Grace Extending

God is Good

God is still wildly popular.

Scores of people still confess faith in God's existence. Though the once 90%+ number common in our nation throughout the 20th century has slipped to an all-time low of 81% (Gallup), that number is clearly and vastly bigger than the majorities in most political results. In divided times, God remains a commonality.

What does this popular belief or faith look like? Sometimes you can hear it in recovery settings like an AA meeting or in certain "God and country" contexts (regardless of whether the word "country" is referring to the nation or to a style of music). More often it's evident from common consolations in difficult times, statements like, "God's got your back", or "I'm grateful for God's blessings", or "God must have a reason". 

Without calling into question the sincerity of these encouragements, let me also encourage you. Specifically, let me encourage you to brace yourself for what may be a jarring statement: while such expressions may be helpful and/or encouraging, they can also be dangerous. 

Would you find it surprising that Jesus regularly confronted his listeners with the idea that their faith in God may not be enough? He did this in a couple ways, ways that are crucial for us still today:

First, he corrected truth-deficient views of God. Without hesitation, Jesus once told a soul-wounded, Samaritan woman this about her spirituality: "You worship what you do not know..." (John 4:22). She had a form of worship, but it was lacking critical knowledge. Like her ancestors, this woman had faith in a version of God that simply would not lead to true worship and could not satisfy her spiritual thirst. That's why Jesus offered her living water (John 4:10). 

Second, he revealed a Son-fulfilled view of God. In contrast to so many today, Jesus' common consolation in difficult times sounded something like this: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me." (John 14:1) Notice that for Jesus, belief in God was not enough. Several chapters later in John's Gospel, he declared, "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." (John 17:3) There simply is no possibility of "eternal life" apart from faith in both God and Christ.

This is why a faith in God alone is not enough; in fact, it's dangerous. Out of love for the religious/spiritual people of his time, Jesus was clear about the danger of a Jesus-less faith: "Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." (John 5:23) Love alerts us to what is dangerous. And it's dangerous to believe that our belief/faith has placed us on the inside with God, when in reality, we are on the outside, ignoring the only "door" (John 10:9) that can give us access into that wonderful relationship, forever. 

Reader, please consider your faith. If you speak a lot about God and very little about Jesus, if you believe God can work, but that belief is not rooted in the work of Jesus (i.e., his life, death, and resurrection), if you find God palatable, but Jesus problematic, then I hope you will understand that such faith simply isn't enough. You may be content with that version of God, but I pray you won't confuse your 'God' with the God of the Bible. 

Without a doubt, some portion of that 81% of Americans cited above both believes in God and trusts wholeheartedly in Jesus. But for those who do not, please know that God is calling to you. As with that Samaritan woman in John 4, Jesus (with that same heart of love) is still correcting and revealing. There is no consolation so meaningful and so assured as that which is rooted in the cross-revealing love of Jesus Christ, for "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)


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