Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Unpacking Faith

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of faith. Sometimes, nagging doubts will creep into my head and I ask myself, "How do I know God exists? How do I know that Jesus reigns?" Sometimes, my own weak faith isn't even as obvious as the doubts... sometimes, it's a simple matter of falling asleep as I read from my Bible at night.

Critics and skeptics complain about Christians' reliance on the Bible as a trustworthy text: "You say you know Jesus lives because the Bible tells you so? Well how do you know the Bible is true?! Isn't that circular logic??"

For some reason, it's easy to get stuck here. "Well, umm... we know it's true because... umm..."

Let's not forget what Scripture was to the original recipients... the Gospel was GOOD NEWS--not about some distant events long past, but events that had happened recently. Jesus' life, death and resurrection... these events were contemporary to the first who heard the Gospel. What's more, there were witnesses--hundreds of people who saw the risen LORD and subsequently made it their life's work to tell people that Jesus was alive.

These witnesses brought us several Gospels, preached the first sermons, wrote the first epistles and their words carried weight because they had seen the risen Christ. Look at the way in which Christianity grew during its earliest years... the church grew exponentially even during this time of severe oppression--would this have been the case if there were no witnesses, just wishful thinkers? NO! We must never forget that people had a good reason to trust, to give their lives when they heard the Gospel proclaimed and when they read the epistles: the writers either were eye-witnesses or they had known eye-witnesses! What's more, these were not lunatics, not compulsive liars or delusional dreamers... these were average people whose lives had been radically changed by having known Christ personally. When they called for their readers and listeners to have faith, it was not a weak, wishy-washy call to buy into something they could hardly accept themselves. It was a call to partake in the amazing grace that had changed the very fabric of their lives. They knew full well both the cost and joy of real, physical discipleship of Christ and in turn invited others to follow. And others did follow--they saw that joy, observed the transforming power of grace in the lives of their pastors and teachers and though they had not seen Christ themselves, they saw His power.

So what's wrong with me? What's wrong with those of us today who read the New Testament and shrug, or say "It's a nice thought..." We're reading/hearing the same message as people who lived back then, and yet... we have the disadvantage of historical distance. We too easily forget that we are reading the words of real people, that the call to faith is not coming from fiction writers, dreamers or thin air--the call to faith is coming from people who knew Christ, who saw him risen after he had been crucified. And what were these friends and witnesses telling others? Jesus is ALIVE. He is the Son of God, He died for our sins, and to follow Him is to live. This we know. Come, follow.

It's no small invitation... it's an invitation that calls us to die to ourselves; to abandon our selfish impulses and our greedy tendencies, our leering, lustful temptations; to let go of hatred; to love and serve. Many early Christians had never seen Christ themselves; they instead saw and heard about him from those who had seen Christ. They chose to believe and they too dedicated their lives to following Christ.

It's powerful and humbling to think that the words that I read in the New Testament of my NIV convinced countless people so firmly of Christ's Lordship that they ultimately gave their lives for Him. For some, taking up the cross was a literal act and in fact the last act of their earthly lives. So why do I fall asleep while doing devotions? Why does my mind wander as I read of Christ's glory? My challenge to myself is to refocus my faith--to first see the message as the earliest Christians saw it, to hear it as they heard it. Before I even think once about how to apply what I've read to my own life, words and decisions, I need to receive it with the heart of one talking to a witness, and trust so much that I surrender myself completely. That, in my humble opinion, is faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment