Saturday, February 7, 2009

thinking about how hard the Truth is

I found this quote from C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity” than describes the difficulty of truth:

“The Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it doesn’t begin in comfort, it begins in the dismay that I’ve been describing [the problem of sin] and it’s just no good trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and in everything else, comfort is the one thing you can’t get by looking for it. If you’re looking for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you’re looking for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth – only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to share my faith with one of my co-workers (and friends) at work. He knows I’m a Christian but he never showed any interest the few times in the past that I mentioned my faith – but suddenly, out of the blue, he made this comment “we all have a God-sized void in our hearts that we are always trying to fill with something.” So I asked him what prompted him to say this, and he told me quite a bit about his past experiences and what he believes currently – that there is a God, but he’s not willing to label who God is (Christian or otherwise). And he also had the typical skepticism about church and churchy people. I agreed with him, the truth is not found in church or in any human institution; we are all too flawed, too prone to mistakes and bias. I asked him if he minded if I shared some of my past experiences that brought me to my beliefs? He said sure.

So I shared a very short version of my testimony with him, about how I used to be agnostic and pretty disillusioned about religion, too, but after experiencing a severe depression, I realized how little control I had over my emotions – or over my own life, for that matter. I had been searching for the answers to those eternal questions –

Why am I here?
What is the purpose of my life?
How can I live a fulfilled and meaningful life?

While searching for these answers, I studied different religions. One of my friends challenged me that if I was studying other sacred writings I should also give the Bible I fair shot, too. I told my co-worker how amazing it was – how it still gives me chills – when I was reading the Bible one night and God spoke to me through it. He convinced me who He was and that the Bible was His Word, the Truth.

My friend told me he admired my faith, that he had several other friends who had recounted similar amazing experiences (though they were of different faiths), and he admired them, too. So therefore he wasn’t willing to believe that there was any one religion that has all the truth, or the only truth.

This is one of my areas of lingering weakness and doubt. There are people of other beliefs and faiths that feels as strongly about what they believe as I do; they too have had an amazing experience that changed their lives. They truly and sincerely believe, and try to live their life according to their beliefs with the same striving that I do. It is so HARD to come face to face with that sincerity and say – in what must seem a very arrogant and prejudiced way – “you’re wrong. My faith is the only true faith.”

So there is where I found myself backing off in this conversation with my co-worker. I wasn’t strong enough to firmly say, “Biblical Christianity is the only Truth. I challenge you to read the Bible and ask God to prove that to you,” – as my dear friend D.W. challenged me 15 years ago. I wish I had. I did challenge him to read the Bible, but I could have taken a stronger stand.

I keep thinking about why I failed to stand up for my Jesus, who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to Father but through me.” When I really take time to think about the Gospel, and its complete and utter difference from anything else any other religion has to offer, I am both awed, and ashamed by my inability to take a firm stand in front of others for the One and Only Truth. No other religion tells of a god who decided to become a man to experience the full range of human experience. He experienced firsthand how prone we are to jealousy and anger and selfishness. He experienced firsthand all that we suffer, both from how other people hurt us (scorn, rejection, etc), how we hurt ourselves, and the ultimate pain – seeing our loved ones suffer and die. He experienced all this, he experienced the full range of human cruelty, even to death, when he could have easily escaped it all. And why did he do this? Because he loved us. Because he wanted to redeem us from all the hurt and pain and suffering in this world. Because he wanted to be able to give each of us access to a heavenly realm where we will be free from all tears, from all suffering, forevermore.

Just in case someone might someday read this blog, and that someone is at this point wondering what the Gospel is, it’s these three basic points:

1) all men are sinners. If you believe that you are good person and not a sinner, then consider that you, like most people, believe that you should be treatd right and fair but you probably haven’t always treated others the way you wish to be treated yourself. Or stated another way: we all have something missing in us, we can’t quite find lasting fulfillment or purpose in this life; we’re somehow unable to ever achieve perfection, or even lasting satisfaction with ourselves. Sin is the ultimate cause of all of humanity’s problems. (I can share a theory, based on various verses from Romans chapters 1, 5 and 8, that sin is even the root of the viral pestilences that plague humanity).

2) The solution to both the universal and personal problem of sin is God providing complete forgiveness for sin through His Son Jesus, who died for us as the complete sacrifice for our sin, who was buried, and who rose again on the third day to prove that we, too, can rise again after death and live eternally with Him because He has conquered sin.

3) If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame."

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