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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You can't believe in Jesus as the Son of God just because you want to

One of the cornerstone Bible verses from my tradition is from the Gospel of John where Jesus of Nazareth says, "...you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (8.32) And a lot of people struggle with that...for example:

A young man came to me the other day and wondered what I do (as a missionary whose "church" is primarily on-line, I often wonder what I do too, so I don't begrudge the question), and how can I help people "believe in Jesus?" Now that question can take a couple of angles: First, does a person wonder who Jesus was, what kind of stuff did he do and say, and it is a question of knowledge. So, to "know" the truth in this sense is to pick up some facts and details about the life of a guy who lived and died a couple of thousand years ago? Or, secondly, and this is where the young man was heading, is "believing" more of an existential thing, where one's life and future after death (we call that salvation in our world) are on the line? In this case there is nothing I can do but pray...nothing I can say, teach, exemplify, witness to, or even participate in will EVER make a difference for somebody to know Jesus in this way...this is completely a gift of the Holy Spirit, and to my mind anyone who argues differently believes more in the power of people than the power of God...and as a theologian I always default to God (it's sort of the job).

This is a good thing, however, as the pressure is off me and onto God to free people to "believe in Jesus." I can witness to the freedom I have in Jesus as the Christ of God, participate with others in this freedom, and even teach about it...but I cannot give it...that is for God and God only. And here's what makes this even more difficult...any person who might want it (i.e., to believe in Jesus) cannot just take it...cannot just wake up and grab it like a late-nite burrito at Taco Bell...since it is a gift from God, no matter how much you want it, you have to wait for it to be given...

I do believe God gives this belief (we call it "faith") all the time, however, we receive it ONLY when we are ready...and some may be ready at 4 or 40 or two breaths before they die...doesn't matter...because once you are free, you are free...you have received (or you "know" in this sense)--the truth. May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

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