By Leah Lively, Crosswalk.com
Perhaps you have recently decided to be a follower of Christ or you have strayed from making that decision at one time and want to return to your faith. Whether or not that was an easy or difficult decision, the most challenging part can be, what do you do next?
You may be excited but also confused and overwhelmed because you need some guidance on the next steps toward growing in your new-found faith.
Learning what it means to follow God each day is something all believers struggle with, but thankfully we all have a loving God who isn’t up in heaven pointing a finger at us. Rather, He’s standing beside us with open arms to show the way. The choice is now yours to deepen your relationship with God.
Here are five steps to help you grow spiritually as a new believer:
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1. Be Patient with Yourself and Pray
While your sins are forgiven and you now are on a new path walking with God, it won’t be easy. Be patient as you grow in your faith and learn more about God. Every moment is an opportunity to surrender your own desires and follow Him.
In Matthew 16:24 CSB Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” It is a daily process of deciding to lay down what we want and let God lead. He knows your heart. He knows your struggles. Pray and ask God to guide you on this new path.
We are all at different places in this journey of faith. Some will seem like light years ahead of you. Don’t get discouraged, we are all in this together. God doesn’t expect you to know everything you need to know right away. Spend time in prayer and in His kindness, He will give you exactly what you need, when you need it.
2. Create Boundaries
In the Bible, Paul (named Saul before he became a follower of Christ) shares about the days after he became a believer in his letters to various churches in the region. Before coming to Christ, Paul imprisoned and killed people for following Jesus. He was a leader in the Jewish faith who did not believe Jesus was the son of God, sent to save the world from their sins. He felt it was his mission to punish those who believed otherwise.
God blinded him on the way to persecuting more believers and the voice of Jesus overpowered him, helping him see that what he believed was wrong.
In Galatians 1:17-19, Paul says that after he became a believer, he took some time away from those who knew him. He separated himself from his former life for a time to pray and learn from those who could encourage him.
Creating boundaries may be difficult to do, but think about the people who influence you the most. Will they support you in your pursuit to follow God or pull you back into your previous life? Think about whether new boundaries are necessary as you pursue a relationship with God.
Please know that I am not suggesting that you only have relationships with other Christians. Just think about those in your life before Christ who may not have the best influence over you as you walk this new path.
Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” You are a new creation; surround yourself with those who can encourage you and be a positive influence.
3. Open the Bible
The best way to learn more about having a relationship with God is to open the Bible and read more about Him. Learning who God really is through His word can help you with making His truths a part of your life.
I recommend a physical Bible with actual paper pages for underlining and notetaking, but if that is not an option right now, there is an abundance of online Bibles and apps that are a great resource. Some great translations to begin with are NIV (New International Version), CSB (Christian Standard Bible), or ESV (English Standard Version).
Reading the Bible can seem like a daunting task, but there are books of the Bible that are easier to begin with than others. The book of John is a great way to ease into the life of Jesus. John was the last living disciple and the only disciple who remained with Jesus at his death. The book of John gives a broad scope of the life of Jesus, his ministry, and some of his miracles.
Challenge yourself to read a chapter per day. Ask questions. Many online Bible sites have commentaries that can explain certain phrases and topics. Take notes and write down questions you can come back to later. The Bible was not originally written in chapters, so reading larger sections helps give greater understanding of the scripture.
During challenging times in life, it is God’s Word that can bring comfort, hope, and reassurance that He is walking with us through our trials.
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4. Find a Friend or Small Group Strong in Their Faith
After becoming a follower of Christ, Paul went on to spend time with one of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, and Jesus’ brother, James. I am sure he listened intently about their time with Jesus and asked an abundance of questions.
Paul knew if he was to understand his new path of faith and influence people for Christ, he had to surround himself with people who knew Jesus and pursued a growing relationship with God.
You may already have some friends to guide you. These friends should be grounded in the Bible. Their words, faith, and actions should reflect their time spent reading God’s Word. If you don’t know anyone, pray for God to send someone to walk with you in your faith journey.
We are not meant to walk the road of faith alone. Jesus had 12 friends who walked with him for 3 years. The early churches fellowshipped with one another, encouraging each other as they learned to follow God.
Fellow believers will help you find a Bible to read and study as well as model prayer and pursuing God daily.
5. Find a Church Home
Once Paul found a group of leaders in the faith, he helped them start churches throughout the area while encouraging them in their faith. Even though Paul was a new believer, he often wrote throughout his letters how encouraged he was through their faith.
Look around at your community, is there a church that seems to be well-established and involved in serving the community? Check out their website and social media pages. Read what they are doing as a church body. The Bible should be their main source for ministry and teaching. You may even be able to watch some messages from their pastor or church leaders online.
All churches are different and what might be a good fit for some isn’t what you may need. The important thing is to start somewhere.
In the Acts 2:42, the first group of believers “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer.” The apostles spent three years with Jesus, they had a relationship with Him that new believers could learn from.
I hope these five steps encourage you as a new Christian. Maybe you were saved years ago but have strayed from walking with God. These steps can get you back on track on your journey.
Again, be patient with yourself and pray. Don’t feel like you must get it all done perfectly at once. Spend time reading the Bible to help you get to know God a little bit more. Give yourself time and ask God to help you along the way. Reach out to those who can encourage you as a new Christian through a church body. We are all on this journey together.
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Leah Lively is a wife and mother of four living in central Virginia. Through writing and speaking opportunities, she is passionate about encouraging others in learning more about the Bible and maturing in their faith. Leah writes on her blog at leahlivelyblog.com and is the author of the Bible study, 30 Days with John: A Journey with Jesus’ Most Beloved Disciple.