What is the key to growing as a new believer?

Being a new believer in Christ is an exciting time for every follower of Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us that the life of a new believer begins when, by the grace of God, "you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved" (Romans 10:9–10). What comes next is the beginning of a day-to-day journey of believing, trusting, obeying, learning, and living.

This day-to-day living begins with spending time with God through reading the Bible and praying. The Bible teaches us who God is: God is love (1 John 4:7–21); He is gracious, compassionate, slow to get angry, and merciful (Psalm 103:8); He cares deeply for those who are hurting (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 34:18; Psalm 147:3; Psalm 23). Reading the Bible helps us learn how to recognize sin and its consequences (Romans 6:23; 2 Timothy 3:15), learn how to succeed in life by obeying God (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Joshua 1:8; James 1:25), and be equipped to serve God (2 Timothy 3:16–17; Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).

Prayer helps us in many ways including in making decisions (Luke 6:12–13), not being anxious (1 Peter 5:6–7; Philippians 4:4–8), overcoming temptation (Matthew 26:41), and engaging in spiritual warfare (Mark 9:14–29; Ephesians 6:10–18). God, in response to our prayers, grants us wisdom (James 1:5). Reading the Bible and praying are the most important parts of our every-day Christian lives, whether new believers or having known God for decades.

Another key is spending time with other Christians. Together, believers, the children of God (1 John 3:1), are the church (Ephesians 1:22–23; Colossians 1:18). Every believer, including new believers, is part of the body of Christ on earth (Ephesians 1:22) and we are each given different spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit to serve one another and to bring the light and hope of Jesus into a dark world (Romans 12:6–8; 1 Corinthians 12:4–11) and to help make disciples (Matthew 28:19–20; John 13:35).

We should also, even as we just get started as new believers, begin to allow God to change how we think and live. Romans 12:1–2 says, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." These verses tell us that we can trust in God's mercy, live according to His will and not our own, and understand that we are set apart from this world by God for a special reason. It begins with how we think, believing the truth of God and not believing the lies of this world.

Additionally, it is important that we live differently because of what we are learning about who God is and what He wants for us. All believers in Christ, including new believers, need to learn how to obey God or to "walk by the Spirit," which is one of the ways the Bible refers to the Christian life (Galatians 5:16). While being a Christian is not about believing that dos-and-don'ts will somehow get you to heaven, thankfully, God does provide helpful lists so we can know what He expects of us. Galatians 5:19–21 provides a list which warns us against certain behaviors while Galatians 5:22–23 tells us that "walking by the Spirit" results in "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." These are the fruits produced in us by the Holy Spirit, who indwells us when we are saved in Jesus Christ. We aren't left to live the Christian life alone, but are instead empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so (Ephesians 1:3–14; Philippians 2:12–13).

Because there are things that God wants us to avoid, we should focus on what is good for us and avoid what harms us and others. Proverbs 4:23 tells us that we should, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." When we trust God and surrender our lives to Christ, we become citizens of another kingdom, God's Kingdom (Philippians 3:20). Our behavior will begin to change as our minds begin to adjust from being focused on what this world thinks we should do and instead on God's will for us. When we believe God is trustworthy, that He is a good and loving Father, we will examine our friendships, our work, our habits, and our thought lives, asking, "Is this good for me? Will it please God?" (see Philippians 4:8).

What pleases God is that we have said "Yes!" when Jesus invited us into a relationship with Him (Matthew 4:19; 11:29; John 6:29, 40; Revelation 3:20). He has made us into something new and different: "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT). Because of God's love for us (John 3:16; Romans 5:6–8; Ephesians 2:1, 4–5), He saved us and has already begun the good work of helping us to grow (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:28–30). The Bible tells us that, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8–9). As a result, we get to live in freedom (Galatians 5:1), grow in our relationship with Jesus, and then begin to do good works as well (Ephesians 2:10).

Being a Christian is a never-ending and growing relationship with God. New believers need to do the same things that all believers do in order to grow in Christ. The Christian faith is measured by progress not success. James 4:8 encourages us to "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." As you begin your new relationship with God, draw near to Him, spend as much time with Him as you can. He is a good and loving Father who delights in spending time with you.

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