A Voracious Young Woman's Journey From Agnosticism to Faith
Reasons to Believe
Assuming Jesus did in fact claim to be God, we have three options before us: Liar, Lunatic or Lord?
Liar? It’s possible that Jesus was a liar and He knew that He was not God but this is unlikely. Someone who claimed the things He did about Himself in order to deceive people could not be considered a good, moral man. If He was a liar and taught His followers not to lie then that would make Him a hypocrite. Yet, so many people today, even non-Christians still see Jesus as a good, moral man and a wise teacher. For example, we all generally agree with and quote the phrase, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Whether or not we know it, this is straight from scripture and was something Jesus Himself said. If He lied to us about His own identity how can we take anything He said to be true and good? Jesus said so much that was true and good that if we were to discount everything He ever said our society would lose many of the basic values that hold it together to this day. It is unlikely that someone who lied about their own identity could be so morally accurate about so many basic, foundational values – a liar would neither want to be morally accurate nor would he have much capacity to.
Lunatic? It’s possible that Jesus was a lunatic and He didn’t know that He wasn’t God but this is also unlikely. Again, His teachings and composure really don’t indicate any mental instability. So many of Jesus’ teachings were so sane, logical and practical that no lunatic could have crafted anything close to it. You could argue that the writers of the Bible painted Jesus in a more favorable light than how He was in reality but if Jesus really was crazy, then there are many other sources we could go to from secular writers of the day to see their observations of Jesus and look for signs that would indicate He was insane. No such writings exist that we know of. Some very sane people do sometimes believe strange things but no sane person would likely believe something quite as strange as him/herself being God.
Lord? It’s certainly possible. Other than through the process of elimination, there are many signs that Jesus has given us of His true identity such as rising from the dead – which is another impossibility that begins to seem probable when you look at other possible explanations that do not seem as likely.
What does this mean for me? Gaining faith in Jesus’ identity sets the stage for belief in some of the Bible’s more controversial teachings. Since these teachings have very serious implications and it seems probable that Jesus is in fact God, it’s worth being open-minded about the Bible’s supposedly “ridiculous” teachings.
Is the Bible reliable? If God wanted us to know Him so badly that He came to Earth as a man, is it reasonable to assume that He would use prophets to write about Him and that He would ensure these writings were accurate and compiled into one book? Also, Jesus confirmed that the Old Testament was God-inspired and infallible. If we believe Jesus is Lord, it is logical to believe in that which He has verified. We can also have faith in the New Testament because it holds up to historians’ rigorous standards of historical reliability and juror’s standards for circumstantial evidence and eyewitness evidence.
What does the Bible say? The Bible talks about the reality of Hell and quotes Jesus as speaking about how humans are headed here because their independent, rebellious spirits separate them from their Creator and Sustainer. Although this is difficult to comprehend, is it possible that, from God’s perspective, this makes sense? We may not understand it but if the Bible is reliable, would it likely be accurate about this?
Is there more to the story? Yes! The Bible also talks about how Jesus took the penalty for our rebellion and died on a cross, rising again to mend the relationship between us and God. He says that all those who trust in the power of His death and resurrection will have their sins forgiven and be in a right relationship with God. Jesus says He is the only path to God. Are you willing to believe this based on the reliability of the source stating this?
Does God really love me? He died for You, and while we still live in a fallen world, Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished more than we could ask or imagine. We may not see the full effects now but we will someday and in the meantime, God is drawing more and more people to Himself because each one of us is valuable and very worth saving. This is Earth; this is not His Kingdom. His Kingdom is coming and when it does, there will be no doubt in our minds that He really does love us.
Why doesn’t God just end the suffering while we are here on Earth? There are many things that don’t seem to make sense but if Jesus – the foundation of your belief – is real and true and good, are you willing to trust Him and believe that there is a logical explanation for some of this confusion? While He hasn’t explained everything, God has revealed so much of who He is to mankind and that evidence is intended to be strong enough to inspire faith yet not so strong that the beauty of faith is destroyed by coerciveness.
Why is God so hidden? God has revealed Himself to mankind through Jesus, through the Bible, through miracles and through
the testimony of others. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit speaks to each one of us to point us to God – though we do not fully recognize this as the Holy Spirit until we believe. The complexity and beauty of the universe and life on Earth speaks of God, and the mystery of life’s purpose compels us to search for an explanation for why we are here. It compels us to search for something that will fill the emptiness inside us that insatiably searches after true and lasting love. Even the most physically and emotionally wealthy among us have admitted that nothing truly satisfies this mysterious desire within them.
Why is this so hard? God knows, because of our fallen nature, that we are unable to love Him in our own strength. Faith is a gift and it’s not something we can reach through intellect alone. If, after accepting God, you try to follow Him in your own strength you will become very frustrated. Do not fret. This is normal. We were not meant to do everything on our own. Our wavering devotion to God serves as a reminder that we do need a savior. Are you willing to continually surrender your life and plans to God even though there will be days when you do not “feel” like you believe?
I cannot prove that I am different than I was before I decided to believe and I cannot prove that any changes that have taken place in my life have been due to anything more than the natural process of maturing or gradual exposure and thus increased comfort with new beliefs. What I can do is tell you that after taking the initial leap of faith, God hasn’t disappointed and though I struggle daily to maintain faith, the doubts have surprisingly not overtaken me. Call it stubbornness; call it fear of admitting I made the wrong decision, but no amount of pride is worth holding onto a belief that is likely to be false. If I come to the conclusion, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Jesus is not Lord then I will humbly admit that I was wrong. It would hurt my pride but truth is more important to me than “being right” all the time. Therefore, you can be assured that the reason I have not relented is not because of pride but because of a mysteriously strong faith that consumes me just when I think I am going to be forever crippled by doubt. My faith cycles up and down but God never disappoints and He arrives just in time.
This is how I came to believe . . . Not knowing much about the Bible and having never been to church before college, I was a bit reluctant when someone on campus invited me to church. As a freshman in college, I said yes to everything as long as I didn’t consider it stupid or reckless so naturally I said yes to church. For three years I went to church and studied the Bible, all without believing most of what it had to say. It wasn’t a waste of time though, because during that time, I had the opportunity to learn about the Bible and hear people’s testimonies of how God had miraculously worked in their lives. I also spent a lot of time immersed in apologetics, searching for evidence that would help me decide if I was “in or out.” If I didn’t find enough evidence that would lead me to conclude it was true, I was prepared to walk away.
When I decided to take the leap of faith, I had to come against a lot of excuses. My main excuse was that I didn’t have the ability to believe. I thought that certain aspects of my personality, like my inquisitive mind, made it extremely difficult if not impossible for me to believe. I was right that it made it difficult, but of course it didn’t make it impossible. Fortunately, I had encountered a love that knew no limits. God loves everyone and even a mustard seed of faith is enough to declare to God that I want to be in His presence for eternity and am willing to accept His help to get there. God loves you but He will not coerce you to love Him. What/Who you desire and how willing you are to accept help getting there is a personal choice that is directly tied to what happens to your soul in eternity.
Just over two years ago, during a Communion service, I decided to deny my doubts, believe the Gospel and turn from my sin. Looking back on that experience I really can’t say I knew very much about what I was saying yes to but I can definitely say I was aware of what I was saying no to – all the doubts and fears and pride that made me shrink away from change and from commitment. To an extent I knew what (or rather who) I was saying yes to but compared to the way I know Jesus now, my initial decision to believe seems almost mechanical – the evidence was clear but my heart was still rather numb to it all.
I wish I could say that quickly changed but it was a slow process and I think my heart didn’t really wake up until I graduated from college and started going to a young adults group at Cherry Hills Community Church, called The Cairn. During college, I attended a Charismatic church that not only believed in water baptism but also Baptism in the Holy Spirit. They saw Baptism in the Holy Spirit as just as important as Baptism in Water so I eventually decided to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit as well. I was open to the possibilities of what God could do but I struggled to speak in tongues. It seemed that God hadn’t given me the gift of speaking in tongues, and despite what my original church claimed, I have come to believe that perhaps this is OK. During the time I attended this church, I was so focused on all the things I “wasn’t able” to do that I think it held me back from focusing on the simple Gospel message.
Before I started going to the young adults group, I had been keeping a secret from all the Christians I knew: I was afraid that I did not have enough faith to consider myself a Christian. While I stubbornly refused to give up and I consistently prayed for more faith, the fear of “failing at faith” continued to seep into my thoughts. This was more of an intermittent fear rather than an all-consuming fear but it still had a significant effect on my walk with Jesus. Instead of feeling thankful and blessed by God’s love, I was bothered by this nagging fear that my heart wasn’t right when I decided to believe and that I didn’t have the right motives. Even though I continually placed my faith in Jesus again and again, I still thought that each of those decisions was still not enough because my walk as a Christians didn’t “feel” quite like I expected. Honestly, I think some of my expectations of what it was supposed to feel like to be a Christian were a little ridiculous since knowing God isn’t just about fleeting emotional experiences.
In my quest for an “authentic emotional experience,” I remained stuck in the fear about my salvation for quite some time. I continued to keep my secret because I was worried that if people saw how much doubt was in my mind, they would say I wasn’t a real Christian. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and I didn’t act fake or anything but there were definitely some intense doubts in my mind that were left unspoken.
That said, when I first came to The Cairn, I was hungry to learn more about Jesus but I didn’t really know Him as well as I could. I think one of the main things I learned at The Cairn that began to change my relationship with Jesus was that the Gospel is completely based on grace. I knew this before but I didn’t really live like it. I set impossible standards for myself and gained my confidence and self-worth from how much “good fruit” I seemed to be producing at the time.
Focusing on God’s grace allowed me to open up to other Christians (and to God) about some of my deepest doubts. It was a freeing experience to learn that as crazy as my doubts were, God understood them and was willing to gently help me work through them.
My faith and understanding continued to increase but I was still experiencing a lot of doubt and confusion. However, about two months ago, one of the prayers I had been praying since the moment I was saved was answered – I finally received the strong faith I had been looking for. In the past, God had definitely given me moments of intense faith here and there but it was never something that lasted more than a day or two. I am happy to say that the faith I received two months ago has lasted and is still going strong. I’m not going to try to understand why it took so long or what exactly I “did” to get more faith, but I can tell you that not giving up is worth it and God does answer prayers, though in His own timing.
This recent increase in faith has not only given me the thankfulness, emotion and passion I have long desired but it has also given me a renewed understanding of what before I couldn’t wrap my brain around. Our fallen nature coupled with the beautiful image of God within us seemed contradictory and I had the hardest time understanding how such precious and beautiful (though obviously wicked) people could be deserving of death. I accepted it, however, and accepted that Jesus was the solution but my mind and heart didn’t completely understand it.
I am glad that my mind and heart have finally caught up to my stubborn (sometimes emotionless) commitment to follow Jesus.
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.’ Luke 10:25-29