22 Things a New (or Not-So-New) Believer Should Know

by Alison Dellenbaugh on

Articles 20 min read
2 Corinthians 5:17 2 Peter 3:18

Putting your faith in Jesus Christ is exciting... at least once you do it! As you start to move closer to it, even when you come to believe Christ's claims and desire the salvation He offers, it may be nerve-racking to surrender control of your life. You don't really know what it's going to mean before you do it. You might worry about what you'll have to give up or change. You might worry you'll regret it. And yet, it is the most important thing you can ever do. It is truly the difference between life and death (John 5:24).

Before that moment, you could have been unaware of Christ, or outright doubting or rejecting Him, or simply wondering and wavering, but once you acknowledge Christ as Lord and put your trust in Him, you have stepped over a line and been brought into a new position. You are reborn as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You are an adopted child of God (Galatians 4:5) and a co-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17) of an eternal kingdom. That's a lot to take in!

You may feel a new freedom, or you may feel nothing yet. In my case, the most amazing thing about my new faith, when I was 19, was the realization within a few weeks that I now had the Holy Spirit living in me, and He made me want to live a life that pleased Christ! I expected a huge battle against sin, or the need to make lots of difficult changes I wouldn't want to make, but hadn't realized God would be right there changing my desires from the inside and empowering me to walk more in step with Him. And the first sign of my new life in Christ was a brand new peace I hadn't even known to ask for or want!

Once you're a follower of Christ, there is still so much to know. In fact, there's an infinite amount (which is wonderful—we can never exhaust our knowledge of God!). And you're probably wondering what you've signed up for! So, what next? Now that you're a believer, what is important to know and do? Thinking back now, as someone who didn't have any formal discipling, I would have liked to know the following.

  1. God should be first in your life (Exodus 20:3; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 22:37-38). He is not just one of the things in your life. Only with this priority will things fall into place. 

    For more:
    "The One and Only" Scrolls Bible Study and sermon

  2. You have a new identity in Christ. It's foundational to get clear on your identity as a beloved, chosen, and secure child of God. Pastor David Daniels, author of Next Step Discipleship, has said that sin comes from our attempts to find our identity in things other than Christ. Even once you know your identity in Christ intellectually, you will probably need reminders of it nearly every day! Keep grounded in Scripture and ask God to continually remind you of the worth He has given you by creating you in His image and loving you so deeply as to redeem your life through Christ's work on the cross. God now views you through the righteousness of Christ rather than your sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). This should change your entire relationship with God and the world.

    For more:
    "Becoming Who We Were Meant to Be"
    "Identity in Christ" from Essential Provisions

  3. God expects you to grow, but He is the one who makes it happen. Following Jesus doesn't mean you simply have a certain set of beliefs or principles. It means you follow Him in how you live—the choices you make and the values you live out, reflecting Christ's light and likeness to the world. But God does not lay the burden on you to do this on your own. He is the one who changes you! Being a Christian is a relationship, not a to do list (John 15:15). Yes, God desires for us to do certain things like read the Bible, pray, give, serve, share our faith, and even give some things up, but these are not things we have to do in a legalistic way, to stay in His good graces. We do them because He is transforming us and conforming our will to match His, and out of love and gratitude to Him (John 14:23). The behaviors are an outgrowth of that and the Holy Spirit's work in you as you abide in Him (John 15:9-16).

    For more:
    "What Does God Want from Me?"at GotQuestions.org
    "God Will Continue His Refining Work in Us"
    "Ongoing Work of the Spirit" from Next Step Discipleship
    "Abide: A 6-Week Bible Study"

  4. Prioritize being baptized. Baptism isn't necessary for salvation, but it is a command for all believers, so don't put it off. Be baptized in obedience to Christ, and to publicly proclaim your allegiance to Him.

    For more:
    "5 Reasons Why Every Christian Should Be Baptized"
    "Be Baptized" from Next Step Discipleship

  5. Become part of church and community. As a Christian, you are already part of the universal church, but being part of a local church is very important. It's where most discipleship happens, even informally. Make a priority of connecting with believers. Find friends who will inspire you to seek God harder and to be better, rather than friends who will pull you away from Him. Seek people who will pray for you and walk alongside you in good times and bad, as you do the same for them. Of course you should maintain relationships with nonbelievers and shine the light of Christ for them to see, but you need support from brothers and sisters in Christ to keep going. Several months after becoming a believer, I moved to another city and didn’t plug into a church for my last two years in college. I was part of a college ministry on campus, but in retrospect, I see that I really needed a church even though I didn't think I did. And while you can watch church services online, the Lord calls us to be the church. We are all members of one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), and the other parts of the body need you there for the body to be whole!

    For more:
    "Church" and "Biblical Community" from Essential Provisions
    "Belong: To Church" and "Belong: To Community" from Next Step Discipleship
    "Called to Build the Church"
    "Do I Really Need Church?" — David Daniels on the Following to Lead podcast

  6. Seek mentors. If you can't find someone to disciple or mentor you one-on-one, at least join a small group, Home Group, Bible study, etc. Have someone you can ask questions of who will help you learn the answers and not judge you for asking. As you grow in your faith, keep an eye out for others you can disciple or mentor with what you have learned.

    For more:
    Consider going through Next Step Journal with someone else for one-on-one discipleship.

  7. Know what you believe. Learn the fundamentals of doctrine. If you're part of a church, study the church's basic statement of faith, and ask questions if there are things you don't understand. If they offer classes that cover doctrine, beliefs, or theology, consider signing up. Get a basic understanding of the Father, Son, and Spirit. And try to wrap your head around grace, which is key!

    For more:
    Essential Provisions 
    Foundations for Followers of Christ
    "Become: Transformation (3.2) - Knowledge" from Next Step Discipleship

  8. Don't assume you know or understand it all already. This was my major flaw. I became a Christian in the deep end, studying Christian worldview and even apologetics through our college ministry at the time. So I thought I was "beyond" needing a retreat I was once asked to go on, directed at discipling new believers. I wasn't. Years went by before I learned the basics of reading my Bible or praying, etc. I figured I knew what to do, but with no guidance I didn't really do it. Learning by osmosis is not enough... be intentional.

    For more:
    "Changed on Purpose" and "Joining God in His Work" from Next Step Discipleship

  9. It's vital to read the Word of God. God's Word is the main way He changes you. It is also the way You get to know Him and come to recognize what is of Him and what is not. I didn't understand this for many years, so I went years as a believer without filling myself with Scripture. Today those years feel wasted! There's no required formula or amount to read or place you have to start, but read some daily. You may find it helpful to buy a Bible with a daily reading plan, or to use a reading plan in an online Bible or mobile app. You can also listen to the Bible on audio through various apps. The best Bible is the one you will read and the best reading plan is the one you will do. You may find it works best for you to read the Word at the same time each day, but it is not necessary, so don't let that be a barrier that causes you to think you must do it that way or fail. It is also very helpful to read and discuss Scripture in community with others, and/or to journal about it.

    For more:
    "Right Tool, Right Way"
    "What We Believe About the Bible"
    "It Never Hurts to Ask"
    "Authority of the Bible" from Essential Provisions

  10. The Bible is not a random collection of sayings, stories, and truths. It all ties together and tells one large story of God and His kingdom and His plan for the world. This was a huge eye-opener for me after many years in the faith, and changed how I see all of it, as well as God's providence over all of history.

    For more:
    "The Wonder of the Gospel" from Wonder
    "The Storyline" — 40-minute video from The Bible Project

  11. Get into the habit of prayer. One of my favorite books on the topic, Love to Pray, says: "Prayer is the conversational part of the most important love relationship of your life: your relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Prayer does not require any special language, but it is fundamental to your relationship with Christ and your life as a believer, not just an option when you have time. I encourage you to talk to God all the time and listen for His guidance. You can pray anywhere and everywhere. And prayer is powerful. It is the way God chooses to effect change in the world. You're not changing Him, but you're calling on His help and power, and He does intervene, even if we don't always see it or like the answer. In all things, God should be our refuge and our first stop when we need help, want to rejoice, or need to process our circumstances. Prayer should be our overarching strategy. If you truly dedicate yourself to prayer, it's likely you will sense God's presence and see His hand in your life more and more over time, and experience the wisdom, joy, and comfort that brings. 

    For more:
    "Prayer" from Essential Provisions
    "Meeting with God in Prayer"
    "Lord, Teach Us to Pray"
    "Daily Prayers"

  12. Worship isn't optional. There are many ways to worship, not just music, but God's purpose is His glory, and when we worship Him, we acknowledge His glory and our humility before Him, and we fulfill some of His purposes and ours!

    For more:
    "Worship" from Essential Provisions
    "60-Second Seminary - What Is Worship?"
    "5 Essential Pieces of Worship"

  13. Be prepared to share your story and give a reason for the hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). And, of course, to share God's story and the gospel. Like the apostles before us, we are expected to be witnesses of what we have seen and heard of God (Acts 4:20; Acts 22:15). We are God's plan for spreading the word about Himself and the gospel (Acts 1:8).

    For more:

    "Tell Your Story" from Next Step Discipleship
    "Witness Protection" from 30 Days in Exile
    Evangelism Training

  14. Don't try to browbeat people into the faith. Many new believers are overzealous to correct everyone else, but we win the world through love. 1 Peter 3:15 calls for gentleness and respect. Remember that only God can change hearts or transform lives. 

    For more:
    "Evangelism" from Essential Provisions

  15. Every believer is called to "go beyond" on God's mission, whether by going, by sending, or both. This includes both local and global expressions of mission and service. It's easy to believe that missions are only for vocational missionaries, but that is not God's plan.

    For more:
    "Beyond: Into My Church," "Beyond: Into My Neighborhood" and "Beyond: Into My World" from Next Step Discipleship
    "We Have a Mission"
    "Living Beyond into the World"

  16. Scripture memory is incredibly helpful. The more Scripture you have in your mind and heart, the more the Holy Spirit will have to remind you of when you need His wisdom, guidance, or comfort, or when you have a chance to share God's truth with others. Knowing Scripture can change your life every day.

    For more:
    "Memorize God’s Word systematically" section of "The Pastor's Care" chapter from Next Step Church

  17. You have at least one spiritual gift. Learn it and pray for opportunities to use it. God is honored when we live out of the gifts He has given us. In fact, He hasn't designed the church to work without the exercise of our gifts.

    For more:
    "Spiritual Gifts" from Essential Provisions
    "Mission and Gifts" and "Discovering Spiritual Gifts" from Next Step Discipleship

  18. God has a purpose for the world and a purpose for you to fit into His larger purposes. He planned good works in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Rather than just do what you want to do and ask God to bless it, seek how you and the gifts He has given you can fit into His will and plan. This was huge for me and rearranged my whole life... in my 40s!

    For more:
    "Discovering What God Made You For"
    "5 Steps to Discover God's Vision for Your Life"
    "Right Where You Need to Be" from 30 Days in Exile

  19. Spiritual warfare is real, but God and Satan aren't equally matched. God has the victory across the board, guaranteed, and He has provided us with all that we need to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-20) and be "more than conquerors" (Romans 8:37). Also, people are not our enemy (Ephesians 6:12).

    For more:
    "Heading into Battle"
    "Turf War"

  20. Being a Christian doesn't guarantee you success (in a worldly way), prosperity, or easy sailing. In fact, expect suffering, but know God is good and the suffering is ultimately for good. Expect road bumps and don't let them knock you off course. Cling to Him and seek support if needed to keep on track.

    For more:
    "60-Second Seminary - Does God Promise Us Prosperity?
    "Called to Rejoice in Suffering"
    "Potholes, Traffic Jams, and 'Wrong' Turns: God’s Plan for Our Journey"
    "Gratitude in the Hard Places"
    "The Good of God in Suffering"

  21. You won't get it right all the time and that's okay. You won't be perfected until this life is over. Yet your sin is covered forever, even the sin you haven't committed yet, and Jesus knows your weakness. Nothing can snatch you from His hand, not even yourself. It's a done deal and you're secure!

    For More:
    "Be Assured" from Next Step Discipleship

  22. You will never go wrong trusting God. One of my spiritual role models, Henrietta Mears, ran the very large Christian education department of Hollywood Presbyterian Church in the 1930s to 1960s, among other things, and was instrumental in the faith and ministry of Billy Graham, as well as the men who founded some of largest and most enduring ministries around (Cru, Young Life, Navigators) and many other people. Near the end of her life, she was asked what she would do differently, and she said, "I would trust God more." If you learn to rely on Him early in your faith, you will save yourself much trouble! (Proverbs 3:5-6)

There is much more to learn and discover on the adventure of following the Lord. Some you can only learn by experience, but it should help to have some pointers in the right direction and know a few things to look for along the way. It might help to bookmark this page for reference, so you can explore the links as you have questions in those areas.

As you continue to walk with Christ and grow in Him, may you find that He transforms you more and more into His likeness (Romans 12:2), and fills you more and more with His hope and joy (Romans 15:13)!

About the Author

Alison Dellenbaugh (M.A. in Christian Leadership, Dallas Theological Seminary) is the Spiritual Formation Resource Manager at Central Bible Church and editor of the Next Step Disciple website.