Sunday, July 01, 2007

"Follow Me" - The Call to Adventurous Living

The Christian life is an adventurous life. It is this belief, this discovery, which has been the driving force behind the shape of my journey. The Christian worldview is an all-encompassing perspective on reality, but within it lies a vast richness of models and metaphors for our daily life. And for this post I thought I’d share the metaphor that speaks most deeply to me—that of adventure, and of a missional and rather militant type. I’ve been thinking about it lately, since I’m in a place right now of waiting and preparation, and this missional focus reminds me that I have something to do right here and right now, something that will help to shake the world for Christ.

In Matthew 4:19 (and Mark 1:17), we have the call of Jesus to his first disciples. “Come, follow me,” he said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” The thing that strikes me about this call is its immediate connection to mission. Jesus doesn’t say, “Follow me, and I will save you from your sins,” or “Follow me, and you’ll go to heaven when you die.” Rather, he gives his disciples something to do here and now, a brilliant focus for their earthly lives. This is the missional perspective on the Christian life—wherever we are, whatever we may be doing, we always have a mission to fulfill. We are all chosen and placed by God to be agents of his coming Kingdom in a hostile land.

C. S. Lewis, in his Mere Christianity, compares Christianity to an underground resistance in a time of war. Satan has taken over the world, and we now live in occupied territory. We know that God will be launching his invasion soon—D-Day is coming. But for now we are the resistance, working in every moment and circumstance to prepare the way for the Lord.

I am, by nature, generally laid-back and gentle in public. But there is a side of me that few rarely see, a fire and intensity that marches out for times of spiritual war. And this missional understanding of the Christian life is what makes me come alive. Interacting with strangers frightens me, but some of the most exhilarating moments of my life have come when I chose to speak of the beauty of faith to people who had never heard it before.

But witness, whether spoken or lived out in daily relationships, isn’t the only way of entering the battle. We also have prayer. No matter where I am, no matter what circumstances have beset me, I always have prayer. I don’t know how or why God chooses to work through the prayers of his people, but if we take Scripture seriously, then we must acknowledge that there is incredible power in prayer, power that can shake the nations and magnify the glory of God on earth. Some things in my life tend to drain my spiritual vigor—allowing lust or gluttony to have their way in my heart, or frittering away my time on petty entertainment. But prayer fills me up with a life so full and so vibrant that it feels like I’m busting at the seams. I explode with smiles when I am faithful in my intercession. Then I am who I’ve been called to be—a warrior, fighting in this beautiful rebellion against the works of Satan. And the wonderful thing about this kind of prayer is that anyone can do it. Every Christian has the honor and the opportunity to enter into the presence of God, to take up the mantle of the prayer-warrior, and to be the face of courage for an embattled church.

And there are other ways to be warriors and missionaries here. Every choice we make is a message to our culture about what Christianity really is. Obedience—walking in the spirit and ways of Christ—is a weapon of unspeakable power in this fight. And it should be a constant warning to us that this battle is not merely external. None of us is untouched by the darkness. We can, and must be, warriors for our own souls. We must grieve for our losses to sin, for the times we choose to disobey, but we must not rest in our grieving. We must rise again, and with courage press on to win a victory for holiness in our hearts. We must learn to obey, and we should celebrate every successful step gained in this fight. Every act of obedience is a blow against the Enemy’s dominion. And we do not fight alone. God stands ready to support us. In the words of Thomas à Kempis’ classic devotional work, The Imitation of Christ: “If we, like valiant men, labored to stand firm in the fray, certainly we would experience the Lord’s heavenly protecting help. He stands ready to aid those who fight and who place their trust in His grace—it is He who provides us with these conflicts and He wants us to be the victors.”

This metaphor isn’t the only one for the Christian life, but it’s an important one, a biblical one. The New Testament portrays Jesus as the one who conquered the powers of darkness, and Revelation over and over bids us to be conquerors in this life (‘overcomers’ in many translations). It should be noted, however, that this metaphor extends only to the spiritual realm, and that it is not in any way an excuse for physical violence. Rather, it is a means of bringing proper courage and valor and strength back into a Christianity that has been all too often domesticated.

So join me in this adventure, friends—maybe the language of battle isn’t as compelling for you as it is for me, but we all need to understand it. We all need to recognize that, at least in some measure, our spiritual lives are a battle, and we have a mission to carry out for our King. Open your arms to embrace this wild, exultant living, and you will find that God will breathe new dreams into your heart. You will be able to see and taste beauty and joy in every corner of your life. You will learn to laugh as you have never laughed before. You will tremble with joy at the thought of the church expanding around the world, and you will be struck down with weeping at the sufferings of the nations. God will break your heart for the things that break His heart, and you will be driven to prayer, to enter the battle for your own soul, for the people and the cities around you, and for the work of God in the world. There is no life like this life, my friends. Come, and follow the Master, and he will make you fishers of men.

Come and ride the restless wave with me;
Leave behind the petty worries of the day.
Open your eyes to a world wild and alive,
And ancient realm forever young,
Possessed of the breathtaking fervor
Of endless possibility.
Come and dance upon the mountains,
Drink the wild and reckless tide of life—
There is wonder in the radiance of small things,
The music of an ever-circling round
That overflows all boundaries of reason and belief
In its race to reach delight.
Traces of Eden surround us still,
In the bright sun that casts a million sparkling diamonds
Onto the endless wave;
In the vibrant green of springtime,
Responding to gentle rains of grace;
In the radiant smile of a little child
As he raises his wondering eyes for one glimpse of the heavens.
Come with me, and meet the Maker here.
Come with me, and taste the life He gives.
This world shouts His praise,
And it shouts for you to hear.
Oh, kindred friend,
Join your heart in the laughter of the dawn,
The exultant chorus of the boundless sea.
Drink deep from the fountain of heaven’s joy—
It flows for you,
Oh, come and see.