I have been invited to discuss the navigator’s wheel, a discipleship tool showing a shorthand diagram of basic Christian living. There are 6 parts to it, and I am discussing the final part. What we want to do is to have a simplified way of checking ourselves, are we doing what leads to a life well lived? Not only is this the question for ourselves, it is also a question for those we seek to influence. Are we helping others know the basics of how to live life according to Jesus?
The hub is who you are in Christ. The vertical axis is relating to God in prayer and scripture. The horizontal axis is relating to other people with the good news. The outer rim ties it all together. How? Obedience?? Isn’t that a bad thing (a.k.a. legalism)?
The two main texts for this part, obedience, are John 14:21 and Romans 12:1,2.
John 14:21 – Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
Romans 12:1,2 – Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
The idea is that Jesus knows what he is talking about regarding life, God etc., and if you really love him, then trust him and do what he says. He promises that if you do you will experience God’s love in more clearly manifest ways than if you don’t.
There is a lot to be said about how Jesus commands us to live, but there is a very short verse to help make sure we don’t stray into some kind of religious rule way of living. John 6:28,29
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
The most basic idea of the Christian faith is that it is a relationship. We are to love God and love people, the 2 great commands, but in order to know how to do that we have to constantly trust, have confidence in, rely on, learn from…. Jesus, the master of living.
So, if we are willing to believe that we should do that (and if we are in church we likely have more or less agreed to that in principle) then why is it so easy for us to drift? Last week some scary statistics were given about how many young people in America are drifting right out of church and giving up entirely on the idea of following Jesus. Why is that? The answer, in part, is revealed in Romans 12.
What I want to learn is how life actually works so I can live it better. To do that I have to understand some things that require some concentration. First, what is the ideal; that which I wish I did? It is summed up in Micah 6:8. What does God require of me as a man? To act justly (be fair, do right, etc.) and to love mercy (to look for ways of peace and reconciliation) and to walk humbly with God (to realize I am not wise enough or strong enough on my own to do this.
How about you? Do you ever struggle with when to demand what is RIGHT (of yourself or others) vs. when to be merciful and let things go (for yourself or for others)? We need God to help us with this because it is so easy to be harsh when trying to be just or being weak and compromising when we are trying to be merciful. God help us to get it right!!
Romans 12 is a turning point in Paul’s explanation about what is wrong in life and how Jesus makes the difference. He starts by saying he loves the good news of Jesus and is not ashamed of it. He states the basic problem is a world that is out of sorts with God as creator. Creation over creator leads to bad thinking and bad behavior. He goes on to warn that just because you are religious doesn’t mean you are any better than the idol worshippers. We have all fallen into the trap of acting without appropriate reference to our creator. He uses Abraham as an example of what we need to do, we need to trust God. After all, God did for us in Christ what we could not do for ourselves. We moved from life to death in Adam, but Christ as the second Adam moves us from death to life. Now when we trust in Christ we are immersed in his mercy and grace with the hope of living like him.
But Paul is honest and says we don’t have it in us to ‘just do it’. The good we wish we did, we don’t do. The bad we wish we didn’t do, we do. He says Christ can save us, because in him there is no condemnation and there is a plan. But wait, didn’t God have a plan with Israel? Yes, and he will complete their role according to his plan. We all need to call upon Christ, and even through Israel’s disobedience God is bringing about good. So….
In light of this awareness of God’s mercies… here is what you need to do.
1. Give your body to God. That is only reasonable, he is the one who gives it to you.
2. Replace world-ordered thinking with God-ordered thinking
3. When you do this, you will know God’s will for maturity. You will know how to follow God.
Let’s refresh for a moment =
Obeying Christ is loving and trusting him.
Loving and trusting him results in knowing and experiencing him.
Knowing and experiencing him results in living wisely.
Have any of us experienced this? Yes. Are we experiencing it now? Some are and some aren’t. For those that aren’t, why not? The basic answer is that the world keeps sending information and ways of interpreting that information that are contrary to God. If we coast in this life, we will have a mess in our souls. Our bodies, mind and will not go well if we don’t actively guide our body and our mind according to our will submitted to God’s will.
That is why the wheel illustration is useful. We study God’s word so that our minds are renewed. We need to keep learning from Scripture as we learn more from life. We constantly need to keep refreshing our perspective from God’s perspective.
What that means is a couple of things. Upgrade and refresh.
1. upgrade – means you need to keep learning about God’s wisdom and ways with corresponding seriousness and sophistication to the things you are learning from the world. As you learn about bio-chemistry’s effects on the experience of desire, rethink advice from proverbs and Timothy about knowing when to just maintain appropriate distance instead of trying to manage a tempting situation. As you mature from a simple view of “we” are the good guys and “they” are the bad guys, upgrade your theology to include understandings of previenient grace among ‘them’ and rebelliousness among ‘we’.
2. Refresh – not only do you need to keep learning new things from God as you learn new things from the world, you need to refresh your awareness of things you have known. What do you need to do to do the works God requires? Believe in the one whom he has sent.