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The Personal Testimony of Jim Severance

I grew up in the faith, or rather, I grew up mistaking morality for faith. It is a mistake often made. It arises from the belief that Christ came to be an example. He is an example, but he came to save.

I like what the great theologian Reinhold Neibuhr said in answer to the question, “Why do you believe?” He said, “I am a Christian because it makes more sense of more facts than any other way of thinking I know of.”

Yet, I especially need reminding that faith in not about thinking or reason. Reason and faith are not in conflict, but faith goes beyond reason. Faith accepts that some things can never be known, will remain a mystery.

Modern man finds accepting mystery hard. The catholic novelist Flannery O’Connor observed that mystery is an embarrassment to the modern mind.

I have two conflicting impulses, neither of which is in keeping with the Christian faith. One of them is to reform the world. The other is to quit the world.

In the case of the first, I have to remind myself that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.

In the case of the second, I remind myself that, according to Matthew, Christ calls us to feed, to clothe, to visit… To serve we must engage the world. That’s probably why the poet John Milton said he could not admire a “cloistered virtue.”

I have seen faith corrupted when believers forget that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. I only recently (2008) embraced the Reformed faith because I saw that happen in the “mainline” churches I was a part of all my life.

But this new faith also attracted me because of what is central to its theology: God is sovereign. What should have been obvious to me all my life had not been. A god that is not sovereign is not God!

I find it hard to yield control. Maybe this is a result of not having had that shattering experience that produces complete surrender. I pray that I can reach that state of complete surrender that is the measure of true faith.