I came across a quote posted on a fellow believer's facebook page the other day, and it troubled me. It read: "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do." What initially troubled me was how good it sounded. After all, what could be more important than what we do in life, than how we live? In my days of wrestling and questioning and refining my beliefs (a lifelong process, but especially intense during this period), mostly while I was immersed in the world of "academia", I remember feeling much the same as my friend quoted above. Gradually, I allowed my perspective of the gospel to be redefined by the particular complexities of our culture, world affairs, and my own life experiences. Things were no longer black and white, but appeared to me as quite gray, confusing, ambiguous, uncertain. Now I'm not denying that life is colored by a deep shade of gray, that it isn't filled with its share of heartbreaking complexities and questions too big for us to answer satisfactorily, and that this does not impact our faith. My issue is when we take that perception about life and apply it to God. Let us be clear, those of us who are in the faith: Life may be complicated, but Jesus Christ is not. Issues may be ambiguous, but the gospel is not. We must guard ourselves so we do not confuse the two.
Dare we build our lives on questions? What kind of foundation is that? No, we must build on the truth, and that truth is found in Jesus. If we cannot accept that truth, if we find it too offensive, politically incorrect, biased, intolerant, narrow-minded, or whatever terminology we wish to attach to it, we will come to the end of our lives and find that we have merely built a structure on a faulty foundation. And in the end, regardless of our works, that will not stand; it will dissolve. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11).
One of the other issues I have with the assertion that the thing of most consequence is what we do, is that it implies a self-reliance contrary to the gospel of Jesus and His grace. Doesn't Paul emphasize in Romans, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly"(Rom. 5:6), and again, that "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"(Rom. 5:8)? Which part of that statement can we actually dare to take credit for? That Jesus came to us because we were inherently good, because "God helps those who help themselves"? Well, Jesus already burst our bubble when He said we can't even lay claim of choosing Him... (John 15:16).
Who are we fooling if we profess that this life and beyond is all about Christ, yet live as if it all depends on us? By God, someday when my life is over, I don't want my legacy to be that I was the "nicest do-gooder"! The greatest thing that could ever be said of my life is that I knew Jesus, that I was crazy in love with Him, and that this love was experienced by the people who came in contact with me. I could never take credit for that. It's only God's grace working in me that has brought me where I am today and will continue shaping me into who I am to become. Those are not words of false modesty, for it is impossible for God to ever receive too much credit.
And some may ask, what about all the good people out there in the world doing good things who don't share this belief in Jesus? I don't deny there are many such people - that would be naivety! But sadly, while they may improve the conditions of life here on earth, and may even be able to postpone the deaths of others, they can in the end offer no solution for salvation. And I'm not talking only about the after-life kind of salvation, but also "the kindgom of God is at hand", heaven on earth, abundant life, freedom from the bondage of sin kind of salvation. It begins now, not just after death. I'm beyond caring if that type of thinking meets with the approval of a postmodern culture, let alone a postmodern church. I'm not ashamed to say that the thing of most consequence is that I exist because of Jesus, I live through Jesus, and I live for Jesus. And He alone is to receive all the glory for whatever fruit comes from my life here on earth. This is to be the measure of our lives: "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" (1 Cor. 4:5).
Friends, in an age of information, technology, multiculturalism, pluralism, relativism (a host of other "isms"), and many complex issues I have no desire to make light of, we must resolve to stand fast in the simplicity of the gospel. If it's complicated, it's not God, "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace" (1 Cor. 14:33). There is good and there is evil; there is truth and there is deception; there are some who understand and there are many who do not. This may be sobering, but we cannot philosophize it away: "But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them... For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 4:3-4, 6). Certainly, to some the truth of the gospel is veiled. But how much more that compells me to pray that the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the person of Jesus shines in their hearts - hopefully in part through my life - so that they may know the abundant life God offers! Yes, let us walk in humility and respect, in grace and love, in mercy and justice - and let that be shown in what we do. But let that not be what we hang our faith on. Our faith hangs on Christ alone, in what He has done for us so that we can now experience life and spread those seeds of hope in the world.