If you had to boil the whole spiritual life down to one issue, it would be the will... (Luminous Friday)
Through the Fridays of July, I plan to write about surrender. It’s the topic of chapter 6 in Luminous, but it means a lot more than that to me. I would say that perhaps the biggest lesson I have learned in the last three decades of seriously following Jesus as an adult is this: surrender of the will is at the core of one’s faith. Everything boils down to what we do with our will.
I start chapter 6 of Luminous with a reference to a brief conversation I had with my son Nathaniel when he was five years old. It happened one morning before school. To save space, the exact transcript of the conversation didn’t make it into the book, but here it is.
Me: Nathaniel, you need to brush your teeth.
Nathaniel: I don't want to.
Me: You need to.
Nathaniel: I'm not going to. You're not the boss of everyone.
Me (maintaining a serious look but trying not to burst out laughing): I'm the boss of some people, and you're one of them.
Nathaniel: You're not the boss of me. The president is.
Adults, can you remember saying things like this when you were a kid? Parents, have you had a conversation like this with your child? Priceless! I thought the conversation was so funny that I immediately went and wrote it down. And to this day I can’t read the lines without chuckling.
However, the “boss” issue is not a laughing matter. Everything in our lives turns on how we answer the “boss” question. Who/what will you follow – your own desires or the leading of Jesus that comes through Scripture and the Holy Spirit within you?
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I was glad for that conversation with Nathaniel because it gave me a way to frame the issue of the will. Talking about “obedience” or “surrender” is common in Christian circles, but common conversations can make our eyes glaze over. Rewording it in terms of “who’s the boss of me” helps refresh the issue and unglaze our eyes.
The “who’s the boss of me” question gets answered in big commitments we make to God. One night when I was four, I gave my life to Jesus in a big-commitment moment. And I’ve had other big-commitment moments since then. But the “who’s the boss of me” question really gets answered in the hours of the day. It’s as simple as asking God, “What do you want to do now?” If Jesus’ followers would ask that question as little as three times a day and follow God’s lead even two out of those three times, things would happen. Relationships and bad habits that have been stuck would start to break loose. Momentum would build. A feeling of closeness to God would grow. Acts of kindness would sprout out of previously hard soil. In other words, God’s kingdom would come.
Note: Throughout 2014, my Friday posts will be excerpts and thoughts from Luminous: Living the Presence and Power of Jesus (IVP, 2013). My hope is that these posts launch you into the weekend in a Jesus-centered way.