This series is about how we walk in a personal relationship with Christ that transforms us.
To be clear, it’s not about religious activity like: go to church, give your old clothes to the poor, and attend Sunday school class. We aren’t talking about that. We are talking about transformation. How do we experience a personal relationship with God that transforms our heart.
For example. I felt rejection and depression was growing inside of me. But because of my relationship with Christ, I am free from that and feel joy. I was betrayed by a friend, deeply hurt. I felt hurt and anger growing inside of me. But because of my relationship with Christ, I forgave them and now I walk in freedom from unforgiveness. I felt dazed and confused. I was just existing, doing the least possible, drinking wine and disengaging life. But because of my relationship with Christ, I have meaning, purpose and clarity.
Do you see the difference? We aren’t talking about religious activity, we are talking about transformation.
To walk in that kind of relationship, we need to take a few steps towards God. We slow down to and pay attention to God. An example would be dating. To get to know someone, you date them. You get to know them. You pay attention to them. You hang out with them. If you aren’t dating God, it may show up in your life. Like Martha in Luke 10, we can work for God but at the same time be uncentered, reactionary, anxious, irritable, touchy and our prayers are us telling God what He must do for us.
We said that we need to begin to understand that God loves us. Not in a simple, surface, bumper sticker kinda way. God loves you so much he wants all of you now. Your sin, your shame, your hurt, all of it. To be transformed means that we know when we are tired, when we are in the middle of a sin, we are filled with shame and we run to our Father in Heaven knowing that He is there to forgive us, heal us and redeem us. That’s love.
To walk into a relationship with Jesus, we slow down and pay attention to Him. We slow down to understand how much He loves us.
Last week Sam taught about one of the most difficult things you will ever do; be yourself. Sam said, “We were created by God intentionally, uniquely, with our own thoughts, feelings, desires, personalities, then it seems that we spend the rest of our lives trying to live that down, and to live like everyone else.” I can’t encourage you enough to read that chapter slowly to discover how to break free from pretending or being fake.
Today, we are going to talk about why a lifetime of religious activity, good things for sure, like church attendance, all good Christian concerts, small groups, and Sunday school may not transform us. Let’s start with scripture.
14 Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for everyone, we also believe that we have all died to the old life we used to live. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live to please themselves. Instead, they will live to please Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others by what the world thinks about them. Once I mistakenly thought of Christ that way, as though he were merely a human being. How differently I think about him now!
17 What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! 18 All this newness of life is from God. NLT 2 Corinthians 5:14-18
That’s true. When you become a Christian, when you ask Jesus to forgive you, you become a new person. It’s a spiritual refresh button. You move from darkness to light. You are a child of God. You are filled with the goodness and righteousness of Jesus. You are forgiven. However, things of our past still have a pull on us. Old sin habits. Old ways of thinking. Past hurts and wounds. Our family growing up.
That is what discipleship is all about. Discovering sinful habits, ways of thinking, past hurts and dealing with them, breaking free from them. That’s why Paul wrote the following.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV Romans 12:1-2
Did you see it? You are transformed by the way you think. Discipleship is about dealing with the reality of our lives. We don’t ignore it. We don’t stuff it. We deal with it.
Here is why a lifetime of Christian activity, good activity, may not lead to us being transformed. There are deeper things in our lives that we don’t want to deal with. And instead of dealing with this reality, we ignore it, stuff it in hopes it goes away. When we do that, we stay disconnected from God. To be transformed, we must deal with reality. We must be honest. We must go back in our lives to deal with real things. That process is called: discipleship.
One of the greatest influences in our life is our family growing up. What we learned in our family we grew up in, plays out in our adult lives. As a child, you don’t grow up thinking, ‘What is wrong with everyone around me?’ You think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ As a child you don’t know your uncle is angry or maybe an alcoholic. You don’t think, ‘What is wrong with my uncle?’ No, the child thinks, ‘I feel uncomfortable, what is wrong with me?’ As a child, we grow up with insecurities and live that out. We grow up in our families, become adults and continue living out what we learned as kids.
Sometimes, what we learned in our family is awesome. Love. Serving. Forgiveness. You fought with your brother and you mom made you hug them – awful right? Sometimes, what we learned in our family isn’t awesome. And as adults, we need to deal with reality and break free from those past things. Again, that’s discipleship. We are looking at the reality of our lives and dealing with it.
For example. Have you noticed how your mom treated your dad? Have you noticed that, maybe, that is how you are treating your husband? Have you noticed how your dad treated your mom? Have you noticed that, maybe, that’s how you treat your wife? If you are dating, this has everything to do with you. While dating, notice how the parents of the person you are dating treat each other. Why? It’s the best picture of your future.
Here are some messages we may have received in our families growing up.
Money. Money is the best source of security. The more money you have, the more important you are.
Conflict. Avoid conflict at all costs. Don’t get people mad at you. Loud, angry, constant fighting is normal.
Sex. Sex is not to be spoken about openly. Men can be promiscuous but women must be chaste. Sexuality in marriage will come easily.
Grief and Loss. Sadness is a sign of weakness. You are not allowed to be depressed. Get over losses quickly and move on.
Expressing Anger. Anger is dangerous and bad. Explode in anger to make a point. Sarcasm is an acceptable way to release anger.
Family. Duty to family and culture comes before everything. You owe your parents for all they’ve done for you. Don’t speak of your family’s “dirty laundry” in public.
Relationships. Don’t trust people. They will let you down. Nobody will ever hurt me again. Don’t show vulnerability.
Attitudes toward other cultures. Only be close friends with people who are like you. Do not marry a person of another race or culture. Certain cultures/races are not as good as mine.
Success. Is getting into the “best schools.” Is making lots of money. Is getting married and having children.
Feelings and Emotions. You are not allowed to have certain feelings. Your feelings are not important. Reacting with your feelings without thinking is okay.
Control. To be happy you must control those around you. It’s okay to manipulate those around you to try to keep control.
When we come to Christ, our soul is washed clean from sin. We move from darkness to light. We are children of God. We are forgiven. We are loved.
However, things from our past, like messages we received from our families, can still have a pull on us. What are you doing when those things pop up in your life? Are you ignoring them? Are you stuffing them? That means you aren’t giving God access to your heart and mind to be transformed. That means you will continue to loop in a life of religious behavior but not experience transformation.
Discipleship is about dealing with the reality of your life. It’s about being honest. It’s about breaking free from sin and hurt. It’s about giving God access to your heart and mind to be transformed.
I want to close with questions to help you address reality.
Is your Christianity working for you? Are you being slowly transformed or are you pretending that things are better than they are?
Are you slowing down and paying attention to God and feeling His grace in your life? Are you running through life at a pace that is unsustainable and it leaves you anxious and irritable and your prayers are about what God needs to do for you?
In your Christian journey, are you able to be yourself or do you feel like you have a mask on to look good to others?
The point of Christianity is God loving us so we can love others. What would those closest to you say about how you are loving them?
What about your family growing up? What messages did they send you? What did your family tell you about you? What did your family tell you about a relationship with God? What did your family tell you about how to live life? Do you see those messages playing out in your life today? What are you doing when they pop up? Ignoring them or dealing with them?
When will you create the time to sit, pray and walk through these questions?
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”
13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” NIV Exodus 14:10-14
God loves you deeply. He wants to walk with you through the highs and lows of life. God will love and heal you, but we must be still.