How to Live the Bible — Whom Should We Believe?

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This is the one-hundred-twenty-fourth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:28-29)

Many people today have heard that belief in God is not possible anymore; that we know better than that now. To say that you absolutely believe in something or someone is to be certain where there is no certainty. It is to risk being a social pariah because to say you absolutely know something will prove anti-social to at least somebody along the way. One thing is certain, these people say, be suspicious of certainty. And they are quite certain about this uncertainty.

But belief is not about us. The true believer doesn’t focus on himself or herself, saying, I believe this. Rather, he or she says, I believe this. The more focus there is on the experience of believing, the greater the risk that we can believe something just for the sake of believing.

Illustration of Jesus teaching by the sea

Belief is not just about knowing; it’s about trusting. True faith in God is one of the most intimate personal states a person can find himself or herself in. It’s not just about gathering and processing information, otherwise a computer would be a “believer” of sorts. Because there’s so much information to process, so many voices to listen to, so many topics that get thrown in our faces everyday, we use up most of our “belief energy” just sorting it all out. In the contemporary world, believing becomes calculating, and drawing a sum. We forget that the most important belief in life is a decision not about what, but about whom. Faith says, this God I can trust.

When we believe, when we trust, we’re the most human we ever are, because we’re actively connecting with our Creator, anchoring ourselves in his unchangeable nature. Knowing and trusting a friend or a spouse projects us into a world larger than ourselves—and how much more when we know and trust the God who made us and loves us with an irrepressible love.

But whom should we believe? And why? Which God? Which religion? Which doctrine?

Have you ever had the experience of being outdoors somewhere, turning a corner, and being stunned by a scene you were not expecting, nor could have imagined?

Years ago my wife and I were hiking in a beautiful place in the Scottish highlands called Glen Nevis. The narrow green valley was pleasant as we followed a stream, looking up the sides of the mossy rocky sides of the mountains. But then we turned a corner, far out enough on the trail to be alone, and the valley lay out like a green carpet with the biggest mountain at the end and a single silvery ribbon waterfall tracing down the mountain. We realized that the sound of the waterfall had been slowly growing in volume as we walked the path, but we weren’t expecting that thin tower of water.

Another time, when we took our children on a family trip to Grand Canyon, I didn’t realize how close we were. The land lay flat along the road we followed. Signs read, “Grand Canyon,” but I couldn’t see anything grand at all. We saw a parking spot at a viewing station, pulled the car over, and went to the railing. There below us was an amazing alien world. A vast sunken cavity in which people that looked like specks hiked along the ridges and shelves going deeper into the crevasse. It was like stumbling into a whole other world. One of my kids expressed astonishment, summing it all up in the simplest way, “Man, that’s big.” I couldn’t resist. “Yes, maybe that’s why they call it the Grand Canyon!” They looked at me with that look that said, “Yes, this is the kind of comment we teenagers have to put up with on family vacations.”

Time and again people responded to Jesus’ words with speechless astonishment. Perhaps as they listened to Jesus’ teaching, they occasionally found themselves turning a corner and stunned by a vista of reality that was bigger and grander than they had imagined. Not everyone who heard Jesus became believers because we all have personal agendas that can hold us in disbelief. But everyone who did hear had to grapple with the power of what he said, and they had to decide what to do with the authoritative voice with which he spoke—an authority that did not come from a booming microphone or spotlights or banners, but from the ring of truth in the words themselves, backed up by every action he performed.
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

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