THE WAY TO LIVE_DOT III (YOUR ROLE) // CHAPTER 21
“The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, ‘Look! There is the Lamb of God!’ When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus. Jesus looked around and saw them following. ‘What do you want?’ he asked them. They replied, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Teacher’), ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come and see,’ he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.” // John 1:35–39
These verses in John take place right after Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. As we have seen, the logos—the plan of God—becomes a person, Jesus. Jesus is then identified by John as the final sacrifice to cover all sin. Other people start to recognize that fact, and Jesus asks them to follow him. These people become known as disciples.
It’s simple: they believed and then they followed. They saw Jesus, believed in who he was, and decided to follow him wherever he went. They sought to follow and adopt his way of living. Many scholars believe that Seneca and Jesus were the same age. Musonius Rufus would have been a teenager during Jesus’ lifetime. The Stoicism these men demonstrated brought many followers. Similarly, Jesus had a group of people around him seeking to understand and live his philosophy of life.
Someone part of a certain school of philosophy would call their teacher didaskalos (διδάσκαλος). This word means master or teacher. When referring to Jesus, the disciples in the New Testament used this same word to describe Jesus.
Is that to say that Jesus’ goal was to found a school of philosophy? No. That’s thinking too small. Jesus’ goal was to change the world with a new way of thinking and living that people had never seen before.
Many Christians think that they have it figured out. They tell us about how Jesus wants us to be Christians. That’s the goal, to be a believer in Jesus. They treat faith and salvation like they are the end goal. Church services are oriented around “salvation experiences.” Most churches, especially in the west, see “salvations” as the ultimate measure of effectiveness.
Accepting the gift of grace is one of the most important things that we will ever do. Salvation, however, is not the goal. It’s the start of the journey. But too many Christians get this wrong. People ask, “Are you saved?” Once they get someone “saved,” or once they themselves are “saved,” they believe their life will be good because their eternity is secure.
Why then do so many Christians have bad lives? Why are so many of those who claim to be “saved” so bad at living? Dysfunction, drama and discontentment are just as present in the lives of most Christians as they are in those who are not “saved.” Faith makes us right with God, but faith doesn’t give us the ability to live life right.
In 2010, eighty-year-old Forrest Fenn, a former Air Force pilot and art collector hid a treasure chest somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. A mountain range in North America that stretches three thousand miles from New Mexico to northern Canada. This forty-pound treasure chest contained gold, rare coins, jewelry, diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires. The value of this treasure has been estimated around two million dollars.
He wrote a book, The Thrill of the Chase, and the stories in the book were claimed to contain hints to where to find the treasure. Specifically, there was a poem with nine clues supposed to function like a map to help seekers find the treasure. The treasure was out there somewhere, and people were determined to find it. As many as 350,000 people searched for this treasure, and five died in their search.
Ten years later, on June 6, 2020, the treasure had been found. Fenn passed away six months later in September of 2020. The finder was Jack Stuef, a thirty-two-year-old medical student. This was how he described his find:
“The moment it happened [the treasure was found] was not the triumphant Hollywood ending some surely envisioned; it just felt like I had just survived something and was fortunate to come out the other end. For so long, I thought I might be haunted for the rest of my days by knowing where the treasure was but being unable to find it. Would I still be out there in that section of forest 50 years from now looking for it? When I finally found it, the primary emotion was not joy but rather the most profound feeling of relief in my entire life.”[i]
Jesus himself compares his kingdom to a treasure:
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” // Matthew 13:44
It’s not enough to believe treasure exists. The seeker must do everything they can to find that treasure—whatever it may be for you. Believing in treasure is the first step to taking the journey to find treasure. But belief in treasure does not mean that it is within our possession. Moreover, our possession of treasure does not mean we see it as valuable. You may say, “If I had treasure worth two million dollars, I would definitely value it.” Are you sure? What if you didn’t know what two million dollars could buy? What if you didn’t have a concept of money or value?
Earlier in this book, we talked about how there’s a difference between pyrite and real gold. What if we treat real gold like its pyrite? The first documented discovery of gold in the United States was made by twelve-year-old Conrad Reed in 1799. He pulled a seventeen-pound gold nugget from a creek in North Carolina.
Gold is worth $2000 per ounce today. That means Conrad Reed pulled $544,000 in today’s money out of a creek. Not knowing its value, his family used the gold nugget as a doorstop for several years. They then sold it to a local jeweler for $3.50. It’s true worth in 1799 would have been $3,600—1,000 times what they sold it for.
The largest pearl ever found was found by a Filipino fisherman around 2006. The seventy-five-pound pearl is one foot wide and two feet long. He took it home and hid it under his bed as a good luck charm. It stayed under his bed for more than ten years. The fisherman had forgotten about it until he was moving out of his home. He gave it to a relative for safekeeping because he considered it too large to move to his new home. It is estimated that this pearl could be worth over $100 million.[ii]
Treasure is only treasure if we decide it is.
A kingdom is any place where there is a sovereign ruler who has absolute authority and influence. Jesus calls his philosophy his way of living the kingdom of God. Why? To be dramatic? It was to draw the distinction between a belief system and a way of life. Jesus was not inviting the disciples to follow him so that they would believe in him. They made the choice to believe in him on their own.
He was inviting them into a way of life ruled by him that would change everything about their existence. It’s more than grace, more than forgiveness, and more than belief. It’s bigger than our own self-interest—grander than trying to create a world that fits our politics or religion. To decide to follow means to submit to a kingdom. To live a life of self-denial, not self-preservation.
This kingdom is about living life for the sake of, and in service to, everyone around us. This is called discipleship. Being a follower of Jesus means that we become disciples of him. We learn and submit to his teachings and leadership. There are some Christians who do this. Their belief is much more than belief; it affects everything about their way of life. These people are all too often the exception, not the rule.
If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, living life like him should not be optional. It should be our requirement. When Jesus asked his disciples to “come and see,” he asked them to become his apprentices. He asks the same of us. He asks us to learn how to live our life as though he were the one living it. If he were a CEO, what kind of CEO would he be? If he were a parent to your children, what kind of parent would he be?
Jesus means to take ordinary people and change their lives, and thus change the world.
For Abraham, it was all about faith—acting based on his belief. Too often in Christianity, belief is preached as the finish line when it is supposed to be the start. Believing in Jesus is like having the treasure map in your hand. You don’t have the treasure yet, you’ve got to work to find it.
You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?
Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. // James 2:19–24
By believing, we receive God’s gift of grace that makes us part of his family. It’s not good deeds that get us into heaven. But the good things we do are the completion of our faith. God wants us to act like Abraham. Believing isn’t special. Anyone can believe. It takes a life of virtue to have faith.
Doing this is simple, but simple ≠ easy.
Author Bill Hull says it this way, “Follow Jesus, and he will teach you everything you need to know.”[iii]
Grace guarantees our eternity. It’s a free gift after all, and all we have to do is believe. Grace, however, doesn’t guarantee a good life. Grace doesn’t mean that we will be successful. Grace doesn’t mean we will have good relationships with people around us. Grace doesn’t mean we will not be dysfunctional. Grace doesn’t guarantee that we will leave this world any better than we found it. Only following Jesus can do that.
Churches are full of believers. They are also full of followers. Followers of politics, self-interest, culture and other countless agendas. The world doesn’t need another “Christian.” The world needs someone to be like Jesus. That’s what the New Testament is for. It teaches us how to follow Jesus. Not just how to believe, but how to live. Everything has led to this moment, learning how to live like Jesus. This is the ultimate philosophy of life—a way of life that has the potential to change the essence of our world.
In Matthew 28, Jesus asks those who follow him to teach other people to follow him. This is what we are supposed to do: understand how much God loves us, act in love—like Jesus did—and teach other people to do the same.
This is where knowing God and living out a philosophy of life can help us. We have a framework by which to apply these things to our life.
This is in fact what God has wanted us to do all along.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. // Romans 12:2
Everything for us, and for God, starts with our thinking. If we can change our thinking, we can change our attitudes, if we can change our attitudes, we can change our actions.
This is how we work. And this is how God chooses to work with us. We are striving to know God’s will for our lives, solving the great question of meaning. God gives us the answer: to be good philosophers.
To be a good philosopher, we must think better. We must use every ounce of our thinking to bring our feelings and attitudes under control. We must do good things. These good things must emulate the way of Jesus, the way of love. And if we can do this, and teach other people as well, we will find meaning and live a good life.
It’s not enough to believe. It’s not enough to be saved.
We must demonstrate our belief through our life. We must make the world better through our thoughts, attitudes and actions. That’s what Jesus would do.
[i] Jack Stuef, “A Remembrance of Forrest Fenn,” Medium.com, published September 23, 2020, https://thefinder.medium.com/a-remembrance-of-forrest-fenn-1be2a8646ff2.
[ii] Ben Westcott, “Is this the world’s largest pearl? It’s been under a bed for 10 years,” CNN Style, August 25, 2016, https://www.cnn.com/style/article/largest-pearl-philippines-amurao/index.html.
[iii] Bill Hull, Conversion and Discipleship (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2016).