Advice for New Christians

Frank Viola, author, writes about advice for new Christians in his new book, Jesus Now. Here’s a quote:

Jesus is both the shape and the shaper—the former and the form—as He works Himself into us, conforming us into His glorious image. Specifically . . .

He manifests His life through our bodies (2 Cor. 4:10–11).

He makes His home in our hearts (Eph. 3:17).

He becomes wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption unto us (1 Cor. 1:30).

He makes us stand (Rom. 14:4).

He directs our way (1 Thess. 3:11).

He gives us understanding (2 Tim. 2:7).

He reveals to us what is proper (Philem. 8).

He stands with and strengthens us (2 Tim. 4:17).

He examines us (1 Cor. 4:4).

He protects us from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).

He causes us to increase and abound in our love for others (1 Thess. 3:12)

He establishes our hearts (1 Thess. 3:13).

As we grow into Christ, we move from childhood to adulthood. The Bible uses the phrase unto full stature to describe this stage.

Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Eph. 4:13–15 ESV)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. (Heb. 5:12–13 ESV)

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Heb. 6:1–3 ESV)

There is another term that the New Testament uses to describe this stage of spiritual maturity. The word is adoption.

Adoption in the New Testament is different from adoption today. The New Testament authors spoke of adoption as “sonship.”

A child in the first century was no different from a servant. During the long period of child training and preparation for full sonship, a tutor would bring the child into the methods, intentions, and spirit of the child’s father. Thus adoption was the placing of one who was already a child into full sonship rights.

Consequently, adoption is not a word of relationship but of position. You as a Christian are a child of God by new birth. But adoption is God’s act in which you are placed in the position of an adult son (Gal. 4:1–5).

Greek, Roman, and Jewish families adopted their own children. Birth made them children, but discipline and training brought them into adoption and the full stature of sonship.

To put it in a sentence, a child has God’s nature, but a son has God’s character.

Children are born of God; sons are taught of God. Note that in the New Testament, “sons” and “brethren” also include women.

God desires “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10). And He wants those sons (which includes His daughters) to be built together as a living temple (Eph. 2:20–22). Thus relatedness to other members of the body is essential for growth into Christ.

Advice for New Christians

The beginning of the Christian life is easy. The end is joyous. But the middle is where the fiercest battles take place and many fall away.

The real test of faith comes in the middle of our journey. Jesus is the trailblazer, pathfinder, and pilgrim of God’s way. This is the meaning of Christ being the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

Not only did Jesus blaze the trail, but He also finished the pilgrimage. And He gives His people the strength to tread where He trod and arrive where He awaits.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb. 12:1–3)

That said, here’s some advice for new Christians. I wish someone had told me the following things when I was walking on the clouds of the newfound joy of my salvation at age sixteen.

This list goes beyond the typical recommendations given to young believers (read the Bible, pray regularly, get involved in a fellowship, etc.). I’m not mentioning those as they are “givens.”

The list doesn’t represent any kind of order or priority.

  • Christians will break your heart. The greatest pain you will receive will be at the hands of fellow and professing believers.
  • Not everyone who professes Christ knows Him. The fruit of real faith is love—treating all others the same way you want to be treated.
  • God will not meet all of your expectations and will sometimes appear not to fulfill His own promises.
  • You will experience dry spells where there is no sense of God’s presence. Learn to live by faith, not feelings.
  • Build a library and read the best Christian books in print. Don’t waste your time on “pop” Christian books. Go for depth.
  • Write your goals down (goals = dreams = prayer requests). And document when a prayer/goal is answered/fulfilled.
  • Never judge another Christian unless you’ve walked in their shoes. Always think the best of others (Matt. 7:12).
  • Choose a mentor, but never choose one who is insecure, speaks negatively about others, or has an inflated ego.
  • Some of the things you struggle with now you will struggle with when you are old. Resist condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
  • Many of the answers you have now will prove inadequate later in life. Always be a student and a child in the kingdom.
  • Never bluff an answer to someone’s biblical or theological question if you don’t know the answer. Learn to say, “I don’t know.”
  • Discover who you are in Christ, and learn what it means to live by His indwelling life.