Week 1 we talked about the Tip-of-the-Iceberg spirituality. We clean ourselves up enough to be with people but under the surface, we have not allowed God to transform us to the core. At some point, you have to realize, my faith isn’t working. Who I am publically doesn’t match up with who I am in my heart.
Week 2 we shared about the symptoms of Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality. Basically, the top 10 ways we stay unhealthy. As a result, we can wreak havoc in our personal lives, our family’s lives and our church. Sam did a great job communicating that when you come to church, when you give your life to Christ, that’s not the finish line, the race just began.
Today we want to talk about how we can allow God to transform us to our core. As a pastor for many years, I have to say, one of the most interesting things to me is that people struggle to make the connection between, I am struggling in life and the answer to my struggle is God. I lost my job so I need God. I get picked on in school so I need God. I am building a business so I need God. Our marriage is almost over so I need God. As I observe people, most conclude, I am struggling in life and the answer to my struggle is anything but God.
Example. People say, “I’m emotionally, physically and spiritually tired.” Their conclusion? I need down time to veg. I need to binge watch tv, to play games on my ipad. Or, I need to go on vacation and have time off. Or, I wish the church would do something to make my life easier. So they do what they think will fix their struggle and the result is always the same. “I’m still emotionally, physically, and spiritually tired.”
What did God say?
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. MSG Matthew 11:28-29
As a disciple of Christ, as you walk through life and all it’s struggle; God is the answer. Please hear me. It’s always a mess, a struggle. There is no perfect day, perfect feeling, perfect principle that makes life perfect. It’s not like that. Life is mess in your 20s, 30s, 40s all the way to 90.
God is the answer to the mess. It isn’t a religious task that I am annoyed to add on to my furious busy life. It’s not a conscious choice. It’s not a choice. No, it’s different. I surrender to God. His grace changed my heart and my life and I want to spend time with Him. God is the answer – yes.
In the Old Testament, God is constantly trying to help His people make that simple connection. I want to read what God says about this. In this text, God shares with Jeremiah His frustration that His people don’t make that connection.
23 But this people – what a people! Uncontrollable, untameable runaways. 24 It never occurs to them to say, ‘How can we honor our GOD with our lives, The God who gives rain in both spring and autumn and maintains the rhythm of the seasons, who sets aside time each year for harvest and keeps everything running smoothly for us?’ 25 Of course you don’t! Your bad behavior blinds you to all this. Your sins keep my blessings at a distance. MSG Jeremiah 5:23-25
Do you hear God? He’s frustrated because the people He loves, protects, cares for, redeems, can’t make the connection. He calls them uncontrollable, untambeable runaways.
Later, He prepares Jeremiah for what the people will say back.
10 “When you tell this to the people and they ask, ‘Why is GOD talking this way, threatening us with all these calamities? We’re not criminals, after all. What have we done to our GOD to be treated like this?’ 11 tell them this: …Take a good look in the mirror – each of you doing whatever you want, whenever you want, refusing to pay attention to me. 13 And for this I’m getting rid of you, throwing you out in the cold, into a far and strange country. You can worship your precious no-gods there to your heart’s content. Rest assured, I won’t bother you anymore.’ MSG Jeremiah 16:10-13
What is God saying? Make the connection. Your life is a struggle, it’s messy; the answer is God. Israel, if you refuse to make that connection, if you keep making excuses, if you would rather do what you want, I will give up. Enjoy your life doing whatever you want, whenever you want it.
So why is it so hard for us today to see and make the connection? My life is a struggle, the answer to my struggle is God. Why is it hard? The beast.
3 All the world marveled at this miracle and followed the beast in awe. 4 They worshiped the dragon for giving the beast such power, and they worshiped the beast. “Is there anyone as great as the beast?” they exclaimed. “Who is able to fight against him?” NLT Revelations 13:3-4
What does the beast of our world tell us? If your life is a struggle; everything but God is the answer. The beast of our culture today is screaming at us. The message the beast sends is so loud and constant we can begin to believe them. Here is a list of 9 things. See if you have heard these messages before and see if you have begun to believe them.
Happiness is found in having things.
You should get all you can for yourself, as quickly as you can.
Security is found in money, power, status, and good health.
Above all, you should seek pleasure, convenience, and all the comfort you can.
God is irrelevant to everyday life.
Christianity is just one of many alternative spiritualities.
There are no moral absolutes; whatever is true for you is what is true.
You’re not responsible for anyone but yourself.
This life on earth is all there is.
These messages and more are screaming at us everyday from billboards, tv, Instagram, schools, friends, commercials, movies, news media, etc. Our culture is owned and shaped by the beast. As we live in culture and fall into it, the beast leads us to have more fear, more mistrust, a fierce self-will, incredible stubbornness and rebellion. The beast of our culture tells you, if life is a struggle; everything but God is the answer. God is quietly telling you, if life is a struggle; God is the answer.
Quick questions I want you to wrestle with: What have you concluded? What is the answer to your life struggle? Is it more stuff? Is it more validation? Feeding your appetites? The drive for everyone to see you as a great leader and a success? Or is it more time with God? What are you chasing? What has become of your heart?
How do we pull away from the beast of our day? How do we stop the chaotic blur of our lives? How do we raise our kids to love God in a godless world?
The answer is going to sound radical. Counter-culture. Intentional. And very few people will ever do it. How do we know? Because today, it is normal Christianity to live a busy life and ignore God. It’s normal to live what we call Tip-of-the-Iceberg Christianity.
Live off of other people’s spirituality.
Be scattered, fragmented, and uncentered.
Be physically, spiritually, and emotionally tired.
Existing with only a one-inch-deep spirituality.
Praying and communing with God very little.
Not very intentional in pursuing Jesus.
Feeling stuck in our spiritual journey with Christ.
Struggling to stop our “life on the run.”
Here it is. This is how you pull away from the beast. You are going to have to be with God. Wake up everyday and surrender to God’s love. Practice having a rhythm of silence, rest and prayer. And give yourself time to think through how you are loving others. Why can’t you love or have compassion for others? What are your self-destructing patters? Can you journal your thoughts and feelings with clarity? Can you resolve conflict? What is going on with your emotions?
Those two things, you must, you must, make into a new habit. Being with God is called contemplative spirituality. Thinking through how you are loving others and your feelings is called emotional health. The only thing that will kill the beast of this culture in you, please hear me, are those two things. Let’s be honest, what is your Christian experience? Are you living the Tip-of-the-Iceberg now or are you giving God space and time to transform you? And if you say you are too busy, I would say, chances are you will never be transformed by God. Following Christ will be a religious struggle.
As Jesus and his disciples went on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him in her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat down at the feet of the Lord and listened to his teaching.
40 Martha was upset over all the work she had to do,
The TLB version says, …Martha was the jittery type and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing.
The NIV version says, …Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
so she came and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!”
41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You are worried and troubled over so many things, 42 but just one is needed. Mary has chosen the right thing, and it will not be taken away from her.” GNT Luke 10:38-42
Two dramatically different ways to do Christianity. People are coming to the house for food. In the middle of that reality, Mary is relaxed. She simply enjoys being with Jesus. She feels close to Jesus. There is a connection, intimacy with Jesus. She isn’t trying to control anything. She is centered and quiet before Jesus. She is on God’s agenda and is at peace.
Martha shows a different way to do Christianity. People are coming over. She’s upset, jittery, worried and distracted. This is the kind of person who you don’t bother before people come over cause it would start ‘the’ argument. She is touchy, irritable and anxious. Martha is so filled with pressure, she actually is comfortable telling Jesus what to do. ‘Tell her to come and help me!’ Is this you? You feel so stressed you tell God what He needs to do to get on your agenda?
I want you to make the connection. If my life is a struggle, the answer to my struggle is God. Your Christianity is at the feet of Jesus, at peace. If we don’t make that connection, our Christianity is nothing more than being touchy, irritable and anxious. You are like Martha, living in the chaotic blur.
In the book, it explains more about how contemplative spirituality [being with God] and emotional health [being aware of how you love and your feelings] work together. I want to close with a personal story.
I had gone to church all my life and I heard about God’s grace for me but didn’t respond to it. It took me many years, after college, to hear about God’s grace, experience God’s grace and begin to live it out. I was raised in a home where I learned how to be fake, a hypocrite. Not because of my parents, they were awesome but because of my heart, my choices. I acted one way at home and church and another way at school and with my friends. All I wanted was to get out of home, go to college and party. Then all I wanted to was to get out of college and make millions. What I didn’t understand about myself was that I was out of my mind focused on success. I had an inner competitive drive to succeed. I thought that was normal and if you didn’t have that deep drive to succeed you were a loser.
At the same time, I couldn’t understand why I was so angry under the surface. I was over the top competitive. I was so driven. Again, I thought it was normal. If something didn’t go my way, I was furious. One time playing basketball I was so mad I punched the basketball frame and broke my hand.
I hated employee reviews. I couldn’t stand them. I couldn’t deal with the pressure of someone not approving of me. It was humiliating. I was so tense and furious about it.
What I am saying? There was a struggle in my life and I thought the answer to my struggle was everything but God. The answer to me was money and success.
I began going to church and hearing about grace. It was hard to swallow that God loved me. That message of grace took years to believe. I struggled to believe that I was worthy of His love. I began reading books like Abba’s Child that explained that when God saw me, God saw my value. It forever rocked my world. I have to tell you, the book, Abba’s Child bothered me. The biggest reason was the author left to be by himself for months and I thought, that’s stupid, who has time for that? Do you see my conflict? I was driven to succeed. Busy, busy, busy. The answer to my heart condition was coming from a man who was resting with God. Truth is, I was living a ferociously busy life and I wasn’t interested in changing it. To slow down is for losers.
I realized that my drive to succeed, my anger, my need to win, my hate of rejection, all of it, was me wearing a mask. I didn’t want people to know who I really was because I thought they would reject me. Some would call it being a poser. It was a wall between me and God and me and others. My heart was a wreck but I looked great on the outside.
As I walked though church services, reading the bible, praying and reading books, I learned something.
…the highest spiritual development was to be “ordinary.” pg 48 Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning
I learned that in all my striving to be a success or be noticed or be accepted was all a mask. A smoke screen. It was causing serious life issues.
I discovered, through contemplative spirituality [being with God] and emotional health [learning about how I love others and my feelings], I am loved by God. The greatest, most freeing moment of my life was when I understood: I can stop struggling. I can stop trying to be amazing, be noticed, be accepted. I am loved by God. I am free to be myself, free to be ordinary. I can admit I am insecure and God will still love me. I can admit I’m not who I want you to think I am. That is when I learned, I can love and be loved with no walls.
FYI: Please don’t read this or hear it and conclude that I said being driving is wrong. It’s not. I wish more Christians and leaders were more driven. Being driven isn’t wrong, it’s the motivation behind it. If you are driven to validate yourself and hide your wounds, that’s wrong. To be driven to love God and advance His kingdom, that’s awesome.
Have you made the connection? The answer to your struggle in life, is God. We are about to walk into the part of the book that explains how to unleash God in your life to transform you. The warning is this: If you don’t, the beast will pull you away from God and your Christianity will be about 1 inch deep. We don’t want that for you.