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Simplicity, Sincerity, and "Followship"

A message by Joseph Cartwright.

Is the gospel really as complicated as it seems? I wonder if centuries of theological gymnastics (i.e. writings and discussions based on the theories of men rather than the Word of God) have not robbed us of the simple message of Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen... Are we willing to lay down any fruitless discussions of theology and take up the cross of Christ in our daily lives? Our words are precious and should not be used or tossed about haphazardly. Empty discussion is often a sign of an empty heart. What the world desires to see is everyday people fleshing out the gospel in everyday life.

As the community of faith, are we willing to speak less about orthodoxy (right doctrine) and major more on orthopraxy (right practice)? James 1:22 compels us to be 'doers' of the word, not just 'hearers' (or talkers?). Saints, let us commit ourselves daily to live out in reality the things we say we believe. If we say that Christ changes lives, then let us live as new creatures. If we say that Jesus is the answer, then let's engage a lost world that is full of questions. If we say that hell is real, then let us live our lives to destroy the works of the devil by our prayer, praise, and proclamation of the gospel. Yes, there is a time for discussion, but it should never take the place of living out what we say we believe.

Ray Stedman: "In the early church, as we see it described in the New Testament, we see a rhythm of body life evident in the way Christians gathered together in homes to instruct one another, study and pray together, and share the ministry of spiritual gifts. Then they would go out into the world to let the warmth and glow of their love-filled lives overflow into a spontaneous Christian witness that drew love-starved pagans into the church like hungry children into a candy store."

2Cor 1:12,11:3 (NKJ) For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you... But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

The Christian life has become a life of complexity for many believers. We are constantly given complex formulas for living out our spiritual walk. We have exchanged loving God and our neighbor for such things as rigid, overbearing discipleship programs. We have exchanged obedience to the commands of God for following after man's agendas. In short, we have exchanged simplicity for complexity and we have been found wanting. Remember what Psalm 23 says, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want." Our Shepherd is to be our all. Sheep follow their shepherd in simplicity and with blind devotion. Jesus, the Shepherd of our hearts, is calling us back to the simplicity of followship.

When we clutter our spiritual walk with unnecessary things we become smothered and diverted from our relationship with the Father. We tire easily and our joy is quickly lost. Our spiritual vitality and abundant life become mere shadows of the intention of God for our lives. Worse yet, we are easily deceived and fall into sinful patterns of life. Is this what God wants for his children? No, he clearly says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)."

Let all who follow Jesus unshackle themselves from the oppressive complexity of formulaic followship of Jesus. Live a life of simple devotion and obedience to Him alone. We must put aside our own agenda and take up our cross in simple followship. Walk with Him moment by moment and step by step. He is the director of our paths according to Proverbs 3:5-6, but we must first trust, lean not on our own understanding, and acknowledge him in all our ways. This means we must put our faith totally in him. We must not seek understanding of his leading but simply obey. Lastly, we must acknowledge our need for him in all we do. Then we will be in a place where God can direct our paths.

This idea of simplicity explodes the core of the legalistic and ritualistic form of Christianity that many of us have embraced. A simple follower of Christ can't be tangled up in religious things because he is pursuing a relationship with a person. Religion just doesn't satisfy but we try to make it work. It is time to give up our religion and embrace the relationship that God has provided through Jesus Christ. Quit struggling after man's religious ideal. Begin striving after God's relational reality. He is life. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." When you embrace Jesus, you embrace the fullness of life that he has called you to. Simply love. Simply listen. Simply obey. Simply follow. Simply live in him, abundantly.

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