Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Purpose of the Christian Journey

I have been reading the book "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction".  It is chalked full of things to ponder.   It is funny how things come about.  I had just finished a study on Real-Life Discipleship about making disciples who then make disciples who then make disciples, and so on and so on.... in other words the process should be repeatable.  Obviously it worked if you look from the first century church to now.

So all this reading, studying and pondering made me begin to do a word study of disciple.  As I did, I noticed how similar the word disciple is to the word discipline.  Have you ever noticed that?  So here is what I found:

Disciple and discipline come from the same root word discipulus (plural is discipuli)

Disciple  - pupil, student, learner

Discipline -  to train, systematic instruction intended to train a person,  training that corrects, molds, perfects the mental faculties or moral character.  Training to act in accordance with the rules.

I personally find this all very interesting.  

Why has the word discipline become such a negative term.  It is what it takes to become great at anything.  Discipline is what takes the potential talent or intellect of a musician, athlete or student of any kind and develop that talent or intellect into greatness and usefulness.  Without it there is so much loss of potential.

With that as the preface, in chapter one of the book by Eugene Peterson, he talks about the journey of discipleship.  He says the purpose of this journey is to mature in the faith (which takes discipline.)  It is a journey from the world toward God where we are led and taught by Christ because he is our road map on the journey.

The book is about the Songs of Ascent which are Psalms 120-134.  These are the songs that would have been sung by the Israelites on their long journey to Jerusalem to worship God three times per year.  It was their travel songs that they would carry with them as they went to remind them where they were going, why they were going and whose they were.  In the preface, Peterson notes that "these 15 songs of ascent provide the text here for developing "discipleship in an instant society""  He notes that "following Jesus could never develop into a "long obedience" without a deepening life of prayer and that the Psalms had always been the primary means by which Christians learned to pray everything they lived, and live everything they prayed over the long haul."  It made me think how great it would be if the essence of these Psalms could be set to modern day Christian travelling songs that would encourage us to remember whose we are, where we are going and why we are going; even help us remember where we have been and that which we have been rescued.  I do recognize some of these Psalms already partially are in songs.

The first chapter begins with a quote from Fredrich Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" that I will summarize:  the essential thing in life is a long obedience in the same direction which makes life worth it.    In Long Obedience, the author notes that "the current spiritual atmosphere in which we live erodes faith, dissipates hope and corrupts love, but it is hard to put our finger on what is wrong."  OK ain't that the truth!!

So if this is the case, I believe if you are going to move forward in a journey of faith in Christ and travel in the way He has laid out for His people, it will have to be intentional and done with determination.  It will take DISCIPLINE.  It will require us to be discipled by the One that did it correctly and do it for a life time.  Peterson describes it as a Disciple and Pilgrim.  These are biblical descriptions for people of faith.  You see these are the things that will help us "recognize and resist the world's ways."

So as I have talked about the disciple, I have only touched on the pilgrim.  But anyone who is on a journey by definition is a pilgrim.  The answers to these questions determine your pilgrim type; why are you on the journey, where are you going, and who are you going to see?  In the case of the disciple of Christ, we are on the journey/pilgrimage to become more like Christ by following His road map in order to draw others to travel with us on our journey toward God.  So we are as Christ's Disciple a Christian Pilgrim.

However, it is noted by Peterson that until someone is enlightened to the corruption of this world and becomes dissatisfied with the world, they will not recognize the benefits of being on this journey of faith. However, we long for peace and truth, if and when we develop a dissatisfaction with the world, this longing can motivate us to get on the path with God.

So I wrap this first chapter up and leave you to ponder this:  If life is a journey and you are the pilgrim, what is your destination?  Most of your life is spent in transition from point A to point B.  Are you fixated on the destination so much that you are not enjoying the journey?  As summer is here and many will be going on a vacation, I want to challenge you to not only be excited about the destination but enjoy the journey there.  (as you go)

Be blessed today.

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