Before being born-again, I followed no-one. I had no ‘heroes’, though I did have phases of admiring this or that writer. I was what you would call fiercely independent. The truth is, I didn’t respect anyone enough in those days to want to follow them.
This all changed the second I was reborn. I became a follower of Jesus before I even knew I was a Christian. I willingly submitted to Truth and Love, to believing something was True for no other reason than that God told me it was. I had never believed like that before. Sure, I’d fallen for the smooth lies of lovers, but I had to consciously force myself to believe them: I had to suspend my disbelief.
But in the hours and days after my rebirth, when God was revealing his Truth to me, there was no suspension of disbelief. There was no forcing. There was just an internal nodding of “yes” to the obvious Truth of the matter, even though just a few hours or days earlier, as an atheist, I would rather have slit my wrists than to accept God’s Truth as self-evident.
When God’s Spirit inhabits you and surrounds you and enlivens you, God’s Truth is self-evident. Nothing else is self-evident except God’s Truth. I never believed like that until I was reborn. I didn’t believe such belief was possible – to believe beyond doubt and with a certain certainty that dismisses even death as a casual thing of little value, if it tries to get between me and my belief.
What I’m trying to say here is that I’m not consciously trying to believe God’s Truth as a born-again believer; I cannot NOT believe. Believing and breathing are one in the same for me now. In believing like this – from the core of my being – I became a follower of Jesus before I even knew the details of what it was I believed. I became a follower before I could frame the words “follower of Jesus” and apply them to me.
I came to my belief not as dogma or theology that was an external set of beliefs that I had to swallow and regurgitate, but as a lived reality that was not only more real than anything I’d ever experienced before, but that happened without my willing it to happen. I was born again, and at that same instant the reality of my unshakeable belief in God’s Truth simply was.
It became inseparable from me.
I and my belief are one.
This, I believe, is different from the experience of nominal Christians, who tend to cherry-pick what they will choose to believe about God and about Jesus, and then form their customized belief system based on what they choose to believe. This is how denominations and other cults are formed. But a system of belief so formed is external to the believer and so can be added to, adjusted or deleted at will, depending on who or what is influencing the set of beliefs at any given time. To a nominal Christian, belief is external, malleable, exchangeable, interchangeable, and ultimately disposable. To a nominal Christian, even belief in God is optional
This way of approaching God (or better said, keeping him at bay) is not the strait and narrow of following Jesus. To follow Jesus means not only to believe what he believed, but to believe HOW he believed, which was with a certain certainty that he would rather die for than deny. He did die for it. All genuine followers of Jesus die for their belief. This I know for a certainty. They are given the option to compromise their belief to gain more time on Earth or to stand firm and die. Genuine followers always choose to stand firm. It is a choice, and they choose it, like Jesus did.
Are you a nominal Christian or a follower of Jesus? Is your belief external to you or is it who you are? Can you separate yourself from your belief, and if you do so, what happens to you and your belief? Do you believe in God because you’ve been taught to believe in him, or do you believe in God because you cannot NOT believe? It is either one or the other; it can’t be both. You are either a nominal Christian or you’re a follower of Jesus. You can’t be both.
You’re either pregnant with God’s Spirit or you’re not.
You’re either a believer or you’re not.
You’re either a believer, or you’re not.
“HELP THOU MY UNBELIEF!”
Just before Jesus cast out an evil spirit from the young son of a man who had gone to the disciples for help, Jesus asked him if he believed. The man replied he did, but then immediately broke down in tears and begged Jesus to make up for whatever was lacking in his belief. Faced with the life-or-death situation of his child’s illness, the man came clean about his unbelief. He admitted to himself and to God (through Jesus) that the belief he thought he had wasn’t belief at all. Belief that needs someone or something else to prop it up is not belief.
But God can work through repentance. Repentance can override a lack of belief. When the man repented in tears for his unbelief and sincerely begged for help, Jesus had the hook he needed to do the healing.
God will never turn away those who sincerely want what he is offering, who sincerely want his help. The key words here are “sincerely want”. Nominal Christians remain nominal for the sole reason that they don’t sincerely want what God is offering. They want it somewhat, but they want it on their terms and in their time, not on God’s terms and in God’s time.
You either believe, or you don’t.
You either want what God is offering, or you don’t.
There are no halfway positions; there is no such thing as a little bit of belief, any more than there is a little bit of pregnancy.
A thing either is or it isn’t.
You either believe, or you don’t.
If you believe, you’re a follower of Jesus.
If you don’t, you’re a nominal Christian.
A nominal Christian can become a believer the same way the tormented father of the tormented son became a believer – through genuine self-acknowledgment and sincere repentance. Those things are between you and God. You don’t go to other people for self-acknowledgement; you go to yourself. And you don’t go to other people to repent; you go to God.
For me, as a born-again believer and follower of Jesus, there is no life outside my belief in God. When I say belief in God, I mean love for God. I cannot separate myself from my belief and then say “I”, because there is no “I” without my belief: I am because I believe.
I have existed in this world as an unbeliever and I live now as a believer, and there is no comparison between the two states. There is no life outside belief in God. There is existence, yes, but life only comes through belief.