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Showing posts with label Belief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Belief. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Doubt is Essential to Faith

The following blog is from a very special guest blogger, my 16-year-old daughter, Abigail Mullis.  Abigail shared this very honest and thought provoking message on Youth Sunday, and I share it with you today.  Do you ever doubt?  Read what Abigail has to say about faith and doubt.  Click Here to Watch Abigail's Message on YouTube

  This is your fair warning. First of all, this is a very scattered message if you can even call it that. I like to think of this more as a look into the teenage mind, or at least this teenage mind, that's what I’m calling it. Secondly, today I am going to be completely honest with you. I’m the kind of person who loves to sugar coat things, but recently I’ve felt like what I need is to be the complete opposite. So that's the warning. I’m not gonna go crazy, it's still me, but sometimes it is the most helpful to look at things from an … overwhelmingly… honest point of view. So here we go, and please bear with me.

Today, I want to focus on doubt. It's something I’ve experienced a lot. I have thousands of questions and very, very few answers. I want to read you something word for word that I wrote a while ago: “people often call this phase of life “typical teenage questioning” it’s just a phase. I hope so. Or they try to explain it away, but once it gets difficult it always falls on the flimsy shoulders of “Ask God when you get there. I guess we’ll never know. God works in mysterious ways.” I hate these phrases.” I still agree with that statement that I made over a year ago. At some points I’ve just decided that God isn’t real. Other times I’ve decided to put it away and stop wondering at all. Maybe it would be easier if I tried not to think about it. Doubt is a big struggle in my faith. So first of all, why do we have doubt at all? Here comes my first piece of brutal honesty. 

The Bible is literally insane. It starts out with an all powerful, all knowing God who has just … always been there? He created everything out of nothing. Weird. It ends with a magical man god who dies a brutal death and then rises from the dead, as not just a ghost, but a holy ghost. Then he goes up to heaven to sit at the right hand of his father, who is also him, but at the same time he is down here with us but in like air form. If you believe in this ghost guy then when you die you live in paradise, and if you don’t believe in him, when you die, you live in a fiery pit. Please don’t accuse me of blasphemy. I promise this all has a point. Do you realize how ridiculous that story sounded? But you know what else sounds ridiculous? Every other story of creation ever. Even the Big Bang is straight up bonkers. There was just space (which first of all how did space even get there in the first place?) and then boom there was literally the entire universe. It's all crazy. We are just a bunch of crazy humans trying to navigate a crazy existence. My favorite thing to say is “everything you can believe is crazy. It just depends what kind of crazy you believe in.” Even [Paul] admitted that. 2nd Corinthians 5:13 says “If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us.” I guess that kind of sums it up, huh. 

We all experience doubt. God asks us to believe in a crazy story. Of course we will be skeptical. I’ve been reading Jerimiah lately. So far, I’ve seen that Jeremiah was going through a bit of a difficult time. That’s nowhere near an exaggeration. Jeremiah 20:18 says “Why was I ever born? My entire life has been filled with trouble, sorrow, and shame.” That's definitely pretty hefty. In my notes beside that verse I wrote “Even Jeremiah had doubts. He questioned his purpose and miserable life.  He would have been better dead, but God used him. Even a prophet questioned.” That’s a pretty comforting thought to me. Maybe it's terrible, but my favorite quotes from the Bible always seem to be the depressing ones. I think it's because those are the quotes that show us humanity the most. For example, Ecclesiastes 1:8 (another depressing one) “Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.” I think this sums up doubt pretty beautifully. Everyone has experienced it. We will all continue to experience it. Why? Because we are humans. Because we will never be satisfied with not knowing.

 So, why did God give humans skeptical minds? Isn’t that why so many people turn away from him? Why would God do it? I’m not sure, and we will never know for sure. After all, even if we did, we wouldn’t be satisfied with the answer. But here’s a little hypothesis of my own. If you were forced to love someone, would you really love them? If you had never known any different, and you never questioned your love for that person or even thought about questioning your love, would you really love them? If there was no other option, if it was just a fact of life, would it really be love? Why did God put the apple in the garden? Why would he give the potential for something so awful to happen? Why didn’t he just not give humans the option to sin? I don’t know, but I’ve always thought that the apple was there because if it wasn’t, and if there was no other option, then Adam and Eve wouldn’t have really loved God. Love is a choice.

Romans 4:13-15 says “Clearly, God’s promise to the whole Earth and Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God's promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)” What’s important in Adam and Eve’s story was not the law they were breaking. It was their decision to not love and obey God. It was the idea that they could have faith and trust what God said about the apple, or they could disobey him and eat the apple. They could love God, or they could simply not. And if there is no law to break then what would show their faith? Adam and Eve had free will through the apple. 

Free will is tricky and that is what has always played on my doubt. It's so confusing to me because how can God be all knowing and still give me the option to choose him? Doesn’t he already know what I will do? When he creates someone does he not see their whole life? Does he not see that he is creating this person, and in the end they will go to hell because he knows exactly what will happen? How is that free will? I don’t know. God himself is incredibly confusing to me. Jeremiah 23:23-24 says “Am I a God who is only close at hand? Says the Lord. No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and the earth? Says the Lord.”  He is everything and nothing. Past and present and future. Kind and understanding, but still vengeful and angry. I mean after all, the whole book of Jeremiah is about God putting the Jewish people through horrendous things because they broke his laws. Then later, Jesus comes in, and as I cited earlier from Romans, he says that the laws aren’t really what matter. It’s all very confusing to me. I hope I’m not making you dizzy. 

A couple months ago, Amy asked us who Jesus was to us. This question comes from Luke 9:20 when Jesus asks his disciples “ ‘But who do you say I am?’.” This was a great question. It’s so great that I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I started to wonder, if someone asked me why I believe in God, despite all the crazy stories in that Bible, what would I say? Would it be, I just always have? Would it be, that’s what is expected of me? Would it be, I’ve never thought of another option, or I never stopped and questioned it? Doubt is the apple in our garden. You can’t love God without having a reason. You can’t find a reason, without searching for an answer. You can't search for an answer if you don't have a doubt. Believing isn’t seeing, but believing certainly isn’t blind. It is calculated. It is a risk, and I wouldn’t take a risk if I didn’t have a reason. Why do I believe in God if I doubt him so much? I have seen his love. I have seen it in places you wouldn’t stop to think about. It is a different kind of love. God didn’t come down and give me a hug, but every friend I’ve ever had was there for a reason. Every bit of love I’ve felt was there for a reason. My existence is unexplainable and it has been filled with an unexplainable love. That’s what I choose to believe in. It's crazy, but so is everything else.

Here is the last piece of scripture I will leave with you, not to make you feel all better, but to keep you thinking about this important aspect of faith. Luke 22:66-70 says “At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, and they said ‘Tell us, are you the messiah?’ But he replied, ‘If I tell you, you won’t believe me. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on the Son Of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.’ They all shouted, ‘So you are claiming to be the Son Of God?’ And he replied, ‘You say that I am.’ ”  

I don’t know a lot of things, but I hate to let questions fall on flimsy shoulders, so I will try to put all of these doubts on something a little more solid. Maybe it’s not the best answer, and I know it certainly won’t satisfy me, but it's what I have to offer. Doubt doesn’t make us bad people. I think it makes us better. It makes us question who God is to us and why we want a relationship with him at all. Doubt makes us question our faith, but in the end, it will be the thing that strengthens it. Don’t blindly believe, always question. Search for answers and when you don’t find them, question why they aren’t there. Why do you believe in God? Why have you doubted him? What makes you CHOOSE to love him? 

So, thank you for bearing with me, and I hope you got as much out of this as I got writing it!

Click Here to Watch Abigail's Message on YouTube

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ask Pastor Chris - Do You Have to Believe Jesus is God's Son?

Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but not believe Jesus is the Son of God?

In this series, I try to answer your questions. So post a question in the comments section so I can try to answer it in a future blog. 

According to orthodox Christian teaching, Jesus is the Son of God. The word orthodox just means the right view. So, according to the right Christian view,

Jesus is the Son of God. This is what the Bible teaches and what all true 

Christian Churches have followed for 2,000 years. But what happens if a person believes that God exists but they don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God? Can they still go to heaven?

I’m going to make a disclaimer here, right up front:

Thankfully, I’m not the one who decides who does and does not go to heaven.

That is God’s decision and He is far wiser than me. He knows every person’s situation and what’s truly in their heart. I do not. So, I want you to know, I’m only approaching this question from a hypothetical point of view because it is an important lesson in the nature of true saving faith.

First of all, let’s understand what it takes to “go to Heaven” (which means to have eternal life). John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You have to “believe in Jesus” in order to go to heaven.  But what does it mean to “believe in Jesus”?

We find the answer in the example of a man in the Old Testament named Abram (who’s name was later changed to Abraham). You can read about Abram/Abraham in Genesis chapters 11-25. Abraham is also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament because he is the poster child for what the Bible means whenever it says, “Believe in” or “have faith in God.”

For example, Romans 4:3 says, “For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

So let’s look at how Abraham “believed God”.

Genesis 12:1-3 says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”

Now even though Abraham was already 75 years old and his wife was really old too, Abram believed in God’s promise and did what God asked him to do. And this is the definition of saving faith or belief. It is believing God’s promise and doing His will.

So now, let’s look back at the famous John 3:16.“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” So we see that word again–believe. Those who believe in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life.

Based on the definition of faith we know from Abraham’s example, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? It means we trust what he says enough to follow Him. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. 

No one can come to the Father [that’s in heaven] except through me.”

So, I hope you’re seeing that the kind of belief or faith that saves a person for eternal life is not merely an intellectual thing where you express your approval or agreement with an idea about God or Jesus. The kind of faith that saves you must be the kind of faith that moves you to action.

It’s kind of like a person who is trapped on the 7th floor of a burning building and the firefighters are on the ground outside shouting, “You have to jump!  We have a safety net that will catch you! Jump!” Well, you can believe what they say is true, you can believe the safety net exists, you can even believe it will save you, but unless you jump, you’re going to be burned to death.

Jesus’ brother, James, put it this way in James 2:17 - “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” James then goes on to use Abraham from the Old Testament as an illustration to prove his point. James 2:22 - “[Abraham’s] faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.”

So back to the original question: Can someone go to heaven if they believe God exists but don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you see the problem with the way this question is stated? It assumes that people go to heaven merely because they agree with a certain set of ideas about God. In other words, if they agree that God exists and that Jesus is His son, then they will go to heaven. But we’ve just seen from Abraham’s example that faith is not just agreeing something is true.  It’s about acting upon your belief.

So then, we should understand a person can believe God exists and that Jesus is His Son and still not go to heaven if their faith does not compel them to action because they trust Jesus. James said as much in James 2:19, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”

What happens to a person who believes God exists but doesn’t believe Jesus is His Son? Well, I need to know more about the situation.  Is this person’s faith only an intellectual agreement or is their belief in God something that truly moves them to act differently because they believe in God? And how does their belief in the existence of God compel them to act?

There have been many in history who believed in gods and their beliefs compelled them to take horrific actions. The ancient Egyptians believed in gods who justified drowning Hebrew babies in the Nile River. I don’t think that is saving faith that will get you to heaven.

The thing about Jesus is His words and His actions show the clearest representation of God we have ever seen. Jesus revealed who God really is.

I suppose a person could, hypothetically, believe in Jesus’ Father, God, 

and trust God enough to obey Him without ever agreeing “intellectually” 

that Jesus is the Son of God.

That was sort of the case for Abraham in the Old Testament. The Good News about God’s Son had not yet been revealed on earth in Abraham’s day.  Therefore, Abraham did not yet know about Jesus or that Jesus was the Son of God. Abraham’s faith (which the New Testament says made him righteous) was purely in God (the Father) and based on what He did know at the time. Abraham knew and trusted God and and Abraham's faith compelled him to obey. Part of the reason  Abraham’s faith was so amazing is that he acted upon it without having all the details.

Now that we have the Good News about Jesus in the New Testament, we have a much better understanding of God and His plan than Abraham ever did. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, tell us that God said Jesus was His beloved Son (see Matthew 3:17, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35). In the Gospel of John , Jesus calls God His Father, and God affirms it (see John 12:28).

People may struggle to accept that Jesus is God’s Son. Perhaps they struggle to understand how God could have a Son or the whole complex trinitarian,

three-in-one nature of God. Regardless, you don’t have to understand something to have faith in it.  (I’m using a computer right now and I don’t really understand how it works, but I trust it to get the job done and even trust my computer enough to keep some of my most important files safe and secure.)

It could be that a person doesn’t yet have enough information to know that Jesus is God’s Son. Maybe they haven’t yet worked it all out or understood how that works or even that God actually called Jesus His son. Maybe they are still like Abraham in the Old Testament, walking by faith with the limited understanding they have right now.  Hopefully, one day, they will come to know the whole story of how John 3:16 tells us, “God so loved the world 

that he gave his one and only Sonthat whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

God is gracious and patient.  God also wants to be known by His people. That’s why God’s Son said in Matthew 7:7 - “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” So someone who truly believes in God doesn’t have to go on long without discovering Jesus is God’s Son. The resources are there and God wants His people to know about Him and His Son. But if they refuse to accept it because they can’t understand it, then isn’t that the definition of disbelief? Isn’t that the exact opposite of walking by faith?

And if someone refuses to accept that Jesus is God's Son because they don’t like it or they don’t want to accept it, then isn’t that open rejection of God?God doesn’t justify those who reject Him.

Thankfully, God is willing to save those who come to their senses, repent of their sin, and put their faith in the God who sent His Son to save us. 1 John 4:10, “This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”

My invitation to everyone is this: Turn away from your own selfish ambitions and turn to God. God sent Jesus to save you. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Well, that’s my thoughts.  What are yours? Leave a comment and let me know. If you have a question, post that in a comment too and I’ll try to answer it in a future article.

Remember, God loves you and so do I!

Pastor Chris Mullis