For any of you who are looking for a window into where my heart and mind have been recently, I’d direct you to the vlog I’ve been keeping since March. The newest entries are now under “Pastor’s Vlog” (as opposed to "COVID-19 Pandemic Vlog”). For those of you who don’t have access to those forms of communication, to summarize, I’ve been focusing on a couple of crucial topics. First, we’ve been working our way through the book of Acts, the story of the early church, paying special attention to the way Peter, Paul, and other church leaders handled the difficulties they faced. I am convinced that their struggles can be helpful and instructive to us as we seek likewise to follow in Jesus’ footsteps as the 21st-century church. Second, Leeann and I have been reading through and commenting on a book by John Mark Comer, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. It’s analysis of our culture’s breakneck pace and a godly, practical response has been life-giving for us as a couple, as a family, and (we pray) for those who have been journeying with us on the vlog.
Aside from those insights, I have just one other to point out here, and it follows closely on what I just said about Comer’s book. It offers practical ways to engage in being less hurried and, as a result, more intentional about a meaningful life lived with and for God. Now, the word “practical” can be used in both trendy, unhelpful ways, or it can be used in ways the lead us to the life Jesus intended for us as a reflection of Him and His Father. At its worst, the “practical” Christian life can be an unfaithful substitution for justification by faith alone and become a desire for works-righteousness (sanctification over justification). To be clear: Jesus died on a cross for wretched, hell-bound sinners like you and me. Period. Full stop. No equivocation. But Jesus saved us not just from sin, death, and hell. He saved us for a life to be lived with God, walking in His ways. A life of practicing the ways of Jesus. And this is where we find a helpful, healthy, Father-honoring definition of the “practical” Christian life.
Jesus Himself summed it up pretty well in His famous parable in Matthew 7 (of Sunday school song fame): “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. It collapsed with a great crash” (vss. 24-27). The critical difference between the two men and the two houses? It wasn’t a failure to hear God’s Word. It was a failure to put it into practice
My point is this: many of us know more than we need to know to follow Jesus. Many of us understand more than we need to understand to follow Jesus. So the way forward as a 21st-century church is not knowing or understanding more, but it is found in putting into practice what we ALREADY know or understand. A friend of mine recently debunked a serious myth about discipleship by putting it this way: “Discipleship starts on Day 1 of a relationship with Jesus.” SO true.
Jesus says, “Come, follow me.” So we follow. We certainly listen to His voice and learn from His teaching, don’t get me wrong. But our lives are shaped to look more like His by following closely in His footsteps. Put another way, we are called not only to orthodoxy (“right belief”), but also to orthopraxy (“right practice”). May God richly bless you and me as we seek to follow the Jesus we know, who lived and died and rose for us, and still urges us to follow Him into a world that desperately needs His presence, light, and life. Don’t be afraid. He’ll lead the way into places where He’s already working, because…
Adventure is out there!