We’ve had to lay down a lot so far. Some of it has no doubt been difficult; maybe it’s even felt unnecessarily negative to some. But we have a much longer journey ahead, and we need to travel light—especially since our journey takes us even further upward.
So when I encourage you to “lay down the law—and leave it there,” I’m not just asking you to admire my mild attempt at cleverness. What I really intend to encourage you to do here is live a life where you’re not only walking in the Spirit day by day—but ideally, moment to moment.
Something you might have noticed over the course of our journey together so far is we’ve been moving from dealing with our longstanding struggles with sin to addressing daily temptations. Today, we begin condensing the timespan even further, as we begin exploring the things that tempt us to go into some sort of “spiritual autopilot” rather than obey God in the moment. (And if you haven’t noticed this sequence before now, that’s OK—I just picked up on God’s strategy here myself.)
This transition from day-by-day to moment-to-moment is equally, if not more, true of the works we claim to do in Jesus’ name. As Andrew Purves puts it in his wonderful book The Crucifixion of Ministry:
“Of course we should not exclude asking ‘What would Jesus do?’ There is an appropriate place for the moral influence of Jesus. But it is more important to ask, ‘Who is Jesus Christ for us today and what is Jesus doing here and now, in this hospital room, during this committee meeting, during this service of worship, in this counseling session and so on?’… Wherever Christ is and wherever we are joined to him, there truly is the intentional, disciplined and faithful ministry of the church. It is not our ministries that make Christ present; it is the present, living Christ who makes our ministries possible.”
Whatever it is that I truly do for Jesus, he is already there. I’m the one who’s showing up—and who’s arguably late for the party. Not him.
At the same time, we very often want to do the right things, but we don’t know exactly what the right things are. Oddly enough, this is often when our prayers are most effective. There are times where God gives us the confidence to pray for (and then pursue) something, knowing it’s in his will, but usually our best prayers come when we’re empty. When we have no agenda except, “Not my will, but thine.”
But more often, we’re in that “autopilot” mode, bearing ahead without keeping our eyes open to what other things God wants to accomplish right now. We want a stake in the ground, a fixed point, a checklist—because that’s far easier for us than following wherever the Spirit leads—at least in the short term.
Nonetheless, eternal life starts now. To follow is to lay down your control. What could I possibly plan for myself that’s better than God’s plans for me?
In fact, I’m going to pray this for myself right now. Feel free to join me, and we’ll talk again tomorrow:
Lord, help me to rest in the work you’ve already given me, and to always remember that it is your work. Help me to lay down my agenda and hand over control to you, so that I may remain open to the next work you desire me to find Your joy in, in every moment. Amen.
Lay It Down Today
The good news is, you don’t have an assignment—at this very moment. The better news: The following assignment is meant to last all week. (After all, it’s only bad news if you think of it that way.) It does require some work on your part.
For the remainder of this week, commit to getting up at least a half-hour early to spend time with the Lord. Some of you may already get up early for Bible reading and/or prayer, others not; either way, take some extra time at the beginning of each day this week to be in God’s presence, silently. It’s OK to add Bible reading or other spiritual reading during this time, but be sure to leave time to do… nothing, in God’s presence. Enjoy him. Relax in him. Take peace in him, before starting your day. Try to be observant this week about how God uses your time with him—even after you’re done.