Ten Tips for Beginners Christians

Quite naturally, a person making first steps in the church, among other emotions, almost always feels a deep confusion. Often it seems like an incredibly complicated structure, and that colorful traditions of Orthodoxy are impossible to comprehend and understand! This usually leads to two extremes: the overwhelming, often unjustified reverence to priests, who alone know everything, or complete, maximum possible rejection of the Orthodox rite, seeing it through the prism of Protestantism.

Not an uncommon opinion, even among the regular church-goers, is that knowing every detail about the Church is necessary only to those specially trained in religious schools with a specific goal - to become a priest or theologian. Hence, it is possible to make another wrong assumption – that the most important thing is to have "God in one’s soul", and all the rest is a human concoction, "priestly whim" invented by them only in order to be able to better manipulate people, selling their services. What can I say to these individuals?

First of all, it should be noted that belief in God involves not only belief in His existence. Even the devil knows for a fact that God exists, but for thousands of years it has failed to make him a Christian. Satan does not just believe someone else’s stories about God, they’ve met for real!

A believer, too, must constantly communicate with the living God, work with Him, devoting not only their spiritual, emotional strength to Him, but also physical and mental. The Church teaches that without faith man cannot be saved. Thus, the term "faith" in this case means it is reasonable, conscious belief, adopted not only in the heart, but also by the mind, intellect. Once, atheists attempted to destroy human trust in the Church by this: they confidently declared that faith and reason, belief and science are contradictory and mutually exclusive. This certainly is not true. God, Who in the Holy Scripture is named Sophia - Wisdom (1Kor.1 30), cannot contradict Himself. He is not only the Creator of the universe, but also the Creator of science, technology and all the people involved in researching these things. True faith is not blind. And as is obvious, only unbelief is truly blind.

Ten Tips for Beginners Christians

Wouldn’t you be surprised to see a man in his forties playing in the sandbox? You would definitely think that it is a sick man who needs immediate treatment. Probably, the same can be said about those of us, who go to church for many years, but remains as we were, without any changes, who haven’t grown up spiritually. Sometimes, a priest can be literally shocked by the confession that a man of fifty knows by heart only the prayers that he was taught as a child!

Here we offer our readers a few tips by an Orthodox priest for the beginners Christians. We hope that they will be not only interesting, but also really helpful for you, in order to make your spiritual life more conscientious and filled with qualitative content.

1) Try to think of God as often as possible, not only in prayer, but also in regular, everyday domestic affairs: at home, at work, on the way. Remember that even when you are not thinking about Him, the Lord is still close – He is omnipresent, sees everything and knows everything about you. Try not to deceive, at least, not Him.

2) Prayer should be a part of the routine for a Christian. You do not have to become monks to love prayer. There is no need to read all the time-consuming canons and akathists, until you begin to enjoy them. However, in order to start enjoying prayer, to feel the real joy of it, we must begin to pray today. You have to train yourself to constant prayer that would become a habit. Praying against your wish and despite laziness is a spiritual practice, as well. Prayer against one’s will isn’t the best method of communication with our Heavenly Father, of course. But by working on yourself, you have all the chances to begin loving Christ so much, that you won’t be able to go a few hours without praying. Over time, even the laziest people start to feel the need for prayer, and can no longer live without it.

3) Being a Christian is not only to pray, but also to learn and act. You have to realize that listening to 1 (one!) sermon a week is not enough to begin growing spiritually. In order to rise to the next spiritual level, we need to carefully examine God's Word, as well as the patristic heritage. Each week set a rule to read a small piece of the Bible, or some writings of the Church Fathers. Better yet, if you do it regularly, preferably – daily. Apart from the positive effect of spiritual grace on your mind, it will enable you to take conscientious part in the divine services and understand the meaning of the prayers that were written by other people.

Ten Tips for Beginners Christians

4) Visit to church should become not only a habit, but also an internal, vital necessity. Often people get used to going to church just as easily and mindlessly, as they willingly go to the movies or to the market, just for fun. In fact, they only change the location of their body, but remain internally unchanged, even after spending several hours in a row in church. One is supposed to behave with awe and fear of God and faith in church. It is unacceptable to talk, especially on the phone, to push, needlessly stroll through the church, contemplate icons and frescoes during prayer, make comments, etc. Also, it is worth mentioning that in the church there is an area designed just for clergy, laity cannot go there. Clearly, this is not because the priests are better than the laymen in any way, but because they are people especially devoted to God, for the accomplishment of certain religious rites. That part of the building - a place of worship - is called an altar. Women are forbidden to go there at all, and men - only with the blessing of the priest, and even then – but in case of extreme need.

5) Certainly, faith in God primarily is a profound personal feeling and a living relationship with Christ the Savior. However, faith without works is dead. (See James 2:20) One who always walks with God, cannot but show their faith to those surrounding them. It is good when we have enough knowledge about God and we can share it with others. But keep in mind that one particular good deed speaks better than a thousand words. If you have a job – do not steal. If you haven’t – find one. If you have a job where you cannot but steal – quit the job.

6) Do not love the world hypothetically. If one admits that he loves God and the world, but is not worried about his immediate family, then such a person is certainly lying. It is a lot harder to love your closest ones, than the distant ones. But you can only save your soul by the real actions, not by the imaginary.

7) When it's time to fast, try to be honest with yourself. If you can restrain – do not eat. If you cannot – ask God for help to overcome the weakness. Fasting is given to us so that we understand our weaknesses. Without God, we are bound to lose the battle even against a pork chop.

8) There are no great or small sins, same as it doesn’t matter, whether one takes a spoonful of the deadly poison, or three spoons. One way or another, the end is lethal. The Holy Fathers even say that people with great sins repent more often, than those with many small sins are being saved.

9) An icon is not an idol. For Orthodox Christians, worshiping icons does not mean worshiping the board and paint, but Who it represents. Through the image, we turn to its prototype. We also reveal our faith through the deferential attitude towards the sacred relics, icons, images of the Holy Cross and other things in the church. All that has been consecrated completely belongs to God.

10) Fortunately, the life of a Christian is creative, colorful and versatile. It cannot be restricted into certain boundaries by someone, nor can it be described in ten “universal” paragraphs. Therefore, God has generously sowed His servants in almost every village and town. Get acquainted with the local priest, who lives nearby, accept him as the first counselor and mentor in piety. He cannot and is not entitled to take absolute responsibility for all your actions, and make important decisions instead of you. However, very often only the confessor is able to give a sober assessment of your actions. This "personal" priest of yours can give specific and accurate advice to you during confession, and pray for you as for his own, spiritual children.

Dr.V.Rev.Evhen Zapletnyuk

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