Daily Devotional By Dallas Willard

Putting Gas in the Car

If your neighbor is having trouble with his automobile, you might think he just got a lemon. And you might be right. But if you found that he was supplementing his gasoline with a quart of water now and then, you would not blame the car or its maker for it not running, or for running in fits and starts. You would say that the car was not built to work under the conditions imposed by the owner. And you would certainly advise him to put only the appropriate kind of fuel in the tank. After some restorative work, perhaps the car would then run fine.

We must approach current disappointments about the walk with Christ in a similar way. It too is not meant to run on just anything you may give it. If it doesn’t work at all, or only in fits and starts, that is because we do not give ourselves to it in a way that allows our lives to be taken over by it. Perhaps we have never been told what to do. We are misinformed about “our part” in eternal living. Or we have just learned the “faith and practice” of some group we have fallen in with, not that of Jesus himself. Or maybe we have heard something that is right-on with Jesus himself, but misunderstood it (a dilemma that tends to produce good Pharisees or “legalists,” which is a really hard life.) Or perhaps we thought the “Way” we have heard of seemed too costly and we have tried to economize (supplying a quart of moralistic or religious “water” now and then).

Now we know that the “car” of Christianity can run, and run gloriously, in every kind of external circumstance. We have seen it—or at least, anyone who wishes to can see it—merely by looking, past the caricatures and partial presentations, at Jesus himself and at the many manifestations of him in events and personalities throughout history and in our world today. He is, simply, the brightest spot in the human scene. There is no real competition. Even anti-Christians judge and condemn Christians in terms of Jesus and what he said. He is not really hidden. But for all his manifest presence in our world, he must be sought. That is part of his plan, and for our benefit. If we do seek him, he will certainly find us, and then we, ever more deeply, find him. That is the blessed existence of the disciple of Jesus who continuously “grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

But just there is the problem. Who, among Christians today, is a disciple of Jesus, in any substantive sense of the word “disciple”? A disciple is a learner, a student, an apprentice—a practitioner, even if only a beginner. The New Testament literature, which must be allowed to define our terms if we are ever to get our bearings in the Way with Christ, makes this clear. In that context, disciples of Jesus are people who do not just profess certain views as their own but apply their growing understanding of life in the Kingdom of the Heavens to every aspect of their life on earth.

From The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship. Copyright © 2006 by Dallas Willard. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.


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