Monday, December 21, 2009

The Faith of a Found Sheep

"Sheep" by Tabery

I watched a fascinating documentary Sunday night.  It was called "Breaking the Maya Code."  No, it wasn't about any of the current New Age Mayan Calendar furor, or any attempt to rekindle the ancient religion.  It was a program for people fascinated with languages (as I am), and for those who like to see a good mystery being solved.  How did those bizarre hieroglyphs finally get deciphered?

But it's impossible to look far into Mayan writings without seeing references to their demon gods.  And this engendered some deep conversations with my children.

The program gave an account of the terrible things the worshipers had to do to themselves in order to summon the demons.  "They'd have to be crazy to believe that stuff," one of my children said.

"No," I replied.  "They'd have to be crazy not to.  Real stuff was happening.  They were encountering truly supernatural beings.  Without the knowledge of the One True God who is higher than those demons, how could they not worship them?"

As I thought about it, I was once again struck by our natural human gullibility.  Even the most ardent skeptic is gullible…he falls for his own skeptical reasoning every time!

Am I a believer because I'm clever enough to be one?  Because I was lucky to be born in a nation with freedom of religion? 

Or am I a believer because the Good Shepherd sought me and found me?

I kid myself if I think I can take any of the credit for the fact that I believe in this God and not another one.  If I believe because of tradition, or a good argument, or a feeling in my gut, there are plenty of adherents to other religions who appeal to the same things.  And they go to a totally different god.

The fact is, if the Good Shepherd had not sought and found me, I would certainly have followed my gullible head, my gullible heart, or my gullible appetites deeper and deeper into false religion.  I know, because even my Christianity was false religion for most of my life.  The truth was right in front of me, and I could not see it until He opened my eyes.

I know what I know, and I know it because of the Holy Spirit inside of me.  But can I prove it to you?  No.  Plenty of adherents of other faiths also know what they know, and many have spirits inside of them which confirm their beliefs.  Evil spirits masquerading as light.

You could ask me, "How do you know you're not one of those deceived ones?  How do you know that the spirit within you is not one of the Evil Ones in disguise?"

I could not give an answer that would satisfy a skeptic.  No matter how many assertions I can give, or how I can break it all down, eventually we'd have to come to the point in which I simply say, "This is what I believe.  This is my faith.  It rests in Jesus Christ…who He is, what He has done, and what he is doing on my behalf."  And the skeptic would feel he had won a victory.

I know that faith in the True God through Jesus Christ is the victory (1 John 5:4).  But how can I be satisfied with a faith that I can't prove?  Should it worry me that I can't prove it?

Sincere people appeal to faith from every point on the religious spectrum.  Everyone knows what they know, and everyone has their reasons.  After a while it all just becomes a circular argument. 

In response, many throw their hands up and say, "No one can know.  There can't be only one right way.  All roads lead to Heaven."  And so they reveal that they do not have faith in Jesus Christ as He described Himself…the only way to God (John 14:6).

Gullible, gullible sheep, wandering around and bleating. 

I'm no better.  I was just blessed to be found by the right Shepherd.

So tell me something.  When we get talking about faith, and how circular it can be, and how unprovable it can seem, does it make you nervous?  Do you wonder if you have true faith, and not just a tradition handed down from your ancestors?  Do you wish you could find some kind of meter that would tell you if you believe hard enough…if your faith is sufficient to make up for your inability to prove it all?

Let me tell you what has brought me peace in that regard.  When skeptics challenged me back before I was truly saved (when I was self-deceived), my defense used to be, "I know what I know," said with a proud set to my jaw and an angry knot in my gut because someone was challenging me.  There was no way I was wrong!  Or perhaps there was a sick queasiness in my gut because their challenge had hit a weak spot.

Now there's much more confidence in my soul because of the Spirit inside of me, but even so, there are still times when I wonder about my faith.  And at those times, I have an answer I never would have dreamed of before I was saved.

"Whether I can prove Him to you or not, I am sticking with the God of the Bible as revealed through Jesus Christ, who paid for my sins on the cross and was raised for me.  Why?  Because if you could offer me any other god, I would not want it.  Jesus is enough for me; I want no other."

It doesn't prove my faith is the right one, but it forever answers the question of whether I genuinely have faith in Christ or not.  Skeptics may ask us to prove that our faith is the right one, but that's not what Jesus asks.  He asks:

“Do you want to go away?”

(John 6:67)

Faith's response is this:

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

(John 6:68-69)

Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

(Ps 73:25)

And so, the question is settled for me.  I may not be able to prove anything to the skeptics, but that doesn't bother me any more.  I don't need proof.  It's too late for arguments, too late for persuasion.  I love.  I love Him.  And though my love is far from perfect, it is certain of its object.  Jesus is God in the flesh, The Way, The Truth, The Life, and the only way to the Father.  That is who I love. 

And however it is properly defined, faith cannot be less than this:

A certainty born of love.

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