Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Messy Journey to Simply Believe

Our critical day is the not the very day of our death; but the whole course of our life. I thank him that prays for me when my bell tolls, but I thank him much more who instructs me how to live. John Donne

In any journey, you have to start somewhere. Believing in Jesus also has a beginning. Whatever you want to call it -- giving your life to God, becoming born-again, following Jesus, being saved—the Christian journey starts off by believing. A believer is someone, well…who believes. What’s a dictionary say about that word, “belief?” It defines believing as simply the mental act, condition or habit of placing trust or confidence in a person or thing. Sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? I like to think of it as a change of mind. I once thought this; now I see it this way. This is what believing is—it’s little more than changing your mind.  

As an example, a case in point of this occurred in our home some years ago. By far the food that Julie and I enjoy the most is Thai. Up to that point, the most risqué thing our boys ate was something called the Ultradog; it’s a unique and messy hot dog from a place here in Grand Rapids called Yesterdog; it’s coated with onions, chili, cucumber shavings, ketchup and mustard (yeah, I know it sounds disgusting, but you’ve got to try one). So one Saturday evening we decided to introduce this southeast Asian cuisine to our sons. Micah, at the time was probably five, and immediately and emphatically expressed his disapproval. “Yuck, no way! Gross!” After finally getting him to the restaurant (yanking and pulling and bribing) and then finally making him take a bite, he bellowed, “Hmmm…This Thai food doesn’t taste half bad!” His mind and taste buds had been transformed. He changed his mind about how tasty Thai food actually was. Put simply, he began to believe in the goodness of Thai food.

Believing in God on one level is similar and is a pretty simple process if you think about it. Whether you are a ten year old at a Bible Camp or the member of some long-lost tribe in Kenya who’s never even seen a book, let alone a Bible, the process is no different:
  • You hear and understand that God exists.
  • Your life is confronted about who you are through the story of the cross.
  • You acknowledge who you are as a sinner and who God is as a Redeemer.
  • You begin to believe in God and begin to believe that He can take away your sins.
God made it easy and straight forward in starting a relationship with him. For some of us, it happened when mom came in our room when we were six and prayed for us at our bedtime and then asked us if we wanted “Jesus to come into our heart.” For some others, it happened in high school or college, an arduous intellectual process in which we needed all the facts lined up, and all the apologetics made straight in our mind, and we then made a mental transformation in our belief system. And then for some of us, we were deep in our own broken world, had made a total mess of our lives, maybe we were going from bed to bed or from drink to drink, and saw only one way out and that was the way of Jesus. Believers come in all different shapes and sizes; perhaps they have been Christians for 40 days or as long as 40 years.

There are many ways in which God reaches out to each of us. Often, he is quite imaginative in his approach. Jesus is so in love with us that he will do whatever it takes to be near us, close to us, in relationship with us. There are many ways in which he captivates us and I have heard countless stories and the many different ways in which people come to faith. 1) A guy hands you a tract on the subway. 2) It's late at night, you can’t sleep because of that stupid nasal congestion, and you’re flipping through the channels and you come upon some television preacher. 3) You are all alone in another town on a business trip for three days and on the second day you open up the bedstand table and begin flipping through the book that lies in there. 4) A friend opens up their life to you about Someone who has made a dramatic difference in their life. Many years ago when I was living in Chicago, I heard Joseph Stowell comment during a sermon, “God is like the Canadian Mounty Police…He always get his man.” And in doing so, he comes up with some of the most normal and most odd ways in bridging that gap.

Next time, I will tell you a fairly remarkable story on how one person began to "believe" in Jesus, and overtime God began to bridge this gap from not believing to at least believing just a little bit.

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