When I think of this journey with Christ, I think of it having three stages:1-Believing in Christ, 2-Following Christ and 3-Discipleship.
Believing in Christ, the 1st stage, is where we have to really work at being obedient in following the 10 Commandments in what we say and do. This stage is more ego-and-mind-driven, as we try hard to obey the commandments by our own initiative and to learn to trust God. Hopefully, it’s the time when we first start to identify and to follow the voice of the Indwelling Spirit of God. It is only in following the voice of God within us that we can move on to following and then being a disciple of Christ. The first stage is about building trust and faith in God, in believing in Him, so that we will pledge not just the surface of our lives, the easily seen stuff, to God, but the whole of our being—our heart, soul, mind and strength, as Jesus taught in the Two Great Commandments.
For me, this first stage was energized by these words I heard clearly in my mind shortly after I gave my life to Christ: “I have an agenda for my life.” The Holy Spirit really got my attention with that statement, because I had no idea that I had an agenda for my life, much less did I know who the “I” was who had an agenda. To me it was such a wake-up call, that I began immediately to change how I thought about my life from “What should I be doing?” to “What do I really want to do?” Suddenly, I had a whole new reason for deciding each next step. Obedience is the main thing expressed in this stage of the journey. Obedience to the word of God, to His laws, to the Indwelling Spirit of God.
During this first stage of the journey we are stepping carefully into an unknown future, stepping away from the cultural imperatives we’ve been taught into the Spirit-directed life. The more we listen for and heed that Indwelling Spirit of God, the more we will progress into being a follower of Christ. My experience of this stage was that every single time I followed the voice of the Indwelling Spirit, I felt affirmed in a way that went way beyond my ego to deeper part of me, never before experienced.
The second stage, being a Follower of Christ, is a big step out of the world and its influence over us and out of the ego’s needs. It is when we address all the places within us that do not conform to The Biblical teachings. If our goal is to bring alive in us the fruit of the spirit, so that we are filled with love, peace, joy, patience, and all the rest, we must, as followers, allow God to reveal and to heal in us all the underlying reasons for our fear, anger, judgments, envy, greed, and anything else within us that allows us to separate ourselves out from our fellow human beings. This 2nd stage is rife with looking at our pain and suffering and putting it on God’s altar so that He can heal it and thus bring about the changes in us that can naturally express all the fruit of the Spirit.
For me, there were two major healing areas that God highlighted. The first, was my inability to love my mother and the second the hell-fire-and-damnation church teachings that I was raised in. One day, He spoke this sentence in my mind: “How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” For the next two years I tried and tried, but failed. Then, after visiting her one weekend she had taken my husband and I to the railroad station to catch a train north. While she stood there waiting with us, we were surrounded by a cloud of love—that was my experience of it—for a minute or two. After that she was grateful for every single thing I did for her and I could love her as she was. As for the deeply embedded God-is-a-punitive-vengeful-God and I am the worst of offenders, it took about twenty years of following Christ to exorcise that early belief system from my heart and mind and soul. Now I no longer have to worry about what God will do to me; He is the loving, forgiving, supporting God that I have experienced since I gave my life to Christ.
Remember that the goal of this journey in Christ is to become the people who can express God’s love and forgiveness, justice and mercy in this world, to grow into the vision He had for each of us when He created us. To do that we have to release all within us that causes us to live in the most negative of human qualities. If we can allow God to heal us of all that stands between us and God, then we will be able to express God’s love in all that we do, to everyone we meet. We will be bringing what Christ brought into this world. But that is the 3rd stage of our journey in Him. As we are healed of our core issues and then all the ancillary ones, we will find ourselves feeling lighter and freer of the burdens we have carried, some from early childhood. We will be free of cultural prescriptions for living. We will be amazed at how different we can feel, once all these issues are gone and done in us. More about that next week.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I a believer, a follower or a disciple of Christ? What issues would I need to address in my past to move forward, towards Christ, along this path? Am I willing to go where Christ would take me? Or am I only willing to give so much to Him? Who is in charge of my life really? Me or Christ?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of Christ who are moving steadily along this path from believer to follower to disciple. May we be true to the Holy Spirit within us who would guide us step by step to where God wants us to be.
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 Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28
 Galatians 5:22-23