to do so. The Lord will never let us down or abandon us (Hebrews 13.5 “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”).
Learn to be patient.
Salvation is instantaneous – we are born into God’s family the very moment that we believe on the Lord Jesus as our Savior. Spiritual growth is a process – it takes time.
Since spiritual growth is gradual, you will begin to see that there are times in the Christian life that are pretty exciting, and there are times (probably more so) when things are not so exciting.
For further reading see:
Ten First Steps for New Believers by Freddie Coile (online @ www.freddiecoile.org)
Our Haven of Truth article: The Simple Gospel
Haven of Truth article: Sin
Our Smoother Sailing article: The Body
Our Smoother Sailing article: Prayer: Where the Action Is