road trip

the_path_72dpi.jpgi was hooked by the title, then compelled by the story at “the hope show“.  sherry is much more real than reality tv as she tells of her descent into addiction and her ongoing journey out.  i watched all the episodes on the evening i discovered them.  they’re worth your time for a lot of reasons, not the least being the thoughts that will be stirred comparing her world and yours.

one word she used that stuck hard with me is trudging.  it’s the idea of getting up every day and doing what needs to be done.  even if you don’t feel like it.  even if the world offers only resistance.  even if you messed up yesterday.  get up, make sure you’re headed in the right direction, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  i think it’s a brilliant word to describe an essential concept.

here’s what normal american christian life looks like to me.  a person becomes a christian by walking to the front of the church and praying with the pastor, usually in their teenage years at a youth retreat.  this is called getting saved.  from that point until they die they maintain their christianity by going to church, donating to the church, and trying to live a good life.  during college and early adult years many of these christians stop attending church, but continue trying to live a good life.  some of them will return to active christian status by resuming church attendence and giving when they begin raising children.

the bible frequently uses a road or path as a metaphor for our relationship with god.  rather than getting saved or being saved, the emphasis in on the journey.  getting up every day, making sure we’re pointed in god’s direction, and putting one foot in front of the other.  some days are sheer joy and we skip or dance along the road – and some are like sherry’s trudging. 

how is path-based christianity different from the decision-based variety?  i see two major ways: focus and expectations.

all christians would say our focus is christ.  but decision-based christians seem to be constantly looking to a date in the past.  when they don’t feel very saved,  and when they know their life isn’t pleasing to god, the preacher calls them to reaffirm their salvation and relationship with god.  “remember that night?”  “nothing can every take you away from jesus!”

a path-based christian is aware, of course, that there was a day when he made the decision to begin following christ.  but the emphasis is much more on to-day.  “am i still on the path or have i taken a side road?”  “am i moving forward or standing still?”  and the only way to stay on the path is to constantly look to jesus.  “yes, i took the entrance ramp years ago, but i’m on the road today because i’m following the lead car.”

it’s hard to say what the expectation is when someone walks to the front of the church to make a decision for christ.  whatever it is, likely it’s wrong.  whatever the expectation is, the message is pretty clear: “you’re in!”  “you’ve done it!”  “now you belong to jesus!”  “now go home and read the gospel of john!”

if i began a journey on foot from san diego, california to portland, maine; i would know a few things from the outset.  first, and obviously, i know that it’s a long trip.  i know i’ll go through desert heat and mountain chill.  i know there will be beautiful clear days and days of wind, rain, snow and ice.  i know i’ll make friends on the way, but might also be ambushed by robbers.  i know i have to check my map at every turn.  i know that now and then i’m likely to take an unplanned detour, just because i’m not familiar with the road.  i know there will be times i’ll feel like giving up.  but if i stay on the road and keep on walking – i know i will reach my destination!

some verses from the bible:

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.   (Proverbs 4:18)

“For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”  (Matthew 7:14)

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way…”  (John 14:6)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

the little pic at the top left is how i mark the margin of my bible where it talks about the path toward god

4 Responses to “road trip”

  1. Cassie Says:

    I hear what you are saying. I think that reality is closer to a combination of the two. It is the churches responsibility to clarify the expectations of new believers. So many times, we push people to the front in an effort to save their souls, but we neglect the duty of teaching them how to save their daily lives. If you plan a trip from LA to NY, and expect hard times and moments of redirecting– it is because you know what lies between LA and NY. If I set off to NY from LA, and know nothing about where I’m going, only that the destination is where I want to be, then I will have misguided expectations.
    When I come to a dificult place, kowing that I have entered in to a commitment with God in the past, gives me courage and confidence in my future– even if I mess up. It is what makes me capable of doing another day. On the other hand, if I’ve not been taught that there will be bumps, and road blocks, and detours, when I come across them I am most likely to give up because I am frustrated and things are not going how I planned.
    True Christianity is a decision. It is the quality decision to walk the path of a living, growing, maturing relationship with God. It’s not a club. It’s not a status of your soul. It’s who you are, what you live. One of the greatest shortcomings of the church as a whole is her negligence in training and nurturing new believers in the essence of Christianity. That being, the person of Jesus and the Character of God, and how the Word applies to every moment of every day. We have enticed people to the front of the sanctuary with promises of what life can be, then left them to stumble about and figure out how to get there on their own. How can a person take a journey, with no map, and no supplies, and live to see the destination?

  2. MarkE Says:

    Wow… Cassie just wrote a complete, eloquent, no wasted words, dead-center book about the second thing that needs to change in what we in America call Christianity.

    The first thing that needs to change is that we need to preach the Word, all of the Word and only the Word of God, as written, in season, out of season, without regard to any feared consequence, i.e. with no fear of man. We have forgotten that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, i.e. that without a proper fear of God, we have ZERO wisdom and what we build from that position is folly and will not stand.

    Now I need to read what Marty wrote!

  3. fierybones Says:

    so mark read cassie’s comment before my post. i see how i rate. : )

  4. MarkE Says:

    I was about to be late for work and Cassie’s was shorter. Sorry…

    I think it’s clear to all that we have produced what we have worked at. We have harvested what we have sown. Hence, my comment that we must get back to God’s Word… sowing it, proclaiming it, living it. His Word will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish that which He pleases and PROSPER in the purpose for which He sent it.

    Jesus is the Word. God sent Jesus. Jesus fell into the ground and died and so He will not abide alone, but will doubtless come again, bringing His sheaves with Him. (Yes, I know I’m combining scriptures.)

    If we go forth, weeping, bearing the precious seed of Christ in our hearts and lives, we will also doubtless come again, bringing our sheaves with us. As the Father sent Jesus, Jesus is now sending us.

    Are we bringing anybody with us as we are on our ‘road trip’ to God?

    We talk about affirming Christ (making a decision for Him). Does the Living God need ego strokes from us? Hey, what’s really important is that HE affirms US! Remember the dudes who came to Him bragging about all they had done ‘in His name’? Jesus’ reply… “I don’t know you.” Those who know their God shall go forth and do exploits. Many are doing exploits these days without knowing Him.

    The Word of God… the fear of God. Back to the book.

    FB – what did you think would happen when you started this?

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