Whether you’ve just recently accepted salvation in Jesus or been a believer for what feels like forever, it can be really easy to fall into misconceptions about what it means to be a Christian, our relationship with God, or other blind spots that keep us from living the way Christ calls us to. To answer some of the most common misconceptions, here are ten truths to help strengthen your faith in God.
1. God’s love for you does not change depending on ‘how good you do.’
One of the most spiritually devastating lies we often latch on to is that as we sin and flee from God, He comes to love us less and eventually just gives up on us. Even though we can articulate that this isn’t true, that recursive sin struggle or addiction can make us believe that even though God forgives, He gradually grows tired of us and our hypocrisy. This feeling can push us to distance ourselves from God until ‘we have things figured out’, which will never happen by our own strength. The truth is, God knows everything you have ever done and everything you will ever do, and Christ has already paid for it all. God does not love like we do,waxing and waning endlessly – God is love, and He loves you completely from the beginning of time and into eternity.
- Our sin does hurt God, but in same way that a child’s disobedience hurts a parent. No matter how grievous the disobedience is, a child still belongs to his/her parent. Even when a strong word is necessary for correction, God will always be overjoyed at our repentance and simply getting to be together again.
- It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can resist sin, and recognizing this is a huge comfort to us in knowing that it is not our strength, but Christ in us, that leads to righteousness. Keeping our eyes on Jesus as the object of our faith, repenting our sins and being consistent in prayer is key to dealing with the sin in our lives.
Find it in the Bible: Romans 8:1, John 3:18, Ephesians 2:8-9
2. Participation in Christ’s resurrection requires participation in His death.
It is important to recognize that the salvation earned by Christ’s death on the cross is a gift given to us, but it is not something we accept and then continue on living how we have been. Rather, we are called to ‘participate’ in Christ’s death by crucifying the flesh, which means putting the sin in our lives to death by radically changing the way we live. As we do this, we participate in Christ’s resurrection by living new lives (see what they did there?) and being bodily resurrected at our Lord’s return.
- This participation is not meant to earn the free gift of salvation, but rather it recognizes that the gift came at the greatest cost: the suffering and death of God on our behalf, based on His great love for us while we were still sinners. This realization has no proper response but radical change in our hearts from sinner to saved.
- All of this is to say, salvation is not simply ‘divine fire insurance’ where it is received, put on a shelf, and forgotten about until it is needed. To accept the gift of salvation is to submit your life to Christ in every aspect, which includes giving up our white-knuckled grip on our future plans in exchange for whatever Christ calls us to do.
Find it in the Bible: Galatians 5:24, Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20
3. In Christ our eyes are set on things above, rather than things of this world.
When we come to faith in Christ, our worldview must fundamentally change to consider all things differently than we had before. When our view is limited to this world, we spend every effort in a pursuit of ‘what makes us happy’, such as chasing money, pleasure, success, and even including wholesome pursuits like having a happy family and good community. In following Christ, we begin to see the eternal weight of our actions on earth, and our priorities change to a higher calling: living and preaching the gospel of salvation to the world.
- This means that Christians are called to place less stock in the value of money or comfort, and rather spend our efforts in pursuing Christ and sharing the gospel to everyone. It means that we are less concerned about the state of this world, as we know a better one is coming and coming soon. It means living in a way the world cannot comprehend, that the truth of what we believe would be heard. It means considering all trials as joy, for temporary hardship is eternally rewarded.
Find it in the Bible: James 1:2-4, Colossians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 4:18, Hebrews 11:26, Romans 8:6-8
4. The Bible (even the Old Testament!) is the primary way Christ and His will is revealed to us.
While Christians readily accept the value of the Bible in a general sense, it is sometimes difficult to see how some stories, especially in the Old Testament, coincide with Christ. This is especially true of stories that seem extremely foreign or even unethical by our standards, like accounts of ancient wars or instructions for preparing an animal sacrifice. Rather than simply ignoring these sections or passing over them as something that ‘used to matter’, the apostle Paul tells us to regard all of scripture as “useful for making us wise for our salvation in Christ” (2 Timothy 3:15). All of scripture communicates this wisdom by showing us that we are sinners in need of a savior, and that faith in Christ is the only way we can be saved. Even the most obscure sections of scripture tie into one of these core ideas, and prayerful reflection on even the strangest stories in the Bible are spiritually beneficial. It is great to use resources and ask questions about how these obscure elements link to Christ, so don’t be afraid to talk about them with other believers!
- Prayerfully reading the Bible is the primary way that Jesus’s will for our lives be revealed to us. As we read scripture regularly, God is teaching and influencing us to act differently, and no matter how many times you read the Bible, He will continue to show you new things from the same stories you’ve read a thousand times before. When you’re reading the Bible, remember that you aren’t trying to figure it out alone!
Find it in the Bible: 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Hebrews 4:12, Matthew 4:4
5. What actually happened on the Cross?
Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection three days later is the core of the gospel, but grasping why Jesus’s death leads to our salvation is commonly taken for granted. When Jesus died on the cross, His perfect lack of sin allowed Him to be made a sacrifice on our behalf, such that the eternal punishment (death) that we deserved was placed on Him, atoning for our sins. When Christ died, believers became justified before God because Christ’s righteousness was ‘placed’ on us, meaning that as long as we have faith in what Jesus did, we will never be judged on how good we are, but rather how good Christ is. While justification happens as an event at conversion, sanctification is a process where we become more like Christ by the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit in us. By rising from the dead three days later, Jesus showed that the power of death had no authority over Him, and showed the resurrection that awaits all who follow Him.
- Christ’s death is also deeply entrenched in the prophecies of the Old Testament, subverting the expectation of a militant Messiah and instead coming as a sacrificial lamb for Israel’s sin and deliverance, similar to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12. The prophet Isaiah wrote that the Messiah would bring liberation and comfort for the weary (Isaiah 61:1-3), but be rejected by them as He suffers for their transgressions before God (Isaiah 53:3-5). In Luke 4, Jesus even reads from these passages and says they are about Him! All throughout the Old Testament there are hints and glimpses of what Christ would do, even though they were written hundreds or thousands of years earlier!
Find it in the Bible: Titus 3:7, Philippians 3:9, Exodus 12, Isaiah 53;61, Luke 4:14-30
6. Following Jesus does not prevent hardship, but God uses it to strengthen our faith and teach us.
A common misconception about what it means to be saved in Christ is that your life will suddenly become easier, or that the Lord will always give us whatever we ask for. In reality, following Christ often requires giving up our grasp on earthly comforts, or even enduring persecution for simply being a Christian. This is not bad news! The Lord tells us repeatedly that suffering for the sake of Christ is a high honor that is rewarded greatly in heaven.
- Most of the time our hardships aren’t directly tied to being a Christian, but the Lord uses these hardships as an opportunity for us to grow stronger in our faith and learn to rely on Him for our strength. Either way, being a Christian means learning to consider these hard times as opportunities for gain, whether we profit by a deeper relationship with Christ or eternal reward for suffering in His name.
- The Lord is a great comfort in difficult times, who knows and sees all things, so that our suffering is not unnoticed, nor our pain forgotten.
Find it in the Bible: 1 Peter 5:10, John 16:33, Romans 5:3-4, Isaiah 43:2
7. Why it matters that God is a Trinity.
The Trinity is one of the core defining characteristics of God, but it often feels like it is simply the church’s convenient way of dealing with the strange fact that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God but are not one another. Rather than simply accepting the Trinity as an unquestioned fact, it is important for us to ask questions and learn how to worship God for this aspect of Himself. The Trinity is primarily about the close fellowship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which matters for two big reasons:
- First, God is love, which expresses itself chiefly as the love between the members of the Trinity. We are shown that even before the world was made the Trinity divinely loved one another. During the high priestly prayer of John 15-17, Jesus repeatedly frames His love for the disciples as a byproduct of the Father’s love for Him. Even further, Jesus describes the unity of Himself with the Father, the unity of Christ with the believer, and the unity of the believer with each other in the same terms: “I in them and you in me” (John 17:23). The love and unity of the Trinity is the framework for all love and unity! A great example of this is the way the Bible talks about marriage!
- Second, God is self-sufficient. Here’s a question: If God is absolute love, can He properly be Himself if He has nothing to love? This question has historically prompted the notion that God needed to create humanity to fulfill this and every other aspect of Himself (justice, patience, grace, etc.) Because God is triune however, His love is fully expressed in the close relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is independent, which means He created, loves, forgives and saves us because He wants to, not because He has to.
Find it in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 8:6, Deuteronomy 6:4, John 15, 17
8. The irreplaceable value of Christian community.
We should never underestimate the role that community plays in our faith, recognizing that Christ did not intend for believers to isolate themselves and go it alone. A word of encouragement, comfort or even rebuke and correction are vital to staying the course, where another believer may articulate something you desperately need to hear. The opportunity to talk about your faith, ask hard questions and get honest answers is incredibly valuable, and no amount of online resources, streams or videos will compare to an honest conversation with a trusted friend.
- Not only is it beneficial to be in community, it is a requirement as a part of Christ’s body. As Paul describes this body in 1 Corinthians 12, which is made up of individual parts with unique functions working in unison towards the same goal. Even if you don’t see or believe your unique function in the body, your responsibility as a Christian is to serve in whatever way Christ has for you. It may not be what we traditionally think of as serving, but God has uniquely prepared you for how you can serve the body and love others well.
Find it in the Bible: Hebrews 10:24-25, Galatians 6:2, Matthew 18:20, 1 Corinthians 12
9. This is not the end.
Even if we recognize intellectually that this world is not the end, and that Christ will come back and make all things new, we very often fail to live in hope of restoration. When we’re frustrated about politics and the state of the world, or we’re shocked by injustice and unjust verdicts, or we’re grieving the sudden loss of a loved one, it is difficult to even begin to think about the future with any kind of hope. When you just can’t seem to break that sin cycle and temptation is everywhere, it’s hard to imagine a life not defined by sin and struggle.
- Christ is coming back, and with Him He is bringing the fullness of restoration to creation and purging sin from our hearts and lives. Not only will there be no more suffering, but there will be justice and righteousness in the place of evil. Our hearts will not even begin to wander into temptation and sin, because our Lord has done away with these things. There will be no fear of what is to come nor uncertainty about the state of our future. We will finally be with our Lord personally, and nothing else will even begin to compare.
- In the secular world there is no future hope, only that which can be built by human hands is given merit. It is for this reason we can live different lives than those of our neighbors, because our hope is not in this world. We can be patient and still, knowing that this world is not the end.
Find it in the Bible: Revelation 21, Romans 12:12, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
10. God delights in YOU.
The most important thing for a believer to know is that God delights in you. God doesn’t just love you the way we casually say ‘Love you!’ to our third cousins at the family reunion. God’s love is not passive, nor is it a burden which binds Him to forgive us. God so genuinely delights in you that not only did He come and die on the cross for you to have life, but because He wants to be with you forever! No matter how you may feel about yourself, or how far into sin you fall, you have to remember that God is never suffering your presence or exasperated at hypocrisy, but genuinely delights in every moment He gets to have you with Him.
- If we want to know how God feels about us, all we have to do is look at how Jesus interacted with the people around Him! Rather than simply coming down, dying, then ascending after accomplishing His goal on earth, Jesus lived an entire human life where He had friends and community, and showed compassion and interest in even the most despised dregs of society. God’s love isn’t mechanical or cold, but so personal that He delights in who you are and wants to be with you forever.
Find it in the Bible: Psalm 18:19; 149:4, Zephaniah 3:17, Matthew 9:36, Luke 7:13