Beginning Anew

How can we share the life of Jesus with others if we are too busy to experience Jesus’ Life for ourselves? Eugene Peterson said, “The Jesus way wedded to the Jesus truth brings about the Jesus life.” As we begin 2016, I want to encourage our young adults to explore central practices of the Christian faith to help us walk in the Jesus Way, as we share the Jesus Truth, so we can experience the personal transformation of the Jesus Life.

We all intend to love Jesus “with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mk. 12:30), but most of us default into our own preferred way of taking in the world and expressing ourselves in it. Abraham Maslow famously said, “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The reality is many of us get stuck in spiritual ruts, because we keep taking the same approach to every aspect of our lives. Like someone who works out only one set of muscles, our lives become out of balance. Furthermore, we often over rely on our strength and that over playing of our gifts can turn them into a curse. The path from gratitude to God to dependency upon self is quickly taken when our focus shifts from the Giver to the gift. This dependency upon self can show itself in how busy, frenetic, anxious, and overcommitted we become.

I am exhibit A. I often attack the challenges my daily schedule with a ferocity of willpower, creativity, education, and talents. The tell tale sign of trouble is my sense of peace is often directly correlated to my internal sense of my own ability to manage the day, endear myself to others, and impress with my successes. What is my inner sense of peace is seldom connected to? God as the Source of my life. I don’t write this with pride. I write this with awareness that this becomes my default when my life is centered on anything other than Jesus the Christ. My bet is I am not alone. Many of us love God, but find the defaults of our lives apart from Christ leading us on self-autopilot.

We read the latest books by dynamic Christian leaders. We watch inspirational films about people impacting their communities. We attend moving concerts where the music stirs our souls. Yet, if we are honest, much of our life recalibrates to our default self-setting after a few days. The Way of Jesus teaches practices such as solitude, service to others, scripture meditation, radical forgiveness, loving your enemies, giving of your resources, intimate prayer, fasting, and simplicity. These practices, among others, are meant to detach us from an over reliance on self and root us in God as the source of our new life. Jesus wants to shape our lives. As we begin a new year, let’s consider afresh how we might respond to Christ’s leadership, not merely with frenetic activity, willpower, or emotion, but by surrendering our overworked selves for Christ’s Life in us!