On Following Jesus
I am at that juncture in life when I find it useful to re-read books that have particularly impacted my life. One such book is Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy.
I should tell you upfront that it is an extremely challenging book. The late Willard was professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California. He took a backseat to no one in terms of his understanding of philosophy and occasionally that fact bleeds through.
At the same time he was a devout, devoted evangelical Christian. He grew up Baptist in Missouri, so he understood us and demonstrated profound commitment to Jesus Christ. He took a backseat to no one in terms of his embrace of the Savior.
What I have found most attractive, intriguing, and thought-provoking about his work, though, is that he takes Scripture extremely seriously and does not let any believer off the hook for shoddy thinking or shoddy discipleship.
His chapter entitled, “The Gospel of Sin Management,” is completely worth the price of the book. Willard suggests that we are tempted to treat the saving work of Jesus in the same way we treat a bar code. You scan the barcode on an item and get an answer. He believes we are tempted to treat Jesus’ work for us like a bar code. God passes us by the scanner and we are saved.
The problem with this, he maintains, is that this understanding leaves us without any sense of discipleship. Our salvation is a done deal. We are, therefore, home free. But what about God’s on-going desire for our lives to be transformed? What about taking seriously following Jesus? What about the rest of our lives?
“Bar code” Christianity translates into cheap grace, and cheap grace is no more than the gospel of sin management. With sin manage-ment we care more about having our sins taken care of than we do about following Jesus. In that approach, we attempt to manage our sins, and that’s basically the end of the story.
The one thing I wish to say to you is this. In your faith in Jesus, do not settle. Do not neglect Jesus in your daily life. Do not assume that be-cause you are heaven-bound you do not need to take discipleship seriously. God wants to do something with your life until you draw your last breath in this world.
Dallas Willard challenges us to listen carefully to Jesus and to follow Him passionately. Getting saved is one moment in time. Following Jesus is a lifetime adventure. We aren’t supposed to cheat either ourselves or God. We are to trust the Savior fully.
The Divine Conspiracy has much more convicting truth, if you are up for it.
Grateful to be your pastor,