I like to go on Journeys. I’m not gonna lie. This past summer my wife and I headed out on a sabbatical that took us from Richmond Kentucky to Bakersfield California over to the west coast and up to Portland Oregon, then across and up to Challis Idaho then home. In between some of the riding was a 9 day directed retreat. It was very powerful. We did this on a motorcycle: 7500 miles plus, in three and a half weeks. I like to journey.
I learned a lot about a lot on this trip. I have a sickness in that I am always looking for what God can teach me along the road of life. I learned about leadership as I followed my friend through San Francisco traffic. I learned about silence and vastness while crossing the Mojave Desert, I learned lessons about friendship, struggle, working things out, going with the flow and planning. It was a good trip. I also learned about journeying and my relationship to God.
Many people will dismiss this as semantics, but I get a little bit concerned with the Church in general as the focus of the Great commission has turned into making “commitments” or making “decisions for Christ.”
COME, FOLLOW ME
As Jesus made disciples it often began with his invitation, “Come and follow me.” He never really invites people to “make a decision” so to speak, but he invites them to begin a journey. Surely you have to make a decision to start a journey, but come on, it’s an invitation to begin a relationship with God who loves you. You take someone by the hand and you walk with them. That is the journey that God is inviting us on. We enter a relationship with him and his scripture, the Word, the Bible, and we walk instep with his Spirit. He said his Spirit would come and teach us all things and remind us of the things Jesus taught us.
I continue to meet people and interact with people that see Christianity as a “big ticket event.” You know, people who will say to me, “I got saved when I was 7 so I’m good,” and yet they wouldn’t even go to church, or they have lived grossly immoral lives. I think the church is unwittingly sending out an understanding that being a Christian is like buying a ticket to something, or getting a ticket to stay out of hell.
LET ME ASK YOU
If you could get a ticket to any event you wanted, (don’t be all spiritual) what would it be? I have this long-standing desire to go to a New England Patriots home game. Seriously, If I could get a deal to go to Foxboro Stadium and watch the game in the stadium, I would think that was the living end. I wouldn’t want to sit with the pigeons, it would need to be fairly decent seats. I would also want the special parking pass and all that stuff. That would be a ticket I would try to buy. I would like a big ticket to that event. Then I would show up at the stadium, show them my pass and drive to the special area and park. Then go up to my seat. (not even box seats, I don’t need that, but I would sit with the Kraft family if they wanted me to.) In my head I see that happening one day. On my bucket list it goes. But really that is a Big Ticket Event I would love to attend. What is yours?
I used to see being a Christian as a Big Ticket event. You go to church, the preacher preaches about hell and eternity and puts the fear of God in everyone. Those that haven’t responded go forward and get their ticket out of hell. Then they go back to life. Life may be different for a while but soon many of them fall away, are back to living a horrible life. I know that sounds judgmental, but I have been a pastor for 22 years now. It’s true. Without the understanding that they should be learning the specific teachings of Jesus and conforming their lives to Jesus, nothing changes. They will go back to the lives they lived before. At best they will stay in church and bend the teachings of Jesus to fit the understanding they want to come out of the Bible. They will create a God from their desires, human reasoning’s and hypothetical situations. They will in fact create a God to worship and paint him with a culturally acceptable white wash and call it “the real truth.”
I believe that being a Christian has to be about more than going to church, more than having gone forward. It has to be more than being splashed around in a fountain, a creek, or a baptismal. (we use a horse trough) As I sign baptism certificates I am aware that this baptism represents a beginning not an end. When we are baptized we haven’t arrived, we have begun. We have begun a journey with Jesus and we want people to know about this repentance and turn around that has taken place in our lives. We surrender to Jesus and begin a journey with him. Very much like a wedding is not the marriage. The wedding ceremony is not the end it is the beginning. The offer from the groom is not to a wedding it is to a marriage. The wedding is the official beginning of the new couple.
Surrender means you give up. It means you are not in charge. To surrender to God means you are going to do things his way now. It means he comes first. It needs to mean that we as followers of him, will change our lives and our lifestyles to fit his teachings. If we don’t, we are only lying to ourselves. One of the craziest statements in the Bible comes from Jonah as he is answering for the storm that is threatening to kill everyone on the boat. They asked him who he was,
“He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.””
How on earth can you say you worship the very God you are running from? How can I say I am a follower of Jesus if I am not willing to do what Jesus says? Think about it for a second, it isn’t possible to say I am a follower of Jesus if I won’t follow right?
Put down your big ticket for a moment and ask yourself if you would like to go on a journey with God: with the father who made you. It means surrender. It means he picks the destination, the route and the provisions. That’s scary isn’t it? It mean letting go. How much of your life and understanding are you still trying to hang on to? I want to encourage you today to sit down and write down what it is that you are holding on to. Maybe it’s the route. Maybe for you it’s the mode. It is possible it is the provisions. God is trying to lead you in this glorious relationship that is a journey, put down your agenda and wait on him, meaning do it his way.