Following Jesus in Everyday Life

Sabbath School Commentary for discussion on Sabbath, June 6, 2015

In our time, authenticity, spontaneity, and feelings have somewhat displaced more objective values such as duty, consistency, and discipline. As I see it, the subjective currently enjoys a kind of monopoly in our culture: objective points of reference remain (especially when we need statistics and ‘studies’ to enforce our subjective preferences) but we all tend to favor the self over appeals to principle, wise tradition, or just plain duty and time-honored custom.

When my students are asked to express a moral stance, they commonly preface their statement with, “I just don’t feel that it is right”. When I attend church, I sometimes witness folks trying very hard to look and sound spiritually alive as if religion cannot be true unless it generates some excitement. When I sit down to work at my desk, the temptation to listen to background music evokes a tyrannical need to keep the emotions ‘happy’.

Of course, our need to feel good about everything all of the time has a downside. To be sure, we enjoy enough gadgetry that nearly every moment of the day can be ‘wired’ such that our emotions never flag. We can find ready-made solace in perpetual entertainment, shopping, ‘research’, distraction, or even work, so that we never actually have to face ourselves without a screen to enhance the view.

In the Information age, the notion of “following” Jesus makes no sense. We ‘follow’ so many things via the Internet that the notion of following Jesus sounds absurd. Firstly, Jesus demands our full devotion to the exclusion of all other things. Jesus did not favor a balanced life in which faith shrinks in order to make room for a myriad of other concerns. We know this, but we cannot accomodate it. Have any of us taken an inventory of our time spent? Have we made a simple comparison between ‘following’ the Internet (and, yes, the Internet does lead!) and Prayer or Bible reading? We dare not. If it feels bad, don’t do it. It is much easier to simply put on some authentic spirituality or crank-up the feel-good liturgy (or nurse a conveniently subjective theology).

Daniel prayed three times each day (without any background music). He had no canned music, screens, blogs, or a billion videos and photographs to distract him, but he did manage an empire. The Bible tells us that Daniel guarded that prayer time with his life (and chose death over violating his prayer habit). I suspect that Daniel did not always feel like praying, but he did it anyway. He had a duty to God and to his people. It was his primary habit.

When it comes to following Jesus our first duty is to abandon our need to always feel good. Second, we must ‘cut-off’ our penchant for distraction. And third, we must organize our lives such that we ‘pray’ three times each day without interruption and without failure until we die. I need not cushion this message with caveats, but I will: we are not ritual worshippers like so many Muslims, we do not read for ‘merit’ like the Buddhists, and we do not think that by praying regularly we can earn our way to God’s heart. But we do recognize that to follow Jesus in practical terms means that we do something consistently no matter how we feel or what the cost might be. The reward, of course, is that oh so very ‘light’ yoke which brings a ‘peace’ that the ‘world cannot give’ (yes, peace is, in part, a feeling but it does not come without a ‘yoke’). Three times per day—do it without music; do it without waiting to feel like doing it; do it until you get bored doing it and then keep doing it; do it because ‘following Jesus’ is far, far more than just a feeling—it is first and last an act.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6845
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I suggest that one spend more time reading and listening that in talking To God. I want to hear what He has to say. This week my focus is on the Sermon on the Mount. What a blessing to know that every jot and tittle has been fulfilled in Christ. I have accepted the invitation to build my house on that Rock. So I include my reading time as an essential part of my prayer life. But all that is just the preparation to be of service, in the generosity of joyful freedom. Tom Z

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:smile: [quote=“spectrumbot, post:1, topic:8436”]
When my students are asked to express a moral stance, they commonly preface their statement with, “I just don’t feel that it is right”.
[/quote]

I interpret this phenomena differently. This is what the founders of our country identified as morality that is “self evident”. Moral principles based on how we relate to each other have quite a bit to do with altruism that is not just principle but also feeling. We feel altruistic and often don’t always have an external foundation for those feelings, it is in our DNA and life experiences.

Many Christian people experience moral convictions coming from prayer and communing with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I support any method that brings people to act morally. It can be a bit selfish, or maybe it is enlightened self interest.

But they do pray regularly, you got to give them that :smile: Many use apps that play the call to prayer when it is time to pray.

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But you diminish Jesus’ ability to influence to the two categories of prayer and Bible reading.

Full devotion to the exclusion of everything can’t be about what you do, but to what you think.

Making time for Jesus exclusively may be a good thing, but by definition, when you ‘make time’, you are admitting that ‘all your time’ is not exclusive.

It is a therfore categorical and methodical error being purported.

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I’m not sure this assertion holds any merit. Perhaps the author has good reason for believing this, but doesn’t reference any evidence here.

Do it as many times as you think necessary. I would have thought it should be a continuous act rather than intermittent.

Also, we all relate differently. Some may need a more structured approach, other’s, less so.

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The irony about this statement is that it is a highly subjective viewpoint. And again, no supporting evidence.

I don’t view our current generation in such a negative light. I see great aspects. Multiculturalism, Greater equality, less violence and more tolerance.

And isn’t the point of statistics and studies to get beyond the subjective.

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There are 1151 bible verses in Luke.
Do we get clues in generally how much time Jesus devoted to healing, preaching, praying, walking, eating, sleeping?
Scholars use the gospel accounts to estimate that Jesus walked about 3,125 miles during His 3 1/2 year ministry.
Jesus was in the temple daily…which means He presented the equivalent of 20 years of sermons in 3 1/2 years.
Luke 22:53 When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.

About 200 verses of the 1151 verses in Luke record Jesus in verbal conflict with the oppressive, legalistic, arrogant religious leaders.

Barna Christian survey group polled churchgoers and the results revealed that 51% fall into a Pharisee mindset.

The SS lesson brings out:
Flee Pharisaism (run 4 your life from institutional churchianity and from being a fanatic, insubordinate gainsayer (ROM 10:2 & 21))
Fear God (escape peer pressure)
Be Prepared & Watchful (consecration & diligence vs worldly interests)
Be a Fruitful Witness (be altruistic in sharing a better quality of life)
Be a Servant Leader (escape the selfish pride ego power trip and minister to those in need)

There is a progression to those titles that can help anyone who looks at the lesson escape institutional SDA pharisaism of diminution of scripture & consecration and become mature in Christ.
People won’t pray if they have a poor relationship with Jesus and/or have very little to thank & ask of Him…like…no purpose or mission in life

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there is no clearer counsel than that of Micah 6:8’. “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.”

To do justly is the Golden Rule.
do live mercy is to show or give mercy to others. Love is. Trajectory it has to have an other.
to walk humbly with thy God is to remain teachable. we all see through a glass darkly So there is always room for new “light”

the greatest curse would be to claim membership in the final generation as having replicated The life of Christ or even declaring a goal of the vindication of God as part of a final generation. Such a far cry from walking humbly with thy God.

The word Grace connotes a free gift. we are the prime recipients, as such we are to be as free with our gifts, talents, and energy to those in need. Grace is not measured “it falls like the gentle rain from heaven” Tom Z.

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great article…i do think we’re living in a time when personal, self-directed effort and discipline is required to stay alive spiritually…i think people who grow up learning an instrument, like a violin, may have a bit of an edge in understanding the correlation between sustained effort and discipline over many years, regardless of inclination, and progress…

Excellent observations. Jesus advised going to one’s closet to pray. Daniel understood that concept centuries earlier.

We live in a “if it feels good, do it” culture, and some aspects of true religion will not always feel good–like when you’ve done something really stupid and need to apologize to someone. The good feelings come after being reconciled to the one you’ve offended, not before. And, I’m not sure Daniel felt good as he was being tossed into big kitty’s food dish.

This is another excellent commentary by Dr. Wilcox. I found it especially valuable since the idea of intentionally forming habits which strengthen bonds in the spiritual realm can also be applied to strengthening relationships in every day life- such as establishing habits of phoning aged relatives on a regular basis. There was one fly in the anointment in the caveat section, however. Perhaps I am reading too much into this statement: " …we are not ritual worshipers like so many Muslims." Is Dr. Wilcox saying that because a habit is self-generated, the result of a conscious decision, that it is of greater value than a ritual which, by definition is a behavior generated by an external source such as the culture, the church, holy writings, or a deity? The place of ritual is very important to many believers and citizens. Whether the ritual be Islam’s Call to Worship, the celebration of the Lord’s supper,the recitation of the rosary, or the annual Thanksgiving meal, many find these rituals endowed with significance. To denigrate the performance of a ritual or to simply rate it lower than habit on the value scale is unnecessary. Is there a tendency by some to perform rituals without considering their intended underlying meaning and importance? Yes. Certainly. But the same could be said of habit. Like Daniel (in some ways) many Christians have the habit of praying three times a day prior to eating their meals. And as with rituals, there may be a tendency by some not to experience the habit’s intended purpose- to express thankfulness.

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Lots of really great quotes in this piece! I esp. liked these two:

  1. "When it comes to following Jesus our first duty is to abandon our need to always feel good.
  2. "we do not think that by praying regularly we can earn our way to God’s heart."
    Dr. Wilcox nailed it. Thank you!

Rituals- Why do fewer or so few people attend the communion service?
Why are Wednesday prayer meetings attended by so few if they are held at all?

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I agree with you, Andrew…somehow it seems that we are not being taught that it is possible to “be with God” without the conscious thought of “praying”. It seems that the emphasis on “doing” appears to preclude simply existing in the consciousness of the Divine. Sad.

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Because they both have become “rituals” without much meaning to many. Not hard to understand.

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[quote=“gideonjrn, post:13, topic:8436, full:true”]
Rituals- Why do fewer or so few people attend the communion service?

i’ve heard a lot of people say that foot washing isn’t part of our culture now, so there’s no point in having anything to do with it…

Where to begin …

There is a fine line between “doing something consistently” and having a ritual - the line, determined by our perspective - Muslims vs. us. If we’re calculating “time spent” following Jesus, then let’s build monasteries - the more time spent, the better. This means, we can never spend enough time, and as is so characteristic of Adventist proclamations in all things religious - “you need to do more”.

Jesus never laid down “rules” of deportment. He actually burst through those rules of behavior and went straight to the “heart” of the matter. No one can plan ahead to “turn the other cheek” - it’s a gut reaction to either strike back or present the other cheek. What determines our action is the state of our “heart” (our character). Neither can we plan to be altruistic - some percent of our income to others. Here, too, we could never do enough - answer to the problem - a monastic life.

In all, the idea presented is far too organized of a “spiritual” life. It sounds so mechanized like a business prospective - make an agenda, followed by a spread sheet, and out comes a dedicated life - following Jesus. The monkey wrench in this plan is our human nature that includes motives - feelings of joy, hate, affection, lust - our genes - and our formative years.

In real life, if we followed this plan of action, we would need to schedule time with our husband/wife (minus the music of course); schedule cuddling our children; visit the nursing home “x” number of times a week - no matter how we felt abut all these things.

The tell-tale description in this piece is - the word “duty”.

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[quote=“vandieman, post:16, topic:8436, full:true”]

Hey Jer,
A lot of people?
Maybe they can vote this through the GC session like WO.

Off topic. I was reading this “grand rounds” report which gave a different take on “turn the other cheek around.” I’d like it if you could give an opinion.

"Several years ago at a conference sponsored by the Pastoral Counseling Training Program at Postgraduate Center, Walter Wink illustrated the elusive newness of the unpopular Christian text, “If anyone strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt. S:39b). Since it is well-documented that in the Middle East, use of the left hand was unacceptable, a person so struck on the right cheek with the right hand would have had to have received a backhanded slap, like an insult. Civil law prohibited such a gesture between peers, limiting it to masters and slaves. But now in the Roman slave economy, a master could strike a slave only for a limited number of specific infractions. Severe penalties would be imposed on the master for striking a slave-on the left cheek with the right hand-for casual or whimsical reasons.

Therefore Jesus is advising the powerless in this teaching not to respond to aggression on the aggressor’s terms. Turning the left cheek leaves an aggressive master no response. (Drawing heavily on this text in the 1960’s, the non-violent civil disobedience of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was instituted, not to idealize masochism or stir pity, but to prompt legal proceedings that landed’ aggressors in court-just as would have happened under Roman law.) So you thought you knew what this text was about-and so did I, until Wink insisted on reexamining the text itself, rather than relying on worn-out assumptions about what the text probably meant."

http://garyahlskog.com/psychoanalytic-theory/

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Excellent point. There are a number of such, culturally based descriptions in the Bible, which we completely miss today; or, which have morphed into unintended applications. The “new wine in old skins” - the “prodigal son, along with the lost sheep and lost coin” parables, and more.

Acknowledging all that, Jesus definitely intimates that we should go beyond what is demanded either legally or culturally. Even when a thief takes your shirt you should offer him your coat as well. The general application being, we should go beyond the requirements of the law and act out of compassion. This kind of behavior is not natural for us humans, nor can it be planned.

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