My friend Derek Rishmawy over at Reformedish, just wrote a great piece about what it means to follow Jesus not just as a way of life but in totality. You can read it here. To quickly summarize, Derek references David Pao’s work as viewing what was called The Way in the book of Acts through the interpretive lens of Isaiah 40:3-5.
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NIV)
In Isaiah, Israel will exodus out of Babylon through the Lord’s deliverance. The motif continues as Jesus leads His people in exodus by delivering them from the ultimate problem of sin. So the way to interpret references to The Way in Acts is to see following Jesus as The Way (John 14:6), not just in terms of behavior (do what Jesus did or reducing Christianity to trying to be ethical), but much more comprehensive as one progresses with others on a journey out of sin. Derek writes,
“The name ‘The Way’ indicates that one could begin to participate in this restoration journey by believing in Christ and joining others who already believed and were walking on ‘The Way,’ progressing in their new-exodus journey. Consequently, ‘The Way’ described both those first joining it and those who had belonged to it for some time, so that the name included reference to a manner of ongoing Christian living as part of a restoration journey.”
This makes what we call “sanctification” the ongoing process of being wholly transformed internally where over time a person comes closer and closer to looking like Christ (this is the restoration project). This transformation encompasses learning to live right (wisdom), thinking right (gaining certain beliefs and strengthening other key beliefs) as well as opening the heart to God to grow in character as one learns to depend more and more on Christ.
Similar to the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), even Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), while probably not miraculous in those ways, we have clear encounters with the living Christ as we progress along the road. Sometimes these encounters are simple expressions of His daily grace to us. Sometimes these encounters are more like collisions with Him as we have to wrestle with our own hearts, wrong beliefs, and incredibly independent and selfish action on our parts. But those of us who are on The Way should have a clear expectation that we will encounter the risen Christ as we progress through life.
So the question for those who believe that Jesus is central to all of life isn’t really are you on The Way… it’s how much intention are you giving to it while on it? While growth can certainly come in spurts, with seasons in life where much growth takes place and other times when it feels like growth comes slowly, we must self-evalutate to see if there is, as Dallas Willard writes,
“… a decision to devote oneself to becoming like Christ … [that includes] systematically and progressively rearranging his affairs to that end.”
More on this next week…