What is your vision of the Christian life?
It is a good thing for us to pause from time to time in the midst of the busyness of life and ponder our expectations regarding what life with God could be like.
Often, when we read through the Gospels, it is easy for us to identify with the lives and actions of the disciples, chuckling with understanding at Peter’s impetuousness and overconfident assessment of himself, finding ourselves resonating with the disciples in not really understanding what Jesus is actually saying while nodding our heads like we get it, and willing to be bold in our faith when others are with us but shrinking back when we feel we are alone. It is hard not to relate the everyday ups and downs of our faith with the, at times, erratic lives of the disciples.
The disciples had taken a great risk in leaving everything they knew behind in order to follow Jesus, this man who was paradoxically both compelling and convicting in an I-can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it kind of way. In him, they saw all their hopes for fulfillment and freedom, rejoiced at his confrontation of the self-righteous religious leaders who continually added more and more to their already impossible to fulfill to-do lists, and were confounded at the way he crossed every social boundary possible to lovingly touch those whose lives had been marginalized by society.
The crucifixion of Jesus was a moment of utter devastation and dejection for them all. This man, in whom they had placed their trust and hope, was stripped away from them in the cruelest way possible, and all of their dreams of a better life were buried with him in the tomb. Their earlier boldness to proclaim that God was doing a new thing and their support of the message of hope and freedom by healing the sick and setting the demon-possessed free by the power of the Spirit of God evaporated into thin air. They were consumed by fear, they had staked their whole lives and futures on him, and now, with his death, there was a large bulls-eye on their own backs. Where they had once been fearless proclaimers, they now quivered in fear behind locked doors, wondering why they had ever made the foolish mistake of following Jesus.
I also can see so much of my own life in the lives of the disciples, and yet the question that often troubles my spirit is this: “Is that all there is?”
The beauty of the gospel is that the answer to that question is a resounding ‘no’. The disciples were startled to encounter the risen Christ in their midst, awestruck and yet some were still doubtful at what their eyes were beholding. In the forty days that he spent with them, teaching them deeper truths about the kingdom of God, and showing them in many ways that he was, in fact, alive and not a figment of their imagination, I imagine that their hopes and dreams about freedom and fulfillment were infused with new life. After they waited in Jerusalem according to Jesus’ command, they received the Spirit of God and their lives were irrevocably changed.
Where there had been pettiness, jealousy, and squabbling over who was the greatest, there was now a profound unity, revealed in the transformed way in which they lived life together- gathering together daily to pray, study the Scriptures, share meals together, and sacrificially caring for the needs among them. Where there had once been an uneasy truce among people with various passions and agendas, tenuously held together by their love for Jesus, there was now a deep sense of commitment to one another and the humbleness that came from a profound mutual gratitude at what God had done and continued to do in their midst.
Nowadays, when I begin to find myself identifying with the disciples in the Gospels, I catch myself. I have to heed the reminder of God that the Bible is an unfolding story, and the portrait of the disciples in the Gospels is a picture of the life of discipleship before they had received the empowering presence of the Spirit in their lives.
I ask myself, “Should my everyday life in Christ look like the disciples in the Gospels, or should it reflect the history changing truth of the resurrection and the gift of the Spirit to the people of God?” Sometimes, we can become content with making what was always intended to be the floor our new ceiling. We can lower the promises of God to the level of our lived experience and float through life aimlessly, simply surviving through day after mind-numbing day of mundane existence where our relationship with God doesn’t actually seem to have a whole lot of impact on our lives until we remember as we are crawling into bed at night that we have not thought about or talked to Him at all through the day
For those of you who may understand what I am talking about, let me ask a question for you to pray about: “Is the life that I am living as a Christian fulfilling and liberating, or do I feel like I am doing all that I can just to get by?”
Do you ever feel like a passive participant as life just flows on by, always wondering what you can do to make a difference in the world?
If any of this connects with you, let me share an encouraging word. Through the Scriptures, God consistently communicates a deep and passionate desire for each member of the body of Christ to experience the full measure of fulfillment and freedom that is possible as followers of Jesus Christ. We can no longer be content to simply accept the ways in which we all, at times, lower the ceiling to the floor and reduce the promises of God to that which we have already experienced.
There is so much more for us all to experience in God!
Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing if we began a journey together where in a couple years we could look back and realize that, as a family, we have grown to the point where we can learn and revere the Gospels and glean much truth from them, yet simultaneously acknowledge that our lives don’t look a whole lot like the disciples in them? Instead, wouldn’t it be a joyful experience if we could say that as we have pursued this journey, we have developed intentional and deep spiritual friendships in small groups, or that through these gatherings we have learned to delight in and practice sacrificial love toward one another despite our differences? We will experience what is like to be embraced as we are, yet have others remind us that there is so much more that God wants to do and for us to experience. We will increasingly living a Spirit empowered life that finds its home in the pages of the book of Acts.
This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ; it is not one more program to add to our already frantic schedules; it is an invitation to a way of life that will enable us to experience fulfillment and fullness of life in Christ together. It is my hand reaching out for yours and asking you to embark on an exciting adventure together of exploring how everyday life can be radically transformed as we allow our expectations for what could be to be shaped by the promises of God. Not only will this lead to a profound impact in our personal lives, but we will also begin to discover the active presence of God in our marriages, our parenting, our workplaces, our friendships, and even in conversations with those who have not yet experienced God.
As we reflect on all that I have shared, let me leave you with a final question—are you willing to respond to the invitation to take this journey together?