What does it mean to be a Christian atheist? It’s someone who believes in God but lives like He doesn’t exist. If I can be honest with you, I often feel like a Christian atheist. If we really believe that God is who He says He is, then there should be a greater level of faith in our lives. There should be a level of faith in our life that demands an explanation every day of the week.
Mark 5:2-7 (NIV)
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”
Welcome to Jesus 101. The heavens know who he is. Hell knows who he is. Do you know who he is? Romans 14:11 says, “Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” If you don’t know God yet, you will believe one day. The Bible tells us that at some point, we will all meet God, and when that happens, we will understand that He is the Lord of everything above and below the earth. Jesus’ disciples were like, “Who is this man who can even calm the wind in the waves that even the demons beg not to be tortured?”
Jesus showed mercy on the demons and sent them into the pigs instead of Hell. If Jesus has mercy on demons, I think we’ve got a shot. Jesus is a merciful God, even though the demons are afraid he would torture them. I don’t want you to be too afraid of Jesus. But I think we should revere him because he is the Lord of all creation. He is the Lord of Lords, the King of kings, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; He is God. We’ve often reduced and relegated our faith to believing that Jesus is God so we can be saved. Christian atheism could be because we have reduced our faith to what we believe.
Jesus had a brother named James, that later became one of the early church leaders. We know from the scriptures that James did not always believe that Jesus was God’s son. At one point, he even went to people and told them that Jesus was losing his mind. Everything changed, though, when Jesus died and rose again. After the resurrection, James believed that Jesus really was who he said he was. That is the same with us, too. We know that Jesus is the Son of God because of his resurrection. James later went on to write a letter to the early church that we still read today.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
If we’re not careful, we might mistake reducing the Christian faith for believing the right things. Can I tell you believing the right things doesn’t save you? Knowing God saves you. You can believe God and not know Him. James says even the demons believe that and shudder. We have so much Christian atheism because we live in a culture that subscribes to a religion. A religion may get you answers, but it’s an actual relationship with Jesus, where your faith will grow.
1. Believing in God and faith in God are not the same thing.
The right beliefs will get you answers, but trust will get you a relationship.
Believing is important because you’re in trouble if you believe in the wrong god. But faith is different. Faith is a noun. That means faith is something you have or don’t have. Pop quiz, who doesn’t have faith? Nobody. Every single person has faith. It’s not whether you have faith or not; it’s where you put your faith.
Figuring out where you put your faith will change your life. Some of us put our faith in our jobs. Our jobs give us security, money, and a sense of control. So as long as we have a job, we’re okay. Some of us put faith in our health as long as we’re healthy. We’re okay. Others put faith in a relationship. Maybe a boyfriend or a girlfriend when they love you back, you’re okay. But when they don’t love you back, you’re in shambles. What does it look like when you take all your faith in these areas and put it in Christ instead? Your life begins to demand an explanation, and your life changes.
Believing in God that’s not what saves you. It’s faith in Jesus and knowing Him that saves you. If you think that believing in God is what saves you, you’re putting way too much confidence in what you do to get you saved. God is telling you, we don’t do anything to get ourselves saved. Our faith in Jesus is not about what we do. It’s about what’s been done for us. That’s what our faith is.
As we continue in the story in Mark 5, we see that Jesus is pulling up to the shore of a town he had been to previously. This time, word spread about the miracles he had done, and now, even more, people are crowding around him.
Mark 5:21-26 (NIV)
When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.
Most historians believe the woman had an issue with her time of the month, but it just continued for twelve years instead of stopping. Anytime the Bible mentions blood, it’s a big deal. Blood was significant in the Old Testament because many laws were set up to protect people from catching diseases. When God’s people escaped Egypt, they didn’t know things like contagious diseases and foods that could kill you. They needed the law of God to give them a civil and spiritual framework and a dietary and health framework. So here’s a woman who had an issue of blood and basically needed to be quarantined for twelve years. That meant that she couldn’t marry anyone, and there was no possibility of an income to care for herself.
At that time, people would’ve looked at her and assumed that God had cursed her. They had the craziest superstitions; they believed that if their shadow got on you, the spiritual cooties could go through the shadow into you and get you infected. I mean, that’s how they thought back then. So here’s a woman who’s not married, ostracized, rejected, and marginalized with no friends. She’s spent all her money on doctors who couldn’t help her. This woman is hurting. And Jesus comes back to the town, and she’s like, this is my shot. Maybe she didn’t have the courage the first time he came through. But now she’s like, I got to do something.
Mark 5:27-32 (NIV)
When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?'”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Jesus felt power come out from him when the woman touched the hem of his robe. The word power in Greek before it’s translated into English is the word dynamin. That is where we get the word dynamite. This is the only miracle done through him that he wasn’t even planning on doing. Dynamite went off in the spiritual realm, and Jesus is like, “Whoa, did you feel that?” Peter, James, and John were trying not to get crushed by the crowd. Jesus says, “Who touched me?” How do you think this woman feels when that happens? She’s like, “Oh, shoot. I’m healed, but I’m in trouble.” The woman knowing what happened to her, came and fell at his feet, trembling with fear, and told him the whole truth.
2. Believing in God is not the same thing as trusting God.
The difference between belief and faith is simply that, risk. Any kind of real trust takes a risk, doesn’t it? If you trust God with something in your life right now, it will require a high level of risk. Being married takes a level of risk. I’m trusting someone with my heart. Anything in life that is truly valuable requires a level of risk.
What if our love for God matched our risk for God? Do you think we’d feel like Christian atheists if we got up every day and lived a level of risk that matched our love for God? I’m tired of our faith being defined by what we don’t do. It’s just annoying. How about some accountability partners that hold us accountable for what we are going to do? Let’s start holding each other accountable for radical faith and a level of risk that demands an explanation to the world. We will have a level of trust that appeals to the world. I don’t know if beliefs bring you close to God. But I know faith does. God is looking for new trust between you and him, but you will have to risk it.
Jesus called the woman daughter, which is precisely what she needed to hear. She’d been treated so poorly. She needed to hear, sweetheart, you’re in the family. You’re a daughter. You’re not what’s been done to you. You’re not what everybody said. You’re who I say that you are. You’re a daughter in the family of God.
I started with a story about Jesus and some demons; you thought that was scary. I got one more for you. It’s the scariest verse in the whole Bible. Jesus says at the end of our life; we’re going to stand before Him.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
If that doesn’t scare you, I don’t know what does. We’re going to stand before God, and there will be people who get their beliefs right, and Jesus will say, “Yeah, but I never got to know you. You never got to know me.” Our Christian nation has been indoctrinating our population that if you get the answers right on the test, you get to go to heaven. You don’t get to go to heaven because of what you believe. You get to go to heaven because of who you know. Believing the right answers will get you a religion. But trusting in God will get you a relationship. If you are ready to not just believe in God but to put your faith and trust in Him, you can do that today. He is waiting to get to know you and for you to get to know Him.