With a sincere desire to cultivate a deeper experience and relationship with God many folks are conditioned to ask the question "how." How can I experience greater peace, joy and freedom in the Lord? How can I get a deeper sense of my relationship with Jesus in all of life? These are honest questions. Unfortunately, for many, we are looking for an instant answer. These instant answers take the form of "Pray this prayer, fast this long, read your Bible more, give more money to the church, read this book" - you get the idea! These are not all bad ideas, but the answer we seek is more nuanced; not so much found in the how but a whom. What our souls are longing for is found in a person - Christ - in a living relationship with Christ, not in a formula. We must resist the temptation to see Jesus as a means to an end, likewise, we must never use spiritual disciplines to manipulate God or use the Bible as a book of magic spells and incantations.
So what might it mean to follow Jesus? How do we cultivate a transformative relationship with Jesus? The answer many of us seek is found on the journey itself, the living of everyday life with Jesus, and to this end I have found myself reflecting on Jesus' words in John 14 and His rather bizarre statement "I am the Way, the Truth and the life."
For a bit of context, in John 13 we read of Jesus washing the feet of His friends, encouraging them to do the same by serving and caring for each other. He also tells His friends that He will be leaving them shortly. Chapter 14 opens with Jesus encouraging His followers that yes; He will be going away, but he does so to prepare a place for them! This language is incredibly intimate. This is the kind of language that describes what a bridegroom would do to prepare a place for his beloved. Jesus tells them that there will be plenty of room for all!
It is at this point Thomas speaks up. He said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going or how to get there. We don't know the way. " To which Jesus gives His famous reply "I am the way, the truth and the life..." More than a statement of faith or a point of doctrine, it is also a very practical statement of how to do life in the Kingdom of God. The essence of what Jesus was saying to His friends was profoundly simple, practical and transformational. Jesus was saying do what I have done, what I have modeled for you! The Jesus way of doing Kingdom; the Way, truth and life of Jesus, is to live our lives doing the kinds of things that Jesus did. This is as simple to love others as Jesus has loved us.
Jesus, who is the Way, Truth and Life is the answer to our deepest longing. It is by following Jesus example and embracing His values we find the peace and deeper life many of us search. More than an intellectual assent, rules, right doctrine; the Way itself, the journey of actually following Jesus is the answer for what we long for.
This is not to be confused with trying earn God's favor, to get God to love us more or get Him to give us more goodies. It is not works righteousness, and it is not self-righteousness. Rather, our ability to love others, to serve others is the natural fruit of the experience of the love of God, Christ in us, the hope of glory! We love because He loved us first. We practice living life from the place of rest, and in the flow of the love of God in and through us. This love doesn't need to be hyped up rather it provides its own energy. It flows from us like rivers of living water.
So how did Jesus live the Way? Rooted in the Father, here are just a few examples of what that looked like, and perhaps how it may look for us today.
|Forgive others as we have been forgiven||Love your enemies|
|Be Generous with our life - don't be greedy, don't love money||Lay down your life for your friends|
|Avoid spiritual pride and self-righteousness||Serve Others|
|Cooperate with others. Don't fight & compete with them||Quick to reconcile|
|Don't gossip or slander||Be peace makers|
|Be authentic, don't play religious games||Care for widows and orphans|
|Visit the prisoners||Befriend the foreigner & the stranger|
|Give a drink of water to the thirsty, feed the hungry||Tend to the sick|
|Be physically, emotionally & mentally faithful to your spouse||Be Merciful|
But if you use my words in Bible studies and don't work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on a sandy beach"
- Mt. 7:26-27