I come from the evangelical branch of the Christian church, and in our neck of the woods we are used to hearing preachers urge their hearers to invite Jesus into their lives.
I come from the evangelical branch of the Christian church, and in our neck of the woods we are used to hearing preachers urge their hearers to invite Jesus into their lives. The exhortation usually comes with an promise: If you invite Jesus into your life, God will forgive your sins and you can go to heaven when you die.
That approach has helped millions of people begin a life of faith — including me. It is, however, not the only way to frame the biblical invitation to life with and for God. It might even be a little misleading.
When people are urged to invite Jesus into their lives, they may get the idea that they are inviting him as a guest rather than as the boss (the biblical word is Lord). This can lead to the erroneous conclusion that I can be a Christian who will go to heaven when I die even though I pay no attention to Jesus while I live. There is nothing that corresponds to this in the Scriptures. Rather than urging people to invite Jesus into their lives, our message would more closely correspond to the biblical pattern if we invited them into his life. And does he have a life! He is changing the world, righting wrongs, and preparing humanity for eternity. And we can be a part of it all.
People sometimes say to one another, “You’ve gotta get a life!” Well, Jesus already has one, and we have been invited to share it — the most important life in all the world.
It is not a pampered or self-centered life — you would not expect the one who sacrificed himself for the world to live that way. A pampered life will never change the world — it won’t even change us or our families.
The kind of life Jesus invited people to — and invites us to — is full of purpose. It is loving and sacrificial, patient and kind. It is peaceful — it’s not always getting angry. It is reliable.
This kind of living requires a different kind of life, one that is spiritual in nature, not biological. Biological life is designed for survival; this kind of life is designed for love. The one protects itself, the other gives itself. Succeeding in the life to which Jesus invites us is impossible apart from the presence of this spiritual kind of life.
But even when this spiritual kind of life is present — when we are born again, to use biblical terminology — living the Jesus-way requires practice. Everyone understands that performing a triple axel on the ice requires years of practice, but few seem to realize that being patient or putting others first also requires practice.
The Jesus-way requires me to bless those who curse me. I can no more do that without practice than I can play the Moonlight Sonata without practice. Even a gifted athlete cannot win the downhill if he doesn’t train. Neither can the spiritually gifted — those who have received the “gift of life”— live up to their potential without training.
The church was commissioned to train people in the Jesus-way of life. Jesus told his followers: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
This training is not in evangelism, per se. It is not seminary training. The disciple is someone who is apprenticing to live the Jesus-way, to do everything Jesus commanded. He is not a religious professional, but a person living his or her life as Jesus would if he were living it.
Training exercises for this life include spending time in solitude and silence, reading the Bible, praying, joining others in worship, serving people in need — and there are many others. But for these to be effective one must have the kind of life that can be trained — the spiritual kind that comes through faith in Christ.
Shayne Looper writes for The Daily Reporter in Coldwater, Mich.