What Journey Are You On?
This past week, I had the privilege of traveling to Phoenix for the Best Practices Conference at Christ Church. Over 2000 churchgoing believers attend this conference for fellowship, rest, celebration, education and inspiration. In many keynote, breakout and even casual networking sessions, it is likely that the Word of our Lord is spoken. It is also likely that there are a great number of ideas shared that we are either in agreement with or inspired by, as we recognize that they are connected with God’s Word and His will for us, as written in our Holy book, the Bible.
But, then what? Do we only hear the Word, or do we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and DO what we hear?
Because of Jesus, all of us who believe have the opportunity to put Him on full display wherever God places us: to love people with the love He has for us in our families, our neighborhoods, at our work places, and strangers who come into our lives; to serve Him in every capacity we ever are in: both scheduled and impromptu. This is a high calling. It requires a high sacrifice. It requires us to surrender our whole life. We read in Matthew 16:24-25: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’”
It requires us to walk the journey of discipleship, not just seeking education and inspiration, but experiencing TRANSFORMATION.
I can’t pinpoint the exact date when I realized that God’s transformative work in my life was happening. In hindsight, I could always see many examples of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, evidence that I was living in His power, and not my own. But, there was a major hindrance from experiencing the fruit that God promises: not just love OR joy OR peace… God promises MUCH fruit as we let the Holy Spirit have His way: love AND joy AND peace AND patience AND kindness AND goodness AND faithfulness AND gentleness AND self-control. I believed in Jesus and I believed He died for me. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t experiencing God’s goodness, but instead was feeling more guilt, which resulted in a drive to be a better person. Why did I feel that God wasn’t answering me?
The major hindrance was ME.
For many years, I was still striving to be a “good Christian.” I feared that I might not be doing enough for God. Maybe not even enough to get into heaven. I didn’t believe that God could use my life story, so full of sin and shame. Instead of confessing this to God, I tried to do more “Christian” things: go to church more, volunteer more, send my children to Christian school, only associate with Christian friends. It seemed the more I pressed into those strivings, I did feel like a better person for a minute (it made ME feel good), but it didn’t take away the snares of the world. In fact, I found myself facing more and more situations that were hard for me. Situations where my feelings — of anxiousness, guilt, anger, sadness — would stifle me doing anything at all. Avoidance of anything not clearly church-ish became my goal. Being the “good Christian” may have presented a spiritual front that looked sort of ok to the watching world. But, my heart was aching for more. In hindsight, again, I can see that God weaved together a long list of earthly “angels” to disciple me, but I wasn’t open because I was too busy working things out in my own strength.
I was like those people talked about in 2 Timothy 3:5, “having a form of godliness, but denying its power.”
Eventually, God’s grace forged a breakthrough for me. Through the encouragement of others who were further on the journey of discipleship, I became open to developing REAL relationships with other disciples. We prayed together, and encouraged each other to pray on our own and with others. I learned that my fear was preventing me from living by faith. It was preventing the transformation that God wanted for me and was making me crave more education and more inspiration, STRIVING to find the truth that was going to help me REALLY follow God.
But, wait, Jesus Christ DIED for ME because He loves me, right?!
My fear and striving was preventing me from living under my identity in Christ – as a beloved daughter of God with the same power in me that rose Jesus from the grave! I started to believe (which means ‘to live by’) that God could use my story to bring glory to Him, and began to see how easy it was to share His love with others. I began to crave His Word more, but not simply for education because I had experienced the TRANSFORMATION that He brings through the Word, and I wanted more of Him.
This transformation led to WORSHIP, not just on Sunday while at church, but with my LIFE. Everything good I do springs from the Lord’s will emblazoned in my heart. And, when our Lord is in our heart, He shines into the lives of others too: Christians and non-Christians. He IS our evangelism program that so many ask about.
And as I felt led to confess my fears, insecurities and sins and talk about them more openly with other Christian disciples, they began to feel able to be transparent as well. We now talk about stewarding our entire lives from God’s perspective, not from our own knowledge, or from our parent’s teaching, or from how we FEEL. We are able to help each other discern God’s “yes” and often more importantly, “NO” when different circumstances come along. This is discipleship. I can tell it by the fruit of our lives.
Is life now perfect on the transformative journey of discipleship? No.
But, through daily–and often moment-by-moment– surrender, “heaven on earth” is happening. God’s will IS being done through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. And it’s being done through US. Love is winning, but it sure would be to your benefit to join me on the journey of discipleship. Since we tend to reproduce who we are, it is also to the benefit of your children and any other people you influence to be led by our Lord versus modeling us being in charge of our lives. This is why we believe Life Spring Network was commissioned: God is guiding us, so that we can help you wherever you’re stuck. He is waiting to take you on His journey. Most likely, He’s already loaded you with cues. Our Lord loves us, He desires us and He dwells IN us, but we must humble ourselves before Him often…and ask for directions.
Lord God, thank you for Your love and Your guidance. Open the eyes of each person reading this to what Jesus is already up to in each of their lives. Break down any barriers to the first step of unleashing the power of the Holy Spirit in them today. Fix all of our eyes on Jesus and teach us how to follow You well so that we can help others to experience and express Your love. Amen