One of the great paradoxes of Christianity is that there isn’t a single thing we can do save ourselves, transform ourselves, or grow ourselves. The life for which we’re created is nothing more or less than a life of continually appropriating the life of the resurrected Jesus who lives within us. The reality is that there’s only person who can live the Christian life and his name is Jesus. That would be bad news except for the fact that Jesus lives in you, and desires nothing other than to so fill, empower, and energize your life, that you become a unique expression of Christ himself. All the joy, wisdom, strength, peace, power and generosity of Jesus, displayed through the prism of your unique personality! That’s the life for which we’re created, and it’s that life we’re invited to pursue.
The paradox however is this: though there’s nothing we can do live the Christian life other than allow the seed that is Christ’s life to grow within us, we’re told that we should “work out our salvation”. In other words, there’s stuff to do! The stuff we’re to do has to do with creating the condition in which Christ’s life can flourish, in much the same way that a farmer caring for soil creates condition in which the life inside the side can grow and multiply. Soil care without a seed is hopeless, so there’s no point in thinking that it’s “what we do” that causes growth. Still, the soil needs care if the seed is to grow, and caring for the soil that is our souls require steps from us.
Developing the habits that will care for soil of your soul has been called, throughout church history, developing your “rule of life”. One author says: A Rule then is a means whereby, under God, we take responsibility for the pattern of our spiritual lives. It is a ‘measure’ rather than a ‘law’. The word ‘rule’ has bad connotations for many, implying restrictions, limitations and legalistic attitudes. But a Rule is essentially about freedom. It helps us to stay centred, bringing perspective and clarity to the way of life to which God has called us. The word derives from the Latin ‘regula’ which means ‘rhythm, regularity of pattern, a recognisable standard’ for the conduct of life. Esther De Waal has pointed out that ‘regula’ ‘is a feminine noun which carried gentle connotations’ rather than the harsh negatives that we often associate with the phrase ‘rules and regulations’ today. We do not want to be legalistic.
You can find the practices that we’re using at Bethany here.
Many years ago I wrote a book entitled “o2: Breathing New Life into Faith” and am presently putting the finishing touching on a 2nd edition which I hope will be out after the first of the year, entitled: “Breathing New Life into Faith”. For now, though, you can enjoy the chapter about building your rule of life here: breath of life final – rule of life creation
Life is complex, filled with unanticipated joys and sorrow, setbacks and advances, fears and anxieties. What keeps us going in the right direction? Caring for the conditions of our heart so that all the wisdom, power, justice, and mercy of Christ can flourish in us and find expression through us. My prayer is that 2018 will be a year when Christians will enter more intentionally into the adventure of discipleship that, alone, can lead us to the life of joy for which we’re created.
May the habits and practices your create enable you to find the reality of Christ through the coming advent season.