Over the last two days I have shared some thoughts about some things that we can take away from Christian Monasticism (Part 1 and Part 2). I think that their desire to remain radically obedient to Christ in a world that encouraged people to be Christian because it was part of being a good citizen is something that is still very important today. I also admire that they took enough thought in how they were going to live their lives in a God honoring way that they actually wrote down what they were going to do. On the one hand there seems to be an importance given to something when we put it into writing. Although it shouldn't be this way, written contracts always seem to carry more weight than a simple handshake. On the other hand a written New Year's resolution can be just as easy to break as unwritten one. What can make the difference is making written agreements known to others so that they can hold us accountable. It isn't just that the monks had written rules but that they all held one another accountable to them.
It might also seem a bit silly to put these things into writing when we have the written Word of God that tells us how we are to live our lives. But when you think about it every sermon that we listen to also does the same basic thing. Each sermon and each Biblical teaching takes (or at least they should) the written Word of God and puts it into a practical way. What is important for anyone adopting a rule of life is that it in no way can replace the Word of God. Rather it must always be looked at as a plan of how to put the Word of God into practical action on a daily basis. And this means that my rule of life will also be moldable to fit those things that God is convicting me to change within my life.
It might also seem that this smacks of legalism. As if it is just another set of rules that are put into place to try and work at holiness. And that is a very real issue. I can never have the attitude that if I follow this particular set of rules that I will be more holy. In all reality I could break every single rule and still live a God honoring life. And I could also keep every rule and live a life that does not honor God. Simply following rules does not equal Godliness. Yes our lives should be marked with obedience but they should also be marked with "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control." If following a rule of life ever takes you away from those things it needs to be abandoned immediately.
Finally I must state that God's Word is our "only infallible and sufficient rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines." God's Word alone has the ultimate authority in the life of Christians.
So with those caveats in place, let me share the rule of life that I have come up with. It is based upon the Lord's Prayer as found in Matthew 6:9-13.
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name"
Rule #1: Worship God with my whole life.
I will try to pause and see God in everything that I do. While I know that this will not be entirely possible at first, it is something that I will be working towards. I will also take time to worship God in song by playing worship songs on my guitar. There will be the urge to spend too much time playing but I will need to be disciplined in order to accomplish everything else that I need to do.
"Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
Rule #2: Focus on being ministry work rather than doing ministry work.
I do not want to focus too much on the educational aspects of ministry work and not enough on the transformational aspects. I also do not want this to be the case in my own personal life. This means that I must always be the "First Listener" to any of my teaching. And that teaching should always be focused on transforming me into a more Christ-like person.
"Give us this day our daily bread."
Rule #3: Spend time with God reading his word.
I will spend 1 hour a day meditating on God’s word for my own personal growth. During this time I will focus on trying to learn who God wants me to be as well as what God wants me to learn.
Rule #4: Be intentionally healthy in relationships.
The first and most important relationship in my life is with my wife. I will be intentional about setting aside time for my wife. This time with her will take precedent regardless of how busy I get with other things. I will also be intentional about being who I need to be for my wife.
Next are the relationships with my family. I will be intentional about being more consistent in my connection with them.
I will also be more intentional in communicating with my friends. Many of my relationships suffered during my schooling and my fear is that the trend will continue during my ministry life as well.
Rule #5: Be intentional about physical health.
I will work with my wife to create a healthier eating lifestyle through making better choices. We will focus on eating more natural and healthy choices. I will also exercise a minimum of 3 times a week to start with the goal of increasing the duration and frequency of exercise.
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
Rule #6: Be humble.
Because at times I can struggle with being humble, I will strive to be more humble. In my daily Bible reading I will try and see where humility breaks into the passage that I am reading. I will also take time to ask God for humility in my daily time of prayer.
Rule #7: Be forgiving.
Because at times I can struggle with being forgiving, I will strive to be more of a forgiving person. In my daily Bible reading I will try and see where forgiveness breaks into the passage that I am reading. I will also take time to ask God for forgiveness in my daily time of prayer.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."
Rule #8: Rely on God in the good times.
I will take time to focus on thanking God for what he has given me in my time of prayer.
Rule #9: Do not make life harder than it needs to be.
It can be very easy to make my week more difficult than it needs to be. I will therefore commit to a basic Monday through Friday schedule in order to complete all of the things that I need to complete for the week, with the understanding that this schedule will need to change based upon the needs of the day. Saturday belongs to my wife. Sunday belongs to God and church.
Rule #10: Rely on God in the bad times.
I will take time to focus on asking God for strength and wisdom to face life's challenges.
By the way...somewhere out there Dr. Chase is laughing.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.