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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Learning to Grow with Purpose

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Craig von Buseck: Give us a quick synopsis of your new book Growing with Purpose. Where did you come up with the idea?

Jon Walker: This book grew out of my frustration at trying to live the Christian life and constantly failing. I’d try to ‘be holy as our Heavenly Father is holy’ (1 Peter 1:16), and some days I’d feel I was doing pretty well on this Jesus-walk, and the other days I was a complete failure. I set out to determine the ‘I’ quotient – what else do I have to do – only to discover that I couldn’t do a thing except depend upon God to develop holiness in me.

His grace is the most powerful tool for change in our lives; we’re saved by grace, but we’re also transformed by grace. I accepted that God saved me, but I still had an independent streak in me, where I believed I could then work myself into saintliness.

Craig: If I read The Purpose Driven Life, why read your book? In what way does it press further into the Purpose Driven Life?

Jon: In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick does an incredible job of teaching that God created and shaped us for a purpose. But, as I began to ‘grow in purpose,’ I found myself stumbling in the little things; it was like, ‘What good is it if I tell the whole world they were created in the image of God, but then I don’t treat my own children as if they are unique creations of God.’ So I had to grow within my purpose, and as God taught me, he kept emphasizing that the same Spirit at work in me is the same Spirit at work in others (James 4:5).

It forced me to focus on the truth that the Spirit God placed within us both is constantly at work, washing our windows and sweeping out the cobwebs, changing us for God’s glory and his purpose. So my book drives deeper into grace and the role of the Holy Spirit in pursuing our purpose.

Rick teaches that in The Purpose Driven Life; I’m just too dense to get it at first and I know there are others who have the same ‘density propensity’ when it comes to their walk with God. Hopefully, my book will help them see how the presence of the Holy Spirit is part of what connects us within God’s family.

Craig: You mention that the faith walk can become tedious and stale. How would you recommend preventing this?

Jon: My friend, Steve Pettit, says that we have a tendency to focus on the how of Christianity, and although well-intentioned, it causes us to lose sight of the “wow!” — that the Holy Spirit lives within us as proof (Paul refers to it as a down-payment) that we are infinitely valuable to God and that he is intimately available in our lives. Wow! If we can remember the ‘wow!,’ then our walk will remain fresh and exciting.

As Eugene Peterson suggests in The Message, we’ll be constantly saying, “What’s next, Papa?”

Craig: What are some simple steps anyone can take in order to establish a richer, deeper, more satisfying relationship with Christ?

Jon: The most important step is that we’ve got to get to the place where we say ‘I can’t; only God can.’ But this is the step we most often miss: we race past the ‘I can’t’ and then get stuck in a cycle of following steps toward intimacy with Christ without ever growing because our pride is still in the way.

The ‘step’ that Jesus constantly encouraged was to be dependent on God. We have to get to a place where we really believe we have no other option: ‘God, I have no where else to go. I can’t even depend on myself. I can’t; only you can.’ Like the widow at midnight, we have to stay there, refusing to leave step #1 until our ‘I can’t’ becomes a faithful certainty that ‘God can.’ That’s when God will open the door to greater intimacy.

Craig: Was Growing with Purpose difficult to write in any aspects?

Jon: It was extraordinarily humbling to try to interact with God on what each message should be because my pride kept getting in the way. For instance, I kept wanting to really show off my writing talents, but then God would seem to say, ‘Keep this one very simple.’ Like the Apostle Paul, I was forced to agree with God that the transformation of a heart – including my own – would not result from the eloquence of my writing, but from the power of the Holy Spirit working through the words.

In addition, I knew that every time I would write on a particular aspect of the Christian walk, I would be tested on that, and it was painful to face those tests and downright humiliating to fail so many of them. But, then, God would pick me up and say, “See, this is why I offer Grace; you are still my beloved.”

Craig: Who are some of the writers who have influenced your writing style?

Jon: Eugene Peterson, Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Walter Wangerin, Max Lucado, King David, The Apostles John and Paul. The music of Rich Mullins, John Lennon, Jars of Clay and Relient K; their creativity inspires my creativity.

Craig: Could you give us a preview of what’s next for you?

Jon: I’m working on a project related to “The Cost of Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonheoffer. He wrote about “cheap grace” in 1937 as he witnessed the winds of war sweep upon Germany and he struggled within a church that had disconnected belief from behavior.

We live in a similar time, when the things we’ve traditionally seen a stable and secure are crumbling and the church is discovering the current disconnect between belief and behavior. In these hard times, I believe God is calling believers to make an authentic assessment of how their beliefs connect—or remain disconnected—to the decisions and actions they make each day.

 

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