Believing Stuff is not Enough

My early morning reading brought two things together that led me to this post. The first was a blog entry by Shane Raynor on The Wesley Blog, titled What’s Missing from Our Christianity?. In it Shane makes a very important point:

Many of us intellectually believe all the right stuff. Or at least most of it. And those of us who believe in a physical resurrection waste a lot of time fretting about liberal scholars who try to “reinterpret” this event so that it never really happened. But then I caught myself thinking, “Which is worse? Not believing in Christ’s physical resurrection or believing in it and not allowing ourselves to be changed by it?” Given the choice, I’d choose none of the above. I want to believe, both intellectually and with my actions. And I want to be part of a Christian community that believes Jesus is alive- not only in theory but because we really know him.

I’ve heard many times how we can reform the United Methodist Church (I’m a member of a United Methodist congregation) by correcting doctrinal problems with our seminaries. But it seems to me that one can be liberal and dead, conservative and dead, or (horrors!) moderate and dead. The fact is that any group of people is capable of making themselves, their doctrines, and their priorities more important than spiritual life. (I define “spiritual life” as their relationship to God.) Now I’m not trying to say that any set of beliefs will do, provided we just have life. I believe that while we are less than fully capable of knowing all the truth about God, and thus full correctness of doctrine will always elude us, we can and should seek to understand the truth as much as is possible to us. But such a seeking after truth involves first dropping our own agendas in favor of God’s agenda. N. T. Wright (I don’t have the book at hand to give you a reference) translates the call of Jesus to “repent and believe the gospel” as “drop your agendas and trust me for mine.”

Indeed, I’m not even saying that Methodist seminaries don’t need some reformation. I am saying that just fixing the doctrinal positions of seminaries to whatever state you desire, and believe me all groups have an agenda for what seminaries should teach, is not going to make the students spiritual persons, operating in relationship to God, and leading congregations in spiritual life.

The second thing that tied to this was from the book of Hebrews. I’m reading that book through a few times, along with other studies (I’m blogging through it for the benefit of students or others who might be interested), and in chapter 13:15-16 I came across the following:

15Through him we offer up always a sacrifice of praise to God, which is the fruit of lips confessing his name. 16And don’t forget the doing of good, and fellowship because such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Look at the elements:

  1. Sacrifice of praise
    This is our continuous response to God; not merely an acknowledgement of historical facts, but a response of praise. I have to tell you that I got goose bumps several times during the easter service. I had prayed with our pastor before the service for resurrection power in his preaching, and I felt it.
  2. Fruit of lips confessing his name. Not just confession. Not just the monotone “the third day He arose again from the dead,” but a confession that includes the fruit.
  3. Doing of good
    That’s more fruit.
  4. Fellowship
    That’s bearing fruit together!

The result: Pleasing to God!

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