Daily, down-to-earth discipleship for abundant life — not just a pulse
As I studied my pocket-sized New Testament over lunch hour in high school, Jesus burst out of the pages in a way that made me feel excited – and a little bit scared. Standing tall and radiating integrity, Jesus was a power of incomparable magnetism. He summoned others to trust, repent, rejoice, learn, and follow. Not one day a week, but seven. Not just with the head, but also with the heart, hands, and feet. Abundant life, not just a pulse.
Fast-forward: I’ve been the pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Barrie, Ont., for twelve years. Daily, down-to-earth discipleship in the footsteps of a resurrected Redeemer – who is both exciting and a little bit scary – continues to motivate me. Not just for me personally, but for God’s people collectively.
One evening after small group, a woman said to me, “You know, I have gone to church through different periods of my life, and I would have thought of myself as a Christian. But now I can tell you that I truly am one.” Shabamo! Angels singing! Something had clicked. This was more than knowing about God, but knowing God. It was starting to make choices based on faith – not occasionally, but consistently. This can be exciting – and also a little bit scary – as we find ourselves briskly following Jesus out of our comfort zone.
One person I know goes out of the way to make friends with people who are unpopular and otherwise lonely. This is a push-back against the thinking that you should only “surround yourself with people who make you happy,” a philosophy that certainly doesn’t come from Jesus and his example of love.
Another person is like an unofficial counselor for people in a stressful and often thankless work environment. A thoughtful and disarming manner creates space for sharing and encouragement. “Do you have a minute? I’d love to talk about something…”
I know someone else who makes food for families going through grief and hardship at the local Hospice. They know what it’s like to give all your time, attention, and energy to a loved one who is dying, and how nice it is to have food “magically” appear. They remember. And so they act. Presto.
I know someone else who, when they see someone sullen, approaches them to see if they want prayer right then and there. It doesn’t matter if they’re at the mall, rink, or playground. “Dear Lord, in your great power and love, reach out and help this child you have made…”
Another man doesn’t schedule himself too heavily. As a result, he can offer practical help to people who are not well enough to do odd jobs or errands on their own.
I was recently talking to a man who never misses an opportunity to share his faith in Jesus. He’s not pushy – just honest, well-spoken, and confident. He has the ability to leave people with the impression that life with God is actually good news!
For most people I know, daily, down-to-earth discipleship is rooted in regular prayer, Bible-reading, worship, and intentional fellowship with other believers. It is propelled forward by the Holy Spirit as people humbly seek to glorify Jesus in their decisions, priorities, and relationships.
The Bible has a word for this: zeal. I see it in these people. It takes zeal to battle against the selfishness, apathy, and individualism that are so dominant in our day, and to battle against the pressure to fit into a society that often rejects the ways of God. Being a child of God today is not child’s play. Fortunately, they – and we – are not alone.
I’ll be honest. I fail. A lot. But this doesn’t tarnish my desire for discipleship. Instead, it makes me value the gospel all the more, because I know that my status with God isn’t based on what I have (or haven’t) done, but on what Jesus has done on my behalf. He is renewing and renovating all things, including me!
It’s about knowing God and living differently as a result – consistently. Jesus summoned people to trust, repent, rejoice, learn, and follow. Not one day a week, but seven. Not just with the head, but also with the heart, hands, and feet. It’s exciting, and a little bit scary. Abundant life, not just a pulse.
John Owen’s epitaph says he was “a traveller on earth who grasped God like one in heaven.” Wouldn’t it be great if we could seize some simple, accessible, and practical ideas to do just that?
Matthew Ruttan, pastor at Westminster Presbyterian in Barrie (Ont.), graduated from Knox College in 2008 with a Master of Divinity degree. He has published two devotional books and has created The Pulse podcast; learn more at MatthewRuttan.com.