Mark 1.16-20; 2.13-17; Galatians 5.16-23
Choosing a path through life is what we’re all doing, all the time – every moment, every choice, every decision. It all gives expression to our sense of our purpose or destination in life, whether it has been consciously decided upon, or whether we’re making apparently random choices moment by moment. It’s partly because there are so many “guides” out there that we get confused about what a good direction looks like. My generation were told that if it feels good, do it. [like that was going to work.] There are so many voices, so many opinions that we struggle to see the clear way forward, and therefore planning to go forward becomes difficult because if we plan for one direction we must let all the others go, and since we don’t know what all the options are we become reluctant to make any choices. How on earth can we get anywhere in life, let alone the life of faith?
Over the next weeks I want to focus on why we do, or should do, those things that sustain and deepen our Christian faith and life. So we’ll look at a number of aspects under the titles: Walk; Communicate; Lift; Think; Do; Gather; and Demonstrate.
Called to relationship Have you noticed in the accounts of Jesus calling Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew that there is a common requirement? Is it faith; or belief in a set of foundational beliefs; or that they had to sign up to a set of moral standards? Does He offer them a fast track to heaven? In fact the thing He first tells them to do is “follow me”. Jesus calls the first disciples, and every disciple since, into relationship. When Andrew invites Peter it becomes “come and see”. Jesus’ invitation is to walk with Him, under His leadership, to watch and copy what He does, to share in the adventure that He has embarked upon, an adventure that’s going to change the world. Jesus clearly calls us, as well those first friends, to follow, to plunge into the adventure of relationship. To lose ourselves, and at the same time find ourselves, in His person and work. But why?
Growing into His character and His image is the effect of following Jesus, of plunging into His loving presence; of listening for, and learning to hear, His voice. By doing what He does, what He tells us to do, has a dramatic effect upon what we value, upon how we live, and how we respond to others, even if our culture and our experience tells us its insane. As we deliberately spend time in His presence we begin to see our lives as He sees them. He shows us the things about us that He delights in, as well those things that are life-stifling and need to be changed. By waiting on Him, listening to Him, we begin to see how He forgives, how He continually restores us. We also see how Jesus heals and draws people forward into eternal life in the now; we begin to share His passion to see people come to know and experience His Father’s immense love for them.
When we look again at what Jesus has done for us in the terrible wonder of the Cross and the empty grave, and in making us His friend and sibling forever, we must surely want to know what it is He does, that fires His passion, that changes people – the only way we can ever get a clear sight of that is by relating with Him, and by doing what He does, saying what He says, praying with Him for whatever He prays for.
Getting help and fuel for the journey is freely made possible in the other person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s is the life that we are called to seek and live in accordance with instead of pleasing our selves and our earthly passions and hungers. This involves willing and cheerful submission to the leading and enabling presence of God within us by His own Spirit. Seeking the life of the Spirit within us is first and always about growing in a character that is distinctively known as the fruit of the Spirit. As I grow older and walk further with the Lord I know that this is actually a precious secret of continuing growth and fruitfulness in his service; to grow in each and all of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. All of these are traits seen revealed in Jesus’ own life, in the way He initiates contact with people, and in how He responds to people; and we would know this if we follow Him and listen for His voice. If you ask anything of God, ask for this that His Spirit will not only fill you, but also overflow your life as you pursue and imitate Jesus our Saviour and Lord.
Following can sound very mystical, but it can be very practical. At the beginning of each day commit yourself to follow Jesus anew, to listen for His voice in the events and people around you, to serve and respond to people as He would, to allow the Spirit to express His life through you. At the end of the day ask the Lord; “How’d I do? Did I listen for you, did I honour you in my relationships with people I encountered? What can I learn from today?” Each day as you read the Bible and reflect, ask to see Jesus in everything you read, in particular what He is showing you, telling you to do or to change? What do you see Him doing that you’ve never done before?