Sola Fide? Faith Alone…not Certainty Alone

a79d9-6a00d83451607369e20115704c43cd970c-piJesus followers, be okay with questions and ambiguities.

Faith isn’t about certainty…it is about having the center of your life firmly grounded in Jesus.  Just deal with stuff…focus your life in Christ, and be calm about the rest.  You see, the thing is, certainty-seeking faith, I have to admit, is tidy…that type of faith likes everything clean and obvious and tidy.  But Biblical faith never is. Read the Bible. It’s messy and it deals with a lot of ambiguity.

God is okay with questions, folks, He’s okay with doubts.  He’s not like some theology professor who is just trying to cram you full of all the right answers to all your theological questions.

God isn’t going to grade you based on how many you get right and “punish or reward” you accordingly.  No, one of my fav authors, Greg Boyd said, “He’s a heavenly bridegroom who will do and has done everything He could possibly do, to enter into a loving relationship with you and me, and He doesn’t mind doubts, and He doesn’t mind questions, He just wants our hearts.”

 

That’s what faith is all about –we don’t have to have all the answers because we’ve got the reason to be confident – Jesus.  If we’ve got him, we’ve got life. We don’t need to be getting life from certainty.

A long time ago, I dropped my need to be right…I dropped the desire to be argumentative or to prove to people that I could debate anyone who interested in the Bible, faith or belief into a corner.  I decided and regularly proclaim that I could be and can be wrong.  I could be wrong about so much.  But you see, I don’t need to defensive, or to get angry…if I’m proven wrong, or if someone challenges me, I have admitted to myself and to the Lord, it’s not me that needs to be the focus…it is Jesus.  And he can stand up for himself.  All I need to do is be gracious…and trust not in my abilities to convince others of certainties but to show them the love of Jesus.

I’m just going to continue to get life from Jesus and be okay with the questions and ambiguities.  Remember, Sola Fide (faith alone) is trust in Jesus, not certainty.  You can believe all the right things in the world about Jesus, but until you’re embracing Jesus…until you pledge to be committed to him and to trust him, you don’t really understand faith.  Faith is not about what’s going on between your ears, but rather what you’re doing with your life.  The very definition of faith presupposes uncertainty…faith that seeks certainty…is not a strong faith, but rather a lack of faith.  Faith is acting in the face of uncertainty.  Faith is about us taking a step to live Jesus.  Yes, I’ve got good reasons for believing what I do…but certainty? Nah, I don’t have certainty.  But I have Jesus.  Enough said!

 

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Discipleship…can’t have enough encouragement to live that life!

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer from The Cost of Discipleship, pgs. 45-47.

discipleship-tree

 

A Disciple of Jesus is a reflection of God in the world. When Jesus talked about discipleship, it was an “I’m all-in” challenge. Discipleship must have been challenging but it was also inspiring…can you imagine what it would have been like to actually physically follow Jesus?

Imagine the wonder, the questions, those “I can’t believe what I just saw” moments, the times of frustration, all the things that those early disciples must have experienced. We do know that being a disciple wasn’t something that happened overnight. Just because you choose to follow Jesus does not mean that instantly you know everything about what it means to follow him in all aspects of your life. Then when Jesus says to “go, make disciples,” if you are like me, you say to yourself, “ME?” “Are you talking to me?” “How do I do that?” Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters– yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.‘” — Luke 14:25-30

Well, here are a few things about discipleship that you need to know: We don’t have to be perfect to be Jesus’ disciple, but we do have to know what we are signing up for and be willing to submit all areas of life to God. As Jesus discipled people, he expected that their discipleship would touch all aspects of their life, relationships, and even society as a whole. Jesus paid it all…Jesus did it all…Jesus saves us all through His grace…Jesus asks for all! Every disciple needs to count the cost because Jesus isn’t going to stop in convenient places in your life.

As Bob Logan says in the Discipleship Difference book, “we can’t be a 2/3 disciple – picking and choosing our preferred areas of growth.” Only when we have been fully trained can we be like our teacher. A real disciple needs to embrace and be growing in all the dimensions of discipleship. True discipleship is holistic: we can’t be content to be growing in some areas and lacking in other areas. Jesus never approached every disciple in the same way. Every person was cherished and every individual was discipled differently – from the Roman Soldier who stepped out in faith to the rich young ruler who would not yield his most precious possessions…Jesus approached every one uniquely.

Philippians 1:6 says that God is going to keep at it…working His Spirit’s intention in our hearts and lives and actions. He is NOT going to give up just as we will never “make it.” There isn’t a finish line when it comes to spiritual maturity or discipleship (at least in this life). Just as the Apostle Paul exclaims, “I press on toward the goal of the upward call of Jesus.”

That’s our call as well! In the book, Bob outlines 10 key principles of reflect on how Jesus made disciples – as you read them, not only reflect but pray!

1. Principle 1 – Jesus made disciples of ordinary people – not superstars.

2. Principle 2 – Jesus started with unbelievers and made disciples outside of the community of faith.

3. Principle 3 – Jesus expected his disciples to make MORE disciples.

4. Principle 4 – Jesus’ context for making disciples was relationships.

5. Principle 5 – Jesus intentionally made discipleship all about the practical vs. the academic.

6. Principle 6 – Jesus started with his disciples where they were at in their lives.

7. Principle 7 – Jesus dealt uniquely with each individual disciple.

8. Principle 8 – Jesus recognized and accepted that discipleship was a process, complete with setbacks.

9. Principle 9 – Jesus assumed that discipleship would touch and transform every area of life.

10.  Principle 10 – Jesus intended disicplemaking to continue through the generations.

Look again at the diagram above…it was created to represent 8 dimensions of being and growing as a disciple. As Jesus became incarnate and lived among us, these are the ways we see him living. Take a look at the diagram and categories. Then evaluate your own life. Allow others to speak into your life as well: we never travel alone on the journey of allowing God to work in our lives. Stop NOW and pray. Take a special vow to follow Jesus – to love him, others and to live in obedience to him…to live a lifestyle of worship, relationship and mission. Hey, stop now. Don’t let this moment go by!

Reflections on Las Vegas…

Reflections on Las Vegas
Many of us have had our lives shaped by tragic events in our lives.  For previous generations, Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, the Challenger explosion and 9/11 burrowed their way into our soul in a life-altering manner.  We will never be the same again because of what we experienced. No doubt, you remember those events as if they happened yesterday.   You remember where you were…what you felt…what you were doing…the relationships in your life that formed the community where you processed your thoughts and feelings.  Without even begging for transparency, I admit and affirm that tragic, world-changing events evoke powerful emotions…from anger to bewilderment…from confusion to hopelessness.  When the face of evil raises its ugly head in the context of our lives, that’s is what happens.  When you are forced to stare down evil’s reality and it’s effect on the human journey, you cannot help what you feel – no one can share words that make sense or are such that it brings instant comfort.  You just have to deal…
 
On Monday morning we all woke to begin our day in the wake of another expression of evil that has impinged itself on our world.  The news of people senselessly killed and wounded while enjoying a music event;  people faces, some of which we may have known, scrolled across our television or computer screens.  Shock was most likely the first thing that we felt…followed by who knows what…every feeling justifiable when trying to comprehend the images and audio of suffering and dying.  
 
We can’t make sense of this type of tragedy because we were created for a better world, a non-broken, non-dying, no tragedy-filled world.  Events as such hit us with such emotional and spiritual force because Our Creator envisioned a life lived in harmony, relational peace and security in the goodness and grace of His very nature.  Tragedy has happened though…in fact, tragedy happens.  It happens again and again because there is evil in the world.  In a culture that wants to deny that evil exists, Las Vegas screams, “yes there is evil!”  Our culture says that niceness will come your way if you are nice to others, that altruism will solve all our problems, or that new laws or a “fair system” will usher us into a utopian society where these types of events no longer exist…they are wrong.  We have witnessed time and again that we cannot control evil.  Evil cannot be contained or wiped out with money, laws or sheer will.  It exists and dealing with it only comes from the knowledge and dependence upon a God who is just as broken hearted as we are from this tragedy but who promises an end to suffering and pain and who redeems even the most distressed and alienated.  Jesus took this type of pain on Himself and would not be ultimately contained, restricted, defeated or detracted by it.  Jesus has love on His heart for all those impinged upon by evil and unexplained affliction.  And He has an empty tomb to point to as His word to us who long for victory and extinguishing of evil’s destructive fire.  
 
So, what can we do?  Evil must be named and confronted.  There must be no sliding around it, no attempt (in the search of a quick fix) to pretend it wasn’t so bad after all.  Only when that has been done, when both evil and the evildoer have been identified as what and who they are…can there be the redemptive embrace of what has deeply hurt and wounded us.  When we have named the evil and done our best to offer genuine understanding, compassion, and even forgiveness through the prism of God’s grace and love, will we begin again to experience what we pray for regularly in the Lord’s prayer, a “deliverance from evil.”
 
We can also pray for a holy imagination and the courage to share that vision with those who long for something more in life than witnessing a mad-man shooting up a music concert.  Jesus followers can live as if God’s future is now.   The compassion and love of God’s Kingdom is revealed in and through the followers of Jesus.  Explanations of why evil exists in a Las Vegas manner should be the furthest thing from our minds…redemptive, gracious, hope-filled action should be on all of our agendas.  Remember, Jesus took on the worst of evil…He confronted it and had victory over it.  Jesus didn’t approach evil passively and neither should we.  When God confronts evil He now uses us…words of hope and visions of a new life lived in a personal embracing of hope.  
 
One of my favorite authors wrote these profound words, 
 
“It isn’t that the cross has won the victory, so there’s nothing more to be done. Rather, the cross has won the victory as a result of which there are now redeemed human beings getting ready to act as God’s wise agents, his stewards, constantly worshipping their Creator and constantly, as a result, being equipped to reflect his image into his creation, to bring his wise and healing order to the world, putting the world to rights under his just and gentle rule.”
 
As we pray for Las Vegas, may the Lord bless us with courage, grace, and peace but may He also stir us into action…action that trusts in the ultimate victory of Jesus, our Lord!