Right Belief. Wrong Life.

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April 19, 2018

Welcome Back Omar Al-Rikabi, friend of the Daily Text Nation, who will be leading us over the next three weeks through 2 Peter. I’ll be back May 10 to begin our next series on Prayer. For the Awakening— JD Walt 

2 Peter 1:2

2 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

CONSIDER THIS

“I know your thoughts.” That’s a phrase my wife Jenn says to me a lot. She usually says it in the split second between when our kids do something and I try to come up with a “dad humor” line. But it also comes up other times, like when I start to get an idea for something I’m excited about, but right before I say anything. And yes, it even comes up during arguments. 

My wife and I can sense each other’s moods without speaking. We can read each other’s facial expressions. We can decode each other’s real meaning in the tone of our voices. After almost thirteen years of marriage, we know each other’s thoughts. 

It’s not enough that I know about my wife, like when and where she was born, her alma mater and degree, her talents, hobbies, interests and pet peeves. Those are the things I learned soon after we met as we “got to know about each other.” What really matters in our marriage is that I know her nature… who she deeply is.

This type of intimacy with Jesus is the implication in the opening blessing of Peter’s letter today, that his recipients “grow in [their] knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.”  

The Greek word is epignosis, and it’s implies relational knowledge, not book or academic knowledge. But can I be honest? As a preacher and teacher, so much of my life in Scripture is to study for sermons (and even this Daily Text). It didn’t used to be that way, at least not early on. But something happened along the line that caused a struggle between “book knowledge” about Jesus and “relational knowledge” of him. 

And can we be honest that a lot of us are in the same place, even if we’re not clergy? And what’s more frightening is that many of us probably aren’t aware of it. We’ve mastered the art of Bible study, but did you see what we did there? We boiled the Bible down as something to “study,” which implies an academic acquiring of knowledge. 

Please hear me: the study of Scripture, both devotional and academic is of vital importance (if I didn’t believe this, I wouldn’t be writing the Daily Text). But the temptation we all face in any level of Bible study is the Living Word of God becoming merely informational instead of transformational. 

And falling into this trap can set us up for what my friend Marylin Elliot calls having right belief, but a wrong life. 

This is a danger for all believers. We can publicly declare and believe every statement of the Apostle’s Creed, but still be ruled by our addictions, fears, selfishness, and sin. We can keep all Ten Commandments, but still seek revenge, gossip, or have no love for our enemies. 

We can know all the Bibles stories about Jesus, but still not know him and share in his love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We can know all the teachings of Jesus, but still not love God and each other like him.  

Right belief. Wrong life. That is the big-picture theme and warning of Peter’s second letter. So how do we move in to “right life” knowledge of Jesus? We’ll see over the course of the letter, but Peter sets it up in the first part of today’s text: “May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in knowledge…”

More and more grace and peace from God. It was just last week, but J.D. wrote in the Daily Text what I believe is a game-changer about grace and peace. He said, “Could it be the grace of God in Jesus Christ puts our shattered lives back together, and the peace of God in Jesus Christ puts our scattered relationships back together. Grace means restored relationship with God. Peace means restored relationship with neighbor. This convergence lands us in the heart of the heart of it all according to Jesus: the love of God and neighbor.”

To be continued…

THE PRAYER

Heavenly Father, I need more and more of your grace and peace. Today, would your Holy Spirit show me a place where I have right belief but a wrong life, help me to repent, and may what I have read here today not just be information, but transformation. In Jesus name. Amen.

THE QUESTION

What do you think of this idea of “right belief, wrong life?” Do you feel that your reading of Scripture has moved from transformation to information? Where do you need the Holy Spirit to transform this for you? 

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Omar Rikabi is a United Methodist Pastor serving in North Texas. When not telling stories, Omar likes to watch movies with his wife Jennifer, read books with his three daughters, and work in the kitchen cooking and grilling for family and friends. You follow him on Twitter @omarrikabi or visit his blog omarrikabi.com

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