"Exploring Christ" is the first of five phases of spiritual growth. Those who are Exploring Christ might say, “I believe in God but I am not sure about Christ.”
Faith begins somewhere. From a human standpoint, it begins when we begin exploring the claims of Jesus, what we’ve heard of him, and wonder if he is who he says he is. If you’re someone who is exploring Christ, though, you have questions.
--Do I really need Jesus if my life seems to be going okay? What kind of difference will he make?
--How will I have to change if I begin to follow him?
--What if I’ve done too many wrong things? Will Jesus accept me?
--I like Jesus, but I'm not sure about the church or if I have to believe all the things Christians believe.
You may be someone who has been a part of a church before or is attending one now. You keep attending not because you buy in to everything you hear, but you are curious. And you’re listening not just to what is said, but also to what isn’t said. And to how people act around each other. You may be more certain about a belief in God, but it’s Jesus you’re not so sure about yet.
There is a story in the Bible of a person who was exploring Christ. His name was Nicodemus. He was a teacher and religious leader who met Jesus one night with questions. He said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Nicodemus seems to think that a teacher’s teaching is validated because of the signs—Jesus’ major sign being turning water into wine at a wedding. I think I’d pay more attention to someone who could do that, too. But I’m not so sure I’d automatically think they were from God.
Jesus replies with something that doesn’t seem to address what Nicodemus had said. He says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” Wait a second. Nicodemus just gave you what appears to be a complement, and you come back to say this? It’s like for Jesus, it’s not about acknowledging that he is a great teacher. He has a different goal—being part of the kingdom of God. Jesus knows we don’t just stumble into this; nor do we force our way into it. The kingdom of God is every place where God rules, where what he wants to get done gets done. Jesus knows that for us to see that, we must be born again.
In the next few weeks, we’ll talk about the ways Brenneman wants to help those who are Exploring Christ in more detail. For now, here are a few things you could do if this is you.
1. Regularly join the church in worship on Sunday mornings, whether that’s at home or in person. It gives you a chance to hear the claims Jesus makes. You can know that at one point, each person sitting in a pew also had to wrestle with those claims.
2. Find a Christian friend who is willing to let you ask the questions and will be genuine about their own faith journey. Someone who will give you space to process and yet loves you enough to tell you the truth. You may or may not have this type of person in your life.
3. Know that Jesus is patient. He will not coerce or force anyone to choose to follow him, but will respect our choices.
4. Ultimately, you must decide to follow Jesus or not. Putting it off until it all makes sense or until some criteria have been met won’t work forever. If you’re a person who has been attending a church in person or online for quite some time, and you haven’t moved from Exploring Christ to Discovering Christ by making this decision, statistics show that the longer you wait, the harder it will be.
5. Explore what the Bible says on your own. Read the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Join us next week as we talk about the ways Brenneman wants to partner with you if you find yourself in the Exploring Christ phase.