By Bob Simpson, BCM/D Associate Executive Director and Editor of BaptistLIFE
In Luke 5 Jesus encounters the socially despised Levi (a.k.a. Matthew the Tax Collector and future author of the Gospel of Matthew). The scripture says that Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” Then it says, “Levi got up, left everything and followed Him.”
I have always been interested in what it means to be a “disciple.” The older I grow the more I realize that my faith journey, which began at age seven, has taken me through numerous stages of maturation as a Christ-follower.
These many passages in my life have often, at each juncture, refocused my understanding of discipleship. I can still remember the childlike awe and wonder I felt when I first gave my heart to Jesus Christ. I have since come to understand how pivotal the state of my spiritual heart would be to maintaining that wonder as I have continued to follow Him throughout the many decades.
For me the challenge has always been how to stay more childlike and less childish. What I value most about childlikeness is the way a child is just naturally expectant, bold and imaginative. When a child asks a parent for something, the child never worries how the parent is going to fulfill that request. The child is free to imagine the highest and best outcome.
As adults we tend to diminish in our capacity for dreaming and expecting the unexpected. If we are not very careful, we get a bit jaded about the mysterious. It doesn’t take a genius to know that once we lose the wonder of our relationship with an awesome God through faith in his Son, Jesus Christ, we settle into dull routines and even boring rituals.
An actual genius, Albert Einstein, put it this way, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
There are huge ramifications in our journey as disciples to losing the mystery, the imagination and the wonder of being Christ-followers. Revelation 2 records the words of Jesus to first century disciples in Ephesus.
None of us ever want to hear these words said to us. “I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first.” His solution to them for this descent into spiritual apathy was to “Repent and do the things you did at first.”
The call of Levi reminds us what the first things are: Leave all and follow fully!
Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost For His Highest, put it best. He said, “The test of spiritual concentration is bringing the imagination into captivity. Is your imagination looking on the face of an idol? Your work? Your conception of what a worker should be? The starvation of the imagination is one of the most fruitful sources of exhaustion in a worker’s life. Imagination is the greatest gift God has given us and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him. Provoke yourself to recollection, and your affection for God will increase tenfold; your imagination will not be starved any longer, but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright.”
That last line, “but will be quick and enthusiastic, and your hope will be inexpressibly bright” reminds me what childlikeness really is. Jesus once said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
For adults, it requires that we get rid of all of life’s accumulated baggage that destroys awe and wonder. Imagination, awe and wonder (which we identify most readily in children) are critical components of worship.
Worship compels (like Levi), fuels and sustains a disciple’s heart. Like Levi, we must leave all…and follow Him!