On Method Acting and the Call of Discipleship

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Colossians 3:17 NRSV

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

CONSIDER THIS

Have you ever heard of method acting? Method actors enter into their character at the beginning of a play or movie-making process, and they never leave character until the whole project is done.

Daniel Day-Lewis is famous for his method acting skills. When he takes on the character of Abraham Lincoln, he becomes Abraham Lincoln. On the set and off, he will answer to no other name. He speaks of “the gravitational pull of another life that sparks one’s curiosity.”

For my money, todays text calls us to a form of method acting. “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17 NRSV).

“Whatever you do” knows no limitation. It is totalizing and comprehensive. Paul instructs we are to never leave character. And the character is Jesus Christ. Doesn’t this verse complete the trajectory of how the chapter began?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1–3)

If I’m honest, and you know I aspire to be, I have mostly read this verse like I would read a sentimental refrigerator magnet, with an internal response like, “Sure, of course I’ll try to do that.” I basically filed it in the same file I have filed so many other lofty Bible verses— biblical self-improvement, you know—try harder to be a better Christian.

The force of the whole chapter, if not the whole New Testament, is not “try harder to do better and to be a better Christian.” The message of the gospel is to give up on that whole project; that former, false self is dead. Arise into the new creation of your raised-from-the-dead life. Our good-to-great mentality must die. The “hidden with Christ in God” reality must rise.

You and I are method actors, only this is not a movie. It our life. We never leave character. In those moments when I do, I want people to say something like, “John David was really out of character yesterday.”

Let’s help each other with this. The Holy Spirit is ever willing to do this in us, but he works best in the midst of a few people banded together to see it through in each other’s lives. That’s the way those early Methodists took the world by storm. See what I just did there?Method-ists. They banded together as method actors. It’s an idea whose time has come again.

Let’s name Domino #3/17 The Method Actor.

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is our character and our method. Thank you for the way he can make me to be most truly myself when he trains my character to be like his. Come, Holy Spirit, and take me deep into the character of Christ so much that I never leave. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

1. How do you relate to this notion of method acting?

2. Have you typically thought of Colossians 3:17 as an aspirational thought but little else? How does today’s daily text change this?

3. Do you have a few people gathered around you to help you delve deeper into the character and to stay in character all the time—every thought, word, and deed?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that what you’ve suggested in theological terms would be known as incarnating the Gospel. For us to totally empty ourselves of our “old selves “ and be filled with Christ alone will require a very supernatural power that I’ve not yet experienced. This is something I fervently pray for and I trust God will provide the grace needed in His own time.
    I think of Colossians 3:17 as a facet of the true life that we are called to live, one that human striving alone will never achieve. “Apart from me, you can do nothing “, (Jesus).
    At this time, I am gathered with other believers who sense that the time has come to get a whole lot more serious about our faith. One does not need the gift of prophecy to realize that spiritual darkness is beginning to cover the land. What we’ve all grown up with as church, just isn’t up to the task at hand. We are praying for an awakening in our community, our state, and our nation. We are in contact with other believers who are doing this around the globe.

  2. The only way a human can continually manifest the character of Jesus (the fruit of the Spirit) is by denying and dying to the desires and demands of sin and of self (the flesh) and instead, being continually led by the Spirit (the living Jesus). That goes beyond theology and methodology. It’s an ongoing choice to embrace love, sacrifice, surrender, obedience, and relationship, and to follow “Christ in you” no matter what the cost.

    It’s not enough to be inspired and informed by Scripture. We must be inwardly transformed by it–overcome and undone. “Let the word of God dwell in you richly.” “Be doers of the word, not hearers only.”

    The New Testament is full of “one another” commands. I’m so glad God has given me committed, radical Christ-followers to walk in the Spirit with!

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