A Walking Sermon Illustration

yoloYears ago in the 90’s (can’t believe it’s been that long) a wise old pastor heard many of my tales of my life thus far and laughed. He looked at me and said in a loving an jocking way “Josh, you’re a walking sermon illustration.” Take it for what it’s worth, I think he was right.

Recently I found out that the hashtag (that # people add with a word or phrase at the end of a tweet or Facebook status update) YOLO means “You Only Live Once.” For the longest time, I thought it had something to do with a Yoohoo, the diet chocolate milk drink. I asked on Twitter and Facebook what ever happened to “Carpe Diem?” I was informed that #YOLO is the carpe diem of younger people who like to use it as an excuse to do something stupid. Makes sense.

I never lived a #YOLO life. Tried carpe diem but it always turned out weird. Looking back over the years and reflecting on what the wise pastor once said, I truly think I have been living as a walking sermon illustration. Instead of #YOLO and carpe diem, I’ve realized I’ve lived by “Let’s see what happens if…” and “Dude, so shouldn’t have done that.” Both have served me well with a lack of concussions, some broken bones, and hurt pride/ego.


Because, well, why not? I’ve done some dumb things in my life, not for the cause of #YOLO or carpe diem, but because, well, I was young and dumb (of course I still do some of the same dumb things today as I did then, but with more style and humor). I’ve been electrocuted (at least twice), smacked my head repeatedly on a metal bar, broken a young woman’s heart because I was a jerk (that still haunts me to this day), been picked last for kickball, jumped across a ditch in the dark (broke my ankle on that one, bed ridden for 2 months, crutches for 6) and so many other dumb things that some day I’ll use for a sermon illustration.

But I’ve also always asked that question “Let’s see what happens if…” I’ve poked sea anemones to see how they feel, I’ve gone off the path hiking to see what the view might be on the other side (broke my knee once doing that), I’ve tasted weird and different foods (save for Rocky Mountain Oysters, I will never do that), gotten lost on purpose to see where I might end up, and even laying on a beach for hours just to hear the waves. I’ve wanted to experience it. I wanted to know it. I wanted to see it.

As I reflect on those “Dude, so shouldn’t have done that” moments and as I walk boldly (stupidly?) into those “Let’s see what happens if…” situations, my goal is to see how I can live out the gospel. I want to see how this applies to living the spiritual life. How does this become a spiritual experience? How does this make for me later being able to show how the gospel message is real and alive?

The gospel is alive and moving. The Holy Spirit leads us in understanding it. And if I’m willing to open myself up to discovery, to reflecting on past stupidity (and present too), I can find ways to help bring the gospel in a way to help others grow spiritually, grow in their understanding of Jesus, grow in their knowledge of God.

It’s not a #YOLO for me nor is it carpe diem. It’s an honest attempt to live a spiritually full life filled with an understanding of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, and how God is faithful. If I can use my stupidity to get that across to help someone grow in the faith, I will do it. If trying to experience something new (besides Rocky Mountain Oysters) in order to understand life through the lens of the gospel, I will.

#YOLO seems to be code for “It sounded like a good idea at the time.” (which I’ve done before) and carpe diem seems to be code for “Throw caution to the wind.” (which I’ve done before). I’m going to continue to live to see how I can be a walking sermon illustration. Experiencing life in such a way that I can be used to help tell the gospel message in such a way that people can see it, taste it, know it, and grow in Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit through it.

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