If Your Belief Doesn’t Change Your Life Then What Belief Do You Have

I heard a speaker say recently, “I have no interest in theology that is not incarnational.” In other words, they don’t want to hear big thoughts on God that cannot be lived out in the little moments of today.

He then began to tell a story of a person who his friend was working with who faced years of abuse and has multiple personality disorder. His friend was a noted author and professor who has written big ideas about God but was willing to bring those to practice in this one darkly troubled life.

Last week, the whole country was moved by the gracious mercy and forgiveness shown by Brandt Jean towards Amber Guyger, the person who shot and killed his brother. Jean noted the forgiveness and mercy shown to him by Christ as reason for him to show the same to the one person he would have every right to not show forgiveness and mercy to.

Botham Jean's Brother Forgives Amber Guyger, Hugs Her ...

Recently, I have been struck by the encounters of the resurrected Jesus and his followers. I was struck just by how ordinary and real they were.

Here is the only person who has truly defeated death and he looks so ordinary to be mistaken for a gardener. Another time, he is just walking along a road and another time he is just a guy on a beach telling fishermen how to do their job.

There were no more miracles, except the whole reappearing and disappearing thing, done on the other side of Jesus’ death. But there was relationship, there was deep understanding, there was love, there was restoration, there was consecration of food and conversation. Seems rather ordinary for someone who just rose from the dead. But is it really that ordinary?

Mary’s deep, sobbing grief was turned to elation. Thomas’ skepticism was turned to faith. Cleopas’ broken heart was warmed, and Peter’s life and ministry was restored despite his rejection and betrayal of Jesus. The settings were ordinary but the results were nothing short of a miracle.

Jesus’ concern was not to perform tricks or to spout off doctrinal statements but to touch people right where they were. The obvious truth was Jesus was the son of God who through the power of the resurrection had defeated the sin and death that went after him with such precision and force. He had bore the weight of sin’s curse so we wouldn’t have to. Out of those great truths, he fed his friends breakfast, restored their doubts, and renewed relationships.

None of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and through his resurrection means anything unless individual lives are changed and futures transformed. That is theology that is truly incarnational.

Have You Tried Trust?

At some point in everyone’s religious life, one has to make a choice. Do I double down on this religion thing and jump through more hoops, maybe up the ante on my dogma and belief system or do I just simply trust that God knows what he is doing and Jesus is who he says he is?

I heard William Paul Young, the author of The Shack, say recently that, “religion is easier than trust.”

So much of religion becomes personal image management. I may not really love God or neighbor but if I can attend this next Bible study, read that book, do that service project, have that theological stance I can project an image that will impress others. Jesus’ enemies were not the “unchurched,” do-wrongers around him; those people were especially fond of Jesus. No, Jesus’ enemies were the very religious people around him, the Pharisees, who thought they could put God in a box by their strict adherence to rules and practices and dogmas. Through their actions, they tried to manage God so they wouldn’t have to listen to him, follow him, or love others. This is a great temptation for all of us.

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Photo by Yuri Catalano on Pexels.com

When you really think about it, nothing about playing church will get us ready “to receive God’s sufficiency in our lives.” Only trust will do that. When I trust God, I put myself second in the equation and him first. When I trust God, I can leave outcomes up to him. When I trust God, I can sit when it is time to sit and act when it is time to act and worship when it is time to worship. I have the freedom to live my life without adhering to the latest cultural church fad, without solving the latest theological controversy, and without meeting everyone’s expectations. Those are religious concerns that may hold some importance but do not bring life and definitely not an abundant one.

Jesus said that he was the “way, the truth, and the life.” He didn’t say he was the ritual, the ceremony, or the religious system.

Live in trust in Christ today. Leave your religious ways of manipulating God and others behind and find life, love, and a new way of being.