Belief, Behavior, Belonging

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Unity of the Spirit and Less Jesus: “The views and opinions expressed by this lubber do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the crew. Reader discretion be advised.” – Staff

Belief, Behavior, Belonging

“Repent.” – Jesus (Matthew 4:17)
“Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” – Jesus (John 5:14)
“Go now and leave your life of sin.” – Jesus (John 8:11)

Jesus’ first word in ministry was, “repent.”  Jesus consistently forgave sins and then called those who had “ears to hear” to stop sinning. This is love in action. This is the love of a God who cares so much for us that he is willing to send his Son to die for us in order that we might live.

To think we can be saved from God’s wrath and continue to sin with impunity is to misunderstand the cost of sin. Sin always leads to death. If we are in Jesus, we will live. But while even in Jesus our sins will lead to pain, for our hearts will hurt each time we realize that Jesus had to die for that sin.

When we sin again and again without feeling or expressing any remorse we crucify Jesus again and again.  (Hebrews 6:6) Do this too long and we prove that we were never in Jesus. (Hebrews 6:4-6) We may know a great deal about Jesus and even think he was God’s son. But if we never crucify our flesh (Galatians 5:24), surrender our life to him (Galatians 2:20), and accept a new reborn life in Jesus (John 15:4), we may one day hear him say to us, “I have no idea who you are. Go! Get out of my sight!

This is how Jesus speaks of those who are exposed to the truth of his good news and who perhaps make a profession of faith, but never demonstrate genuine saving faith.

Some seed fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But because the seed never took root, when the sun rose and grew hot, the plants were scorched and withered.” Matthew 13:5-6

The seed is God’s word, the words of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit reminding us of all that Jesus said.

In the book Five Practices of Fruitful Living the author cites an “emergent church advocate” who describes how for many in the modern church move from “belonging to behavior to belief.” They seek congregations where they feel welcomed as they are. They seek congregations where they are affirmed. They seek congregations where they are not judged for what they believe or how they act. This group seeks a community where there is no call to change and no need to repent. Sin is rarely, if every, discussed and when it is, the conversation is in general terms, not with regards to our specific sins. This group joins the community and comes to behave as the community behaves. In time they believe as the community believes—for the community comes to believe as the new members believe.

The author writes that this is in contrast to how those in past congregations moved from “belief to behavior to belonging,” and yet this is the core message of Jesus. For me, for you, for all we might say:

  • “I believe I need help—a savior to rescue me. Jesus calls me to repent.” I agree that I am on the wrong path and need to turn around and towards him.
  • “Jesus and the Father call me to stop sinning. Only the Spirit of God can change my behavior. Through the work of His Holy Spirit I will become more like Christ.
  • “In time no matter where I am in the world, I will recognize I belong with those who behave like Jesus and believe what Jesus and the Father believe. This broad community of individuals—even if we meet as strangers—will become my new family.

To pull those who are drowning into a sinking boat helps neither the man in the boat or those who desperately wished to be rescued from the increasingly hot water on which the boat floats. How can you tell if there are holes in your boat of beliefs? Check to see if your boat is filling up with the water around you. Here is but one example of how an individual or congregation can slowly sink into the hot water of the world.

  1. In 2007, the Church of Norway, part of the Evangelical Lutheran denomination, voted in favor of allowing members in same-sex partnerships to serve in ordained ministry.
  2. In 2015, the Church’s General Synod voted in favor of accepting same-sex marriage.
  3. In 2016, the Church voted to allow gay people to be married in church.
  4. In 2022 the Church announced that they are open to allowing ordination of unmarried, cohabiting individuals. The Norwegian news outlet Vart Land reports that bishop of Oslo, Kari Veiteberg, has been ordaining cohabiting priests, cantors, catechists and deacons since 2017.

In fifteen years this denomination has moved from expressing their love for God by practicing and teaching his commands (1 John 5:3) to breaking and teaching others to break his commands. (Matthew 5:19) Jesus says to us, “Unless you repent, you will perish.” (Luke 13:3) If we wish to become fishers of men let us cast our nets the way Jesus cast his.

  1. Start with the problem: accept that we are all sinners in need of rescuing. (Romans 3:23)
  2. Offer the solution: Jesus pulls us from the hot water saves us from God’s wrath. (John 3:16) (“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.)
  3. Offer the benefit: Once in the Jesus boat we are filled with his Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8)  (“You will receive power. You will be my witnesses.”)
  4. Present the future: In time, as we are changed by his Holy Spirit, we will express the character of God. We produce Holy Spirit fruit. We will love God and our neighbor more than ourselves.  In the Jesus boat everyone wins except the enemy.

If you seek to belong to a group that demonstrates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, start with this one belief: you are lost in a sea that leads to darkness and you cannot escape on your own. Then seek a boat skippered by someone who acts like Jesus and believes the things Jesus believes. Wave your hand and someone will swing by to pick you up.