"I'm going to take you to my favorite steakhouse for lunch. I know you love a good steak, so this place is perfect for you! I'll pick you up at 12:00. It's not far from where you work. It's on 10th Ave North."
My stomach rumbled. I'd skipped breakfast that morning and was starving. I loved it when Carrie and I could catch up over the lunch hour. And Carrie had excellent taste in food so I was eager to try her favorite steakhouse. My husband, Jack, called minutes later wondering if I'd like to join him at his office for lunch.
"Sorry. I just made plans with Carrie to go to some awesome steakhouse on 10th Ave North. Let's do it another day," I explained.
Jack paused. "Uhm...There's no steak joint on 10th Ave North. Better have her check her directions before you go. I've been all over that street and I know there's no steakhouse there."
"Carrie said it's where she always goes for her favorite steak." I had no reason not to believe her.
"I'm just saying, there's no steakhouse on 10th Ave North. But I know you'll have a good time with Carrie, wherever you end up eating. "
"Thanks. Love you." I hung up my phone wondering if Carrie maybe just had the address wrong. Guess I'd find out soon enough.
Carrie showed up at the curb right on time. I jumped in, more curious than ever about this steakhouse she'd bragged about. "I'm starving! I can't wait to eat."
"I know! Me, too. I'm glad it'll only take us a few minutes to get there," she replied. Moment of truth. Would we drive to a steakhouse on 10th or was Jack right after all? Lo and behold, we turned the corner of 10th Avenue North and she pulled the car into the parking lot of Hank's Steaks.
Sure enough. We ate delectable steaks with all the trimmings. We left, stomachs full and my mind convinced, there was without a doubt, an amazing steakhouse on 10th.
"Great! And the steak was so good! I'll have to take you there sometime on a date. I'm guessing, it'll become a regular date destination from now on. It was that good," I smiled.
"But where did it end up being? I know it wasn't on 10th, right?"
Jack had always been so good with directions I couldn't believe he'd gotten this one wrong. I raised my eyebrows and smiled again. "Actually, Carrie drove right to it, on 10th. I saw it with my very own eyes. I assure you, it's there."
He replied slightly puzzled, "Honey, I know there's no steakhouse there." I shrugged my shoulders and told him I'd take him there on a date. Soon. He obviously wouldn't be convinced until he'd experienced it for himself. Regardless, there was absolutely nothing he could say that would un-convince me that I'd eaten an incredible steak with Carrie, on 10th Avenue North.
This is a story. I retell it as an illustration of the difference between intellectual belief and experiential belief. I believed Carrie, that there was a steakhouse. I had been given knowledge that she passed on to me. I believed her...INTELLECTUALLY. But once I had actually been there and eaten, I believed...EXPERIENTIALLY. They are different. One is not right and the other wrong. (Actually, we can intellectually believe something wrong. We can also experientially believe something wrong but that's for another blogging time.)
PLEASE HEAR THIS: Experience does NOT equal truth! But when we DO experience the truth, (as in this story) we can NEVER unbelieve it! No amount of talking could un-convince me because I knew it to be the truth.
"Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
Hopeful Assurance & Blind Conviction
Do you see the oxymorons in this verse? The bible tells us we can have hopeful assurance and blind conviction. Assurance and Conviction in the steakhouse story, came when I experienced it to be true. Up to that point, my belief was only hopeful and unseen.
Let's look at another verse this same way. The first verse many of us memorized. JOHN 3:16
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life."
Intellectual: I read (even memorize) John 3:16 that says that God loves me. I grow in knowledge of the Bible.
Experiential: I believe John 3:16 in my heart (experience) and am saved.
Problem: Knowledge alone does not transform us. Intellectual belief can make us smarter, but does not guarantee or constitute faith. Look at the Pharisees. Actually, look at being a little child and memorizing John 3:16. That wasn't saving faith. That was just knowledge. Knowledge isn't wrong, but it doesn't transform us until our belief is there. That's when we know the truth. Faith isn't only knowledge. Paul wrote to the Ephesians about this he said he prayed for them "...to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God." (Eph. 3:19)
Sometimes we wrestle with these two things, believing something in our head that we KNOW to be true, but believing something in our hearts that isn't true. This is why we can say with our mouths, "My God will supply all my needs..." while fretting about finances during the night. Remember, Jesus said, "And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free," NOT "if you memorize the truth, it'll set you free." Head knowledge and heart knowledge do different things in our lives. If those beliefs are in conflict with one another, like the finances example, it's called being double-minded.
James 1 says "...he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. He is double-minded, unstable in all he does." Read all of James 1 sometime. Actually, if you're going to read the first chapter, you might as well just read it all! It's so good!!! It's only 5 chapters. Ask yourself this question while you read it: Do I believe this to be true, so much so, that nothing in the world could un-convince me of it's truth? This is the kind of faith God has called us to have in Him and His Word. Remember...
"Now, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Heb. 11:1
If you feel like the person who's more like the wave, being blown and tossed with the winds of life, maybe it's time to sit down, in the quiet and ask yourself, "What do I really believe?" If you've never experienced the kind of faith that's active and more than head knowledge, a faith in God that makes you a new creation, a transforming trust in the only One who saves, Jesus, then today is a good day to ask for this kind of belief. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life," Jesus says. Read John 3 and James and ask the Lord to come, to lead, to show you. Much like that steak, once you've "tasted and seen that the Lord is good," there's no going back. If you're a follower of Jesus, he doesn't want you to just believe in him, he wants you to believe him. Believer, read John 16 and 17. These are the final things Jesus was saying to his friends before his death. In John 16:33, he said these things, "so that you may have peace." If you don't have peace today, this may be just for you. Your intellectual belief won't bring you peace. You must believe him in order to experience life changing peace.
When you believe, brace yourself. True transformation begins...
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test adn approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2