By Pastor Matt and Pastor Justin
The other day I was building a set of raised beds with my son. We love working on projects together but this time was different. To complete this project we pulled out the table saw. There is something magical about a power tool for an eight-year-old boy.
Before we began to cut our landscape timbers, I decided to go over a few safety items with my son. I could tell he was only half listening. His eyes were focused on the blade and he was lost in another world.
We began to cut the first timber. My son was holding the end of the wood and I was standing near the blade. I was pushing the timber through; he was supporting it on the end.
It should have been a simple cut but his eyes were locked on the blade and not on his task. He began to walk faster than I was pushing and the timber caused the blade to buckle.
In that moment I saw a number of things flash before my eyes including the loss of my fingers or something worse. He needed some guidance on how to work together to get this job done.
Shutting off the saw I began to help my son understand a better method for holding the timber. This was a matter of both efficiency and safety and my guidance was meant for our common good.
That’s when I saw his shoulders drop and his head lower. What I intended to be helpful guidance was received by my son as an accusation of failure. I could see it in his body language, and he confirmed it as we talked. He heard nothing helpful in my tutorial. In reality, I crushed him with accusation.
Because we are in a trusted relationship, I know when my son hears my words as a helpful guide and when he hears them as accusation. I also know what speaks grace into his little life. So we left the world of power tools for a bit and reconnected with each other.
I reassured him that I loved him. I reminded him of other projects we had completed together and the joy I had because he had worked with me. I told him how helpful he had already been on this current project.
I worked really hard to reconstruct our relationship and it worked because I knew my son and what spoke grace into his life.
We went back to the saw and finished the project. He received my words of guidance and held those timbers like a pro. I could not have finished as quickly or as well without his help, and he felt so important and valued.
In worship over the next three weeks, we will be talking about discipleship and the journey of faith. Our goal is to look back at what we have learned together so that we can move forward in following Jesus. We will even have a way to evaluate where we have grown individually on our faith journey to see where we are headed.
As soon as you evaluate, however, you immediately enter the realm of the Law. As you think about your behavior, your attitude, and the direction of your discipleship patterns, the tendency will be to feel either pride or despair.
If you give yourself some pretty high marks, you can naturally sit back rather smugly, fold your arms, and wait for the less than perfect Christians around you to catch up with your level of *awesome* faith.
On the other hand, if you give yourself a rather dismal evaluation of faith worked out in real life, the nagging, accusing voice of despair says, “See! I knew you weren’t a real Christian! Why bother trying?! God could never really love a loser like you!!”
Pride and despair are two natural responses to evaluating your own faith journey. So how do we set aside the Law that always accuses so that we can joyfully participate in what Jesus is shaping in our lives of faith? How do we hear from Jesus something that sounds like guidance rather than accusation?
The answer is related to Pastor Matt’s table saw experience with his son.
When my son heard words of guidance as accusation, he needed words of love and promise to reconstruct our relationship. He could not get himself to a place where he could move forward.
He needed external words of grace to reconnect with me. Only then was he able to hear my words as helpful guidance. From that place of grace we were able to move forward together with our project.
I’ve experienced the same dynamic in my own discipleship journey. When God’s Word shows me what life in relationship with Him should look like, I sometimes receive that guidance as accusation.
In those moments I see my life as failure. I cannot move forward without His external words of grace. But receiving His grace and good news in Jesus, I am able to hear Him guiding me from a place of restored relationship.
The same words move from accusation to guidance when heard in a relationship of grace.
So as we look back in order to move forward, we keep God’s love for us in Jesus as the foundation and final word on our discipleship journey. Here are a few road-trip tips for along the way:
- Run to Jesus. If the Law accuses you as you evaluate your faith walk, don’t panic. Don’t respond with complacent pride or crushing despair. Respond with repentance. The accusing power of the Law cannot stand when faced with the cross. Knowing you are covered in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, you can actually actively engage in a life of faith without fear of condemnation or failure.
- Take a small step in the right direction. Discipleship is a life of following, one step at a time. Don’t feel like it has to be BIG to be faithful; just be open to where Jesus is shaping you today.
- Find a discipleship buddy. Words of challenge and words of grace are both heard better from someone who knows you, loves you, and wants to support your journey of faith. At times you will need to hear forgiveness from Jesus in the mouth of your friend. At other times, your friend might need to bring you back to reality just a little. Either way, a trusting relationship focused on following Jesus will help you keep your eyes focused on the One who is both the author and the perfecter of our faith.
We both look forward to seeing you in worship as we follow Jesus together!