Summary: Part 5 of a series on Blackaby’s Experiencing God: when God invites into some new truth, the first crisis will be one of personal belief; the second is one of tension between old patterns and new options; and the last comes in the temptation to fall back
There’s an old, old story about the time a crowd had gathered to watch a stunt man perform at Niagara Falls. It seems that the fellow had rigged up a wire from shore to shore, right across the falls, and was wowing the crowd by riding a bicycle along that wire. Back and forth he went, several times, and so, to make it more exciting, he asked the crowd if they believed he could make it across while carrying various things. First, he held up a suitcase and an umbrella, and asked, “Do you believe I can make it across the falls carrying these?” Since people had seen what he could do without anything in his hands, and it was pretty impressive, most of them shouted, “Yes, yes, we believe.” Sure enough, he got all the way across and back with no trouble. Next he picked up a violin and a bow, and asked the crowd, “Now do you believe I can ride my bike on this thin wire, across these falls, while I play my fiddle?” Again, they had seen incredible things, and so they shouted out again, “Yes, yes, we believe.” It was just astonishing to listen to a string of bluegrass fiddlin’ wafting out over the roaring waters of Niagara. He did it!
Finally the stunt man picked up a chair, and said, “Now I have just one more question. Do you believe I can put somebody in this chair and balance them on my bike and ride across the falls? Do you believe I can do this?” Well, the crowd went wild. They cheered and they whistled. They stomped and they shouted. “Sure. Yes. Go for it. We believe. We believe.”
“All right,” said he. “If you believe, I now need for one believer to step forward and sit in the chair.” How many do you think stepped forward?.
Which just means that there is often a tremendous gap between what we say we believe and what we really believe. A disconnect between our ideas and our commitment. A very large gap.
Did you know that when God invites us to do something, it will always lead to a crisis of belief? What we think we believe will go into tension with what God asks us to do, and there will be a crisis. When the moment of truth comes, and God invites us to sit in the chair going over the falls, then we will find ourselves in crisis.
I am sure you have heard before, that the Chinese character translated into English as “crisis” means, at its root, “dangerous opportunity.” A crisis is a dangerous opportunity; it is scary, but it holds out something wonderful at the same time..
When the earliest Christians met the new convert Saul of Tarsus, it was not easy. It caused a crisis. This man Saul had been the most zealous persecutor of Christians. He had gone to great lengths to make sure they were stamped out. But Saul had met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus one day, and everything changed. Saul became Paul; the enemy of the church became its newest son. The preacher of death became the proclaimer of new life. Can you just imagine the folks in the Jerusalem church? “Do you know who’s coming to preach here today? I’m afraid to show up at church this week!” Crisis!
Well, then the crisis got worse. It got worse because as this persecutor turned preacher got going, he began to say some things that were new. He began to think about Jesus Christ in some different ways. Paul said, if salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus, then doesn’t that mean that keeping the Jewish Law is not the way to salvation?. And then he went on to argue, and if keeping the Jewish Law is not the way to salvation, then why are we still insisting that only Jews are to be saved? Why can’t we preach the gospel to everyone? Paul reminded people that Jesus Himself had commanded that they go into all the world and bring the good news to every person and every nation.
All right. The Christians could follow that logic. But then Paul tore it. Then he went too far. Well, said Paul, if anyone can be saved; and if it isn’t possible to be saved by keeping the Law, why do we ask these Greeks and Romans and Parthians and everybody ... why do we ask them to submit to Jewish ritual? Why do we ask their men to be circumcised and why do we ask them all to keep the Sabbath rules? Why don’t we just receive these people into the church, openly and freely, because that’s the way God receives them?
Wow! Nobody had ever looked at it that way before. Nobody had ever thought of the Christian faith in such an open way before. Paul had a new idea. Paul saw God’s invitation, God’s leadership. But it brought about a crisis. The early church went into conflict over this.