Sunday, March 9, 2008 -
DOUBTS CAUSED BY FAITH OUT OF FOCUS
Not all doubts are rooted in intellectual difficulties. Many doubts, perhaps most of them, are caused by problems rooted in us rather than in our doctrines. The picture of God you form in your mind can actually hinder trust in the God of the Bible. If we don’t, for any number of reasons, understand God as He is, we will never trust Him as we should.
1) DOUBT IS NOT ALWAYS THE SAME AS UNBELIEF
If a person has a faulty picture of God his problem isn’t one of unbelief. Quite the opposite, the person does believe. His problem isn’t lack of faith. It is faith in the wrong God. In other words, doubt isn’t always a lack of sincerity of faith. Rather, it can frequently be the result of too much faith placed in untruths about God.
If I’m waiting for someone at the airport whom I’ve never met, my presuppositions about what they will look and act like can have everything to do with how I recognize and receive them. In fact, if I stubbornly hold on to a false picture of my incoming guest, I may miss his arrival all togther. False pictures deeply affect the relationship.
2) HOW FALSE PICTURES OF GOD DEVELOP
Primarily there are two ways:
a) First, we can hold on to pre-conversion ways of thinking about what God is like and how He acts after we have come to Christ.
Instead of uprooting unworthy presuppositions about God and His ways, we can settle for the mere reformation of outward areas of behavior (i.e. I used to smoke or drink or cheat on my wife but don’t since professing Christ). These outward changes are good, and in fact necessary. But if all the attention is put on these things, unchristian inward motives and ideas can go underground and remain unchallenged.
This is becoming a very common problem in the church. People are increasingly needy and desperate in this broken world. People are looking for answers to problems. They can come to Jesus because their marriage is falling apart, or their son tried to kill himself, or the business has gone belly-up. But none of those factors is a genuine motive for conversion.
Here are the New Testament motives:
i) I am eternally lost and separated from a holy, just God and can do nothing to remedy this situation myself. If this lostness isn’t the primary motive for New Birth, I will be starting out my Christian life on the wrong foot. Doubt and disappointment will not be far behind.
ii) My motive for everything I do is glorifying Jesus and building His kingdom. This lies behind every personal resistance of sin and temptation.
iii) My understanding of moral and spiritual truth is objective and absolute rather than personal and subjective.
iv) My relationship with self is consistently one of self-denial rather than self-fulfillment. The call of Jesus to take up the cross daily comes right at the starting point of Christian commitment.
Any world view or presupposition that doesn’t line up with those basic points must be radically dealt with in the most unkind manner right at the entry point to genuine faith:
Numbers 33:55 - “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.”
b) Second, the Christian mind and genuine faith can be corrupted by the entrance of unchristian presuppositions after coming to faith in Jesus Christ. This will happen primarily through television, movies and unexamined friendships. The pressure will come in two main areas:
i) The pressure to embrace tolerance over Biblical absolutes.
ii) The pressure to conform to a world that Jesus consistently calls His disciples to renounce and remain separated from in the most absolute sense.
3) WHAT IS THE ANSWER TO FAITH OUT OF FOCUS?
a) For people who have never made a proper start (and there are many) there must come a fresh humbling before God and a turning back to square one for genuine conversion. Doubts and instability will never leave without this difficult, pride-crushing step.
b) Christians must develop the long term habit of training their heart to close the door on any habit or lifestyle that brings false presuppositions about God into the renewed mind.