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Stepping out

After taking care of sick kids over the last couple of weeks (both are healthy now, whew), I’m trying to catch up on blog-reading. Recently, I ran across this in an older post by Wayne Jacobsen:
The only way to learn to live this life is to (how do I say this?), live this life!

My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Jesus Christ, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quite studying the subject and start living it! Colossians 2, the Message

I love that. Of course, if you’re new to this dialog and don’t yet feel rooted in him, don’t take this the wrong way. There is a season to learn to live in him and get let him switch our priorities around. But for those who just keep reading and studying and discussing, hoping to find an answer ‘out there’ somewhere, don’t forget this is a life to be lived, not a life to talk about endlessly. The Way and the Truth and the Life already dwells in you. Follow him day by day, step by step.
I really resonated with this, in part because I’m reading through I Corinthians and keep coming across the same thing:
Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you . . . And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up in Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus (1:7-9)
. . . God’s way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life (4:20).
This is the “it” that Richard Foster talks about: “LIFE—life with Jesus, interactive relationship with the great God of the universe, inner transformation into Christlikeness.” And that is everything we need. If we have this living-in-Jesus relationship, then God will take care of the rest.

Like Jacobsen says, there’s a time in our life to learn to live in Jesus. How do we do that? We renew our minds (Romans 12). We change our priorities. We learn to see and act and live as Christ. We can’t do that by our own work, but God has given us ways to cooperate with him—ways to open ourselves to him so that he can change our minds, hearts and actions from the inside out. There are ways, as Dallas Willard puts it in Renovation of the Heart, that God “has chosen to work with us” and these ways “are clearly laid out in the Bible, and especially in the words and person of Jesus.” They are what we’ve come to call the spiritual disciplines. And we’ll use them in differing emphasis, intensity and focus for the rest of our lives.

But it’s easy, like Jacobsen points out, to spend all our time focused on the disciplines or a myriad of other tools and methods God uses to help us transform, including relationships, groups of relationships, programs and institutions. But these are not the secret to life. These things, when approached with the right heart and perspective, help us learn to focus on and trust God more. They help us change our direction, turn our attention or encourage us to grow in our relationship with him. But he is the object of our desire, of our ends. He is “it.”

When we discover our rooted-ness in him, it's time to step out. Or, as Paul says, it’s time to start "living him."

What does that mean? I think it’s an issue of trust—how I act on what I believe. Do I believe he is who he says and can do what he can do (John 1, Message). Do I get that there is no other name under heaven that could save me (Acts 4). Do I walk that way, even when I can’t feel or see him. Do I turn to him throughout the day, converse with him about my decisions and questions, listen for his response. Do I believe he’ll answer me.

Do I believe that he loves me like the father in the prodigal son tale—with a rushing-forward, embracing, joyful, delight-in-me kind of love. And do I believe I am who he says I am. Do I believe I am a new creation—that I have everything I need. Like Dan Stone says, do I live after the “but”:

Of course, we can give mental assent: “Yes, I’m a new creature, but . . .” Where you are really living comes after the but. “I’m a new creature, but . . .” But what? “But I sure do fail a lot.” Then that’s the way you see yourself. You don’t see yourself as a new creature. You see yourself as failing a lot. Instead, you could say, “I sure do fail a lot, but I’m a new creature.” Then that’s where you’re living. You’re always living after the but.

You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old is gone. To whom? To God. It may not disappear as quickly to you, in the seen and temporal realm, as you’d like. But it’s gone to God. He sees the unseen and eternal. He sees the first from the last. And He knows that the old is gone. The question is who’s keeping score? You or God? The old you is gone to the One who is in charge of the universe. To Him, you are not the same person you were before you entered into Christ. You are a brand new creation in Christ.

It took me 21 years after getting saved to catch up to what already was. I said, “Oh my goodness. Look how God has been seeing me for 21 years, and I’ve been bogged down in this flesh conflict, continually trying to make myself new, and losing.” The losing ceased when I stopped trying to become who I wanted to be, and saw that I already was.
When this stuff starts to make sense—even just a little—we are rooting in Jesus. As we walk by this—no matter how little of it we get—and live each day with this truth, we start to trust him more. Our faith becomes based more on him and less on our feelings. We use our trust in and experience of him and our relationship as our guide even when everything around us screams it isn’t true. We learn to trust the truth of who he is and his love rather than our perception, which like Job’s, can change in a heartbeat.

For me, the feeling of being loved and experiencing his presence comes and goes. And this way of living—letting go everything else and learning to root and live in Jesus—is messy. Sometimes I don’t like it. I don’t like what I see in me when his light shines bright. Part of this living in Jesus is letting go and turning from ways of thinking, living and feeling that have nothing to do with Kingdom. And that can be muddled and, frankly, very painful.

But I’m learning to trust the truth of how life works—that life is rooted in Jesus and I in him, that he loves me, changes me and is always present. And I’m learning to live and trust him through the day. To talk with him—and listen—as I go, not just as I read the Word or set aside times for prayer. To let go and rest. To discover more and more the life and love that lives in me. To embrace and trust that I am made new by this life. To trust who I am, not who I seem to be. To live in and from that life. To live him.

There comes a time to take the plunge, to live in him. The disciplines I use these days seem to center around reminding myself who I am and who God is and what he can do. Because I am still reorientating. I am still renewing my mind. But I am also living. Even though I’m not living as much as I’d like and I’m not changing as quickly as I long to, I taste his life and love more and more. I long one day to live there always.

And I will. He promised.

(Images: feet by doow50 at flickr; big toe by Art Freak at flickr; Kenya by autan at flickr; foot steps by Rainbowfly at flickr; feet superior by er1danus at flickr; for all photos, Some rights reserved.)