Monday, 6 June 2011

Convenience Store Christianity

There’s been a question rattling around in my head for quite some time. It’s quite a challenging question so I’ve tried to run away from it, ignore it, or repackage it as something easier to swallow, but God’s Spirit keeps barging back in there with it. It’s a question that I think He is posing firstly to myself to wrestle with, but also to the young people & young adults with for whom I have a pastoral responsibility in our church.

How seriously are you taking your discipleship?

This is the initial, overarching question, but it leads to many more. It pokes & prods at my heart & asks “Be honest, how committed are you actually to allowing God to lead & shape your life? Are you really living “All for Jesus... surrendering all of your ambitions, hopes & plans into His hands” or just the bits that are convenient? Are you not just doing enough to lead a cushy life & keep a healthy public image?”

Discipleship put simply is following Jesus. But what does this actually look like in day to day living? How does following Jesus impact upon our attitudes, actions & words?

To help let’s think of call of discipleship as three things (although it is more than this)...

The call to wise training: God has given us some training tools to help us receive the power & perspective that we need to live the life He has prepared for us. The most commonly cited are prayer, Bible study & church worship, but there is also solitude, silence, fasting, sacrifice, meditation & confession. These things do not earn God’s favour, but they are the means by which we begin to live like Jesus (in a similar, but greater way that a strict diet, daily training sessions & disciplined lifestyle helps an Olympic rower achieve a gold medal).

The call to obey God’s way of life: a willingness to listen to God’s moral code for living revealed in the Bible covering everything from our attitude to money, sexuality, immigrants & our enemies, to how we use our time, who we date/marry, where we live & work and coping with stress, failure, disappointment & hopelessness.

The call to serve God with our lives: working out how you can use all of your life (work, family, friends, church) to love other people & help them to discover who God is, what God has done & follow Him for themselves. We often refer to this process of working out who God has made you & for what purpose as our calling, but calling embraces the first two also.

So let me ask you (as I am asking myself), how seriously are you taking your discipleship journey? Are you training well? What is your attitude towards spiritual discipline? Do you go to church, read your Bible & pray when you feel like it or because you know that you need it?

How seriously are you taking the call to obey God’s way of life? Have you brought all of your life before Him & asked for His direction – your anger, your friendships, who you date, where you work, how you feel about money & stuff? Do you listen to & obey His advice when it’s easy (or even just a little challenging), but ignore that thing which is most difficult?

How seriously are you taking the call to serve God with your abilities, passions & gifts? Is this one of the central organising principles of your week or something you squeeze into what’s left (if anything) when you’ve done what you want to do? From what I observe in my own life & in the church, we try to serve God without embracing the call to wise training & holy living. I guess it seems easier, looks better to those around & often costs us less to do so, however, I’m starting to wonder whether this not only cheapens our service for God, but actually makes its redundant.

So how seriously are you taking your discipleship? Perhaps the answer will be best revealed in how long you spend prayerfully pondering some of these questions.

A final note to those who might feel smug or guilt ridden after reading through this... There is always a danger of feeling self-satisfied when thinking about our discipleship practices (reflecting on what you do do & what others don’t) or indeed to feel deflated or overwhelmed (“I am so rubbish, I could never....”).

God is a wonderful (& perplexing) God of grace. We’ve all messed up when trying to follow Him, this realisation simply helps us to remember that we need Him more & hopefully open ourselves more to His power. The Gospel is not just for us before we become believers, but for every step along the journey. Let Him lift you, restore you, challenge & shape you... but most of all let Him love you.

1 comment:

John Hamilton said...

This is a good question for all of us, Johnny - not just you, young people and young adults, but even really old guys like me.
Perhaps we can come back to it next time we have a breakfast together, eh? John