In last Sunday’s sermon, I shared a quote from RT France that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since I first read it. In his commentary on Matthew, France calls us to adopt “the distinctive lifestyle of disciples.” This phrase is a wonderful reminder that, as followers of Jesus, we’re meant to stand out from the crowd – not to be conformed to the pattern of this world, as Paul would say it. (Romans 12:1) Our lives should be visibly different because we’ve been brought from spiritual death to spiritual life by the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:5) And this distinctiveness should be a lifestyle for us, not just an occasional moment of spiritual courage.
It’s a beautiful vision for our lives but living it out is really hard; in fact, it’s impossible without the power of the Spirit in our lives. But we need to rely on that Spirit in different ways in different seasons of our lives. While we’re all in different places and have different needs, here’s how I’ve seen this play out in the seasons of my life and in the lives of the people I pastor.
From our late teens to our mid 30’s, it takes a lot of courage to adopt the distinctive lifestyle of a disciple. It feels like the teachings of Jesus and your friend’s plans for the weekend are in constant conflict. People think you’re weird because you don’t live with your girlfriend, aren’t diving into the hookup scene, and stay under control at happy hour. And they’re more than happy to share their opinions about you and your distinct lifestyle, sometimes with you and sometimes behind your back. Some days you wonder if following Jesus is worth it. Would life be better if you eased up on the Jesus stuff and just went with the flow? I get it. I’ve been there. And I’ve given in to the temptation. But I was always left with the sense that I had traded true joy for fleeting pleasure, that I had turned my back on the life I wanted, and the One who gave me life.
Somewhere around our mid-30’s, we start to chill out a bit, follower of Christ or not. Admittedly, this is more true for some than others but we all agree that a 40 year old trying to live like a 20 year old is a sad sight. Along the way, those of us who follow Jesus start to notice that the distinction between our lives and the lives of our non-Christian friends is a little less clear. Both single and married adults experience this but it seems to be most prevalent in married adults with children. Don’t get me wrong, the distinct lifestyle of a disciple still takes courage but it also takes a lot of creativity. Here are some questions I’m wrestling with as someone right in the middle of this season of life:
- How does the gospel shape the way I honor and care for my body?
- Am I showing my kids that the best things in life aren’t watched on a screen?
- Are we willing to say no to the onslaught of playdates, birthday parties, activities, practices, and games that can dominate this season of life? More importantly, are we giving our kids a compelling why for the choices we’re making – time with family, time to rest, time for church?
- Am I open to new experiences and different points of view? Am I still learning?
- When was the last time we decided not to purchase something so that we could use the money to fund ministry?
- How do we keep the romance in marriage so that our kids grow up wanting to be married, not afraid of it?
- Are we still willing to take risks as a family? Especially with our finances – do we settle for the safety of giving or reach for the risk of generosity?
- Do my neighbors see me as the kind of guy who is available for a meaningful conversation if they wanted to have one?
- How do I treat my kid’s teachers, coaches, and the volunteers at RCCKids? Do I come off as entitled and disappointed or grateful?
Honestly, I love this season. But I also know how easy it is to drift into complacency. After all, I’m not doing anything all that bad! Fight that, stay fresh, get creative!
Somewhere in our mid-50’s, we start to turn another corner. From what I can tell, this one is about love – whether or not love is the controlling motivation of our hearts. This season is all about what you chose to do when you don’t have to do anything. You’re less controlled by kids schedules, boss’ expectations, and financial pressure (ideally…I know that’s not true for everyone). So, what are you going to do with your life now that you don’t have to do anything with your life?
The distinctive lifestyle of a disciple is never easy. Courage, creativity, and love are always going to be in the mix, just to varying degrees. And Jesus is always going to be worth it, not in varying degrees but infinitely so.