While I’m working, I try to listen through a rotation of podcasts each day. On this particular day, a new podcast from Jordan Peterson came up in the rotation. Jordan Peterson is one of the leading psychologists and philosophical thinkers of our time. So, most of his podcasts serve to challenge your thinking and stretch your mind. This episode started as they normally do, with Peterson interviewing his guest of the day. The subject that day was religion. This is not a new topic for Peterson. In fact, he has a whole series of lectures on the book of Genesis. The problem with Peterson’s viewpoint is that he views religion from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. He believes that the stories and beliefs of the Bible are meant only to teach people principles that will better society and help the human species flourish. This ultimately stems from Peterson’s atheistic beliefs. Despite his viewpoint, this interview developed a tone that I had not heard from Peterson before.
The interview revolved primarily around the circumstances that have upended Peterson’s world over the last year. He has battled a serious illness that almost took his life and has left him in debilitating pain most days. This has forced Peterson to think more about his own mortality and what might exist beyond the physical world. To listen to this man, who feels that he can solve his and everyone else’s problems through psychology and philosophy, articulate how his worldview is crumbling is a sacred moment. As I listened, I felt like I was with Moses as he approached the burning bush. I don’t say that because Peterson is something special, but because it was clear that God was moving in a powerful way. The climactic moment in the podcast occurred when the normally stoic Peterson began to weep. As he wept, he explained that he doesn’t believe that God exists, but that he tries to live as though he does. Peterson then asked this question of himself: “But what if God is real?” He then began to describe how a reality of God’s existence would change everything. He talked about how the weight of God’s existence would crush everyone because no one would be able to measure up. As I listened, my heart began to well up and I wanted to scream the truth of the gospel so loudly that he would be able to hear me from his home in Canada. And then this sacred moment came to an end. After composing himself, Peterson said something that I haven’t been able to forget. He said, “Ultimately, I don’t believe this is real because the ‘Christians’ that I meet aren’t sufficiently changed. If God were real, their lives would look drastically different than they do.” While this is a shortsighted and shallow reason to not believe in something, his point is not without merit. Christians do not often live a life that displays the glory of our King. I pondered Peterson’s argument for several days and thought about what would need to change in my life to be a better reflection of the reality of Jesus. God brought a few things to my mind:
The first area of my life that would be radically different is my level of generosity. There are two major areas that I tend to be stingy in: time and money. If I believe that there is a God who exists outside of time, who has ordained all the days of my life, and who I will live with for all of eternity, then why am I so stingy with my time? What if, instead of hurrying though all my interactions with the people, I slowed down to pray with them? What if I listened to the Holy Spirit and engaged as He leads? Think about all the times we are in line at the grocery store or trying to survive the DMV. What if we were actually generous with our time? The other area is money. The Bible tells us that we have a God who has created and owns everything. Jesus tells us that God makes sure that all the wild animals are provided for, so how much more will He provide for us? What kind of radical generosity would it lead to if we lived this way?
SHARING THE GOSPEL
The next area that came to mind was my drive to share the gospel. The Bible is clear that, when we die, there are only two options. If someone is not in Christ when they die, they will go to hell. Think about how many people we walk by every day who are spiritually dead and headed to an eternity separated from God. Now think about everyone that we actually share the gospel with. Those numbers are likely drastically different. We possess the cure for cancer of the soul. How can we not share that?
The last thing that came to mind was my prayer life. If I believe that there is a real God who desires to hear my prayers and has the power to answer all of them in miraculous ways, why would I not pray? I wondered why I didn’t at least pray quietly to God for everyone that I encountered in a day. As I thought about how my prayer life would be different, I realized what it could mean for me to actual pray without ceasing. If I asked God to help those I encounter, I could also ask God to reveal to me what that person needs in the moment. This led me to consider how the disciples engaged people in the book of Acts as the Spirit led them to meet physical and spiritual needs.
When considering the solution, we tend to make commitments to try harder or do more. But, no matter how hard we try, we’re only able to keep that up for a short time before burning out or becoming complacent. So, what would actually give us the ability to live a life that looks radically different? In considering an answer, God brought my mind to the first chapter of Hebrews. The first 3 verses caught my attention:
The Supremacy of God’s Son
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
When I read these verses I thought to myself how incredible it is that God has revealed Himself to us through his Son. Then I thought about the fact that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. As I meditated on this fact, I realized that I don’t have a doing problem, I have a worship problem. I realized that my view of God’s glory was minuscule compared to the saints of old. What if I lived my life with a greater understanding and appreciation for God’s glory? What if my life was being radically changed because of worship and not willpower? I believe that my life would look completely different. The truth is that we are all works in progress, and we are all at different places along our journey of sanctification. When we fail (as we often do), the grace and mercy of Jesus are there in abundance. There is no better picture of us living out the gospel than reliance on Him.