After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet in the Upper Room, He told them “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again… that where I am, there ye may be also.” Thomas heard these words and asked Jesus how they would know where to find Him if they didn’t know the way, to which Jesus responded, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Poor Thomas. He wanted instructions. Thomas wanted directions, a list, a plan.
Thomas sounds a lot like me. I need black and white. I need an instruction manual and detailed to-do lists. If Jesus tells me to do something, I want a step by step process of exactly how I need to do it. Because I know my flesh is strong, and without clear instructions, I know I can’t do it. My heart wants Jesus to sit down next to it and say, “Betsy, when this situation occurs, make sure you follow plan #189, and here’s the script of exactly what to say when someone treats you unfairly. Don’t forget to study the map directions to a happy and successful life. Oh, and here’s your checklist of good deeds for this week.” But despite mine and Thomas’s pleas, Jesus doesn’t say any of these things. He simply says, “I am the way.”
Instead of sitting down next to me and giving me rules, Jesus comes and dwells within me and gives me love. He tells me not to follow a law or a set of guidelines, but instead to do as He did, love like He loved, serve as He served, pray like He prayed and treat people like He treated people. Jesus doesn’t command me to act out this specific lifestyle over here or there, and do this many acts of service a day.
He simply calls me to do as He did.
And you may be screaming internally: How am I supposed to always act like Jesus in every situation? How do I know what to do and say, how to respond to hatred, how to serve others, and how to love people the way they need? And not only do I not always know what to do, but I’m not always strong enough to actually do it. People are mean and life is hard and my sinful nature seems like it’s raging at times, so how do I do it? How. How. How.
And my heart screams back to yours: I feel you.
I feel weak and inadequate and unprepared to do this life the way God calls me to. I feel like I’m failing and lost and running around in circles trying to be that “good Christian” that others and God expect me to be. I want to follow Jesus with my whole heart, touch lives, be a light, and serve God. But how can I, when I feel totally inadequate and incapable?
Because we are lost and unprepared, we want our checklist and our instruction manuals. We don’t want to try to do it on our own, because we know we can’t. It would just be so much easier to have a rule book to go by.
But here’s the thing: you and I are not actually doing this alone.
This is why your relationship with God is so vital. He doesn’t just throw you out there into the world and tell you to go copy Jesus. No, he dwells within you and moves you to love, serve, pray, act, and believe. You are not moved to act by being given rules and restrictions. You are moved to act by Love Himself. This movement inside of you compels you to act out of God’s love and not because of a rule book. You move others to into joy and love and life because God has put those things in you Himself.
Jesus puts this movement within you- a purpose to create life and love and relationships; a purpose to uplift, comfort, and rejoice; a movement to move others to be moved by Christ as well. The way you live – the things you say, the way you treat others, the thoughts you think and the way you love – is not because of a rule book or a set of laws. This movement is not dictated by rules, checklists, or detailed directions. This movement is a relationship with Christ compelling you to follow in His footsteps. The way you live comes from Love Himself making a home in your soul and moving you to do as He did.
So now the question is: How do I keep my relationship strong enough? And first, remember this– in your weakness, God is strong. He never leaves you no matter how far you fall away. And second- you are who you spend time with. If you want to look like Jesus, you need to spend time with Him.
The Christian life is not a set of laws. Once Jesus came to Earth, lived and died, and tore the veil between God and men, He made a relationship with Him accessible. God doesn’t call us to act out of obligation, He calls us to act out of love. Truly living like Christ and doing as He did means living out of genuine love, not out of laws and instructions. When you spend time with Jesus, you will strengthen your relationship with Him. When you strengthen your relationship with Him, you will feel Christ’s love move within you. When Jesus moves within you, you will move others towards Him.