Being a new believer is joyful and exciting.
And it’s confusing. And it’s sometimes difficult.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
For the very first time, you feel an immense relief. Your burden is lifted. You feel embraced by the love of the Father. You feel the total acceptance of Jesus. You are ready to let down those old barriers and give yourself completely to The One who invited you into His family. You think you can hear the Holy Spirit leading you in truth and love…but then you begin to hear other voices.
If you feel like you are surrounded by a forest of conditions and laws and rules and you need a machete to clear the way to the Father’s heart,
If you seem to hear noisy, clanging cymbals that don’t sound like love but sound like accusations – you know, accusations like:
If you don’t go to church you’re not a Christian;
If you vote that way, you’re not a Christian;
If you do yoga you’re in partnership with the devil;
You’re just a new believer so you don’t know how we do things;
Please recognize we’re all trying to do our best. And sometimes we make big mistakes.
Sometimes we treat you as a number, a filled seat in our church.
Sometimes we consider you converted and assume you believe the way we do because you attend our church.
Sometimes we attempt to indoctrinate you into our convictions because we’ve been raised into a theology or worldview from birth, certain it’s the correct and only one and passionately want to save you from incorrect beliefs.
Sometimes, we’re so busy proclaiming our own views, we alienate the very people Jesus wants us to save.
We forget to introduce you to the heart of God, to teach you to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit so you are able to hear the unique way He speaks to you.
It is a huge responsibility, to share His love, to invite and train in discipleship – a huge distinction from making converts. I think we sometimes shirk the great responsibility Jesus left to us by doing the latter, which requires no relationship, no grace, no pouring out of God’s love.
The former is a commitment, coming from the power of the Spirit; it produces fruit which lasts and reproduces itself out of His love and grace. It forms relationship and brings someone into the family of the Jesus. It’s a joining of hands and heart in the Father’s embrace.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19) This word, make disciples, mathēteusate, means to teach or to be trained as a disciple.
God’s love is radical. His grace is provocative and socially unacceptable. It is not for the faint of heart, but for those courageous enough to pick up this cross and follow Jesus.
Your Relationship with God is Sacred
What matters is your relationship with the Father, your conversation with the Holy Spirit, your willingness to receive and give away the love and grace of Jesus.
What matters is you refining your unique journey with God because He speaks to each of us the way He created us to listen. And rest assured you responded to His invitation at the exact right time for you. He alone knew when you were ready to take His hand and walk with Him. Continue to trust His love, His guidance and His embrace.
What to Read
Before you read any theological books or current books that profess to sway you one way or another; before you read a version of the Bible someone recommends but you can’t understand, get yourself an easy-to-read study Bible. One that has lots of commentary notes and a good index (concordance).
Instead of attempting to follow a 365-day Bible reading program, read the apostle John’s Gospel and in particular the words of Jesus. Highlight them if your chosen Bible doesn’t print them in red. Also read John’s first letter (1 John), his sermon on the Gospel of love. Read it slowly, like dessert.
After that, read the other three Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) along with their introductions, again paying particular attention to the words of Jesus. They write about many of the same events but from their own perspective.
Don’t be afraid to make notes in the margins or underline certain passage. Write question marks, and begin to look at the Scripture references in the inside margins. They refer to other places in your Bible where the same things are being said.
When you’ve finished, you should have a pretty clear idea of what Jesus considered important.
After that, take a look at this list of resources, then ask trusted friends for one or two books to read.
Above all, don’t lose hope. Don’t lose your own connection to God.
Talk with Him every day. And be sure to take time to listen.
He made you His beloved child for a reason.