I’ve become convinced that my brain keeps what I know and what I believe in two completely separate compartments.
This thought came to me as I was spreading a piece of toast with peanut butter one morning. The summer sun shone through the window, and I looked up at my two children sitting at the kitchen table eating their breakfast that I’d made them. All while my wife lay peacefully in bed with the door closed.
As I reflected on the unfamiliar scene in front of me, I realised that though my head knows that the Bible tells me to love my wife like Christ loves the church, the reality can be quite different.
But not this day! This particular morning, as we awoke to the sound of our children crying, I told my wife not to get up. I’d take care of the kids.
Conscious of God’s prompting that I should be helping out at home more, this time I made myself do something about it. It was a struggle, but I’ll admit that I was a little surprised with how well it turned out.
God’s way is best?
It’s strange how God turns out to be right. When I reluctantly obeyed God that morning, I was shocked to find that his way produced far better results than doing what I wanted to do.
Why shocked? Don’t I know that God’s way is best?
Yes I do. But I’m discovering that knowing does not equal believing.
Faith is not hearing God. It is not reading your Bible daily. Faith is about the next step of living it out. As it says in James, faith without deeds is dead.
I have great knowledge of what God says in His Word, but I would not describe my obedience of what He says as ‘great’. More like ‘pitiful’.
The knowledge compartment is full
For those of us who have grown up in the church, this I imagine, is a common struggle. We’ve sat in on countless sermons, read the Bible inside out, had memory verses drilled into us, and been exposed to the abundance of Christian resources available to those of us living in the West.
And with all this knowledge of the powerful truth bursting from each page of the Scriptures, surely this would translate to Christians who are living radical lives of obedience to Christ.
But I don’t see that in our churches. I don’t see that in me.
Why the disconnect between what we know and what we do? Sort this one out, and we may well have the recipe for a transformed Western Church.
I’ve read books and listened to podcasts about some pretty complex theological topics. Yet, I do believe that God would be greater pleased, and the world more deeply touched by the gospel, if I took the simplest Sunday school truth and lived it out.
Let’s start with the basics
What’s a command of God we could try and obey? A nice easy one. What about: Seek first the kingdom of God. Good one. Christianity 101. Learnt that off by heart when I was five. Next.
Are you doing it?
I think for a lot of us, the kingdom of God is lower than it should be on our priority list; i.e. first. Is that because we don’t believe Jesus really means it? Or is it just plain disobedience? It’s a little terrifying really. Many will cry out ‘Lord, Lord’ and He’ll say, “I never knew you.”
Important stuff to think through.
Here’s one more. Do you believe that heaven is a reward worth any trouble or persecution that we might face here on earth? Can we truthfully say along with the Apostle Paul, that ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’?
That’s right - gain! Dying for a Christian is better than living, because it means we go to heaven.
How would your life look if you really believed that?
On the topic of heaven, do you know that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven and that the majority of the people in the world don’t know Him? Your neighbour probably doesn’t know Him.
What would you be willing to give up to reach them if you believed that the prize of heaven truly eclipses anything here on earth?
We need to act
We know every word to every song. We’ve read the biography. But following Jesus is more. He wants you to leave your life behind and join the band.
We know about space travel. But would we get on the rocket that takes us to the moon? You see, to follow Jesus, we have to actually do what he asks us to do. Following requires action.
I think the only way we can live as followers of Christ is to practise (over and over) saying ‘yes’ when we hear His voice.
I’ve found this is not a simple matter. Saying ‘yes’ to God usually involves doing the exact opposite of what we’d naturally like to do. It’s only when we decide to get serious about obeying that we realise the extent to which our sinful nature is in opposition to His holiness.
Yet with reliance on His Spirit, and with practice, we can learn to put aside that sharp internal resistance and trust Him. Experience will (ever so slowly) teach us that God’s way is better than ours.
Next time you read your Bible, be on the look out for the practical implications. We must do more than understand; we must believe; we must risk and we must act lest we retreat into the stale, judgmental religion that the Western world is turning away from in droves.
Tom likes Indian spices, French cars, British drama and Japanese gardens. He goes running nearly everyday, but early in the morning so that he doesn't miss time with his wife and two young kids. In his spare time, Tom is a Special Needs and Technology teacher.
Tom Anderson is pioneering www.haventogether.com, an online church plant supported by his in-person church, Catalyst, Ipswich. He has a young, growing family and enjoys playing backyard sport. Tom is a keen long-distance runner, averaging 21km each day last year. He has worked as a teacher for eleven years and enjoys perfecting a flat white on his home espresso machine. Tom would welcome a visit for a coffee some time… or an online catch-up via Zoom. See the Haven Together website to get in touch.