10 TIPS FOR NEW CHRISTIANS
“I have been young, and now am old…”
I don’t know how old David was when he penned those words above. Somewhere “over the hill” I suppose. Clearly he was mature enough to have gathered some experience and wisdom in the things of this life. "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread." David’s age and personal experience lend weight to his argument and appeal. Time can be a great tutor. We instinctively trust those whose thoughtful teaching is drawn from the deep well of a long life. The observations of those who are older are like road maps handed down to the younger in the journey of life. Rejecting the good advice of older folks can be ruinous. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, went astray when he “rejected the advice that the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him (1 Kings 12:8).”
I gather from this that the experiences and observations of older Christians can and should be passed along to those who are younger in the faith. King David is saying in this Psalm, as it were, “allow me tell you what I’ve seen.” Those who have walked with the Lord longer should have something helpful to pass along to those that find themselves nearer the beginning of this path. Jesus seemed to have a special love for children. He gathered them around Himself saying “let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them.” Christians should love every believer, but especially those whose faith is young or newly born. Hence John, pouring forth loving counsel in his first epistle, in 5 short chapters does 9 times specifically address the “little children.”
I have been a Christian myself for just over 20 years. By some standards I’m still in the “young” category. Frankly, I still have much to learn and much more to grow. I certainly have not “arrived.” I deeply appreciate the good counsel and sound advice I have received along the way from those far more mature as Christians than I ever hope to be. Yet 20 years seems long enough to have something to say to the younger saints. Though not as old as some, I am older than some, and would thus like to pass along a few tips to new Christians. I am not going to defend each of these points with a Biblical text or with endless quotes. My purpose is merely to share a few observations and suggestions in the simple spirit of “I have been young, and now am old…” This is what I have seen. These suggestions are not arranged in any particular order of importance. I simply wrote them down as they came to me. The fact that there are “10” was mostly unplanned.
My advice for new Christians:
1. Find a good local church, join it, and get involved. Without getting into too much detail about what is a “good” church, suffice it to say that they will believe in the authority of God’s Word and teach it. The pastor will preach the gospel and tell you how to live as a Christian also. But my main point is this: join and get involved. Do not be forever shopping and hopping from church to church looking for that perfect expression of the “ideal” church you have in your mind. I have rarely found a mature Christian, active and useful to the Lord, that is not connected with and serving within a local church. Become a member and find something to do.
2. Make friends with an older Christian and get to know them. If you are male, find an older and mature Christian man to befriend. Ladies…find a mature Christian woman and get to know her. Ask them to meet you for breakfast. Find out what their interests are and see if you can strike up some common ground for discussions and friendship. This doesn’t have to be a Bible study. I am simply suggesting you find someone further down the Christian road than yourself, and learn to tag along with them when you can. Some of the most helpful experiences of my younger Christian life occurred while sitting across a breakfast table at a local restaurant with some older believers.
3. Begin the life-long habit of daily devotions. By this I mean that you should make daily time for Bible reading and prayer. Pick a time that you can be consistent. Use a Bible reading plan to help you make steady progress through the Word. In my eagerness as a young Christian, I actually wrote out my own plan for reading the Bible. I still have this in my Bible today. But you can use any number of plans already made. Church and good preaching are important, but I have never met a healthy growing Christian that is not regularly reading his/her Bible and spending time in prayer. How long every day? I will leave that for you to prayerfully consider. If you want to read the whole Bible in a year, it will involve reading about 4 chapters a day. But quality time is more important than mere quantity. While reading, think about areas of your life that need to change to match what God is saying in Scripture. If you do this, you will grow. By the way, if you don’t have a cover for your Bible, pick one up. Make sure it has a pocket or room for a little notebook and a pen.
4. Keep a journal/notebook. I suggest you keep a little notebook in which you keep track of your Bible reading and notes. If you always read in the same place, just leave this notebook there with your Bible. Otherwise, make sure it is small enough to slip into your Bible cover. Inside, record the date and what you read. If you have time, write down any specific verses that spoke to you and what thoughts came to mind. Take this notebook with you to church and any other studies you attend and use it to write down notes in. In the BACK, write down any particular things you are praying about. I wouldn’t include anything too personal or private, as this book could be lost. With that in mind, put your name and contact information inside the front cover, just in case. It might not seem important now, but over the years I believe this habit will bear fruit and you will find yourself more productive in your reading, diligent in your prayers, and generally more knowledgeable in your Christian walk. I can recall how I would write down my thoughts on particular verses that struck me. I still have this journal, and I still employ this method of learning and reading.
5. Memorize Scripture. I recommend, along with your little notebook, that you purchase some 3x5 lined note cards. When you read a verse that is especially helpful, write it down on these cards and begin to commit the verse to memory. Go slow. Have some cards with you wherever you go. Having God’s Word memorized will strengthen your faith and equip you to share it like no other discipline I know.
6. Get involved in some mid-week Bible study or group. It is a long time between Sundays. Meeting together, when possible, with other Believers ‘mid-week’ will keep you accountable, help you to keep in touch with one another’s needs, and allow you additional opportunities to study and pray. I can tell you from my own experience that long absence from any sort of weekday involvement with other Christians tends toward a drying and dulling of your spiritual life. One of the first signs that a Christian is beginning to backslide is their absence from the prayer meeting. If your job or schooling makes this impossible (and it might), and you cannot make any changes in your schedule to allow it, then at least try to contact another Christian by phone or meet for breakfast at some point in the week. If your church does not offer such a meeting, speak to your pastor, offer your own home or apartment as a meeting place, and volunteer to get the word out to others. Have a mature Christian lead a little study with you and a few others if necessary.
7. Get involved in some good works. Give a little time to helping a local charity. Volunteer some time with a food bank. Visit a homeless shelter. Write letters to someone who needs encouragement. One of the best ways to combat discouragement is to focus your attention on the needs of others. You are in a spiritual battle my friend. And one of the key strategies of our “enemy” is to get us absorbed in our own issues and struggles so that we are virtually useless to those around us. Plan to do something good for someone else every week.
8. Share your faith. Pray for and look for opportunities to tell others about Jesus Christ. Invite a friend to church. Take home a handful of tracts from church and have them handy so you can give them out when the opportunity arises. I have gone door to door with a Pastor, handing out information about the church. I have distributed tracts in a downtown area with a friend. Don’t be afraid that you might not know the answer to a question. You can always say “I don’t know.” Then ask someone who does. The very activity of telling others the gospel, about how you came to know the Lord, and inviting them to church will mature you and strengthen you in your walk. Don’t be discouraged with what appears to be limited results. Leave that with the Lord. Just keep spreading the seeds.
9. Read some good books. Just as befriending and older Christian will prove useful, I believe “befriending” some of the important Christian books of our past will go a long way in helping you mature as a Christian. I could recommend some. But really, I think you would do best to ask the advice of your own pastor or that mature Christian friend for some suggestions. Your church may have a library. If so, use it. Read something every day if you can. Keep 1 book in the car at all times, as you never know when you might be stuck somewhere and have some unexpected time on your hands. Write down what you are reading in that notebook that I suggested back in tip #4.
10. Remember the Lord’s Day. This one may seem strange to some Christians. But I would suggest to you that a careful remembering of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) to keep it special is an important element to your spiritual maturity and growth. Granted, this is largely forgotten today. At best, one hour on Sunday is reserved for church, and the rest of the day is typically spent on recreation or personal entertainment. I truly believe this is one of the key reasons why there is so very little true Christian maturity in our generation. You may disagree, and I don’t want to argue it here. But I can tell you from my own experience that Christians who generally treat Sunday like any other day – except for the hour they give for worship – rarely seem grow as quickly as those who improve this day by setting it aside for the Lord. Use this day to rest and refresh your body and your soul. Use this day to serve others and better prepare yourself to be a blessing to those around you. Habitually attending a morning and evening worship service is a very helpful way to protect this day from other encroachments. And if you must work this day, I highly recommend you pick some other day during the week and treat it equally as carefully and respectfully in honor of the Lord.
If you are reading this and are not a Christian, it is the sincere desire of my heart that you would embrace the provision God has made for sinners like you and I in the Person of Jesus Christ. The punishment that we deserve fell upon Him. This is the gospel: “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5) and “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).” Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. And if you are a Christian, particularly a new believer, then my prayer is that you may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).” My young friend...“I have been young, and now am old…” I hope you will consider these suggestions, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things.
Your soul’s well-wisher,