I always find myself chewing on the concept of what it means to follow Jesus. How do I deny myself? How do I take up my cross daily? How do I seek first the Kingdom of God in my actual, everyday life?
I teach about it, I talk about it, I write about it and yet I seem to always find myself "stuck" at square one.
It feels like I'm 39 years old and yet still at the very beginning of my Christian walk and experience.
Just today I had to pray and ask God to help me be a better pastor. I feel like I blow it so often with people. I second guess myself afterwards and wonder if I should've said this or done that.
Do I ever move on to Phase 2? Will I know it if I do? Is the character of Christ really being formed in me? Am I being transformed by the renewing of my mind?
Will this growth come about by reading more and more books, or deeper thinking or more doing of the works of compassion? Does any of that really matter? Will all of this ever result in the changing of my heart or character?
Maybe I don't sense any progress because I don't practice the spiritual disciplines? Do I need to pray more? Or meditate?
As I think on this more, I wonder if it isn't really the Grace of God that prevents me from being aware of any spiritual progress or success in this area of discipleship to Jesus. To have an awareness of growth might open the doors for pride, and God knows how I struggle with that.
Here's what I've discovered. There is no Phase 2. There is nothing after seeking first the Kingdom or dying to self. There is only the constant, daily surrender, the 'moment-by-moment' obedience to Christ.
Even Paul the Apostle admitted he had not yet attained the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. It is an ongoing race we run and the moment we "arrive" is the day we take our first glimpse of the Resurrected Jesus in the flesh with our own two eyes, our first day in the physical Kingdom of God itself.
The way is the cross and the cross is the way.