A Life On Fire: Living With Passion For Christ

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A Life On Fire - Living With Passion For Christ

Faith: An introduction to A Life On Fire

“Faith: not wanting to know what is true.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Happy Science, 1882

 

The site tagline reads “Living with Passion for Christ,” so maybe it comes as a surprise to see the above quoted front and center on the first post. There is part of me that wants to start this blog by making you feel welcome and telling you this is a place that will make you comfortable. The other part of me wants to start things off by reaching through your monitor, grabbing you by the collar, and shaking you violently. That part of me wants to tell you that you are welcome here and sharing your thoughts is always encouraged, but you won’t always be comfortable with what you read.

 

Yes, there are going to be posts – particularly in the Devotional section – that I hope will comfort and encourage you. There are going to be posts I hope will build you up, give you strength to endure, give you the courage of your conviction, and tear down the obstacles that are holding you back from living with passion for Christ.

 

But as I have already pointed out, I am of a dual mind. I often aim to shake things up. When that happens, it will be intentional. It will be raw. It will be true.

 

So guess what. Nietzsche was right. There, I said it.

 

Unfortunately, there are many (I know, not you, right?) who use their faith to combat reality. I am not talking just about Christians here. I am talking about people – religious and non. We all have faith in something. Some have faith in God. Some have faith in humanity. Some have faith in themselves. Some have faith in science. The list goes on and on. Now, if you are a non-Christian, particularly science-minded, I know how that sounds to you, but hear me out.

 

If you open a dictionary, you will likely find two or more definitions of the word faith. They’ll read something like this:

 

1.  Complete trust in something or someone.

2.  Strong belief based on (spiritual) apprehension rather than proof.

 

Yes, Nietzsche is right.

There are those who stick faith in their ears and shout, “La la la!”

 

But Nietzsche’s statement can be misleading. What he points out is not a definition, attribute, or description of faith. It’s an application.

 

Trusting in my wife does not mean I live in a lollipop fantasy in which she could never err. It simply means that she has already demonstrated herself to be trustworthy. Go back and look at the two definitions. It’s not like #1 is divorced from #2. I can’t prove my wife is trustworthy. It’s a conclusion I come to by apprehension. One could provide evidence that she is untrustworthy, but one could not prove the inverse. Proof is for math and logic. Evidence is not proof. Faith – all faith – is based on some type of evidence.

 

We trust, or have faith in, things (and people) that work.

 

We trust that when we go to the doctor, the medicine he prescribes is going to do what he said it’s going to do, not because the doctor is a nice guy but because the medicine went through clinical trials. We trust that humanity is going to fulfill its role (take that as good or bad) because we have evidence of how human beings behave – centuries and centuries of evidence.

 

We trust ourselves because we are with ourselves all day – hopefully.

 

Of course there are things we don’t know about medicine. Humanity often rolls out new surprises, and there are even things we do as individuals we didn’t previously think ourselves capable of.

 

Does that invalidate our faith in those areas? No, it refines it.

 

Now, here is the tricky part. Why do Christians have faith in God?

 

I can think of a million ways to answer this, but since it’s the first post, maybe it’s a good time to tell you about myself.

 

Hello, I am Ryan and . . .

I am a thief.

I am a liar.

I am sexually immoral.

I am a lover of self.

I am a murderer.

 

I am all of those things for the same reason someone who goes to an AA meeting says, “I am an alcoholic.” Maybe they haven’t touched alcohol in ten years, but they still introduce themselves that way.

 

I am a thief because I stole. I am a liar because I lied. I am sexually immoral because I practiced sexual immorality. I am a lover of self because . . . well, let’s face it, all too often I put my own wants ahead of others’ needs. I am a murderer not because I shot or stabbed someone, but because I take Jesus’ words seriously. I have been angry. I have murdered people in my heart and through my actions; I have assassinated their character, their will, and their trust.

 

I am all those things. In short, I am a sinner.

 

I was not always a Christian. Oh, I was baptized at 14 or 15. I went on all the youth group trips and did all the churchy things. I ate the bake sale cookies and sat in the front row of a Baptist church. (I know . . . sacrilege, right?) But I know now that I wasn’t a Christian.

 

I had faith in myself and I was a true believer.

 

As I grew up, I wandered away from church and I wandered away from God. I had no need of religious obligation because I was an adult, capable of anything I put my mind to.

 

Unfortunately, what I put my mind to was sex, drugs, and self-aggrandizement. I became a very good con man. So good, in fact, that I fooled myself. I stole. I took advantage of others’ goodwill.

 

It wasn’t until I was involved in a fatal automobile accident that I recognized what had happened to my life. While I thought I was living it up, I had hit rock bottom. My faith in myself had been misplaced. I had used my faith to fulfill Nietzsche’s definition. I had faith in myself and I didn’t want to know what was true. I stuffed that faith in my ears and shouted, “La la la!” I even rebelled against my new realization. How ridiculous is that?

 

The Bible calls Satan the father of lies, and while he may have set the wheels in motion, I was the one who perfected the art. If I was bad before, I could now be classified as truly evil.

 

They say that the difference between a sociopath and a psychopath is this: Sociopaths build castles in the sky and psychopaths live in them. I did both. I lived in my own private creation while I invented hundreds of other “palaces,” furnished and ready to receive guests.

 

God left me to my own devices and allowed me to pursue my own form of selfism. And like Satan in the book of Job, God permitted (not approved, simply allowed) me to persecute those around me.

 

But there came a time when God cut Satan off – and He cut me off too.

 

I ran. I ran far and I ran fast. I ran from the consequences of my behavior all the way to Japan.

 

Now don’t think for a moment that because I was in a new country that my character improved. It didn’t. God had cut me off from one group, but the world is a big place. Japanese people trust easily. For a sociopath, that is like getting the key to the city. For a psychopath, it’s like someone providing an address to their cloud castle.

 

But God permitted me to meet my wife. He poured blessings on me. One of those blessing is that He allowed the consequences of my actions to catch up to me.

 

He ran me out of the city into the countryside. Thousands of miles from home, I was surrounded by Buddhism, Shinto, and more often than not, apathetic atheism – a distinct lack of any Christian interference. He waited patiently for me to get where He needed me to go. In the middle of what amounts to a farming community, He had me all to Himself. There was nowhere left to run, no place left to hide.

 

And then He put His foot down, crushing me finally and completely.

 

When someone recites the Epicurean paradox, saying God is either unwilling or unable to conquer evil, it brings an ironic smirk to my face. He conquered me.

 

I remember it was the night of my birthday and I was kneeling out in the dirt road, head hung low, hands clutching at rocks. I needed a savior. I didn’t need him to save me from the world. I needed him to save me from myself. More than that, I needed him to save everyone else from me.

 

It was in that moment that I believed. Russellism died on the pyre of God’s wrath that night. It would take time for the ashes to scatter, and they still are, but I don’t have faith in myself anymore.

 

It was replaced by a new faith. One that wanted to know the truth. One that caused me to evaluate the world as it really was, to tear down the castles in the sky, and to evict the demons I had let take up residence in my soul. This was a faith that wanted to understand science, nature, humanity, religion, philosophy, and the source of those things. It was a faith that was born because the Creator of the universe grabbed me by the collar and shook me violently until I let go of what was holding me back from a relationship with Him.

 

This is why I have faith in God.

 

I have faith in God because He has demonstrated Himself to be trustworthy. It’s a faith that proves Nietzsche wrong because it not only wants to know the truth, but it wants to live it out.   It’s a faith that works. It caused who I was to become who I am and will one day cause me to become something better, something which more closely resembles Christ. It’s a faith that caused a thief, liar, sexually immoral, self-loving, murderous sinner to turn around and begin traveling in the opposite direction . . . to become someone who loves others and wants to help them in any way possible. Not because I have to. Not because I always want to. But because I am thankful and trust someone who was genuinely faithful and willingly laid down His life so I could enter into it.

 

Welcome to A Life On Fire – Living with Passion for Christ. It’s not simply a tagline. It’s a destination . . . and I hope you will travel the road with me.

 

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION®, ESV®
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Written by Ryan Russell

Ryan is an American web and graphic designer living in rural Japan. He also preaches and leads a weekly Bible Study at Izumo International Friendship Church.

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