If you really want to grow with God, your regular spiritual habits must be consistent and strong.
We are continuing our “Fundamentals” series today
We’ve been focusing on 4 different “fundamentals” of the faith that we felt were not only necessary for our church to focus on at this time (things we hadn’t talked about yet), but things that are also fundamental for us to master as followers of Christ
This week’s fundamental is “Spiritual Disciplines”
Maybe that’s a term you’re familiar with…but maybe it’s not
The basic definition of Spiritual Disciplines is this: Regular practices (discipline/habit) that you put in place to do daily/weekly/monthly. And it’s a practice where in one way or another you are opening yourself up to God
THE NEED FOR CHANGE
And it’s something we desperately need.
If I’m honest, one of the saddest things to me is the relatively few Christians who are deeply changed by God
I mean, sure, there are a lot of people who have changed.
But a lot of people just changed their lives outwardly
It’s like being in a new social group or a new culture
If I moved to South America, I would have to adjust parts of my lifestyle
I might have to get up earlier in the morning, I might have to adjust what foods I ate (gasp), I might have to adjust the language I’m speaking, and plenty of other social customs like how I greet a person, where I hang out, what I do in my free time, and on and on
And Christianity is often a sub-culture in America
We have our own social norms
And if you join this culture, it means you now listen to Christian music, you read Left Behind, you watch cheesy Christian movies, you do game nights instead of the bar, Christians stop swearing (well at least out loud anyway), you develop a whole new language of your own of Christian terms and so on….
Awkward opposite sex friendships
Facebook fasts to be spiritual
It really is its own subculture
But here’s my fear: Listen, I could go to South America for a while even, change the way I eat, talk, and interact, but that’s not going to have a profound impact on who I am deep down inside.
Whether I’m in South America or not isn’t going to have a profound impact on whether I blow up at people when I’m really pressed. It’s not going to change my ability to forgive people. It’s not going to really affect my ability to accept grace in my life.
I just happen to be in another culture. But who I am internally is basically the same.
And my fear is that too many of us, have done the same thing with Christianity: Sure you accepted Jesus as your Savior, and He’s changing you a little (at least at first), but I think WAY too many (in fact, the majority of) Christians just adapt to a new subculture and never really dramatically change on the inside
You changed the type of music you listened to, hang out with different people now, and attend some church events.
But are you really different? Are you really changing? Is your disposition different? Are you now “Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry?” Are you showing the “FRUIT of the Spirit?”
One of the worst and most common Bible errors people make is with that passage. They list all the fruit of the Spirit and then tell you to be more joyful, be more loving
NOT what it’s saying. It’s saying, IF the Spirit is really moving in your life, you will become these things:
(Galatians 5:22-23)- NIV
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law
Let me read those again. Has God produced these in your life? Have you seen a noticeable change of these in your life? (read verse again)
And if there isn’t a very noticeable difference, I fear that we’ve just adapted to the cultural rules of a sub-culture.
You just do a lot of Christian things now, but we’re not really like Christ
HOW DISCIPLINES CHANGE US
And this is where spiritual disciplines come in
We NEED to CONSISTENTLY be interacting with God. To be CONSISTENTLY opening up ourselves to let him operate on us. Renovate us. Otherwise how in the world are we ever going to change??? By our own strength? Yeah right.
Transformation in your life, true transformation goes from God renovating who you are on the inside. Taking your old self and making it new
(Romans 12:2) - NIV
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Transformation, true change, happens when we open ourselves up to God so he can change our minds, and change our hearts.
It’s like the Sermon on the Mount we’ve been studying (and will go back to in March), the Sermon on the Mount isn’t a list of rules on how to obey God, but it’s a guide on how to be transformed from the inside out.
So, if it’s about letting God change you, let me ask you a question. How often are you stopping to let Him operate on you? To let him get in and Renovate your heart and mind?
Because God is so interested in doing that
But here’s the problem: Remember that board game Operation? Imagine trying to do that while the board was moving all around the table
That’s what it’s like for God. He’s trying to do surgery on our hearts and minds, and we just keep running around and around and around. (give examples)
But in our busy lives we still know that some things are important.
Like eating right. You know it’s good to eat. Your body tells you so.
But even eating looks different in America. We are a fast food nation. The only thing we have time for is the drive thru.
Well, it’s kind of eerily similar with our spirituality
Like eating, your soul tells you that it’s good to have God in your life. You need some more God in your life.
So we have to do something about that. And plus, the subculture of Christianity we live in tells we MUST do something about that…which is what???? Go to CHURCH!
Which is a great thing to do, it’s a spiritual discipline. Something you do regularly.
Problem is: For WAY too many people: It’s the only spiritual discipline.
AND, it’s become the McDonald’s of spiritual disciplines for people
“Feed me. Here I am. I drove right up. Now you feed me. Thanks. See you next week!”
Let me say something intense if I may: If you’re expecting to be really transformed by just coming to this church every week, you’re kidding yourself.
This is just one meal a week. Can you live on one meal a week? No way.
Which is why I always chuckle when I hear people saying, “I’m leaving my church.” “Why??” “I’m just not getting fed there.”
More like you know have no idea how to feed yourself.
If you were eating 20 other meals a week, you wouldn’t be so concerned about the one meal you got from your church.
IMPORTANCE OF HABIT AND ROUTINE
And thus we must train ourselves to follow after God
(1 Timothy 4:7-8) - NIV
7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
We each have to find ways to train ourselves to by Godly. To train ourselves to adjust our lives so that God is a serious part of them.
And not just adjust them to the Christian subculture. But to let God seriously be a part of your life.
And that takes discipline. It takes a goal. It takes desire.
(1 Corinthians 9:24-27) - NIV
24Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
God didn’t put you on this earth to run aimlessly. You’re not here to drift on by. You’re here to do whatever you can to let Him change and transform you so you can help bring people to Christ.
That’s the context of that verse we just read.
It’s like the purpose/vision statement of this church: “To be a people being changed by God to change the world.”
So, if you’re here to have an impact on this world by letting God change you, are you training for it? Are you having “training sessions with God?” Are you as the Scripture said, “beating your body into submission” for Christ?
Anyone been watching the Olympics lately?
To me the most fascinating thing about the Olympics is always that a person’s hopes and dreams and everything they’ve worked for can either be realized or crushed in a few minutes or less.
It’s so different than so many other sports.
Baseball: 162. Basketball: 82.
Olympics. Train 4 years for one 3 minute event.
And it’s painful to watch a figure skater fall, or a snowboarder screw up on a trick, or a skier wipe out.
And because their performance at the Olympics has to be practically perfect for them to “Win the Prize,” they train like crazy.
8-10 hours a day, day after day, month after month……
All for a one minute race
And you know, I’m not sure our lives are all that different
We too often foolishly think that we’ve got time. Procrastinators unite…tomorrow. And that’s our motto. I’ve got 80 years, what’s the rush?
But if your mission, as one of my pastor friends likes to call it, is to “depopulate hell,” then why do you only train 3 times a month?
Let me give you an example, but first let me take a quick poll: How many people in this room can fluently speak another language?
Not a lot. Why? Why is it that in America so few of us are bilingual compared to the rest of the world?
You can point to education and learning it when young, etc. BUT the reality is: We don’t really need to, so we don’t.
In other places of the world, learning English can have HUGE implications for the welfare of your life
If I learn Portugese, that’s cool, but it doesn’t really matter
And you’re not going to do something unless you see the need for it.
And neither are you going to be serious about meeting with God every day if you don’t really see a need for it. And I mean really BELIEVE the need for it
And that all starts with a deeper understanding of the fact that He came to die for you. To forgive everything you’ve ever done. And He is offering to change your life, and not only that, He wants to use YOU to do the same for others. That is your mission.
And if you don’t 1st buy into that, you won’t have the motivation to really train.
OR, you might not find the motivation until you realize your desperate for it
It’s like the person who eats cheeseburgers every day and never works out. That person eventually is going to become overweight and then obese.
And they might not even care about it that much.
50 lbs overweight, 100 lbs, and at 200 lbs they’re told that they might not live to see their kid graduate from high school. Or that they have a heart condition.
And all of a sudden it hits them…what was I doing?
And like a ton of bricks, the necessity of having regular healthy habits hits them in the face
And the exact same thing happens with our personal lives. We hit rough spots. Marriage is falling apart, or it just fell apart. You’ve realized you are majorly addicted to pornography, and it cost you your job and relationships, and on and on…and in those moments…we wish we would have been “spiritually training” all along.
So we start now. Start training yourself in the spiritual disciplines NOW so you can avoid catastrophe five years from now. Starting opening up yourself to God everyday so that when something major happens 3 years from now, you’re ready to go through it.
SOME SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
So what can you do? What are some disciplines you can put in place?
The big TWO in American Christianity have always been reading the Bible and praying
And honestly, that’s a good thing. If you’re not getting in God’s Word and talking to Him, you’re just not going to legitimately grow. Even if you’re serving in a million places and living with 5 other Christians, it just doesn’t matter.
A lot of Christians WANT to read their Bible every day and WANT to have a prayer time, or a quiet time, they just don’t get to it very often
And you won’t unless it becomes a habit. A discipline
When Lindsey and I first got married, we decided to do a date night every Friday night. And now, six years later, we still do it. Every Friday.
I don’t even think about it. At this point, it’s not even on the schedule. It just happens. Lots of times it’s just Culver’s and Redbox. But our marriage is still benefiting greatly from that discipline we put in place
And putting something actually on your schedule and making it a real habit is important
So let me ask you: When are you going to set aside time to read God’s word and talk to Him? And not just talk to Him as you walk. I mean talk to Him. To the point where you are actually still enough to listen as well.
When works for you?
For a lot of people, it’s the morning. First thing. Some, right after work.
For me, I read my Bible faithfully every single night right before bed for 9 years. It’s only been recently that I’ve changed it.
And as I changed it to the afternoon, I struggled with it again for a little while. It wasn’t a habit.
So I started literally scheduling it in my phone. And my phone goes off every afternoon and reminds to me read the Bible and pray
It sounds really dumb. But if you are serious about establishing the discipline of it, we NEED to do those sort of things
If you’re looking for a place to read in the Bible, I suggest you pick up one of our Bible Pyramids on the way out
One of the best things you can do is to have someone keep you accountable to it
If you’re in a HG, you are going to set goals together as a small group this week, which is one of the best ways to do it!
But being disciplined in reading the Bible and Prayer aren’t the only spiritual disciplines
There are plenty more. IN FACT, sometime this year we are going to do a series on Spiritual Disciplines where we will dive into some of these other disciplines and take a week to talk about each one. For now though, I’ll just fly over some of them
This is something I wanted to address now because we are the anti-consumerism church. This isn’t the feed-me-now church
We want to be a church of believers who come together in community and are each chipping in on their own training
They’re each taking their faith seriously because we know if we’re gonna make an impact in this county, it’s going to be from each of us training, not just dumb pastor
Let’s take a look real briefly at a couple of other spiritual disciplines
Another good Spiritual Discipline to have in your life is the discipline of Silence and Solitude
There are some disciplines that you might do every day, and other’s you might do once a week, or once a month or even longer
Maybe you can find a time to just sit quietly and listen for God for an extended period of time once a week?
Or maybe you could find a time to get away?
Life has been so busy for me in planting this church, that I took some advice from others and started scheduling a retreat day 4 times a year
Explain St. John’s retreat
Or, for the past couple of years, once a year I go to Pacem in Terris for 3 days
www.paceminterris.org (show slide)
The discipline of Silence and Solitude is a good one to make a habit of in your life
Another popular Spiritual discipline is fasting
Fasting is the withholding of an item from yourself for a particular time.
It’s usually food, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be TV. Or music. Or even facebook.
Fasting is actually pretty common in the Bible. Moses fasted when he was waiting to meet with God. Esther had the people fast when she approached the King.
Fasting is a way to teach your body to obey God instead of naturally giving in to itself. And is also an intense way to pray.
But again, it’s a discipline (that of course used with caution) is something you can have in place to regularly connect with God
There are TONS more Spiritual Disciplines you can do
And I’m actually REALLY excited to cover all of these in detail (fasting etc.) when we do a series on it
Let me just list some more
Journaling – As a way to better process out
Community (regularly meeting) – House Groups
Worship – iPod worship
Acts of Service
Lots more within each one too (lots of prayers, lots of ways to do solitude, read the Bible, etc….will talk about in our series…either in summer or Fall)
But before we got to that, this was a FUNDAMENTAL thing that I wanted to get us thinking about NOW.
We have to be mastering the fundamental of learning to TRAIN ourselves to be Godly.
If we’re going to change this world together, then each one of us has to do our part…together and on our own as well
So I challenge you to go home today or in your house group this week, and set out a schedule to put some spiritual disciplines in place in your life
And even be willing to do some things you’ve never done before. And be willing to practice what you’re not good at. That’s probably what you need the most.
And remember, it’s not about the discipline itself. Don’t get overly focused on “Did I read my Bible? Did I pray today? Did I fast this month?”
If you’re not careful, it can easily creep into a legalistic sort of thing where you’re doing it to earn favor.
Remember, you are doing it to meet with God. Because he is Good. And He is worthy. And if we seek Him, He will come to us, and change us, help us to change this world.
So let’s go do it ok?
You can look under your chair right now, and you should see a connection card and a pen. Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.
If you have a prayer request and want our prayer team to be praying for you this week, there’s a space for that on the back as well
All of our House Groups resume this week starting tonight.
If you’re interested in finding out more, stop by table
We are going to take an offering as well
Which really, is also a sort of a spiritual discipline of worshipping God.
If you’re a visitor, feel free to let the offering just pass you by
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.