I spent last weekend at a camp in Maine, talking with people about a life in Jesus that is more than following religious doctrines or routines. Not all were impressed with my resume when I arrived. One person spoke out in an early meeting about how much she hated The Shack, even though she’d never read it. She said she had many friends who were following it instead of the Bible and it turned her off.
It would turn me off, too. Anyone who replaces the Bible with a work of fiction has some serious issues. But since I didn’t know any of her friends, to know if it was true and she hadn’t read the book, there wasn’t much I could do to help her. To her credit though, having been challenged by a friend, she came to listen to one session. Then came back for another, and then yet another. By the end she told someone, “Perhaps I need to get acquainted with the gospel again.” Both she and her husband gave me a big hug when we finished up on Sunday. I love it when people are open to listen and not stay hunkered down in their bunker. So cool!
The friend that invited me to come and share at this camp told me a story that I don’t recall hearing before. A friend of mine (who you’ll hear from in an upcoming podcast) had recently moved to the area. He had heard about a Bible study he and another friend were helping to lead in a local church. Their study was on Obedience and they were going through all the action words of Scripture to help spur people on to a more serious relationship with Jesus. In the middle of the study the friend who had recently moved to the area leaned over to one of them and whispered under his breath, “You do know you can’t do any of this without Jesus, don’t you?”
And that’s how they found a new trailhead. That simple question worked its way down to their heart of hearts where two men began to realize how much effort they had been putting into a Christian walk that was exhausting, empty, and fruitless. They had bought into the idea that the Christian life is something they could do if they just worked hard enough. That question started them on a new journey where they would let Jesus live his life through them. That was a decade ago and their lives have been transformed. I met them early on and it was great to reconnect with them this past week.
Apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15). Even Paul said if anyone could boast about the flesh, he far more, and yet since he engaged Christ he put absolutely no confidence in his flesh (Philippians 3). We cannot live this life on our own, no matter how dedicated and radical we think we are. We can do lots of religious stuff, wearing ourselves to exhaustion. Many have tried and when they come up empty on the other side they begin to question whether or not God even exists. That’s not surprising because he doesn’t exist on the other side of our own efforts. He thrives where we cease from our own labors and let him make himself known in us.
I know it isn’t easy and it can be a disorienting process, especially in the first few years. It’s the opposite of what many of us have been taught. The hardest thing we’ll learn is to let Jesus do in us all that we cannot do on our own. He even has to teach us that. Christ in you! That’s the hope of your glory, not how wise or good you can be.
So, if you’re trying to do this on your own this would be a good time to stop. If you’re trying to build a relationship with God, this would be a good time to stop and ask him to show you how he is building one with you. And if you need some encouragement sorting through that, check out the Engage videos on this website. I made them a few years ago to help people relax into the relationship God desires with you, even more than you desire it for yourself.
You do know you can’t live this life without him, right?