Not knowing much about the Bible and having never been to church, I was a bit reluctant when someone on my college 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 attended church and studied the Bible, all without believing most of it. It wasn’t a waste of time, though, because 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. Even a mustard seed of faith is enough to declare to God that I want to know Him and am willing to accept His help to make that happen.
One day, during a Communion service, I decided to believe the Gospel message. Looking back on that experience I really can’t say I knew 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 attending a young adults group at Cherry Hills Community Church, called The Cairn. During college, I had attended a Charismatic church, and I was so focused on all the “don’ts” that it prevented me from focusing on the simple Gospel message.
I was in rough shape when I arrived at the doorstep of The Cairn. Not only was I focused and rules and regulations, but I was afraid I didn’t have enough faith to consider myself a Christian. While I stubbornly refused to give up and consistently prayed for more faith, the fear of failure 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 faith. Instead of feeling thankful for God’s love, I was bothered by this nagging fear that my heart wasn’t right when I decided to believe and I didn’t have the right motives. Even though I continually placed my faith in Jesus again and again, I didn’t think it was enough because my faith didn’t “feel” quite like I expected it should. Honestly, I think some of my expectations of what it was supposed to feel like were a little ridiculous since knowing God isn’t 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 I had, they would say I wasn’t a real Christian. I wasn’t afraid to ask questions and I didn’t put on a show, 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 changed my relationship with Jesus was that the Gospel is completely based on grace. I guess I knew this before, but I didn’t really live like it. I set impossible standards for myself and gained my self-worth from how much “good fruit” I seemed to be producing.
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 wasn’t impatient or upset with me.
Since that time, 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.” You can be assured that the reason I have not relented isn’t because of pride but because of a mysteriously strong faith that finds me just when I think I am going to be completely overcome by doubt.
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 an intentional 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. If He lied to us about His own identity, how can we take anything He said to be true? Jesus said so much that was true that if we were to discount everything He said, our society would lose many of the basic values that hold it together. It is unlikely that someone who lied about his own identity could be so right about 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 really don’t indicate any mental instability. 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. 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 about Jesus’ teachings, wouldn’t it 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 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 coercion.
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. If you try to love Him in your own strength you will become very frustrated. 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 believe in Jesus even though there will be days when you do not “feel” like you believe?