I spend a lot of time reading what other Christians have to say about God and religion. Part of that goes with my job: as a Christian writer, I need to read other Christian writers. I need to keep my ear to the ground, so to speak. But I’m also simply curious. I like to hear what others have to say about faith, spirituality, religion and Scripture. I’m nosey – I like to know what makes a person’s spiritual clock tick.
But I’ve also realized in the last couple of years that I can spend too much time listening to what everyone else has to say about God, and not enough time tuning in to God myself.
Jesus makes this clear to his disciples in our reading this week when he first asks them about the word on the street. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” Jesus asks his disciples point-blank. They answer him with the truth: “Well, some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
Then Jesus asks an even more pointed question: “But who do you say I am?”
When Peter answers, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” Jesus not only praises his answer, he also says this:
“…my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.” (Matthew 16:17)
That right there is an important distinction for me: our understanding of God comes from God himself, not from any other source.
It’s fine to read all about religion and God and engage in theological discussions. But when it comes right down to it, that’s not what really grows my faith. I can read the spiritual greats until my eyes glaze over, but in the end, as Jesus says, I won’t really learn about God from a human being, but from engaging in a relationship with God himself.
Living grows my faith. Noticing how God is working in my own personal life; listening for and acting on the nudges of the Holy Spirit; engaging with my children in conversations about how God is working in their lives; wrestling with Scripture and understanding how God is speaking to me exactly where I am.
Paying attention. Being present. Noticing. Listening. That’s how we get to know God.
Faith isn’t a passive experience. It’s not about reading what everyone else thinks and believes and forming your opinions based on that. It’s about engaging with God yourself, on your own terms, in your own real life, and defining your beliefs according to what God is saying to you. Faith isn’t a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all. It’s personal and intimate, between you and God.
Today, I’m asking myself the same question Jesus asked his disciples: Who do I say God is? And I’m listening for the answer that is revealed by him.
Next week, June 3, I’ll be taking a blogging break, so there will be no #HearItUseIt link-up. See you back here on June 10!
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