Quick Start for New Believers

(Tip: Read it straight through for the big picture. Then, use the links to dig deeper.)

The Gospel

You've heard the Gospel. You've put your faith in Jesus Christ by surrendering your life to Him. I want you to clearly know how that happened. It's not about knowing which story is true, having piles of evidence, saying the right things to people, or even being good enough. If God required that, we'd probably made the wrong decision or stubbornly stay in our sins. Being a merciful and gracious God, He gave us a simple, straight-forward path to Him. Here's how He works.

The Father chose us before the foundation of time, draws us in, convicts our hearts, and demands we choose Him. Then, we believe. It's not persuasion or sales: it's God's work in us. You might have many reasons to believe. Yet, our "faith comes by hearing the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). The Word of God is living and active and always gets results. Jesus is Himself the Word who took flesh (John 1). Since His burden is light, He doesn't make us read the whole thing like a textbook to be saved. Watch what He does!

Jesus gave His Apostles and Church a single message to share: who Jesus is, what He did for us, and how we must respond to it. That's the Gospel. In God's Word, Eph. 2 and Rom. 1-3 have the most detail. Jesus Christ already did the hard work to earn our salvation for us. Jesus simply requires that we believe in Him, only Him, and with all our hearts.

If we do, God adopts us as His children, His priests, and His Church. God gives us His Spirit to sanctify us over time to be more like the image of Christ. Although we'll stumble, the Holy Spirit is also a guarantee that He will finish the work He started in us. He promises in John 10:27-29 and Romans 8:28-39 that He'll never let us go. If we belong to Christ, He makes us keep running the race to the end.

Believers' primary goals are to worship God, always be grateful, imitate Christ, proclaim His name, and do good works rooted in love (deeper). We can't do it on our own, though. If people follow Christ, the Church is to disciple them to obey the commands of Christ (Matthew 22:36-40): love and obey God first; love and serve others.

On top of the word, the Church uses good teaching to train us to reflect godly values in every area of our lives: individually, family, community, how we do business, and participation in government. The Holy Spirit apportions spiritual gifts to help each believer serve in these areas. God has given us much more since. We pour most of our resources into missions and caring for the helpless. We bless those around us, even our enemies.

The biggest blessing we can give is sharing the Gospel. I'm going to say it one more time so you know it's God's work, not yours. Let's say you share the Gospel with someone. If God calls and they listen, then God will supernaturally make them know it's true. From there, whether they listen or not depends on what's in their heart. If they reject Christ, that's them resisting God's call and it's their responsibility (not yours). We just keep sharing with new people while showing love to those still with us. If one commits to Christ, we bring them into discipleship so they learn to live it.

While we each do our part, only God can give growth. Jesus illustrated that with farming metaphors: Matt. 13:1-23; Mark 4:26-32. Many never see conversions. We're doing this to obey God while walking in Christ's footsteps. It's not our problem who believes, doesn't, likes us, doesn't. We live for Christ, share Him, love people like Him, and let Him do the rest.

We keep doing this until He returns to judge the world. We hasten that by getting His Gospel to all people groups. Believers are also judged for how we lived to determine our rewards. We must make our lives count.

Now, I must warn you brothers and sisters. Sharing the real Gospel convicts people of their sins. Our wicked hearts will make most people reject it (i.e. Him). Jesus was homeless, chased out of towns, spit on, mocked, stripped naked, beaten, and ultimately tortured to death. Jesus warned people will hate or attack you. Take up your cross! If you suffer for Jesus, rejoice because sharing in His sufferings makes you closer to Him. Rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven!

(More on Why we're grateful and share. More on how to share.)

Digging Into The Word

God made His Word, the Bible, the foundation of everything. It is over 60 books from many authors in three languages that tell a consistent story of how Christ redeems and uses us to glorify God. They were written by people in different cultures to help their audiences in a way that helps billions of people down the road. Being such an epic work, we need good translations which we must read in their original, historical context. God said we then study it, meditate on it, understand who Christ is, and apply God's teachings to our lives.

Everything else we do must build on its principles while never contradicting it. We don't use or change the Bible to make it say what we want. We change our thoughts, words, and actions to conform to Christ and His teachings. We submit to God to let the Potter mold the clay as He sees fit. Since this might sound heavy, I'll give you a trustworthy start.

1. Pick a good translation that sticks close to God's original wording. We want to hear God's Words, not man's. ESV and NKJV are both easy to read and memorize on top of that. Get a portable Bible and a study Bible for at home. Some study Bibles are small enough to carry. On your phone, get Blue Letter Bible with ESV and NKJV added.

2. Set time aside in the morning to read the Word, talk to God about everything, and listen to Him.

He speaks through His Word, your thoughts, your conscience, people showing up... many ways. You'll mostly use His Word as you spiritually mature. If you use anything else, test it against the Word to be sure it's from God. If you lack specific guidance, just live out your day applying what He's taught you so far. Try to make good choices. Keep praying for wisdom and listening as you do.

Instead of God, what we think is often from our own minds (i.e. nature), others' influences, or the devil. Know your enemies are the world, the flesh, and the devil (or a video). Any of these might put thoughts in your head to tempt you toward evil. Pray to God to not lead you into temptation. Ask Him for strength to fight it off. Fill your mind with His Word, with good things that reflect it, and resist evil with this armor of God. This is also why we test all things.

3. Apply it to your life. Start with the SWORD method. Set your mind on our God's greatness knowing He's got you in His hand. Compare how you think, speak, and act to passages about sin or obedience. Which are you reflecting? Delve into who Christ is in passages about Him. Do you reflect who He is?

5. After reading it yourself, use good teaching that explains it. We call them commentaries. BibleHub and Blue Letter Bible both have free ones. I recommend defaulting on Matthew Henry who was recommended by history's greatest preachers. Since people make mistakes, read several commentaries to help you understand it from different angles. Pray on them and decide what you believe. Don't worry too much about being wrong about secondary issues. God's unstoppable plan won't come to a grinding halt because some grasshoppers jump in the wrong direction.

(More on following Christ, including getting answers to your questions.)

Growing Together in His Church

Christianity is not a lone wolf religion: we do this together with Christ and each other. We must stick together. Acts 2:42-47 paints a picture of fellowship, proclaiming Christ, and helping those in need. We listen to, confess sins to, love, encourage, and pray for each other. At a minimum, be in discipleship groups that keep you strong and active in the faith. Also, try to get plugged into a healthy church that puts God's Word first.

I'll warn that there's corrupt churches out there with false prophets/teachers. Everything in the church should line up with God's Word, ideally modeled after it. Everything that contradicts His Word is from the flesh, the world, and the devil. False churches will promote money, perfect health, a "purpose-driven life," "wokeness," and whatever else tickles peoples' ears. They want to fill their seats, wallets, and subscriber lists. God's Word takes priority over selfish gain, our feelings, and culture around us. If anything contradicts the Word, obey Christ and His Word every time no matter what they promise you. Trust His promises instead.

God established two offices with authority over local churches: pastors and deacons. In the elder requirements, both types of people wielding authority must be males with good character. Pastors need more skill in sound doctrine. In 1 Tim. 4:11-16, the elders must set an example for others (like apprenticeship), publicly read Scripture, teach, and exhort. Paul told Timothy that, by good character and teaching, "you will save both yourself and your hearers." Heb. 13:17 says church members are to submit to their authority since God holds them accountable for us. Whereas, those in authority don't lord it over people: they're servants of all who are gentle like a nursing mother.

So, we have two mandates: our individual and church mandates. We keep following our individual mandate to share the Gospel, disciple others, and help people in need. We do that inside or outside of church. We also serve in our churches doing what the church body, or its delegated authority, decided on. We take corrective action over serious problems but prioritize unity facing non-essential disagreements. We also plant, support, and cooperate with other, independent churches (i.e. forming associations or denominations).

(More on serving, including your spiritual gifts. More on finishing the job.)

Closing Prayer

Most importantly, we pray every day individually, every time we meet, and on dedicated days for God to move. Prayer is so important. We pray He gives us more faith, holiness, love, and endurance. We pray He grows His Church in righteousness and in numbers. We pray He gives wisdom to all in authority. We pray He gets the Gospel to all peoples. We pray He returns soon so we're all in a much better place.

May God fill you all with His Spirit. May you live like you really believe that you know the God of heaven and earth. May you face Jesus one day hearing, "Well done, faithful servant." We pray this for all the saints in Jesus' name.

(About my sites. GetHisWord.com is for sharing the Gospel with proof it's true. GiveThemLife.com has tools for individuals, discipleship groups, and churches. Both are lean, fast-loading sites with no spyware. I made the domain names so you can just write them down, print them, etc to share high-impact messages. Everything on-site is free to use, modify, and share because Jesus gave it to me for free. External content is mostly free to read or link to but check permissions for anything else.)