By Peter Anderson
Professor, College of Theology
We live in an unprecedented age of immediacy. Do you need to know the best Mediterranean restaurant within walking distance? No problem. Just ask Siri or Google. Do you want to visit with family or friends across the country or around the world? Sounds great. Just pull up FaceTime or Skype. Are you curious about what’s happening in Beckley, West Virginia today? Even if you have no clue where my hometown is and have absolutely no connection to that place, you could still find out all the local news in a few clicks of a trackpad or taps on your screen.
While such immediate access to information or other people can bring a measure of closeness and freedom, we are tempted to imagine the path of Christian discipleship can be traveled just as quickly. Nothing could be further from the truth. Human beings are not built for the instantaneous. We are created for the eternal. From the beginning, we were made for relationship with God himself.
In Genesis, God crafted Adam and Eve, man and woman, for fellowship in the Garden of Eden. In the gospels, Jesus comes to earth, drawing his people on the path of discipleship through the path of sacrifice, love and self-denial (Matt. 16:24-26). When Christ consummates all things, he draws his redeemed from every tongue, tribe and nation into everlasting fellowship with one another, with his good creation and with himself (Rev. 21:1-5; 22-27).
Throughout Scripture, God reveals that Christian discipleship demands a long obedience. When we start on the path called “Christian discipleship,” God calls us to look to the cross of Jesus Christ, a place of supreme sacrifice and self-denial. Rather than seeing our life as a path toward personal success or Christian discipleship as something gained quickly and painlessly, our vision fills with the wonder of the God who draws near and redeems his people. Rather than seeing people as a means to an end, the Spirit renews our relationships as opportunities for expressing gratitude and sharing love. Rather than seeing the world as our playground, God opens our eyes to enjoy a place designed for living out joyful stewardship. Rather than seeing our life as our own, we begin to see we have been redeemed for a greater purpose.
In this way, connecting to God through a new life in Jesus Christ represents a fundamental shift in the way we envision the daily patterns of our life. Walking the way of Jesus challenges us to pause, a difficult discipline in a day when we feel compelled to immediately respond to every message, phone call or social media update.
Yet, the long road of discipleship does not exclude moments of special significance or growth, nor does it guarantee an easy road. In fact, God may graciously give us moments of special clarity in understanding his goodness or powerful steps of personal growth driven by the Holy Spirit. However, pausing each day for quiet, intentional fellowship with God, his Word and his people begins to shape our lives around a lifetime patterned by faithfulness to God. After all, walking this long path of obedience to God is the only path filled with eternal rest and peace.
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