August 21, 2017
Jim White has written about how to explore Christianity authentically. He offers five suggestions to help people in their faith journey.
1. Maintain an Open Mind
Sometimes we say we’re going to explore something when we know we’re not really open to what we might find. Having an open mind doesn’t mean blind acceptance of whatever we find. It’s important to evaluate differing views, have some healthy skepticism, and check out the facts. But if we start off by saying: “I’ll check it out, but I know it isn’t true,” we’re not exploring with an open mind.
2. Determine What You’re Looking For
Make sure you have appropriate expectations. Most people would say they’re after spiritual truth. People want answers to life’s ultimate questions. They’re looking for God and a relationship with God so they can order their lives accordingly. That’s appropriate. But expecting: “I want whatever I find to solve all of my problems instantly,” that isn’t going to happen. The Christian faith never promises it will deliver a life free of difficulty. The Bible teaches that when you commit your life to Christ, you experience a radical reorientation of your priorities, you find a new purpose in life, and you encounter the power and work of God in your life. But these experiences are far different from the instant removal of every problem, every struggle, or every issue of pain. God’s power and presence, which come from being in relationship with Christ, give us the ability to go through the difficulties of life with strength and hope. It’s off target to expect whatever it is you find to complement your lifestyle rather than change it. Few religions, and Christianity in particular, allow for a mindset that sees spiritual faith as an accessory item that does little more than enhance one’s existing quality of life. Since your deepest needs and issues are spiritual in nature, you should expect your search to lead you to the deepest corners of your life, and you should expect what you find to change you from the inside out.
3. Check Out the Source Documents
Once you’ve determined that you’re going to search with an open mind, and you’ve got a handle on what is fair to expect from your search, it’s time to begin the actual work of this process. Begin by checking out the source documents of the Christian faith. The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by more than 40 authors over a period of several hundred years. Christians call it “God’s Word” or “God’s revelation” to us. In the Bible, God reveals himself and truth about himself that we could not otherwise know. So start by reading the Bible, and here are two suggestions for you to keep in mind when you do: first, make sure you begin with a modern translation and, second, remember that it really is a library of books. The Bible was written in two languages: Hebrew and Greek. Hebrew was the language of the day when the Old Testament was written, and Greek was the language of the writers of the New Testament. As a result, all our Bibles today are translations of those original languages. So get a good, modern translation that is easy for you to read and understand. And then when reading the Bible remember it is a library of books, so you possess some freedom as to where to begin reading. Start with one of the four biographies of the life of Jesus found in the books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These books will lay a good foundation of the central message of the Bible: Jesus.
4. Come to Terms with Jesus
In your search, focus on Jesus. He is the heart of the Christian faith. Come to terms with his identity. Here is a man who walked the earth and claimed to be equal to God. No other major religious figure ever made that claim—not Buddha, not Mohammed, not Confucius. Only Jesus Christ claimed to be God in human form. Was he or wasn’t he? This is the ultimate question someone who is exploring must answer when it comes to the Christian faith.
5. Find a Church That Encourages You to Explore
Why attend a Christian church to explore Christianity? So that you can talk firsthand with people who are Christians, listen to their stories, raise your questions, enter into a dialogue with them about their faith. This exploration process is the most important one you’ll take for your life. In truth, there’s no such thing as a “spiritual life”—there’s just life, and your spirituality is a crucial element of it. Finding the door to spiritual truth, opening it, and walking through it make up the most significant journey you can ever undertake. For on the other side is not simply spiritual life—but life itself.