The Simplicity of Joy

Sometimes we make being a Christian too complicated. We wrestle with scripture. Perplexed at why the God of the Old Testament would kill people. Stumped at discerning when a passage is to be taken literally or when there is a figure of speech or when cultural context is to be accounted for. Being a theologian is complex. Following Jesus doesn’t have to be.

The problem is that following Jesus is counter-intuitive, certainly counter-cultural, and requires surrendering our ego, our comfort, and our selfish ways. The beauty is that what seems like overbearing rules early in our spiritual journey, turns out to be blessing as we mature.  We gradually see that the life and lessons of Jesus make up God’s loving instruction manual for living with joy. We experience firsthand how easy His yoke is and how light His burden is.

Still, people often say it’s hard to follow Jesus. I say, “You think it’s hard following Jesus, try living by the rules of Wall Street, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue.”

And so, I’ve landed on a simple personal decision: I’m just trying to read the Bible and do what Jesus says.

Some may call this intellectual laziness, narrow-mindedness, naivete or old-fashioned, but it’s rooted in almost 40 years of life without Jesus, 13 years with Jesus, in-depth study of all the world’s religions,  intense study of the Bible, and giving the Christian life a sincere effort. It just works for me at a practical, spiritual, emotional, and eternal level.

Jesus said “This is the work of God:  Believe in Him who He has sent.” (John 6:29) Pretty simple: Believe what Jesus said about Himself and live how He said we should live. Most Christians believe in a portion of what Jesus said about himself and follow a portion of His instructions on how to live. They’re only half in. They spend the rest of their time distracted by questions about the appalling behavior of Christians, the failures of the church, and questions like “Why does God allow evil to exist?”  

I’m not suggesting you pretend these issues aren't on your heart or aren’t relevant. I’m simply saying don’t let them be the cause of your half-heartedness.

I’ll simplify this even further: In my book The Joy Model, I talk about there being two dimensions to joy: Doing (practical) and Being (spiritual). So here’s my two-part encouragement:

1.      Read Matthew 5-7 and do what it says 100% to the best of your ability.

2.      Read John 13-17 and believe 100% of it to the best of your ability.

Keep your focus there for 30, 60, 90 days. A Year. 5 Years. Forget what the media says. Forget about the slimy televangelist. Forget about the pedophile cover ups. Forget about the shiny objects that can distract you.

Just focus on Matthew 5-7 and John 13-17 and watch your heart become filled with joy… and love and peace and patience and goodness and kindness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Jeff SpadaforaComment