If you're wondering about God and want to know the truth about Jesus Christ, you've come to the right place. One of God's promises in the Bible is that we will find him when we earnestly seek him. So if you're in the seeking mode, it's a great place to be! How can you maximize the seeking process? We won't presume to tell you everything you need to do to find the answers you're seeking, but we do have some suggestions that will help.
1. Be intellectually honest
Sometimes people claim to be seekers, but their minds are not really open to what they might discover. Their attitude is, "Yeah, I'll check it out, but I know it isn't true." If you begin the seeking process with that attitude, you're not exploring with an open mind.
Being intellectually honest doesn't mean that you turn your brain off. You need to evaluate different viewpoints and check out the facts for yourself. Being intellectually honest just means you don't go into the seeking process with your mind already made up. It means you remain open to what you might discover.
2. Make sure your expectations are fair
People seek God for many different reasons. Some are trying to find meaning and purpose in life. Some are seeking answers for their problems and pain. Still others are just looking for a relationship with God. But sometimes people seek God with expectations that might not be fulfilled. For example, they want God to solve their problems immediately. That isn't going to happen. So, what will you do when you find God and still have to live with your problems? Sometimes people seek God to experience more happiness in life. Followers of Jesus Christ do experience greater joy, meaning and purpose in life, but almost all believers will also report that they still have to deal with life's circumstances. So, what will you do if you find God, but your life's circumstances lead to less happiness?
Christianity never promises a problem-free life. God does, however, promise his power and presence to give us the ability to cope with the various difficulties and circumstances of life. So, two good questions to ask yourself are, What am I looking for? And what does God offer?
3. Be sure not to limit God
Many seekers say they have intellectual difficulty with Christianity, when in fact they are not willing to give up some activity they know is offensive to God. That's like saying "I want you to move into my house, but you can't rearrange any of the furniture." You need to understand that God is not just an idea. Christianity is not just a "belief system" that will enhance your life. God wants to be a powerful presence in your life. That means he will change you from the inside out. God loves you and will accept you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to let you stay that way. He wants to make you into what he wants you to be.
4. Check out the Bible
Once you've made sure you're being intellectually honest, and you've got a handle on what's fair to expect, and you're willing to let God change you however he wants to, the time has come to begin your search in earnest.
The place to start is with the Bible. The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by more than 40 authors, over a period of several hundred years. Christians believe that the Bible is God's way of revealing himself and his truth to us. So any search for God has to include a search of the documents in which he reveals himself. Here are some suggestions for you to keep in mind when you read the Bible. First, make sure you use a modern translation. Many times people say, "I've tried reading the Bible, but it was dry and hard to understand." Many times that feeling has more to do with the translation being read than with the Bible itself. If you have a King James Bible, you'll find that it's full of "thees" and "thous" and "saiths." When the King James version was translated in the early 1600's, that's how people talked. Remember your high school Shakespeare classes? Same time. But our language has changed in the last 400 years, and we don't talk that way today
Get yourself a modern translation; we suggest the New International Version or the New Living Translation. If you don't have an easy to read Bible, stop by the Welcome Center at New Horizon Church for a free New International Version Bible. Second, when reading the Bible, you don't read it like other books. As we said, the Bible is a collection of books, so it's not really recommended that you start with page 1 and read through to the end. If you try that method, you'll find it a little confusing. Instead, start with one of the 4 biographies of Jesus-the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. These books will give you a good understanding of the central figure of the entire Bible-Jesus Christ. After that, read the Book of James. It's actually a short letter that will give you a good understanding of what the Christian life is supposed to look like. Then read the book of Acts. This book is the history of the beginning of the church. After that, you're ready to go to the beginning, Genesis, where you'll find answers to some of the fundamental questions of human existence. When you've read these books, you're probably ready to jump in wherever you want.
5. Come to terms with Jesus
Our fifth suggestion involves the focus of your search. We suggest you focus on Jesus because he is the heart and soul of Christianity. When we say "come to terms" with Jesus, we mean that it's not enough to just agree that Jesus was a good man, a great teacher, or a world-class religious leader. You have to come to terms with his identity. Jesus Christ was a man who walked the earth, lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and rose again from the dead. Those facts alone are enough to set Jesus apart from all other religious leaders past or present. But Jesus made another claim that no other religious leader has made-he claimed to be God. Buddha never made that claim, nor did Confucius or Mohammed. Only Jesus Christ claimed to be God in human form.
6. Find a church that will let you seek
Our final suggestion is to look for a church that honors the seeking process you are going through. This means they will welcome you as you seek, as well as help you in the seeking process. They will welcome your questions and allow you to take your time in seeking out the answers, without trying to push you into a premature decision. New Horizon is a church designed to help you in this way. Our Sunday worship gatherings are designed to present the truths of the Bible in a way that encourages believers, but also offers help and answers to those who are seeking. We welcome your seeking process!
TOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD
1. How do I know God exists?
Recent polls show that as many as 96 percent of Americans believe in the existence of God. But how do you know there is a God? You cannot prove that God exists by normal scientific methods. And we can't prove that God exists by our five senses. You can't see him, touch him, or smell him. However, there is plenty of compelling evidence for God's existence, and we can make a reasoned decision to believe in God based on that evidence. For example, the "Big Bang" theory is currently the most widely accepted explanation of cosmological origin. This theory says that a chance collision of gases and matter set in motion a random series of events that, over billions of years, brought us the universe and solar system we know today. But the great cosmological question is, "What caused the Big Bang?" Even more important, where did the gases and matter come from in the first place? You can't have something come from nothing! Mathematicians have computed the odds that a chance explosion of gases would produce even one single structured molecule. The mathematical probability is 1 in 10 to the 243rd power-that's a 10 with 243 zeros behind it! The probability of producing a minimum set of the 239 protein molecules required for the smallest possible organism is 1 in 10 to the 119,879th power! Is this reasonable? The great physicist Stephen Hawking once told a reporter, "The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous.... I think clearly there are religious implications."
Another key piece of evidence that should be considered is the great order and design evident in the world. Imagine coming upon a laptop computer sitting in the middle of the desert. Would you reason that it came together as a result of a random explosion in an electronics factory? Your thoughts would more likely be that someone made it and placed it there. The intricacy of the design suggests a designer. Buildings suggest an architect, paintings suggest a painter. And there is great intricacy and design in the universe, so it is reasonable to assume there is a Great Designer.
2. What is God like?
Most of us have an image of God in our minds that we have put together based on past experiences, feelings, and ideas. Usually it boils down to one of these ideas:
The Cosmic Kill-Joy
Some think that God's one mission in life is to catch us doing something wrong so he can punish us. And it's true that the Bible presents God as a God of truth, justice, and right and wrong. But the Bible also teaches us that God is compassionate, gracious, slow to get angry with us, and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8). God certainly judges sin. But he is not sitting in heaven with a giant cosmic fly-swatter waiting to swat you for doing something wrong.
Some have an image of God as a gentle, grandfatherly type of person who smiles at everything we do and gives us everything we want. This picture of God is safe, convenient, and warm and fuzzy—but it is not the God of the Bible. Over and over the Bible says we are to "fear" God. That doesn't mean we are to cower in fear, but that we are to take God very, very seriously.
Finally, some see God like the "force" of the Star Wars movies—ethereal, impersonal, an "it" rather than a "he." The Bible does teach that God is present everywhere, that he guides and surrounds the universe, and that he is Spirit. But the very basis of the Christian faith is that God is a personal God who wants to enjoy a personal relationship with each one of us.
So What Is God Really Like?
Someone once asked, "Why doesn't God just show us what he's really like?" He did! That's why Jesus is so important. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). In other words, if you want to know what God is really like, look at Jesus. Look at how he loved people, forgave people, touched their lives, and restored their dignity. That's what God is really like!
3. Is there really just one way?
This is an idea that rankles a lot of people. It seems narrow-minded, snobbish, and bigoted. Many would admit to chafing at the idea that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. This discomfort comes from the thinking that all religions are the same, and they all lead to God. We concede that there are some common-ground issues among the world's great religions. When it comes to things like love, basic values, and statements about morality, there are some similarities. When we differ, we avoid persecuting someone for having different beliefs. That is tolerance. We can exercise tolerance without accepting that all beliefs are equally valid or true. Nevertheless, there are huge differences between Christianity and all the other world religions, and those differences cannot be ignored. The biggest difference is the issue of salvation. In every religion besides Christianity, salvation is obtained by doing something—striving to be good, going on a pilgrimage, using a prayer wheel, performing good deeds, going through a cycle of reincarnations. Jesus taught just the opposite. He said that we are all guilty of wrongdoing, and that we can't do anything to merit salvation. He also said that because of our sin, a price has to be paid-but because of his great love for us, he came to pay the price for us. We don't have to DO anything. All we have to do to be right with God is accept what Jesus Christ has DONE for us. This means that all religions are not the same. Christianity alone is marked by this huge distinction of not having to DO anything. Ultimately, the question is whether we believe in truth. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me." (John 14:6, The Living Bible) Jesus didn't say he was a way, a good way, or one of the ways. He claimed to be the only way. This is the basis of the Christian faith. While you may feel some initial shock at this outrageous claim, don't dismiss it simply because there are so many other religions and religious ideas. While there are many to choose from, they differ radically from each other, and choosing where to put your trust is a very important matter. Truth exists, and it matters. If all roads do not lead to God, then the only conclusion we can come to is that there is just one way. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is that one way.
4. Why is there suffering in the world?
USA Today asked readers to list their top questions in life. The number one response was, "Why is there evil and suffering in the world?" It's a question that has been pondered for thousands of years.
- Why do bad things happen to innocent people?
- If God is so good, why doesn't he take care of the evil in the world?
- Why doesn't he right the injustices in the world?
Many come to the conclusion that since there is evil and suffering in the world, either God doesn't exist, or he isn't a good God, or he isn't powerful enough to do anything about it.
The Bible teaches that God made us to enjoy a loving relationship with him. But love, by its nature, must be freely given and freely received. So God has given each of us the gift of a free moral will—we are free to accept or reject his love. The choice is ours. The first use of free will, according to the Bible, was by the first humans, Adam and Eve. They made a choice, of their own free will, to disobey God. Ever since, people have been using free will in ways that reflect that spirit of rebellion against God. God is not the author of sin and suffering—we are. We made the decision to reject God's leadership, and the result is a world that is altered from God's original design.
Could God wipe out all the evil and suffering in the world? Yes, in a minute. But to do that he would also have to remove our free moral will, and that would end the possibility of a loving relationship between himself and us.
The real question that many are trying to ask is this: Where is God in my suffering? The answer: he's right in the middle of it with you. He grieves over how we choose to use our free will and over how we hurt ourselves and others by those choices. When we face evil and suffering, he doesn't say, "Buck up—pick yourself up by your own bootstraps-tap into your inner strength." Instead, he says, "I'll go through this one with you."
A unique facet of Christianity is that God took on the form of a man in Jesus Christ and came down to where we live. He suffered the same kinds of abuse, injustice, suffering, evil, and rejection that we face. Jesus Christ on the cross was God entering into the reality of human suffering in order to demonstrate how much he loves us.
If you're suffering right now, God wants to walk through it with you and comfort you. You can allow suffering to drive you away from the God who loves you, or you can let it draw you closer to him.
5. Can the Bible be trusted?
The Bible is the top-selling book of all time. Each year millions of copies of the Bible or portions of the Bible are sold. The Bible is popular! But we're not asking if the Bible is popular. We're asking if the Bible is credible. Can it be trusted? Can we trust it enough to base our lives upon it? Christians believe that the Bible is reliable and trustworthy for several reasons.
First, the Bible is accurate. One example of the Bible's accuracy is its history. The Bible is not a history book, but it does contain accurate history. In every case where the historical listings in the Bible can be confirmed, they have been proven to be accurate. It passes the test on things like dates, places, people, and storylines. When historians have differed from the biblical accounts and additional evidence was later found, the biblical account has always turned out to be the accurate one. In the few remaining cases where things don't square up, the best that can be said is that the jury is still out.
Second, the reliability of any ancient document is determined by the number of manuscripts or fragments of manuscripts that are available. For example, there are seven copies of Plato's Tetralogies available to study and compare in order to determine accuracy. The oldest of these documents is a copy dating to about 1400 years after Plato wrote. Because of this amount of documentary evidence, scholars agree that the Tetralogies are accurate and reliable.
The Bible, by contrast, has 24,000 handwritten manuscripts or fragments still in existence to be studied and compared. Some of the earliest writings have now been dated to within 10-20 years after Christ's crucifixion, not the hundreds of years of lag time of other documents of antiquity. Bottom line? When it comes to documents of antiquity, there is no other historical document that even comes close to having the amount of evidence for its accuracy that we have for the text of the Bible.
Finally, Jesus himself affirmed the reliability of the Bible. When you consider purchasing a book today, one of the things you probably do is check out the book's dust cover, where you'll find endorsements by famous people or experts in certain fields. These endorsements lend credibility to the book. Jesus repeatedly stated that the scriptures were the word of God. For the Christian, there is no greater endorsement. (See Matthew 5:18; John 10:35.)
The Bible is the most reliable document imaginable and can be read with great confidence by the spiritual seeker.