Don’t actually do this, but…
If you walked up to a random stranger and asked what they believed, they’d probably tell you pretty easily, “I’m Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Buddhist/Atheist/Agnostic/whatever.” Most people have some sort of affiliation.
But if you asked them WHY they believed…well, the answer is very, very different.
Here’s the theme I’ve been hearing a lot in every religion or lack thereof: I believe because…I believe, that’s why. Or I disbelieve because I don’t believe. Straight from the department of redundancy department.
What’s with this trend, anyway? People believe something so hardcore, so steadfast, yet they have no idea why. There are Christians who preach Jesus every chance they get, but they don’t really know why; they just do it because they feel like they should. I’ve known atheists who have a severe disbelief in God, but when you question them, they have no clue what they’re talking about. And those Muslim extremists who have been rising up in anger in the Middle East lately? I honestly wonder if there are some in that group who don’t know why they’re so vehemently defending Mohammed.
We’re a touchy-feely, comfortable generation. We don’t want our taxes too high, we don’t want to go anywhere unless it’s one-hundred percent safe, and our entire life goal is to make ourselves feel good, or at least feel okay. Therefore, we pick and choose our faith based on what makes us feel good.
I believe because it feels right.
That is some SERIOUSLY weak faith. They have nothing behind it but their feelings. Feelings change with the seasons, and you want something so flexible to be the foundation of your religion?
I speak of many faiths, but being a Christian, I’m mainly directing this message at Christians because too many of us are falling by the wayside because we don’t know why we have our faith. I hope to speak to that group and give you some better legs on which to stand.
Listen to what Paul says in Philippians 2:12: “Therefore, my beloved […] work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” What an odd phrase: work out your own salvation. Now first let me stress what this is NOT.
This is NOT picking and choosing what you believe. God says many times that He is the one and only God. He’s talking about working our your salvation in Him. This is NOT. Working FOR your salvation. It’s a gift that Christ bought for you; you can’t earn it. If you’ve asked Jesus into your life, you’re already saved, now you’re just working it out. This is NOT out of terror of God. Fear and trembling mean with awe and respect towards your all-powerful maker. God is a tender lover, but he is also a mighty lion. This is NOT going it alone. God will never leave you.
So what does “Work out your own salvation” mean? Basically, it means to explore your salvation.
Have you ever had a Christmas or Birthday present that just kept on giving? Every time you used/played with it, it just got better? The last Christmas before I moved out of my parents’ house, my dad gave me a tool box that was positively filled with goodies. Screwdrivers, ratchets, hammers, wrenches, pliers, everything I could need! I’ve hit some hardware dilemmas in my short life away from home, and I remember tilling around through my toolbox, trying various tools to see which would get the job done. It’s the kind of gift that I will use the rest of my life.
That’s Christianity. I used the phrase “gift” for a reason. No good parent gives their kid a gift just to have it. They give it to be opened, explored, and used. The joy is not in seeing the child pick up the brightly-wrapped box in the pretty bow. The joy is when they open the gift and then go use it! What good would my toolbox be if I had never used the contents?
Jesus doesn’t want you to just “have” your salvation, but to experience it! He wants you to open up that box and find out just what’s inside!
So what IS inside?
-Freedom from your past
-The lifting of your burdens
-True joy that goes beyond your circumstances
-Provision for your needs in a bad economy
-Power to fight the darkness of the world
-The guarantee of a pain-free afterlife
-A promise that you are not alone and never will be again
-Your true name
The list goes on. There’s so much bundled up in the gift of salvation that you will spend the rest of your life exploring all its wonders, all its beauties, and all its tools.
I believe what I believe: because I explored Christianity. I looked for the real-life Jesus and found him, not with my eyes, but with my heart and my life; He has shown up mightily in more ways than I can count. I don’t just “believe,” I have seen Him myself and seen that He is who He says He is.
Now how this manifests differently for everyone; that’s why Paul said “Work out YOUR OWN salvation.” Figure out how it works in YOUR life. Trust me, it works in EVERY life, but in different ways. Some become saved and immediately start converting people. Some go to seminary. Some have to loose the chains of addiction. Some have to give up anger, others greed, others fear, and so on. No two stories are alike, and that’s what makes them all so interesting.
That’s why I call Christianity the Home Depot faith. Home Depot is a great store; they sell hardware tools, building materials, and every fixture you can imagine. But you know what they won’t do? Build that bookshelf for you. Repair that sink. Hang up those curtains. Why not? Because that’s your job.
After all, their motto is “YOU can do it, WE can help.”
This is not a lazy faith. You can’t just “believe.” If you just hammer your nails haphazardly into the walls, your house is going to fall down at the first strong gust. But if you explore your tools, study up on your materials, and read through your instructions, you’ll learn how to build a solid foundation. And here’s what Jesus said about the solid foundation: “The rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:25)