Today we continue this journey into Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by talking about something that I know that we all have in common.  Regardless of who you are or where you have been we all have come from somewhere.  We all have a past.  We all, regardless of how different the background is…have a background and a family of origin and today we are going to take a look at the importance of going back and dealing with that past.  I know, this sounds messy, maybe a little painful, and frankly it may be something that you think is easier to just not to deal with at all, but I’m not sure there is anything more important for us to engage into and gain freedom from than the cycles of hurt and patterns of unhealth that can follow a family from one generation to the next.  So listen, I want you tracking with me today, and I want to discuss just how much the past can shape your actions today, but we need to be able to see it, not only see it but we need to be open to it, not only open to it but then actually willing to do something about it, which isn’t easy, and can feel…well, let’s just say it can feel uncomfortable.  This is so important, for you and your loved ones, and even for generations of your family line to come!  So this is going to be a bit challenging for us, because when it comes to our families and our pasts sometimes it seems easier to just ignore it and never look back.  Listen, the reality is that you may have been carrying some things around for so long that they just feel like part of who you are at this point…and today, we will talk about getting rid of that weight that we can be carrying for years and years, never realizing it at times.  It’s amazing how much of our views and thoughts and perspectives are shaped by the lives we have lived…and who we have lived them with.  It’s also amazing what can happen when we find freedom from this stuff.  So this is a big topic today…a challenge topic, and frankly it is something we all deal with so just know that you are not alone in this, we all deal with it, we are all in this together.

So if you remember a couple of weeks ago I gave you the key to everything right?  Do you remember that?  Jesus actually gave us the key, I just brought it up and showed it to you.  It’s a very popular scripture but in it we see the key to our lives, to spiritual warfare, everything the enemy is trying to keep us from.  It’s found in Jesus’ words 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

Everything we need to know is found right there in Jesus’ words.  We need to remain in Him…we must stay connected to the vine.  We also understand from this that our enemy really has one goal, and that goal is to disconnect us from the vine.  The entire spiritual battle is found and being fought over whether or not you will stay connected to Jesus, who is the vine.  We also talked about a beast and a dragon do you remember that?  Well the beast is our culture…it’s the ways of this world, and the dragon was Satan who is giving the authority to this world to work against you in every way.  The enemy is lying to you all the time and trying to get you disconnected from the vine using busy schedules, cultural pressures, sins…but mostly by lying to you about who you are and using the world to hopefully get you to agree that you are something you are not.  This is what the enemy is up to, he wants us to make agreements with the lies that we are less than who God created us to be.  If we believe the lies, we are separated from the vine, we never stand in our true selves and we never experience the life to the full that Jesus said he came to give us.  Everything is about you and I staying connected to Jesus allowing us to stand in our true identity and living our true lives!

So that really became the entry point into this journey of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality which Ken and Kim spoke to us about last week.  They were in a topic that I think could be an entire sermon series, the idea is that we need to know ourselves so that we can know God.  In that talk Ken and Kim were able to really start walking us deeper and deeper into this journey of Emotional and Spiritual Health by really grabbing a hold of something we all have that can be a challenge to deal with, our emotions.  So last week really was the beginning of a seven week journey that Ken laid out for you starting last week with the concept that we must be aware of our emotions…and continuing today by looking at our pasts and our families of origin.

I loved Ken’s analogy last week of the engine light in the car, and how our emotions are trying to tell us something, and that something when dealt with can lead to some incredible freedom in our lives but we will have to be vulnerable to take a look at those emotions as they come.  This is a huge step forward in your relationship with God it helps you know you, and may allow you to hear God speaking to you in a brand new way, through your emotions.  Towards the end of the talk Ken read a quote from the book that really hit my heart, and it’s something I really can’t stop thinking about…here’s the quote.

“The vast majority of us go to our graves without knowing who we are.  We unconsciously live someone else’s life, or at least some else’s expectation for us.  This does violence to ourselves, our relationship with God, and ultimately to others.” EHS (Page 66)

I can’t get that thought out of my mind.  We can live our whole lives and never know who we really are…it’s a haunting thought, and it’s so true.  We can without even thinking about it live someone else’s life or at the very least live out their expectations of us…wow.  Think about that…this is what the enemy does!  He’s pushing in on us all the time.  Think of the beast and what it is constantly screaming at you to do; God created you unique, different, and intentionally unlike anyone else, but the world and everyone in it tries to get us to live like everyone else…or at the least like someone else.  What a thought and something I want to talk more about today.  As we expand on this idea today let’s remember the key to all of this.  It’s you and I staying connected to Jesus, while we have an enemy trying to disconnect us from Him.  Many of us disconnect from the vine through thru being pressured or deceived into living out some other person’s life…something for today we will call the “false self.”

There is such a temptation to live a false self, basically to not be who you are or were created to be, this is a huge scheme of the enemy.  He never wants you standing in who you were created to be and he is constantly spitting lies and tempting us to live in our false self.  Satan uses three very powerful temptations to try to get us to live in a false self…he used these same tactics on Jesus too and the beauty is that it’s recorded in our Bible for us to see and learn from!  Jesus was the best at standing in his true identity.  Now remember Jesus knew who he was, shortly before he is tempted by Satan himself, his cousin John baptizes him and as he came up out of the water, God spoke and told everyone Jesus’ value…remember that?

Matt 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” NIV

Coolest thing?  Jesus hadn’t done anything to earn that yet.  Jesus with stood the push to be someone else.  How awesome is it that we have the scouting report of how our enemy written right in our scriptures!  While there is so much to talk about here, I want to focus on how the enemy tempted Jesus…because in this we see the three false identities or masks that the enemy wants us all to wear.

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”  8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”  11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. NIV 

So let’s look at these three temptations, this is so key.

Temptation 1 – I am what I do (Performance) The first thing the enemy tempts Jesus with is saying hey, Jesus if you are who you say you are, tell these stones to become bread.  Interesting right?  Well I’m sure at this point after not eating for 40 days it didn’t sound like the worst idea to make some food here, but it’s bigger than that.  This is the enemy asking Jesus to prove who he is…by doing something.  Remember up to this point he hasn’t really done anything.  His ministry hasn’t started yet.  So no miracles, no saved lives…he could FEEL like less because of this fact right?  Satan is basically tempting him with the idea that He must earn God’s love, do something to prove you have value.  Don’t we feel a very similar pull all the time?  Our culture asks this question of us constantly.  What have you achieved?  How have you proven your value?  What do you do?  Frankly most people think they are valuable if they have done something in work, church, family, school, relationships…whatever it is, the lie is I am what I do…with that lie comes over working ourselves, stress, depression when we aren’t getting it done.  We feel this all the time, but here’s the thing we are not what we do.  We are a children of God.  Jesus understood that and withstood the test.

Temptation 2- I Am What I Have (Possessions)  I’m saving the second actual temptation here for last, but here the enemy takes Jesus to a high mountain and says hey, Jesus look at everything…you can have all of this, just bow down and worship me and I will give you everything you see.  It’s a play on what Jesus doesn’t have, which hits an insecurity that we all deal with doesn’t it?  Satan is like “Jesus look around you at what everyone else has.”  Tell me you don’t feel this same pull in our culture today.  We seem to measure our success often by what we own.  In the end those things are just things, and we know they are not eternal but they pull hard on us, making us feel better when we have them, and feel like less when we don’t.  But Jesus understands something that we must.  We are not defined by what we have.  We are loved by God…such a tough test that culture hits us with each and every day.

Temptation 3- I am What Others Think (Popularity)  Quite frankly this one here is brutal and very popular for all of us.  We want to be liked.  Satan takes Jesus to the temple, a place teaming with people and wants Jesus to jump and show the world who he is…at this point no one would have known him or they at least wouldn’t have thought of him as God in skin he would have just been Jesus the carpenter from Nazareth.  This is such a challenge for us.  Most of us place a really high value on what other people think of us…maybe a higher value than we even realize.  Our self-image really soars when people think well of us, and drops and we can be devastated by criticism.  But this isn’t who we are.  This isn’t where our value is found.  Our value is found in knowing we are loved by God.  When we get that, what others think doesn’t control us anymore…and Jesus gets it, and withstands all three temptations.

“True freedom comes when we no longer need to be somebody special in other people’s eyes because we know we are loveable and good enough.”  EHS (pg 77)

You know so many of us aren’t walking in our true selves.  We have been pressured, assaulted, and pushed into living this other life.  We have put on masks, and maybe don’t even realize it.  I want to keep going here, and look at the life of Jesus.  I want you to see somethings about Jesus and how he lived.

Jesus’ True Self – Jesus was the best at walking in his true self, and we want to be.  There is a lot to learn from him.  It seemed that everyone around Jesus had expectations for what he should do.  They all seemed to want to impose that version of who they thought he should be on him but Jesus never gave in.  He lived in his true self and you know what, he did something in that they may make your head explode…he disappointed a lot of people.  Jesus was so secure in His Father’s love and in himself that he was able to withstand the pressures of life, culture, and people.  I want you to see this…Jesus left his family and their expectations of who he should be as a carpenter’s son and became a centered adult.  You know what that meant?  He disappointed his family.

Mark 3:20 When Jesus returned to the house where he was staying, the crowds began to gather again, and soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him home with them. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. NLT

Jesus disappointed many, including the people he grew up with.  He was teaching there and everyone was listening and they were literally impressed, yet also confused because he is Joseph the carpenters kids from down the street.  Leading Jesus to say this…

Luke 4:24 Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. MSG

He continues and lets them know he is the Messiah and look how his friends in his small town reacted…

28 That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. 29 They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, 30 but he gave them the slip and was on his way. MSG

Jesus disappointed his family.  Jesus disappointed those he grew up with. Jesus even disappointed the twelve disciples because they had an idea in their minds too, of who the Savior would be and what he would do and how it would look…and he was the opposite of all they expected him to be.  Jesus walked in a freedom from this and literally seemed patient and loving with them even as they pushed their expectations on him…didn’t understand him, and even walked away from him.  Jesus disappointed a lot of people, especially the religious leaders of their time.  Men trained to know and identify the Savior when He came, who knew the Bible inside and out…they knew the rules, and what it should look like and raged in anger over who Jesus was to the point of killing him.  In all of the disappointment and all of the pressure and stress, Jesus continued to walk in freedom.  He never put on the masks that this world seem to push on us.  He dealt with tremendous stress, confrontation, and expectations and never gave into it, and seemed to handle it all with a peace and a centeredness that we probably all wish we had even a little bit today.  I mean, whatever it was that allowed Jesus to do that, I want some!  And do you know what you can have it!  It’s what this entire series is about…it’s about a deep transformation that allows you to live in a new kind of freedom from all the pressures of this world.  The pressure to live a life that is not our own is so great, and while it’s awesome that Jesus did it, it seems so hard to do right?  Well this is what we need to talk about today, there are powerful forces that pull on us and work against us and the strongest comes from our past.  It comes from our families and where we came from.  There are powerful generational forces on top of all the other types of warfare that pull against us.  Probably the greatest task in all of growing in our faith is simply standing in our true selves…it’s not easy to do.  I wanted you to see how Jesus stood as who he was, I also wanted you to see how everything seemed to push against Him doing that…right into his own family and closest friends.

How did that hit your heart when I read earlier that Jesus disappointed his own family?  Did it resonate with you today?  Well today we look at cutting some of the most difficult ties in our lives.  We are going backwards so that we can finally take new steps forwards in our true selves.  So as we started this talk today I told you that I know that everyone in this room has something in common right?  We all came from somewhere but what you may not realize is how much where you came from, (your family, upbringing, and history) can influence how you are living today and that is something that we must look at if we are going to stand in our true self.  Listen, there really is no bigger topic for us to get into but you are going to have to be open to it.  Why do I say that?  Because a lot of us carry hurts, baggage, issues from our parents, from generational sins from the past…and we need to see it, identify it and move forward from it.  Listen, all that stuff we carry with us is shaping how we are acting today.  It is shaping how we view people, it messes with our relationships, and even how we view God…and here is the thing people really don’t want to discuss about the idea of looking into all of this stuff…it’s messy.  It can hurt.  Say you are in this room today and you are 40 years old, that means that you can have baggage that you have carried for 30 or more years, there is probably part of you that doesn’t want to touch it, because in some weird way it has become part of you but in breaking free from it all, you can have freedom and joy and that life to the full that we keep hearing about.  Maybe it’s not about the hurts and baggage you carry that bothers you, it could be this…Your parents, and their parents, and their parents before them have shaped you, and told you over the years what your reality is, as a child growing up their view right or wrong becomes your reality and then you pass it down the line.  It shapes the lens by which you look through things as normal and maybe just maybe what you think is normal isn’t normal!  Sometimes that is a hard thing to wrap your mind around.  Could it really be that your parents had hurts and wounds and insecurities and damage that they were working through too?  They did their best to parent you but lived in their own mess, just as their parents did before them…now think that through.  This could mean that some of what they taught you may not exactly be the truth about reality.  This is a challenging thing for us to wrap our minds around becomes we have determined it to be true…and it may not be.  It’s almost relearning of life in some ways.  So we are really going to need to open up our minds and our hearts to this concept today because there is tremendous freedom when we can go backward and find healing in our past which can allow us to move forward in a much healthier way.  It is amazing how much hold our pasts can have on us but what’s cool is there is freedom from it…it doesn’t have to be that way, just as Jesus showed us in the way he lived on this Earth.

So here’s what I want to do today I want to show you a couple of Biblical truth’s that we need to look at and then I want to share a story and end very similar to how I ended last week, with a question and a time of prayer which again will come right out of the Day by Day book.  So let’s hit these truths.

Biblical Truth #1-The blessings and sins of our families going back 3 and 4 generations profoundly impact who we are today.  When the bible uses the word family it refers to your entire extended family over three or four generations.  Do you know what that means?  That means that your family in the Biblical sense includes all your relatives going back into the mid to late 1800’s!  Look back into your family and you will be amazed at how certain events in your family’s history affect so much of who you are today.  What happens in the first generation often repeats itself in the next and the consequences of those actions and decisions from one generation actually can affect the next, and the next, and the next!

Exodus 34:6 GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient — so much love, so deeply true —   7 loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.” MSG

Amazing isn’t it?  The sins of the father flow into the son, the grandson, the great grandson…and if this stuff isn’t dealt with that cycle continues on through all the generations of a family.  It’s really common to see patterns repeat from one generation to the next isn’t it?  We see things like addictive behaviors, alcoholism, sexual abuse, unhealthy marriages ending in very unhealthy ways and on and on it goes.  These are tied to us generationally and here’s what you need to know they can be dealt with very easily with the help of our Savior Jesus…but if we don’t break free from them the cycle will continue.

Biblical Truth #2- Growing Spiritually requires putting off the sinful patterns of our family of origin and relearning how to do life God’s way in Jesus’ new family.  So let me give you some good news…your biological family doesn’t determine your future…God does!  When you ask Jesus into your life you are actually reborn by the Holy Spirit into the family of Jesus with God as our Heavenly Father.  Our sins have been forgiven…and taken away.  We are made new!  We have a new inheritance in Christ that is freedom, hope, glory, and eternal life in heaven and we have new family in our fellow Christian brothers and sisters!  So a huge part of discipleship is putting off the sinful patterns and habits of our biological family and culture…the problem is that we just don’t think and focus on this stuff.  It’s hard to go back, and many of us don’t see the impact that our family of origin and other major events of our past can have on our lives today!  And you just can’t do anything about something that you are not aware of!  We need to break free from this stuff and it starts with identifying that it’s there!  If you think about it, this really gives us a new understanding of some of Jesus’ encounters where he talks about leaving family doesn’t it?

Luke 9:59 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  NIV

That is tough stuff…and I often struggled with Jesus saying stuff like that.  Can I honor my father and mother and still disconnect from my father and mother?  There is some tension in that statement from Jesus isn’t there?  It can be a hard story to understand…but when you realize the control that your family and past can have over your life, it really makes a ton of sense.  Jesus wants his disciples to break free from this stuff.  He just sees things on such a clear and higher level here and He lets them know, it’s time to break free of all that holds you back and follow me!

You know, addressing the past is hard.  Listen all families are broken and have hurts and issues…and it can be really difficult to go back and deal with that stuff…it can be even harder to recognize that there even are issues when you have grown up being told that this is your normal.  The reality is that we all have baggage.  We all have issues and it can be very painful to bring up some stuff that we have buried in our past but it is so important because you are carrying things that you just don’t need to carry.  I want to read this story to you right out of the “Day by Day” book, it has really meant a lot to me…

“There’s and old story about a boy who, having grown up at the edge of a wide, turbulent river, spent his childhood learning to build rafts.  When the boy reached manhood, he felled some trees, lashed them together, and riding his raft, he crossed to the far side of the river.  Because he had spent so long working on the raft, he couldn’t see leaving it behind when he reached the dry land, so he lashed it to his shoulders and carried it with him, though all he came upon in his journeys were a few easily fordable streams and puddles.  He rarely thought about the things he was missing out on because he was carrying the bulky raft-the trees he couldn’t climb, vistas he couldn’t see, people he couldn’t get close to and races he couldn’t run.  He didn’t even realize how heavy the raft was, because he had never known what it was like to be free from it.”  Lori Gordon “Passage Into Intimacy”

It is just such incredible imagery here isn’t it?  We are affected by powerful events from our pasts but the most influential group that affects us is our family of origin.  Even those who leave their families physically as young adults, determined to “break” free from their family history, soon find their family’s way of doing life seems to follow them wherever they go.  It’s amazing those patterns from our pasts play out in our present relationships of today.  And most of the time this is happening without us even being aware of it.   Think about this, slow down and look at your own life.  Do you see history repeating itself?  Do you see any behavioral patterns from the past impacting the present for me there?  Amazing isn’t it?  Our family history lives inside us all even those of us who just don’t want to go backwards so we can move forward.

But here’s the good news.  We can be set free from this weight that we all walk in.  What was learned can actually be unlearned.  And by God’s grace and power, we can learn new ways of doing life that help us make the changes and freedom in life possible.  So here’s what I would like to do, I would to close this service the same way we closed the last one.  I would like to ask you a question, and I would like you to take your time to think through this question.  So let’s slow down for a moment, and really just settle into this moment here.  Here’s the question I would like you to answer for yourself today.

Question:  What heavy raft might you be carrying as you seek to climb the mountains God has placed before you?

If you are a human being, you have a past.  You have an origin story and you are carrying unnecessary baggage from your past.  I am still amazed that as I move through life, I still continue to see things from my past popping up in my life that I need to deal with.  This can be hard but it’s so freeing when you do deal with these things.  So if you’re like me and you see this stuff in your life, don’t be discouraged you should be encouraged because you see the work that needs to be done!  You just can’t change something that you don’t know needs changed or dealt with!  So if this is you and this is heavy on your heart today please pray this prayer with me.

Prayer:  Lord, I too prefer to not look at or remember the painful past.  Show me, O Father, the heavy weights and rafts I am carrying due to my past.  Help me to learn what it means to honestly face my past, lift it up to you, and allow you to use it as a means to my maturing and growing in Christ.  In Jesus name, amen.

You know this is going to take time.  It is an ongoing process where I believe God will continue to reveal things in our lives that need dealt with as we move through life.  So yes it can be a challenge to find a new reality and to break free from all of the weight and the rafts of our lives that we are carrying.  But the reality is that we must go backwards if we want to move forward in our lives and when we do we get to live life in a new and joyful way.