Back to basics

Too often in life we needlessly over-complicate things: whether it’s debating whether to wear your blue checked shirt or your red checked shirt today, panicking that the girl you like puts two kisses instead of the usual three on the end of her text, or passionately articulating a comprehensive critical analysis of some blokes kicking a ball around on some grass – all of which I’m guilty of by the way! It’s the same where God’s concerned, though. Theologians could debate til the cows come home about whether God’s real or not, using their own intellect to eloquently rationalise His existence, His character and the way He moves, and still not reach a place of agreement. Why? Because our intelligence is incomparable with God’s; ‘His understanding is infinite’ (Psalm 147:5). Not everything can be reduced to a level we can understand with our little brains, and while it’s great to have an eagerness to know more about God, obsessing about life’s ‘big questions’ makes it easy to lose sight of the fundamental truths that our faith is based on, which, when you stop for a moment and think about, you realise are truly amazing.

Our salvation is a great example; a simple, beautiful truth that often gets overlooked despite being so awesome. Jesus died an unimaginably painful and humiliating death on the cross that He didn’t deserve, sacrificing Himself for us to atone for our sins. Not only that, but He rose again, defeating sin and death once and for all and making us pure in God’s sight, enabling us to have a direct relationship with God. This is something it’s easy to become familiar with and take for granted, but when you really think about it it blows your mind! By defeating death, Jesus showed He can overcome all limitations and is more powerful than anything we could ever come up against, reassuring us that if we trust Him, He won’t let us down. It’s great to know we’re guaranteed eternal life too, and even better to know we’ll spend it with God. Not only that, but we can have a personal relationship with God now and feel His presence on earth – we don’t have to wait til we get to heaven! And perhaps the most amazing thing of all is that God gives us all this even though we’re completely unworthy of it. He freely pours out His love and grace – ‘everything for nothing, even though we don’t deserve anything’, as a friend of mine once put it –  and all He asks in return is that we believe in Him and try to live our lives in a way which pleases and glorifies Him, something you’d naturally want to do anyway if you had even the smallest idea how much God loves you and what He’s done for you.

Not everything can be rationalised on an intellectual level either, something a guy called Nicodemus struggles with in John 3:1-15. He didn’t get the concept of being ‘born again’ (i.e. accepting Jesus into your life and Him washing your sins away, giving you a fresh start) simply because he was trying to rationalise it and understand it intellectually. We often approach things like Nicodemus, but instead of rubbishing whatever doesn’t immediately make sense to us, we need to remember that we’ll never understand everything. A great example of this is the Holy Spirit: the way He operates can seem a bit odd when you put your rational, ‘religious’ hat on, but accepting Him and listening to Him is really important if you want God to use you. It’s great that God wants to speak to us, and one of the many ways He does this is through impressions the Holy Spirit places on our heart, which, if they could be put into words, might be things like ‘go and talk to that guy over there’, ‘that’s not the right thing to do, James’, or ‘this school/college/uni/workplace is definitely where you should be’. He speaks through us too by guiding us in what to say (Acts 4:31, Mark 13:11), and listening to these impressions is crucial if we’re going to glorify God in our lives and do the things He wants us to.

So where does this leave us? As Christians, we’re called to be able to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15), and it’s great (essential, even) to thirst for better understanding for stuff about God and to deeply engage with the Bible. However, we’re not expected to know the answers to life’s big questions, and we won’t til we’re in heaven. Believing in your heart and listening to the Holy Spirit is so much more important than having a wealth of knowledge, and so much more useful to God. If we have both, then great! But as God’s love ‘surpasses knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:19) and as ‘human eloquence’ without love is pointless (1 Corinthians 13:1), I don’t think knowledge on its own is much good to anyone. The way I see it, it doesn’t matter that we don’t know all the answers because we know the one who does! As Proverbs 3:5 says, ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding’. God can reveal to us what we need to know, and everything else we don’t need to worry about. Sounds like a good deal to me!

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