That Compelling Vision of Him
This morning I re-read yesterday's post, and laughed. Okay, I can articulate truth. Now to live it!
The thing that has kept me "a disciple" all these years -- despite my times of trying to incorporate the world's ethics and values into my definition of being a follower of Jesus -- and the thing that called me to a narrower and narrower focus on His values and His face . . . was, pure and simple, His decision to reveal Himself to me in compelling ways, and His decision to show up the reality behind any path other than the one that follows hard after Him.
I love the writings of Dallas Willard. In his most recent book, he writes about Dietrich Bonhoffer's book The Cost of Discipleship, and the way that that book pointed out to that generation and to ours that we cannot consider ourselves real Christians if we are not dedicated to obedience to Jesus. But then he writes this:
"But the cost of nondiscipleship is far greater -- even when this life alone is considered -- than the price paid to walk with Jesus, constantly learning from Him.
Nondiscipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated throughout by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God's overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand the forces of evil. In short, nondiscipleship costs you exactly that abundance of life Jesus said He came to bring. The cross-shaped yoke of Christ is after all an instrument of liberation and power to those who live in it with Him and learn the meekness and lowliness of heart that brings rest to the soul."
But the only way that a life dedicated to following Jesus actually plays out in the daily stuff of living (as my fellow blogger Mark writes about in A Car and a Puddle) is when I have such a compelling vision of Jesus and the life He offers if I learn to abide in all things -- big and little, good and bad -- that, in the moment, I instinctually react out of that vision of the reality of Who Jesus is and a vision of the reality of the abundance of life that is contained in the fruit His Spirit will produce in me if I live in His Spirit and walk in His Spirit.
Our Rev. Birchfield preaches a lot about CHOICE -- the choices we all make to either follow or not. And he is right to do so, because that is the biblical exhortation throughout scripture: choose who you will serve, choose how you will live, choose to obey, choose to abide. But the foundation of those choices is a historical and personal reality: God has given us a vision of Himself and an explanation of "how life works". We act like we're exhorting a hungry dieter to choose the cardboard-like diet bar instead of choosing his favorite dessert, and then wonder why our hearers struggle to consistently choose to follow Jesus. But the truth is that we are offering a starving man his favorite meal -- that will satisfy his eyes, his tastebuds, his stomach, and his nutritional needs -- and the only reason he doesn't respond eagerly is that we haven't given him even a glimpse of that reality.
This is not to say that the life of discipleship is not a life of self-sacrifice and death. It is. I choose to let my own agenda die, and pursue His. I choose to neglect things that my loved ones hold precious when they conflict with the agenda He lays out, and thus lose relationships. I choose to go through the agony of death to drives and passions and addictions that hold out the false promise of giving me the security and peace and satisfaction that each of us deeply desires.
But He doesn't ask for any of that agony or self-sacrifice to be made out of "blind trust". We act like He does, and even preach like He does -- but we don't see that either in scripture or in history or in our own lives. No one followed Him without having encountered Him. They saw Him and followed! He came to them and made promises to them, and they obeyed! He revealed Himself, and out of that revelation His people acted. I would have gone my own way -- and even now would pursue things that wouldn't satisfy because I'm deluded into thinking they would -- but He intervened. He shows Himself to me -- through scripture, through people, through history, and through His personal revelation of Himself to me -- one-on-one.
What I can do is stay there and respond logically. Those who are lost also practice spiritual disciplines that form their souls, and I can choose against those idiocies. I can choose to let Him reveal Himself as the source of my security and satisfaction and purpose when I am tempted to be the dog from Proverbs who returns to my own vomit. Or I could choose to be that dog, and let each time of pursuing old ways that never did satisfy and never will satisfy be accompanied with new fantasies that they will this time, and shut my eyes and mind to the One Who is my soul's satisfaction incarnate.
In the words of the old hymn, may He open my eyes!