Today’s excerpt is from Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus by Josh Kelley, on sale for $1.99 April 13 through April 17. The book is a call away from both obsessive and complacent Christianity and towards radical devotion lived out in surprisingly normal ways. Josh has been a pastor for 15 years and holds a BA in biblical studies from Pacific Life College.
Years ago, my friend Jason went hiking in the mountains of Tajikistan along the border of Afghanistan. Americans weren’t particularly popular in that part of the world, so he admits it wasn’t one of the brighter things he’s done. He said the trip up the mountain was hard enough, but coming down was a nightmare. His party was thousands of feet above the valley, making its way down what could be called a path only in the most generous sense of the word. It ran along a narrow ridge and was covered with jagged, loose gravel. Because the decline was so steep on each side, he didn’t actually walk down the path—he slid.
“The trickiest part was staying on the ridge with only a couple feet of leeway on either side,” Jason said. “If you focused too much on the dangers of one side, you naturally overcompensated and started to slide down the other side. The whole way down we had to constantly adjust our slide to avoid going too far off either side to a rather painful end.”
Jason survived and went on to get married, have kids, and take up safer activities, including raising poison dart frogs (he assures me they lose their poison in captivity) and being a missionary in Bolivia.
Picture yourself on that same path, but make it narrower and the drop-off steeper than whatever you imagined. Add fierce winds howling around you, nearly pushing you off one side and then the other. Now imagine a rope anchored every 20 feet and running the entire length of the path. Only when you’re grasping the rope do you dare to look up and enjoy the stunning view before you.
That path describes your Christian journey. The cliff to the left is destructive disobedience. This is complacent Christianity. The cliff to the right is legalism, trying to earn God’s favor by doing all the right things and being a good person. This is obsessive Christianity. Fall off either cliff, and you’ll end up in slavery.
The apostle Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). He wrote “burdened again” because the Galatians had been saved from slavery to idols and sin, and now they were on the verge of being enslaved to legalism. Jesus had saved them from one cliff, and they were getting ready to cannonball off the other.
What does this have to do with grace? Grace is the rope that keeps you on the path. God’s grace, secured by Christ’s death, got us on the path in the first place. Grasping onto his grace is the only way we can stay on the path and enjoy the journey. And only by his grace can we safely make it home. No matter how many times we fall off the path, Jesus is ready to pull us back up by his grace. [Click to tweet!]
Now I want you to imagine staying on that path without the rope. Does it sound difficult? Actually, it’s not difficult—it’s impossible. The winds of selfishness, lust, bitterness, and a host of other sinful desires threaten to blow us over the left cliff of destructive sin. As soon as we get control over those desires, we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves, and we’re hit by winds of pride and self-righteousness, pushing us toward the right cliff of legalism. Our only hope, every step of the way, is desperate dependence on God’s grace.
To be radically normal is to stay on the path and avoid both cliffs, completely dependent on grace.
The problem with the analogy is that it doesn’t convey how joy-filled the journey is. Try to imagine experiencing some of your happiest moments while walking along that narrow path—seeing your newborn child, going to Disneyland, enjoying your favorite meal. . . .
Now we’re getting closer.
Today’s excerpt is from Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus by Josh Kelley, on sale for $1.99 April 13 through April 17. The book is a call away from both obsessive and complacent Christianity and towards radical devotion lived out in surprisingly normal ways. Josh has been a pastor for 15 […]