We are going through our ABC’s of disciple making. We are halfway through, and man this has been a good and challenging and growing series. We’ve been looking at what are disciples of Jesus characterized by. Today is the letter D. Disciples of Jesus are characterized by devoting ourselves to the study of scripture and prayer. Apparently Christians following Jesus, making disicples, read bibles and pray. So really today’s sermon is read your bible pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow its really not that complicated. Amen. Perfect nailed it, pastor Nate.
We all know this but if I asked all of us honestly are you completely satisfied with your time in God’s word? I don’t think many of us would say we are satisfied. I don’t think there are many if any here who are praying so much you’re actually considering taking your foot of the gas a bit. We all know this. We all know its important so why don’t we do it.
So the only answer I can think of is to yell at you all for half an hour until your better Christians. No I’m joking kind of. But were goin there today. We need to get into the core of why we don’t do what is good for us, and what gets in the way of an essential part of our life as disciples.
So as I’m working through this essential part of our Christian lives and combing scripture for the best verses to tell Christians what they already know I found something awesome that basically does a great job of summing up our whole series on the ABC’s of discipleship. And the way Paul lays it out is exactly the order we are teaching it too. Isn’t that fun. So were halfway lets review.
- Lordship of Christ above all else v1-9
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:[b] sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming.[c] 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self[d]with its practices
- Being in Christ and Christ being in us v10-12
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,[e] free; but Christ is all, and in all.12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
- Committing and Submitting to a church and a people v13-15
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
D) Devoting ourselves to the study of scripture and prayer. V16
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Engaging our gifts and filled with the spirit going is verse 17
17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
So with that review we are going to dive into the spiritual disciples of reading our bibles and praying.
Disciples of Jesus are characterized by being devoted to the study of scripture and prayer (2). This is what you do if you follow Jesus. this is what you and I are responsible for in our own spiritual lives. These things are not spiritual gifts given by the spirit, they are spiritual disciplines grown through sweat and tears and commitment. We basically have 2 points that we’re making today. 1) Prayer and study of scripture are for our own well-being, so we are responsible. 2) Prayer and study of scripture are expressions of love and lordship. With these points were going to look at why we don’t do this, and what the solution is.
- Prayer and study of scripture is for our own wellbeing. (3) So, we are responsible. Responsibility is making a comeback right now. And my hope is we take responsibility for what we can do in our lives and trust God with what we can’t. If you can read, if you can pray, if you know and love Jesus as Lord you can do these things, and you are responsible to do them for your own well-being.
We are responsible for doing what is good for us. This benefits us, and we are responsible. So what were going to try to do is avoid thinking about these essential practices as burdens, obligations we are guilted into, and sacrifices – and begin to think of prayer and study of scripture as something that is incredibly good for us, and something that we love and get excited for.
The God of the universe, timeless transcendent all knowing creator. Gave us a best seller it’s good for us to read it. The bible tells us everything we need to know about him, and everything we need to know about ourselves. When you go to the word of God asking God to tell you what you need to know, he will speak to you.
Prayer is an open line of communication where you as an adopted child have uninhibited access to talk, intimately with your heavenly father – it is good for us to pray. You have His ear and his complete attention always. God answers prayer, he lets us change the course of history just by asking him… (have you thought about that, prayer actually changes the course of history? think about that. And when we pray it also changes us. When we open our hearts to God, its not one way, its back and forth, and often times what we start praying for turns into praying for something else, because the very act of prayer changes what we want.
The deepest needs of our souls are to know God and be known by him. Prayer and the study of scripture do both. Prayer and study of scripture is as important for you life as a disciple of Jesus as diet and exercise are for you physical well being.
People who take diet and exercise seriously, are generally pretty easy to pick out in a crowd, especially at a beach. And don’t for one second think I don’t get health conditions, and genetics, and all that stuff that makes it way easier for some people to conform to western beauty standards than others, this is not a fitness sermon. But we can all agree that when people are very disciplined with their fitness and diet it tends to show. And I want to ask us a serious question this morning. If our spiritual health showed on our outside… if our spiritual diet, and our spiritual exercise changed the way we look like physical diet and excercise, what would you look like?
If your spiritual health was visible would people notice you in a good way or in a bad way? Look at 4 pictures to kind of illustrate what we can’t see spiritually but we can’t un see when look at and think or our own spiritual health.
Would you look like you were wasting away in spiritual atrophy because you really don’t pray. (4) A Christian who doesn’t pray will waste away. Maybe you’d look like this. (astronaut / leg) What happens when people can’t move at all? casts, comas, or bed bound individuals, or people stuck in chairs because of injury? Atrophy, your unused muscles waste away, when you can’t exercise at all, when you don’t use your body, atrophy, deterioration, and loss occur. Even incredibly fit astronauts lose 1-2% of their bone density every month just from not having to exercise their bodies against gravity. When they come back to earth they have to be carried around in stretchers.
Our spiritual lives are like this. A Christian who doesn’t pray will waste away in spiritual atrophy. Like someone trapped in bed for years, they will be too weak to handle the heaviness of life, and crumple under the weight of very small trials, and will find praying for an extended amount of time very difficult. Like an astronaut being in space are not on solid ground, coming back to earth, can’t even stand on your own and need others to constantly carry you.
Not feasting on the word of God, is starving your soul. (5) Maybe you’d look like this? (emaciation) What happens when you don’t eat? Like eat nothing, your body starts to eat itself, you waste away to emaciation, starvation, and then one by one your internal organs shut down. If you don’t feed a body, as my kids fish know, it dies.
Not feasting on the word of God, is starving your soul. And like those who have been through or heard about intense periods of starvation. Do you give someone a T-bone steak if they haven’t eaten for a couple weeks? No tiny stomachs, and liquid diets until they stabilize. Those who have starved themselves from the word of God will constantly be demanding to be fed spiritual milk, because they haven’t been feeding themselves, and being spiritually emaciated cannot handle a big meaty well balanced meal.
Then there’s eating without exercising (6), You can’t unsee this. you get bloated, but spiritually its not your gut that gets fat, its your head. Study without prayer, is just knowledge that puff up. Without being molded by prayer.
Last little fun picture. Maybe you look like her. Hey that’s not bad (7). No she’s very healthy. Infact so healthy she runs ultra-marathons. 100 mile races. 220KM, start to finish, 48 hours non-stop through deserts and stuff. Problem is your body can’t digest that amount of calories that you are burning. And when you exercise while starving yourself, as this woman discovered you start to go a little bit crazy. She started seeing things, and hearing things while she was running that weren’t there. And prayer without being rooted in the word of God is like someone who exercises but doesn’t eat anything, you’ll very quickly start seeing and hearing things that arent’ there.
Christians who exercise prayer without being rooted in scripture, look very healthy from the outside. But very quickly they experience ideas, images, understanding that is no where to be found in scripture. Because, Prayer without rootedness in God’s word quickly devolves into opening oneself up to spiritual communication with those other than God – so they see things and hear things that aren’t there. That’s would explain the abuses in the charismatic, mystical movements not rooted in scripture and the thousands of cults that go crazy when they stop knowing their bibles, testing the spirits and confirming experience with what is biblical.
Now these extreme and charicatured examples are hopefully exagerations of (8) our spiritual realities. But we all probably identify with one of those pictures more than the others. Spiritual health requires balance and discipline and intentional stewardship of our freedom. Prayer and study of scripture is for our own well-being and we are responsible for our own well-being. I am responsible for my own well being. You are responsible for yours. Since we are a family we all love each other enough to care, when we see each other not caring for ourselves.
So let me say something that might sound kind of harsh, but its actually because I love you and want what’s best for you. Some of us are atrophied, starved, big headed, look fine but actually kind of crazy. … if your like this, its your fault. If I’m like this its my fault. Feeling starved, weak, bloated, hallucinating, it is because of the freely made decisions of how you have spent your time.
And you might say, its not my fault I’ve been burned by a church, a pastor, a friend who was supposed to have my back, or God let me down, you don’t know what I’ve been through. Its not my fault I’ve starved myself, or haven’t moved in prayer for years. I’m the victim, I’m not responsible. And if you are here and have been the victim of Toxic spiritual trauma I am so sorry. I can’t imagine the pain, betrayal and heartache you’ve been through.
The church is a hospital for the sick, and if you are the victim of malpractice, the place for healing is still the hospital. And its time to start . God is the healer, and as anyone who has been seriously traumatically injured knows, diet and exercise become even more important for the rehab and recovery. Yes you may be the victim of powers beyond your control. But you do have control over how much you invest in your recovery and healing. Been burned by a church, Christians, feel like God is letting you down, prayer and study of scripture, are essential for your healing.
Another objection might be, im not responsible, Nathan and John you guys are. I thought your job was to feed us. You are rightish… And I take that very seriously. Pastors are here to make sure you are well fed. Best way to do that is teach people how to eat healthy, how to exercise so they can do it themselves. Helping people grow into spiritual maturity so in turn all of us can teach others. This is referred to as equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Our job is to equip you so that you can feed others, and inturn teach them how to have a healthy spiritual life. Being stuck in the mindset that it is someone else’s job to feed you is exactly the mindset from Hebrews 5:12 rebukes saying “by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food”. Thinking someone else is responsible for all of your spiritual diet, exercise and growth, its equivalent of being an adult in a high chair asking for your num nums.
In North America, in London, and even in this church we have a serious problem with spiritual health, and taking responsibility for our own spiritual diet. If our spiritual health showed on the outside I don’t think we would have healthy looking people in our churches. The great irony is that if you have a smart phone you have you have greater tools to study the bible than every disciple of Jesus that lived before 10 years ago. And yet, 20% read it once a day, 60% of evangelicals read the bible once a week this includes Sunday… So I assume that what I just did reading col 3 is for some people here the only food you will have this week. Is that letting the word of Christ dwell in us richly.
And I want to get to the heart of why. Why don’t we read our bibles, why don’t we pray? And if we do why does it feel like a chore we can barely do for 15 minutes? Why is it so hard to find the time, and why does it feel so hard to pray and read the bible for more than 5 – 10 -15 minutes?
Surface level answer is we are too busy… well first of all I don’t know if that’s true. Work week is getting shorter on average. And honestly do you think you worked more than people with – no washing machines, dishwashes, vacuums, indoor plumbing, cars, handwriting letters?
Maybe business is to blame. But who’s fault is it your so darn busy. Being busy is not a virus you catch, it is a decision we make. If activities, obligations, even church events make you too busy to pray and spend time with God in his word its because we have decided that with our freedom.
Why does it feel so hard to read the bible and or pray for more than 15 minutes? Changing attention spans? Well I just watched the avenger movie for 3 hours that would be normal, but if I said I prayed for 3 hours whoa take it easy Apostle Nate – people would look at me like they’d expect me to float any minute. Or when it comes to reading the bible, we all know when youre really into a book its hard to put down. but read the whole bible in a month, people would look at me like whoa what are you a guilty monk.
I just think we are incredibly out of shape and were all kind of cool with it, and we are busy by choice – these are symptoms of the problem, they aren’t the root cause. I’m in this group too. I’m also looking at the four pictures and seeing myself as one of them. So lets get to the root of this.
Part of it is the battle against the flesh. Flesh is biblical concept of our sinful nature, our old selves that retain the taint of sin from the fall. When we put our faith in Christ, we are new creations. But God does not wipe out our memories, our brains or our bodies. So old patterns sins, addictions, proclivity to certain temptations frustratingly remain. Our flesh hates when we take care of ourselves. We are battling against our sinful nature to do these good things. Your flesh doesn’t want you to come to church, read your bibles, pray, repent, tell people about Jesus.
That being said the battle against your flesh is the battle for your own good – not the battle for your salvation. You have been saved from sin, death and the devil. Your flesh has been crucified with Christ. You are not a slave to sin. But you are responsible to say no to the old beaten flesh for your own good. This is not out of obligation or guilt to God this is for our own good.
Why don’t we pray more, why don’t we spend time with God in his word more? And why does the time we do spend with him seem so difficult. This is our second point and it is review of our A and B of disciple making.
- Prayer and study of scripture are expressions of love and lordship to Jesus. (9) why don’t we spend time with God in his word more? And why does the time we do spend with him seem so difficult? When we cant express our love to Jesus, and express the Lordship he has over our lives, we have issues with our spiritual hearts and minds.
Said last time these ABC’s are like a system of the body. A is brain, B is like the heart. If we have a problem choosing to prioritize our time with God above time for our self, we have an Accepting the Lordship of Christ problem. (10) If spending time with God and hearing from him, is less important than other things in your life you have a lordship problem. How we choose to prioritize the time we have control of, reflects who we think owns that time.
Your time is not yours, your free time isn’t yours. It doesn’t belong to you. You didn’t earn it, you can’t grow it, you don’t have a right to shorten it. The time you have has been given to you by God. If you think your time is your own. You have a problem in your spiritual mind. Like Col 3 says If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When you think this way, you will renew your mind that you have been bought by the blood of Christ, your life is his, the time you steward is his. Your mind must be renewed to the truth that he is Lord over every moment.
So I’m going to ask that we all look at our calendars and before we fill them we remember whose time it is you are slotting things into. Who is lord over the calendar, who is lord over you? Does your calendar reflect the Lordship of Christ? God graciously and patiently lets you make your own work schedule for his Glory. Give him Lorship over the time he has given you. It is for your own good, and it expresses in reality that Jesus us Lord of your life. Give him the time and priority a king, a savior and a friend deserves.
What about why it feels so hard to pray. (11) I’ve given lordship of my time to Christ but many I pray for 10 minutes, read 3 chapters of the Bible and feel like I’ve run a marathon? What’s wrong with me. That’s a symptom of a pretty serious problem. Incredibly small spiritual capacity is the symptom of a heart problem. The fact that feeding on the word of God makes you sweat and exercising prayer knocks you out after 5 minutes is evidence that you have a heart condition that requires a heart solution. This is a heart problem that is fixed by Being in Christ and Christ being in us.
Maybe you’ve noticed this spiritual reality in the physical world. Weather gets nice, your going for a drive and notice someone running super slow, in kahkis, and a sweatshit and a really old but clean pair of running shoes, and that guy is going slower than walking speed but he looks like he is dying. You can just tell they said you know what dear I’m going for a run and his wife is shocked because he hasn’t run in 15 years and doesn’t even own a pair of shorts.
Right when you start to physically exert yourself after long periods of inactivity what happens? Do legs collapse, ankles breaks, their face gets super red, sweat like crazy, suck in as much oxygen as possible with each breath because their hearts are about to explode. Incredibly small physical capacity is because the heart is used to pumping enough blood to get you from the car to the house and from the fridge to your chair and running around the block might as well be running to the moon as far as your weak heart is concerned.
What’s the difference, between the guy who hates to run for 100 seconds and the woman loves to run 100 miles? There are plenty of differences, do you know what they have in common – the cacpacity of their heart to pump out blood has changed because of the decisions they have made. In both cases their heart has just gotten used to the stuff they do. They lived a certain way, and their heart adjusted to what is normal. The difference one has grown their heart’s capacity with exertion the other has shrunk their heart’s capacity with inactivity. And for us, our spiritual hearts are as strong or weak as we have decided to make them it is our fault, we are responsible. But by the grace of God we can grow.
When we exert ourselves often our normal changes. How long can you pray for before you get tired? What is your spiritual hearts capacity to pump out prayer? A better question would be when is the last time you pushed yourself in prayer? Our heart is not going to grow in its capacity to pump out prayer unless we decide to push ourselves on a regular basis. Start where you are and try to put the finish line a little bit farther than your current capacity. If you can pray for 5 minutes aim for 7. If you can pray for 10 go for 15. Paul says physical exercise is of some use, but godliness is so much more important. We need to acknowledge that if its really hard to pray or read God’s word its because we haven’t been lifting anything heavy to God in a long time if ever?
What about when it feels boring, (12) or if study of scripture feel like a chore? That’s a heart issue. That is also a Being in Christ, Christ being in us issue. Don’t like spending time with Jesus, don’t cherish it, don’t look forward to it, that’s a heart problem.
Like I said try to do is avoid thinking about prayer and the study of scripture as burdens, obligations we are guilted into, and sacrifices – and begin to think of them as incredibly good for us, and something that we love and get excited for. Then when it comes to spending time with Jesus and if you’re honest you don’t cherish it, don’t look forward to it, that’s a love problem, and it comes from the heart.
Imagine an older couple comes to me for marriage advice. I would laugh and say I’m 30 what do I know about marriage, and send them to John. No just kidding, kind of. But this couple comes to me and says “there’s just something wrong. We don’t know what it is” ok. How do you guys fight. Oh we don’t fight. Ok. Man maybe I should be asking you for advice. Um how do you guys communicate. Oh we don’t really talk much. Oh ok… well what kind of things do you like to do with each other. Oh we don’t really love spending time with each other we both kind of feel like spending time with each other is a chore. I may not know much about marriage but A couple that fights too much is in some trouble. A couple that doesn’t communicate is in a lot of trouble, a couple that doesn’t feel anything but obligation isn’t a couple. They are a couple of people but they are not a couple.
When couples get to a point where they are no longer a couple, but a couple of individuals connecte only by obligation and not love, one day they wake up and wonder how did I get here. When you fall in love with someone, all you want to do is spend time with them. Be close to them, share your heart with them, hear their heart. Share your hopes and dreams and secrets. And when you’re not with them you ache to be close to them. If spending time with Jesus feels like a chore, or a bore, or an obligation. Its time to wake up and cry out how did I get here? Look at how it breaks Jesus heart, look how seriously he takes this falling out of love with him. In REV 2 as his heart cries out to a church sticking with him out of obligation but not sticking around abiding in his love.
3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
If you feel like spending time with Jesus is a chore and a bore. You just do it out of obligation and duty but not to express love, you must repent. The same way if you were married to the perfect person, who was perfectly selfless and would lay down their lives for you, and you refused to express love to them. We need to repent to Jesus for not expressing our love to him. Of our own broken hearts, our own selfish motives, and say sorry Jesus. I’m so sorry I haven’t spent the time with you, shared my heart with you. Listened to what you’ve been saying to me. Can you please forgive me, even though I don’t deserve it? Can you help me to do better, and express the love I should. And Jesus says of course I forgive you. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. Come and abide in my love, receive from me and remain in me.
Prayer and study of scripture expresses our love for Jesus and his Lordship over our lives. When we say things like we don’t have time we need to set our minds on things above, and remember who’s sitting the throne. When we have really small capacities to study and pray, it’s a heart issue that requires a heart solution – and we need to strengthen our weak hearts. When we find spending time with Jesus a chore and a bore, we need to repent and return to our first love with Jesus.
We need to remember that growing in our spiritual health is way more for us than it is for God, so we need to put on the new self and resist the pull of our old flesh. Being spiritually healthy is what God wants for us because its best for us. So even when we don’t feel like we deserve to be healthy and strong lets love ourselves like God loves us and care for our souls.
Disciples of Jesus are characterized by devoting ourselves to the study of scripture and prayer. Read your bible pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow its really not that complicated. Amen.