Monday, November 05, 2007

Continuing the Journey

"Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, 'If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.' "
John 8:31, 32

Yesterday, I saw my husband reading his "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" and asked what he was studying. He said this passage was one that had puzzled him for some time. He was wondering what the Early Church writers had to say about it. After I read some of it, I said, "I feel a blog post coming on!" :o) He kindly loaned me his book. And here comes the post!

"Beloved, our condition needs much endurance, and endurance is best produced when doctrines are deeply rooted. For just as there is no wind that is able to tear up an oak tree by its assaults because it sends down its root deep into the earth, so too the soul that is nailed by the fear of God--not just rooted but nailed--will not be able to be overturned...Our Lord wanted to test the faith of those who believed so that it might not be merely superficial, and so he digs deeper into their souls by a more striking word...And so, when he said, "If you continue," he made it clear what was in their hearts. He knew that some believed but would not continue. And he makes them a magnificent promise, that is, that they shall become his disciples indeed. These words are a tacit rebuke to some who had believed and afterwards withdrawn because they could not continue."
~Chrysostom, "Homilies on the Gospel of John"

This passage of Scripture, and the commentary on it from Chrysostom, are quite a challenge to all who would call themselves Christians. It is not enough to believe, or to begin the journey. We must continue on the journey, even when the way seems hard. Even when we don't understand what in the world God is doing in our lives. Even when everyone around us says it's not worth it to keep on. Even when it seems we are walking in darkness and God is nowhere to be found. Even when it would just be easier to go our own way.

There are too many who want to carry the label "Christian" because they think it makes them look good. They want to be grouped with other conservative people who live decent lives. Or they simply want others to think well of them. But is not enough to be baptized. It is not enough to walk to an altar and say a prayer. It is not enough to say we believe. It is not enough to live a "decent" life. It is not enough to be a member of a church. It is not even enough to attend church every week--or more often. We must continue to follow Christ. As Chrysostom noted, we must become deeply rooted, so that we cannot be swayed by the winds of life. Our lives must be "nailed by the fear of God". Anchored so strongly that nothing can move us.

How do we know if we are continuing? It is when our heart continually longs for more of Christ, His ways, and His word. It is when our burning desire is to know that we are drawing ever nearer to Him, and becoming ever more like Him. It is a longing for more of His likeness to be seen in us.

If we say we are going on vacation to, say, is not enough to buy the maps, fill the car tank, and sit in the car. Even starting the engine and driving down the street is not enough. We have to get onto the freeway, and go. We can't stop part way, and decide we've had enough. We'll never get to Florida that way! Of course, we could come home and tell all our friends how we prepared for the trip. We could tell them how we drove through several states. But we cannot tell them about Florida and that we actually went there, unless we really made the journey.

And so it is with our life in Christ. We cannot simply begin and prepare. We must keep going! The journey will not truly end until He returns or we die. Those are the only legitimate ends to the journey. Anything else is an aborted trip...and we haven't made a complete journey.

"It is a small thing for a disciple to come to him; it is a much greater thing to continue in him. Therefore he does not say if you 'hear' or 'come' or 'praise' my Word. He says, 'If you continue in my Word.' What do you think, brothers? Is continuing in the Lord hard work or not? If it is hard work, look at the reward. If it is not, you receive the reward for nothing. Let us then continue in him who continues in us."

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