Countercultural

Look Deeper, See Clearer, Run Harder

Is Following Jesus Always about Doing Something?

Last week I shared about loving God with all our strength and left an important question unanswered: Is following Jesus always about doing something?

DoingBecoming

If you’re a follower of Jesus, at one time or another you’ve probably believed one of the following lies: either “I need to do more for God,” or “I don’t need to grow spiritually any more.”

“I need to do more for God.”

You won’t hear this preached explicitly, but you may hear it implicitly. You need to be doing more for God—which is really a bummer since you’re already overworked and overstressed.

Growing up, my performance was directly proportional to my worth. I never thought about it, but this drastically affected my view of God—I knew about grace, but functionally, I expected God’s approval because of my spiritual accomplishments. I never considered He would love me in my failure—at least not as much as He loved me in my successes.

“I don’t need to grow spiritually.”

The second lie is hardly taught but often believed. If you believe you’re the most spiritual person of all your friends, or if you simply don’t care about spiritually growing, then you might be believing this lie.

This view treats Christian maturity as a plateau—you hike up the mountain of sanctification, but a few years in you hit the top and find the mountain to be a large plateau. If you’re the most spiritual of all your friends, why would you need to become more spiritual?

Whether we realize it or not, the root of this error is the same as the first: We’re comparing our spirituality to others and making following Jesus about what we’ve done rather than about heart transformation.

The Right Way Forward

The right way forward begins with a simple truth: The goal of Christianity is not doing something; it’s becoming someone. It’s not about knowing something; it’s about knowing Someone.

The success of your spiritual life is not determined by your location but by your inclination.

Today, do you desire the same things Jesus does? Today, are you putting off sin and putting on righteousness in the way you speak, act, think, and love? Not, “have you done a lot of things for God,” but rather, “is your heart, soul, mind, and strength conforming more to the person of Jesus today?”

For the last several posts I’ve been talking about engaging with the Bible, and this is the lynchpin to it all. The Bible shows us how to live, and it shows us our shortcomings. James describes the law of God like a mirror, showing us how our own lives compare to God’s standard. And all of this should lead us to two humbling truths:

1. We can’t do it on our own.

2. We don’t have to.

I never considered God would love me in my failure—at least not as much as He loved me in my successes.

The responsibility is laid on us and taken away in one moment. We hear Jesus say, “Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), and then we hear, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Active, passive, active

The two verses above are not contradictory. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:22-24:

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and [be] renewed in the spirit of your minds, and [put] on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Let’s break down this active, passive, and active sequence:

  1. Put off your old self. We do this. God has worked in our lives up to this point, and now we choose to turn to Him in repentance. (P.S. This is a daily discipline, not just at the moment of conversion.)
  2. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. Paul does NOT say “renew the spirit of your mind.” Why? Because we can’t. At this point, God has to do what we cannot do: transform our minds.
  3. Put on the new self. God puts us on a new track, and now we begin to pursue the new life through the renewed mind He has given us.

Following Jesus isn’t about doing something; following Jesus is about becoming someone. Not rule following—heart transformation. And we become this someone when we cooperate with God’s work in our lives.

I’m excited to dive in further next week with this question: How do we cooperate with God’s work in our lives?

In the meantime, I want you to consider these questions (and comment below if you’d like):

  1. Which of the two errors mentioned at the beginning do you tend to believe more?
  2. Consider the statement, “The success of your spiritual life is not determined by your location but by your inclination.” How does this view change the way we think about our spiritual lives?
  • Kathy Schwanke

    Deeply entrenched in my heart was the lie I call “performance-based acceptance” as I so often heard preaching pointing to the behavior of the men and women in scripture and very little about the works of God in their lives.

    The Lord uprooted the lie by turning me over to it and then rescuing me from it. (The anxiety, when I could not deliver myself!)

    And He gave me further revelation when I studied the life of Nocidemus and saw the work of Jesus in drawing Him and winning him. (All the preaching I’d heard on him was of his shameful failure in approaching Jesus at night. Which, I’ve also since learned was the common time to ask Rabbis questions!) Then I began to see every story (such as Naomi’s) in a new light.

    Fixing my eyes!!

    Shortly before reading this, my eyes landed on John 6:28-29 :)