Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A belief that matters

If you believe the search for God, or an ongoing life of faith walking with him, is easy, then you probably aren't really trying to do it. Certainly there are moments of exultation- truly divine moments of experiencing friendship and unity with the maker of heaven and earth. But there are also times of great uncertainty and confusion, difficult questions that are often painful to even begin to wrestle with.

The hiddenness of God's kingdom can open the door to all types of doubts. It can become tempting to take on a soft, warm, general sense of faith without the sharp conviction of believing that God is a certain way, that there is a certain way to please him, and it actually matters what you believe and how you live. Most of our world, religious and non-religious, is sliding into this fuzzy gray cloud of toothless spirituality. In essense, this spirituality would say "What I or anyone else believes does not matter. All that matters is sincerity and finding what works for you." It is essentially post-modern spiritual relativism.

I sympathize with this world-view, and I fully understand why it is popular. However, it is a world-view that is imcompatible with being a follower of Jesus.

I can sum up why in one word: resurrection.

The message of Christ and his Kingdom is unique in this sense among others- it draws its meaning and authority from a historical event. All our New Testament writings, the very early history of the church, is rooted in a strong, odd conviction that a carpenter from Galilee walked out of his grave.

Now, one might easily say, "That does sound a bit preposterous, doesn't it? I have never held a belief that people can walk out of their graves, and I don't know why I would start now. Jesus might have been an astounding teacher, maybe even a miracle worker of sorts, but I don't believe he rose from the dead." If you take this stance, and I understand why one might, then you can throw the rest of Christ's message away with it. Put him in the category of Socrates-great teacher, shame the old guard ganged up on him-and learn what you might from him, but he has no more spiritual authority to guide your life than your pyschologist does.

But we should pause before we toss the resurrection, and with it the Kingdom of God, in the dumpster. We should consider that history gives us no other coherent, compelling explanation for the rise of early Christianity than the resurrection. Many so called witnesses of the event gave their lives for it. The testimony was powerful enough to convince many a wealthy Roman pagan to accept a Jewish teacher as their true Caeser. The historical record doesn't make sense if we are talking about some sort of bizarre hoax (what would motivate such a hoax anyway?). These early disciples preached and sacrificed and in most cases died based on a testimony: "He has risen from the dead, and we have seen him."

Has any such claim been made before with such intense passion and vigor, and by so many? Not to mention the fact that this resurrection fulfilled (in many surprising ways) the cryptic promises of thousands of years of Old Testament scripture. There is something strange happening here, if we will let ourselves admit it. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, as miraculous and shocking as it may be, is the best answer we have to explain all that happened immediately after it.

And if it really happened, if Jesus of Nazareth really walked out of his grave, then it is spiritual relativism that we must toss in the garbage. How might we believe that our beliefs and actions don't really matter, if the man who conquered death claims that they most certainly do? How can we pretend that God is a vague, abstract idea, if the Risen Christ has been revealed? No, the resurrection is a iron nail holding the spiritual world and our own tightly together. We now have a frame of reference for where truth begins and lies end, a light to guide us out of the haze.

The resurrection of Jesus either happened or it didn't. Our ancient accounts report that many claimed they saw him, even when such a claim cost them their life. Lean into that reality for a moment. Imagine you are one of those disciples. Imagine you are crushed with disappointment when your beloved leader is nailed to a cross. Then imagine the flood of unimaginable, even frightening, joy you feel when you sit with him, very much alive. Suddenly God might truly be as magnificent and amazing as you have always tried to believe he is. Suddenly you realize with deep conviction that all things are possible, and that your great never-ending adventure with God is only beginning.

As you can see, such a belief matters. Such a belief changes you.


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