I dedicated this post (and maybe the following posts after this) to everyone who wants to know more about Christianity belief, but particularly for my friends in the Geneva Graduate Institute. I am more or less intrigued to write down about this post, since I was often asked by my friends about my faith. I find that it is not easy, and in fact, to be really challenging as being confronted about the personal values and belief that I have. As some of you have known, I am Christian. And what I mean by Christian is that I’m not just going to church every Sunday. Being a Christian also means that I uphold the values and the way of life which Christ has taught me in the Bible. Somehow, I feel that being Christian means that we are expected by the society to act flawless, always full of love and forgive what others do wrong to you. I shall explain later about this below.
A week ago, when I was in Denmark, I read a book titled I Sold My Soul on E-Bay by Hemant Mehta. It was a very good book, I think. It’s a book about an atheist who questioned seriously his option to decide to become an atheist. He hold an auction in e-bay, he would go to any church according to anybody’s request who won the highest auction. To make it short, he went on to difference church every week, he made a journal about it, about the impression that he got from every church. Reading the book made me seriously questioned my faith also, but at the end it just make my faith goes deeper. Not only that, reading the book also makes me to understand more about what is inside the mind of agnostic-atheist people. I become to judge them less and less, in fact, I appreciate their way of critical thinking. So, if someone can post, even write a book about what does an Atheist think about Christian, I think I can post and write down my opinion too about my faith and what I believe about Christian (I’m sure Hemant Mehta would be very happy to read this!! Hahaha).
There are some other questions which are often thrown at me. My answer is of course cannot satisfy all of the questions, and I do not intend neither expect that my answer can satisfy them. I am just human. There are thousands things we do not know the answer. I myself still have thousands questions unanswered. But rather than focusing myself on them, I choose to focus and set my eyes upon God. My post below is not meant to change or convert any of your belief. Whether or not someone decides to believe in Jesus is a decision that should come from the person itself, free from any coercion. It’s a FREE WILL decision, since I believe that God created human with free will. Below is a long post, since the questions also requires a lot of explanations. I beg you to bear with me as long as you read this post :)
- One of the questions which mostly asked is, how can I believe in God? How do you believe that God exists?
The straightforward answer to why I believe in God is, because I’m a sinner, a mere mortal human that needs God to save me :) I don’t think that this is a naïve answer, assuming that weak people, because s/he doesn’t know how to deal with life, then always turn to God. I find that this is not true. People can choose whether or not s/he wants to believe in God, regardless they are rich or poor, stupid or intelligent, a peasant or a scientist.
I know that He exists not because everybody says that He exists, but because I had had encountered a personal experience with Him (not that I saw Him, tough). And if you watch closely around you, you’ll find that every people, every single person, are actually seeking for an assurance for their life. They are looking for a certain foundation, something certain, something very secure…. Un-moveable, unshakeable, unchangeable, to which they can turn into every time they are faced with difficulty.
Some people try to fill the emptiness in their life by drinking. Some by smoking. Some by dating as many boys or girls as they can. Some by doing lots of rituals. Well, I tried to fill those hollow cups in my life by…. Pornography. Yep, it’s true. I became so addicted in pornography since I was 9 years old. It doesn’t mean that I watched porn movies or read porn novels every single day, but everytime the lust came in, I just could not controlled myself. And at those times, I was seeking the wholy-ness in my life by dating boys. I only had an official date once, but that was not a good one :p I thought that my happiness can be fulfilled by being liked and dated by as many boys as possible. But again it proves that it could not answer and satisfy my deepest need, my hungry soul.
I found God – or to be precise, God who found me – at the age of 18. It was 2 weeks after I broke up with my ex hahahaah. I cried uncontrollably and did a non-stop cry everyday, I was like a zombie. I didn’t want to live, yet I’m afraid to die. I felt so dirty, filthy, and disgusted at myself. I saw my life as a meaningless life after that devastating broke up. I thought that I’m not deserved to be loved. Bear in mind that I still went to church at that time, I read bible, but still I didn’t know who is the God I’m worshipping for. I still lived and dwelled and struggled in pornography (not that I did free sex, tough!). For me, Jesus was not more than just a Christian’s character. It’s hard for me to accept that He is indeed God. He’s just a person in history, long long ago history.
Afterwards, a friend of mine asked me to join a Christian retreat/camp in Kaliurang, Jogjakarta. I just said yes because I didn’t know what else to do and I was sooo bored with my life. To make it short, that was the moment when I encountered Jesus in my life, a God who is sooo real to me, a living God. After that my life was changed, well….. not in one night, but gradually, step by step, God teaches me how to live a life in Him. It was the Spirit of God who works in me, up until now. Not a life seeking pleasure for flesh, but to live in spirit, to see Him everyday. I still read the Bible, but now for me it’s not just words or instruction. Each verse is a living word to me. Each of them gives me a revelation, a rhema. Well, not in a daily basis, but they give me strength to face everyday. When I’m afraid or worried, they strengthen me, comfort me, and confirm me also :) I read the Bible not to prove that God is not exist or seeking what’s wrong from it. I read it because I need it. I don’t read books which trying to explain God is not exist as many as I read Christian books. But everytime I read a book trying to explain that God is not exist, it just makes me wonder and question them more and more. What they wrote is, for me, totally contradict what I see & experience everyday. They can never prove to me that God does not exist :p For me, God’s presence is everywhere. My God is an awesome God. He’s not god made by human’s hands. He’s there even before the world was created.
- Why believe in Christian God? Why not Moslem God, Buddhist God, Hindu God, or other?Every religion of course will claim that they are the rightest one, and tries to attract as many as followers as possible.
For me, Christianity is not just about religion. It’s a way of life. We are called “Christian” because we are the followers of Christ. And Christ didn’t come to earth to bring a religion, rather, it’s to follow Him. Christianity is much more than just going to church once a week. It’s more than just not drinking, not smoking, or not doing sex before marriage; because there are a lot of Christians out there who smoke, get drunk, and do not practice abstinence. On the other hands, there are also many non-Christians who do the other way around. Many non-Christians are even much much better and seem to be a lot of “more good” people than the Christians. Below I thank Ci Nelly who helped me to better explain about the concept of Christian’s God.
So… I believe in Christian God because He is the only God that came down to earth as a human. You see, all religions out there are about people trying to reach god. People trying to go to heaven by doing more good things. But how far can you do good things? All the time of your life? How about those times that you sin, consciously or subconsciously? So it is about performance then? Then in that case, those people who do more good things, they can be proud, saying/thinking that they deserve to go to heaven than others. They can also condemn or think lesser of those people who has done ‘less’ good things.
Other religions are trying to reach God. But God is so powerful, so holy, so big, how can a mere human reach God? No matter how good we do on earth, if we can reach God, that means He is not God. We human are so powerless, full of evil thoughts sometimes, how can we reach such a mighty holy being?
So that’s why because we can’t reach God, He is the one who came down to earth for us. In a human form. As Jesus. Then there is one big significant thing that differentiates Christianity from other religion. That is GRACE. No other religion has such thing. What is grace?
No matter how holy we are, how hard we try to do good, there will be times we will fall into sin. Those people who think they can go to heaven because they have done more good than evil, they will think that they deserve to go to heaven. In Christianity, no one deserves to go to heaven because of their good deeds, so no one can boast against each other. But Jesus offers grace for us, so it’s not because of our performance, but because it is a gift for us. Grace is not gained or deserved because we do something but it is a gift from God. As a Christian, we have God to pull us back everytime we fall into sin, when we stumble and fall. Because we can’t do it only on our own strength. We need God to help us to stand again.
In the beginning of this post, I mentioned that I feel (and maybe other Christians as well) as a Christian, we are expected to have a flawless action. Never miss a Sunday mass, always full of forgiveness, etc etc. Part of me feel proud about it, because as children of the Highest God, of course we have a higher standard of life than the world people (this is how we address other who are non-Christian, btw). Our highest calling is to become more and more like Christ, to grow in Him. But of course, we can not do that. We also stumble and fall many times, we do sin, we do bad things. I still go to the movies, hang out with friends, sometimes gossiping, many times bad words come out of my mouth. But knowing that I am so loved by God makes me don’t want continue to do things that unpleasant to my God. And I can do that, not because of my me or my strength, but because of Christ who strengthens me. (I shall later explain further about this in my next post, if I have time, about “Law and Grace”). That’s why I said, and I repeat it again, that being a Christian is all about God. It’s always about God. There’s nothing that we can boast, and we count on God to pull us back everytime we fall.
By saying this, I don’t want to condemn or judge other religion as well. One more thing about me: I grew up in a ‘christian’ family which never practice the religion, but we live (until now) in a moslem community. My junior and senior high schools were public school, and public school in Indonesia are dominated by Moslem students & teachers, where the women wear hijab (head-scarf). The religion’s rule there is quite strict, but they still allow non-moslem student to be taught in their own religion (they had Christian and Buddhist teacher for the non-moslem students). I know a bit about Moslem’s rule: the habit, the way of life, how do they pray, the syahadat (the 2 sentences that you say when you want to turn into Moslem), etc. 70% of my friends are moslem. And we see the festival of “Lebaran” or Idul Fitri every year. You know that, right? It’s a festival after the moslem people done with their fasting for about 30 days. I do and I truly appreciate and admit that every religion teaches us to do good things. I don’t mind to know more about those religions.
But for me…. there are things why I stick to the so-called “Christian” religion. Like my above explanation, and also because a guarantee that I have a salvation, an eternal life in Jesus. No other human on earth who can prove himself as God other than Jesus (I mean, it’s not strange for us to hear a freak guy in other world screaming & yelling, “I am a messenger of God!” or even “I am God!”, but they can’t never prove it. They don’t last long). My life without Christ will be so empty. Even the most sophisticated science can not fill the empty cup in my life. And true, there are still soooooo many questions going unanswered. Even after I’ve known Christ, I am still struggling with my bad characters. I still pose questions: why do people suffer? I still often feel that life is not fair. But later on I learn that it’s not my part to worry about all of those stuffs…. Don’t get me wrong. Of course I want to do something to make this world better. It’s just that there are so many things which can’t be comprehended mere by human’s brain. And don’t say that I hate science, oooh I love science! ^^ Many people said that science is contradiction to religion. But for me, the longer and the deeper I know science, it just give me more confirmation about how BIG our God is.
- Are you a religious person?
It is interesting to note that after I said to someone that I’m a Christian, sometimes I’d get a question, “Oh, are you religious?” I find it’s interesting also that what they mean by religious is that going to church every Sunday. And whenever I said yes, I go to church every Sunday, it is concluded that I am religious :p But I don’t want to be a religious person, in this case is a person who never-miss-a-single-mass every Sunday, or have read the whole Bible, or leave under the commandment, but they don’t have a personal, intimate relationship with God.
I used to live that kind of life. I went to a Catholic elementary school and during my junior & senior high school, I always got a catholic lesson (my secondary school for 6 years was in a public school, where 95% of students are teachers are Moslem, but they also provide religious education for those who are not Moslem). And I also went to the church every Sunday, following every procession and celebration from New Year’s mass, Easter, Christmas, until the following New Year’s mass. I followed every adoration, yet I did not know who the God that I was worshipping for is. For me, Jesus was no more than a historical figure, a very great and kind person. Many people say that He is God, but I never knew Him in person. I go to church every week, but I live in sin every day. I was a Christian once in a week! I went to church because I felt that I am obliged to go to church, and if I didn’t go, I’d sin. But now I go to church because I want to, and I love to go to church. I am always longing to go to church every week!
Here’s an analogy about this: imagine that as a student, you go to class everyday. You know that you have to go, you must go, even though maybe you don’t like the class or even hate the professor. You go with a burden in your heart. But imagine when you go to school in excitement every morning. Every time the class overs, you just can’t wait to go to the next class on the following day. That’s the same excitement that I feel about going to church. It’s not just a routinity that every Christian ought to do every week. Even if I can’t go to church because of something, I won’t sin or be punished.
Now, let me clarify one thing. What I mean by church is not just a building. Every believer of Christ is called a church, he/she is a holy temple of God. We, as a Christian, carry God’s presence everywhere we go. You can find millions of church buildings, but it’s just an empty building without God’s presence there. The church that I’m going now doesn’t even look like a “church” people think of! It’s just a not-so-big building. My church in my hometown even rents a place which is used to be an old hotel, and it is not a mega-church building with a large bill-board on it. It is just a very very small place. But I really love going there because God’s presence is so real.
Another thing: people say that we don’t have to go church every Sunday, because we can pray anywhere and anytime we want. True! But this church building is also place where all the believers come and gather together, where they praise and worship God together. It is the time when our spirit is renewed. Explaining about this can be verrryyyy looong and this time I do not have enough space to do this.
But if God really exists, why there are so many bad things happen in the world? Pain, suffering, massacres, genocides…. Why bad things happen to good, innocent people?
Seriously, this is also a question that I think a lot as a Christian. I also deal with this tough question many times. Being a student of social sciences, I’ve watched many documentary movies about history moments in the world: The two world war, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, killing field in Cambodia, etc. I asked to myself why poverty happens. Why a disease can take away the life of someone that you love. If God really exists, why He is just silent and does nothing?
I would like to thank my friend, Ci Shinta, who has helped me to explain this thing. (Yes people, fellowship is indeed crucial in Christian life!! This is another story and it’s going to be looong). The conversation and the discussion that we have been indeed help me a lot to figure out these things. Again, I realize that what I will write down is of course cannot satisfy our curiosity as human, and I do not mean to be able to answer all of questions.
Let’s start from the beginning. This is going to be a very long explanation, so please bear with me. To be put in a very simple way, we live in a very destructive world, where imperfectness like wars, genocide, injustice, poverty and sickness can happen anywhere, anytime, and on anyone, because of SIN. I can hear some of you smirked cynically and say, “Oh come on Louisa! It’s not an answer like what I’m expecting for! You’re saying like you’re preaching from the Bible!” Which is indeed true. Remember, I am a Christian, and I believe the Bible as the source of the truth. The Bible may not deal with modern issues, but it gives a fundamental and basic truth which are applicable to everyday life.
God created human with a FREE WILL. Why? Because he created human, NOT ROBOT. Here’s the illustration: which one do you prefer: someone who loves you that comes out purely from his/her heart, or someone who loves you because s/he feels forced to? Because you put a knife behind his/her back? I’m sure you would choose the first scenario. So does God. God is not a silent ‘thing’, He too can love. He can feel. Nah, one characteristic about love is, it has to be shared with someone. That’s why God created human according to His image, so that He can pour out His love. And God wants human to worship and love Him back by using his/her free will wisely. And God doesn’t let us alone to guessing recklessly, He also guides us.
Now. God told Adam and Eve NOT to eat the forbidden fruit (bear with me people!!), but they didn’t obey. And they fell into sin, and ever since, they can’t see God anymore. Because God is so holy, so holy He is that any single speck of sin can’t bear to dwell and see His Holyness. God has warned them that if they eat the fruit, they will die, both spiritually (which means they can’t dwell together with God anymore) and physically (their body will die). And ever since, we know that sin became to spread everywhere. There came imperfectness, poverty, sickness, diseases, any kind of immoral conduct. This is because human chose not to obey God.
Now we may protest, but why God didn’t intervene nor warn Eve when she was seduced by Satan to eat the fruit?? The straightforward answer: because God wanted Eve to obey Him freely from her heart without have to be told all the time. An illustration about parents and child may be the best illustration to help us understand this thing more. One of my friends in Singapore said, “I don’t want my child to be a soldier, who obeys me merely because I told her so. I want her to obey me because of love. I want my child to be a child.” Another illustration: once my friend told me that her mother let her younger sister to touch the candle, in purpose. The mother had warned her sister many times that the candle was hot, DON’T TOUCH IT. Everytime her sister came to approach the candle, her mother would pull her back, because it’s dangerous to touch it. But her sister didn’t listen, and she kept approaching the candle, until the mom let her to do what she desired. And she touched the candle, and she was stung by the hot of the fire, and cried. Now she got the lesson. Sometimes the parents let the children to do what their wish so that they can learn the lesson.
Again, we may protest: “But the consequence that God didn’t intervene and prevent Eve not to eat the fruit is so severe!! Look at us! Sin came upon us!” Yes, it’s true. But remember, God created us with FREE WILL. It’s our free will whether we want to obey Him or not. We are not robot. We are created with the ability to choose, to love, to feel hurt, to obey. God is faithful and constant in everything He says, in His promises. He doesn’t even break one of His laws. Will you worship a god that breaking his laws every now and then? If God always intervened, actually he gave us free will or not? Well, I don’t want to worship and follow god who is like that, who cannot be trusted in his own words.
Before us, there lie two ways, two options: good and evil. Satan also work, people. He work so hard to draw us further and further from God, and that’s only his main goal and purpose. He’s a liar. Now, Satan himself is a fallen angel that chose to rebel God. Sometimes I think, it’s so stupid of Satan to choose to rebel and against God. Wasn’t he an angel that saw God’s glory day by day? If he knew that God is so powerful, so almighty, why he still chose to against Him? The illustration to explain this is again so simple. Let alone Satan, we sometimes as a child choose to rebel and not obey our parents. Isn’t that true? We know that if we rebel them, we’ll make them sad. Yet we choose not to obey anyway.
God so surely wants us to follow His way rather than follow Satan’s. But He wants us to choose based on our FREE WILL. If we are always told and directed all the time, then what’s the difference between us and a robot?
Now, let’s get down to earth. Why didn’t God step down to stop the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, the mass killing in Cambodia, the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut? Where was God? You know what, we always focus on the bad things. Actually God indeed worked during those moments. God worked through Corie ten Boom and her family to hide lots of Jews during the massacre. And I’m sure there were other people that God used to save hundreds of Jews life. There was an American man (I forgot the name, just watch the documentary movie of Ghost of Rwanda) who tried to hide and save dozens of Rwandans during the massacre. And he’s the only America who stayed in Rwanda, after all the foreigners, including the Ambassador were pulled back from the country!! Think about the journalists who risked their life to document the story about mass killing in Cambodia, which thank to them, we can now watch the movie and do an action to stop the killing, to pass a law and a regulation that condemns atrocities against humanity. God was in the presence of teachers who protected the children during the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I’m sure that God cried bitterly to see the bad things conducted by human.
How often we focus on the good things? Barely ever. We human tend to focus on the bad things. That’s the nature of us (even tough, of course, I believe that we can do good things too). It’s very seldom to hear people ask, why good things happen to bad people? Thinking about it, we are all sinners. Yet God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for us in the cross, so that our relationship with God can be restored. Know that Jesus died for EVERYONE. He didn’t only die for the Jews. It’s His willing that ALL people can be saved, but again, the “law of FREE WILL” still plays role. For those who believe, they will be saved. God has died for us, now the turn is in our hand, whether or not we want to receive it or not. Another parable: if I already bought a ticket for you, a ticket that can take you ANYYYYYWHERE you want to go, what you need to do is to claim the ticket! I have bought it, I have redeemed it. But it will be useless the ticket is being claimed by the person to whom I give it. The same goes with the salvation.
Now, comes another question. God is God, He surely can’t die!!
Well, He’s an Almighty God. In Jews, He even has 99 names (sorry if I’m wrong in the number) which have to be pronounced respectfully. If He is indeed God, surely He can do ALL the things, including die for us in the cross, and be resurrected again from the death. That’s why God loves us so dearly. Is there any other God who is willing to die for the people that He created?? Other beliefs demand human to give sacrifice, offerings, rituals, etc. But the God that I worship is not like that.
About Salvation, actually we are saved from what? I don’t think that I need to be saved. I am okay.
It’s okay to believe that way :) If you really wanna know my answer, we are saved from eternal death, because the punishment of the sin is death. That’s what I believe: sin, death, and salvation. We are created on a purpose, to glorify God in everything we do. We are not just live, and then die like any other creation. It’s okay if you choose not to believe in those things. I would repeat that as a Christian, we have God to pull us back everytime we fall into sin, when we stumble and fall. Because we can’t do it only on our own strength. We need God to help us to stand again.
- So, you do believe in 6 days creation?
Yep :D I don’t believe that the whole universe happens just because of an accident or a Big Bang Theory, nor I believe in Darwin’s theory of Evolution that we human came from a monkey, for example. I would surely choose to believe that I am created by the hand of Almighty God according to His image, rather than believing that I’m a descendant of a monkey…. Isn’t it amazing how God created human, from Adam and Eve, and then about the conception between a sperm and an egg? I am fearfully and wonderfully made!
But you barely read any books other than Christian books! You never read Qur'an, or Wedha (Buddhist's Holy Bible), or learn any other religion's thoughts. How can you claim that Christianity is the most right belief, or religion?
To be honest, I don't really like everytime the question come into religion thing. I believe that we should love others regardless their religion or beliefs, and I strongly disagree with people who don't want to make friends with others simply because they don't share the same faith. But if you insist an answer, then here we go.
It's true that I've never tasted, hold or study any other religion. I just know some certain aspects about it, but they can never explain the questions and problem which I also have.... only the teaching in Christianity can. Yes, I also read Bible from Genesis till Revelation. And i still encounter with so many questions, which I've explained looooong here in this post. And since i've found the answer in my belief of Christianity, why should i look for another answer in other religions? And if my faith being questioned, shouldn't I be grounded strong and firm first in the faith that I uphold and belief?
This is a question that I ask to a friend who doesn’t believe in God: if you don’t believe in God, then what do you believe? And to whom you turn to everytime you feel down and sad?
His answer was, “I believe in human’s ability for doing good, and I always turn to family, to my friends to comfort me.” I think his answer really make sense! But as I think more and more about it, and after I discussed it with another Christian friend, what she said really struck me.
It’s true that we can always turn to family and friends when we feel sad, depressed, stressed, down, etc. That’s why we have them, right? That’s why they are very important in our life, and we love them so much. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing. But yet, God is the only Personal that I can always turn to, regardless where I am. There is always something that I can never share to my family nor my friends. I keep it on my own, but I also talked to God (btw, praying is not only ONE direction. It’s a TWO way communication, if we are willing to sit still and listen). And there’s no one, absolutely NO ONE, who can satisfy my soul and give me peace that surpasses all understanding beside God. It’s an inner peace which world can not give. Human can always turn us down. They can disappoint us. They are human! But God is not like that.
Oh yes, there are times when I feel angry and bitter to God. Why do I still believe in Him, then? Well, it’s because I know my God. How can you trust somebody that you don’t know? I know Him because I cultivate and nurture a relationship with Him. I have my own time to do a devotion, to sing and to worship Him. It’s like a having a relationship with someone that you love. Isn’t it as simple as that?? The more you know God, the more you feel secure to trust Him. And God never fails us.
So now you know that I am a Christian not because I was born in Christian family, or educated as a Christian. I am also very critical about it.
What I’ve written about is just a single, basic thing about Christian faith. There are still lots of questions to deal with. I’ll write and post about it in another occasion :) But I acknowledge there are still questions which go unanswered and remain a mystery. Who are we to ask God? We’re just speckle of dust, a drop in the ocean. Instead of boasting ourselves before Him and demand Him to demonstrate His power, we should be humbled by His mighty power. I agree with a quote (is it from Einstein?? I forgot again =.=) saying, “Asking God to explain everything to us is the same with asking a professor to explain an equation to a kindergarten kid” :D
I thank you who bear to read this post till the end, and I hope that this post can help you to understand better about what it means to be a Christian :) And for you who are already Christian, I hope that this post can also hope you to answer the questions which may be thrown at you, even tough of course the answers that we give can not 100% satisfy them. The best source is always to meditate the Bible, and pray for the guidance of Holy Spirit :)