I want to believe in God but I don’t know how.

Sometimes the idea of God makes a lot of sense but all of the ramifications of believing in God are hard to swallow. If you find yourself wishing you could believe, you’re not alone. Consider praying a prayer like this:

God, I don’t know if you’re out there. I’m not sure how I feel about you if you are. But if you do exist I’d like to know more about you. Reveal yourself to me. Help me to find you.

It says very clearly in the Bible that those who seek God will find him. Ask God to reveal himself to you. Be honest about your reservations. God is not offended by questions or doubts.

If you have questions you’d like to talk about, we’d love to hear from you.  If you’d like to talk to someone privately, use this form to request an email mentor.  You’ll hear back from your mentor within a couple of days. (Questions about mentoring? Start here.)

You can find out more about how to become a Christian here.

 

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479 Responses to “I want to believe in God but I don’t know how.”

  • Chris says:

    adi…sorry you are struggling…your name sounds familiar so i may have coached you in the past, if so, you are welcome not to answer my request for more information on your situation. thanks!

  • Tom Tom says:

    Adi, this is Marilyn, Tom’s wife. I understand how things from our past can haunt us. But, we must believe God’s word that tells us once we have accepted Jesus as the Lord of our life, “old things have passed and we are now new creatures “. We strengthen our faith, by being in the word (Bible), hearing the word preached and reading it for ourselves. The devil will camp out on our past mistakes and remind us constantly of them. But, God says they are (our sin, transgressions, mistakes) as far from us as the East is from the West, once we give them to God and He forgives us. Remember the devil is a liar.
    As we dwell on HIS word and live in obedience to Him, our faith becomes stronger. We must live by faith, not by sight, the things we see are not always trustworthy, but all things are true and possible through Christ. We live our faith out through Christ who strengthens us . Philippians 4:13 Christ must be in us, through the Holy Spirit, by way of a profession of faith in Christ. We must actively share our faith.
    Faith is being sure of what we hope for, thru Christ. James 2:17 and to see more about faith read Hebrews chapter 11. Reading the Bible is more important than getting breakfast, lunch and dinner. WE can live on one meal a day, BUT we cannot survive in this wicked world unless we feast on Scripture.
    Take a look at the upper right hand corner of this page, you click there and a mentor will write you back to help you better understand what faith is all about. It is an important aspect of being a child of God.
    Blessings, in Christ, Marilyn

  • Adi says:

    Hi I am Adi. I know I really need help in my walk in Faith.
    I am a single mother of two.

    Everyday I always ask myself if I have God in my life or if I know God. I always feel so lost and alone and miserable and I think it is maybe because I drifted away from God. I keep seeking help online for people who are true Christians and not judgmental.
    My life is very messy because of the things I did in the past but I really want to change now and I want to know more about God or should I say I really want to know God and live my life according to His will. Please help me.

  • barb says:

    part 2: I used prayer – this was over 26 years ago – 2 ask a God I DID NOT BELIEVE IN 2 send me a wonderful man. He did so, and we’re about 2 celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary soon, but, at the time, I thought it was “just a coincidence” I’d met this man who was exactly what I’d prayed 4, except a lot more. I was feeling driven 2 suicide w/o a primary love relationship at this time in my life. God came thru 4 me, but I didn’t give Him credit, really. however, I starting praying when I wanted something really desperately, and I couldn’t help noticing my prayers all seemed 2 get answered! they still do, 2 this day. w/things large and small. for the 1st, maybe, 20 years of all this praying, I didn’t really believe in God or Jesus, but was getting very suspicious that maybe They were real. so, just pray blindly and w/o any belief, 4 starters. God LOVES 4 us 2 come 2 Him – that’s why he gives us the trials of life. plus, He wants us 2 know it’s Him doing the helping, and we wouldn’t know this if we hadn’t asked Him in prayer, but he’d simply given us what we needed w/o our knowing it came from Him. He loves 4 us 2 come 2 him like little children, w/trust, open hearts, and all our messy, unhappy needs and wants. he loves this so much, because it gives Him an opportunity 2 reveal Himself 2 us, and thus 4 us 2 start believing in Him, and knowing there is Someone looking out 4 us all the time. His one rule is that we have 2 ASK 4 what we need, from him. (He also gives us lots of blessings we DIDN’T pray 4, but definitely allows “some rain to fall” in everyone’s life, so that we’ll have reason 2 seek Him.) I hope this helps even 1 person 2 come 2 God, Who is there whether u believe He is or not, just waiting in a patient “frenzy” of love, 2 help us and 2 LOVE us. He wants us in the palm of His hand, not 2 control or crush us, but 2 have us that close 2 Him at all times so he can take care of us. He WANTS – unlike most of our friends and family – 2 know every fear and sorrow of ours, in detail. He WANTS us 2 “bother” Him w/the very depths of our need and shame and misery. because what He wants most, and rejoices in, is our desire 2b CLOSE and INTIMATE w/him. He’s always waiting with great patience 4 us 2 COME 2 HIM. His response might not be immediate, but don’t give up! in my own experience, sometimes He’d respond 2 a prayer a few days later. the more specifically and from the depths of my heart I am able 2 pray, the more likely He responds. prayers have 2 come from your depths, and have no “hidden agendas” 2 them. for example, I keep praying my husband will lose weight cuz of his health. this is 4 my own selfish reasons, and doesn’t get answered. also my husband doesn’t believe he deserves 2b healthy, due 2 a terrible childhood which damaged his self-esteem badly, so I have 2 surrender 2 the relationship he has with God, which has 2 come b4 the 1 I have w/God. hope this helps anyone! FEEL FREE 2 EMAIL ME AT [it is our policy not to publish personal contact information]

  • barb says:

    1 of the things I did 2 start believing, was 2 imagine in detail exactly how Jesus would be if He were real and I was w/him. His incredibly gentle strength, his deep concern and love 4 me, which would be totally undiminished by the fact that He loved everyone else just as much, Him actually touching and comforting me in my misery. Him holding me against His leg, allowing me 2 hold onto it as He walked, since I was 2 broken 2 walk myself. later, I was up higher against him, by His side, still clinging to him and being carried, or 1 time he carried me against His shoulder. it all started w/imagining exactly how I’d like Him 2b. this is 1 way I used. hope this helps even 1 person!

  • Kate says:

    Tom-

    I will try my best to make Jesus the center of my life! Thank you for the encouragement!:)

  • Tom Tom says:

    Kate–
    I encourage you to not waste any of your years pursuing the vain things of the world. Read your Bible and follow Christ! He alone is worthy!

  • Kate says:

    Tom-

    I know in 1 John 4:1 it said to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. But wow, i used to believe near-death experiences and that stuff. I guess the only source where 100% true information is found is only the Bible. Your story was a bit like mine, being brought up by catholic teachings, being basically agnostic, but changing into a true believer afterwards. Except that I am a lot younger.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Kate—
    Although I had some totally unfulfilling religious teachings in the Catholic church as a little boy, I was basically agnostic until I was 46. When I watched my aunt die from a tumor, I began to be concerned about my own mortality and what would happen to me at death. Over the next 6 months, the Lord worked out a stream of things to bring me to the point of trusting him one Sunday morning. My greatest regret is that I didn’t know these things before.

    We must be very careful of relying on any information about heaven, hell, Jesus, or God that is outside of scripture. Since Satan often shows himself as an angel of light, and since nearly all of the near-death experiences contradict or add to what is revealed in scripture, there is no reason to believe the events described are true. Read and study your Bible so that you’ll know what people say is true or false.

  • Kate says:

    Tom-
    Your probably right. Ive heard of people that have went to hell and back and saw these things. But thanks for the advice! I’ll make sure to read it tonight!

    Can i ask you a question too? How did you first get to know God and become born again?

  • Tom Tom says:

    Kate—
    Since no one knows where a particular person went after they died, it would not be possible for anyone to know what a certain pastor or evangelist’s final destination would be. What you may have heard is Jesus’ teachings that not everyone who professes to be a Christian or who does even miraculous things will go to heaven. Those are people who never repented and trusted in Jesus.

    How would you know you’re not one of them? You might start by taking the advice I previously posted. I think you will then see and know for yourself. No one who truly desires to deny worldly pleasures and follow Christ will go to hell. God knows a person’s heart.

  • Kate says:

    -Tom
    Ive heard stories about even pastors and evangelists that think theyre going to heaven that are going to hell. How do i know im not one of them? Im not a pastor or an evangelist, but i might be on the same road they are in. What if i thought i was going to heaven and instead went to hell?

  • Tom Tom says:

    Kate–
    In the most basic sense, you need to trust in what God teaches in his word, the Bible, about what it takes to be saved. Repent (agree with God that you are a sinner and desire with your heart and mind to deny the sinful things of the world) and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he did to pay the penalty for your sins. One must simply go to God with a humble heart.

    In a somewhat more defined sense, I suggest you read the book of 1 John. Within those five chapters are as many as ten evidences of what it looks like to be saved. John concludes the book by stating in 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Hold those things up to yourself as a mirror to see if you are evidencing the attributes of a born again believer in Jesus Christ. While no one will be perfect in every area, there should be some real evidence in many of the areas.

    Lastly, Romans 8:16 tells us, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Do you see God working in and through your life? That’s evidence you are his child.

  • Kate says:

    How do you know if your truly saved or not? Ive heard that there are many Christians that think they are going to heaven, but end up in hell. What do you need to do to know you are really 100% positive you are saved?

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes—
    Since I hadn’t yet heard back from you regarding my last post, I feel I need to address your post that starts with “When I do something wrong,” —

    I’ve read and re-read your statements, and each time I read them I come away thinking of Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    I also come away thinking of Martin Luther who grew up believing in a religious system (Catholicism) that taught it’s as much up to the individual to “do” all the right things in order to earn God’s grace as it is to trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross.

    But grace is not grace if it has to be earned. Grace is freely given by God to those who repent and trust Christ. While I can’t be sure, I’m thinking that the problem lies with your attempts to earn God’s grace by trying to live up to your conception of what a Christian looks like.

    Additionally, while you state a couple of times that you “asked Jesus into my heart,” you need to know that asking Jesus into your heart is NOT the biblical way of salvation any more than good works are.

    Jesus said, “”If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23). Denying yourself includes not only putting aside the things of the world but also putting aside any and every attempt to pay for your own sins by being “good.”

    The only way to salvation, for forgiveness of sins, and to have eternal life is to deny the things of the world (repent) and to put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone. God will only accept a humble person; and the person who is trying to earn heaven in their own way or help God out is not humble, they are self-righteous. James 4:6 tells us, “”God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” and I’m thinking that continues to be the problem you’re struggling with Wes.

    While we can’t necessarily trust our “feelings,” when a person is born again spiritually they KNOW they are saved and right with God. The Holy Spirit gives that evidence to the human spirit, and there truly is a new-found joy and peace that accompanies that.

    You wrote in your last paragraph, “I know there is a God, but I think I have stopped believing in Jesus. And I can’t believe in him until someone tells me (why) he’s going to send everyone to hell, no matter how loving, kind, selfless and sacrificing they are, just because they’ve never met him, and when they try they feel nothing, much like I do.”

    Wes, neither God nor Jesus sends anyone to hell. People send themselves there by disobeying God. And no matter how “good” a person may be, every human being, as soon as they’re old enough to do so, acts out on their innate sin nature and disobeys God. If you broke the law but someone else paid the penalty, would you focus on how unjust the law or the judge is or would you focus on the grace that “someone” bestowed?

    God has shown his grace up against everything you’ve ever done in disobedience by sending his own Son to die for you. You must humble yourself completely, put away your own attempts at reconciliation, and accept what Jesus has already done for you.

    There just is no other way.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes–
    Your post that begins with “When I do”–Before I answer that, would you please tell me what you think about the Bible? Is it from God or from man? Do you believe it? That sort of thing.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes—
    I found some time here and will speak to some of the other questions/concerns you raised after reading and watching those web sites. I’ll kind of answer point-by-point. Keep in mind my earlier post concerning presuppositions. There are two main worldviews which drive people’s presuppositions; creation and evolution. To narrow these down a bit, we must remember that the only “religious book” that addresses man’s origin is the Bible. Therefore, only the God of the Bible can be considered the Creator. Therefore, the creation worldview is based on the God of the Bible and no other god. Evolution must be defined; micro-evolution is something that we can observe by the scientific method, such as selective breeding of animals and changes within a species due to environmental changes. Macro-evolution is the theory of one kind of living thing changing into a different kind of thing; for example, a fish changing into a bird over millions or billions of years. This has never been observed and is therefore not scientific. So there are these two worldviews—creation and evolution. Basically everything that a person sees or experiences is filtered through one of these two worldview lenses. Show a creationist a tree and he sees God’s handiwork. Show an evolutionist a tree and he see millions of years of evolution to arrive at the tree. Therefore evidence in and of itself is of little value when arguing a point between a creationist and an evolutionist.

    Also remember that God is infinite; therefore he cannot be completely understood. While a born again believer, a Christian, has the Holy Spirit of God living within him to help him understand the Bible and the things of God, an unbeliever simply doesn’t have the capacity to grasp much of what the Bible says. Because I know that God is love, and he is holy and perfectly moral and just, I know that the things in the Bible are true.

    So to address some of your comments:
    “I’m concerned about those who made thoughtful comments, who made valid points and got no logical response that would lead them to consider the alternative that Christianity if valid. These people should have an answer, should they not? Jesus didn’t expect blind faith. He SHOWED the way. If we are supposed to follow that example, should we not be equipped to to do that?”
    –There are people with legitimate questions and then there are people who only want to scoff and argue and deny. I’ve spent tens of thousands of words over the last month answering one fellow’s supposed concerns about slavery, wars, etc. in the Bible only to realize that no number of good answers to his questions would appease him. The Bible is going to be foolishness to those who deny God and who are living in darkness. Only when a person seeks the truth from the heart will the light make sense to them. “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). So there will be many people who have these supposed concerns about events in scripture who aren’t going to listen to any reasonable response. Yes, we’re to give a reason for our faith; but remember—WE are not responsible for the response; that’s the responsibility of the Holy Spirit. We are only to be His feet and hands and mouth to bring the gospel and the truth to people. After we do, it’s in His capable hands.

    “The speaker mentions John 4, and how Jesus used the knowledge law to convince the Samaritan woman of the Gospel. Let’s pretend I didn’t already know that story, but anyone who bothers to look it up will see that this is absolutely not true. He uses a MIRACLE to convince her, and when she runs off to tell the villagers, she doesn’t say “wow, he really knew the law, come see!” No, she said “Come see this man who was able to tell me every thing I’ve ever done!” Jesus didn’t use words or logic to appeal to the woman, he used the supernatural. Can you do that? I sure can’t. So who is to blame a non-Christian for not believing words?”
    –I think a closer look at this passage reveals that after some small talk, Jesus swung the conversation around to spiritual things. After arousing interest by talking about “living water” verses the well water, he brought up the issue of her husband. He was using the 7th commandment (adultery) to bring conviction to the woman as he pointed out that she’d had a number of hubands and was now living with a man outside of marriage. The Bible says that “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal. 3:24 KJV). I’ve been sharing my faith this way for eight years and have seen the conviction that comes onto people when they realize they’ve broken God’s law and are indeed sinners.

    “And, the overall strategy being sold by this video is that we should use the law to show those we witness to that they are dirty. Once they know they are dirty, well then they’ll want to be cleansed. Try that with any reasoning person who does not believe in God. It won’t work…”
    –The fact is, nothing else WILL work. If a person doesn’t see their own sinfulness, why would they be interested in the Savior? Without the law, grace doesn’t make any sense. Far too many people “make a decision for Christ” based on what they think they’ll benefit by it. Then when trials and tribulations come, they toss Jesus aside. That was made clear in the video by use of the two plane passengers.

    “First, they would have to have a suspicion of his existence.”
    –The Bible says God has put his existence into each person, by creation and by their conscience. Romans 1:18ff tells us, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

    “Second, they have to accept that the law is valid and worth following, which most are unlikely to do.”
    –That’s true, but unless they’re told they’ve broken the law, they’ll have no reason whatsoever to be concerned.

    “Third, they would have to accept that there are eternal consequences for breaking those laws.”
    –If we don’t tell them about those things, how will they know? Ask 100 people if they think they are a “good” person and 99 will tell you “Yes.” But in God’s eyes, no one is good. We are all sinners. But our responsibility is to tell those who don’t know about the consequences. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death;” Again, the hope is that conveying the truth to the lost will wake them from their sleep. If a blind man was tapping his way to an open manhole, to what lengths would you go to warn him?

    “Did you then find an officer of the law and repent, then whole heartedly try not to do again? How could this tack work on a spiritual level if it doesn’t even work at a physical level?”
    –When a person is born again spiritually, the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. Shortly after I was saved, I listed something for sale on the internet that had a restriction about reselling. The Spirit used another person to point that out to me and I immediately removed the listing and confessed my sin to the Lord. I’ve read of thieves who after coming to Christ returned or repaid all they had taken.

    “So, again, using the law is only going to make me look like a hypocrite.”
    –It won’t make you look like a hypocrite if you’re a Christian. While Christians aren’t perfect and sometimes fall down, their lives are typically shining lights to a dark world. When a Christian fouls up and admits it, people are often stunned.

    “And finally, I’ll go back to the beginning of the video where the speakers alluded the primary motive one should have for getting saved: Fear of hell.”
    –Frankly, that’s why I first started investigating the truths of God and Jesus and the Bible. I was afraid of where I might end up. But I believe if you revisit the video, you’ll see they are clearly teaching that one of the main reasons a Christian should witness is because people ARE going to hell and it’s our responsibility to warn them. How many drivers who are breaking the speed limit slow down the moment they see a police officer? Why do they suddenly quit breaking the law? Fear of the consequences.

    “So my question remains: How can we help those who don’t believe and have good reason not to?”
    –I contend there is no good reason not to. There are only stubborn people who love their sins so much that they don’t want to even consider the eternal consequences. They’ll use whatever excuse they can to deny the ultimate outcome. That’s what Romans 1 tells us. However, our responsibility is:
    1) Repent and surrender our lives to Jesus Christ.
    2) Read and obey the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ.
    3) Witness to the lost whenever you can and wherever you are. That’s the last command Jesus gave before ascending back into heaven.

    “If there is no way to help them, how can we expect them to be punished?”
    –There is a way to help them—(see above).

    “If we don’t expect them to be punished (go to hell), what does that say about the legitimacy of the Bible?”
    –It doesn’t say anything about the legitimacy of the Bible—only whether we believe the Bible.

    “If we do expect them to be punished (hell), what does that say about us as human beings, and of our religion?”
    –It says that we believe in what Jesus taught about the afterlife, and it says that the Creator God is perfectly righteous and just and unlike human judges who can change their minds or make mistakes, God will hold everyone to the same perfect standard. While during the decade of the 1990’s only half of the 500,000 murders in the U.S. resulted in someone coming to justice, God will see that perfect justice is meted out to everyone. He has graciously made a way that no one needs to suffer—he sent his Son to shed his perfect blood to pay for the sins of the world. We need only to repent and trust in Him. What’s more, He was gracious enough to tell us about it!

    “And what if there is a solution?”
    –The solution is to tell as many people as you can that “while they were yet sinners, Christ died for them.” (Romans 5:8).

    “It’s a difficult question to answer, and it seems like you and other Christians I’ve talked to don’t have it.”
    –Have I answered it?

  • Wesley says:

    Hey Tom,

    When I do something wrong, I go out of my way to not do it any more. Aristotle, certainly not a Christian, said something that I really believe to be true: Virtue is a habit, and it must be formed. So, when I realize that I am doing something unacceptable, I truly do take steps to correct my life permanently. This has been true in my so-called Christian life, as well as with my job, relationships and other aspects of my life.

    Honestly, I’ve many times put away what I wanted, prayed to God to guide me in my life, asked Jesus into my heart, and gone about doing whatever I thought He wanted me to do. Afterwards, of course, I’ve made mistakes and asked forgiveness, and gotten back on my horse. But I’ve never felt like I was in a relationship with anything remotely like a Father. I feel like I have a developed a relation with a guide book. No matter how much I follow the protocols within the book, it doesn’t get me any closer to the author. What I need is to go to a book signing and meet the man! But the man is never at Barnes and Nobles when I go to see him. Even when he is scheduled to be there, sends out flyers and publishes in his blog that he will be there, he never shows. I never get to shake his hand, or ask him questions about the confusing nuances of his book.

    One of the hardest things for me to do was to put away sex. Women like me, and I like them. But I did it, and I did it for a long damned time. I even decided to go back to my vows to wait until I got married. I remembered the bit about that goes something like “If you cannot act honorably towards your betrothed, then marry her, it is no sin.” I thought “I don’t want to get married, but I can’t stop sinning, so God please send me the right woman.” But no woman was forthcoming, and despite my hard work, I felt no closer to God and no guidance from him. Even now that I am uncertain about my beliefs, I’m still trying to improve this aspect of my life!

    And I’ve not just asked for his help guidance when I needed it. I’ve asked when the sun was shining and life was great. I didn’t want to be that guy who only got down on his knees when a crisis happened.

    And I haven’t just said “Thank you, God” during the good times. I’ve learned to say “Thank you that I’m in the Hospital for the second time this month, I’m sure it’s part of your plan”.

    But no matter what I do, how I put away my sinful ways, praise, pray and beg Jesus to come into my life, I feel nothing. I feel no special connection to a heavenly Father.

    I’ve done everything you’ve outlined, but never have I felt anything like having a relationship with a father, and I’m not sure if there is supposed to be any sort of feeling of peace or joy at the moment of asking Jesus into your heart, but I certainly never felt that. I do know the Bible does not promise an easy life to Christians, but it does promise peace and joy, and that I have not felt.

    The only peace I find is when I examine my life and see personal progress in the way I live my life. It is a feeling that is independent of religion. It’s when I’ve been tempted to do something selfish or wrong, and have managed to resist. It’s when I’ve forgiven someone or done something good for someone who perhaps did not deserve it. It’s the same peace that many of my friends enjoy despite being agnostic or even atheist.

    The only joy I have felt are the same simple joys available to anyone: A hobby, a vacation, a kiss or a touch from a loved one. I’ve never felt any joy that is distinguishable from every day life. Nothing that passes all understanding.

    The video you sent me mentions the rich man who asks Jesus how to be saved. Jesus tells him to follow the ten commandments, to sell all his things, and follow him. Well guess what. I own a few sets of clothes, a guitar and a couple surfboards. I help the poor and needy. I’ve asked Jesus into my heart. So why am I not saved?

    And you are right, if I’m not saved, I shouldn’t witness to others. That’s why I stopped. I didn’t feel any of the things I was saying, no matter how hard I tried.

    I do want to share one more thing with you, and that is that I heard God’s voice when I was 14 years old. It was loud and clear, and is the reason why I still believe in God if nothing more. I was practicing a song on my new guitar that I was supposed to play at Church as a kind of youth talent show. I was terrible and a slow learner, and asked God to help me learn it. He said “Practice makes perfect”. The words were clear and distinct, and yet the voice didn’t have a sound. It was as if joy and love were a sound all by themselves. I ran to my mom instantly, jumping up and down to tell her. I know there is a God, but I think I have stopped believing in Jesus. And I can’t believe in him until someone tells me how he’s going to send everyone to hell, no matter how loving, kind, selfless and sacrificing they are, just because they’ve never met him, and when they try they feel nothing, much like I do.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes—
    Thanks for looking at those two things and for your honest evaluation. Your responses have helped me to understand better where you’re coming from and that helps me formulate my response to you. This one post will be too big if I try to address everything at once, so let me address first things first . . .

    You’ll recall I asked if you considered yourself to be born again spiritually and you said “No.” That is why I wanted you to view the video. While you have some beliefs about God and Jesus and the Bible, and probably know a good deal about scripture, there is an eternal difference between knowing about those things and having a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. In Matthew 7:22-23 Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” Here Jesus is explaining that there are many people who profess to be Christians, saying and doing all the “right” things, but they have never actually come to know him in a saving way.

    So what is necessary to be saved? Well actually it’s one thing that is a result of two things. First, Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3ff, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Here Jesus is explaining (the obvious) that a person is born physically to have a living, physical body. But because everyone has a sin nature due to Adam’s sin in the Garden, our eternal spirit is dead-on-arrival when we’re born physically. (Death is separation—when you die physically, your spirit is separated from your body. When you die spiritually, your spirit is separated from God forever.) So because we are born with a “dead” spirit, that spirit must be born again in order to have a spiritual relationship with God.

    I mentioned being born again was a result of two things. Those two things are repentance and belief. They are like two sides of a coin—they go together and you can’t have one without the other. The first is found in Luke 13:3 and 5 where Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Now I’m convinced this is the step that so many professing Christians leave out of the equation when they “believe in Jesus.” This why I had you view the video. I’ve known many people who watched that video who had professed to be Christians for many years, but realized while viewing it that they really had never repented. So what does it mean to repent? In simple terms it means to have a change of mind. A broader definition would be that one must see themselves as God sees them—sinners in desperate need of Jesus. To repent is to be so sorry for the things you’ve done against a Holy God that you desire with all your heart and mind to stop doing those things. Convicts typically will say that when they get out they won’t do that thing again; but 85% of them do. They were sorry they got caught but not sorry enough to turn from breaking the law again. There are untold numbers of professing Christians who still look and live just like the world. Why? Because they’ve never repented. And without repentance, Jesus said they will perish.

    At the same time a person truly repents, they turn “from” their sins and they turn “to” Jesus Christ, the one who paid for those sins and the only one through whom those sins can be forgiven. There is a lot to this subject that would take pages to write, but this is the crux of it: Belief in Jesus is not just head knowledge about who he was and what he did. Belief in Jesus is a desire to surrender your life to him. In Matthew 16:24-25 we read, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” When a person repents and trusts in Jesus, they become a child of God by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit comes to indwell the believer to begin to clean up the new-born (spiritually speaking) and to start changing them from the inside out, working in them over the rest of their life to conform them to Christ.

    So this is how one is born again spiritually Wes. And this is the main reason I wanted you to view the video—not to learn how to witness necessarily, but to learn what it means and what it takes to be born again. Frankly, without that, nothing else is of any importance. Unless you are born again, witnessing to others will be the blind leading the blind. What do you think?

  • Wesley says:

    Hey Tom,

    I just finished the video, and read the PDF pamphlet as well. I have some feedback, on both, but mostly the video.

    I can’t say that I’ve been convinced of anything, but I will say that all of this searching makes me feel like there is a solution and we just haven’t found it yet. Anyway, here are the notes I took. They are a bit harsh, I’m afraid, so please don’t feel attacked. It’s just that there were a lot of flaws, mostly in the video:

    The booklet makes great sense to me when it talks about God doing what is necessary, harsh though it be, for the greater good. It puts logic behind his actions in the old testament, and I can completely see that reasoning and why what was done was needed. I think the parallels drawn to the new testament examples of his consistency were quite good. I have no problem seeing that the God in the old testament is the same God as the one in the new. Check.

    My response is that we already went over this. I understand why it was done, why it was needed and why it was justified. This is not a stumbling block for me, personally. However, it will be for an outsider looking in. The entire booklet is written from a believing standpoint to an audience of believers (or at least biblically educated) seeking to alleviate doubts and have higher understanding once basic belief (or education) is already established.

    It did NOTHING to tell me how I should expect an outsider to believe any of it. If I even tried to use the information in that packet with one of my friends, I’d likely get the response that I’m trying to justify murder and that people like me are the reason the world is full of war and violence. They would then walk away from me, and perhaps our friendship as well.

    The perfect example of this happened to my mother while I was away traveling: My mother recently had a very similar conversation on Facebook with some of my unbelieving friends over the recent court ruling about gay marriage. She said nothing harsh, she said nothing condescending, and very gently stated her beliefs and the logic behind them. This was in response to a public statement of disappointment in Christian reactions made by my own best friend. I don’t have Facebook and only just found out about this. It got her scorn at the worst, and educated questions and reasoning against her argument at best.

    Now, I’m not concerned about the people who scorned my mother for her statements of belief. Scorn is childish and petty. I’m concerned about those who made thoughtful comments, who made valid points and got no logical response that would lead them to consider the alternative that Christianity if valid. These people should have an answer, should they not? Jesus didn’t expect blind faith. He SHOWED the way. If we are supposed to follow that example, should we not be equipped to to do that?

    With the video, I took a lot more notes.

    The first problem remains the same. This video is targeted at believers and those who are open already to the idea of Christianity. These kind of people, in my experience, tend to be just like the closing interview with the young kid. He already believes in the 10 commandments and Jesus. He is obviously uneducated, and not that quick mentally: He can’t even think of the word “thief” in association with “someone who steals”, he is somewhat naive and would probably believe a lie as quickly as the truth about the physical world, let alone something spiritual. It’s such a softball, that it makes the rest of the video seem like a sham.

    The speaker mentions John 4, and how Jesus used the knowledge law to convince the Samaritan woman of the Gospel. Let’s pretend I didn’t already know that story, but anyone who bothers to look it up will see that this is absolutely not true. He uses a MIRACLE to convince her, and when she runs off to tell the villagers, she doesn’t say “wow, he really knew the law, come see!” No, she said “Come see this man who was able to tell me every thing I’ve ever done!” Jesus didn’t use words or logic to appeal to the woman, he used the supernatural. Can you do that? I sure can’t. So who is to blame a non-Christian for not believing words?

    And, the overall strategy being sold by this video is that we should use the law to show those we witness to that they are dirty. Once they know they are dirty, well then they’ll want to be cleansed. Try that with any reasoning person who does not believe in God. It won’t work…

    First, they would have to have a suspicion of his existence. Second, they have to accept that the law is valid and worth following, which most are unlikely to do. Third, they would have to accept that there are eternal consequences for breaking those laws. As you can see, this all requires pre-requisite beliefs or superstitions. We can all agree that in the physical, human world there are plenty of laws that we feel no guilt about breaking. How many times have you exceeded the speed limit this week? How many times have you crossed a street when the little man was red, or crossed the street outside of the crosswalk? Did you then find an officer of the law and repent, then whole heartedly try not to do again? How could this tack work on a spiritual level if it doesn’t even work at a physical level?

    A great example occurs in the ending scene, concerning adultery, one of the hardest laws for non-Christians to swallow. “Have you ever lusted after a woman in your thoughts?”, the man asks. The boy replies “Well, yes, of course I’ve looked at a woman.”

    The kid is obviously naive, and the point of the interview is clear to him from the start, before he even realizes he is being judged. He knows he should feel guilty by the tone of the question. I can do the same thing to my dog. I can make him think he’s done something wrong by the tone of my voice. You should see his tail tuck between his legs and his ears droop. It doesn’t mean he did anything bad, it just means he’s clueless.

    If someone had tried that trick on me, I would have laughed in their face. I would have answered “Yes, I’m a man. Of course I look at women. You are telling me that I’m going to go to hell for it? Who do you think you are?”

    So, again, using the law is only going to make me look like a hypocrite.

    And finally, I’ll go back to the beginning of the video where the speakers alluded the primary motive one should have for getting saved: Fear of hell.

    How can you be afraid of something you don’t believe in?

    As you can see, all of this literature and video is dedicated to taking advantage of those who are either already open to certain precepts of Christianity, are totally malleable with no educated opinions about anything, those who are already believers, or those who are incredibly naive.

    So my question remains:

    How can we help those who don’t believe and have good reason not to?

    If there is no way to help them, how can we expect them to be punished?

    If we don’t expect them to be punished (go to hell), what does that say about the legitimacy of the Bible?

    If we do expect them to be punished (hell), what does that say about us as human beings, and of our religion?

    And what if there is a solution? I’m not saying there isn’t, but this is an obviously difficult question to answer, and it seems like you and other Christians I’ve talked to don’t have it.

    Let’s pretend that someone does. Is one person going to reach the whole world? So what difference does it make, then?

    Ok, looking forward to your response.

    Wes

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes—
    Thank you for filling me in on some of your background. I think you have some legitimate questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings.

    As I wrote before, people’s presuppositions and preconceptions about God have a great impact on their ability to even begin to understand God, his ways, or his actions. And as with myself you had no father while growing up. For some that means it can be a struggle relating to a heavenly Father who cannot directly been seen or heard. “If I couldn’t depend on my own father, how can I depend on God?”

    As I attempt to respond to your questions and concerns, I’d like you to visit two web pages, view the material, and give me your feedback about each.
    The first is http://discoveryseries.org/discovery-series/questions-skeptics-ask-about-the-god-of-the-old-testament/ where I’d like you to download and read the PDF.
    The second is http://www.wayofthemaster.com/hbks.shtml where I’d like you to watch the video.

    I’ll be looking forward to your thoughts and comments about each.

  • Wesley says:

    Tom,

    No, I do not believe that I am born again or ever was, unless that feels like I feel now: Normal. I’ve never felt some awe inspiring Joy, no relationship that I can see or speak about. Baptism felt like cold water. I had good days and bad days, happiness and sadness, same as everyone else. No matter how much I prayed over the years, how many times a week I went to church, no matter how much I did for others, how much (or little) I followed the commandments, how many people I tried to talk about God with, how much I asked God/Jesus to come into my heart, no matter how many times I prayed to God to help me get closer to him…

    Nothing.

    And, really, I didn’t even realize it until last year. I spent all of those years just assuming it was all true, because it was what I was TOLD. One day I thought ‘wait a minute, how am I different? Where is this joy that passes all understanding? Where is this comfort in knowing that God’s got it all in control?’ I realized my faith made me no different than any one else. I realized I didn’t have anything special.

    This is when I started to question everything. I was waiting for all of the things the Bible said would happen to actually happen in my heart. I asked God why they had not happened, how I could make them happen, and surprise: Nothing. Then I realized that this nothing was the same thing as all the other years of nothing.

    Then I started thinking about the verse “What father among you, if his son asks for bread, would give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish, would give him a snake instead of the fish?” I wasn’t even asking for food. I was asking for a relationship, ON HIS TERMS, not my own.

    I started thinking about the word relationship, someone to talk to, a hug, someone to give me advice when I need it. I never had a father, but I had an amazing mother and based my idea of the word on her. But, what I had was a book, supposedly of advice and guidance, which was turning out to not deliver on its promises, and a one way conversation, sometimes in tears, that never made me feel any closer to having a real relationship except with the floor I looked at while I prayed.

    And it took me so many years to realize all of this because I had FAITH! Because I BELIEVED. I never once even questioned why everything I read in the bible about having a relationship with God wasn’t panning out. I chocked it up to the many mistakes in my own life, and then tried to fix those mistakes and move on, hoping that if I stopped drinking so much, stopped chasing women so much, studied harder, went to church more, prayed more, that these things would get me closer to God. I thought obedience was the answer to my distance from God.

    The funny thing is, I follow God’s laws now more than I ever did when I was calling myself a Christian. Mostly because I love others, and most of God’s laws come down to putting others first. “For the entire Law is fulfilled in keeping this command…”

    And at some point, I realized that some of my best friends who I had been trying to talk about God with, were fulfilling this law earnestly every day of their lives, without giving a hoot about Jesus. They were doing everything the Bible commands, except believing in Jesus. They couldn’t fathom believing in the son of a God who would single out entire populations for death, including children, because they didn’t share the same beliefs (and in fact, were not given the chance to, unlike the Muslims who slaughtered Christians in Mosul last August!) They couldn’t fathom what so called Christians were doing and saying in the world around them, either. I couldn’t prove that I was any different, or give them a compelling reason to believe me. So how could I condemn them for their unbelief. That’s when I got the thought “How can God send these good people to hell?”

    So what separates Christianity from other religions? Jesus is the difference. He is our God. But now matter how loving, how perfect and how kind he was, he was still supposedly the son of the Judaic God who commanded the same actions that we condemn Hitler, Muslims, radical Christians, and Timothy McVeigh for: Killing to ensure that our way of life is the only way of life. To see that our way of life survives the attacks of a new social order.

    Who’s ever going to believe that we are different because we believe in Jesus?

    I need an answer to that question, and why people should go to hell when no Christian I ask can give me a straight answer.

    Wes

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes–
    Two things, the first for clarification for me:
    1) Are you a born again believer in Jesus Christ?
    2) Think about it for a moment–What separates Christianity from all other religions? What makes it unique?

  • Wesley says:

    Hey Tom,

    Thanks for continuing the conversation with me. What you say makes total sense. I grasp it completely, because I, aside from a religious standpoint, see the necessity of death, sometimes widespread, in the world for the safety and security of those who wish to live loving, peaceful and secure lives. I’m what most people would call conservative. That’s the way I was raised. So for me, all this is not a far stretch to believe.

    But let’s pretend I’d not grown up in a church, and had never before had any association with Christianity. Let’s also assume that I am educated about religions, because it is a topic that is of constant debate in our society. I know the history of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and a few polytheistic religions.

    You state your belief to me, in any way you choose, that Christ is the son of God, and there is no way into heaven except through him. You try to share your faith with me by any strategy you see fit. And in response, I draw all of the comparisons that I drew in my previous email, and then conclude to you “And so, how can you expect me to believe in your religion over any other?”

    Do you walk away from me? Do you just keep giving me intangibles like “have faith”, and after not having been able to answer my legitimate questions and concerns, do you condemn me? Does God?

    Also, you offer a lot of reasoning that assumes I already have “met” God and have some form of relationship. That’s a lot of intangible stuff for a non-believer in the example above. Now I know that Jesus preached a lot of condemnation for those who only followed him asking to see more and more signs, but I can’t help but remind you that his disciples didn’t believe him because of his word alone. They saw him do amazing things! So how can anyone blame the modern person for wanting a bit more than words!?

    You might say “Well, it’s God’s joy shining through that is our testimony”, but I can honestly say to you that I’ve seen this kind joy in one single person in my whole life, and that was my grandfather on his deathbed. Considering that he was an extraordinary man, I wager that one in a hundred thousand get to see something like it in their entire lives. Even my mother, who is the most devout, kind, generous and loving person that I know, is to me no different in her outward attitude than any other kind and loving person I’ve met, Christian or not. Yes, she’s selfless. Yes, she is honest to a fault. Yes, she is a positive person. But no more than many non-Christians that I’ve met personally.

    So do those other 99,999 get condemned to hell because they weren’t as lucky as me?

    This is super long, but I’m trying to say the same thing in as many ways as I can, in hopes that you will understand my question and reasons for doubting.

    Thanks again,
    Wes

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes—
    A person’s presuppositions, what they bring to the discussion, has a great deal to do with how they perceive and understand God or whether they look to understand him at all for that matter. Foundationally, one must understand that God is God and that we are not. Because he is infinite and we are not, we can and will never know him entirely. That includes the reasons for, and the ways he acts. But we know from his revealed word that he never does anything opposed to his nature which is love, truth, morality, etc. The attributes of God never change. So starting from there, we must look at what he does and allows to happen in his creation with an eye for those attributes being exhibited.

    As for those who do not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, they have a much harder time trying to understanding God’s attributes because they are not born from above spiritually. So the best we can do is to attempt to answer each question from the biblical point of view and trust the Holy Spirit to reveal what needs to be revealed in their hearts and minds.

    The Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” So first we must realize that anyone who does not believe in the God of the Bible is by God’s own definition a fool. Therefore, we must be cautious in spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince the fool about the things of God. (Believe me when I say I fall prey to doing this all too often, but I’m getting wiser.) We must first turn the mirror back on them to show them they are, in fact, a fool. The basis of this is to explain that without God and his giving us an absolute standard of morality, there is no way to know for sure what is moral and what is not. In the case of biblical things like slavery, destroying nations, stonings, etc., the unbeliever would consider each of these as “wrong” or “immoral.” However, since they don’t believe in God, they have no standard by which to judge those things, and therefore they become mute points. (There is much more to be said here, but I’ll stop here for now.)

    From a Christian perspective, I must first accept that God’s dealings with the above-named subjects and many others is right, moral, and above reproach because of who he is. I can then consider them in the light of God’s holiness and omniscience. Each instance should be considered carefully in its own context to gain a more thorough understanding of what, why, and where. To just say, “killing all those people doesn’t make sense” would be to come short of really looking for what the motivation was to begin with. (Interestingly, many people who “pick on” the killing off of entire nations don’t remember that God killed off the entire human race during the flood, save for one family. Considering that was totally justified due to the sinfulness of all mankind, it makes killing specific nations almost small fish!) But to continue, suppose a cancer is found within a person—every known method of eradication is immediately brought to bear. Chemo, radiation, and surgery are used to erase every trace of the invader. The nation of Israel was (and is) God’s chosen people and he would stop at nothing to completely eradicate the cancer of idolatrous nations from having an effect on them. We can more readily understand that in light of our own lives as God would stop at nothing, even the death of his own son, to eradicate the sin in our own lives.

    Does that make any sense?

  • Wesley says:

    Hey Tom,

    Yes, I understand that, from a Christian’s point of view, theirs is no godly purpose. Just like from our point of view, ours is no godly purpose. And as for the neutral bystander, they want nothing to do with either groups. And who could blame them? And how could god punish (send to hell) anyone for not wanting any part of either?

    Second, I do understand that Christianity is different than Judaism, but they share the same God (otherwise, we’d decry the old testament). Further, both books say that God and his law is unchanging. How can I convince any one with any knowledge of religion that the Christian god is not as blood thirsty, or at least capable of being so, as the Muslim god. And how do you debate motivational differences between the two religions, when the end result is the same: Entire populations, cultures and societies violently killed for nothing more than not sharing the beliefs of their slayers.

    Who is going to believe me when I say “Well yes, the Christian god killed entire populations, including newborn babies, but his heart was in the right place. Those Muslims have it all wrong. So please, follow my God, or your going to hell.” This is of course an extreme way to say it, but the underlying concepts are their no matter how gently you try to convert some one.

    I don’t know if this is helping you see my dilemma any better, or why I can’t quite bring myself to believe that non Christians are destined for hell because they look at Christianity (not the followers, but the religion itself!) and say “no, thankyou”.

    This is the answer I’m looking for.

    Thanks,
    Wes

  • Kathryn Kathryn says:

    Wow! I am really impressed with the way Tom is here answering so many of the questions that you all are asking. It’s great when someone takes time to make things clearer to us. I am thrilled also to see quite a few people really keen to know more about God in a thoughtful but deep way. When I became a Christian eons ago I did not really have a clue but I just knew that something had happened to me and that something was the gift of God’s promised helper, the Holy Spirit. Since then He has used many ways and methods to encourage me to grow in my faith and I thank God that that is still my main aim in life and enables me to share my faith with others in so many interesting and exciting ways. For any who are interested in good Bible teaching I have a few favourite sites but of course there are many others too. This is a small selection. versebyverseministry.com which is headed up by Stephen Armstrong as he goes through the Bible books verse by verse. Very powerful stuff. Then there is biblicaltraining.com and christiancourses.com with a wide variety of teaching on all aspects of Christianity. I do recommend al of these and pray that God may continue to give you all a thirst to know and serve Him more each day. Blessings.

  • Tom Tom says:

    Wes—
    Good question. Consider that God was being protective of his chosen people and therefore was removing the external negative influences so that his people would live god-honoring, god-glorifying lives. Keep in mind that while the nation of Israel was God’s chosen nation of people, Christians are God’s chosen people through faith in Jesus Christ. We’re really two separate entities and God interacts with the groups in separate ways.

    While the destruction of nations in the OT times was to help keep the Israelites from their negative impact, Islam kills merely for the sake of obeying Mohammed who taught adherence by conquest. Theirs is no godly purpose there.

    I’m no expert, but if you want to ask a question or two at a time, I’ll try to answer biblically.

    Tom

  • Wesley says:

    Hey Tom,

    First, thanks for responding. Second, have no fear of me going Catholic. I’ve certainly also read Galatians 1:8, referring specifically to alterations of the gospel, rather than the bible in general. So Mormonism is out too.

    Anyway, what I refer to as the roots of Christianity is Judaism, and the conquest and slaughter which God demanded on their way to and after the promised land of all those who refused to throw away all gods but the one God. Now, I understand the reason for it, trust me. The Jews would have slowly lost their religion do to the influence of living with and intermarrying into the peoples they conquered. Totally got it. No argument. But then if we say that was Okay for Christians to do, how then can we look at the same actions in modern times by Islam and call it evil. Now, I’m just playing devil’s advocate here to highlight one of my concerns: How, to defend my faith? “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”.

    So that’s just one topic/contradiction. I hope I didn’t write too much this time. I’ve got a ton of questions and other concerns. It’s totally up to you, but feel free to use my email address as I would like to have a conversation that maybe will end up in me truly being able to believe again.

    Thanks again,
    Wes

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