Christianity, faith, Jefferson Bethke, Jesus, Point of Grace, religion, Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus
It feels a bit odd writing about my stance on faith. For nearly all of my life, my stance would have been either of total disbelief or else of cautious skepticism. I spent years avoiding the subject, approaching it only when it was for a class assignment. I loathed the two weeks spent in Philosophy on the subject of religion. I know my participation level would be far different if I took that class today.
I have regularly attended church for less than a year, and in that amount of time I have seen a transformation in both thoughts and actions because of this newfound faith. I have found some points in Scripture that have aligned with what I previously believed. I have found many others that have challenged or even contradicted what I once perceived as either truth or righteous.
For me the turning point in my belief came a few months after I had regularly attended Point of Grace. I was enrolled in an eight-week class they offered called Pursuit, which is learning to see God how He is so we can see ourselves the way He sees us, and also to see others how He sees them. After spending the first four weeks learning about different aspects of God, including his attributes and about the Holy Spirit, we moved into learning about the way He sees us. And the portion that really spoke to me was learning to choose to live through the Spirit instead of through the flesh.
What it comes down to is making the choice to trust in yourself or to trust in God to lead your life. When you call the shots, you are usually stuck either in an “I can do it!” or a “What’s the use?” mentality. They cycle between each other, with the outside sources around you reaffirming both of these mindsets. But when you trust in God, you learn that you have great worth apart from your performance because Christ gave his life for you. Through Christ you are deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally forgiven, accepted and complete. You don’t need to be perfect in all that you do, because you are already perfect through Christ. Romans 12:1-2 really puts this well when it says “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
I believe that some people have a misconception about Christianity because they have had the wrong experiences or they look in the wrong places. Some people think that it is about performing rituals in order to be saved, or sacrificing everything good in life in order to be “good enough” to be saved. There is a huge difference between religion and Christ, as is pointed out by Jefferson Bethke in his poem, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus“. His words echo my personal belief. In a discussion about that poem Bethke says, “Religion is man-centered, Jesus is God-centered. This poem highlights my journey to discover the truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel ‘not good enough’ for God. With Jesus though you have humble confidant joy because He represents you, you don’t represent yourself and His sacrifice is perfect putting us in perfect standing with God!”
The idea of faith itself is sometimes a concept that people struggle to grasp. I know I struggled with it a lot, even when I started being more active at church. It requires the ability to believe something is true when there is no direct way of determining the truth or untruth of it. Hebrews 1:1 says that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This was the biggest hurdle for me to personally overcome because I always felt like I had a rational, logical way of thinking about things. 1 Corinthians 2:5 states, “so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”
Within a year I have established a foundation for my faith, and the beliefs that stem from that faith. I want to study the Scripture more, in order to strengthen my faith and find the various ways in which God is speaking to us through His Word. I want to continue to grow in my own faith and hope, that on that journey, I influence others to join me along the way. I want to help others become followers of Christ, making disciples as Christ commanded. I want to be a spiritual leader in my home, my church, and my community.
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