There are so many people who, as a result of this fallen world, don’t have loving family members. Today in the U.S. it is Father’s Day, and some of you reading may be missing your dads, or depressed that you never had a dad, or triggered over bad memories of abusive parents. I love scripture like John 14:18 about God comforting us through hard days, but it was not truly comforting to me when I could not perceive God as a loving Father. We have so many negative views of God, some taught by dysfunctional families, some by society, some by mistaken theology in our churches. I will be writing about one area in which our view of God has been twisted – faith and salvation. My hope is that it will be freeing and healing to you. I encourage you to start trying to see God as the extravagant love of Christ crucified; it can be very paradigm shifting, life altering, and heart healing.
Like many Americans, I always had cultural “Christian” beliefs. And like many evangelicals, I said the “sinner’s prayer” as a child. Looking back, I did understand the message of the Gospel – the good news that Jesus, who was God, died to save us. However, I had a misunderstanding of why the atonement was necessary, which negatively shaped my view of God (for more on the atonement, go here). I think I actually believed the Gospel, too, at least intellectually. I read the Bible (however out of context) and I held my right beliefs tightly as the most important thing in this life. I likely would have died for them. Therefore, I quickly rejected anything that challenged them.
It took my heart being broken – several different ways which overlapped on a messy timeline of a couple years – to really shake me. One of the major ways was learning about animal cruelty:
I had always believed that most animals were raised as humanely as they were on my small family farm, but I discovered that this is not true for 99% of the animal products purchased in stores and restaurants, regardless of deceptive “humane” labels. In light of all the evidence that animal products cause massive suffering for both animals and humans (go here to learn more), I had to admit that my former beliefs were wrong. This was the start of becoming a free and critical thinker.
It gave me peace to know I was no longer consuming violence, but I struggled to keep believing in God’s goodness, especially when I saw other professing Christians use religion to justify oppression based on species (or gender, or nationality, or other discriminating factors that don’t matter in the kingdom of God). I was so tormented by it that I wanted to reject any belief in God. But, I had previously been exposed to convincing philosophical and scientific arguments for the existence of God, and historical evidence for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As a natural truth seeker, I couldn’t simply reject a logical possibility because of an emotional reaction. So instead, I explored whether it was possible to reconcile the world’s suffering with the loving God revealed in Christ crucified.
I questioned everything, even my fundamental views on salvation and faith. I realized that, despite always having such strong beliefs, my actions had not been in alignment. My life had not reflected the love of Christ or fruit of the Spirit. This was largely due to misguided theology such as the simplistic, incomplete message of salvation as a psychological concept, which is pervasive in modern western church culture. Additionally, I wondered if I had missed the “Lordship” of Jesus, or if I simply had a disconnect between my mind and my heart, or if I had never even been saved. Whatever the reason, I started pouring my heart – with all its ugly honesty – out to God, asking Him that if I wasn’t saved before, to please save me now… I said many Mark 9:24 prayers.
When the topic of God came up in a conversation with my dad, I admitted that I didn’t even know if I was a Christian anymore, that I was still trying to believe the core essentials, but had lost my faith. He answered that perhaps the trying IS faith. It helped to learn that even people I considered to be full of faith sometimes have their struggles, doubts, and spiritually dry times. At that point, continued obedience – or “just doing as I’m told” in my dad’s words – is an act of faith. I started to consider this perspective of faith being more about course of action than perfect belief.
Of course, I’m not saying that beliefs don’t matter… only that when I reexamined what the Bible says about faith and salvation, I found it to be more comprehensive than just a confession of belief.
This topic, like many others, often leads to Christians landing on either extreme end of a spectrum. Some say faith/salvation is belief-based, while some argue that it’s works-based. There is scriptural evidence for the importance of both, not one or the other alone, considering they naturally go hand in hand when real covenantal faith is present.
For those who would like to read the entire article: How Losing my Faith Helped Me Find (Real) Faith by Jessica Lopez
Thank you for reading and for sharing with others! We pray you are blessed by it and we appreciate your support following our blog. Stay tuned for Part Two. ~Jessica