Mere Simplicity

It has become fashionable in Christianity to extol the virtues of "simple faith." The simplicity of our faith is a wonder among the claims of the world's religions--there are no "five pillars" or "eight noble truths" which lay claim on the life of the Christian. When the jailer asked Paul what must he do to be saved, Paul simply replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." This episode illustrated Jesus's claim that it only takes faith as simple as a mustard seed in order to move mountains.

However, I fear too many Christians miss the truth that mustard seeds grow--They must grow, they were designed to grow. If a mustard seed doesn't grow, then it is a failure of a mustard seed. For the Christian, this means that the simple beginnings of our faith were never designed to stay that way. This is the clear and repeated testimony of the Word of God. We read in Colossians 1:28: "He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ." In Ephesians 4, Paul outlined the purposes of the leaders of the church, " that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (vv12-13) and Paul continues, "...we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ" (v15). In case anyone is tempted to conclude this idea of maturity is a Pauline hobby horse, we read in James 1 "so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (v4). This idea of maturity--moving beyond simplicity --reflects the great and wonderful God that saves us.

Throughout the Christian life, faith itself may, in a manner of speaking, remain simple. But what can never remain simple is the object of our faith--God himself. Romans 11 reminds us:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”

God, by definition, is more complex then men. Thank God, right? If God is no more complex than you or I, then why would we ever look to Him to do what we could not? And if we claim to have a personal relationship with this God, then at some point, the Christian must roll up his sleeves and reach into the abyss, not knowing what we might find. We must do the hard work of wrestling with things that scare us. When a nervous Susan asked if Aslan was safe, Mr. Beaver replied, "Safe?...Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” We serve a God who is great, glorious, and good--not safe. One needs only ask John the Baptist or Stephen to realize we are engaged in a dangerous and complicated business.

I understand the temptation to find another path. I remember the joy and wonder of my early years as a Christian. I remember what it was like to experience unconditional love and acceptance and who wouldn't want to continue to revel in those experiences? But the Christian who persistently pursues those first joys is like the musician who, glowing in the wake of performing her first song, vows to play only that song . Or a painter who stands back to admire his first portrait, committing to reproducing that same scene for the rest of his life. That seems like a childish way to approach music and art, and so it is with the Christian life. God has so much more for the believer. Pursuing these simplistic joys comes at the expense of, as Paul says, of "attaining the full measure of Christ." Any other path the Christian may pursue will not lead to Christ, but some caricature of him we have created.

Many churches "lower the bar" with the intent of making Christianity accessible to as many people as possible. While these are noble motives, the unintended consequences have been remaking Christianity by stripping God of his glory, his majesty, and his inscrutability. We have created a God who fights for air time with hairdos and pundits. This god can save no one. The remarkable thing about God is that he should be inaccessible; he should be out of our reach. But the fact that this God had condescended to meet us

When we content ourselves to splash around in the kiddie pool, we will never know the wonders of the ocean. This is the gospel--that landlubbers such as ourselves get to swim in the wild and daunting ocean of God.

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