Dear Christian, It's Time To Question Your Beliefs
There comes a point in every person’s life in which they’re faced with the question: What do I believe?
Whether it be one's thoughts and opinions on the latest blockbuster film or the shows Netflix took off of their listings, we all have personal beliefs tied to something. Those thoughts go deeper than our opinions of our subscription-based services and recent movie ticket purchases.
Our beliefs are confronted when our coworkers may ask us to do things that can compromise our faith. Our stances on abortion and immigration laws get called into question when we can no longer hide behind the shadows of our parents’ views. Our political leanings are put under a microscope when now we are the ones who have to live with the decision of who we voted for.
Even more importantly, what we believe about God, The Bible and the Christian faith we call our own, deserves as much as consideration as we tend to give other things. The “why” behind our church attendance can no longer fall on the backs of our mother or father making us go. The choice of the churches we attend can no longer be chalked up to, “that’s the church I was raised in.” The ways in which we affirm our pastor’s teachings can longer be credited to their own outworking of their study of Scripture. The responsibility of us knowing our faith is no longer sufficient to give to someone else’s brain, but not our own.
Whether you’ve been in church your whole entire life or you’ve only been walking this “Christian thing” out for two weeks, God calls you and I both, to know what we believe and why we believe it. We can’t just get by, riding on the coat tails of those whom we admire or those who raised us. God gives us a charge to love Him with all of our own heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37). And with this charge, we cannot pass off to another.
TRADITIONS OF MEN
Everyone has their traditions. Think about the holidays and family gatherings. That one aunt is always responsible for bringing the potato salad to the cookout, while that same cousin every year is only allowed to bring the canned sodas.
There are stories behind those traditions; reasons why parties are held there and funerals are held here. Pretty much every family has a preference for certain things and pretty logical reasons in their sights, for choosing to do so.
Where we have to confront our traditions, no matter how long held and deeply ingrained into our pattern of living, is when we’re holding up God’s Word. The traditions of men, should bow down and surrender to God’s Word, as we review and assess them. And if they fail to, something has to go. And as far as God is concerned, the only thing that lasts forever, is His Word (Isa. 40:8)
Are you able to recognize when there are traditions being practiced in your family or church, that impose upon or forego strict adherence to The Scriptures? Do you see when your Christian liberty is being impeded upon by the thoughts and convictions of others where God has given you freedom to choose? Have you yourself seen the ways in which you cling tightly to the ways things have “always been done” in your sphere of impact, that you forget to consult God on His Word?
As Believers, we cannot afford to follow people, things or traditions of men blindly without regard for God’s Word. The Pharisees had this problem. They regarded their traditions and ways of thinking on the same level of God’s Word. But Jesus quickly and consistently reminded them that there was only one way and it was Him. There was no mixing and balancing and saving face to be had. Either Christ and His Word was held in high esteem or nothing at all. Do you view God’s Word the way that Jesus did? Do you hold it in the right manner that God calls us to? Or, do you find yourself explaining away your reasons for doing or not doing certain things because someone in your family or church said so?
The reality is, your floor length skirt, not cutting your hair or being vegan can’t be based off of and fueled by anyone else’s idea of what Scripture says. It has to be weighed and tested and searched out by a close, in-context reading of Scripture for yourself. Yes, God has called us all to love Him with our own minds. But He sure doesn’t call us to let our neighbors do it for us.
CHEWED UP & SPIT OUT
Imagine if the only experience you had with food, was eating something that someone else chewed up and spit out on a plate for you to consume.
Not only is that really gross and weird, but it devalues the unique experience you can have getting to decide if you really like something or not. Aside from that, you also would miss out on what it felt like to taste the difference of an apple being crunchy and whole, versus being mushy and somewhat soupy in the form of applesauce.
Many of our experiences with God’s Word and our beliefs about our faith, can be reduced down to the regurgitation of other Christians’ knowledge of God. We seem to only know our faith based off of what other people have preached about or wrote about in their autobiographies, but not from firsthand knowledge. I know for many, many years of my life, this was true of my beliefs about God. And the truth is, wherever and whomever we build our faith upon, is where our faith will rest and hold itself up.
Naturally, if our faith and beliefs are built upon the sinking sand of everyone else’s rendition of Jesus and not by the original revelation of Himself in Scripture, we’ll literally fall for anything. Our foundations must be strong and deeply rooted in Christ, through Scripture. Our faith must rest on a knowing faith that doesn’t rely on the regurgitation of other people’s eating. They must be founded upon our own tasting and seeing, so that we may know that The Lord is good (Ps. 34:8).
BOOK, CHAPTER, VERSE
This seems plain, right? The Bible is not just a book that we leaf through for inspiration, but for instruction. That seems to be affirmed in many places, even the ones that play loose with God’s Word.
But the challenge is that we not look to God’s Word to defend our choices and beliefs. We must be willing to subject our choices and beliefs to the supervision of God’s Word, being ready to edit and delete anything that doesn’t line up.
You see, we can often be too good at lining up what we think is right and true and good, and picking verses in The Bible to supplement or affirm what it is that we have going on. But God’s Word, fitted in its proper context and considered in light of the entire metanarrative of Scripture, will cause right beliefs to be birthed from it. The issue is when we act as if our beliefs are strong enough or infallible enough to stand on their own.
Every verse is housed within a chapter. Every chapter is housed within a book. Every book is housed within a larger story and context that supersedes our own ideals of what should be. We tend to bring our cultural biases into Scripture reading, our favorite preacher’s words and even the views we grew up on believing to The Bible and think it’s okay.
The truth is, we’re reading about a people, settings, historical happenings and Holy Spirit inspired Scriptures that cannot be neatly fit into our size 5 x 5 belief boxes. Those things and realities must be considered and weighed with care and fear of The Lord, so that we may walk away from Scripture with true thoughts, feelings and beliefs about God.
If there is a book, chapter or verse that supports our beliefs, we’ve got to be honest and ask if we’re being fair, knowing that we are prone to sin. If there is a book, chapter or verse that doesn’t support our beliefs or doctrine about who God is, we’ve got to be adamant upon crying out to The Lord for help to change us and conform us to who He has revealed Himself to be and what He has intended for His Word to say.
A rule of thumb we can live by is not making claims about things without having searched out book, chapter and verse concerning those things. Verses are not meant to be read nor interpreted in isolation. We can’t just pull out Matthew 7:1 and think we’ve owned some petty Facebook comment debate. We must interpret and read and study that verse and others like it within their chapter and book of belonging. This is where we grow in Bible literacy and defeat the age-old lies of twisting Scripture as Eve and Satan both did during The Fall.
Ask the tough question, “Where is this in The Bible?” Be devoted to rejecting your beliefs if they are not supported by Scripture and God’s character. True faithfulness to God is seen in resting on Him and acknowledging you don’t have it all figured out and need His help. Trust me, He will help you with this. He wants you to know Him Biblically.
Your pastor cannot love God’s Word with your mind, for you.
I know it’s tempting to lean on their weekly words for your total education of Scripture, but I promise you that they would love to see you learn of God for yourself. The work that your pastor does week in and week out, is to lay the foundation for what you will accomplish within the moments in which you’re not sitting under the sound of their teaching.
You contribute to the health of your church when you are committed to knowing Scripture and studying it regularly. You also grow in discerning right teaching that should be celebrated and wrong teaching that should be avoided, when you hold a knowing faith.
You see, the goal is to be equipped. When you go out into the fields of the world and you’re being challenged to give a defense of your faith, “my pastor said” won’t be a helpful nor substantial response. We will engage with others who don’t believe what we believe. And our way of doing so can’t be based upon what we’ve heard and never interacted with. We must know why we believe what it is that we believe and be able to firmly and accurately communicate that to whomever necessary.
Hiding behind our church’s statement of faith without being able to show someone else where these things are found in Scripture, won’t cut it. If we truly believe that Jesus is God, we need to be able to put a book, chapter and verse to that. If we truly believe that Jesus is coming back, it can’t be something we just repeat because we heard it.
Questioning our beliefs as Christians shouldn’t drive us into the arms of a false religion with “gods” that aren’t even real. Questioning our beliefs should lead us to assess where it is that we are getting the things we believe from. It should challenge us to love God with our minds by engaging The Bible on the issues we must respond to with full faith and conviction of where we stand.
Ways that we can do that, is by writing out a list of things you believe about God, His Church, His Word, sin, people, animals, you name it. Download this FREE Resource I created to help you on your journey, and make room to either prove or reject that belief according to Scripture. As you work through your list, don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Invite others in your local church to join in on the journey of having a knowing faith. And if you aren’t plugged into a local church, get you one! 9Marks.org has a great search engine to offer you some options on where to start looking.
All in all, God doesn’t want our faith in Him or even our beliefs about Him to rest on the shoulders of other humans. He wants our faith and beliefs to rest on His Word, by knowing it through and through. The only way that can happen, is if we are willing to confront our beliefs with humility and seek to search The Bible for truth. There and there only, is where we will find the answers we need to know why it is we believe, what it is that we believe.