Justifying Jesus: Memory & Belief
Justifying Jesus is by far the greatest hindrance I have experienced in my faith walk. I cannot type fast enough. My cheeks are aching, from smiling, all night. No, I haven’t slept, and I do not care. Y’all, I just laughed out loud.
I do not doubt, in this life of half-hearted belief, I have been sustained. In spite of me and rouge, somewhat authentic Christian teachings, I have survived a mad-man of a god, that was reminiscent of a game of Russian roulette. Maybe He will save… but… if He doesn’t? Okay, then I will…
And then maybe He will…
Alright, I got this., in case He doesn’t.
And I spin the gun chamber again.
My husband Justin and my daughter Maggie are two of the most notorious players in the game of hypotheticals. As a child, Maggie would propose outlandish, often comical scenarios to me, every 10 minutes. “Mom, if we passed a car seat with a baby on the road, would you stop and pick it up?”
It depends on if we are running late, and if there were enough seats in the van.
Justin does this, nearly habitually. We had an offer on another section of our ranch. And it had been a few days since we had heard anything from the prospective buyers. As we chatted over coffee he said, “Maybe they are thinking that they want that fence line moved and the last thing we discussed will only work if we move that fence?”
Maybe, or maybe they were abducted by aliens. Or maybe they are trapped under something heavy?
And I absolutely do not say this to make fun of Justin, he is my favorite.
I say this because I propose this is exactly what we have programmed ourselves, as believers to do as a means of justifying Jesus.
I want to suggest this to myself and you. So, I am going to get a little PG-13 with you. Do you believe that Jesus was born to a teenage girl who had never had sex? Yes, I know that sounded harsh, we clean that story up with “virgin birth.” But that is the definition of a virgin. I am sorry if I made you blush. In our tangible, evidential experiences, a man and a woman have sex and that is where babies come from.
So we hang our stockings on the mantle, under plastic figurines of an adorable white couple and their blonde baby boy and say, yep, I believe that.
We don’t have to justify Jesus in this belief, we believe. And, if this is my regular readership, you know, I believe in the birth of Jesus to a young girl, who had never been with a man.
Now then, do you believe that He, that baby, as a man, healed the blind? Cured lepers? Made the crippled walk? Cast out demons?
Alright, how about this: Do you believe that he was tortured, stripped naked, whipped, spat on, nailed to a cross, and left there to bleed and have His lungs collapsed, only to then pierced through His side, to ensure His spirit had left His body?
I believe that. And I believe He did it for love and because of that, I am justified.
Now then, do you believe that three days after that brutal death, the women who knew and loved Him went to tend to His tomb and found the tomb empty?
Yes, I do too.
And during the composition of my first book, Stolen Jesus: The Unconventional Search for the Real Savior, I fell into the arms of Grace. Every single thing since then has been a whirlwind of freedom.
Truly, I believed. Again, my cheeks hurt.
Grace, nothing, no nothing can separate me from the love of God. I stopped digging at my belly button, trying to fix Jami so I could finally get right with Jesus. And I drank deeply of the Truth. The cross makes no sense in the scope of conditional love. He died while we still sinned.
I needn’t be justified to come to Him. I can come to Him justified because of His death on the cross.
Wait, there is more.
There is no but in a true I love you. I know I have said this before, but it is now, at 2:00 am, so much more obvious in the ways of justifying Jesus and true belief. I love you… but. Ew. I love you. Still. Ahhh.
I am not accusing you of anything, hear me out, this is me talking. However, raise your hand if this sounds like you. My extraordinary belief is laced with concrete thoughts about His decision making and how my prayers are answered. I believe He will answer, but if He doesn’t it was probably because, A, B, C, and now I will just try harder, prayer differently, and try this new Bible translation and then, I will get it. (I can’t see you, put your hand down.)
What has me up at 2:00 am, something I will regret at 2:00 pm, is the joy I am drenched in after the words “Justifying Jesus” woke me from a dead sleep.
I have been TRYING to believe Jesus is active in my life. I propose the majority of us are caught up in this and it is completely debilitating our faith walk. A good portion of what I was discovering about my belief, came unraveled during the composition of my new book, which I turned into the publisher last Monday.
And ever since that last read through, I have been painting and processing and justifying Jesus.
I know, I am exhausting.
But I wholly believe this; the objective human brain is notorious for dwelling on emotion and feasting on the transcripts of the past. In turn, the brain/body produces stress chemicals and kicks into survival mode, leaving us grappling with a mysterious Jesus that didn’t answer or allowed tragedy or misfortune.
This creates more stress, want, doubt, and less of the true communion with the belief we claim to believe in.
I cannot believe better than I receive? Or can I? And if I truly believed, oh… my stars.I cannot believe better than I receive? Or can I? And if I truly believed, oh… my stars. Click To Tweet
Steeped in hypotheticals and concrete experiences, I have justified a God, who was born of a virgin, suffered died and was buried and rose again – FROM THE DEAD – so that I might have peace, joy, and life abundant if only I would stop justifying Him and His ways and then…
This is the stuff I know. I live and breath it, write it, paint it, and stamp it on t-shirts. And this occurs to me, I believe more in the past, what went wrong, what went right than I believe in what He promised. A future wholly choreographed with His plan, hope He designed within my belief to prosper and not harm. (Jer. 29:11)
And if I am defined by my past, I do not dwell in that future and the God who dwells in me, the hope of glory, (Col 1:27) I am justifying myself and Jesus.
I just “lol-ed” again.
Justifying Jesus is staying in the human aspect of belief.
If you are reading this, you were not at the birth of Jesus, nor were you present when He was brutalized or at His resurrection, and yet, if you are like me, you have sacrificed much to stand firm in your commitment.
Still, we spin the roulette wheel and hope it lands on answered prayer. I have dined at a tapas bar on tiny portions, barely tasting morsels of truth. The all you can eat buffet is on the other side. We will never hunger or thirst again if we only believe we are welcome.
Here is the kicker.
The time spent on the human side of belief is the time not spent in the arms of the most real and outstanding God. And let’s be honest, the mind and body are nearly impossible to conquer. Except for the part about how we can do all things through Christ, but yeah.
If I put up a picture of your most favorite food, something you absolutely love to eat, and you are hungry, will your mouth water?
Okay, I want you to stop your mouth from watering. No, don’t drool. Stop. I said stop!
Some of our most human conditions were born in us. They were part of His design, and oh my, He thought of everything. Including the platypus. This Guy, His ways are magnificent.
But until 2:00 am, what I was missing was… focusing on what I was missing, which is… UNBELIEF?!?
And so what did I do? I justified Jesus.
Well, He probably is waiting until…
That is probably because I….
Once this is better He will…
Which brings me to the ache in my cheeks and the LOL-ing.
Basically, I need to stop being me, so I can start believing Him.
I am going to do this right after I stop salivating when someone cuts into a warm apple pie.
Okay, if your mouth is watering, you need to try my apple pie recipe. But even if it isn’t, and apple pie makes you gag, you still had a reaction that happened outside of what is concrete. I am not handing you a piece of pie. Nor am I going to shove a piece in your mouth, and yet you react based on your past.
Either you PHYSICALLY want it or you are PHYSICALLY repulsed, heck, even if you are neutral to apple pie, you have feelings associated with what you are reading. This is because… wait for it… we are human creations, designed to experience human conditions. And what I am proposing is not tangible, you can’t touch it, taste it, smell it, or feel it.
Kind of like the cross.
So the hindrance in our faith being so tangible and unshakeable is the humanity with are faced with each morning we wake ready to face life.
I asked God to let me get my book published, He did.
Then I asked God to let those books be successful, set captives free, and provide for my family. Well, that didn’t go EXACTLY the way I wanted, so I justified Jesus. I sat in the past and analyzed what went wrong and what went right, when He will answer, how He might answer, and in this place, I navigated through the past, embracing it day after day, instead of focusing on Him and His promises.
That part was harder to admit. This part is harder to type, I do not want to sound like a savant.
But I boldly believe that He brought me to this place because He has plans, hope and a future. I believe Him.
I believe, a little book that set me free, will lead thousands to the same freedom. Not for fame or fortune, but because He promised He would. And I am too simple for there to be any other conclusion.
What I will no longer partake in is justifying how or why He moves or saves, but instead I will believe in Him who did and will. My conclusion in this is that I have missed out on the peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, all the fruit because I have been busy MANAGING my belief or justifying Jesus.
I will use the example of prayer. We have our Bibles, journals, studies, highlighters, pens, and sticky notes. And we are going to pray REALLY hard that we are heard. Then, our minds go back to past, our experiences have taught us what may or may not happen.
That is not belief, that is memory.
The past, what I have experienced before, that is the reputation I have given Jesus with only a nod to what He might do, when I justify Him.
So, as I write this the human part of me says, “You are going to say, out loud or in print, that your book will be successful and change lives???”
And my mind then goes to, “okay, but if that is not God’s plan, then what will you write…”
Which breeds a post about surrender and how God moves how He moves and saves how He saves.”
And that will sound wise, right?
Because He does move how He moves and saves how He saves. However, what I have just done is justify Jesus to excuse myself and the world. In turn, He still sounds like a God we can believe in.
Whew! By the world’s standards, that was an excellent 28 seconds with Jesus.
What’s missing? A new mind, fresh and unshakable belief. And this is the scripture, well, the two scriptures, that are entirely paramount in true belief:
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of that not yet seen. Hebrews 11:1
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2
A new mind is the revolutionary tool that will help me stop justifying Jesus and believing Him in a brand new way. Yes, I am 48 years old. And no, I cannot make myself stop salivating when pie is mentioned. But I am drenched in the truth of Him and no longer will I drown in the folly of me.
You can bet, there will be more posts about this.
The freedom I have sought continues to explode. For now, this is my prayer:
Jesus, I will no longer justify you. I will no longer conform to my humanity to excuse you. Instead, I will take every negative unbelief captive. I will not self regulate the power of a virgin birth and resurrection of the crucified Jesus to fit you comfortably into my reality. I will be an utter fool for you, simply because I believe. Help my unbelief….
Jesus be all over you!
Get Stolen Jesus here!
Apple Pie Recipe coming later today!
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