The foundation to being a disciple of Jesus; is to be broken. The Bible says;
16 Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. 17 I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. MSG Psalms 51:16-17
It’s not about going through religious motions. Did you know that? It’s not about walking mindlessly through religious activity because you feel like you have to put in your time. It’s not about a flawless performance in following all the rules. Did you know that? Many people think it’s about knowing all the rules, following all the rules and pointing out to others how they don’t follow all the rules. Do you know people like that – awful!
Being a disciple of Christ is all about the heart. A pride shattered heart. Pride simply means, I’m going to do it my way. A pride shattered heart means, a heart that follows after God.
The reason a broken heart is so important is because when you see your need of God, when you are broken, you will follow God. So if God tells you to forgive, you forgive. If God tells you to serve, you serve. If God tells you to give, you give. If God tells you to love your spouse, you love. The reverse is true too. If there is pride, the ‘I’m going to do it my way,’ in the heart, then you won’t follow God. If God says, forgive, serve, give, love, you won’t.
If you don’t see your need of God, you will probably struggle to follow God. Church, Religion, God stuff will be like going through the motions for you. Or, Church, Religion, God stuff will be about you trying to be perfect. Being broken is the foundation to the Christian faith.
Then we said, to begin following God, it requires faith because life is messy. The bible says,
2 Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3 For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. NLT James 1:2-4
Scripture tells us your faith will be tested. Trouble is coming. That’s why following Jesus requires faith.
Understand, the foundation to being a disciple of Jesus is to be broken, to see your need of Jesus. To then be a follower Jesus requires faith because life is messy. Here is the first commitment that you need to make to be different. Love God. Why? Let’s read what happens when we don’t love God and put Him in first place or our lives.
18 God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. 19 But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! 20 By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse.
21 What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. 22 They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. 23 They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
24 So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. 25 And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them – the God we bless, the God who blesses us. MSG Romans 1:18-25
Did you see that? When we aren’t intentional; when we don’t put God into first place of our lives, our natural default setting is to be god. Let’s slow down for a second and walk through a couple verses. These verses show us the downward spiral of being our own God.
Vs 21 [a] What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well.
Most people understand, we are a part of something bigger. We are small in the larger universe. We see creation, we experience four seasons, we hear a baby giggle or cry, it’s clear, that’s all God. The best part about science, it continues to discover and validate the truth that there is a loving God. In general, most people have a an awareness of a loving God.
I believe it takes more faith to not believe in God.
Vs 21 [b] …but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him.
Step one to being our own god. We believe there is a God, but we aren’t going worship Him. We are comfortable ignoring Him. Over time, He isn’t that important to us. Don’t get me wrong, we believe there is a God so we go to church now and then; but we are busy. The [ TLB ] translation says, …or even thank him for all his daily care. We just don’t see our need of God so we aren’t intentional in treating Him like God.
Vs 21 [c] …they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.
Step two to being our own god. Because we are ignoring God, anything and everything else becomes our priority in life. Life pulls us in a thousand directions and what do complain about, “I’m going crazy. I feel exhausted. I don’t have any sense or direction about my life.”
To the person who feels crazy busy and tired and has no clear sense of what to do next. If you said, “Put God in first place of your life.” Do you know how bizarre that advice is? They immediately come back with; “I don’t have the time to do that.” They feel like that advice is so irrelevant.
Vs 22 They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life.
This is probably the most fascinating realities of our culture to me. People report that they feel tired, disoriented, lonely and live with little purpose. But if you share with them how to put God in first place, they will tell you, “I can’t do that, that’s impossible.” They go back to living a life that they said was chaos. How does that happen? It makes no sense.
But actually, it does make sense, spiritually. When God is no longer first place in my life, I feel lost. I become more illiterate about life. This is step three to being our own god; I pretend to know it all and have it all together; but inside, I’m falling apart. We pretend to know it all.
Vs 23 They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand…. they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them.
It’s the worst trade you could ever make. The last step to being our own god should break our hearts. We trade in what could be, the glory of God in our lives, to be our own god. And based on my life experience, we make awful gods. Let’s drop to verse 28 to see the result of being our own god. See if you think this is relevant to our culture today.
28 Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. 29 And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, 30 fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. 31 Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. 32 And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care – worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! MSG Romans 1:28-32
The first and greatest commitment we could make to be different is to love God. Why? Because our natural default setting is to be our own god which leads to chaos. Jesus said,
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. NIV Matthew 22:37-38
Before I talk about how to put God first, I want ask you to think through this with me. Are you becoming your own god? By the way, I didn’t ask if you went to church, that has nothing to do with it. I asked, are you becoming your own god? Would you agree with these statements?
Statement 1: I believe there is a God but I have become comfortable ignoring Him. I just don’t N-E-E-D Him.
Statement 2: I feel tired and directionless. And if you told me to put God in first place, that’s sounds odd to me.
Statement 3: I pretend that I have it all together but in-reality, I am a mess. I follow the rules. I rely on other’s spirituality. I know that I am just getting by.
Statement 4: If I were honest, I would have to say, “I don’t know what happened but somewhere along the road of life, I feel like I traded in the Glory of God for smaller things.”
6 Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
7 The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8 Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. 9 With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. MSG Matthew 6:6-9
The beginning of loving God and putting Him in first place, is to be alone with God. Be quiet long enough that the focus shifts from you to God. Be intentional about experiencing God’s grace. That’s when everything changes. You are redeemed and you feel it. Your new reality is that you are loved by God. You can live with hope that God is giving you a new ending. You can live with courage because you experienced God’s grace.