Discover more from Ben Simpson's Faith & Formation Newsletter
Set Goals, but Chart the Way
In Atomic Habits, James Clear writes:
Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.
This principle applies to work. It applies to health and fitness. It applies to sports. It applies to good parenting and good relatinoships.
It also applies to the spiritual life.
Discipleship, as a concept, is widely affirmed but seldom enacted. A disciple is an apprentice, a learner. The goal of a disciple is to become like the master, to grow in the knowledge, wisdom, and practice of a given field.
Every disciple must possess a clear vision of mastery, embodied most often in a person, someone who demonstrates excellence in a given way of life. There then must be a declared intention, a decision to become like that person. And there must be means, knowledge, behaviors, and practices that help the disciple move from point A to point B, and eventually becoming fully like the teacher.
In the Christian life, Jesus is the master. We are the apprentices. Jesus is not only the door, he is the way. The call to all disciples is the same: “Follow me.” But how do we become like him? We’re clear on the goal. But what is the system?
I am of the deep conviction that God is personal, and that through faith in Jesus Christ we not only receive salvation and grace and healing and restoration and meaning and purpose and more. We are also invited to enter a way of life. The system is a personal walk with him.
Jesus is our instructor. He is our example. He’s our teacher. His kingdom is our classroom. And his attention is personal. He knows us, he walks ahead of us and alongside us. He sends us and sets us loose. He observes what we do.
The Holy Spirit works in and through us as we serve. We’re supplied with grace to act, we experience God’s joy when realize God’s good, perfect and pleasing will. And we’re corrected when we miss it, we’re taught from our mistakes.
In my life with God, the desire of my heart has been simple: “Jesus, teach me to be like you.”
I’ve read, thought, listened, prayed. I’ve tried to follow the example I’ve found in the gospels. I’ve observed others who have proceeded me in the way. I’ve sought their wisdom. I’ve followed their example. Sometimes I’ve hit the mark. Sometimes I’ve messed it up. But my horizon is set. I’m heading toward Jesus.
Along the way I’ve discovered steps that work, disciplines that help, rhythms that give life and help me to be faithful in the things God has given me to do. The systems I’ve adopted haven’t been invited by me whole cloth. No! I’ve borrowed ideas. Many of those ideas have been taken from the life of Jesus himself.
On this Good Friday, think about the way you follow Jesus. What’s the path look like? How do you chart it?
Remember the cross. Then, take up your cross and follow him. A cross is standard issue for every disciple. The way to eternal life requires laying down your own life and yielding it to Christ, the one who laid down his life for us.
I finished John McPhee’s Draft No. 4.
I started, and finished, Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up.
I started, and am almost done with, James Clear’s Atomic Habits.
Sights and Sounds
I’ve listened to quite a bit of Willie Nelson while working recently. Podcasts continue to play in the background while I’m working on more physical stuff, or while I go walk. I’ve been enjoying Cal Newport’s Deep Questions podcast.
I saw Sonic the Hedgehog 2 last weekend. My kids laughed. Decent story, with a few feel good moments. Not exactly for me, but I’m glad my son has found a character he enjoys.
On the blog: A quote from Dallas Willard on seeing Jesus and love for God, a different quote from Dallas Willard about the importance of spiritual formation for leaders, and a quote from N. T. Wright about the centrality of the cross.
Before I go, standard copy.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P.S. - One of our courses at Truett includes a retreat experience. The second retreat of the term took place last weekend. I hiked over to Lake Waco from Dayspring, and made my way back to the church property via a creek bed. Got my feet wet. Here’s a shot of the way.