Following Jesus by Spiritual Practices
We have dumbed down discipleship and made it too easy. God, please forgive us.
Following Jesus is making a journey toward holiness. It is a way of life shaped by its goal: to love God with all of one’s heart, soul and mind and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. God has called us to a life of holiness where everything we think and say and do is motivated by these two great commandments given by Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40. The New Testament gives us many specific ways of living these out. One of the most haunting is the parable of the sheep in and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. Holy people are involved in feeding the hungry and caring for the stranger. Another crucial way of describing holiness comes in Galatians 5:22-24. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
All people, including those of us who are following Jesus, are sinners whose thoughts, words and deeds have violated God’s laws and fallen short of God’s expectations.
Christians are people who take God’s commandments seriously and realize that they apply to the totality of one’s life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for all the years of our lives. For us, the magnitude of following Jesus begins to sink in.
Following Jesus means that we hold two realities in tension at the same time. First, Christ has saved us while we are yet sinners, and we are forgiven. Second, Christ is calling us to make progress toward the goal of entire sanctification. Following Jesus means embracing God’s forgiveness while allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us to greater holiness.
How does that happen?
We need the grace of God active in our lives, shaping our thoughts. Each of us needs that grace to continue making progress on our journey of salvation.
The Church is a means of grace, because none of us can make adequate progress by ourselves. John Wesley said that the New Testament know nothing of solitary Christianity.
We then participate in the ministries of the church so that God can shape us to become more spiritually mature, that is, more holy. We worship every week. We tithe and then move beyond tithing to give away as much money as possible. We study the Bible daily. We pray daily. We participate in a small accountability group where others will watch over us in love. We engage in hands-in ministry with people in need.
The idea that someone can follow Jesus and use these spiritual practices (means of grace) only occasionally, is to misunderstand the gospel and the power of God’s grace to save us. Methodism began as a call for ordinary people to do extraordinary things by the grace of God. It was a revival of radical Christianity. Can we do that again?