The first two years of a new Christian’s life should be one of learning and doing. Learning what the Christian faith is all about and doing those things you have learned. To be strong in the faith requires more than infrequent attendance at church and a casual glance at the Bible from time to time. This lesson describes the author’s opinion on what every new believer should accomplish and demonstrate within the first two years of being a Christian. It is true that some come into the kingdom with a great deal to overcome from past habits, actions, attitudes and addictions. There is grace for that, but every Christian should be a long way down the road from whence they started regarding these 12 areas of interest in their first two years of being a believer in Christ.
Consider what the Apostle Peter said to the new believer in 1 Peter 2:1-3 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, 2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: 3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Before looking at the list of 12 areas to cover within the first two years of being a Christian, let’s examine briefly these three verses.
- 1 Peter 2:1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, Even the new believer is expected to act like a Christian. No room for malice, bitterness, hypocrisy, envy, gossip, and dirty language. No room at all.
- 1 Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. God’s way for a Christian to grow includes knowing the Scriptures. The two best ways to do that are to read the Bible for yourself, showing discipline in this, and being a part of a vibrant church where the Bible is taught.
- 1 Peter 2:3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Act like a Christian if you really are a Christian. If you haven’t experienced the goodness of God and given your life genuinely to Christ, then all of this doesn’t make sense to you and is a waste of your time. You may be a religious man, but you won’t be a spiritual man.
Now, consider 12 areas every new believer would do well to cover in their first two years as a Christian. There is also a place for you to score your present status in these 12 areas. Scoring is only for Christians!
1 – Christian Doctrine
Titus 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
There are 13 major doctrines agreed upon by all ProtestantChristianChurches. During the first two years of a new believer’s walk with Christ he should become familiar with and versed in these doctrines. He should know how they fit in God’s plan and how to explain them. This will take effort but it can be done.
- The Doctrine of The Source of Authority (Scripture)
- The Doctrine of God (The Trinity)
- The Doctrine of Jesus Christ
- The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
- The Doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ
- The Doctrine of Salvation
- The Doctrine of Christ’s Blood
- The Doctrine of Man
- The Doctrine of the Resurrection
- The Doctrine of Heaven and Hell
- The Doctrine of Spiritual Warfare
- The Doctrine of the Second Coming
- The Doctrine of the Church
Not knowing orthodox Christian Doctrine is like trying to play ice hockey when you don’t know how to skate, you don’t know the rules of the game, you don’t know how to score, you don’t know how to avoid penalties, and you don’t know which way to go when challenges arise. Sadly many if not most Christians fall in this camp. And the results speak for themselves. You can easily handle this in two years if you try; ideally your church teaches a course on basic doctrine, and if they do, get in it! If they don’t, ask them to. If they won’t do it, find another church. This is a must-have for any Christian.
My Score = ___ [No ability = 1; Minor progress = 2; Modest progress = 3; Good Progress = 4; Made it! = 5]
2 – Church Affiliation
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
Every new believer should find a church that believes the Bible, preaches the Bible, has vibrant worship, has active outreaches, and believes in equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. If they preach one message only, whatever that message is (giving, prosperity, evangelism, prayer, holiness) you will have stunted growth. You need to be taught a well-rounded diet of Christian ethics and behavior taught so as to remain in balance. In a church the pastors will pray for you and minister to you. Christ founded the church and if you’re a believer and aren’t going to church and don’t see the need then you are useless to the kingdom of God. You should make sure that your pastor knows your name, no matter how large the church, and you should find some way to serve that church, be it greeting people at the door, sweeping the floors, hosting visiting missionaries, you name it. Get in a church and get involved. You should be settled into one church and be known to the pastor and leadership of the church. You should not be church hopping but be settled in. If your church has home groups, then join in! You have two years to get this done!
My Score = ___ [No ability = 1; Minor progress = 2; Modest progress = 3; Good Progress = 4; Made it! = 5]
3 – Overcoming Addictions
1 Corinthians 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Some people come into the kingdom with no addictions, that is, no life-controlling habits. Others have some, and still others have them all! The good news is that by the power of the gospel you can get the victory over any addiction. It may take diligence, earnest prayer, fasting, counseling, and having your mind renewed by major immersion in the things of God, but it can be done. It is a poor testimony for any Christian to go year after year after year bound by life-controlling addictions when victory can be theirs. If Christ can’t get you past your addictions, then maybe you need another Christ! Believe God. There are spiritual strongholds in many people’s lives when they come into the kingdom. This is no light matter – but claim victory and within two years expect victory.
My Score = ___ [No ability = 1; Minor progress = 2; Modest progress = 3; Good Progress = 4; Made it! = 5]
4 – Reading the Bible Through
2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
This is something all new believers should get accomplished in their first two years of being a believer. Clearly you will not understand it all. No one expects that. But you should gain a good working knowledge of the Bible. You should understand the difference between the major divisions, like the Old and New Testaments, and smaller divisions, like Poetry, Wisdom, Major and Minor Prophets, Law, Revelation, Gospels, History of the Early Church, Epistles (or Letters). You should become acquainted with Biblical geography, customs, terms, norms, and common interpretations for certain passages. Did you know you can read the Bible through in one year by reading for 20 minutes a day? If you really don’t like to read, get it on CD and listen to it. Is that so hard? Is that so much to ask?
5 – Share Your Faith With Others
Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
This is the Great Commission – to go into all of the world and preach the gospel to every person. It’s not just for Billy Graham or the local pastor or missionary, it’s for you. Billy Graham doesn’t know the person you work beside, but you do. Your pastor may not know your next door neighbor, but you do. When you are a believer you should be able to share your faith, plain and simple. Of course, your life better line up behind your words. If you are living like the devil but talking faith then you’re what is known as a hypocrite. Jesus had some choice words for that kind of behavior. Your church likely has an evangelism program and within two years you should be a part of it. Going door-to-door isn’t just for the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, but those two faith groups do more door-to-door work than any organization I know of. They are systematic and diligent about it too. Did you know that you can do that? Did you know that you should do that? It takes a little backbone, too. You in?
6 – Understand Other Religions
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
While you are learning your own church doctrine within the first two years of your Christian life you should have a working knowledge of the religions of the world that also use the term Christian yet have doctrines different than those of the Orthodox Protestant Christian Church, such as:
- Roman Catholicism
- Seventh Day Adventist
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- United Pentecostals
- Christian Science
- The Way International
How are they different? Are they different? Are they in error? Are we in error and they correct? The student can determine that for himself after studying and comparing doctrines. Then there is Judaism, from which Christianity has its roots but is different in practice and doctrine. How is Judaism different from Christianity? Do you know? Then there are world religions that should be understood, among them are Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism. Then there are the New Age religions, including Scientology, Mysticism, Relativism. Other faith systems include Native American and Wicca all with their own beliefs and practices. Then there is Agnosticism, Atheism, Evolutionism, and Secular Humanism. Do you know what these mean? There are sincere, honorable persons in all belief systems listed. Is one right and the other wrong? How would you know unless you studied them out for yourself? If you got this done within two years you’d be ahead of most of the church world.
7 – Be Filled With The Holy Spirit
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.
Within the Orthodox Protestant Christian Church there is diversity regarding the interpretation of this verse and the term “filled with the Holy Spirit” and “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Within two years you should come to your own conclusions on this teaching and have acted accordingly. Do you know the diversity of viewpoints? Do you understand what you may gain or lose based only on what someone else tells you, or can you think for yourself and study the matter for yourself and draw an intelligent conclusion? Good men have markedly different viewpoints regarding this experience, how it is gained, and what the evidence of that would be. Take the time to investigate this, you have two years.
8 – Giving
Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
A wise pastor I had for years used to say “when God gets your heart, he also gets your pocketbook.” What he meant is where your treasure is reveals where your heart is, and if you love God you’ll give of your treasure (both time and money). Every Christian should develop their faith in God to where, within two years, they are willing and able to tithe (give 10% of their before-tax income) to the work of God. The scriptures have much to say about stewardship and money management. I know of pastors who teach that tithing isn’t applicable and isn’t practical and all the while they have 48” flat screen entertainment systems, new vehicles, new homes, and they don’t give twenty dollars a month to the work of God, let alone several hundred dollars which would be a tithe consistent with their income. Giving is basic in Christianity. Within two years you should have developed the practice of tithing from your income (that means money – not just the time equivalent of money). Read the Bible; settle this in your heart. Be prepared to be a consistent, faithful, generous, Biblical giver and tither within two years.
9 – Growing Up
1 Corinthians 12:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Guess what, when you become a Christian there should be a growing up aspect in your life. No longer are you holding grudges, no longer are you using foul language, no longer are you gossiping, no longer are you given to envy, and no longer do you harbor bitterness and unforgiveness. That stuff is child’s play. Guess what else, no longer are you spending all your money on yourself, buying things you can’t afford and causing stress in your family, and doing whatever you want whenever you want, then whining like a child when you don’t get your way. You have two years to break old habit patterns and begin new habit patterns, based on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in your life and His leading and guiding. How impressed are you at 30-year Christians that still are plagued by road rage, cheating on their taxes, still in debt and playing on sports leagues while remaining unemployed? Being a Christian is not a license to keep doing whatever you want to do – it’s finding and doing the will of God.
10 – The Christian Disciplines
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
This includes participating in the Lord’s Supper, Church Life, having a prayer life, remembering the poor, meditation, fasting, confession, thrift, self-control, stewardship, water baptism (you’d be astonished at the number of Christians who have never been baptized, and also at the number of Christians that have been baptized three, four, and five times – this is all rooted in confused teaching and misunderstanding), joining a church, tithing, witnessing, and helping out at the church. This includes discovering your spiritual gifts and capitalizing on them. It means understanding the Gifts of the Spirit, the Fruit of the Spirit, the Ten Commandments. It means being ever conformed into the image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Show some discipline. You have two years!
11 Memorize 100 Scriptures
Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
That’s right, in your first two years of being a Christian you should have memorized word-for-word, with the correct reference, 100 scriptures. Sound tough? Well, over two years that’s only one verse a week. I’m amazed at those who say they can’t do this yet they have their phone number memorized, their social security number, and their address. They know what’s on what day of the week on TV. They know who’s dating who in tabloids. They know the price of gas all over town. They know the starting lineup for their favorite sports team, but they say they can’t memorize scripture. You can and you should. You can drill with a friend who’s also memorizing scripture. It’s easier than you think. I’ll give you your first five to start with:
- Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (first verse of the Bible)
- John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
- John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (most popular verse in the Bible)
- Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
- John 11:35 Jesus wept. (shortest verse in the Bible)
Now only 95 more. You can do it in two years! Find verses meaningful to you. Write them on little flash cards (about the size of a business card). Carry them with you. Refer to them during the day. By doing this you are hiding God’s Word and will in your heart, your mind is being renewed, you are learning how to Walk in the Spirit, and on and on. The benefits are too numerous to detail. Get busy on this one saint!
12 – Learning the Will of God
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
Many Christians, sad as it is, wander around most of their lives never knowing “what God wants me to do.” I wonder if they have ever tried to find out. Even a blind man can read it in the scriptures. This is what I call the “general will of God” and it applies to everyone. Let me give you a couple of scriptures, among many direct references to the will of God, to illustrate this:
- From the Old Testament: Micah 6:8 He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
- From the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Are those two verses hard to understand? You can start by doing what those verses said, and you’ll be doing the will of God! Not bad, ‘eh? And there are a raft of others both in the OT and the NT. You have two years to dig them out and understand them.
Then there is the specific will of God, God’s perfect will for you. In addition to the general will of God, there is that which God intends specifically for you. This knowledge comes through practicing the spiritual disciplines and many of the items already listed. It comes by learning to, and then walking in the Spirit. But you should be coming into knowledge of what God’s will for you is during your first two years as a Christian. This includes relationships (some you may well have to cut off, some you have to develop), and career (some will be called to the ministry and begin making arrangements for formal study). Some will be called to ministry and get right in, working at the lay-level but still learning and getting involved, and over time God’s perfect will unfolds more clearly. What will it be for you? A new profession? A new trade? Relocating? Put yourself on the two year plan and find out. Should be exciting!
So there you have it, the two year plan for building a foundation from which to launch your Christian walk. If every new believer did this, and had this kind of foundation, do you think we’d be better off for it as a society, as a family unit, and as individuals? The blessings that follow this kind of behavior are well documented in the lives of many Christians.
Let me list some weaknesses in the Christian community and you tell me if we’d be better of if these 12 foundations were followed in the life of every new believer…
- Rampant divorce and sexual immorality
- Church people being recruited by sects
- Lack of funding for Christian projects
- Non-accountability among Christians
- Financial stress in the home; bankruptcy
- Poor Christian witness in the workplace
- Destructive and addictive behavior
- Virtually no knowledge of Church History, doctrine, or basic teaching
- Church needs going unmet, church potential going unrealized
- Church members shipwrecking their faith the first time a trial comes along
- Obvious hypocrisy, envy, strife, gossip
Rather than getting in the prayer line for the most basic of issues when you’ve been a member of the church for thirty years, why not build your foundation and be useful in the kingdom of God? Rather than being the one who always needs ministry, how about being the one doing the ministering? Rather than being the one who always needs counseling, how about being the counselor? Rather than being the one who always needs to be taught, how about being the one doing the teaching? This requires a foundation, a vision, and lots of work. Your two-year jump-start can equip you for a lifetime of service to the cause of Christ. And even if you’ve been a Christian for a while, if you are falling short in any of these areas give yourself two years from right now and get all twelve shored up. Your life will never be the same. You will experience peace, victory, productivity, and satisfaction that you never thought possible. If you really have given your life to Christ, prove it by acting like it and getting in the mix. Who’s fooling who? There is no time to waste.
So how do you do all of this? Read the Bible. Listen to tapes and go to seminars (this is the “force feeding method” and accelerates your spiritual growth), join a good church, seek out and identify mentors who have the goods and are willing to help you. Invest in other tools like a Bible Software program and books (biographies, concordance, Topical Bible, commentaries, Bible Dictionaries, Bible Atlas, Bible Handbooks, etc.) and locate and read tracts, sermons, correspondence Bible Study courses, etc.
Your walk with Christ isn’t an add-on to your life; it becomes the centerpiece of your life from which your world view emanates, from which your investments originate, of which your behavior reflects, and is the reason for your career and direction in life. Everything we’ve discussed can be yours, easily, within the first two years of your Christian walk.
How it should be: Every new Christian gets serious with God from day one. They know they have a relationship with Christ, but they don’t know the first thing about doctrine or God’s will or how things work in the kingdom of God. So they set out to learn. They cover the two year plan. They have read and listened to scores of sermons. They are studying. They are learning. They become fireballs for God. Every new believer, within two years, is dangerous to the devil! They are witnessing, they are giving, and they are building the local church. They are caring for the poor, helping the poor, showing the poor how to get saved and develop new habits, the poor are no longer the poor, they are now witnessing and the cycle continues. The doper gets saved and gets cleaned up. They go back and convert other dopers because they are now themselves mature, they have a firm foundation, they got it in their first two years, and they are advancing and ever maturing and ever being conformed into the image of Christ.
There’s more! After five years they are a pillar in the church, after 10 years they’re on the foreign mission field, or they’re owning and leading a successful business, pouring thousands and thousands of dollars into the missions and Christian ministries, and they are sought out for their wise counsel. They are strong in the faith. They are leaders. After 20 years they are on the Board of Directors of national and international ministries and/or of their local church. They are now training other Christian leaders. They lead a life beyond reproach. In days gone by they were thieves, drunkards, convicts, pot-heads, and unskilled pleasure-seekers; but those days are long since past. Christ has changed their lives, and their works demonstrate it.
Too often how it is: The new Christian sees his conversion experience as an add-on to their life. They still tell their dirty jokes, still smoke and drink and gamble, still watch filthy movies, and are still addicted to things that are a shame to speak about. They couldn’t explain the major doctrines of the Christian Church to anyone, even if they had a gun to their head. They are not moving forward at all. Still self-centered. Still looking for the next party, still spinning their wheels, still shackled by the same thinking they had before they came to Christ because they never had their mind renewed. This is a shame, and it shouldn’t happen once let alone be an epidemic. The world looks at that and is repulsed. Jesus looks at it, sees it as the lukewarmenss that it is, and spits it out of his mouth (see Revelation 3:15-17 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.). The works of these “Christians” leave no positive witness with anyone, and God himself is nauseated by it. If this is your testimony you’d better make some serious changes NOW!
Two years from now if you are not solid in these 12 areas, whether you are brand new to the kingdom of God, or have been raised in the church, it’s because you chose to be ignorant and immature and you’ll be a big nothing for the kingdom of God. What’s it going to be? Will your testimony be 1 Corinthians 14:38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. What kind of testimony is that? How about 1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. There’s a fine testimony. The Christian who determines to remain ignorant, or the Christian who is so carnal and worldly that they can’t handle anything beyond the most basic teaching or it goes right over their head. They are wholly useless to the kingdom of God, a stumbling block to sinner and saint.
Being strong in Christ doesn’t come by length of time served. It comes by purposeful, planned, determined, sacrificial, vision-inspired action. Speaking of Abraham, the Apostle Paul said in Romans 4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God. That can be your testimony also, let it be so! In that verse, replace “He” with your name. Has a nice ring, yes?
Now, let’s do the scoring. Remember, this test is only for those who consider themselves to be Christians.
Here’s how the scoring is measured:
Final Score: 50-60 Strong, Bold, Dangerous to the enemy, what should be normal after 2 years.
40-49 Maturing, committed, giving heed to Christian living, need more teaching.
30-39 A babe in Christ, weak, only able to handle the “milk of the Word,” ignorant.
Less than 30 – Carnal, indifferent, may well not be a Christian, useless in God’s kingdom.