This book makes accessible a new vision of life redeemed—bought back—from the pawn shop run by the world, the flesh, and the devil: redeemed through a living, interactive relationship with Jesus Christ. As Gary acknowledges, it is “new” only in relationship to recent practice, and as “old” as the people of Christ.
The action takes place where redemption must take place, in the ordinary life that everyone must live, no matter what kind of “shows” may be running. The author makes clear how anyone and everyone can “take hold of that life which is life indeed” (2 Tim. 6:19). Starting right where they are, they can begin to do simple things that allow the water of spiritual life in Christ to surge through inner and outer channels parched from living “with no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).
Discipleship (“Apprenticeship”) to Christ is the status within which the process of spiritual formation in Christlikeness runs its course. The result is “growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). That is the normal Christian life. As his apprentices in Kingdom living and acting, we are with him learning to be like him. That is the general idea. It is what trusting Christ means. You cannot actually trust him and fail to be his disciple—no doubt, for a while, a green and bumbling disciple—though currently there is a great deal of deadly misinformation on this point. Trusting Jesus Christ means you want to be with him as much as possible.
A part of our lessons as his students will deal with how we can effectively be together with our Dear Maestro. Gary Moon here makes available an incredible amount of wisdom on that point. He eliminates a lot of holy nonsense that tends to accumulate around “spiritual formation.” His down-to-earth stories and impish humor help us stay honest with who and what we are, right in the midst of the supernal drama of redemption in which we share. He does not create a new cloud of words and rituals within which we remain basically unchanged. He does not mistake profession of belief for belief itself.
Belief puts us into action and makes contact with reality. There is much talk today about the failure of belief to govern life. The obvious failures of Christian living are attributed to the weakness of belief. But this has come about because of a growing misunderstanding of “belief,” adapted to the prevailing forms of Christianity. We have to adjust “belief” so that nominal “Christians” can still “have faith.” Those forms of Christianity run on profession of belief, and profession of belief is not belief. People continue to act in terms of what they really do believe, not in terms of what they profess to believe. They have no other choice. With only minor adjustments here and there, we always live up to our beliefs, though rarely up to what we profess.
We grow in genuine faith in Christ as we put into practice what little faith we have—from “faith to faith,” as we are told (Rom. 1:17). “Mustard seed faith” (Luke 17:6) is so powerful because it grows, not because it acts like a magic potion. The passage here in Luke is about the increase of faith (see verse 5). The kingdom of the heavens is like the mustard seed because it grows in us and around us (Matt. 13:32, Mark 4:30-32) Effectual instruction in the spiritual life in Christ gives guidelines for putting into practice, right where we are, what little faith we have. For example, we may have a little faith—interwoven with a lot of profession, perhaps—in the Bible. This is commonly the case. We could put that faith into practice by memorizing select portions of the Scripture, in the manner this book describes. Then we will certainly experience the reality of the written Word of God, and of the Kingdom in which it dwells. Our beliefs will grow accordingly and our actions will follow.
The book is laid out as a thirty-day journey. That is a good plan. But to enter on the journey, you need to give the book at least one continuous reading. Pick an afternoon and evening when you can concentrate, and read it from beginning to end. You need the total impact, which cannot be gained otherwise. And then arrange your affairs where you can seriously do the day-by-day. You will need appropriate times, for you have to actually do the exercises set for you. Apprenticeship is not a spectator sport. The exercises are not things you can do and then get on with your “real business”—like “quiet time” as often practiced. They are an indispensable part of your real business, and they help you to know and to engage with what your real business is. It is life with Jesus in the Kingdom of the Heavens.