G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and therefore left untried.” (What’s Wrong with the World). Really living your life with God can be costly. It goes against cultural norms. Matthew 10:34-39 says that it can become a sword that separates people from their own family. It means taking up the cross and dying to self. Because authentic discipleship is a difficult road to travel, it is too often the path least taken.
But it is totally worth it.
What sort of expectations does your church set up for people to follow God? Is what is being taught and modeled really Biblical?
Skye Jethani, in his book With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, suggests that there are four postures often taken in churches that will actually discourage people, send them out of the church, or kill their desire to follow God.
1. Life UNDER God
This posture sees that God is angry, waiting to punish us for stepping out of line. He blesses the righteous and curses the unrighteous. A person’s primary calling is to live under divine rules in order to avoid the wrath of God. It becomes a way to control God to avoid pain and hardship. But it usually “burdens people under the weight of guilt, fear, and empty religiosity.” (Jethani p. 39)
2. Life OVER God
In this posture there are principles that God has established to make everything work in an orderly fashion in our world. Follow the principles (rather than God) and life will be good. Sermons are often patterned after rules to follow: Four steps to a happy marriage or Five principles to get along at work. So you end up living over God by living by principles, not needing to live with Him. “They practice a faith that has little room for God.” (Jethani p. 45)
3. Life FROM God
With this posture all we have comes from God, so we ask God to bless us materially (i.e. prosperity gospel). However we then live far from Him unless He becomes useful to make us more prosperous. “Life from God is nothing but consumerism with a Jesus bumper sticker slapped on the bumper.” (Jethani p. 65)
4. Life FOR God
Many Christians feel that we must work hard to satisfy God. We can push doing rather than being, trying to accomplish as much as I can for God so He will be pleased with me. We can be so outwardly focused devoted to accomplishing God’s mission in the world that we neglect being with God. We put God’s mission ahead of God Himself. “The relentless drive to prove our worth can quickly become destructive.” (Jethani p. 88)
Life WITH God
A Biblical reaction to the above postures is life with God. It is all about the wonders and beauty of living in relationship with God. Just as the Triune God is in perfect relationship with Himself, He desires to restore relationship with us. So He sent His Son Immanuel (God with us) to earth. Life with God will be seen in the times when He shows up in unexpected ways that bring understanding, joy, truth, peace and grace to our lives. “Jesus entered into our dark existence to share our broken world and illuminate a different way forward.” (Jethani p. 101)
The posture we teach and demonstrate in our churches will either help build transformed disciples who walk with Christ, get to know and treasure Him deeply, commune with Him, and involve themselves in what He is doing; or they will fear God, try to control their world, and endanger themselves and others.