We Are Not Saved by Certainty

On Credo Fridays I try to create a post that will give some clarity and definition to what I believe, the beliefs that make me what I am.

When I think of a Credo, I think of a statement of faith. So today I want to tell you what faith looks like in my credo. It’s taken me most of my life to get to where I am now about faith and to be honest, every day I find myself working out what living by faith really means for me.

I started out as a Christian with a basic equivalency of “the things I mentally agree with or acknowledge, ie. believe” = “faith.”

After many years of trying to follow Jesus, that grew into something like “the beliefs and the actions that spring from those beliefs” = “faith.”

In both of the above descriptions there was still an idea or key concept of certainty that “faith” still held for me. I KNOW these things are true, therefore…

After several more years and a whole lot of suffering (it’s all relative), I found myself at an entirely new place…a new definition or practice of faith. It went something like, “the connection between God and me that goes beyond the rational, certainty and all the things I don’t understand” = “faith.”

Push pause for a second.

Can you imagine how hard it is to preach from the cloud of unknowing? Can you empathize with the me that I was ‘becoming’ – which seems so much less certain than ‘being’? Rather than being a caterpillar who became a butterfly through the magic of belief, I found myself still in the midst of a metamorphosis. In the American church we thrive on certainty. We bank on certainty. We want guarantees. We want certain quid pro quos. We depend on a God who is reliable…a God who never lets us down.

But here I was with a child born with a significant birth defect. I was loving godly people who died of horrible cancers. I saw people in conferences healed of a sore knee while my good friends were dying from prostate cancer, addiction, heart trouble…and I walked through the valley of the shadow and all my certainty was evaporating because God kept letting me down.

Unless, of course, God can NEVER let me down because whatever God does is what ought to happen in which case it’s one of the emptiest things in the English language to say – “God never lets me down” because whatever he does or doesn’t do is exactly what he was planning to do or not do anyway and what I really want in any given situation doesn’t factor in to him letting me down or not.

Blah.

And that’s a much tougher lyric to work into the phrasing.

And when folks come to hear you preach on a Sunday in North America, they’re still looking for certain blessed assurances and when you suggest that random stuff happens but God is still good…they often move down the road to a preacher who works out a lot and can guarantee outcomes for them.

I was on staff at a church once, long ago, where the senior pastor voiced his certainty to me that Bono of U2 could not possibly be a Christian because he sang, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…” And my internal response was, “dang, what does that make me?”

Unpause.

After more suffering and a whole lot of reading of people I discovered outside the certainty camp – and can I just tell you, it’s a HUGE crowd out here, way bigger and older than the camp itself – I came to the place I’m in today.

“Faith,” for me, means my pledge of allegiance. It’s a daily choice of where I will put my allegiance and how I live because of who I pledge my allegiance to. I will choose to put my trust in God, even when the circumstances tempt me not to. Even in my desolation, I will trust him.

I have no certainty to offer. I only have a relationship with Jesus through a pledge of allegiance that I have found for almost 40 years to be enough to carry me through the hardest of times and lead me into the most beautiful of places. But God is a free agent and my allegiance does not control him or guarantee me any benefits as a member.

And it turns out you only get one of these allegiance things. One to pledge and only one. I can’t pledge it to God and to anyone or anything else. My allegiance can’t be partitioned. It can’t be shared. It has no tolerance for rivals. I used to sing along with Keith Green, “I pledge my head to heaven for the gospel…” now I try to live it every day.

Faith is the allegiance I have pledged to God alone.
I hold it imperfectly but determinedly. Allegiance has room for doubt, certainty is an illusion.
I try to live my allegiance out in all my choices, in all my thoughts and in all my actions and reactions.
Even when my allegiance falters, he still maintains his allegiance to me.
My allegiance can not be percentaged, I can swear no part of it to any ideology, I can owe no part of it to any man.
My allegiance is not more powerful than God and does not bind him to fulfill any of my wishes, even when I pray them.
Any human or human institution(s) that contend for my allegiance are to be questioned, distrusted and ultimately avoided if they insist.
My allegiance is to a person, not a position, not a religion and not a denomination.
Allegiance is not easy but it is simple and you cannot please God without it.

If you’d like to read more about where I am now about faith, check out the book Salvation by Allegiance Alone by Matthew Bates. He agrees with me, so he must be right. 😉

Published by APastor'sStory

Trying to squeeze this life for all the juice I can get out of it.

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