Relaxed

By: Ian Wooldridge
 
A hero of mine1 once posed a question:

“If you had one word to describe Jesus, what would it be?” 2

Go ahead, think for a moment. What would your word be?

Savior?
Lord?
King?
Holy?
Love?
God?
 
All good words, of course, and all that are descriptive of Jesus.

Want to know what said hero’s one word to describe Jesus was?

“Relaxed.”

Relaxed.

If you’re like me upon first hearing that, a gong went off in your soul that reverberates with all kinds of invitation. When we think about Jesus, we usually think of Him in terms of what He did for us — which, of course, is necessary. The Good News of His Gospel changes everything — here and now, and into eternity. Praise God! This is everything. It all begins here for us. Our freedom starts here.

But how often do we think of Him in terms of what He was like?
In terms of the kind of life that we’ve been freed into?

Here’s why this is important. Paul, in Galatians 2 says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” 3 In 2 Corinthians 3, he says, “So all of us… can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”4 John, in 1 John 4 says “So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.” 5 In case you’re not catching my drift yet, John, one more time for the win:

“Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” 6

Eugene Peterson approaches this dynamic in this way:

… Jesus as the truth gets far more attention than Jesus as the way. Jesus as the way is the most frequently evaded metaphor among the Christians with whom I have worked for 50 years as a North American pastor. In the text [John 14:6] that Jesus sets before us so clearly and definitively, way comes first. We cannot skip the way of Jesus in our hurry to get to the truth of Jesus as he is worshiped and proclaimed. The way of Jesus is the way that we practice and come to understand the truth of Jesus, living Jesus in our homes and workplaces, with our friends and family. 7

In other words, we tend to settle contently with just believing in the right things about Jesus, as opposed to dedicating our lives in hungry pursuit of living life as He would live it if He were us — aka, the way of Jesus — and fully experiencing what life with Him is meant to be like.

This may be a foreign concept to some of us, but for first-century Jews, it was common knowledge.

A rabbi, or teacher (there were/are many, and this is what Jesus was) had disciples (or students). Once apprenticed as a student under a rabbi, the student would then imitate everything that the rabbi did.

Literally, everything.

Joshua Moss writes, “The disciple-rabbi relationship was an established institution in the time of Jesus, and it ought still to be a part of the believer’s relationship to Jesus now.” 8 Then, commenting on Matthew 10:24-25a, which says, “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master,”9 Moss continues:

Here Jesus shed some light on the relationship between disciple and rabbi. The disciple was, by definition, a student, but what kind of student? The above reference indicates that the disciple was like a rabbi’s “apprentice.” Just as an apprentice carpenter would observe, learn from and imitate the master carpenter until he could make tables, plows and other items with equal precision and excellence, the rabbinic disciples were to observe, imitate and study all their rabbi’s ways, that they, too, might become masters of the Word of God, able to handle it with equal skill and compassion. Of course we can never attain the goal of equality with Jesus, but by the same process of continual imitation and study, we should strive toward that ultimate goal of being as much like him as we can be until we see him; then we shall be like him.10

He goes on: “A disciple’s actions were expected to be consonant with his master’s doctrine…We accomplish this by emulating him in all that we undertake.”11

Over time, the more and more that the student would emulate the way — or lifestyle — of the rabbi, the student became more like him. The very character and inner disposition of the rabbi would translate to that of the student’s, and from the inside out, the student would become like the rabbi. As the student continually took on the rabbi’s likeness, they naturally began to live as the rabbi lived, doing as he did.

The student’s way became the Rabbi’s way.

The invitation for us — as disciples, as students of our Lord Jesus — is none other than the very character, power, and disposition of Jesus Himself. The way He walked is meant to be the way we walk. Now, this topic is WAY too broad for one blog post, as people write books that explore this idea.12

But there is an aspect of Jesus’ character that I want to highlight for us in this season; an aspect of His character that we can naturally have — more and more over time — as we walk with Him and disciple to Him: He carried a profound peace and a profound joy that wasn’t tied to circumstances.

Or, as Willard would say, He was relaxed. (This makes me smile every time!)

All of this stemmed from the full-blown trust in and reliance upon the Father that Jesus walked with. This is important to consider in a season like the one we’re in. We can know His peace and His joy, even now, as we walk with Him — no matter how long all things COVID-19 carry on.

So, here we go: is there a rhythm — or a way of doing things, or a practice — from the lifestyle, or the way of our rabbi Jesus that can posture our hearts more and more in trust, and can therefore unleash a kind of peace and joy in our lives that is characteristic of none other than Jesus Himself — a kind of peace and joy that isn’t tied to circumstances?

Yes: Scripture internalization.

Ezekiel 3:3 says, “…eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.”13

Jesus definitely “ate the scroll.” The Scriptures permeated from Jesus, and He would’ve had them internalized in such a way that they were ever on His heart and lips. He even recited Scripture in two crucial moments that bookended His ministry: when facing temptation in the desert, and when on the cross.

I love what Timothy Keller once tweeted:

If Jesus didn’t think he could handle life without knowing the Scripture inside and out, what makes you think you can?

So, as Jesus Himself modeled, the invitation that I want to pose this week is the practice of memorizing and reciting Scripture:

internalizing it,
eating it.

Because of the season we’re in, I think a good place for us to start with this practice would be to start with a passage that is all about God’s perfect capability to meet every one of our needs — and don’t we need to be reminded of that right now?

The Practice: Memorize and Recite Psalm 23 Daily

Psalm 23 begins with a glorious statement about reality for those who follow Jesus and are friends with God:

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.”14

In God, we have all we need.

Period.

I love what Dallas Willard writes in his book about the 23rd Psalm: “We are blessed to live in a world where there is a fully self-sufficient, generous God who wants to provide what is best for us and loves us more than we could ever imagine.”15

This is the space we inhabit, the reality we live in. David knew this, and so can we. The more and more that we keep the truth of this reality in front of our minds and deep in the reservoirs of our hearts, the peace and joy of Jesus will be nurtured and grown as trust in God is nurtured and grown.

The Psalm continues with another glorious statement about reality for those who walk with God:

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me.16

No matter the valley we could ever find ourselves in — even the one we’re in now— God is with us.

He is with you.

Every moment of every waking hour — even as we sleep — we have the gift of His presence.

Then, the Psalm ends with this beautiful description of what life with God is like:

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 17

In the Scriptures, to be anointed was a big deal. It meant that you were being chosen and delighted in. Lloyd Ogilvie, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, writes:

‘Anointing’ in the Hebrew-Christian tradition means the blessing of the Lord, the healing of the Lord, the appointment of the Lord, and the joy of the Lord. To be anointed by Him is to have Him place His loving hand upon us and fill us with His Spirit. Cup is the portion — literally in Hebrew ‘my life’. God makes our lives overflow. When He anoints us with the oil of His healing, our inner heart is filled with a joy that we cannot contain.18

Each and everyday, God rests His loving hand upon us, and fills us up to overflow with His love, joy, and peace to any and all that we may come into contact with.

How good is that?!

And furthermore, His goodness and love will follow us — the Hebrew radaph, which literally means to be pursued and chased by.

How cool is this?! All that is good about the nature of our loving Father:

His kindness,
friendship,
affirmation,
approval,
faithfulness,
delight,
beauty,
gentleness,
tenderness,
I could go on…

All of that and more — from the depths of His beautiful, unsearchable heart — is literally chasing us everyday, pursuing us like the one that left the ninety-nine. 19 Sit in that reality for a moment.

How good is this?!

Now, here’s what I’m saying: let yourself be overcome by this pursuit, each and everyday. Then, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord,” enjoying His friendship, moment-by-moment, “all the days of our lives… forever,” as the natural result.

So, here’s the challenge, or the invitation for you: memorize Psalm 23, and recite it at least one time daily. Pick a time in your day that will work best for you. Ideally, it will be a quiet moment, where you could maybe even open up your hands — palms up to God — in a physical posture of receiving His shepherding care and love.

The more that we internalize the truths and the reality of life with God that this Psalm contains, peace and joy will flow as trust is nurtured. Like Jesus, we can carry these things fully — not fazed by what life brings — because we know Whose hand is upon us, and that He has all we need; we know Whose loving and delighting gaze is fixed on us; we know Whose presence is as near as the very air we breathe.

So, here’s to being relaxed.

Who’s with me?

 

NOTES:

1. That would be Dallas Willard.

2. https://www.soulshepherding.org/dallas-willards-one-word-for-jesus/

3. Galatians 2:20, NIV, emphasis mine.

4. 2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT, emphasis mine.

5. 1 John 4:17b, NLT, emphasis mine.

6. 1 John 2:6, NLT, emphasis mine.

7. Eugene Peterson The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus Is the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007).

8. Joshua Moss, https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-jul-1986/discipleship-what-is-it/

9. This is from the NLT.

10. Moss, https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/newsletter-jul-1986/discipleship-what-is-it/

1.1 Ibid.

12. Check out anything by Dallas Willard on this, but if there was only one book that I could recommend for the rest of my life, it would be John Mark Comer’s The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook, 2019). This book changed my life!

13. This is from the NIV, emphasis mine.

14. This is from the NIV, emphasis mine.

15. Dallas Willard Life Without Lack: Living in the Fullness of Psalm 23 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018).

16. Psalm 23:4a, NIV.

17. Psalm 23:5b-6, NIV.

18. https://virtueonline.org/you-anoint-my-head-oil-my-cup-overflows-psalm-235

19. See Matthew 18:12.


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