The truth is, after a brutal year, I have decided I do not simply believe in Jesus. I am done with that life. Mainly because it turned out to be guttingly empty and hollow — and, frankly, not enough.
After nearly a year of navigating a global pandemic, lockdowns, border closures, economic upheaval, political, cultural and church divisiveness and polarization, this is where I find myself landing:
I do not believe in Jesus, I live in Jesus.
“I do not believe in Jesus, I live in Jesus.”
In this polarized war over what is truth, what is reality, what is identity, what is Christianity, what is evangelicalism, what is wrong, what is right, what is left, all I’ve got is this:
Create your own alternate god, and you end up living in an alternate reality. The only way to not live in some parallel universe is to come to the Cross of Christ.
Live in a universe where the sun revolves around you, and eventually life as you want it will wither up and die.
Only when your life revolves around the Son is there any hope of real life.
People may almost universally believe that Jesus is a good person, but the only way to have a good life is to choose Jesus as your whole universe.
“People may almost universally believe that Jesus is a good person, but the only way to have a good life is to choose Jesus as your whole universe.“
And this past year, more than any other, has led me to realize:
Jesus is not a belief to me, He is breath to me, not some theory, but all my gravity, not a lens for my life, but He is my life. The Triune God is not one sphere of some multi-dimensional life — He is atmosphere, terra, lung and the only way to not suffocate in self.
We aren’t good news, evangelical Christians, if we believe the fake news that Christianity is only the mental assent of faith in Jesus, without requiring the lived allegiance of faithfulness to Jesus.
The Gospel truth is that believing in Jesus is being saved by a faith that is committed to a life of faithfulness.
It’s the covenantal faithfulness of Christ alone that saves us, and we respond to His saving faithfulness, by covenanting our own faithfulness to Him. (And just because we will be faithless, doesn’t mean that it’s less important that we commit to reorienting ourselves back toward faithfulness.)
“For too long we have lived a cheap faith, instead of a costly faithfulness.”
For too long we have lived a cheap faith, instead of a costly faithfulness.
Cheap faith says one only has to believe.
When the truth is:
Believers, by the Scriptures own account, aren’t the ones who are really Christians. Even the demons believe.
Real Christians aren’t merely the believers; Real Christians are actually the faithful followers.
We can say we pay allegiance to Jesus, but that is cheap talk; we aren’t paying allegiance to Jesus unless it costs us something.
Following Jesus means a cost will follow.
Following Jesus will mean a cost of comfort, cost of reputation, cost of relationship, cost of status, cost of self, cost of things near and dear, and though it may feel like a rendering in two, any cost for Jesus is only gain for now and all eternity. I’m betting the farm and staking my whole life on this.
I’m daring to believe it and desperately trying to live it:
Following Jesus will cost you laying down the kingdom of self to give you the upside down kingdom that has only upsides for all eternity.
“Following Jesus will cost you laying down the kingdom of self to give you the upside down kingdom that has only upsides for all eternity.”
Jesus-followers daily follow Jesus into the reality of the Real Universe, the only Real Universe that will actually last forever, the only Real Universe where those who accept they are at the end of themselves get to accept the endless kindness of God. Any other universe is vaporous mirage.
Why believe that the Real Universe is the one of the Triune God instead of believing in any another universe of our own imagining?
And if the universe has a beginning that has a cause, it has to have its beginning in that which is uncaused, beyond time and space, which means: “In the beginning, God…. “
Perhaps the most impressive example of how incomprehensibly precise the existence of our planet is that “the initial distribution of mass energy to give the low entropy throughout the universe necessary for life is fine-tuned within1 part in 10 to a factor of 10(123). That means? If you took a sheet of paper and filled it with zeros, then reproduced zeros on sheets of paper lined up across the entire universe, 15 billion light years across, that number would still be smaller than 10 to a factor of 10(123).”
“It takes far greater faith to believe that this universe is a product of chance than it takes to have faith in God as the Maker of this Real Universe.”
It takes far greater faith to believe that this universe is a product of chance than it takes to have faith in God as the Maker of this Real Universe.
Dr Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute very recently reported of his team of researchers analyzing the likelihood of life such as ours anywhere else in the universe, “to get estimates of just how unlikely the steps could be”, and confirmed: “We feed in data about when things happened on Earth and a guess of how many steps there were, and in return we get the most likely levels of difficulty.”
In all the universe, ours is an unlikely planet — because we are made by Love… by a Love that is beyond this universe.
But what of the Problem of Evil in this universe?
The truth is: If there is no God — there cannot be any objective moral values. If atheism is ultimately true, then there is ultimately no basis to argue anything is objectively evil. But the human heart knows that murder, rape, violence against children is objective evil, and objectively exists in this universe. And if one believes in the reality of evil, one is faced with the reality of God.
The problem of evil is answered by the fact that there is no believing in evil unless there is believing in God.
“The problem of evil is answered by the fact that there is no believing in evil unless there is believing in God.”
And yet, one always has the gift of options — one can exit the Real Universe of God and live in an alternate universe of one’s own imagining. We all get to decide if want to do it our own way, have our own Kingdom where we make up our own laws of nature. And yet I can testify from the scars of my own wayward life:
Defying the ways of God is like trying to defy the law of gravity.
During this past wildly hard year, a popular, lead Christian musician went to his tens of thousands of Instagram followers to humbly and honestly offer that he no longer believed in God and, genuinely heartbroken, I was deeply struck when I read the last few lines of his walking away from God:
“My wife and I — we didn’t enjoy going to church. We didn’t enjoy reading the Bible. We didn’t enjoy praying. We didn’t enjoy worship. It all felt like obligation and our lack of enthusiasm about those things always made us feel as though something was wrong with us. Now I don’t believe anything was wrong with us. We simply didn’t believe — and we were too afraid to admit that to ourselves.”
“Enjoyment in God is evidence of attachment to God. Enthusiasm for the Word of God is powerful proof of being in the God of the Word.”
I ached with their tender vulnerability and the courage of their confession: again and again, they didn’t — enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. They lacked enthusiasm for God.
And I found myself struck with the deepest conviction:
Lack of joy in God, reveals lack of belief in God. Enthusiasm itself means “in God” — entheos; Lack of enthusiasm for God means one likely isn’t in God.
Enjoyment in God is evidence of attachment to God.
Enthusiasm for the Word of God is powerful proof of being in the God of the Word.
When the sun rises again in a ball of glory over this planet, floods morning light across our old floors, I’m swept away again by the all the Love of this one Real Universe, the only one where Hope really exists.
“In these strange days: There is more than believing in God. There is enjoying living in God.”
Hope only exists in the Real Universe where death has been killed at the Cross, where life has meaning beyond the walls of this earth, where Hope has a name and rose from the grave and engraved your name on the palms of His hands. Alternate universes with their alternative facts can’t offer any meaningful alternative to Christ-centric Hope.
And with another dawn in the Real Universe of the Upside Down Kingdom of God, there’s the Hope only found in deeply inhaling in the atmosphere of Love Himself, the overflowing reality of the Trinity, and this is what it means to enjoy being fully alive.
In these strange days: There is more than believing in God.
There is enjoying living in God.
There is enthusiastically breathing in the only atmosphere non-toxic to the human soul: grace.