"Weak faith in a strong object is infinitely better than strong faith in a weak object." — Tim Keller
Own It is a companion resource to Grace Unplugged, a new movie releasing in theaters on Oct. 4, 2013, starring AJ Michalka, James Denton, Jamie Grace, Chris Tomlin and more.
> COMING SOON: CBN.com will feature a review of Grace Unplugged and an in-depth interview with the movie's leading lady, AJ Michalka
Chapter 1: What Is "Owning" Your Faith? - Part 3
From Own It
By Hayley and Michael DiMarco
CBN.com - Continued from Part 2...
Who are you? Are you the owner of your faith, are you just faking it, or picking and choosing it, or have you just thrown your hands up and walked away? When someone disowns an idea or even a person they give up faith in or love for something or someone they used to call their own. They look at that idea or person as a royal mistake, and they most often replace it with something or someone else, even if it's just self. Either way, they reject their former belief and so disown, or give up the right to, what they used to have full access to.
When you disown your faith, you turn your back on it and that can leave you feeling all kinds of junk. Resentment for the lies you used to believe; distrust or disgust of those that still believe them; fear that you may be wrong; anger for being wrong for so long before. It can be a mix of any of these emotions or one compelling one, but either way walking away from your faith isn't easy. And in a lot of instances, the pain can come from those you left behind. Because that's just how they feel—rejected along with God Himself—their resentment and anger can build. Their fear over your eternal destination can also cloud their emotions and leave them thinking all kinds of thoughts that only affirm your rejection of their faith in their so-called God of amazing grace. How can they preach His grace and offer you none? How can they speak of His love and forgiveness without sharing in it? And who do they think they are in their wrath and judgment . . . the savior? Their inability to know how to handle dissension can only make matters worse, but that's why this book has found its way to your hands, to remove the human ability to make other's decisions personal and to remove demands that not even God Himself makes.
When Jesus was face-to-face with people who disowned Him, argument was not His response. He didn't pursue them, explain the errors of their ways to them; He allowed them to be whoever they were made to be and to make the decisions they would make. There is a story often told of His encounter with a very rich young man who wanted to follow Him. He believed in God. He lived an obedient life, trying hard to do all that God and the Scriptures asked, but when he asked Jesus what more he could do, the answer he got froze him in his tracks: "And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.' Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:21–22 esv). But the story doesn't end there. The most intriguing part of this exchange isn't that the man left when he realized God wanted him to give up his obsession for stuff, but that Jesus didn't run after him. He didn't grab his arm and try to explain Himself better. He wasn't worried, or upset that the young man wasn't getting it. Jesus allowed the man to do what he would, free from the pressure of His presence.
God does the same today. He doesn't force faith. Even though His followers wish He would, He isn't in the habit of high-pressured sales. Though He is sovereign and nothing happens except that He allows it, He also doesn't force ownership. His hand isn't on the back of your neck forcing you to your knees. As you well know, you can reject Him, disown Him, and walk away from Him and you won't be struck by lightning. He never said you would. He never said that rejecting Him was an impossibility, or instantly punishable by plague or death. If that were the case then the men who hung Jesus on the cross would have been zapped. But God allows and even uses the rejection of Himself by men to His glory. After all, the cross—the focus of all of God's Word, from beginning to end—was made possible by the very men who believed they were thwarting the work of Jesus. But even their rejection of Him was not only allowed but meant to be. You might think that you have hardened your heart, but the truth is that God is the one who chooses whom He will save and who will reject Him. So even the freedom that you feel, the doubt you have, would not be yours if He had not allowed it. As it says in Romans 9:18, "He has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills" (esv).
So, why a book on owning your faith if it is God who ultimately decides the fate of your heart? Why would we even bring up the subject of salvation, of faith, of belief and doubt if we were only pawns in God's game of life? Those questions are valid and are ones that have sparked centuries of debate, argument, and even wars.
Should we spend time talking to you about your doubts, cajoling you, disowning you, fighting for you, or should we just let God do with you what He would do? You've probably already guessed our answer because you're holding a book we wrote on the subject. But to make it clear—"yes," we should spend time helping you with the doubts that plague so many when it comes to faith in the unseen, and "no," we should not and will not cajole, disown, or fight you to faith. As the story of the prodigal made clear, God is a not a God who strikes the doubter dead. He is not a God who forever rejects those who reject Him, but He is a God whose love and power, goodness and kindness is enough to outlove even the most terrible of cynics who wants to believe.
Romans 5:8 tells us that Christ died for sinners, so your doubt does not exclude you from ownership. You may doubt God's love or even His existence, and you might think that excludes you from faith, but doubt isn't as foreign a concept to faith as some would have you believe. Each one of us doubts, we doubt that God can heal our wounds; we doubt that He would really ever let us move a mountain; we doubt that we can overcome our addictions and obsessions even though His Word promises it all. Doubt is a part of the human condition, natural to the state of man who, like an ant trying to figure out the inner workings of a nuclear power plant, is incapable of understanding even the most rudimentary of descriptions of such a powerful entity.
Your doubt doesn't exclude you from faith, no matter what you may have heard—it simply proves your humanness and His unfathomable Godness. But doubt doesn't have to define you or rule you but rather it can be the fuel for discussion, study, and prayer. In order to own your faith, you have to continue the conversation. You have to allow yourself to be wrong, to question and to be taught. As long as you remain unteachable, rigid in your disbelief and doubt, you will remain in limbo, unable to firmly stand on your either conviction or suspicion. But in either case, to own one or the other you must ultimately be owned by your belief. You are owned by your faith or doubt when you turn yourself over to it fully.
When you are fully owned by your disbelief, then there is no further discussion that needs to be had between you and the God you once trusted. In fact, your very senses are numb to His presence, your eyes shut, your ears closed and your body turned away. In this instance you have come to grips with the fact that if need be, you would stand up in front of the world and say, "I deny Jesus is Lord," and you would be content with that denial. But before you jump to your feet, first consider that this verbal rejection of Jesus comes with an effect and that is that as you deny Him so He denies you. As He said in the book of Matthew, "Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:33 esv). So is it any wonder that in your denial of the one who was sent to save you, that you have found more and more animosity toward God and His people? That your heart has hardened more with each passing day? This is the result of Jesus denying you more than it is of you denying Him. The truth is that you own your faith when and only when Christ owns you. William Barley, in The Letters of James and Peter, spoke this better than we ever could when he said,
It frequently happens that the value of a thing lies in the fact that someone has possessed it. A very ordinary thing acquires a new value if it has been possessed by some famous person. In any museum we will find quite ordinary things—clothes, a walking-stick, a pen, pieces of furniture—which are only of value because they were possessed and used by some great person. It is the ownership which gives them worth. It is so with the Christian. The Christian may be a very ordinary person, but he acquires a new value and dignity and greatness because he belongs to God. The greatness of the Christian lies in the fact that he is God's.
To be owned by God is ultimately to be consumed by Him. When God owns you, your mind returns continually to His presence. You can't quit Him. You can't reject Him because He has a hold of you. Many Christian parents claim this to be the case in the lives of their prodigal children. They claim the faith that they were raised in is the seed that will one day sprout and bring them back. And that is often the case. In these situations, the prodigal cannot stop thinking "what if"; they can't get Jesus' face out of their minds and the stain of guilt off of their lives. This is because they are owned and that ownership has its cost.
The idea of the seeds of faith first got their start in a story told by Jesus in the parable of the sower. He explained faith this way:
"Consider the sower who went out to sow. As he was sowing,
some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and ate them up.
Others fell on rocky ground, where there wasn't much soil, and they sprang up quickly since the soil wasn't deep. But when the sun came up they were scorched, and since they had no root, they withered.
Others fell among thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them.
Still others fell on good ground and produced a crop: some 100, some 60, and some 30 times what was sown. Anyone who has ears should listen!" (Matt. 13:3–9)
This parable was used to help the agrarian listeners of Jesus' time better understand the reasons why faith takes hold in some people's lives but not in others. And to explain what all this meant, He followed up His parable with these words:
"When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and doesn't understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one sown along the path.
And the one sown on rocky ground—this is one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root in himself, but is short lived. When pressure or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
Now the one sown among the thorns—this is one who hears the word, but the worries of this age and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
But the one sown on the good ground—this is one who hears and understands the word, who does bear fruit and yields: some 100, some 60, some 30 times what was sown." (Matt. 13:19–23)
So let's take a closer look. The one sown on the path clearly describes someone who didn't get it, who never believed. The seed never took root in their lives. That one's easy.
Then comes the one sown on rocky ground. In this one you can see the "borrower" or the "renter" we talked about earlier, who has no root in himself—all of the root was in others around him. So in this case of borrowed faith, when pressure comes, faith flies out the window. When the rubber hits the road and things get tough, your faith—not being yours to begin with—serves no purpose, gives no hope, and offers no help.
Next, the seeds sown among the thorns could be used to describe the one who picks and chooses. The seed finds earth, it digs in, but since its roots are entangled with the roots of thorns, the entanglement or the mixture of multiple beliefs that are inconsistent with each other chokes out faith. When you pick and choose the parts of God that you want for yourself, you create another God—one that cannot survive the worries of everyday life.
And finally, Jesus talks about a fourth landing place for the seeds, and that is the good ground. In this case, the seed finds nice deep soil to bury itself in and take root, and since there are no weeds competing for the attention of the water and the sun, the seed can grow fat and happy and eventually spring up through the earth and climb toward the sun. In this case we see a seed that grows into a tree that then grows more seeds that fall to the ground and plants more trees. This kind of faith multiplies its fruit. It grows nourishment for those that come to it, it feeds them and makes them want more, and it speaks to the kindness and goodness of the one who sowed the seeds in the first place.
If you feel like your faith is on rocky ground and the thorns are fighting to rule your life, then your faith in God may be faltering or all together gone. You may feel Him to be ineffective, distant, unavailable—and because of that, you've given up on Him, or at least kept Him at arm's length. That's because the truth is that the seed of faith has yet to take root. If your faith doesn't feel like your own, the truth might be that the seed never truly took root in your life. That's good news—it means that the faith that you find ineffective, a failure, was never true faith at all. This just proves that faith in anything or anyone other than God is not faith at all. When your faith isn't your own, but another's, when you do not own it, it does not change you, it does not cost you, and it will not save you. And so knowing that, you can be done with the cheap imitation because it has proven to be of no value. Believing what you have had until today was true faith and it just wasn't enough is the biggest lie you've ever believed. True faith is powerful and life changing. Fake faith is ineffective and life sucking. But when the seed of faith falls onto good ground, when God clears away the weeds and you receive the seed, true faith can grow.
So let's take a look at what true faith looks like. Let's all start with the assumption that up until now you were living a lie, a pretend faith—one that looked and sounded real, but you know deep down was anything but genuine. Let's start from there and consider what it means to find your faith anew. To see it for what it really is for the first time as you start to consider giving up the charade and instead truly own your faith.
Excerpt taken from OWN IT. OWN IT is one of two companion books from the upcoming Christian film GRACE UNPLUGGED which releases in theaters Oct. 4, 2013. The companion books are currently available at all major retail outlets.
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