Friday, March 21, 2014
BELIEF AND PRACTICE
NOTE: Originally published on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at [Subversive Underground].
BELIEF AND PRACTICE
What does Jesus mean when he says, "…whoever believes in (me) will not perish but have eternal life"? Is he talking about doctrine and theology? I doubt it. Specifically because, when he spoke these words, the New Testament had not been written yet, in fact, it was being lived out as he spoke these words, and this is my point. I believe that what Jesus was trying to communicate in John 3:16 is the importance of living out what you say you believe, not simply saying what you believe.
One way to express this is to ask yourself what it is you do each and every day of your life. I would suggest that Jesus could be paraphrased here, and in numerous other passages, as saying, "Show me what you do, how you behave, and that is what you really believe".
Again, I'm not against doctrine and this article is not in any way attempting to suggest that doctrine and theology are useless. Far from it. In fact, what I'm saying is that your doctrine and theology are a lie if you don't act out the principles contained in your doctrine and theology.
I am also not suggesting that our actions affect our salvation, which is 100% the work of Christ and his act of sacrifice upon the cross.
Dallas Willard, one of my spiritual heroes, has a great quote about this. He says, "What you really believe about Jesus is revealed by what you do when you realize that you cannot do anything (to earn your salvation*)".
So, what do you really believe about Jesus? It's revealed in the way you live your life. It's revealed in the way you treat people. It's revealed in the way you think of yourself. It's revealed in the way you behave when you think no one is looking.
If you have really confessed and believed that Jesus is Lord, then your life will reflect that reality as you submit to the rule and reign of God in your life. It will be revealed as you search the scriptures for wisdom and in the way you apply it to your everyday life. If you have confessed it and yet continue to rule your own life as you see fit, then in reality it is you in control and not Jesus, therefore, Jesus is not Lord.
There is a wonderful passage in a book called "Follow Me" by Jan David Hettinga (which I whole-heartedly recommend) where the author relates a counseling session between himself and a dear friend who is undergoing turmoil in his life. The author listen to his friend complain about his life and then challenges him about whether or not Jesus is really in charge of his life. At first this friend is angry at him for suggesting such a thing, but then the author calmly points out every event in his life where he has blatantly followed his own lusts and desires and kept Jesus out of control.
At the end of the conversation the author asks his friend, "What would your life look like if you really gave Jesus control over everything today?" His friend is quiet for a moment and then starts to say, "I guess I’d stop drinking so much and I’d have to cancel my poker night with the guys every week. I know I’d have to be a lot nicer to my wife and spend more time with my children, etc."
The author then asks his friend if he's willing to start allowing Jesus to be the Lord of his life or not.
As I've said before, one of the greatest challenges to living in the Kingdom of God is that most of us here in America have never been presented with the Gospel that Jesus preached throughout his ministry; "Repent for the Kingdom of God is near." (Matt 4:17,Luke 4:43, Mark 1:5, Matt 9:35, etc.)
The Gospel most of us have heard all our lives is the "Repeat after me" prayer and the pronouncement of instant salvation as a free gift. We never hear the "Live after me" message that Jesus taught and our lives suffer for it.
Because the part about surrendering to Christ is left out, most of us have never thought about it very much. But Jesus talked about it all the time. It's impossible to read the Gospels and to study the words of Jesus and miss the fact that he most definitely intended for his disciples to hear his words and to put them into practice.
A. W. Tozer (another of my spiritual heroes of the faith) has a great insight into this most recent neutering of the Gospel for American consumers. He says, "a notable heresy has come into being throughout evangelical Christian circles—the widely—accepted concept that we humans can choose to accept Christ only because we need Him as Savior and that we have the right to postpone our obedience to Him as Lord as long as we want to!" (From his book "I Call It Heresy")
He goes even as far as to suggest, "that salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures."
I had to come to grips with this in my own life just a few years ago. After living for over two decades as a born-again Christian, licensed and ordained into the ministry of the Gospel, I came face to face with the reality that I had misunderstood the essence of the Gospel that Jesus came and died to preach. It shook me to realize that I had been trying to follow Jesus all that time without carrying my cross and dying to myself each day. The foolish thing was that Jesus specifically told us in scripture that we cannot follow him unless we take up our cross daily.
(see Luke 14:27)
I had to repent and to start over with Jesus as my Lord and my Savior. It has been a long process where Jesus patiently and lovingly reveals this truth to me over time...and I'm still learning!
The most challenging, and life-changing, part has been the daily walk with Jesus as I attempt to learn how to actually die to myself and surrender to his perfect plan for my life.
So, it is about belief, and it's also about how we practice what we believe, and that is where the real Christian life begins.
*From the book, "Subversive Interviews" available at my blog.