Life can be confusing.
Actually let’s rephrase that.
Life is confusing.
I could talk about a thousand different examples of life being confusing. But I think there’s a simple way to express the nature of confusion that we all experience.
We have the past, the present, and the future playing in our minds simultaneously.
We think about the Good memories and bad, the achieved dreams and the lost potential.
We experience Laughter and tears, as well as joy and pain.
We dream about what is to come and we worry about what the future has in store.
Three separate tracts of thought, all locked in individual and therefore separate places in time, being processed in the same moment.
That idea is confusing to even try and express.
Confusion is a big thing. The pure quantity of confusion is probably why we value answers so highly.
We ask, does anyone know of anything that will reduce my confusion?
Because we want it. We crave answers. We crave solutions. We crave truth.
Truth is not simply found, truth must be discovered. We must strive to find truth as much of truth is understood only in going through the process of searching.
So let’s discover some truth.
Have you ever been told God will love you if you have faith in him?
You probably have.
Have you ever been told you need to live a certain way for God to love you?
Again, You probably have.
Has the same person told you both of those things?
How do those two ideas work together?
Or better yet,
Can those two ideas work together?
It’s a classic debate. Are you saved by faith? Or are you saved by works?
To really answer that question, we need to answer another question first.
What does “saved” even mean?
When I first hear the word “saved” I think, “I don’t need to be saved. I’m not on a sinking ship or in a burning building. What do i need to be saved from?”
Saved is just a word that people, typically Christians, use to communicate the idea of being made complete.
We are saved from the bad circumstances that life presents not when the bad circumstances have been removed or replaced with good circumstances, but when we understand our circumstances do not dictate the quality of our existence.
In other words, God makes us complete, so that we don’t seek a sense of fulfillment or completeness from our circumstances.
If our sense of completeness is realized through our circumstances we are never truly complete because circumstances can, and frequently do change.
So what does it mean to be saved?
To be made complete.
So with that foundation let’s tackle the big question. Let’s phrase it like this, are we made complete through our action? Or are we made complete through our faith?
That question brings a memory to mind.
I used to work at a ranch in western Michigan. There was a small lake that was in the middle of the ranch. Next to it were some cabins and a large fire pit.
During the summer months we would have fires next to that lake. I have the fondest memories of the sun setting behind the big red barn, in the distance. People talking and laughing, music playing and s’mores being made.
I love those memories. I can taste them, I can hear them, I can smell them, clear as day. I can still feel those moments in my very bones.
Next to it all was this lake. On the other side of the lake was a line of tress and a fence that kept the horses in their pasture. Every night I would look at this lake and see something in it.
The reflection of the fire and the people dancing around it.
The reflection of the tress and horses on the other side.
What a beautiful reflection it was.
As I sit in southern Oregon under a tree writing these words I can’t make those memories into reality.
I can’t believe hard enough to make that sight reappear in front of me.
I can’t work hard enough to rebuild that sight here. I could spend years making a lake, replicating the cabins and the trees, but it would never be the same.
A silly little lake reflected those moments better than I could ever recreate them.
Yet somehow, Christians have believed for hundreds of years that people are capable of being accepted by Jesus through believing hard enough or through working hard enough. That somehow our work or faith can recreate an existence worth the attention and sacrifice that Jesus made.
Obviously that isn’t going to work.
Sometimes that is acknowledged with statements like,
“We can never be as good as Jesus, but we should try”
“We can’t be perfect, but we will give it or best shot”
So Christianity is about chasing after an ideal that can’t be reached?
Trying the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result in the actual definition of insanity.
So is Christianity insane?
Well if its core belief is that we can believe enough in Jesus, or work enough for Jesus, that we will be made complete, it is.
Christianity is insane.
Thankfully, Jesus wasn’t.
Jesus doesn’t promise completion to the people of the world through believing in him enough.
Jesus doesn’t promise completion to the people of the world through working to be as much like him as possible.
Jesus definitely doesn’t offer completion through some bizarre combination of the two.
Jesus offered completion in his existence.
Jesus didn’t do the “heavy lifting”, leaving us with little jobs to accomplish.
He did it all.
Stop working to earn something.
Stop believing to earn something.
There’s nothing left to earn.
It’s all been done already.
You aren’t made complete by faith.
You aren’t made complete by works.
They both fall short, because both are something you do.
In reality there is no difference between faith and works.
Both are verbs. Both are actions. Both are things that we do.
We believe, or we work.
Both are flawed from the beginning. Because they start with “we”.
If our completion is dependent on something other than God, it will fail.
Jesus is the completion.
That little lake in the middle of a ranch in western Michigan was given a gift that most people will never really understand and even fewer will accept.
That lake had the wonderful opportunity to show a reflection of something greater than itself.
It didn’t believe it’s way into reflecting.
It didn’t work its way into reflecting.
It simply reflected what it was shown.
So are saved by faith? Or are we saved by works?
The answer is no.
We have been saved by Jesus.
We have been shown Jesus.
So ask yourself,
What are you reflecting?