Peter Holloway

On Walking the Path

walking

Deuteronomy 28 begins with the instruction to be careful to do “all his commandments”. This is a constant theme right through the first 5 books of the Bible. The covenant relationship of Israel with their God is all encompassing – the whole life – this is why it is often described as a ‘walk’. What we often miss is the positive nature of this covenant relationship. Apart from the 10 commandments, and some lists of the most heinous moral outrages the goal of the covenant is wholeheartedly godly living – it is a positive aspiration. It is not “What should I not do?” but rather “What should I do?”.

Western culture tends to see perfection in terms of absence of blemish or flaw; the biblical picture is one of fullness of good. One concentrates on individual failures, the other looks to build good upon good.

The covenants is to faithfully obey the voice of the Lord – being careful to do all his commandments. This is a whole life relationship, living in, with and for God, looking to him in all things.

The entire thrust of the Old Testament is to show godward living as the ideal, the norm for the child of Israel. This is what living as the people of God is all about.

Our prayer morning by morning should be:

Lord, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ I am yours. How can I live today as yours? By your Spirit help me so to live.

What Pervades?

What do the conversations revolve around in your home? What is it that animates you and yours? What gets your passions roused enough to discuss, debate, express yourself?

There’s so much to capture our attention these days and there are so many ways of being captured. For many people it’s the TV that sits in the corner of the room, always on, always directing our thoughts. For others it’s social media, stuffed chock full of memes and breaking news.

It’s good to have interests, it’s great to have passions, it’s healthy to be aware of what’s going on in the world. But, when these things pervade our lives then we are subject to them. This is why God explicitly tells us to deliberately determine what pervades our lives. Here’s my paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the great ‘shema’.

Listen up, people: the I AM God, the LORD is the only One
Love the LORD with all of who you are: heart, soul, strength
Keep these instructions in your heart
Teach and talk of these things: to your family, to your friends, in the home or out and about,
First thing in the morning and last thing at night
Make these words of God guard and guide what you do with your hands, what you see with your eyes
Make these words of God the gateway to your home

You can go your own way, but not with God

Go your own way

And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” Exodus 33:15-16

Original sin is the pride of thinking that we know a better path than the one that God ordains, of thinking that we can plan our lives better than God can. But that path always leads us away from God, and he will not follow us! Adam sinned, and as a result lost that fellowship with God, that walking the same path as his Creator. The children of Israel sinned too in seeking their own path.

Moses understood that Israel’s identity was found in God alone – apart from God they were just a rag-tag bunch of refugees with no purpose and no home. It is God going with them that confers identity, distinctiveness, peoplehood, direction and purpose. In the New Testament we are told:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

The Church is now the people of God, and yet, just as the Israelites did, so we choose our own way, we decide our own fate on both a personal level and as individual churches.

The question that goes with every choice of direction, every considered path, is this:

Will God go with me if I choose this path?

Lost your way?

The Way

What I like about Jesus’ disciples is their ordinariness – they were just plain people trying to find their way in life, just like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us that way wasn’t clear. The modern age isn’t the only one where people are pulled this way and that with their own desires, the trends of the day, the demands of family. We all need direction and, whether consciously or not, we are all seeking direction. You just have to turn on a TV at any time of day to hear of people for whom ‘this is all there is in life for me’ – whether that be a job singing, a large amount of cash or some other visible sign of success by the world’s standards. And yet, as we know, that dream career in the pop industry or that multi million pound lottery win doesn’t bring peace or satisfaction – it doesn’t show us the way.

I think that in our determination to fully preach the Gospel we often rush past important points to get to the key point: that life is found in Christ alone. Billy Strachan once said that in evangelism you’ve got to get folks lost before you can get them found. What he meant was that until someone sees their current position as lost, with no direction, no understanding of where to go for help – until someone gets to that point they will never look for help and salvation.

As Christians we are responsible for preaching all that God gave us in the context that God gave it to us. As Jesus was anticipating his physical departure from this world he looked at his ‘motley crew’ and addressed their immediate needs:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Jesus knew that his disciples had no real idea of the life that they needed – they just needed to know where to look to, who to look to in order to find direction for their lives. They first needed to understand that Jesus was, is the way – our only direction for our lives, our only goal worth pursuing, our only path through a broken world full of broken promises and empty offers. Jesus isn’t ‘a way’, he is ‘the way’ – there are no other options!

As Christians we can often forget this. The world crowds around us, work, family, culture impose demands and values that aren’t good for us; we naturally buy in to those values. We need to remind ourselves first and foremost that Jesus is the way. Only in following him wholly, singlemindedly can we begin to live aright. If you’ve lost your way in life, if you can’t see the wood for the trees or the end from the beginning, go back to the one who is the way. Start out by admitting that he is the only way, the only path through life; make him your goal, your direction, your course of action and take the first step.

Once we get that right we will come to see that Jesus is the truth – he will open our eyes and enable us to see the reality of this world and the next. Once we set out on Jesus as the way, we will be confirmed in that path by the truth of Jesus.

But more than that, Jesus is the life, not ‘a life’, but ‘the life’! He only can bring life to the dying soul, he only can save us from our own sinful, selfish, chasing our tails until we die forever lives. Jesus said ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ – resurrection comes from the Greek word anastasia, which in turn comes from the word to stand (stasia) and the prefix for ‘again’ (ana) – so the resurrection is to stand again. but the ‘ana’ prefix in other contexts also has the idea of ‘from above’, for example when Jesus says you must be born again the same prefix is used, and we readily agree that born again also means to be born from above. So, resurrection, the life that Jesus gives is to stand again, to stand from above – a different kind of standing, a different quality of life. (Dr. Ralph Martin blessed me with the beginning of this insight after a sermon in Grace Baptist Church several years ago.)

Jesus said ‘if you have seen me you have seen the Father’ – he is the God come to mankind, not to show us the way as some sort of prophet or holy man, but to be the way. Have you lost your way? Do you even realise that your life has lost direction? Are you at your wit’s end? Whatever your situation, start back by acknowledging that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Seek him and you will stand again; you will stand above as you entrust and commit your life to him.

Enjoy the Mournes with my Photography

You would think that those running a business would know better, and you would think that such a business trying to make the most of our wonderful scenery would think twice before taking someone else’s image and using it for commercial purposes, but a local business has taken this image of the Mourne Mountains and used it on their own web site, Twitter and Facebook. The business, Enjoy the Mournes, knows how to contact me, and yet still chose to take the image and use it without permission or attribution. I’ll leave it up to you what to think of such a practice.

Mourne Mountain Viewpoint

Mourne Mountain Viewpoint

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