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About this series
The Four Great Invitations
Lessons from My First 50 Years with Jesus
Do you have a mentor? That one person with lots of life know-how you completely trust for sound wisdom and guidance? Well, if not, in this series, Chip will be that mentor for us as he shares some insightful experiences he’s learned from - through 5 decades of walking with Jesus. He’ll unpack how these lessons are rooted in 4 essential invitations Jesus challenged His disciples with throughout the Gospels. Don’t miss how these biblical insights can encourage, motivate and comfort you through all aspects of life.More from this series
If you turn to the back page, I put a little picture that I introduced last time. Notice there’s the Word and Prayer in this vertical relationship. You notice there’s Witnessing and Fellowship in the horizontal relationship. And it’s all about having Christ as the center.
The Christian life is not about sort of some self-help, like, “How am I growing and how am I doing? And am I praying enough? Am I reading enough? Am I doing this?” Here’s the Christian life: My focus is on Jesus. All those things are merely means. When you’re really struggling and when I’m really struggling, don’t start focusing more and more in. Start setting your eyes and your focus on Him.
Well, back to this wheel. I was pretty much, after I had quit the Christian life and realized I couldn’t because Jesus wouldn’t leave me alone, I thought, Well, somehow, some way, I’ve got to figure it out. And I was in a Bible study and they had this wheel illustration. And what I realized, in my life, it was like, Okay, I wonder what’s wrong. Okay, number one, Christ isn’t the center.
If I replaced the circle, basketball was the center, and my girlfriend was the center. And then the Word was like, Well, you know? I’m reading my Bible maybe a couple, three times on good mornings. And I go to church maybe once or twice a month, sort of. Prayer is sort of like mostly running to class. And Fellowship, I do go to that Thursday thing. That’s really good and there are a lot of cute girls, so that was part of the motivation.
And as far as Witnessing, telling others, eh, yeah, actually a little bit, not too much. And then as far as Obedience, I’m coming a long way except in a couple areas. My thought life and lust. And I was stuck.
And there are two verses that go with each of those, and I accidentally learned how to abide. Are you ready for this? It was a pure accident, and my motivation was carnal. That’s how kind God is.
So, I’m deciding I can’t quit the Christian life and my roommate was a wrestler and we were very competitive. He was a heavyweight wrestler, and I was the skinny point guard. And so, he was going to go to this training program put on by this group that does the wheel. And he had these sixty verses he had to memorize. And there were two verses, you know, two verses on God’s Word, two on Prayer, two on Obedience, and then there was another – sixty total.
And I had one motivation. I’m going to do one a day. I’m going to have them mastered. I’m just going to walk in and go, “Hey, Bob! “How you coming with that?”
And then I was going to go, “Oh, yeah, Christ the center, Galatians 2:20, ‘For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet, not I, but Christ lives within me. And this life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and died for me.’ You got that one down yet, Bob? Or, Bob, how about the Word? ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness that the man of God might be fully equipped for every good work.’ You got that one, Bob? Or, hey Bob, how about prayer? How you coming on prayer? John 15:7, ‘If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you.’ Hey, Bob!” I went through all of them.
And I didn’t realize that I was renewing my mind multiple times every day. And all these verses were getting put into my mind and my subconscious. And then no one told me to start doing this or start doing that. My desires changed. Instead of willpower, willpower it was like – I remember just walking and a thought came to me, and it was a verse. And then I remember I went over here, and a verse came to my mind. And it was like, “Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
See, I spent most of my early Christian life living to gain God’s approval. And the Scripture teaches I already have it. And the paradigm completely changes when you live instead of for God’s approval, you live from God’s approval. I am His son! I have an inheritance. I am loved. While I was yet a sinner, Christ died in my place. He loves me for me.
And then I started, you know, then it was like, Hey, you know what? There are other verses in here other than these sixty! You know? And then I discovered the psalms and I thought, Man, these people are as messed up as me. They really struggle. Then I started praying these psalms back to God. And then I didn’t know how to live life and some guy said, “There’s a lot of wisdom; you ought to read some of those proverbs.” And so, you know, there’s thirty or thirty-one so every day I would read just a proverb.
But it went from duty, got to, ought to, feel guilty if I don’t to a discipline to a delight to the point – and it took a while. And I don’t want to make it sound like there’s just some magic, but I remember realizing the greatest part of my day was getting up and not performing: did you read your Bible? Did you pray? It was: Jesus wants to meet with me. It’s not that He loved me, He’s not a force. This isn’t some religion of principles. This isn’t like, “Read the Bible, get in a small group, go to church, take Communion.” This is a real person with emotions. I remember when I would miss my time in the morning, I’d realize, I think the Lord is a little sad today. See, I grew up thinking that if you ever messed up, He was always mad.
I remember one day thinking, I really love my wife, it happens to be her birthday and today I was thinking of the forty-three years we have had and just, despite all the ups and downs, just how good, how rich, how amazing she is. And, you know, there have been times where my schedule, we had something planned like a great dinner out and a romantic evening and something happened, and I missed it. Well, she wasn’t mad, it was like, Oh man, we missed out.
And when I finally realized, you know, when Jesus was talking to those disciples, “I eagerly wanted to spend this time with you.” In His humanity, He needed them as much as they needed Him. In His humanity, “Could you guys pray with Me? I’m going to go to the cross. I want you to be with Me. You’re my bros.”
And then, you know, that last night, He knew they were afraid, He goes, “I’m going to go prepare a place,” by the way, that place is real. There is a heaven and there is a new heaven and a new earth and a reality that is coming. And it’s as real as that. It’s that concrete. It’s not floating around and sipping iced tea and it’s not like an eternal worship service. And He wanted them to know, “I want, I want you to be with Me.” Abiding is about a relationship.
And as I began to memorize those verses, then my desire changed. And did I still mess up? Of course. But, you know, it’s really different messing up when you hurt a friend’s feelings than when you violate some principle, and you just try and cover for it.
I wanted to kind of wrap up my time by kind of my lessons. I have a head, a heart, and a hand. I think a lot about what do you need to know? What do you need to feel or grasp? And then what do you need to do in order to abide? And so, in terms of, if you really want to abide, you need a theology of your salvation and your identity in Christ. In other words, you’ll never really abide unless you learn: Who am I? And whose am I?
And so, you need to understand the Father ordained my salvation, the Son accomplished my salvation, and the Holy Spirit applies my salvation. And some of that is kind of heady stuff. For those of you that have been around for a long time, let me encourage you to read a book called Deeper by Dane Ortlund. He’s got another one called – what? – Gentle and Lowly where he takes theology and gets it to where, what does it look like?
And if what I’m talking about is a bit of a challenge, I wrote a book called Yes! You Can Really Change. If something like this would be helpful, grab it. But there are some things you do need to know. I mean, if you take calculus, right? There are some things you need to know. If you’re going to learn to do software, there are some things you need to know. If you want to be a follower of Jesus, there are some things you need to know. That’s your head.
The second is there are some things – heart – and in the heart, I think you need to feel and sense and reorient yourself in your Christian life around: This is a real person and a relationship. God is not the force. The goal is not to improve my behavior. Jesus is not my self-help genie. This is about a real person who has revealed what the Father is like, who is the second Person of the Trinity, that the Holy Spirit’s job is to manifest His presence and His personality and if you have trusted Christ, He lives in you.
And He wants to speak to you personally from His Word, He wants you to be loved and connected with others. And His presence inside you, He wants you to shape the lives of others and be shaped by them. And then He wants you to be His hands and His instruments to care and to love, especially the least of these.
And that’s something that needs to be a reorientation. If you consider the Christian life a bit like, “This is my job,” or, “How am I performing?” you will find yourself pretty frustrated. Trying hard. Joy is the byproduct of relationship.
And the final thing in terms of the to-do, what connects the head to the heart is your thinking. And so, you have to renew your mind. It was an accident that I started memorizing these cards. Well, after I did this, it was like, Wow! If sixty verses does this, anytime I found a verse that really spoke to me, then I would memorize it.
And then for some of you, you have been in the faith for a while, you need to pick out, what are some core chapters that, you know, when you’re sitting at a light you can go over in your mind, maybe Romans chapter 12 or maybe the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5, 6, and 7. By the way, you can do this! Or maybe it’s Ephesians 4 or maybe it’s a great psalm like Psalm 27 or Psalm 46 or Psalm 37. And pretty soon, you just, you start thinking and renewing your mind. Here’s what will happen, your desires will change.
The reason I meet with God in the morning is that if I don’t start my day with a focus and a connection in relationship, what I know is I’m going to get distracted later, right? I have distorted desires. I have been a Christian fifty years and I still have issues with all the things that you do that I need to battle. And left to myself, I’m going to get discouraged, because the enemy wants me to think I never measure up.
When I get really depressed, it goes like this, “You’re a terrible person. You’re a bad dad. You’re a terrible pastor. You’ll never amount to anything. Your life is a waste. You’re a bad husband.” And I think we all have dark times like that.
I’m just saying, “Hey, Lord, you know me! I’ve got all these struggles, here’s my background, I’ve got these family-of-origin issues, I married this wonderful girl, and her dad is an alcoholic. We have big marriage issues. We’ve got all this junk. Could I – You said if I would delight in You, You would give me the desires of my heart. You said if I abide in Your Word and Your Words abide in me, I’m trying to do that, but I struggle. So I’m telling You these are my desires.”
What would happen if you just took five 3x5 cards or on your phone, in your notes, and you wrote down: these are three or four desires of your relationship with God. Three or four desires with one important relationship. “My desire is to fill my mind with good things and guard my mind from evil things.” Because I really struggled with what I put in my mind.
And then in terms of those enemies that I talked about, I have unique ones and I think you do. And so, I wrote some that I wanted to be a part of my future that weren’t. “I want to become a worshipper. I want to enjoy God more, sing of His greatness, and ascribe worth and praise to Him.”
When I prayed, and I still struggle, I want to get something done. I’m an achiever, former workaholic, some would say it’s not as former as you think. And, you know, I’m performance oriented. Jesus wants to enjoy me. That still blows my mind. And when I sit quietly, when I – unlike most of my family, I can’t sing. I have none of those gifts. I put on some worship music and I sing to God, not very well. And that connection from truth to emotion to His presence. I mean, to me it’s a really special moment to emote. Like, I mean, when you’re with a really close friend, don’t you kind of laugh sometimes or cry sometimes? Worship does that in my life.
“I desire to hunger and thirst for God’s Word, to memorize and meditate on it at a renewed level of consistency,” and then here’s my line, “in order to know Him better.”
When you grow up in an alcoholic family, you become a pleaser. Because when you’re not, someone gets exploded and they get mad, and it gets scary. So what happens is you take that into your life and you end up wanting to please everyone, that creates tremendous tension. And so, this is one. This is my issue: insecurity. I read this over for years every day, “I’d like to become more authentic in every aspect of my life.” Just, God, whatever it means for the real me to show up and not to pose. And, by the way, I still pose.
“I’d like to be more generous this year with all the time and all the money that You have given me,” why? Because left to myself, I want to be in control. I want to control my time; I want to control my money. And as I have done that God has given me desires that I can’t understand where I have found myself to be more generous.
The final one is from Proverbs 4:23, but it’s, “I long to cultivate a heart of integrity and purity before God, allowing the Holy Spirit freedom daily to correct, convict, and restore me in matters of accuracy, privilege, power, perceived prestige, and moral purity, knowing my heart is deceitful above all else and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?”
Are you getting the picture? It’s just staying connected to Jesus, knowing that you have issues, I have issues. Knowing that you’re going to be distracted, knowing you’re going to get discouraged, and knowing that the enemy is all the time working and taking good things and give you distorted desires. But as you abide in Christ, the Lord will change your life, because the focus is Jesus. The whole goal is Jesus. And when you’re connected to Him, you will have joy when things are going great. And when you’re connected to Him, you will have joy when things aren’t.