In my last post I shared some thoughts behind the first part of my message series at New Denver Church, Walking in Circles. In this post I’d like to wrap things up by sharing a little about part two. This series was so much fun for me to share, because it is a message which has been shaped within the context of my own life. I was excited to share these ideas about life and what it means to follow Jesus on a daily basis, because they have been so helpful and beneficial to me over the last couple years.
In part one of the series I talked about Jesus’ call in Mark 1:15 to “Repent and believe” that the kingdom of God had “come near” or was “at hand.” We really focused in on what it meant to repent – or literally to change your mind. In this second half, I zeroed in on Jesus’ call to “believe” and explored what Jesus meant by that.
The way I think about what it means to “believe” has changed a lot over the years. One great catalyst for thinking about the concept of belief, and the corollary concept of doubt, was a book by John Ortberg entitled Faith and Doubt (available for Kindle or in paperback under the title Know Doubt). In my life I had always thought of belief as a binary concept – you either believe or you don’t. But through reading John’s book and others, my own reflections on Scripture and my own experience of belief, I now think about believing very differently. So what’s changed?
First, I no longer thing of belief as solely or even primarily an intellectual exercise. For most of my life I thought of belief as something that took place in your head, or perhaps if you were acting based on intuition or emotion, your heart. I saw it as a strongly held conviction about something that you believe to be true. While this is an accurate understanding of the concept of belief, it is incomplete. Second, as I mentioned I used to see belief as binary – you either believe or you don’t. Ortberg was the first to help me see that belief is more of a continuum. In Faith and Doubt he describes three types of faith that I would say are actually points along a continuum:
- Public – What we say we believe.
- Private – What we think we believe.
- Core – What we really believe as reflected by our actions.
So our belief in something moves along this continuum – moving from being an intellectual process, something that we say we believe to ourselves and to others, until it comes to fruition in our actions. Our core beliefs are reflected in our actions. All you really believe is what you do. My first attempt at sharing these ideas was in 2011 in the series I did at New Denver entitled Moving Beyond Belief, which was an exploration of the idea of belief through the lens of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. But in this Walking in Circles message I was really able to zero in on Jesus’ call to believe the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand and explore what that means for us who choose to follow.
So when we come to Jesus’ imperative to “believe,” what was he asking us to do? I believe he was calling us to move along that continuum toward a life that reflects a core belief that we can live as part of the kingdom of God. Here. Now. Wherever “here” and “now” happens to be for you. Through the people, circumstances, and events of your life, God is trying to move you further down the continuum of belief. Currently the best paradigm I’ve found for how we practically do that is the learning circle developed by Mike Breen and 3D Ministries. I talked about the first half of that circle in part one of this series, but I wrap it up here in part 2.
The first half of the circle is the “repent” half. It is about asking the question, “What is God trying to teach or tell me through this kairos moment?” The second half of the circle is the “believe” half. After you have clarified what you believe God is saying or asking you to do, the next question is, “What are you going to do about it?” This comes by walking the second half of the circle:
- Plan – After reflecting on the kairos moments you observe in your life and then discussing it with a trusted friend or group of friends, you need to clarify what it is that you need to do in response to what God has shown you through this moment.
- Accountability – Often in life we know what we need to do but lack the resolve to actually do it. Herein lies the importance of community and making yourself accountable to others. When you share what you believe God wants you to do and what you plan on doing, close friends can offer you the challenge and support to follow through.
- Act – This is where your belief becomes core belief. What you believe in your head and heart becomes action. Be ready, because usually this isn’t the last step. Stepping in faith into the reality of the kingdom often opens new kairos moments as God invites us to experience more of the kingdom as we continue repenting and believing.