Reimagining Life with Jesus

Posted: January 11, 2018 in Christian Life, Life's Design
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IMG_0100I have been in a process of reimagining my life. The word “reimagine” means to reinterpret or rethink an earlier version. It is approaching again something already experienced but in a new way. 

The memories are warm and comforting as I recall times in my life when I was completely encased in the ethos of those days, enveloped in a particular kind of Christianity and particular brand of Baptist. Inside that cocoon I felt comfortable and safe, developed ministry skills, and exercised spiritual gifts. Yet there were times I felt empty, that there was surely more to Christian living than a confining sterile obedience to biblical principles. 

As I opened to the possibility that there were options to genuine Christian living beyond the kind of Christian and brand of Baptist in which I had lived and ministered all my life, I cautiously began to examine those options. I discovered a world of freshness and freedom I previously had not experienced. I was encouraged to discover that there was more to the Christian life than reading the Bible, praying, and being obedient to biblical principles, all of which seemed to be a way of living ascetically and felt plastic and out of touch with real life.

My awareness of my disconnect with the world outside the church began when I was a teenager and wondered why the Christian life was presented in a way that caused me to think that everything outside of the church and church-related activities was somehow less important to God, that he was interested only in what happened in the ecclesial ethos. 

As years passed, I was increasingly aware of a whole lot of life that existed outside the church that was ethically and morally upright and spiritually connected with God, yet trying to interface with that huge non-church-related world was somehow less spiritual and Jesus was not part of that world. 

Sure, the church talked about living out on Monday what was preached on Sunday. But there was often an underlying assumption that spiritual stuff did not happen unless it was wrapped in certain language and experiences that had overtones of the ecclesial ethos. There was a subtle us vs. them mentality emanating from the church.

Today, when I encounter my former life as demonstrated by friends and acquaintances, I’m acutely aware of how that church life was a closed system. People who are within that sub-culture have difficulty truly grasping the meaning of life outside of the support structures without which life in that bubble would disintegrate. 

In my journey into a reimagined life I am not forsaking Jesus, ceasing to follow him. Truly the opposite is happening. I’m reveling in his words as he walked on earth and allowing him to influence my life. I’m learning from those who knew him when he was a physical presence among humanity. 

I believe the Christian life is lived in relationship and not in principles or rules or laws or things we’re supposed to do. I’m learning to live in a relationship with Jesus the Christ, and with people with whom I walk this earth. The governing principle in these relationships, both with Jesus the divine presence of God, and with earthly sojourners living out God’s great human experiment on earth, is love. 

Many people, who claim Christ’s name, are not living this kind of life. I’m not saying they are not Christian in their life commitments, or even in their daily walk. What I am saying is that they have added way too many accoutrements to the Christian walk. The actual requirements are simple: love God and love humanity. Working it out is what’s hard. 

The guidance in that walk and the power and strength to follow it is found in God’s Spirit, which is given to every person who follows Jesus. This indwelling Spirit communes with my human spirit. The Spirit’s presence in my life comforts me when life becomes difficult, encourages me when I am discouraged and want to give up, convicts me when I sin, empowers me to do God’s work through the gifts God has given me.

The new life I am creating is more authentic and filled with greater integrity than the life I lived for so many years. The former life was one of trying to do certain things and be a specific kind of person by following certain biblical teachings and principles. I am now discovering a new spiritual life that is based on love.

There are ways in which this new life is harder than the one I formerly lived and ways in which it is easier. It’s easier because there’s freedom instead of a list of rules. Only one rule applies in two realms of relationships: I am to love God with all my being—heart, mind, and soul; and I am to love people as I love myself. A healthy self-love creates the groundwork for a wholesome love of people. Jesus simplified the commandments to these two: love God and love humankind. Thus, this life of freedom based on love is easier than one based on adhering to spiritual principles and rules.

Yet, it’s harder because there is freedom. Following Jesus has made me free. In response to his disciples when they asked “What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free?’” Jesus said  that they would be free from the rules and regulations brought on them by being descendants of Abraham and therefore under obligations to follow Hebrew law, which is impossible and therefore has caused them to sin. Jesus said, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” I am free to follow Jesus, because in him, through the power of the Spirit, I am free from having to follow laws and rules and regulations and principles. This freedom in Jesus is the life I’m seeking to live. 

Now, taking the risk of being misunderstood, what I am talking about is a Jesus-centered life, not a Bible-based life. I am a Jesus-follower, not a Bible-follower. This does not devalue the Bible. It reinterprets the Bible by viewing it through the life of Jesus and allowing him to interpret it. Such a reading of the Bible brings fresh insight to old, well-worn passages. When read as Jesus’ story it becomes fresh and new.

The life of a Jesus-follower is lived by the power of the Spirit as the Spirit interacts with the human spirit. Therein is the difficulty. Spiritual concepts are hard to frame. My nature is to try to structure them, boil them down into lists of principles or actions, or conceptualize them in a way that I can manage and control them. Or, if not control, at least have a structure so I know what my spiritual barometer registers at any given moment by using some form of a check-off list.

These days, I find myself talking with Jesus more than about him. That’s the beauty of a spiritual relationship with him. He doesn’t have to be physically present for me to have a conversation with him. As with any friend, Jesus and I talk about everything from the weather to my sour mood to how my friend is navigating his illness to what I’m going to eat for lunch to crucial decisions I need to make and financial strain. We talk about his purposes for the day and how I might help him, about what’s making him sad and what’s making him happy. These are real conversations between two friends and not one-sided as in one seeking recognition or help from the other. 

This reimagined life is invigorating, filled with freshness and vitality around every corner. It is challenging as new experiences are ventured and unforeseen opportunities are claimed. It is difficult when vulnerability and transparency is demanded and proclivities are called into question. It’s rewarding when my spiritual connection with Jesus warms my heart and he gives me an attaboy pat when I achieved something I thought impossible. And Jesus’ friendship is encouraging as he calmly chastises me when I slip up. 

Such is the Christian life I’m experiencing. I would love to hear from you. Perhaps these questions might spark a thought for your comment below: How do you describe your life? What does it mean to you to be a Christian? Where and how does Jesus fit in your life? 

  1. jerrylbryan says:

    David, I got here by accident; caught up with my rarely seen Twitter account to realize I had Notifications turned off. (Ha. And I’m in the tech biz.) I’ve now read several of your blog posts and enjoy your excellent writing and the chance to absorb your thinking on important issues. Count me as being in your crowd of supporters. Stay strong, Jerry.

    • David Wigger says:

      Jerry, welcome to “Life’s Design,” and thanks for your kind comments. I look forward to your contributions to conversations here.