The Jesus Way to Do Life

Jesus makes a promise that is bare, unadorned and astonishing—no matter how you say it:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.

                                  (John 10:10, ESV)


A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

                                    (John 10:10, MSG)


The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

                                    (John 10:10, NIV)

            Jesus describes two sorts of living—one defined by the purpose and influence of the enemy of our souls.  The other is a life defined by the purpose and influence of the lover of our souls.  The first appeals to the ancient lie that ultimately, life is about me and comes through me.  The second is rooted in the deep truth life is about God and comes through Jesus.

            The “good fight of faith” or spiritual warfare is often waged right here—at the intersection of “life about me” and “life about God”. Even our descriptions of our problems, struggles and issues will tend to fall into one of these two categories. And where we lean in them makes a huge difference in our life and experience of faith.

            David Powlison recently wrote a fascinating article for the Boundless webzine called Sane Faith.  He writes, “The Bible engages the varieties of chaos, confusion and trouble that mere humans experience. Our stories interweave with God’s story at every point. God intends that we understand what exactly goes wrong — and how exactly he goes about making it right…From Jesus’ point of view, there are two fundamentally different ways of doing life. One way, you’re connected to a God who’s involved in your life… The other way, you’re pretty much on your own and disconnected.

            Powlison then demonstrates the contrast between these two ways to live by the means of a Psalm (the 23rd) and what he calls the anti-psalm.  These are well worth slow reading and pondering:

Antipsalm 23 (life where God vanishes)

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
         but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t
trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is
for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death,
         and then I die.


Psalm 23 (Life when Jesus is present)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Powlison closes:

            “Can you taste the difference?….The psalm is sweet, not bitter. It’s full, not empty. You aren’t trying to grab the wind with your bare hands. Someone else takes you in His hands. You are not alone.”

            Let that sink in deep—and breathe.        


5 responses

  1. […] don’t link Boundless very often, but the series by David Powlison on Sane Faith is wonderful. Keep up with it. Posted by: TommyMertonHead @ 10:40 pm | Trackback | […]

  2. My mind went to Acts 7:55. Stephen was in the valley of the shadow of death and yet had no fear! He even went on in verse 60 to mirror what Jesus said while he was in the same “valley” a short time before. His faith is so strong he sees the face of Jesus who is there holding his hand. That thought helps me every day!

  3. I found your fine blog through Jesus Shaped Spirituality. Thank you for sharing this startling contrast between two approaches to life. I think it was C. S. Lewis who said, “Hell is that moment when God says to the rebellious sinner, ‘Very well then, have it your way.'”

    Three words we all might do well to retire: “on my own.” Thanks for the vivid reminder.

  4. Really enjoyed this – thank you.

  5. Wow! This really brings things into perspective…. thanks! I am going to be using this in my sermon tomorrow! Credit will be given!

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