As followers of Jesus, there are two paths that can be taken. The first path would be called the Old Way of Self Effort. The Old Way is a modern version of Old Testament living. It is a life where we seek to find out what we need to do to make life work. It is a formulaic life, a life where if I do X and do Y then Z will happen. If I pray hard and long enough, tithe off my gross income, attend church regularly, go on a three day fast and offer my time and energy to help move the Christian mission forward, God will show me kindness, bless my life and prosper me. But if I don’t, He won’t. The Old Way is dependent on my performance and therefore, creates in me a perfectionist pressure.
The Old Way of Self Effort is fueled by a certain amount of arrogance. Some well-meaning Christians (I was one of them and am just now recovering) are energized by the thought that if we do enough “right things” we then deserve good things to happen in return. This is where we feel pressured to consistently do the right things because if we don’t, we will experience God’s anger or at least His cold shoulder.
The Old Way of Self Effort has one passion. We want a better life now. We want to feel something emotionally, experience an increase in our self-worth, be lifted up by a thrill or a euphoric experience or receive some blessing to confirm that we are living life correctly. In the center of the Old Way sits our wants and desires.
Christians often don’t realize that what we all really want is God Himself and that in fact this is what God wants to give to His people. Matthew 6:33 Jesus tells us to seek first the Kingdom (rule and reign) of God and His righteousness and then all these other things will be added to us.
In the New Way of the Spirit, we come to Jesus just as we are with nothing hidden and in full disclosure. We come to Jesus with our warts, our pimples, our weaknesses and frailty believing that when He died on the Cross, we were brought into a right relationship with God not on the basis of what we do but on the basis of what He has done. We are not driven by a yearning for better life but by a desire to simply walk in a love relationship with Jesus. Though there is no feeling of pressure to be better or do better, we intensely desire to be with Jesus and to be like Jesus more than ever.
In the New Way of the Spirit, the way of grace, we come humbly, gratefully, boldly, trusting that because Jesus cried on the Cross “It is finished!” God has come near to us, not to harm us, but to embrace us in His love. We are freely forgiven of all our sin. And in God’s love, we are changed and made even more useful for His purposes.
In the New Way, blessings are hoped for, healing is prayed for, healthy families are worked for, a sense of wonder and excitement in serving God is humbly expected, and whatever blessings come our way are joyfully celebrated. In the New Way, nothing, absolutely nothing is demanded. We don’t live out of a sense of entitlement believing that because we have done these good things, therefore God must make my life better.
In the New Way of the Spirit, a better life is not at the center of our ambition. Central in the New Way is the joy of being in a right relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The New Way of the Spirit is the path I am taking. Please come with me.