Coming to My Senses, Dying to the Flesh
July 1, 2012
Extremist? Yes. Ashamed? No.
I have a non-believing friend who is what you call an “argument waiting to happen”. I say that not intending to negatively portray him as someone who is angry at the world and always trying to pick fights, but rather as someone who is a philosopher of sorts and loves to argue and hash out the various points of different issues and beliefs. I personally think that it bothers him that some people seem (emphasis on seem) to “blindly accept” things at face value without constantly taking opposing views into consideration. I would say that I’m somewhat the opposite, and that it bothers me when someone never accepts anything except that they are open to everything. It bothers me because these are the people who accuse believers of being “narrow-minded”, though in my eyes there is little difference in the open-mindedness of someone who adopts a truly strong faith in one particular belief system and someone who believes that there is absolutely no single faith worth having faith in. Either person is adopting an absolute and leaving little room for differing opinions.
So the point of writing this article is to answer his (and those of the “Christians-are-narrow-minded” camp’s) criticism of my faith. Hopefully this will encourage and inspire believers who may struggle with these types of attacks from non-believers. I will begin by sharing part of a note he wrote to me after a recent “argument”:
I am really worried about you and how “strong” your faith is…it is making you extremely narrow minded. I honestly don’t know if I can ever talk to you about this stuff any more…you have changed off and on over the years as I have known you, in your beliefs. You have tightened up and loosened up over the years, but here recently have gotten even more tight..so much I fear you are becoming an extremist. My views on God, religion, they have always been the same….I don’t know what the answer is and I am not going to lie to anyone and say that I know without a doubt that this is the truth. And I feel anyone who can say that is lying to themselves, period. That is my belief, and has been for many years, long before I met you and will be after I am dead and gone.
Let me first point out that there is a lot of truth in what he says. He is an observant person and his note points out several things that he has rightly picked up on. My faith is stronger now than it ever has been. I am more narrow-minded, if by narrow-minded he means that I am absolutely sure that my salvation rests solely in the grace of God who sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to conquer death and sin for all who put their faith in Him. I have changed over the years, tightening and loosening up in my faith, struggling through life, dealing with the attacks of the enemy and battling the desires of my fleshly nature. Don’t we all? Isn’t that the whole point?
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
It is this “off and on”, “tightening and loosening” that the Holy Spirit uses to lead us with perseverance into a closer walk with Him. The statement that I have tightened to the point of becoming an extremist is just confirmation to me that the fruit of the Spirit is showing forth in my life. It is proof that because of this perseverance that James refers to, I am more steadfast in my faith, able to publicly declare and share my faith with boldness, more equipped to handle the attacks of the enemy and deal with the criticism of non-believers. When the fruit of the Spirit shows forth in your life, the world cannot comprehend it. It becomes foolishness to them, as evidenced by my friend’s concerns over how “strong” my faith has become.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? ” 1 Corinthians 1:18-20
My friend then goes on in his note to outline his own beliefs. He states that he does not know what the truth is and that he believes anyone who claims that they do know is lying. I believe this is a popular view in our society today, partly because our culture has become so politically correct that if anyone takes a stand on any divisive issue, they risk a public flogging and potentially damaging consequences to their career. That’s not the rabbit trail I want to follow, however.
The real enigma from my friend’s note is that he could see first-hand the work that God has done in my life over the course of almost fifteen years, and yet still question His existence. To this point I could potentially feel like a failure: that my friend still boasts of being a non-believer. Did I not present the gospel in the right manner? Did the sin that this person witnessed in my life disgrace the One whom I belong to? Did my roller-coaster Christian walk give the enemy too much ammunition to shoot down any hope of seeing my friend join the race? Yes, I could have easily fallen prey to any of these fallacies, and the enemy did not hesitate to continue to fling them in my face. I might have succumbed to his taunts were it not for the comforting of Jesus Christ and the memories of countless hours that I spent debating and defending the gospel to my friend; the countless hours that I spent praying for his salvation; the countless hours that I spent grieving over the condition of his heart.
My friend is still alive, and so I will continue to pray and hold on to the hope that any day could be the day of his salvation. Until then, I will go on as an “extremist”, not holding back any praise, any thanks, any glory, any prayers or any credit that is due to my Lord because of what someone might think of me. I will go on standing firm for the truth of the Scripture as handed down to us by God without fear that it is not “politically correct” enough. I will go on sharing the Good News that salvation is freely given to all who believe in and commit their lives to Jesus Christ. I will go on living, loving and serving people, not because it is my duty or because I could possibly earn any favor with God, but simply because the Holy Spirit has made it the desire and delight of my heart.
After a couple gets married, they don’t return from the honeymoon and go to separate homes only to see each other on an occasional weekend and have a phone conversation here and there. After a couple gets married they return home together as lifelong partners who are committed to serve each other, make sacrifices for each other, tell one another ‘I love you’ every single day and publicly display their new marriage covenant with pride. In the same way a person does not receive salvation and then keep it a secret. When you have received the gift of everlasting life from the living God, it changes every aspect down to the core of your being. How could you possibly not be an extremist?
God saved me. I was killing myself. I was filled with hate. I was a self-serving slave to my flesh and God saved me. From the moment that I opened my heart and confessed Jesus Christ as my savior, my life has gone through the most radical transformation. I can’t comprehend how anyone could witness what God has done in my life and not believe. The truth is, they just don’t want to.
If you are the person who wrote the note, all I can say is that I’m sorry you feel that way, and I love you.