Do we too easily miss the simple beauty of a life well-lived?

(Excerpted from chapter two of Keepers of the Way)

We should, I think, refresh for ourselves this word holiness, and take away from it the “holier than thou” connotation it sometimes carries. We must reset it again in our vocabulary as something worthy of our pursuit and, biblically speaking, something possible and to be expected in the life of faith. We are set apart by God and we live for Him—never flawless, but wholehearted and holy, always growing and by God’s Spirit getting better at choosing what is right and saying no to the wrong. That is absolutely possible. It must be, if we are to become people who are “eager to do what is good.” That’s a great description of living with and in holiness, thinking of it not simply as moral perfection but rightly as continuous improvement. Doing right, yes, but also doing good.

This is what Paul’s talking about in Romans where, again, the blessing of baptism captures the core of this truth so well. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4) Just as Jesus was “buried” in that tomb—and didn’t stay there long—so we and our old self and our former life are buried—dead and gone—under the water in baptism. And just as Jesus was raised from death and from that tomb so He raises us from those waters and our old self and our former life to live a new life. “New life.” I love the sound of that. It’s the promise of the Gospel and the point of holiness.

In such newness and holiness, we see the preciousness and beauty of a life lived well by following Jesus. As we encounter Jesus, we see the contrast of our old life and decide to turn around and head a new direction, His direction.

So we walk the line, keep to the Way, because it’s so good. It’s not an agonizing trudging. The wind of the Spirit is at our backs and the energy of a renewed heart brings spring to our step. It’s not a stringent duty, but a joyful following, a conscious choosing of what’s right and good. Before, we couldn’t do it; now, we can.

“I’ve got to,” we used to tell ourselves. Now we happily realize, “I get to.” We get to live life as God intended it. We were powerless to do that without Him, now this Way is available to us. Now we see it as the resplendent thing it is, purchased by Jesus, paved by His sacrificial love, and offered to us. This is the perspective of the Resistance.

But let’s be honest, this perspective isn’t always clear to us. There’s a fog of false thinking that obscures our view. Its theme goes like this:

When is rebelling the right thing to do?

(Excerpted from chapter eight of Keepers of the Way)

In the original Greek the word church is ecclesia, meaning “the called out ones.” This verb chosen we heard Jesus use in John 15:19 has the same root word as the noun church. Jesus has chosen to call us, the Church, “out of the world.” We’re not the chosen ones as in the preferred ones and as opposed to the rejected ones. We’re the ones who’ve accepted the invitation, understood Jesus to say to each of us “I’ve chosen to call you out,” knowing He says it to all who will listen. It is from that posture we live in this world too often deaf to such truth. We live to let them know: He’s calling you. He’s chosen you, too.

Peter paints a picture of the contrast created between the world and Jesus’ called-out-ones. He admonishes in his first epistle:

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3-5)

This world—on the whole—is going one way. And we as followers of Jesus are simply going another—no, more than that, the other—way, the opposite way.

And we must remember that opposite can mean opposing and sometimes brings opposition.

We’re rejecting the world’s definitions of pleasure and success, rejecting the pursuit of fulfilling the appetites this world makes so primary. We’re not out to reject people, but there’s no softening the blow that we are indeed rejecting the prevailing worldview. And they “heap abuse” on us, mocking our convictions and portraying us as either ignorant or “holier-than-thou” and self-righteous when in all humility we are simply aiming to live a healthy life before God and make good choices, one day at a time, one day after another, one foot in front of the other, walking the Way.

However, these opposing forces mustn’t be ignored or denied. As Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper once said:

Before we’re angered by what’s wrong around us, are we grieved by what’s wrong in us?

(Excerpted from chapter one of Keepers of the Way)

As pilgrims pursuing holiness, we have an accurate estimation of the danger and tragedy of sin. We don’t underestimate it. Additionally, we recalibrate our response to sin wherever we find it. And we often get this wrong.

Our first response to sin should not be anger or disgust, but grief. And the first sin to grieve us should be our own. (You can tweet this.)

If we haven’t grieved and wept because of our own sin at some point in our pilgrimage, we should stop and think about our repentance. If the sin of others living without God or walking away from Him doesn’t first grieve us, we must consider our compassion.

For many of us, when faced with the sin of others our first instinct is to shake our fist or wag our finger. But it’s our ongoing posture of repentance and compassion that keeps us from being judgmental and condemning. Yes, we know what sin is, and yes, we need to call it for what it is, but when our own spirit of humble repentance guides us, we can do so in constructive—not destructive—ways.

We realize, left to ourselves, we’re all flaming in sin of one kind or another. So before we think about all the things we want to change about this world, we soberly consider what God wants to change in us.

There’s nothing wrong with helping others remove the unhealthy and irritating specks from their eyes, so long as we don’t forget that we ourselves are plank-eyed and equally needful (Matthew 7:3-5 and Luke 6:41-42).

This is the Resistance, and we are pilgrims who join in it by humbly living holy lives.

What if we were sent, not merely born, into the world?

(Excerpted from chapter eleven of Keepers of the Way)

Praying to the Father about His disciples, Jesus stated plainly, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18) We’re not incorrect to apply those words to ourselves as modern-day disciples. That’s us too: sent into the world. Can we accept the idea we weren’t just born here, but sent here? Sent by God to our time and place? Sent for others?

To answer in the affirmative speaks of a purpose and a meaning and a drive that gets us out of bed each morning with more than a little focus and energy. Mother Teresa said as much in a speech at Cambridge University:

And today God keeps on loving the world, He keeps on sending you and me to prove that He loves the world, that He still has that compassion for the world. It is we who have to be His Love, His compassion in the world of today. But to be able to love we must have faith, for faith in action is love, and love in action is service.1

Wouldn’t it be great if what the world thought of the Church is what we hear Mother Teresa saying: that the Church is proof God loves the world? What a joyous thing it would be if the world could genuinely exclaim, “God must still love us, look at these amazing people He has sent to share with us His love!” Brothers and sisters, can we live into that and up to that? I know we can.

1 Mother Teresa, Jesus is My All in All: Praying with the “Saint of Calcutta”, Brian Kolodiejchuk, ed (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 41.

Where disciples of Jesus go, things don’t stay the same.

“These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here.” [Acts 17:6]

In various translations of the above scripture, these early Christians are described as those who have turned the world upside down, have been disturbing the peace, and have subverted the state of the world. These phrases get to the heart of what was happening. In the original language the same verb, which means “to stir up, excite, or unsettle,” is used twice in this single sentence.

The point? Where disciples of Jesus go, things don’t stay the same. The status quo is disrupted. Old orders are upset. What’s accepted as normal is brought into question. The Good News is news, and news means new, means change.

This world can get upside down and backwards. Our work is to set it right again, on heart at a time. (Tweet this.)

Ask yourself: What change do I bring with me wherever I go?

We pray: “Lord, wherever I go may my arrival make a difference for You.”

(from Keepers of the Way)

What does it mean to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”?

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” [Matthew 10:16]

Being sent by Jesus is not without its risks. And though we needn’t be afraid, we’re wise to recognize the world can be a threatening and dangerous place. It may seem to some that our emphasis on meekness, kindness, and holiness make us resemble simple sheep, clueless to the ravenous forces that surround us. But that would misread the situation. The Holy Spirit in us gives us a sharp discernment that’s not at all dulled by goodness.

Jesus advises us to maintain our high ethics without sacrificing our street smarts. We needn’t be worldly to understand how the world works. We can be good without being gullible.

Innocence doesn’t equal ignorance. Faith doesn’t make us naive. We know too well what ails this world. (Tweet this.)

Stop and think: How can I shrewdly make a strategic difference in this world?

We pray: “My Shepherd, send me into this world with Your wisdom and grace.”

(from Keepers of the Way)

We live with the focus and resolve of enlisted men and women.

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.  [2 Timothy 2:4]

Disciples of Jesus are members of an all-volunteer expedition force. We are clothed by Christ with His righteousness as our uniform.  We are armed with the power of prayer, Scripture, and faith. And the last standing orders of our commanding officer are to take over the world with His love, grace, and truth.

So we live our lives with the focus and resolve of enlisted men and women. We do not live unto ourselves but as part of the corps. We have a mission. Our resistance and rebellion serve a greater result: revolution.

We know to Whom we answer and Whose orders we follow. Our allegiance is clear and unwavering. (Tweet this.)

Consider: How potent would our movement be if every Christian were as engaged as I am? Or as entangled as I am?

We pray: “Jesus, enlist me in Your army to join Your mission of global takeover.”

(from Keepers of the Way)

What we do with our body is an expression of our spirit.

Each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable…  [1 Thessalonians 4:4]

Scripture doesn’t allow us to keep theological truths as only theoretical. Theology—thinking about the truth and reality of God—is always practical. And this material, natural world is not to be seen as irrelevant to the supernatural realm. Everything is spiritual, including and especially our physical bodies.

As Christians, our body houses our spirit (our true self) as well as the Holy Spirit. So what we do with our body is an expression of our spirit—who we really are. Where our feet take us, who and what we touch with our hands, on what we focus our eyes…all of this is our body doing as our spirit directs.

What we do with our bodies is not unspiritual, but a primary expression of our devotion to Jesus. (Tweet this.)

Ask yourself: To what degree do I consider the spiritual implications of my physical desires and actions?

We pray:  “Spirit, teach me to control my body and its appetites so that I honor You.”

(from Keepers of the Way)

We’re easy on ourselves and hard on the world.

Count on it: the first step to nearly any form of false teaching  is the minimization of sin. Remember, most false teaching is a semblance of palatable half-truths, but the one truth that almost all false teaching excludes is this: sin destroys life. We deny or ignore this at our peril.

But here’s the important lesson for many of us as Jesus-followers: Sometimes we’re our own false teachers. We too often minimize the sin in us.

It may bother us deeply when the world calls right what we see God calling wrong. But we also must be as deeply troubled when we begin to call our wrong—not right (most of us wouldn’t go that far), but something more insidious—no big deal.

Whether it’s under the guise of cheap grace or some other half-truth, we–any and all of us–can believe our sin is not a problem. We convince ourselves that what God commands is—at least for us—what He merely recommends.

We’re easy on ourselves and hard on the world and we’re losing credibility everyday.

An Easy Way to Ruin 2015: Keep Trying to Have It Both Ways


I hope everyone reading this post has an excellent year.

If you haven’t yet said yes to Jesus in your life, I pray this is the year you choose to.  It’s the best.

And if you’ve already decided to follow Jesus, I want to take a minute to point out a surefire way to have a confusing, exhausting, and miserable year:

Like Him without becoming like Him.
Enjoy His company without obeying His commands.
Listen to Him without learning from Him.

That’s right: keep calling yourself a Christian, but hedge your bets, stay in charge, keep your options open.

We’re all tempted in this way.  We each have to make choices everyday in this arena.  None of us is above this.  But here’s the thing: going halfway with Jesus goes nowhere.  It’s a rough, unstable, unhealthy way to live.

Quit calling the shots while calling Jesus your Lord.

All of us still have parts of ourselves that would like to climb back onto the throne of our lives, the place of authority we rightly granted to Jesus when we said yes to Him.  We want to be the lord of our lives, the captains of our ships, the masters of our destinies.  That, of course, has been humanity’s whole problem since the beginning.

But when we call ourselves Christians yet essentially live however we please, we become a cliche…a sad one people find unbelievable and even a little nauseating.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Quit deciding which scriptures apply to you.

When we begin to think that generosity is just for the rich (1 Timothy 6:18), or the ethic of sex solely within marriage is simply for the young and yet-to-be-married (Hebrews 13:4), or the call to spread the Good News is only for the especially zealous (Matthew 28:18-20), we are being dangerously presumptuous. 

Of course, there were times in our lives when we didn’t know any better.  But God help us when we do know better, when we do know the truth and decide we’re exempt.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22)

Quit mistaking grace for license.

Thank God for grace and forgiveness.  We’re dead without them, no doubt.  But, honestly, if we’re not careful we can move from celebrating our freedom from sin to defending our freedom to sin.  All in the name of grace.  Incredible, but true.

Of course, we’re never sinless.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t sin less…and less and less.  It’s all about intention…

There’s a ginormous difference between being someplace we shouldn’t because we’re lost and being there because we bought the tickets. (You can tweet this.)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

Spare yourself the hurt, the fatigue, and–frankly–the waste.

Wavering between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21), serving two masters (Matthew 6:24), being double-minded (James 1:8)…it’s a drag.  So let’s quit it. :)