A Long Obedience in the Same Direction:  Discipleship

Some friends gave me A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson, and I jumped right into it, but I quickly realized that this was going to be a book to savour. So I’m savouring by recording quotes, standout concepts, mental images.

“If you’re worn out in this foot race with men, what makes you think you can race against horses?”  Jeremiah 12:5

“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”  Friedrich Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil

Grace (p. 15)

  • World is not a friend of grace or of a commitment to Jesus
  • No direct hostility
  • Puzzled disapproval
  • Agnostic indifference
  • Last two can be formidable opposition

Difficulties in the life of faith

  • Flesh
  • Devil
  • World

Flesh and the devil are definable, have a historical context and are easier to resist because they are easier to recognize. (P. 15)

The world is harder to define because it is different for each generation. Like a fish in water, we swim in the atmosphere without being aware of the impurities.  Maybe we sense something isn’t quite right, but we can’t pinpoint what. “We know that the spiritual atmosphere in which we live

  • Erodes faith
  • Dissipates hope
  • Corrupts love” (p. 15)

Currently the dangerous assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once pervades our thinking, so the long apprenticeship towards holiness finds resistance in the culture at large and in the novelty seeking, tourist mindset, religious entertainment environment. In our impatience for results and our contentment with getting a tour of the high points, a lifetime of being apprenticed to the Master, Jesus, can feel arduous unless we capture the concept that we aren’t religious academicians but learners from a Master craftsman who will impart the skills of faith in a growing, learning relationship. (P. 17)

Another motif for the life of discipleship –Pilgrim reminds the Christ follower that

  • Life is spent going some place
  • Going to God on the path of Jesus (John 14:5-6)
  • This world is not my home
  • I’ve set out for my Father’s house
  • Abrahams the preeminent model
  • We have a great cloud of witnesses who’ve gone before us and cheer us on (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Songs of Ascent:  Psalms 120-134

Ascending to Jerusalem a metaphor for ascending to God – Philippians 3:14

Worship in Jerusalem 3 times a year (Exodus 23:14-17, 34:22-24)

  • Passover – Israel redeemed – refreshed Israel of Go’s saving ways
  • Pentecost – Israel commanded – renew commitment as God’s covenant people
  • Feast of Tabernacles – Israel blessed – responded as a blessed community (19)

Jesus went to Jerusalem – Luke 2:41-42, Mark 10:32

We are also puzzled, a little afraid. and the Songs of Ascent help us remember who we are and where we are going. (P. 19-20) they offer stimulation, encouragement, guidance.

Riffing off of Paul Tournier’s A Place for You we are reminded that we live between the times:

Imagine the feelings between the

Time we leave home and                                                                                             Arrive at our destination

Time we leave adolescence and                                                                                 Arrive at adulthood

Time we leave doubt and                                                                                            Arrive at faith

Time the trapeze artist lets go and                                                                             Catches the other for support

Time we leave the world’s environment and                                                              Arrive at the Spirit’s assembly

Time we leave sin and                                                                                                Arrive at holiness

Time we leave home on Sunday morning and                                                           Arrive at church with God’s people

Time we leave works of law and                                                                                Arrive at justification by faith (p. 20)

in between – imagine the danger, expectation, uncertainty, excitement, extraordinary aliveness

Thomas Sasz:

“Simplest and most ancient of human truths:  namely, that life is an arduous and tragic struggle; that what we call ‘sanity,’ what we mean by ‘not being schizophrenic has a great deal to do with
Competence earned by struggling for excellence;
With compassion, hard won by confronting conflict
And with modesty and patience acquired through silence and suffering.” (P. 21)

Come, let’s climb God’s mountain,

      go to the House of the God of Jacob.

He’ll show us the way he works, so

     we can live the way we’re made.

Isaiah 2:3

All of the above are notes directly from the Introduction (p. 15-22) to A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson.

Peterson notes that “Everyone who travels the road of faith needs assistance.” (p. 21) How true! I am thankful for the assistance his book offers me at this time.

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