Do you think that revolutionary moments in our thoughts happen like a lightning strike or like the turning of the Titanic? I don’t know for sure but I think the answer might be, “yes.” I remember hearing an interview with someone who was an “over night success.” This person said that they hated that phrase because their success was built on years of work. Yet, to the watching world it appeared as though they came out of “nowhere.”
I recently had one of those moments about Jesus.
Yes, a pastor can still have revolutionary realizations about Jesus. I think of myself as someone who thinks well and thinks with theological clarity. Yet, this past year has been a time of wandering and wondering for me. I have had many questions that I was struggling to find answers for. In particular, I was struggling with the reality that my faithfulness was, in some dark moments, less than ideal. Was I still a Christian in my doubt? What happens when we doubt? I was really wrestling with some heavy questions about God and the answers were frustratingly distant.
I knew from my theological study and from the creeds and confessions that Jesus utterly saves those who trust him. He does it perfectly because he was fully God and fully man and his self-sacrifice was perfect for us.
But I didn’t feel that way.
I wasn’t feeling “saved.” I was doubting God in ways that I don’t think I have ever doubted before. I felt angry and I felt hurt. My prayers felt like they were bouncing off the ceiling. I wondered if God really existed. Reading the Bible, which has always been a source of joy for me, felt hollow and empty. The answers that I had were unhelpful and felt condescending.
There was a radical disconnect between my mind and heart. I had always been taught that if I simply believed rightly then feelings would naturally follow. I couldn’t shake the feelings I had. I didn’t know what to do with them. My evangelicalism didn’t have space for them.
Over the last ten years I have been wrestling through what it means to be “reformed” and “covenantal” and “presbyterian” and “evangelical.” This is my tribe. During this recent season of doubt and searching I started really wrestling with the nature of the gospel itself. What did Jesus do? What did he accomplish? How does it work?
As I poured over the Scriptures I found some interesting mentors the writing of N.T Wright, Eugene Peterson and Michael Horton. I think these guys would say that they disagree on some important things. But, I think that where they would agree is on this one thing that has brought me out of the darkness, this one idea that has re-ignited my heart and my feelings.
What is this one idea?
Jesus is faithful.
Grace is based in the faithfulness of Jesus. Forgiveness is rooted in the covenantal faithfulness of Jesus. Jesus was perfectly faithful to God’s covenant. When my faithfulness wanes it is Jesus’ faithfulness that I can rest on. He is at the right hand of the majesty on high as my mediator. That will never change. The covenant has always been a covenant where faithfulness is what matters. In the old covenant it was about the people being faithful. In the new covenant it is about God being faithful through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Where is the radical reorientation? It is in this: For many years I have believed that it was my trust and my faithfulness that mattered. The reality is that it isn’t. The gospel, is at its core, not about me. It is, at its core, about the faithfulness of Jesus.
We are able to doubt, we are able to wrestle with God, we are able to be brutally honest and authentic about where we stand because his acceptance of us is not about us. It is about Jesus.
There is great freedom in the reality that it isn’t about me.
How about you? Is your faith about you or is it a resting and trusting in the faithfulness of Jesus?