I am a voracious reader. I consume books, magazines and blogs like a distance runner blows through carbs. Sometimes I read for personal relaxation and escape – think the latest Dan Brown thriller or James Patterson crime drama – but mostly I read to stay informed and relevant. Every once and a while, in the midst of the thousand pages or so I read each week, a writer captures my imagination with simple yet profound statements. This week that writer is E. Stanley Jones, one of the best known missionaries and religious writers of the first half of the twentieth century. Although most of his life was spent ministering among the high-caste Hindus and Muslims in India, later in his life he organized multiple evangelistic missions in the United States.

In his classic text, Conversation, he suggests that conversion is a gift received by God that cannot be retained without disciplines. Although I do not ascribe to the theological statement about salvation he posits in his suggestion (Arminianism), I do agree that if you attempt to attain salvation by disciplines, you will be trying to “discipline an unsurrendered self.” In his words, “You will wrestle instead of nestle.”

Part of me agrees with the need to nestle in the grace, mercy and love of God yet part of me yearns to wrestle with what it means to be a Christ-follower. Part of me wants to nestle in the confidence that God is truly and accurately revealed in the Scriptures yet part of me desires to wrestle with how to faithfully apply the Scriptures to life today. Part of me craves the classic disciplines of the faith that is the fruit of my conversion yet deep inside I long for an unscripted, abandoned type of faith.

Jones suggests Colossians 2:6-7 may hold the key for resolving the conflict: “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” What we see pictured here is receptivity and activity – “received” is receptivity; “so live” is activity. It’s mirrored again in “rooted” (receptivity) and “built up in him” (activity). “Rooted” carries the idea of taking from God as roots take from nutritious soil; the “built up” means we build as one builds a house through disciplined effort. In other words, we take and try and we obtain and attain. To quote Jones one last time, “the alternate beats of the Christian heart are receptivity and response – receptivity from God and response in work from us.” I believe I agree.