I Believe! Help My Unbelief!
If I'm being completely honest and transparent, I've been struggling some with my belief in the Gospel lately.
Not in an intellectual sense. I find the Gospel to be the absolute truth. I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, that Jesus firmly existed within the confines of history, that he was fully God and fully Man at the same time, lived a perfect life free from the bounds of sin, was sent to an unjust death on the cross, and after being in the grave 3 days rose to life, later ascending to heaven to sit at the right hand of the father. I have no difficulty typing those words and saying I believe them.
But most days, I believe those words intellectually. I wrestle daily with what they mean practically. I have to ask myself this question, "If I believe the truths I just wrote, then are my actions following suit?" That's a hard question. Most days, I answer that question with some sort of a checklist. Of course my actions are following suit because I do (fill in the blank with a pious action). But some days, when I'm really honest with myself, I'm willing to admit to the fact that I'm not doing great. I then have to ask myself another tough question, "What does that mean?"
Me writing this is no way me putting into question the fact that Jesus has saved me. On my darkest days full of the most doubt I see most plainly the fact that Jesus' grace covers me and that God has saved me unto good works and that He refuses to let me go. Once Jesus has me, he will not let me go. Really, I'm echoing the words of the father in Mark 9 when he says, "I believe! Help my unbelief!"
IF I CAN?
In that story, a father brings his son to Jesus. His son is possessed with a demon that is daily tormenting him, throwing him into convulsions and even trying to kill him. The situation is dire, and the father asks Jesus:
Jesus responds in his trademark honesty, with a hint of humor and almost, dare I say it, sarcasm:
I see myself reflected in this interaction with Jesus. It's a conversation we have had many times. I affirm his almighty power with my mouth, but then I go and preface my belief in his ability to act on my behalf with those feeble words, "If you can...." If He can? He created the world! He created the man's son who is currently afflicted with these pains. Of course He can. It's even worse for me, because I know the truth of the cross! I have seen tangibly through the words of the Bible the love of my savior who went to death willingly to glorify His Father and to purchase my salvation. There is absolutely a disconnect here, between what I say and think I believe, and what I practically believe.
JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER
Whenever I push into the recesses of my heart and try to evaluate what is causing this divide, I find that I am guilty of almost the same thing every time. I tend to depersonalize Jesus in my life. I create a false picture of Jesus in my head, and then I worship that broken idea. I worship God as creator, or as ruler, or as judge, but I completely miss the boat on the fact that He is my father too. That he has a direct connection with my life and is invested in my well-being. That he has created me, and will judge me, and rules over this world, but that those ideas do not ultimately wholly define his character.
I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about this passage:
That last phrase just gets me. In the midst of this beautiful presentation of the Gospel, Paul says that Jesus is both just AND the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. I get the just part. I intellectually comprehend the fact that through original sin and misdeeds all of humanity is guilty, and God is just to give humanity what it deserves. But every time I read this, I miss the incredible truth that it is the same person who is just that has decided to justify me. I miss what foundational impact this has on my practical relationship with Jesus. I project my own perception of Christ that he only acts as Judge when he looks at me. He sees the things that I have done wrong but only somewhat overlooks those things in order to love me because that's what he is supposed to do.
That picture of grace is wildly skewed. Jesus' righteousness is displayed in the fact that while he is perfectly just, he is also perfectly justifying me. He isn't just the judge that I picture in my head, but also the personal savior who stepped into this world to bestow on me the gift of justification that I never deserved.
THAT is the truth that should radically impact my life. Because I have been given a gift I will never deserve no matter how incredible my works are, I respond in love, devotion, and obedience to my heavenly Father. When my belief in the Gospel is too based on logic and intellect, I stop believing the real gospel at all.
FAITH IN PROCESS
In these moments where my faith is in process, I relate to the man who asked Jesus to heal his son. He knew who Jesus was and had a certain amount of faith that Jesus might be able to heal him, but when it came time to act and to ask, he doubted. But, in his doubt, he cried out a true, honest call for Jesus to come alongside his weakness and empower him: "I believe! Help my unbelief!"
I hope I can be as honest with myself and other people as he was. As I pursue He who is just and the justifier of my faith, his prayer is my prayer.
I believe! Help my unbelief!