EHS-GraphicIt is really hard to believe that this series on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality is coming to an end.  I will say that this teaching, and these books couldn’t have hit my life at a better time.  So there are a lot of reasons that I’m sad to see this one go but here we are at the conclusion of this powerful series where hopefully you have had a chance to engage and bring some real practical handles into your life that would allow you to not only realize how much our emotional health ties to our spiritual health, but also we are hopeful that you are able to do something that allows you to move forward differently in your life.  It’s amazing how many Christians have decided that by simply asking Jesus into their lives they should be ok…and they are never willing to engage their heart condition or their issues…yes their sins are forgiven, but there is still stuff there that needs healing and closure to move forward differently in life.  It’s amazing how Christians ignore or stuff their emotions thinking that somehow as a Christian they should not have them, in an effort to either feel holy, or maybe more importantly look perfect even if they know deep down they aren’t.  So it’s our deepest hope that you have taken all this information, all this truth, using all these tools apply some new ideas and disciplines into your life.  That really is our prayer for you, that you engage these areas of your life and can live differently because of all the different tools we put in your hands.  In so many ways this series has challenged us, stretched our faith and hopefully allowed us to think and act differently moving forward.  Let’s face it there has been many challenges in this series for you and I to take home and apply to our lives!  Let’s look back for a moment at some of the fun we had throughout this series.

We started with Ken opening up the series talking about Tip-Of-The-Iceburg-Spirituality which is where we see a lot of people stay.  The idea is that what you see above the surface of our lives isn’t even a quarter of what is below the surface, and to transform our lives we need to go beneath the surface and engage that stuff.  If you think about that, many people would just rather not “go there” right?  I believe you heard this theme over the next 8 weeks of the series as we challenged you, and as we looked at how easy it is for us people to keep things shallow in our relationships, with God and others rather than engage into things on a deeper level.  It is simply easier to stay on the surface but God wants us whole and healed and growing towards Him.  Then we exposed the 10 symptoms of Unhealthy Emotionally Spirituality, because the key to transforming our lives is seeing the issues that need dealt with…if we don’t see the needs in our lives, why would we change anything right?  We talked about the Radical Antidote to all these issues, and that particular Sunday really became the trigger to slowing down, thinking, and engaging God in a new way and it felt like that particular Sunday was the hinge point to action for the rest of the series because from there on out this series really hit us right where we live…it was a challenge to spend time with God, to rest, to go back into our past and find healing, to explore and think about our emotions.  It was a challenge to grow as people…and on and on it went and it just seemed to get deeper, and more challenging each week which can be exciting can’t it!?!?

Well now that I think about it, we have been pushing in on you a lot lately.  I mean we have been giving you a lot to do around here lately haven’t we?  Since the beginning of November we have really been challenging you to give financially and to tithe consistently.  We have all kinds of ways to serve over the holidays here in our community from Operation Christmas Child donations, to engaging New Hope’s Blessings Express and that was just during hosting parts of our Sunday morning!  Then during the teaching we have been challenging you to engage into this series, read a book, well not just one book but that book has another smaller book and Sam asked me two weeks ago to read that twice a day, on top of the book and all the other stuff!  We have been asked to read the bible, spend time thinking, engage in Sabbath, send time with God twice a day, look at our emotions, engage the past to move forward in a healthy way and on and on it goes and frankly I think for a lot of us we can look at everything MRC is asking of me and think good grief guys, why do you keep giving me things to do?  So as bummed as I am for this series to end you may be relieved because for some of you this may have just felt like a giant list of things to do but today I want to talk about why you may feel that way.  Today I want to look at why we would ask you to do things, and more importantly why something like this series, or a personal relationship with God which can completely transform your life can feel more like work instead of feeling like joy to engage into a life with God.  None of this stuff should feel like oppression on your soul, but it should excite you because you are moving towards life change, I mean after all Jesus said about his teaching…

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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.” NIV

That yoke that Jesus is talking about is his teaching, and it’s supposed to be easy and light.  So why doesn’t it feel that way?  Well this is exactly how I want to end the series today.

Most of you know that I have four children two boys and two girls and I will tell you I love my four children and am extremely proud of them.  It’s amazing to me how different they all are though.  They all have different physical features, different gifts, and different challenges are presented with each of them.  So here’s the way it went for Mashawn and I as we had children.  Monica and Jaden (my oldest daughter and son) were very well behaved and frankly they were just easy on me as a father.  I have told you before I could take them anywhere, and do anything with them.  It was a breeze.  I would walk through the stores, or through a crowded ball game.  I would take them to parks and busy areas and there they were, right there with me…it was effortless.  They were so good.  I would kind of chuckle at the poor guy that couldn’t keep his children under control.  I would be in Giant watching a child making his poor parents look foolish while Monica, Jaden and I just strolled on by, and I would think to myself.  I just must be an amazing parent.  Maybe I should right books about this stuff because I am an amazing father…and then let’s just say my life changed when Trey came into the world.  I want to tell you Trey is an amazing young man with a huge heart, but all of a sudden I was the guy with the child pitching a fit in the store.  I was the parent that couldn’t go out into public safely anymore, and I really felt like as God wove Trey together and designed Him, he was giggling a little at how many pegs Trey was about to knock me down when he arrived.  Trey humbled me and I’m convinced that God created Trey to make sure I understood somethings about myself…again Trey is a treat in so many ways, but he really struggles with the things we give him to do and I mean it’s a really oppressive list of things to do.  Like before you play video games after school you need to have your homework done.  Which is met with groans and agony and the reactions of a filter-less young man.  When you play lacrosse or basketball you need to be respectful of your coaches and the other players.  Here’s a tough one, don’t throw your little sister across the room.  Crazy things like eat healthy foods not just bags of Doritos for supper and engage into the Bible, and pray and on and on the list goes and to Trey everything I ask my son to do is work.  You would think I ask him to push the ocean back with a broom, by simply asking him to do things that will only benefit him in the end.  For Trey it’s like I have set the world against him at times.  It’s a giant list of things that he could just never accomplish.  So it always feels like work to him…why?  I’m his dad.  I love him!  I don’t mean to crush him with this stuff.  Well it’s hard for Trey because Trey wants to do what Trey wants to do when Trey wants to do it and here’s what he misses in all of the big, bad to do’s that I have for him to do.  I love him and I know that by doing his homework, eating well, resting well, and not physically assaulting people on the lacrosse field or off of it for that matter that he is better for it all, but it’s so hard for Trey to understand that because again, Trey wants to live life his way right now, in the moment of that day with no understanding of how any of it would effect tomorrow.

You know, it’s really no different for you and I when it comes to our lives with God.  Hopefully we have better filters than Trey does in our responses but it really is no different.  God asks us and in some areas commands us to do certain things.  We come to church and we hear that we should give financially, serve people, and jump into all these things that Ken and Sam are saying we should do like spend time with God, rest, and on and on it goes and we think to ourselves…great another thing to do.  It feels oppressive and it feels like an obstacle.  It does not feel free and light like Jesus said it should feel.  Can I tell you why that is, well I think I will just let Paul do it…

Romans 7:21 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22 I truly delight in God’s commands, 23 but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. MSG

This is the first and primary challenge for us to engage into all that God asks us to do without it feeling like work.  Paul explains that we have two natures battling inside us.  We have a will.  We have this thing in us that continues to want to do what we want to do when we want to do it, just like my son Trey and even when we know that the way to a different life, to a BETTER life, to true healing is found in God.  Even though we would acknowledge that his rules are in place to make us better people.  Even though there isn’t a person in here that would argue with me that rhythmic and consistent time with God and rest for your souls is a big deal that would lead to a better life for you…when we ask you to engage these things it still feels hard.  It feels more like work than a free and light thing to do, and that is because we have a will to do what we want, when we want.  This is a huge obstacle keeping us from a truly transforming relationship with God…because engaging him can feel so oppressive and God’s rules can seem so restrictive, and inconvenient.  Do you see it?  Until you break free and spend time with God, you may never get past the “work” of it all, to get to a place like where King David got to here, where we treasure his commands, finding joy in what God asks us to do…

Psalm 119:9 How can a young person stay pure?  By obeying your word and following its rules. 10 I have tried my best to find you — don’t let me wander from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  12 Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your principles. 13 I have recited aloud all the laws you have given us. 14 I have rejoiced in your decrees as much as in riches.  15 I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. 16 I will delight in your principles and not forget your word. NLT

So David actually says that he delights in God rules…not only delights in them but really desires them and is as happy with them as he is with all of his wealth and treasure!  How in the world does that happen…I mean who delights in laws and rules?  Well here’s the thing, David understands something.  He gets that all of God’s rules aren’t there to hurt him or to over whelm him and destroy him as a person, they are set in place for Him out of pure love for him because David knows God well enough to know that God loves Him and wants what is best for him.  David has fully submitted to God’s will in every way and that is why David doesn’t see his relationship with God or the things God asks him to do as work.  He understands that God loves him and that is why God asks him to do certain things, because it is best for him.  This is so similar to me with my son Trey…now his response isn’t like David’s, but why I ask him to do certain things is because I know that it is what is best for him.  The struggle for Trey is that he still wants to do what he wants when he wants so he pushes back on me…it really is no different for you and I when it comes to what God asks us to do.  Now we don’t moan and groan and kick and scream like Trey does, that would look weird for us adults…but what we do is just struggle to engage Him, and we continue to do life our way…regardless of what it is doing to us as people, or regardless to how it can hurt us over time.  Do you see it?  We are asked by God to obey his laws.  We are asked by God to walk in a relationship with Him, to walk in step with the God of the Universe, and to live a life that brings more life each and every day as we engage him in the way He asks.  The reason it is so hard is because we have a will, and we struggle just like Paul told us to get to a place like David did where we celebrate and rejoice because of God’s rules.  This is the number one obstacle that you face when you sit in a 10 week series that could lead you to a transformed life in every way.  This is why it feels like work to simply get out of bed on a Sunday morning and come to church.  This is why giving financially and engaging Your Heavenly Father can feel like such a daunting task.  This is why it feels like such an inconvenience in your life to engage the books, and the tools we give you to change your life for the good.  This is why the air comes out of the room when we ask you to engage into Sabbath rest where you would literally take 24 hours of your week and focus on God, and have fun to refresh your soul and engage another week.  It’s because we people want to do what we want to do when we want to do it.  The number one reason this series and all the transformation talks are such a challenge is because we have a will to do what we want to do when we want to do it and there is only one way this changes, it is through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives…we need Jesus.  Let’s go back to Paul for a minute…

Romans 7:21 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. 22 I truly delight in God’s commands, 23 but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. 24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? 25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. MSG

So we need Jesus…this is the only answer to this problem that we have.  The answer is Jesus.  Jesus can and does and has set things right with God for us.  This means that we can serve God fully, so yes this is a challenge but there is a solution and that solution is Jesus.  We must get past the big ‘to do list’ feel to all of this and realize this is more intimate and loving that it is about rigid and robotic rule following…this is all about God’s amazing love for us.  Just as a father loves his son or daughter, your heavenly Father love you.  Listen, you are His child so he does have things for you to do, but not out of obligation or to just inconvenience you or to ruin your day but because God (who is all knowing) knows what is best for you and knows how to give you all that you can be.  This is why David is excited to follow God’s commands, because he spends time with God and is wrapping his mind around something that is so hard to wrap our minds around…that God loves us!

So for a lot of us the idea of God’s love for us and the fact that it ties to God’s rules and things He asks us to do may be a new thought.  I know it’s a simple one but I think for a lot of us we grew up in churches where the focus wasn’t really on God’s gift of grace as much as it was on what we do.  What sins we commit.  So we grew up in a church that kept the focus on what you do and what you don’t do.  They were so focused on the laws and sin, that God as a loving Father is hard to picture or understand.  God was more of the hammer right?  So the focus was sin rather than grace…and a lot of us grew up in churches finding our salvation under the guide of a Sunday School teacher who led us to this point…  “Johnny think this through, do you want to burn in the blazing pits of hell in eternal torture, or would you like to be in a pretty castle in the sky for all of eternity with your mommy and daddy?”  We were scared right into heaven!  So we grew up with very rigid rules, and lists of ‘do’s and don’t do’s’ and the focus was on the religious hoops that you need to jump through to not burn in hell, it was more about fear and guilt rather than on what it should be which is the amazing, unconditional love of God who through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross GIVES us the gift of eternal life.  So we grew up in churches that made it more about what we needed to do for God rather than what it really looked like for us to BE with God.  We grew up not understanding grace, and love and mercy and well.  Frankly, we grew up not understanding Christianity which is the idea that I am not perfect, and never will be but am made perfect by the amazing work of Jesus…it’s not about what I do…it’s about what He does.  This is a very different way to think and live and for many of us it’s a hard thing to wrap our mind around because we have years of unlearning to go through to get to a place where our faith is more in the beauty of the relationship with God rather than all the things we need to do for Him.  God loves you as a father loves his child.  Jesus did everything for you.  So the things he asks of us aren’t oppressive, and should not be work, they are meant for our good.  Which is a challenging thing for us who grew up in a world where religion was more the focus rather than relationship with our Heavenly Father.  This is why spending time with God feels overwhelming and inconvenient and like work.  This is why giving, praying, serving seem more like work than a joy.  This is why we don’t like hearing about the 10 commandments or God’s law because we don’t see the beauty of the relationship.  We have learned a difficult lesson to unlearn that it is more about doing for God rather than being with God…but you must remember this, Jesus did the doing for us and through Jesus we get to enter into a pure relationship with our Heavenly Father…Jesus becomes the key, the answer, and the focal point of everything.  We must be with Him and when we can do that…what God asks us to do isn’t work anymore.  I just felt like there was one place in the Bible we had to close this series down and its Jesus words here in John 15…

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. NIV

This is something I really want us to sit in today.  This is an incredible illustration and it is something we need to understand because it is so clearly stated here.  Jesus is the vine and we are the branches which means that Jesus is the source of life.

Vs 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 

Jesus is saying that he is the source of life and if we stay connected to Him we are connected to life.  We must remain in Him, connected to the vine to engage into the real source of life.  I know I take you there almost every time I preach, but Jesus told you this is why He came to this world…

John 10:10  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV

So Jesus came to give us life to the full and that life is found in Him.  If we stay connected to the vine we stay connected to the source of life but for so many of us just simply being with God is challenging.  It’s inconvenient, and it just, well it doesn’t fit into our schedule very easily.  But Jesus would say it’s bigger than inconvenience it’s literally a matter of life and death!  We must stay connected to the vine not out of work or obligation or to gain our salvation even, but to stay connected to real life in Jesus.  This is such a big deal…life is found in Jesus.  Our solution to every issue, sin, challenge, and test in our life is Jesus.  He is the way to God.

1 John 5:10 Whoever believes in the Son of God inwardly confirms God’s testimony. Whoever refuses to believe in effect calls God a liar, refusing to believe God’s own testimony regarding his Son. 11 This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. 12 So, whoever has the Son, has life; whoever rejects the Son, rejects life. MSG

So can I ask you a question today?  Are you connected to the vine?  Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?  If you haven’t maybe today is that day for you.  If you have and you acknowledge everything I have told you today about God as your Heavenly Father and about Jesus as your absolute source of life and you are not engaging God can I ask you why?  Why is it so difficult to stay connected to the vine which you would tell me is your source of life?

So yes, over the last ten weeks we have given you a lot of things to do and the challenge of it all for us who love you and for you as people is that what you do next is completely up to you.  We aren’t laying out a big to do list of things to clutter up your day more, and to heap more onto your already  overwhelming schedule…we aren’t asking you to engage these things to ruin your day.  We love you.  And we are simply showing you God’s path to true transformation in your life.  Is some of it challenging, yes!  It is challenging to give over every aspect of our lives to God from our finances, to our future, to our time, but think through why it is so tough.  It’s because in the end I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it…even if what I’m doing hurts me in the long run we decide it’s ok because it feels really good right now!  It’s no different than my relationship with my son Trey, “yes son I know, I do have things for you to do, and in the moment you may not want to do them…but they will help you along the way.”

Now if he fights me do I love him less?  If he groans and moans and struggles do I love him less?  If he messes up doing things or doesn’t do them to his best ability does that change our relationship?  No, regardless of what he does he is my son, and that love is beyond anything he does.  Do you see it?  It’s the same with you and God, you are His son or daughter and there isn’t anything that you can do to change His love for you.  But there are things you can do to enhance, transform and grow as a person which is His ultimate goal and we clearly know where it’s found.  It’s found in the vine.  Jesus is the source of life.

So are you connected to the vine?  As we have walked through a series devoted to transforming your life through following Jesus, and engaging your heart have you seen movement towards spiritual and emotional maturity?  It all starts and ends with this one idea…your relationship with God is not work!

Listen to me here…it’s not in the way, it is the way, and that way is Jesus.

The more connected to the vine you become the more life you have.  The more you understand the beauty of God’s laws and the more essential your time with Him becomes and it all starts with understanding the difference between doing for God and being with God.  One of those two ways of living sounds like a lot of fun.  One of those ways leads to life to the full, and we love you enough to ask you to engage into that type of life.

So where are you at today?  Are you ready to live life differently?  There is a path that we have laid out for you, and while there are things to do along the way, and there always will be, life…real life can be found in Jesus…prior to Jesus there was no clear path to God, now you have an open door, and complete access to a pure relationship with God through His son!

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. NIV

Ask yourself the question of the day…are you connected to the vine?  If not the door is wide open for you to do so, regardless of who you are, and regardless of what you have done or what you have not done you can enter into and connect to the source of life today.

What happens next is completely up to you.