The Better Way
Most people who want to follow Jesus begin by reading about him and observing others who follow him. Then from those observations, they formulate a plan, a picture, an ideal of what it looks like to follow him. Then they spend a lifetime trying to live up to the ideal—and kicking themselves when they fail. Their salvation looks a lot like grace, but their discipleship looks a lot like law. And it’s destined to fall short.
There’s another way, and it involves a lot of subjectivity and experience. (Then again, what relationship doesn’t involve subjectivity and experience?) This kind of discipleship requires us to get into an actual conversation with the living Jesus and then let him lead and empower from there. It certainly includes reading scripture and observing others, but it goes deeper than that. It implies an ongoing relationship with the living, breathing Spirit of the Son himself.
There are at least two reasons the latter approach is fulfilling and the former isn’t: (1) We can’t follow Jesus in our own strength, though we very often try; and (2) his pathway from point A to point B in our lives is almost certainly different from our own. His way is counterintuitive. It focuses on things we might consider minor and saves our “major” things for later—or perhaps never, if our religious instincts have misled us. When we try to live up to a perceived image of discipleship, we miss a few points. When we enter into a living relationship, we’re constantly surprised by where we’re led.
The differences look subtle on the outside, but your heart can distinguish them. Choose the real thing. Dispense with your expectations and simply follow Jesus—in the gospels, in your relationships, but especially in the Spirit as he speaks to you through these forms. Most of all, rest in his power to grow you up and lead you forward. He is able to accomplish what your good intentions never will.
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