Awaking Relevance Introduction

Awaking Relevance
How should we live and why?

This is written for those who think church is bigoted and bad. It’s written for those who are bitter and done. It’s honestly specifically written for one of my friends. I want to awake them and you to the relevance of Christianity. Will you take some time to consider some important questions with me?

My question over all of this project is, does Jesus, who the Bible claims to be the Messiah, matter? We will not come at that question straight on. Instead, we will consider that question by asking other very important questions. Questions that are important but are often left unasked. Questions that close in on us and surround us and squeeze us. Questions that are there lurking.

Questions about death. About whether or not the world is enchanted. Questions about science and satisfaction. And morality and meaning.

You will answer these questions. We all have to. Will we, however, ask them? Will we think through them? Will we answer them honestly? And thoughtfully and thoroughly?

Socrates, the old and famous philosopher, is reported as saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I personally think that Socrates exaggerated. I think life is worth living even if we don’t think about it. But, I do believe that it’s much better to live an examined life. And it’s much more honest and genuine too.

So, will you consider these questions? Will you ask them and find the real you? Will you find out what you really believe? Will you fight the façade and live the most honest and genuine life you can?

It’s better to consider these questions before it’s too late. To truly ask and answer: Does Jesus matter?—then to assume He does, if doesn’t. The opposite follows too. What if we assume Jesus doesn’t matter when He does? As the adage goes, if we ASSUME it makes an ASS out of U and ME. And as C.S. Lewis said, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

If Jesus is not really God in flesh, as the Bible claims, then “what conceivable relevance may the teachings and lifestyle of a first-century male Jew have for us today, in a totally different cultural situation?”[1] So, does Messiah Jesus matter? Consider that question with me through the lens of these other questions. Perspective often allows us to see something we didn’t before. That’s our goal. To gain perspective so that we can come full cycle and be in a better place to ask the question “does Messiah Jesus matter?”

I’m sure it’s apparent to you at the outset, but I’m convinced He does matter. I believe He matters more than the oxygen in my lungs. I want to be totally honest with you. Also, something in the back of my head informing a lot of what I write is a verse from the Bible. It has been very meaningful and challenging to me. It says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions, if the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.”[2]

I want you to be truly convinced one way or the other. To tweak Socrates’ wisdom: the unexamined life is not consistent.

I believe we should examine our convictions about what is true, right, good, and beautiful, and then seek to live consistently with our convictions in every area of our lives.[3]

A couple of years ago my family and I lived outside of Washington, DC. I was grabbing tacos with a friend at a really good local chain. I believed I was at the right place. it was the right taco chain after all. But my friend, who was not normally late, was not there. So I called him. He said he was sitting in the front of the restaurant and waiting for me. But I was there and sitting in the front and waiting for him. And he was nowhere to be found.

I believed I had the right spot, that’s why I was there. But I was wrong. I was at the right taco establishment but not the right location. So, you see, when we get little things wrong, even if we get a lot right, it can have a big impact. Even a devastating impact.

“Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default… Stray off course by just two millimeters, and your trajectory changes; what seemed like a tiny, inconsequential decision then can become a mammoth miscalculation.”[4]

When we believe something, like the place we’re meeting a friend, it leads to a corresponding action: going there. We can think we’re right, and even have reasons for thinking we’re right, but still be wrong. Because beliefs inevitably impact our actions it’s important that we be reasonably sure our beliefs are correct.

Of course, my belief in the correctness of the taco joint location is less impactful than my belief about many other things. My point, however, is that even less meaningful beliefs have an impact so how much more beliefs about things that we deem of much higher importance?!

Beliefs → actions → impact.
Wrong beliefs → wrong actions → wrong impact.


William Kingdon Clifford, the philosopher and mathematician in his essay “The Ethics of Belief” said, “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”[5] Or, as the philosopher and English writer, G.K. Chesterton said, “An open mind is like an open mouth: useful only to close down on something solid.”

Our beliefs matter. They have an impact on our life and the lives of others. It is important that we consider what we believe and why. We’d be wise to remember, “It doesn’t matter how smart you are unless you stop and think.”[6]

We see this through social media. It’s easy to get duped by fake news. It’s too easy for people to take the bait and believe lies. It’s too easy for people to hype conspiracy theories.

We don’t want to be guilty of living the unexamined life. We don’t want to live a conspiracy theory. We don’t want to build our foundation on the equivalent of fake news. Fake news is no foundation.

If you’re like me, however, you have a built-in mechanism that is like a gag reflex to certain serious questions. I remember when my parents were separated as a kid before they got divorced. We had various “family meetings.” I remember my brother’s and I being the kings of diversion.

We were like the squirrel in the movie “Hoodwinked,” except our mission was distraction. We would wedge in any funny comment. Anything to lighten the mood. We didn’t want to hear and deal with the harsh realities in front of us.

I’m older now. Obviously. But sometimes my inner hyperactive squirrel wants to take over when I’m in a serious conversation. I want to run. I want to do anything to escape.

If it’s not my inner squirrel, sometimes it’s my inner lawyer that wants to come out and defend myself and throw the book at the other party. I don’t want to hear. I want to yell. I want to prove myself in the right.

The way of my inner squirrel and the way of my inner lawyer is not the way of wisdom. I need to listen. I need to learn.

I need to question some of my beliefs. I need to weigh them to see if I really have good reasons for holding them.

Distractions can be devastating. Want if I have a concern that I have cancer but I fear what that would mean. So, I just keep putting it off. I don’t deal with it. I don’t get checked out.

There can come a time when it’s too late. The damage has been done.

I challenge you to consider this question with me: How should we live and why? As well as the questions that accompany this important question. The philosopher Peter Kreeft said,

“If we are at all interested in the question of how to live (and if we are not, we are less than fully human and less than fully honest), then we too must… ask questions. They are inherent in the very structure of our existence.”

Thoughts and questions are important. They shape our destiny. As Samuel Smiles said,

“Sow a thought, reap an act.
Sow an act, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.”


As I alluded to, this series is called Awaking Relevance because I’d love to have you awake to the relevance of Jesus. I’d love for you to come away seeing that Messiah Jesus matters. I’d love for you to find that Jesus shows us a meaningful way to live as well as the motivation for doing so.

But, perhaps you’ll never agree that Jesus matters. Perhaps this will be a decisive death to the relevance of Jesus for you. Regardless, I think it makes sense to really weigh it out. After all, Jesus had and has a big following. He had an impact.

Should He have an impact on your life? That’s what will consider through various questions in the following posts. I hope you will join me. I hope you will examine your beliefs. I hope you will consider: How should we live and why?


[1] Alister E. McGrath, “In what way can Jesus be a Moral Example for Christians?” in JETS 34/3 (September 1991), 295.

[2] First Kings 18:21.

[3] Nancy Pearcey, Saving Leonardo, 44.

[4] “Special Message from Anthony Robbins” in The Compound Effect.

[5] I believe this is a little overstated but the concept of what he says is valid. As beliefs grow in importance and impact our reasons for holding them should correspondingly be more evaluated.

[6] Many queries return Thomas Sowell as the originator of the quote.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop

About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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