What if I told you that Stacy is one of the worst human beings on the planet? Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Let’s just say that if I had a choice between Carpool Karaoke with Stacy and having someone pluck each individual hair from my well-endowed eyebrows, then bring on the tweezers. Stacy is rude, opinionated, and I’m pretty sure she hates puppies and Chipotle. I mean, who hates Chipotle?!
Now, imagine that you and Stacy are friends. You went to high school together. She helped you land your first job. You keep up on Facebook. For all you know, Stacy is a wonderful person with a sparkling smile, easy laugh, and winsome personality.
How do I know Stacy? Well, I don’t, really. But I stood behind her in line at Starbucks once. She ordered a latte with 23 last names, paid with cash (weirdo), and didn’t even leave the baristas a tip! Therefore, Stacy = jerkface.
Okay, so, full disclosure: Stacy is NOT a real person. The names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this post are purely fictitious and no identification with actual persons (living or deceased) … you get the idea. You’ve probably been in a situation like this, though. There’s been someone in your life that you know and love and believe to be a great person. Yet someone else has a very different belief about that exact same person. What makes the difference? In a word, experience.
More often than not, our beliefs are determined by our experiences. If you have a bad experience with someone (especially when you first met them), it can have a powerful effect on what you believe about that person. If you felt they were kind, you’ll believe that they’re a genuinely kind person. If they came off as rude, you probably won’t be grabbing coffee with them any time soon.
Where things get messy, though, is that you and I may have totally different experiences of the exact same person. Those different experiences will cause us to have different beliefs about that person, beliefs which will cause us to treat that person in different ways.
Now, let’s talk about Stacy again (after all, she’s not real). Let’s say you want me to think differently about Stacy. You want me to see her like you see her. You could give me a detailed list of Stacy’s best qualities. You could release Stacy’s tax records to show me how much she gives to charity. You could even show me a picture of Stacy eating Chipotle while petting a puppy. But if my experience with Stacy doesn’t change, none of that will matter. My beliefs about Stacy will stay the same. Our beliefs don’t change unless our experiences change.
Over the next couple months at Alpine, our series “ELEMENTS” will be digging into what it means to “believe like Jesus believed”. And over the course of this series, we’re going to be tempted. We’ll be tempted to emphasize new beliefs about God without being open to new experiences with God. Don’t get me wrong: being able to articulate what we believe is important. And for followers of Jesus, having those beliefs line up with what Jesus believed just makes sense. But if we’re expecting a shiny new set of theological affirmations to somehow change our lives, then our hope is misplaced. You might as well expect that simply telling someone “Stacy is awesome” will magically have them sending her Christmas cards, giving her LinkedIn endorsements, and waving banners with Stacy’s face on them that read “#1 Fan.” Until they’ve experienced the things that make Stacy awesome, those beliefs are just words. And words alone don’t have the muscle to bear the weight of life change.
Beneath the idea of believing like Jesus believed is the necessity of experiencing God like Jesus experienced Him.
But what does that even look like? How do you even do that?
Well, here’s a good place to start. Over the course of Alpine’s “ELEMENTS” series, take some time after each Sunday’s message to ask yourself, “Where in my life have I experienced the reality of what Jesus believed?” Really take some time to think about it. And if you come up with nothing, then pray, “God, help me to experience TODAY the reality of what Jesus believed.”
A simple prayer? Sure.
But it could just change your life.