Today we are going to continue our big fall series on Pete Scazzero’s book Emotionally Health Spirituality. Oh man, this is such a big deal, and I am very excited to jump into this material with you all. I think by the end of this talk today you will really see why this material is so important for us living in this world that we live in today. There is something special that happens when we can work on and bring together both our spiritual and our emotional health. I can feel so challenged and so inspired as I walk through this material for myself, and I’m very excited to get this stuff into your hands. As I prepared for this message on chapter 3 of the book there was a particular passage of scripture that kept coming to my heart. Couldn’t ignore it, and wanted to share it with you right off the bat here. As we continue in this talk you will hear me refer back to it time and time again. In this scripture you will hear Jesus give us the key to EVERYTHING. Yes, the very key to it all is found right here…
John 15:1 “I am the true vine…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. NIV
How do you react to me saying that is the key to it all? You and I remaining in Jesus. Well, as we work are way through this material, I want Jesus’ words in your heart and in your mind. He is the source of life…we must remain attached to the vine. Now if that is the case, what do you think your enemy wants to do? Yes, your enemy wants you detached from the vine. He never wants to see you growing in Jesus, with the love of Christ flowing into and out of you as it would if you remain in Jesus. This is the secret to everything…this is what the battle in this world centers on, whether or not you will remain in Jesus, or disconnect from the vine. With that said I would like to pray and really jump into this with you today.
You know, it sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? The idea that all I need to do as a Christian is to stay connected to Jesus and I receive the key to life! I mean, sounds good right? Here’s what is so interesting, as simple as this really is and as often as we talk about it. It isn’t easy to stay connected to the vine is it? Why do you think that would be? Why is it so hard to be a Christ follower today? Why do so many Christians struggle to find Jesus, and that whole life to the full thing? Because if we are being really honest today…there aren’t too many Christians who haven’t heard Jesus’ words there before that Jesus is the vine and we should remain in Him. So why aren’t we? To take is a step further why is it that most Christians today are not living bold and free lives, they are living tired and stuck lives. You don’t believe me? Just ask them? They will tell you how busy, tired, and frustrated their lives are! So here’s what is funny about that scripture where Jesus tells you that all you need to do is stay connected to Him. If you have been around church you know it and I’m sure that as I read it you agreed with it. You know it. I know it. God knows it…and you know what, your enemy knows it too. It can be pretty frustrating at times to know in your heart that Jesus came to give us life and life to the full, and to know clearly that the way to gain all of that is by connecting to Him…and then never experience that life in Christ. And another day goes by, then a week, than a year, and then a decade and we pop our heads up from time to time and think…wait, how did I get here! Why am I not connected to the vine? So what is going on? What is it that is preventing us from walking in the clarity and life that we should be living in Christ?
Well that is where we need to start today…because there is something going on that you just need to see. To see what is happening to us, we are going to start in the book of Revelation today! Ha, didn’t think we would go to Revelation to figure this out did you? Well it’s in Revelation that we really see a lot of what our enemy is up to. It’s a pretty amazing scheme that is keeping us from staying attached to the vine. So let’s check this out together starting with a little background on this book.
Couple things about Revelation. I’m not sure there is a book that is more misunderstood than this one in our Bible, and I really need you to see some things here today. John shows us the key to why most Christians are so overwhelmed, tired, and stuck and not standing in their true identity in Christ. John exposes the enemy in a huge way here…but we need to understand it. First, this book was written to Christians who were being badly persecuted Asia (present day Turkey.) Second you need to understand that when John talks of beasts and dragons, it is imagery to help these people and us understand what is going on around them! So with that said let’s check out what John is exposing here!
Revelation 13:1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. 4 Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” NIV
Whoa! Scary right? I mean what is going on here…dragons and beasts and all that comes with it! Well we need to remember John is exposing things with imagery here. The beast symbolizes the Roman Empire which was really setting the culture of the entire world at this time. The world looked at Rome and wanted to be Rome. Rome was the pinnacle of power, wealth, technology and Rome told the world what to do, believe, and really how to live. Basically Rome was the world’s culture itself. It demanded every person’s obedience and allegiance and quite frankly it wasn’t hearing about anyone worshiping some guy named Jesus…you were to fall in line and worship Rome (The Beast) and because of this many Christians were pulling away from their faith. The weight of Rome was crushing, and forced them to make a decision on how they would live. Some tried to stay in the middle ground but we know there is no such thing. Basically by being a Christian you were giving up your life in the Roman Empire…it was tough! The entire world basically threatening these people to disconnect from the vine (Jesus.) John talks of a dragon who gave authority to the beast, who do you think the dragon is that is running the show of the cultural beast that John is talking about here? Yeah, you guessed it…Satan. Basically John is saying that the enemy was using the culture of the world which was Rome to cut them off from Jesus! Who is the vine in which we must remain to have life…the enemy’s goal is just to simply cut that off.
Ok so you may be thinking, Sam where are you headed today? You are talking about beasts and dragons in Revelation but how does that really affect me? I mean this isn’t 90 A.D. and I’m not being oppressed by the Roman Empire the way those people were! Well we need to see this, while the Roman Empire has come and gone, the beast is still prowling around today…as is the dragon who unleashed the beast in the first place. Ok, so it’s not the Roman Empire that is setting the tone of culture today…but our culture, the world that you and I live in today, well I would argue that the beast is bigger, and stronger, and pushing harder than ever before. The issue often times is that we don’t realize that we are even opposed let alone that there is a beast trying to cut us off from Jesus. I think it’s easier for the beast than ever before to cut us off from the vine. Frankly the biggest challenge may actually be recognizing the beast and the enemy and what they are up to. I think this would be easier if it was a real dragon and a real beast…at least we could see the danger coming, because most of us are unaware that the enemy is even at work, or that we are become further and further separated from the vine which is Jesus.
Culture is pushing in on us harder than it ever has before. We have more connectivity. We have more technology, busier and busier lives, less and less time to think and focus and I believe the scariest thing going on today is that we walk through life and never realize what the beast is doing. Think about all of the things culture pushes on us today, and just how opposite culture’s ways are from the ways of God…let’s name a few:
- Do whatever feels good, and how dare you tell me not to!
- Happiness is found in things and possessions
- Get what you can when and while you can
- God is irrelevant today
- Sin doesn’t exist…basically how can it be wrong if it feels good (see the first one there)
- Stay focused on you and what you are doing…you are the center of the story!
- Live for today, there is nothing coming later!
The scariest thing about the beast is the lies are getting louder and louder and we don’t recognize the schemes of our enemy for what they are. For most of us we are just kind of in survival mode…living in a fog of getting things done and functioning our way through another busy day. We get up eat, drink, work, watch TV, gets the kids around to their stuff, get to our own stuff, maybe do the church thing, then sleep…wake up and repeat. Day after day, just living the day out getting through another day of stuff to do. Life is so busy with so much clutter. We move at warp speed, bouncing from thing to thing. We are busy, distracted, multi-tasking, stressed and so, so tired and in all of it we never stop and realize that we have been cut off from the vine very intentionally by our culture (the beast) and we wonder why we feel stuck as Christians today. It’s all about us staying connected to Jesus, and your enemy is doing his best to cut you off from the vine! Frankly it’s not that hard for him to do in the culture that we live in today.
You know even as we talk about this right now, here in a service where we should be completely focused on God, there are a million thoughts that can fly through our minds! Even with someone as interesting as me talking it’s so easy to have our minds wandering all over the place isn’t it? J Amazing how hard it is to focus, and not think about the next list of things you need to jump into today isn’t it? Make no mistake about this, the beast is alive today and bigger than ever before and here’s what is so interesting. The busier you are. The more you have to do. The more exhausted you become…and the less deliberate and focused you become. As all of the world pushes in, what is the first thing that goes? More often than not it’s our time with God…do you see it? You know life comes from remaining in Jesus and staying connected to the vine, yet life keeps happening at a faster and faster pace, and the next thing you know years have gone by and you are no longer connected to the vine. Amazing isn’t it? It’s so hard to be deliberate, and live intentional and focused and God centered lives in this world, but that is what we need! More than just walking blindly through each day checking off all the boxes of functionality for that day and moving on to the next one! We are called to so much more than a haze of clutter and stressful days just crossing off the next day on our calendars. So something has to change here.
This is why we are really inviting you into this journey of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This journey will allow us to break free from the beast and allow us to walk freely through a culture that is constantly pushing against us. I talk to you all the time about the challenges of walking God’s way…it’s so opposite, it’s like walking against the current of a stream but it’s so rewarding. You can live opposite of the ways of this world. You can live a life that is centered on Jesus. A life that is deliberate, intentional, and full of the kind of love that only comes from a relationship with Him! This happens as we begin to work on both our Spiritual health and our emotional health. This is what the chapter we are looking at today would call the Radical Antidote. A transformation that takes place in the deepest parts of who we are! When we engage these two areas of our lives we get to live very differently and while there is so much more information in the book, today I want to really highlight three awesome gifts we receive as we engage this journey of Emotional Health and Spiritual Health. The first one is so huge…and again, so counter-cultural. I would like to take a look at each one of these gifts with you today, and show you from both the spiritual and emotional side, what is going on…such good stuff.
- The Gift of Slowing Down. Would you look at slowing down as a gift? I think many of us would say we would, but if we are honest, we see no way in the world to ever slow down. Which is such a lie, you have the time…now you may not want to admit that you have the time because that would make you appear less important or valuable by the beasts standards…but this is both a gift, and an essential step. We have an enemy who is intentional. Yet we are not intentional because we are just too busy…this isn’t a fair fight then with him is it? It’s like taking candy from a baby. When we slow down we can center our lives again (or maybe for the first time), we can breathe…as we work through the book you will see so many benefits of this gift coming out of us. I believe this is where we do the most important work of taking care of our souls. Slowing down is so important…remember the beast has simply pushed you into a crazy busy culture which allowed him to cut you off from the vine! Slowing down is such a gift, but it takes time, it takes emotional and spiritual health to figure out how to simply slow down. Check out this line from the book
“Emotional health and contemplative spirituality together are powerful enough to slow us down. But the issue isn’t simply slowing down. You may be slowing down, but the real question is, are you paying attention to God? Emotional health and contemplative spirituality call us to reflection so that we might listen to God and to ourselves.” EHS page 48
Did you catch that? Intentionality, being deliberate, paying attention…all hard to do, even as we try to slow ourselves down. So let’s look at a very famous story about two sisters and their time with Jesus.
Luke 10:38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” NIV
This story lets us look at the gift of slowing down spiritually. Look, we have heard this story before right? But in it between these two sisters we see two very different ways to live a Christian life. First we see Martha, who’s problem is bigger than just busyness…her life is not centered. She is so focused on tasks and what needs done that she is distracted and missing out on Jesus…so much so that she is even trying to tell Jesus what to do! Mary is the opposite, she is there focused on and centering on Jesus…which drives Martha nuts, but Jesus points out that Mary has chosen what matters. Mary is attaching to the vine, while Martha is not because of everything that needs done!
Let’s look at the gift of slowing down emotionally. From an emotional stand point slowing down isn’t easy. It is a journey, that takes time and over time we begin to get things centered well. The biggest product of slowing down emotionally is that we can begin to live a life of love! That life of love that we hear about so often in our Christian journey! As we slow down we become more and more aware of others! We gain love as we gain rest and margin because the fog of busy is lifting! We pull away from self-centeredness just through this gift…we slow down, we breathe, we create time and space to be a person again, and the weight the beast puts on us begins to lift! Over the upcoming weeks we will dive so much deeper into very intentional practices that allow us to slow down from daily moments with God to Sabbath rest and on and on it will go. All of those practices will take time, effort, and most importantly intentionality. Slowing down isn’t easy to do, but it may be the greatest thing you can do for yourself, and frankly for your loved ones and those around you as well!
- The Gift of Anchoring in God’s Love. Ok we have talked a lot today about how our culture (the beast) pushes in on us…but this really one really hits my heart. Just how many lies and hurts are coming at us each and every day and if we aren’t careful we will not see these as lies or hits from the enemy but reality…just another reason to live intentionally and another reason why your enemy never wants you to live intentionally and focused where you could discern what these lies are as they come at you. We live in a world that lies through hurts, people, our mistakes and our pasts all the time. The enemy is constantly trying to get us to agree with this junk. I want to look at some of these lies with you today.
- I am a mistake.
- I am a burden.
- I am stupid.
- I am worthless.
- I am not allowed to make mistakes.
- I must be approved by certain people to feel okay…and those people never accept me.
- I don’t have the right to assert myself, or say what I think and feel.
- I don’t have the right to feel.
- I am valued based on what I do, not for who I am.
This world is a brutal place and it is amazing how many Christians who are to be living victorious and free lives, live believing these lies about themselves. It is heart breaking to think how difficult life can be and just how many people are struggling to rest and anchor themselves in God’s love. If we aren’t careful these lies can become our reality in our own perceptions and minds. Let’s look at another well-known story about a young man who found himself in this exact spot.
Luke 15:11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. NIV
The prodigal son went off and made a real mess of things didn’t he? He is crushed, and came to some conclusions about who he now was because of those mistakes. He now viewed himself as less. So many of us do this, we hear these lies come at us and we agree with them…but they are not the truth. This man thought he wasn’t worthy to be called son, and asked his father for a job…and what is the father’s response? It must have shocked a young man so twisted up in his hurts, mistakes, and past. None of what he thought was true, as we see with his father’s reaction…
Luke 15:20 “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. NIV
Wow…imagine being this young man, and realizing that the love of his father was far beyond what he assumed or agreed that it would be. He felt like less, but that wasn’t who he actually was. Oh man does this hit so close to home for us all. Emotional health actually helps us to see who we actually are! It helps us to see our true identity! It allows us to anchor in just how amazingly loved we are by God…regardless of all the sin, lies, mistakes, and hurts that this world throws at us. Because we are anchored in this gift of God’s love we have a much more biblical self-view that looks like this:
- I hold myself in high regard despite of my imperfections and limits
- I am worthy to assert my God-given power in the world.
- It is good that I exist!
- I have my own identity from God that is distinct and unique.
- I am worthy of being valued and paid attention to.
- I am entitled to joy and pleasure!
- I am entitled to make mistakes and not be perfect!
Emotional health powerfully anchors me in the love of God by affirming that I am worthy of feeling, worthy of being alive, and lovable even when I am brutally honest about being the good, the bad, and the ugly deep beneath the surface of my own life. (EHS page 54)
Spiritually speaking when we anchor in God’s love we begin to grow and mature! We grow out of a selfish “give me, give me” attitude with God into a more mature and deep relationship with God where we begin to enjoy our time with our Heavenly Father. It’s a progression that takes us from shallow religious prayers, and things that we do to get something from God into a place where listen to God’s voice and eventually takes us to a place where we enjoy being with God and are focused and aware of God all day long even as we walk through the beast’s culture. This is far more important than any particular activity we might do with Him. It’s His very presence that makes all of life fulfilling. This is when the enemy has no hold on you anymore! This is us fully connected to the vine! Which I told you was the key to all of this right?
- The Gift of Breaking Free from Illusions. The world is full of illusion and false claims, where the beast will scream that things are true that just aren’t! We convince ourselves that we just can’t live without certain people, places, or things in our lives…none of which is true. We become attached to things that we just should not be attached to. We think that if we just accomplish more or do this or that, then we will be satisfied rather than finding full satisfaction in God! This leads to us living busier, working harder to obtain more and really just running ourselves into the ground to gain things that just don’t work. It may lead to us having a lot of things…but it will never satisfy the way we are tricked into thinking it will…and it just leads to wanting more. When we grow spiritually and emotionally it gives us perspective on the limits of earthly pleasures, relationships, and accomplishments. We become grounded in the reality of God and we gain perspective on what reality actually is…it’s so counter-cultural…it’s literally pushing back against all the world tells you that you need, should have, or desire to go for what matters eternally. We will really be jumping into how to break free from these things as the series moves along…but more than anything I needed us to see somethings today.
First we need to understand that there are some amazing gifts out there for us if we can look at both our spiritual AND our emotional health. Slowing down just sounds refreshing doesn’t it? Anchoring and centering on God’s love is something I pray for each day…and lastly breaking free from the cultural illusions of today. There is a peace in all of them and they are all ours as we begin to focus, and be intentional in the areas of our emotional and spiritual health.
The second thing you need to see is what our enemy is up to. Satan is very intentionally using this culture of today against you. Many of us aren’t living super focused and intentional lives, and I want you to understand something about that today…just because you aren’t paying attention doesn’t mean the enemy gives you a free pass on his attacks on your life. It just makes you an easier target. We live in a world that is intentionally busying and cluttering and stressing up your life so that you disconnect from Jesus. Jesus exposed everything about this spiritual battle in the scripture we started this talk with today about Him being the vine and your enemy knows it and is working hard to cut you off from the vine and the best way to do it is just to push and push and push this world to busyness, distraction, and just having life happen…it doesn’t look like a fight then right? It’s just life. Do you see it? Do you see the scheme of your enemy? Do you grasp the key to all of this? It isn’t a new thought for you today, the key to all of this is Jesus.
John 15:1 “I am the true vine…4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you.
In the end this spiritual war is being fought over what Jesus is talking about right here. You are to stay connected to the vine. You know this scripture though don’t you? Jesus didn’t keep this secret and says it pretty plainly here! But can I tell you something? Your enemy knows this too…and he is using this world around you to squeeze and push in on and hurt and distract you so that you never even realize that he has cut you off from Jesus. That’s his whole goal to separate you from the vine. It’s time to get focused and intentional and realize what the enemy is up to! It is so scary to think how quickly time goes by, and how days turn to years crossed off the calendar…and if we aren’t careful a lifetime goes by and we never realized our full potential in Christ. We never lived that life to the full out! It’s time to get intentional about this and engage Jesus, hold onto Him and remain in Him from this day forward! Let’s get intentional, let’s get focused, and let’s hold fast to the vine!
It can start for you right now! Don’t let that sneaky beast cut you off from all that Jesus came to give you! If you want a personal relationship with Jesus…we want to talk to you today!