Yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
I thought I understood.
When I was growing up, some in my religious group thought they had the Bible all figured out. Okay, we thought we had it all figured out (ouch).
We had our reasons.
When I asked myself why we were among the lucky few to get it right, I came up with three possibilities (this pains me to admit, just so you know).
Take your pick:
- Possibility # 1: Brains
Maybe we were just smarter than everyone else. Scriptures that might confuse others made perfect sense to us. We could explain them so logically AND even include cross-references. We considered ourselves blessed with doctrinal accuracy.
- Possibility # 2: Discipline
Or possibly we understood more because we studied more than everyone else. We took time to meticulously analyze each scripture, each Greek or Hebrew word, each church-approved commentary. Our effort made the difference.
- Possibility # 3: Sincerity
Or maybe we were the only ones who honestly wanted to know God’s Word. Maybe everyone else just tricked themselves (consciously or subconsciously) into believing the Bible said what they wanted it to say. They could toss out hard parts that made them uncomfortable, whereas we wanted to take all of God’s Word and obey it because we cared more about Truth than everyone else.
(If you’re repulsed by me now, I understand. I’m kinda sick, too.)
But as I got older, my hypotheses of why we were always right and everyone else was wrong began to crack.
It particularly got shaky when . . .
- I started reading books by other smart men and women . . . outside of my tribe. They made equally intelligent and logical arguments that opposed some of the traditional interpretations I’d always held. How could this be?
- And I discovered people with differing opinions who had pledged their entire careers to studying the Word, far more in-depth than anyone I’d personally met. No lack of dedication to scholarship there.
- And the final kicker: I made friends with believers from other denominations who really did care about pleasing God and who were living all out to love Jesus and love others at great personal sacrifice.
These people quoted the same scriptures I did; they prayed for others like I did; they talked about God like I did (well, I’m fudging; actually they talked far more about God than I did because I was talking more about church and the Bible, less about God, Jesus, and certainly less about the Spirit).
Perhaps, just maybe, I and my friends weren’t the only true believers after all?
So now I hold my interpretations with a looser grip. Not on the fundamentals (and my collection of fundamentals has shrunk drastically), but my conclusions on the gray areas are open for discussion.
I’m okay if you and I don’t believe the exact same thing. It doesn’t necessarily mean one of us is smarter or more studied or more sincere than the other.
And it doesn’t mean I’m a Christian and you are not. Or vice versa.
I’ve discovered that:
No one is brainy enough or disciplined enough or caring enough to understand it all, no matter how intelligent they are or how much they study or how devout they are.
Being smart won’t save you.
Being correct won’t save you.
Being sincere won’t save you.
Jesus saves you.
This I know.
That doesn’t mean we should forget about thinking things through, or stop all spiritual disciplines, or drop our desire to love deeper. But it does mean we realize those are gifts of grace to exercise, not debts to repay or workouts to legalistically perform.
Am I ashamed at how I used to believe, at how I used to judge others? Embarrassingly so.
But I’m more excited to trade away attempting to get everything right by my own efforts, and instead accept the free gift of salvation based on Jesus’ 100% righteousness.
I want to continue growing closer to Truth—Jesus.
He’s the only one who knows it all,
has finished it all,
and loves us all. Perfectly.
Now I understand:
He is right. He is enough.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
* * *
Have you ever changed your mind about what you believe?
Has it brought you more peace and rest, too?