I used to think that there were two types of believers. Those who gave lip service to God and called themselves “Christians,” without it really touching their day-to-day life, and those who were “Sold out” to Jesus – who lived each day in an effort to serve Him, who weren’t satisfied with a belief system that didn’t touch every single aspect of their lives. This last is how I once would have categorized myself. But I’m beginning to see that there is a third type of believer. This type of believer is “sold out” to Christianity – but not to Jesus Christ. This type of believer wants to do everything the Bible asks them to do, but knows nothing of Jesus and understands little in regards to His sacrifice. I’m going to share some things today that I didn’t think I would ever share in a public forum, and it’s taken me a long time to find the words to do so. But some things have happened recently that have lead me to believe that not only am I not the only one who has faced this, but there may be more than I ever would have imagined who have also faced what I am facing now.
Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a friend of ours, when he asked me how often I prayed to Jesus. I was a little taken aback by his question and didn’t understand why it should matter which member of the Trinity I addressed in my prayers to. But he pressed on and as I thought about it, I realized that I never pray to Jesus. He asked why, and for the first time in my life I was forced to articulate something about myself that I don’t think I even realized was a part of me.
I don’t believe in Jesus.
Friends, family members, long time readers of this blog – I know that statement probably shocks you. As much as God has done with me, and through me, and in me, how can I possibly say something like that? But it’s true. I’ve been sold out to Christianity for the past 12 years, but never sold out to Jesus Christ. I’ve believed in Jesus in much the same way that I believe in the gods of Greek mythology. Jesus has been a sort of figurehead in my mind – a symbol, or even a story, that was used to show how God relates to us. It’s not that I didn’t cognitively believe that Jesus was a walking, breathing, living person. In fact, had someone told me a few months ago that THEY didn’t believe in Jesus, I could have argued all day long in an effort to prove that Jesus lived and died, and even that He was resurrected. But in my heart, He’s always been much more of a story to me than a living, breathing reality.
John 3:16 “for God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son” has never really meant anything to me. “Jesus died for our sins” is, for me, a religious term, not a tangible truth. A few weeks ago, a friend came to our house and told me, prophetically, that I don’t know how much God loves me. He was absolutely right. For how can I know, truly know, that God loves me if I don’t know and understand and FEEL what Jesus did for me on the cross?
In saying these things, it is not my intent to discount the past twelve years and say that I haven’t had a relationship with God (as in, Yahweh) this whole time. I did and I do. But I’m coming to understand that it’s been a severely anorexic relationship. The God I’ve been serving for 12 years is, for the most part, ambiguous. It has been easy to pray to “God” because “God” can be whoever I want Him to be. Everything I’ve done, the passion I’ve had for my “God” (I should really say, “my religion”), could have fit into any other religion out there. My dedication to God, my uncompromising desire to do the things He asks me to do, my prayer life, my studies… I could do all of it and remain completely absent from Jesus. I’ve been “sold out” to Christianity, not to Christ. I’m reminded of Paul who wrote of himself: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
That’s not to say that being “sold out” to Christianity (and what I mean by that is living the way God wants us to live, according to His word) is wrong. But it’s like Jesus said, when rebuking the Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”
I want to know Jesus. I am asking Jesus to make Himself real to me. I want to know Him as a living, breathing person. I want to know that He died for me. I want to feel the sacrifice He made for me. I’ve never felt it before. In a way, I’ve never believed it before. I want to cry a puddle in the floor over what my sins did to Him. I want to speak to Him and hear Him speak to me. I want to be His friend.
After calling himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” Paul goes on to write:
“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
This is the cry of my heart.
I write this now because I believe that there are others who have or who are experiencing the same things that I have. I believe it is more common a problem that we realize, or care to admit. What a perfect Satanic strategy – to raise up thousands who are dedicated to following God, yet have no understanding of who Jesus was and is. It is my hope that by coming out and speaking of my own struggles, God will shine a light in the hearts of others who are also struggling in this way – perhaps, as I was, without even realizing it. I’ve come to understand that we can’t “make” ourselves believe in Jesus and known Him in an intimate way. But we can ask Him to reveal Himself to us and trust that He will. We can ask Him to make His sacrifice real to us.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
“He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”
Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
Roaring lions tearing their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted away within me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.
Dogs have surrounded me;
a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
can count all my bones;
people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing…
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!