The Disciplines of Submission and Service

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

We are continuing our series on Spiritual Disciplines. Here are the five practices or disciplines we have looked at, with a phrase to help us remember:

  • Meditation (ruminate)
  • Prayer (talk honestly with God)
  • Simplicity (don’t love things)
  • Solitude (get alone and quiet)
  • Study (dig deeper)

We’re also reading through the Gospels during Lent. You can find a reading schedule here.

Submission and Service are related, so we’re covering them the same week.

The discipline of submission involves the spirit with which we view others. It is an attitude of mutual subordination, where we give up our rights in deference to the rights of others. It is actually a form of self-denial.

Jesus said in Mark 8:34-35,

If you want to be my follower, you have to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.

Jesus was actually revolutionary when it came to treating other people with respect. In a time when women and children were treated as property, and men (especially rabbis) just didn’t talk to them, Jesus took women seriously, and talked to both women and children, shocking his own disciples.

The New Testament calls on all believers to submit to and love one another. The Sermon on the Mount talks about this kind of living, as well.

Jesus said that the way to go up is to go down.  He said,

If you want to be the greatest, you need to become the servant of all.

As always, Jesus is our great example. He also said this:

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Our pride (the NT calls it our flesh) resists the idea of service. At the very least, it wants us to get recognition for our great service, turning it into a self-righteous act. But true service is content to be hidden, and doesn’t discriminate between great and small acts of service.

Everyone can serve, and no service is small or insignificant. It can be more than just something we do – it can be a way of life, and it should be. In fact, it is part of CrossPoint’s mission statement.

Here are some practical suggestions for to help us with these disciplines:

  • Ask God to change our hearts to be more like Christ in our service – to BE servants
  • Ask God to help us look at people through His eyes – as people of worth and people in need
  • Keep our service hidden
  • Small, simple acts of service are important and significant
  • Guard the reputation of others (don’t gossip)
  • Be nice
  • Learn hospitality
  • Listen
  • Bear one another’s burdens and sorrows
  • Learn to BE served

Let’s all ask God to help us see others as he sees them, and make us servants.

The Discipline of Study

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

We are continuing our series on Spiritual Disciplines. Let me remind us of a few things:

  • These disciplines are simply things we do to place us before God so that He can do a work of inner transformation in us.
  • We are asking God to renew our minds (Romans 12:2)
  • We are replacing old destructive habits with some new life-giving habits
  • We are reading through the Gospels during Lent. You can find a reading schedule here.

The discipline of study involves reading, thinking and studying in order to learn about and understand truth. Many people are confused and hampered in their spiritual life because of ignorance of the truth. Studying helps us learn the truth of God.

Study is a discipline that involves

  • attentiveness
  • observation
  • thinking
  • writing
  • reflection
  • focusing

The Bible
The best thing we can study is the Bible, the Word of God. It is the Bible that is truth, and that has the power to change lives, give us faith, and make us clean. Colossians 3:16 advises us to allow the word of God to live richly in us.

Here are some suggestions for when you study the Bible:

  • Ask God to meet you as you study the Bible
  • Study with an open and humble spirit – allow the Word to change you
  • Use repetition and memorization
  • Concentrate and focus
  • Take notes
  • Use other books to help interpret the meaning
  • Reflect and ask the Spirit of God to apply the truth
  • Study a book of the Bible all at once

In all your study, ask the Holy Spirit to guide and help you. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in his book Life Together,

“Often we are so burdened and overwhelmed with other thoughts, images, and concerns that it may take a long time before God’s Word has swept all else aside and come through…this is the very reason why we begin our meditation with the prayer that God may send His Holy Spirit to us through His Word and reveal His Word to us and enlighten us.”

When we study, let’s ask God to saturate us with his truth and transform us.

Simplicity and Solitude

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

This is the third week in our series on Spiritual Disciplines. This week we are looking at two spiritual practices: simplicity and solitude.

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
‘Tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

– Shaker Hymn, 1848

The discipline of simplicity helps us guard against having too much. We live in a materialistic society. We are taught to crave things we don’t need. Society recognizes and defines people by what they earn, produce, accomplish, and look like. The Bible warns us against an idolatrous attachment to wealth.

  • Psalm 62:10 – If your riches increase, don’t set your heart on them.
  • Tenth commandment: Do not covet

Jesus said that we can’t serve both wealth and God at the same time. He also warned us not to store up treasures on earth, but rather in heaven.

Simplicity is having the right priorities and right ways to look at material things. We should understand that everything we have comes from God – they are gifts, and we should be willing to share them.

Here are some suggestions on how to live in simplicity:

  1. Buy things for their usefulness, not for status
  2. Reject things that cause or fuel addictions
  3. Learn to give things away
  4. Recognize and refuse society’s propaganda
  5. Develop an appreciation for God’s creation – it’s free!
  6. Use plain, honest speech (Matthew 5:37)
  7. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking God’s kingdom first

Adapted from Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline

The discipline of solitude helps us guard against doing too much. Most of us are surrounded by a constant flurry of activity and noise. Our TVs are always on, we have personal music players on all the time, and our cell phones are never out of reach. Besides this, we all seem to be in a big hurry.

As a result of the barrage of activity and hurry, we seldom spend time alone, in silence. Jesus knew what it was like to experience the demands of constant activity and ministry, and he dealt with it by spending a lot of time alone, away from the crowds. He asked his disciples to do the same: Come away with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest (Mark 6:31).

Spending time alone helps us recharge our spiritual batteries, helps us love and appreciate God and others, and gives us a fresh perspective on life. I believe it helps us hear and discern God’s voice better, too.

Here are some suggestions on how to practice the discipline of solitude:

  1. Make time for silence and solitude
  2. Take advantage of short times of solitude
  3. Find or make a “quiet place”
  4. Try going a few hours without talking!
  5. Several times a year, get by yourself for a few hours
  6. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life!
  7. Ask God to speak to you and teach you during your alone times

Adapted from John Ortberg’s The Life You’ve Always Wanted

Other sermon resources

Meditation and Prayer

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

This is the second week in our series on Spiritual Disciplines. Many of you are joining me on this journey during Lent; reading through the Gospels, giving up something, and learning the disciplines. This week we are looking at the two inward disciplines of meditation and prayer.

Unlike the meditation taught by eastern religions, the meditation taught by the Bible doesn’t empty the mind but opens it to the work and presence of God. Richard Foster says that “meditation creates the emotional and spiritual space that allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary in our heart.”

The two Hebrew words used for “meditation” in the Bible are hagah (ponder, groan, sigh, utter), and siyach (talk about, contemplate, muse, rehearse). The book of Psalms talks a lot about meditation. Psalm 1:2 says that we are blessed when we meditate on God’s law day and night.  To meditate is to think about, mull over, rehearse, and contemplate God, His Son, His creation, His word, and His work in us. It is actually a time of fellowship with God that He desires to have with us, and that He can use to transform us through his Spirit.

Some suggestions:

  • Set aside a time of quiet and solitude
  • Center your attention on Christ, and on God’s glory in His Son
  • Meditate on God, His attributes, His glory, His works
  • Meditate on a passage or verse of the Bible
  • Ask God to help you internalize the passage

We often associate prayer with desperation and crisis.  When things are going well, we tend not to pray as much. But prayer is actually one of the most important ways that God uses in our spiritual formation. It is a conversation, a relationship with God.

God wants His people to pray. Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus modeled a life of prayer.

What is prayer like?

  • It is simple, not complicated
  • It should be direct and honest
  • We should pray in faith, believing in God’s ability to answer
  • We learn to pray by praying

This week’s application
Here’s how I’d like us to implement these two disciplines this week:

  • Find a time and a place free from distractions
  • Start with 10 minutes a day (meditate for 5 and pray for 5)
  • Possible things to pray about: CrossPoint, family, against evil and suffering, for protection, for our nation and other nations, or whatever is on your heart
  • Possible passages of the Bible to meditate on: Matthew 13:44-46 and Matthew 18:1-5 (these are in our Lent readings this week).
  • If you miss a day, don’t worry or try to catch up – just start the next day
  • Let me know how this is all working for you!

Pastor Mike

The Spiritual Disciplines

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stop Look and Listen

This is the first week in our series on Spiritual Disciplines.  In Psalm 42 the psalmist gives this description of his desire for God: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? …Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.”

There is a lot of superficiality in our culture today, and in our churches. Maybe you have heard the call to something more with God…something deeper. I’d like to take you on a journey with me – a spiritual journey of transformation – using the spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual Formation
It is God’s will that we as Christian believers grow in our walk with God, and in spiritual maturity. There are many names for this: spiritual formation, sanctification, spiritual growth, deeper life, spiritual discipline. No matter what you call it, it is advancing, growing, and dedicating ourselves to God. It is the Lord transforming us into his likeness or image; into the fullness and maturity of Christ.

The Spiritual Disciplines
For thousands of years, believers have used various spiritual disciplines to help them know God better. These disciplines are based on the Bible, and on things that godly men and women, along with Jesus himself, used in their walk with God.

The spiritual disciplines require us to:

  • STOP. There are things in our lives, both sins and just plain hindrances, that get in the way of spiritual growth. Hebrews 12:1 says “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us.” We’ve got to slow down, and even stop some things as we engage together in the spiritual disciplines.
  • LOOK. The spiritual disciplines make us look inside, and be introspective. As Socrates put it so well: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
  • LISTEN. The spiritual disciplines help us to listen to God, and to connect with him.

Purposes of spiritual disciplines

  • They are not ways to get on God’s good side, or religious duties or rules that must be performed. Nor are they formulas that automatically make us more spiritual.
  • Instead, the spiritual disciplines put us into the position before God so that he can transform us. They open the door for the Spirit’s work in our lives. We prepare ourselves, but God does the work.
  • The twin goals are intimacy with God and inner transformation

What are the spiritual disciplines?

  • Also known as the classical or ancient disciplines, they include inward disciplines like prayer, meditation, fasting, and study. The outward disciplines include service and simplicity. The corporate disciplines include confession, worship, and celebration.

Join me

  • So I ask you to join me for the next 7 weeks as we engage ourselves in studying the spiritual disciplines, and in doing them
  • Each week I’ll talk about one or two of the disciplines, and then suggest ways that we can engage in them during the week.
  • I’m asking you to join me and get involved, but it’s entirely voluntary! This should be a blessing, not a curse or drudgery. I simply want us to see the transformation and growth of our inner, spiritual lives through the power of God’s Spirit.

Ash Wednesday is February 25, and it begins the time known as Lent. This is traditionally a time of preparation and prayer, and sometimes fasting and confession, that helps believers focus on Christ and his work for us.  There are three things I’d like to suggest that we all do during Lent:

  1. Put the spiritual disciplines into practice during the weeks I talk about them
  2. Give something up…maybe a type of food or a habit
  3. Read through the four Gospels. You’ll find a reading plan here.

Our goal is to be transformed more and more into his glorious image, and be drawn closer to God.

Pastor Mike

New series on Spiritual Disciplines

Beginning February 22, I am starting a sermon series entitled “Stop, Look, and Listen” – a look at spiritual disciplines. This will be a look at the classical disciplines that Christian believers have used and benefited from for thousands of years.

Stop Look and Listen

The spiritual disciplines are not formulas or tricks that people do to gain favor with God. Instead, they are practices that allow God to transform us from within through the Spirit. They help us to stop, look, and listen to God.

Ancient disciplines include silence, prayer, meditation, worship, fasting, study, confession, and many others. We will be looking at around ten of the spiritual disciplines during the season of Lent which begins next week. I will be suggesting ways that each of us can put into practice some of these spiritual disciplines each week.

Many people think more about God and Jesus during the time of Lent and Easter. This would be a great time to invite people to hear about how they can be closer to God.

During this series, there will be resources on our website to help you practice the disciplines. You can find the resources at the Sermons menu.

Pastor Mike

Reflecting God’s Glory – 2 Cor. 3:18

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday’s message by Steve Pennington

We often feel unqualified to be an ambassador of Christ or to share, with words to others, the hope we have in Christ. The Holy Spirit, however, works through us to reflect the glory of God. When Moses met God to bring the ten commandments to the people, his face reflected the glory of God from being in His presence.  This reflected glory was so amazing the people were frightened at first but it also lent credibility to his words.  The reflected Glory, however, began to fade as time passed between times he met face to face with God.  Moses put a veil over his face to hide the fact that this reflected glory would fade over time.

Paul teaches us that when we have a relationship with Christ and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives that our faces are “unveiled” and we are “being transformed” so that our “faces reflect the Lord’s Glory”.  This reflected glory will not fade as it did with Moses but will increase with our Spirit led walk.  See 2 Cor. 3:18.

Whatever measure of  “light” we have reflected in our faces can pierce the darkness. With this increasing glory reflected in our faces we can each go light the world.

Micah 6:8 – Do, Love, Walk

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sometimes we get a little unbalanced in our approach to doing things for God.  Some people want to DO, DO, DO – to try to earn God’s approval.  They think if they do enough good things, it will get them into heaven and please God.  Other people think they don’t really need to DO anything, but just BE the right person, and have the right attitudes.  As in many areas, the Bible teaches us that we need to be balanced.

The prophet Micah had something to say about this is Micah 6:6-8.  The great statement in verse 8 is the epitome of balance: No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8, NLT)

We are to:

  1. Do what is right
  2. Love mercy
  3. Walk humbly with God

Yes, we need to be concerned with doing what is right and just.  This is part of the kingdom of God, as Jesus both taught us and showed us.  But we also need to have an attitude of love and mercy in everything we do.  Our attitude is just as important as our actions.  And on top of all this, God cares about our relationship with him.  He wants us to walk with him and have our hearts align with his.

CrossPoint’s mission statement matches this verse very well: Transforming lives by loving God, loving others, and serving the world. Loving God concerns our walk with the Lord.  Loving others is part of showing mercy and love.  Serving the world is the way we try to do what is right.

We have a lot of events in store for this year – many ways in which we are going to love and serve.  This year’s motto is going to be CrossPoint Cares.  Let’s make sure we do everything with a humble attitude of love, mercy, care, and service.

Pastor Mike