Long Obedience in the Same Direction

It’s the title of a book that I’m just finishing up. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson. Many of you know him as the author of The Message Bible. Peterson presents a solid exegesis of Psalms 120-134, collectively known as the Songs of Ascents or The Pilgrim Songs. They were sung by Hebrew pilgrims on their way up to worship in Jerusalem. Two designations that clarify our identity as believers are the words disciple and pilgrim.

Acquiring Faith Skills

I love the definition that Peterson gives, that brings clarity to what a disciple is. “We are people who spend our lives apprenticed to our master, Jesus Christ. We are in a growing-learning relationship, always. A disciple is a learner, but not in the academic setting of a schoolroom, rather at the work site of a craftsman. We do not acquire information about God but skills in faith.” Jesus left a commission and a charge for every believer: “Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Mt. 28:19-20 (emphases mine)

Disciples that go the distance, staying faithful to run the race, will be well acquainted with a long obedience. 

Life is Pilgrimage

Going on a journey is exciting but I always enjoy the prospect of “coming home.” Nearing forty years of marriage, we have items in our home that have been with us for decades. I love the ambiance of my home and it’s a comfort to know that a familiar place is there upon my return from traveling. But we are clearly pilgrims in every sense of the word. “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts. 1 Pet. 2:11 “By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country…for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Heb. 11:9-10

Like Abraham, we have arrived in the land of promise, which I equate with being born again and having a personal relationship with the Trinity. But as a pilgrim I know I’m not fully home yet, but am living between two worlds. Yes, it does feel foreign at times.

Comfort in Belonging Elsewhere

Jesus  lived an abundant life as a man and left us the same legacy. Life is good and we are meant to enjoy it. Yet He made it clear that He was a pilgrim passing through. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” Jn. 18:36 Like Christ before Pilate, we too have the same powerful awareness. “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Phil. 3:20

Apprenticed to the Father

“Although He was a Son [who had never been disobedient to the Father], He learned [active, special] obedience through what He suffered. And having been made perfect [uniquely equipped and prepared as Savior and retaining His integrity amid opposition], He became the source of eternal salvation [an eternal inheritance] to all those who obey Him.” Heb. 5:8-9 (AMP) Such is our privilege as well, to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We are being uniquely equipped for our assignments in this life. 

Do What He Tells You

It’s been a long process for mankind. The beginning was flawless, made in the image of the Godhead. Gen. 1:27 Disobedience opened the floodgates of darkness and marred the image bearers. Jesus brought the ultimate course correction and we’ve been on the way back ever since. Rom. 8:29  Here is a Bible verse that summarizes the process. “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Eccl. 12:13 “The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. And that’s it.” (MSG)