Sept 18 2016 Our Values -God/Grace/Growth/Gospel Part 3 - Growth
18th September 2016
Lord, thank You for the opportunity to serve You – and thinking about where the shoeboxes went last year and the lives that were touched – we have the opportunity again this year to touch children’s lives with compassion and kindness. Even as we know people at work who might want to help out – we pray that You would use it in a great way. Help us as we look at Your word – looking at the standards we have for our church and the unique purpose You have given us, help us to learn how to do these things better.
Growth – we are being transformed into the image of Christ by the Spirit through applying God’s Word and walking in faith.
At an individual level, we are all about seeing people become more like Jesus – transformed into the image of Christ daily/weekly/monthly/yearly. If we want to accomplish the Great Commandment and the Great Commission – we cannot do that if we are not individually becoming more like Jesus. All of our activities will have no value if our lives aren’t being changed. God uses transformed lives to do His work – not activities and missions – yes, He uses those things, but it is through transformed lives.
When you stand before God, the most important thing you give to God is the person you have become – Dallas Willard.
We focus on being transformed into the image of Christ – many of you know that this has been a focal point of my personal studies – most of what I share today has come out of many of these books – Dallas Willard – Renovation of the Heart – the best book on how someone becomes like Christ. If you are starting to raise children – this is a great parenting book – even though it is nothing about parenting! It is about how you become who you are – why you are the way you are – and how we can see people transformed.
The Good and Beautiful God – James Bryan Smith
Soul Healing – Tammy Smith
Terry Wardle – Healing Prayer(formational prayer)
There are many others out there (John Ortberg – Soul Keeping (read the first chapter for free)) – but these have significantly influenced me.
When we talk about transformation – the focus is on internal transformation – without internal transformation there will be no external growth.
The question then, for today – The first is, “Do you want to be transformed into the image of Christ?” Well, of course we do? But let me ask again – do you REALLY want to be transformed into the image of Christ? It is hard. Not hard, in the sense of having to pray 16 hours a day, read the Bible 8 hours a day, and fast 27 hours a day – but hard in giving up who we are. There are things that need to change. We are stuck on who we are. I have found that the people who are most unhappy with who they are are most happy with who they are – (it sounds oxymoronic) – but those are the ones who are least likely to change. So we have to ask if we want to be transformed – and second question, “Do we recognize that we need to be transformed?”
We don’t just need a few adjustments – we need an overhaul of who we are. We are not a car that needs fine-tuning – we need a new engine and brakes and transmission – a complete overhaul. If you think you only need minor adjustments – you probably don’t know what it means to be like Jesus
Do you see your need? You need to change! You’ve heard – don’t change for other people! Teenagers say that. But you had better change! You can’t stay the same! We need to learn to be different. Anyone who knows you closely can point out many ways that you are not like Jesus – just ask them!
Spiritual transformation begins when we recognize and acknowledge our true condition, that we are broken and flawed – any twelve step program like AA – Alcoholics Anonymous – My name is _____ I am an alcoholic and I have been sober for …. Days/months/years. But no matter how long they have been sober, they acknowledge that they are alcoholics.
We are sinners. It begins at that point. We enter the world broken – and we enter a broken world. When we are born, we are already broken. That is what the Bible teaches. If you’ve ever had a baby for very long – you know they are broken. You at first think they are born innocent, but it doesn’t take long to realize that is not true.
Our souls are wounded by brokenness. This creates scar tissue. The body creates scar tissue to protect what was injured. We have scar tissue that prevents us from using our body properly – we get wounded and hardened up in portions of our souls.
These wounds sometimes are first inflicted by someone else – usually those closest to us – parents/siblings wound us in great ways and those wounds are the most difficult to overcome.
So often, so many times I have talked to people in their 60s/70s/80s who are still being affected by something that happened to them as children.
The second way we have wounds are self-inflicted wounds. We tend to do that when we are older – those come from personal failure and sin –
And third - there are naturally caused wounds – a child loses a parent – those are hard wounds. It is not really anyone’s fault as much as living in this world destroyed by sin. These can have a deep effect – depending on when they hit us.
These wounds – cause us to believe lies – lies about ourselves and God.
I’ll throw out an example – let’s say you were abandoned by a parent – or feel abandoned by a parent – you will begin to believe the lie that God abandoned you and you aren’t worthy of somebody to cherish you. And God will abandon you also. These wounds turn into lies in our souls – and these lies and wounds turn into our story – our narrative. If you were abandoned as a child – you might not remember the facts of the event – that is not how our minds work. We turn that event into a story – “I was an abandoned child” – and that influences everything about us. That story becomes who we are – and we begin to see everything in life through that story. Something might happen at work when you are 60 years old – that brings you back to that story – just another way of being abandoned. Even silly little things are seen through that story we have told ourselves – so this story continues to form and shape us – but in the wrong way – it deforms us – so we need to change the story.
We are formed by our stories. This is important – we are formed by our stories – the stories we create inside of us. We live in a fact and event world – but we are formed by our stories – and we are transformed by living a new story.
The gospel – is the good news – the story about God – the Creator – leaving His home and becoming a creature so that through His life, suffering, death, and resurrection – He can become one with His creature – the creatures who left Him and abandoned Him.
We need to learn to change our story.
How do we do that?
First – invite Christ into our wounds – into the very thing that wounded us. We need to go back – maybe it was abandonment or abuse that you were a victim of – and bring Christ into that story – and we think that Jesus doesn’t want to be any part of this story. But we need to understand that He does – and He knows our story and feels it deeply. He experienced your story as deeply as you experienced it. The pain of that story – He took it all. He feels it and understands it.
Isaiah 53:4 Surely He took our pain and bore our suffering. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed for our sins, He endured punishment that made us well; because of His wounds, we have been healed.
On the cross – Jesus took every hurt and wound you have experienced – and He understands completely what you have gone through – so we need to invite Him into that. He is already there.
We need to take up the story of truth – what Jesus has done for us in the gospel – on the cross – so we look at our own stories through the cross of Jesus.
Some practical ways to write this story and experience transformation.
Matthew 11: 28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
This is a discipleship passage – what transformational discipleship is all about. They would take a young ox – and they would take an older ox – and the older ox would bear the weight – and the young ox would learn.
Jesus says, “My burden is light because I bear the bulk of the weight.”
Transformation first requires a partnership with God.
Dallas Willard: Being in His yoke is a matter of learning to use His strength with ours together to learn to bear our load and His.
When we take on Jesus’ yoke, we give up the burden of being responsible for the outcome and results of what we do for Him (when we have placed our souls under God’s control). We must learn to cooperate with God if we are to be transformed into His image – and the key is to develop our relationship with Him. I have talked a lot about those. We must look for ways – whatever ways work for you – to have time with God.
John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
To change our story – to be transformed into the image of the Christ – we must take up our cross and deny ourselves – to live a life of self-denial. It must happen. That sounds really harsh – especially to Americans – who deserve a break today and deserve the largest Polar Pop (since they all cost the same! – so you get the one that doesn’t fit into the car door because it is so large!) – but the language of the New Testament is filled with the language of self-denial. We think having an illness is a cross to bear. It is not. It is a burden to bear. Picking up a cross meant something. What did it mean? It meant they were going to die – and it meant nothing other than that. And it means the same today – that we will die to ourselves.
“Christian Spiritual formation rests on the indispensable foundation of death to self and cannot proceed in so far as that foundation is being firmly laid and sustained” “
Self-denial moves beyond more or less frequent acts to a settled disposition in character” – Dallas Willard
We cannot be a Christian unless we deny ourselves.
“Settled disposition in character” – it is not just being unselfish, but being the kind of person who regularly sets aside privileges and rights to serve others.
That sounds like crazy talk – and it is – but it is the only way we become like Jesus. There is no other way.
He who was rich became poor so that we can become rich.
And we need to do the same – so that through our poverty they can become rich. It is not just a money deal – but a moment by moment relationships that we have where God wants us to deny ourselves.
Romans 12: 1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
First – there is no neutral ground for the soul – it is either being conformed to the world or transformed to be like Christ. We are either moving in the direction of the world or Christ – there is no stalling out in the middle – there is no neutral – is my soul in drive? If it is not in drive, it is in reverse.
It begins in the mind. The mind, for them, is not just our brains – but our whole inner being - For Paul, it includes not just our thoughts, but feelings and emotions and passions - More than just our thinking.
So it is an internal transformation that affects all of us. God wants our feelings to be transformed. That doesn’t mean – if you are grieving that you need to be happy – those are important feelings- but it does mean that God can transform us in our feelings.
Phil. 2: 12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Transformation will require us to start a workout program! How many of you work out? Do you work out? Maybe it is walking in the neighborhood or going to a gym – this changes our bodies… but we need a spiritual work out program to transform our souls.
Ephesians 4: 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
A workout program must consist of putting off the old and putting on the new.
“For transformation to happen, our bodies must be poised to do what is good and refrain from doing evil.” - Willard
1 Tim. 4:7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ talks; rather, train yourself to be godly.
Willard: spiritual disciplines – it involves training and not just trying. Most of us TRY to be transformed – but it doesn’t work. We think if we have enough willpower, we can change. Willpower alone will fail. Willpower enables you to START training. How do you become a good musician? You don’t do it by willpower – willpower enables you to practice your instrument. It is the practicing of being like Jesus that makes you like Jesus.
First – we need to develop practices that correspond to the area that we want to transform.
Dying to self- I’m sure none of you are selfish – but here is what you need to do: You can’t just say – I’m going to die to self. You have to practice.
How do you do this?
Find two ways that are simple and specific to die to self every day. Find two ways – here is one – set your alarm ten minutes earlier so you can help your spouse to get ready for her day. It is a simple practice to deny yourself every day.
Maybe another would be to shut off all your devices for an hour to pay attention to your family! Anyone can do that. You just have to choose to.
Maybe there is something at work where everyone is selfish and someone needs to step in and be unselfish – and there is a little practice you can do to be unselfish – and then when the big thing comes up when you really need to die to self – your body naturally does it.
Our kids would practice the piano – and we would hear it a thousand times – but when the recital came – they just played it.
Anger – just in case you have a problem with anger – er, in case you know someone who has a problem with anger – it is a lack of control – being impulsive to circumstances. The person who is angry acts quickly. The Bible talks about being slow to anger. The issue – we are quick to be angry. We even have a phrase, “They’re losing it!” But a simple practice is to be slow to anger – learn – I am not going to say anything for 5 or ten minutes.
People start talking about the Browns – say nothing. Wait before commenting on the Browns!
Willard: “The spiritual disciplines enable us to do what we can’t do directly – things we can do that enable us to do the things we can’t do on our own.”
Start simple – and advance. Little practices before God. Let’s pray.