Monday, May 4, 2009

I used to believe in Jesus

You’ve heard it often. We all have. Former christians turned atheist bloggers telling anyone willing to listen how deeply they loved Jesus; head over heals in love with Jesus. They served Him. They obeyed Him. They told others that they too should believe in Jesus. And now? Well, now they don’t believe in Jesus. Jesus has turned out to not be real after all. Some of them now claim that Jesus was just a man. Some of them now claim that Jesus didn’t exist at all.

My own thought is that these people never really believed in Jesus; not in the sense of having a healing and forgiven relationship with Him. At best they believed in a BELIEF ABOUT Jesus. They had a creed in which they placed their faith, and nonsense was the result. When Jesus is only a creed or a statement or religious belief, then He is not real. However, if Jesus is one with whom a person gets into personal contact in other ways than by one’s intellect (and atheists do everything by intellect), then any person who touches the realities of life, touches God Himself.

Sadly, the person who rests in a creed will most likely be someone who is terrified of a known and knowable relationship with Jesus. The whole point of vital Christianity is not the refusal to face things, but a matter of personal relationship. You can know when someone has been resting not on a relationship but on a Creed with they say things like,

“If God exists, then why did my dad die?”

“Why are there earthquakes if God cares about us?”

“Why do children get raped?”

Creeds do not allow God to be God. Creeds create God in our own image. When one’s Creed does not describe God as He meets the reality we see all about us, then the “belief” in one’s belief about God will eventually be cast aside.

When I read posts by people who make comments like, “I used to believe in Jesus,” I inevitably find that what they mean is, they went along with everything they were taught, or they diligently went through the motions of the religion in which they were raised. They acted as though they believed in Jesus. Yet for virtually every single person, the so called “belief” in Jesus that they had ended when Jesus or God didn’t come through for them in a time of need. Or they came upon a portion of Scripture that required a change in life-style, and then? Well, then “I can’t believe in Jesus anymore.” People will change who they are for someone they love, but they won’t make that kind of commitment for a simple belief. These people had a theory of Jesus, but there was no relationship. If there had been a relationship with Jesus, then when Jesus disappointed the person, their belief would have remained intact, but the relationship would have been adjusted to cohere with the facts. The words, “I believe in Jesus” have a totally different meaning for those resting upon a creed than what they mean for those in a relationship with Jesus.

I believe in the reality of Jesus in the same way that I believe in the reality of my wife. Jesus is as real to me as are my kids. No, I can’t see Jesus. No, I don’t touch Him. But His presence, His working, His correction, His influence on my life, and His comfort and counsel and direction, well, there’s simply no denying His reality. I can identify totally with the apostle Peter. When Jesus asked him and the other disciples if they were going to leave Him, Peter answered, “Lord, where would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.”

So to have my wife disappoint me in some way, or to have her ask that I change how I talk or change what I do, and to then say that for me she no longer exists is as strange to me as to hear someone say, “I believed in Jesus right up until I didn’t.

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