Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Stop Trying to Believe in Your Belief!


Ever since I was young, up until I was 18 years old I tried to believe in my belief. Though I had been told in sermons to put my faith in Christ, I wondered if I really had.

Question upon question would pop into my mind: “I know I’m supposed to have faith, but what if I don’t?” “Have I really believed, and if so, how can I be sure?” “What if I’m not elect?”

I was in agony and agonizing. “What if? What then?” I would feel terrible for being so terribly unsure. I was not supposed to doubt! Why didn’t I feel saved? Why didn’t I feel loved? Why did I not feel anything at all?

Here was my problem: I hadn’t understood who Christ was. I hadn’t understood what Christ came to do. I hadn’t understood that the basis of my acceptance was Christ alone, and not whether I felt that I was accepted by Christ alone. After all those years, I was still trying to secure my salvation by wishy-washy emotions, by indecisive feelings.

What I didn’t realize was that Jesus had already secured my salvation. He had lived, he had died, he had risen, and he had ascended. He did not do all those things so that I would be unsure, uncertain, and unconfident.

He did these things so that I could be the most certain of all men, because my salvation did not rest on a feeling, it did not rest on my faith. It rested on something so much more secure, so much more safe. It rested on Him alone.

Faith is not interested with faith. Faith is consumed with the object upon which it rests. For years I had agonized over the faith I (maybe?) held rather than resting, clinging, and trusting to the object upon which it was meant to cling to all along.

I had wondered why I wasn’t feeling anything. Why didn’t I feel any love towards (or from) Christ? I knew I was a sinner, and I desired to be saved, but, I figured, there was nothing I could do to be sure about it.

But when I realized for the first time the beauty and simplicity of the gospel in putting a stop to all my pursuits at "feeling" it; when I realized that I didn't have to do anything, because everything had been done; when I realized that all answers really were yes and amen in Christ, something incredible happened.

When I realized that faith was not about faith resting on itself, I understood what it meant to have biblical faith. When I realized that my faith was not about feeling, I began to feel. I began to love Christ, because he could relieve me of my faith in my faith. He relieved me of the agony of my agonizing, and said to me: “You are weary; you are heavy burdened with your attempts at trying to feel my love, at wondering whether you've actually believed. Look to me! Look at what I have accomplished!”

I felt released from the heavy weight of my problems with doubt. God could forgive my sinful doubt. I didn’t have to worry. I could know he loved me because of what Jesus did, not because I "felt" like he loved me. All I needed was Christ, to cling to him, and to his life giving blood. I could say: “Jesus, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Imagine this: When freed from having to feel, I truly experienced what it was to be loved by God. He really could forgive my sin and doubt! Of that I could be sure, because of a surely finished work. I understood what it was to have a faith that rested solely on Christ, on the solid rock, rather than on a foundation of sand.

Christ came to put an end to all our pursuits at salvation. So stop trying to believe in your belief. Place your faith only and always on an unshakable foundation—the foundation of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension—upon the message of the gospel--that your sins are forgiven, that you have rich robes of His righteousness laid over you, that God looks at you as an adopted son or daughter, despite how you feel.

Be taken and all consumed with Christ and your doubts about whether you've believed enough will no longer matter, because all that will matter are Christ's accomplishments on your behalf.

3 comments:

  1. GREAT post, Mark. I often struggle against this. I try to remember when I have these thoughts that it comes down to looking away from myself, and LOOK TO CHRIST. I've learned I am not alone in this either. A lot of people tend to struggle with assurance. Even some of the godly, wise professors. I'm thankful that Scripture has a lot of comfort for the weary and afraid.

    This summer, a lady was telling us about her elderly mother-in-law who was dying in hospital. She had never been very expressive about faith in Christ though she had been in church her whole life. She began opening up and talking to her daughter-in-law about it, and would say things like, "Don't you ever have doubts?" She would reply, "Sure I do Mom, but when I do I look to Jesus." That's someone who has been well-schooled in the gospel! They had many conversations over Scripture, and praise God--before the older lady died she eventually began to speak, not of "doubt vs. assurance", or of "I think I finally believe", but of trusting in what Christ did for her.

    There is debate among the Reformed whether assurance is of the essence of faith or not. I think the thing to keep pressing when we have doubts is, look to Jesus(Heb.12:2). Elyse Fitzpatrick explains in one of her books, using John 3:14-15, that faith is as simple as "look and live". It is simply looking away from ourselves and to the Saviour! I think part of what makes it "difficult" for us (besides our ongoing sinfulness) is that we have to remember this every day, all the time. But all of the work has been done for us.

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  2. Well said! I've often wondered why people speak of faith as neither a feeling or a reasoned argument, but as "certainty." I thought, "great, so it's a feeling. When you say certainty and don't mean the logical kind, you're really just talking about a feeling." But your post makes that whole debate unnecessary. It reminds me of something CS Lewis said on the topic of Christian living: "Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbour; act as if you did."

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  3. Keep up the good work Mark. Blessed are the feet of the messenger.

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