collateral learning.

I’ve said before that I’m the friend who prefers coffee and conversation over a couple of hours sitting silently in a dark movie theater together. I’m the friend you can talk to about the stuff that keeps you up at night – and I’m not going to judge you or tell you what to do – because I have no idea what you should do. If you let me, I’m going to pray with you and if you’re uncomfortable with that, I’m going to pray for you on my own. I’m going to listen and ask you relentless questions to help you think through and hone in on what you probably already know but sometimes can’t see because it’s blurred and hidden by the chaotic pace of life. or maybe fear. or rationalization.

I’ve been blessed and honored to have been trusted in many of those kind of conversations over the years. I’ve been blessed to see God move in some of my friend’s lives in unpredictable and phenomenal ways.

But it’s not at all uncommon for God to use these conversations to change ME. Rarely do I come out unaffected. If I’m open to it, I learn something every single time. About myself, what I believe, why I believe it and what God would have me do with what He’s teaching me. It’s one of the selfish reasons I’m so motivated to continue having “onion layer” conversations with people.

But learning is always risky. The results can be inconvenient. It’s so much easier to stick with the status quo. I usually find change unsettling and sometimes its effects are uncomfortably far-reaching. But when I have the courage to listen and be open, I make myself available for God to work in my own heart and life.

In one situation, I had a friend who asked me a question I couldn’t answer. Well, I answered it, but my answer was . . . lacking. I’ll tell you the question, but trust me, it’s not as simple as it appears:

If someone has what they believe to be – and what, in every way sounds like – a saving faith in Jesus Christ; If they believe He is THE only way to Heaven, their redeemer, the son of God, without sin, was crucified, dead and buried, descended into Hell, was raised and sits at the Father’s right hand. If they believe all this, and have gratefully accepted this gift of grace, if they regularly read the Bible and believe it is the Word of God, if they consistently spend time in prayer and they strive to live their life seeking God’s will . . . here it comes . . .

Is it possible to believe and accept Jesus WITHOUT believing and accepting His claim to BE God?

In other words, my friend believed Jesus is the Son of God, but didn’t believe Jesus IS God. They believed Jesus had all the authority of God because God granted it to Him, as His only Son. BUT. They did not believe the Father and the Son were One. They did not find the trinity to be reasonable any more than they found the word trinity in the Bible. When they asked, “When Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane the night before he was crucified, who was He talking to? Himself? That doesn’t make sense!

My immediate thought was, pshh. I talk to myself all the time.

Wait. Is that weird?

Citing multiple personality disorder as my strongest apologetic? Would not have been my strongest witnessing moment. I had to face the unpleasant fact that I was pitifully prepared to provide scriptural reasons I believe Jesus IS God. I had my own personal reasons and they made perfect sense. To me. But my friend was asking me to show them in the Bible. And I couldn’t do it, at least not on the spot. I had to tell them the truth. The inexcusable fact was that I had long ago worked through what I believed and why I believed it regarding the trinity and once I did, I moved forward. I remembered very little about why I believe what I believe. I just knew it to be truth.

As a result, even though the conversation was focused on them and their struggles, I experienced collateral learning that extended far beyond that conversation. That one question was the impetus for some serious Bible reading and theological discussion. I found multiple scripture verses supporting my belief that Jesus and God are One essence. And I’m going to remember them this time.

But I still didn’t have an answer as to whether believing Jesus and God are One is essential to salvation. Meaning, I found lots of support for my belief that they ARE One, but nothing about what it means to believe and accept Jesus WITHOUT believing and accepting His claim to BE God. But even that statement seems paradoxical.

So what did I learn, besides the scriptural support for my belief in the deity of Jesus Christ? I had to come to terms with the fact that there was NOTHING I could say or do to convince them. For every verse I found to support my position, they could point to another which supported theirs. Convincing them that Jesus IS God was not my job. It was GOD’S job. My job was to remain open to God’s leading and obedient to his promptings. He would do the rest. In His time.

My friend told me that God used me in their life. I would say the same.

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