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God on Paper

By June 29, 20094 Comments

Pen and paper I posted this blog about a year ago when I was overseas, and it has been one of my most popular pieces so I thought I would re-post it today.

Have you ever dated someone who was perfect for you on paper, but you just couldn’t make the relationship work? Logically, they had everything that you were looking for in a spouse, but something was missing? You loved everything about them, but you weren’t in love with them? While it made sense in your head, there just wasn’t any chemistry.

Sometimes in the face of these situations, I would find myself telling others about how perfect the person was for me, but I would do so in the hopes of convincing myself. Deep down I knew that something was terribly wrong, but I thought that if I focused on all the things about him that were right and good, that the lack of attraction would simply go away.

This method never lasted very long, and soon the charade became apparent to everyone around me, including myself. In reality, a relationship that only works on paper is really no relationship at all.

Well I think that has happened to my relationship with God. On paper, it’s all there. I know all the right words to say, I pray, I do ministry, I disciple young women, and if you ask me why I believe the Gospel I can tell you without hesitation.

On paper, everything is perfect.

But all those things are starting to fall flat. This week I’ve been confronted with people who could be ostrasized by their families, or even killed, were they to profess faith in Christ. So when given the opportunity to share the Gospel with them, I’ve found myself hesitating. I have all the right answers to their questions and objections. I know the Scripture and apologetics like the back of my hand. So what is stopping me? One haunting question…

Is it worth it?

Is it worth it for these people to lose their families and friends all for the sake of changing to a better religion? Is it worth risking their lives, just to accept a more holistic worldview? On paper, it all makes sense to me. On paper, Christianity is the most logical understanding of humanity, the world, sin and God. But is having a correct worldview really worth the risk I’m asking them to take?

All week, my instincts have been telling me “no.” No it’s not worth risking all that, just to get someone to pray a prayer and believe the logic behind Christianity. It’s not worth taking their lives into their hands simply because someone presented them with a more compelling argument than that presented by Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. If all we’re about is proposing the best argument, the best way of life, the most convincing worldview, then I can’t sell that to people who could lose everything because of it.

And that is the mindset that results when we reduce our faith to mere words. Logic and apologetics are all good things, but they are not enough to move mountains, let alone hearts. They may be true, but they lack power.

In 1 Corinthians 2:4 Paul writes, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” Without the power of God infusing our hearts and our minds, without authentic and transformational experience of His presence in your life, your relationship with God will be just as exciting as a dating relationship that only works on paper. In your head, it all makes sense, but your heart just isn’t in it.

That is why my heart has been so hesitant to share the Gospel with those for whom it could mean culture alienation. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the power of God in my life in a real, transformational way, so my words fall flat in the face of real risk. And when I did share the Gospel, I felt just like a girl trying to convince herself that her boyfriend is perfect for her, when deep down her heart wasn’t sure that was true.

As soon as I identified this issue in my heart, I started praying for an experience of God’s mighty power. And being the faithful God that He is, I have felt it in an undeniable way. Nothing huge and earth-shattering, at least not yet, but just enough to remember the power behind the words that I speak. Just enough to remind me that it IS worth the risk. That we don’t merely share the Gospel because it makes the most sense, but because it really is GOOD news. It is life and peace and freedom for all who believe. It is unity with God and everlasting life, a life that begins here and now amidst so much death and darkness.

The Gospel is all of those things, but even saying it now will mean nothing to my heart or yours if my words are not infused with the power of God’s Spirit. And that is only something that God can give. That said, we can never spread the Gospel apart from a total dependence upon Him. We may know how to turn a phrase or stage an argument, but if we are not experiencing God’s power then we will never convince others, let alone ourselves.

Are you experiencing God’s power right now? Does it light up your heart and mind, and compel you to go tell the world? If not, I urge you to pray that it does, because we should never be people of mere words. We should also be people of power.


  • Samantha says:

    A convicting post that is nothing short of biblical. It’s our mandate to be “doers” of the word and not hearers or people who see all the good of the gospel on paper. Our calling as Christ-followers is a high one and that involves sacrifice, obedience, and death to self! … oh and did I mention that it’s a daily battle for me? 🙂

  • sherri says:

    I guess more then anything I don’t want to give people a denominational viewpoint. That’s why I’ve hesitated at times. However if we encourage people into getting an experience of God through Jesus Christ, they can get a taste of what’s available. From there we can guide them, but God is actually leading. That why everything is on his head if it goes pearshaped (which it can’t really do.) We arn’t guilty of leading someone astray.
    I would hate to think I had made a disciple of human tradition that causes them to fall flat on their face in their hour of need. I’ve suffered too much from other peoples theology in the past because I didn’t check it enough or know to. The truth, the half-truth and something close to the truth is sill ultimatly a lie (with some truth mixed in.) And it can be so painful when the lies in your foundations come crashing down under pressure.
    As long as we lead people ‘to’ God through Jesus, they have the well they can drink from themselves. We just help them stick to the path. But if I lead them to God and Jesus through me, they’ll keep looking to me or other people for strength and truth.
    That can be deadly to their ultimate faith because I’ve just led them into idol worship (putting something between them and God.)

    I would hate somebodys death (or any suffering) to be on my head because my pride caused me to get them looking at me to find God. Only God is their ultimate teacher, I can merely assist and support. Jesus is their shepherd, I simply give what I can.

    There’s a place for leadership but its never between a person and God. And I think evangelism falls into the same category.

  • Esteban says:

    Thank you for these words. There is power behind them for me. In my work as a pastor, there seems to be a draining cycle of just going through the motions to being reminded of God’s presence and importance. I am a forgetful person. Thank you, again.

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