``Come to me, all you who are weary from carrying heavy loads;
I'll give you rest!
Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble by heart;
then you'll find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my load is light.''
But if you are prepared, becoming a Christian does not take a long course; it simply amounts to the decision to hand over your life to the caring hands of Jesus Christ, accepting his forgiveness for whatever you did wrong (i.e., against His will), trusting that He will guide you in the future, and accepting this guidance.
Now address to God what you worked out to be your true desire, by reading it aloud to Him. It is important to realize that now the situation is real, not just let's suppose. Feel free to be yourself, pausing, commenting on, reflecting on what you say as you proceed - just as you would do if you had written a letter to your best friend and, just as you finished, he opens the door, and you enjoy telling him what you were writing up. God will hear, and he'll reply.
''You will seek me and find me when you seek with all your
Note that, being spiritual, God usually does not respond in words, but by changing your perception, motives, desires, attitudes and actions. God gives power to live a truthful life. ''The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.'' (1 Cor. 4:20)
You'll be surprised about God's response. (I was, too, though everything took a while to unfold.) Life becomes an adventure, God will become your friend, and you'll change and enjoy the peace and the freedom of the children of God.
''To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he
gave the right to be children of God.''
What you'll have learned at this point is a constructive way of what Christians call prayer, two-way communication with God.
Most of the New Testament, especially the first 5 books (that are full of stories), make very easy reading, e.g., in the translation of J.B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English; the site hosting this gives also access to many other translations, and into many languages. For the Old Testament, reading is at times more difficult: there are many passages that are boring for most modern people, but there is lots of interesting stuff, too.
While you read, take special interest in noting
Be careful about becoming dogmatic; be as critical as you always were, and perhaps even more. Don't mistake authoritative Christian views of God's will for what God really wants; there is a subtle difference. Christians (even authorities) are human beings and may misunderstand God once even when they have been 99 times correct. Listen to the advice of fellow Christians, but check out with God what they are saying: You have to give account of your actions, not they. (There is a very instructive story about this in the bible, 1 Kings 13.) Use your freedom but don't misuse it (Rom. 14:1-15:2).
And be careful about becoming conceited. When I became a Christian, trying to take seriously the teachings of Jesus, I noticed that most Christians didn't seem to do so, and I felt that my Christianity was much better than theirs. God taught me otherwise, and I had to pay dearly for my arrogance. The fact that God gives you a special measure of strength and uncompromising spirit is not your achievement but His special gift intended to bring you safely through the time of bringing your inner world into agreement with God. Once you are settled, you may expect a fading of this automatic shielding from adversities; God will want to test how much you can carry for Him, and you can be sure that He tests you to your limits.
To ensure that your faith is in Christ and not in human beings or religious rituals, take care; some of the advice Christians give tries to make you not just Christian but to convert you to their particular version of Christianity. Such differences can be recognized by checking whether advice received binds you to Jesus Christ or to a church.
You might also want to check out what Dan Jenkins has to say about discipleship, how to know God's will in your life, and other topics helpful for maintaining a strong relationship with God, and through Him with people. Other useful pages are those by the geologist Lambert Dolphin.
Arnold Neumaier (Arnold.Neumaier@univie.ac.at)