SOUL SCHOOL: Invitation to the Jesus Life
“What would Jesus do?” is a good question. As a teen I read that phrase over and over in Charles Sheldon’s book, In His Steps. I loved this story of how people changed to become like Jesus, but it seemed like a fairy tale. Many lovely people at my church went the extra mile, forgave terrible people and died to self but I was mostly concerned with having a blemish-free complexion and getting A’s (in that order). As I grew older, I didn’t change much. I wanted to have a meaningful job, be a good wife and mom, have a nice house and live a life free of major tragedies. When I had time, I’d help people.
To even think about the question, What would Jesus do? seemed futile because the gap between my everyday self and the person I wanted to be seemed too wide to manage. I knew what Jesus would do — compassionate and courageous actions — but I struggled just to be nice to people.
Merely knowing what Jesus would do is never enough. What I longed for was to become the kind of person who was different inside, who deeply loved the outcasts and freed those that other people chained up – as Jesus did.
The more I’ve focused on Jesus’ real self – getting behind the words and absorbing the kind of person he was–the more his invitation, “Abide with me,” has become a consuming passion. To abide means to have an interactive relationship with the God of the universe. To “know Christ” is not mere intellectual knowledge but a day-to-day fellowship with someone who believes in me much more than I do. Much to my surprise, I’ve found that abiding with Christ makes us more able to live in the power of the invisible kingdom of God, to become people who:
- Live with joy and gratefulness;
- Bless enemies (difficult people);
- Don’t hold grudges;
- Are not resentful;
- Care deeply about others;
- Don’t run off at the mouth, but offer caring words;
- Go the extra mile;
- Live with purposeful intentionality;
- Are humble (letting go of pride, not grabbing the credit or engaging in power struggles);
- Never, ever judge (that’s god’s job). (Matthew 5-7).
This journey of abiding in Christ is what we might call “soul school.” It causes us to change inwardly, which is the key. We have problems with obedience when we try to change outward behavior only. Trying to do good things that good people are supposed to do is misguided. Our hearts must be transformed so we become the kind of person from whom good deeds naturally flow rather than trying to be good and do everything right.
The great news is that we can live this eternal kind of life here and now. We’re not hopeless; the journey of transformation toward Christlikeness is realistic. Connecting with God not only changes us, but also bring that oneness with God described in Scripture. Without it, we are only half-alive.
This is an excerpt from the introduction to my new book, Invitation to the Jesus Life.
I’ll be excerpting some in the new few months).
Each chapter takes you into a scene in the life of Jesus and helps you encounter him; explains what that quality of Jesus’ life would look like today; offers specific practices (disciplines) that help people receive that quality of Jesus into themselves.
Grace and peace,
© Jan Johnson – For permission to reprint, Click Here