Friday, March 10, 2006

Faith Starts with a Person

I've had the honor of talking with a number of people lately who are struggling with believing in God. They've heard all about how other people believe but they are personally struggling with believing.

I went home thinking about their struggle and then I realized that if I was them, I'd struggle too. For me, faith in God- at least a personal God - starts and ends in the person of Jesus, not the experience of someone else.

I was with a different group of people last month ( a new group we started at Cedarbrook called "Out of the Box". It's a discussion forum for people that aren't in "the box" of the church - people who aren't sure what they believe.) One person asked my associate and me what made us believe. It was interesting because we both came to believe for different reasons. My associate had a dynamic spiritual experience that convinced her that God existed and Jesus was, in fact, God.

But for me, I was struck by the person of Jesus. As I studied the New Testament I became convinced that it was an accurate document of a person that really lived and said the things that were written. Once I was convinced of that, the rest came naturally. If the Bible is telling us the truth about what Jesus said, then you can't be passive about it. It might be convenient to think that Jesus was "just a good teacher" or that people made more of Jesus than he really was (ala DaVinci Code) but that is only to your loss. For me, and countless others that I've had the pleasure of knowing, believing in Jesus and following him has been to my gain.

If you are searching, I recommend a book about the accuracy of the New Testament called, The Case for Christ. It's very readable. A former writer for the Chicago Times talks about his own skepticism and how his research of the New Testament brought him to faith in Jesus. You owe it to yourself to give it a read!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Do we have to forgive to be forgiven?

The comment in my post below mentioned what Jesus said about how we are forgiven according to how we forgive.
But if you don't forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing. Matthew 5:15

That's one of those verses that sets you back on your heels! Did Jesus really mean that? I'd say yes and no. No, in the sense that I doubt if any of us will fully forgive everyone. None of us are that pure in our motives. Plus, we may have even forgotten a few people along the way that we should have forgiven but didn't. I don't think we have to lay awake nights worrying about that. If we had to be perfect forgivers to be forgiven then we'd be earning our forgiveness, wouldn't we?

But on the other hand, yes. If you aren't someone interested in forgiveness then you aren't someone interested in God. Forgiveness is at the core of who God is. It's only the hypocrite who says they love God yet refuses to forgive. Isn't that what John was saying...
If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
In an odd sort of way, one of the greatest ways we can get to know God is through being deeply offended. It's in learning to forgive that we learn the depth of our sinfulness (we don't want to forgive) and the magnitude of God's love. But in saying that I hope you find other ways to know God.