This week in The Living Word we’re talking about the Way — the Jesus way. If you think that sounds a bit religious and off-putting, stay with me a moment! Religion restricts, while faith in Jesus enables. The Way that Jesus came to establish is very different from religion — and it is not restricting, but enabling.
The phrase ‘Jesus’ Way’ is taken from His statement: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” We’ll get to that shortly, but as usual we have words from a psalm, Psalm 31, to set the scene.
In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in Your righteousness. Turn Your ear to me…
Since You are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of Your name lead and guide me.
My times are in Your hands; deliver me from… those who pursue me. Let Your face shine on Your servant; save me in Your unfailing love.From Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
We read: “You’re my rock… lead and guide me… deliver me… my times are in Your hands.”
That’s a fair description of what Jesus calls His Way. That comes out of a discussion with two of His disciples, Thomas and Philip, after He taught that He was going to prepare a place for them – and that they knew the way to that place.
But they question Him about that. As often occurs in dialogue with Jesus, they are talking at cross purposes. He is describing something on another level – a spiritual level which they are not yet quite grasping.
And that’s helpful for us, because the Spirit of Jesus, also known as the Holy Spirit, is always showing us things that have to be spiritually discerned, and then coaching us to see it for ourselves.
He shows us the Way of Jesus, which Jesus teaches in answer to questions from two of His disciple in John 14:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me, that you also may be where I am.
You know the way to the place where I am going.
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
If you really know Me, you will know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me? The words I say to you I do not speak on My own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.
So what is the Way of Jesus? Jesus teaches three things here, which are connected.
Firstly, it’s the way of salvation — of knowing Almighty Holy God through knowing His Son. And ‘knowing’ means believing and trusting in an intentional way. Many people know ABOUT Jesus in a cerebral reasoning kind of way. He wants us to believe more than the history and the stories about Him – good though all that is. He requires us to take Him at His word and trust Him – to give Him our hearts and lives. Then, in a manner hard to describe, God our Father becomes real to us!
Secondly, there is day-by-day living in salvation and awareness of the three Persons of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We relate to all of them, but the relationship with each is a little different.
With God the Father who created us and provides for us, it will always be a majestic relationship of awe.
The relationship with Jesus is with someone who has lived our life, experienced our pain, known the same temptations, needed courage and experienced rejection — He understands it all!
With the Holy Spirit, it is ‘in the moment’. What is Jesus saying? What is the wisdom of heaven for our present dilemma, and where in the Word have we seen something similar before? When we need a place in the Bible to be our specific guidance for the day, the Holy Spirit reveals it. When we need insight and spiritual empowering to bless another person, it’s the Holy Spirit who enables and empowers us. This is all the Way of Jesus, but from the salvation through Jesus that reveals God to us and shows us the three Persons, we live in an ongoing day-by-day salvation of them working in our lives.
And there’s a third important thing Jesus teaches here.
It’s a statement that confronts every rational part of our thinking. Jesus says: “I will do whatever you ask in My name… You may ask me for anything in My name, and I will do it.” It brings a rush of memories and situations where we have prayed and initially been disappointed — but wait, with hindsight we can see how God was working all the time. Not dancing to our tune — He never does that! But re-ordering and realigning our lives, and at the same time growing our faith. God works with us, not for us.
The Way of Jesus is, firstly, the initial encounter in which we become spiritually alive. Then, secondly, it is the way of day-to-day salvation from our blundering human helplessness. And thirdly, it is His Way of engaging our faith in supplication prayer — we are invited, challenged even, to ask what Jesus would ask, and know that He is endorsing our prayer.
The next part of the story might not seem to bear this out. Stephen, an outstanding evangelist, has been arrested by the Jewish authorities on false testimony, and in uncontrolled rage and hatred they stone him — as we are hear now from Acts 7:
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.Acts 7:55-60
Those Early Church Christians lived with persecution, and considered it honouring to the Lord to suffer and to die for Him. Hadn’t He done exactly this for them?
So, How to Live the Jesus Way for them, meant holding what they possessed lightly — including life itself. Previously, we heard Jesus say, ” Whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing…”
But how? Jesus did explain, in the same discussion, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth (or reality).
The story about Stephen references this. “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw… Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”
Stephen had just given the Jewish Sanhedrin council his Spirit-led account of great clarity, of God’s work of salvation — from Abraham, through Moses, then prophets and the continuous struggle between man’s independence and God’s desire for close relationship — achieved ultimately through His Son Jesus.
It was a masterful preach, but the council were not impressed. This was truth they did not want to hear. They were enraged, shouting abuse at Stephen, and — without trial and illegally — began to stone him to death. Even as the stones were injuring him, his focus was on the master. He was intentional about living the Jesus way — right up to his last breath.
We go on to hear teaching by Peter on how to live the Jesus way. He writes to people who have made an individual commitment to Jesus as Lord. This spiritual rebirth transforms who we are, how we are and the way we are — and, importantly, how we relate to one another. As we hear now in Peter’s first letter:
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
As you come to Him, the Living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.
Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message — which is also what they were destined for.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.1 Peter 2:2-10
The Jesus Way is living in the fullness of our salvation — growing up in it, as Peter teaches, not futile efforts through religious performance to achieve it.
Either we know Jesus, and His Way is born within us in a renewed and spiritually awakened human spirit. Or, if we do not yet know him personally, and we are still ruling, as lord of our own lives, we have some prayerful submitting to do.
Those who have taken this costly, but hugely beneficial step of faith, discover a fellowship together with other Christians in this new life. It brings a shared worship, witness, and love of his Word which knits believers together regardless of which Christian stream or tradition they prefer.
There is now, in Jesus new order, no separate priestly caste authorised to perform arcane rituals — except, perhaps, in the minds of some High Church clergy who may or may not be actual believers.
The new priesthood is a devolved one — and it is inclusive, as much as the old one was exclusive.
“You are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are His holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” 1 Peter 2:5 NLT
That’s a challenge for many of us. We like a bit of ceremonial and we’re used to someone dressed like a Roman magistrate occupying a raised dais at the front.
But it’s not to be that way, Peter teaches. We believers are stones with the sharp edges smoothed and shaped, made to fit together as God’s special possession, a royal priesthood of ALL the believers.
This togetherness flies in the face of denominational separation and competition.
Which bit is the true church in reality? It‘s a claim made by those who like being titled as priests, but a wrong one. In truth, the people of God are all the believers in Jesus mobilised and led by him together, demonstrating what it means to live submitted to Him in the Jesus way.
Remember His words? Very clearly stated: “I am the Way – no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
There isn’t an alternative religious way – a Baptist way, Pentecostal way or Catholic way.
There is THE way of knowing, accepting and submitting to Jesus.
Jesus didn’t say it would be a popular call — “Take up your cross” is His command. But for those who have tested His Way, His truth and His new life, there is no other that can compare.
(You can pray this prayer as it stands, or use it as a starting point for your own words)
Lord Jesus, like Stephen, we look up and we see Your scarred hands extended to us in welcome.
We gladly give our lives to You again. We put our times and our actions in Your hands, pledging to keep aligned with You as Your living stones, and to represent You to others as yet untouched by Your love.
Thank You for being the Way, the Truth and the Life and for revealing this to me. Amen.