Colossians 3:12-17 — Master Your Walk (Muscle Memory, part 3)
Ever met an expert? Someone who has truly mastered their area? Maybe you are such a person!
Here is what I want to suggest from the masters who have mentored me—they always have the goal in sight AND they have a handful of fundamentals that they turn to over and over again.
It is not like they have 100 different tools/fundamentals. No, they have maybe 5 to 10 that they can apply over 100 different ways. They have great muscle memory.
And Mastering takes time. I reject titles that say things like, “Master such-and-such in 3 days.” Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes 10,000 hours to master something. You and I can debate this number, and yes, most people would say natural ability is involved. I would simply point out:
You and I need to become experts at following Jesus, and it is not natural, it is spiritual—God is involved!
Let me say that again—You and I need to become experts at following Jesus.
Saying that you and I need to become masters at following Jesus may sound weird, but it’s true. And it’s not to be arrogant. No, I picture someone who is a master at following Jesus, will be confident and humble.
But let’s be clear, we need to stop being infants.
I think that is why I have been sitting and soaking in Colossians chapter 3. It is more than suggesting we need to master this art of following Jesus. It is saying we must!
The language is active—both when it comes to what to stop doing and what to start.
This active language really hit home with me: I must kill my sinful nature. It is equally hitting me—right between the eye—I am also to put on certain characteristics.
Therefore, how, how do we master this art of following? Remember—masters always have the goal in sight AND they have a handful of fundamentals that they turn to over-and-over again.
Let’s first consider a parallel in our world: becoming physically healthier.
Most people say they want to lose weight, and then get input such as:
Eat fewer calories than your body uses.
Exercise, get enough sleep, and eat healthy food.
These are true statements at the 40,000 foot-level, but simply having knowledge of those facts fails to help anyone at the detailed level of daily life.
The first question to answer is: what is the goal? Is it weight loss only, or physical health?
The second question to answer is: what are the fundamentals of losing weight, and how many ways might be available to implement them? This will allow you to start doing a few things, and then be constantly asking if what you are doing is getting to you to the goal.
Digging in just a bit more on this second question might help. Consider that each person is different. Certain exercises might come more naturally to some folks while, for others, those exercises might be impossible… maybe because of a bad back or knees. Then there is food. What food is going to work for you over the long haul?
So, what is the point? The point is that we know the fundamentals of following Jesus.
Telling you to read your Bible, pray regularly, join a church, serve/love others, and get in a small group—while true—is not enough help.
You and I must master the habits and disciplines of following Jesus in a way where our muscle memory is more and more connected to him (so we don’t think we are doing it in our own strength). Why? Because we are in a daily battle of putting to death that which if we allow to fester, will kill us.
So, let’s begin. Remember: masters always have the goal in sight AND they have a handful of fundamentals that they turn to over and over again.
First, what is the aim?
Just like the example above, the goal of praying is not for praying's sake.
The goal of reading the Bible is not for the Bible’s sake, etc.
The goal of every spiritual discipline is being connected to God.
One fancy way of saying this is that our goal is Oneness with God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, all by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit dwells in us, we follow Jesus, and He is leading us to Oneness with the Father—as He and the Father are One.
Second, let’s take these few fundamentals and simply list examples of the various ways you might practice them. Remember, you’ve mastered something when you have command of the fundamentals.
1. Reading the Word
First, remember the goal: to bring you closer to God the Father, through Jesus. When you are in God’s Word, does the Spirit speak to you? It is not going to happen every day, but are you growing closer to God? You may have to switch how you are reading, just like you would work to determine which exercise is delivering results.
Consider: you could read in the morning, or at noon, or the evening. You could read with a devotional. You could read with a devotional that poses questions. You could read online or in print. You could read slowly. You could memorize and contemplate a verse.
The key is reading God’s Word. It is essential to your spiritual health.
Do not give up… find the way that works… and realize it may change from time to time.
Is it deepening your connection to God? Can you sit with God, not only speaking, but listening? You might say, “I’ve tried, but I fall asleep”, or “my mind races.” Consider the following options:
Pick a time and a place: morning, or noon, or night, or multiple times. Pick a method: you could be spontaneous. You could follow a set outline such as ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication). You could pray out of a written prayer book. You could journal your prayers. You could listen to music and worship for 5 minutes allowing the song to move you into prayer. You could have a prayer list.
If you get distracted, you could pray to God to block the distractions. You could write down those distractions. [Side story, there was a season when my mind kept bringing up all my To-Do’s. After failing to block them out, I started writing them down. After about three days I could say to my mind, “it is already written down.” It had drained the list of distractions; all that was left was the space to pray.]
Many people say they are looking for Church that fits. I get it. Finding a good Church that preaches the Word, and fits you, is harder than it sounds. What I am about to say is not meant to justify staying at a Church that is not preaching Jesus. But, Church is about more than you and me getting fed. When we act that way, we make ourselves consumers. But we are to be disciples. We go to Church to give—not to get. We go to Church to give God glory—to worship Him. Yes, find the right Church. As you are looking, make sure you are worshiping God regularly.
Look up a few of the verses that have the phrase “one another” and you will quickly see we are to serve others. (John 13:34-35, 1 Peter 4:8-11, Romans 12:4-10, John 15:11-13, Galatians 5:13-14, John 13:1-17) Now I am not saying be a doormat. I am saying that God’s Word instructs us to serve others. All I need to do is think about Jesus’ life on earth.
There are several components to this area, but the BIG point is that following Jesus is not a Lone Ranger sport. We need other people, and other people need us. We need to be with them as we serve, worship, pray, and study God’s Word. We need to love and be loved. By love, I do not mean the kind of sentimental love we see in the movies. I mean the type of love both serves, encourages, even challenges. Fellowship is hard. People are messy. But if you want to be a master at following Jesus, fellowship is essential.
I know this has been a long post. I would simply ask four questions:
If you were to make a list of the fundamentals, what would they be?
How are you doing mastering each?
If you are stuck, what other techniques might you try?
Will you try?