“Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. This, then, is how you should pray, ‘Our Father,’” a foreign concept.
Judaism of the day had this sense of God’s majesty and His glory and His transcendence but they had missed the truth of Scripture of His Fatherhood, of His intimacy, of His approachability. And since God is your Father, He has a dream, He’s got a plan for your life.
How many people, by the way, are parents in here? You’ve got a kid? Wow. An awful lot of us. If you don’t know this yet, it’s only because they are real small, but your kids have a powerful, powerful role to play in your life. They will be the source of greatest joy you will ever experience on this planet and they will be the source of the greatest heartache you will ever have. Far more than any conflict with your mate, this person that is a part of each of you can break your heart, can break down communication, can say things and do things and live in ways that will bring you the deepest, deepest sorrow you will ever experience.
And, by contrast, man, when your kids want to be around you, when they are little and they say, “Daddy, can I crawl up in your lap?” “Yeah.” “Daddy?” “What?” “I love you.” “Oh, gosh, yeah.” I mean, right? And I will tell you that even as they grow up and get older and have kids of their own, there are few things sweeter in all of life.
And you have a dream for your kids and I have a dream for my kids. And when you’re young, like, they are one or two years old and you’re a young parent and it’s like, “I want them to be an astronaut, a nuclear physicist. I want my son to cure cancer! Or I want him to be the CEO of…” and you have all these lofty, what they do.
And then they get to be, little kids and eight, nine, ten-years-old and you’re thinking, You know, I’d like him to be a nice boy, a nice girl. Then they get to be teenagers, I don’t care what they do! They can deliver trash! But if they love God, if they were a person of integrity, if they had character, if we had a great relationship, I couldn’t care less where they work. Oh, God, give them a good vocation, help them to put food on the table, put them in their gifts. But oh, God, what I really want…
See, what you’re really concerned about, the older you get, is not what they do but who they become. God’s dream for you is about who you become. When you understand that He is Father, God’s dream for His children is to make you like His Son.
He is not a force. See, we have this idea that there are these invisible rules or principles or duties and when I violate those, Oh, sorry, I messed up. No, no, no, no. You broke your Father’s heart. You stepped away from relationship. You pulled away from His hug. He loves you, He cares for you.
For reasons I don’t understand, the One that created all that there is has given you the opportunity to either bring Him joy or bring Him sorrow. You can grieve the Holy Spirit, that’s a personal word.
When I live in ways that are not good for me, it hurts God’s heart because He is my Father. You miss that if you fall into religious activity, external rules. So, first and foremost, you get an accurate picture of God. But second, true spirituality is built on the principle of relationship.
It’s not the external keeping of religious duties. Now, you may end up doing some of those things out of love for a whole different set of reasons. It’s not about keeping of external rules and, Let’s see, these five things or those seven things. It’s not that there aren’t any things to do but it’s the difference between a child that you say to them, “Okay, don’t go outside the yard,” it’s a four-year-old or a five-year-old, “because the cars are very dangerous.” And you put a little picket fence but they can get over it.
And they, now, for all their lives, “I don’t go outside the yard, I don’t go outside the yard, I’m better than everybody else. You know, some other kids, they go outside the yard. I don’t go outside the yard. I stay inside the yard. Aren’t I a good person? I’m a really wonderful person because I don’t go outside the yard. I have to go outside the yard.”
And they keep the external rules but they never go talk to the parent who said, “Don’t go outside the yard,” and they totally forgot that the whole reason for not going outside the yard was, “I love you and I care for you and I don’t want you to get hit by a car.”
That’s a lot different than someone who says, “You know, I could go outside the yard if I wanted to and I could look both ways and, you know what? My father wants me to stay in here because he cares for me. My parents want me to be in this place.” And so it may look a little bit the same but the motives are completely different.
When Jesus was asked, “You’re so different, You’re a radical teacher, You’re not religious. So, what’s it all about? There are six hundred and thirteen or fourteen commands in the Old Testament. I mean, net it down for us. What’s it all about?” Jesus would say, “Here’s what it’s all about: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
In fact, the most vivid example, if you have a Bible with you, open it if you will, it’s toward the back, Philippians. This is the most religious man that ever became a Christian. The most moral man. He was far from God. He was so religious he thought he was doing God’s will when he was killing Christians.
And someone challenged him and basically said, “You know what? You don’t measure up, religiously, like we do.” Listen to the priorities of the apostle Paul, beginning about verse 4 he says, “If someone thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I far more.” And then he give us his pedigree: “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the Church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
In other words, “I’m squeaky clean, I follow all the rules, all the time, in the right way, I had it down.”
“But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to,” listen to his focus, “the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. And I consider them rubbish,” literally, the word is dung, or another good translation would be poo-poo. I mean, that’s what he’s saying. It’s in the text.
He says, “All of that former religious activity, impressing people, keeping the rules, compared that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes through the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God that is by faith.” Now notice his focus, “I want to know Christ,” not earn God’s favor, not avoid some fearful, wrathful God, not discover a formula, “and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of suffering, to become like Him in His death, if somehow, to obtain to the resurrection from the dead.”
And then notice it’s a process, “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already been made perfect or mature, but I press on,” notice the focus, “I take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I don’t consider myself yet to having taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward or pressing forward to what lies ahead, I reach to lay hold of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
And you know what that upward call is? “I want to know God.” It’s a relationship. We have missed this. We have taken Christianity and made it some little moral code. A good Christian is people that don’t cuss and don’t do certain other things and are a little bit nicer at work. “Oh, I’m sorry. It wasn’t a real Christian thing to do. Sorry.”
The Jesus of the New Testament was a strong, passionate, righteous and when He confronted things, He actually got very angry about some things to change the world. He calls us to follow Him.
True spirituality begins with an accurate picture of God. True spirituality is built on the principle of: relationship is the core. And if you want a good definition of it, it literally is loving God and loving people, twenty-four/seven, from the heart. That’s what it means to be spiritual.
When you are loving God and loving people, from the heart, with the right motive, that’s when the Father looks down and goes, “Oh, man, boy, climb up into My lap.” That’s when the Father is most pleased with you.
Now, the problem is that it raises the issue, you know, we can get fired up and say, “Okay, I want to love God and love people twenty-four/seven, from the heart.” How? What does it look like? How do you do it? How do you get a handle on it? What specifically, what’s the pathway? I mean, show me, Jesus, You said, “I am the way,” the word is hodos. It means a street, or a road, or a path.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life,” so would You show me, what is the way? And the apostle Paul would pen the way for us. Romans 12 provides us with a relational, grace-paced, pathway of true spirituality.
In Romans 12, after eleven chapters of grace, he’s going to tell us what God did for us, where we have fallen, how He has taken care of us, how He has forgiven us, all the power that is available.
And then in chapter 12, he is going to say, “Let me give you the pathway, the profile of what it means to be an authentic follower of Christ.” Notice, first, that it’s about relationships. Verse 1 is about your relationship with God. Verse 2, your relationship with the world or the world system, the cosmos. That’s not the physical world, that’s the worldview, energized by the evil one, Satan, who wants to seduce your soul from God.
And then there is a relationship, notice, verses 3 through 8, with yourself. In verses 9 through 13, you have a relationship with believers, those that are in Christ. And then in verses 14 through 21, you have a relationship with unbelievers.
If you would, with your pen, I want you to circle just those relationships. Go back through and where it says God, world, yourself, believers, unbelievers, circle it in your notes. Because you have to get this! And left to ourselves, we always drift into religiosity and to keeping rules and How am I doing? We actually want a scorecard! We want a cosmic scorekeeper! And we want Him to grade on the curve, but He doesn’t.
And so there is a response to each one of these. We are going to spend the next six weeks unpacking this pathway. And next week we are going to learn what God wants the most from you. And what we are going to learn, what He wants, is for you to offer your body, your physical body, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him. That is your spiritual service of worship. That’s what He really wants!
What He wants really, He wants you! Not your money, not your religious activity, He wants you! And then we are going to look at the life of Abraham, because he blazes the trail. And we are going to learn that surrender to God is the channel through which God’s biggest and best blessings flow.
It’s super counterintuitive but we are going to learn, by coming to God and surrendering all that I am and all that I have, God, because He is a good God and He’s a Father, He pours blessing into our lives with Him, relationships, in every area. And we will learn from Abraham what it looks like and how to do it.
And the next week we will look at our relationship with the world. And there we are going to learn that there is this world system and we need to stop allowing ourselves to be conformed to the world. But we need to be transformed, not by trying hard, but by the renewing of our mind, by thinking differently.
And when we think differently, and our mind is renewed with truth, then we will understand what the will of God is, that we will taste it, we’ll prove it. And we will actually get the good, acceptable, and perfect good things God has for us.
And we will look at the life of Daniel, who lived in an amazing pagan, pagan world and as a young teenager all the way through his eighties, he figured out how to not allow the world to press him into its mold, but he lived this amazing life and what he learned was how to get God’s best. And that’s what you will learn.
And the following week, we will move to your relationship with yourself. And we will talk about having a sober self-assessment. Verse 3 says, “Don’t think too highly of yourself, but think as you ought,” or with a sober judgment. God made you with strengths, with weaknesses. He has deposited spiritual gifts. You have a DNA that no other person in all the world has. You will never discover your calling of what He wants you to do until you quit denying who you are and trying to be someone else and trying to impress other people. We all do it.
And we are going to look at the life of Moses. Moses, at one point, thought he was bigger than he was and failed. And later, he didn’t think he was good enough and he almost failed. And we are going to learn from his life how to get an accurate, sober assessment, where you can look, not just in a physical mirror but into the mirror of your soul and say, “God, thanks for making me the way You did. I’m glad I’m this tall, with this color of eyes, with these strengths, with this personality that came out of this background. And I know there is a whole big painting in all the commercials that say I need to look like that and act like that. But you know what? No one can be me.”
And when you discover that and lean into it, you will find a joy and acceptance about how to come to grips with the real you that you have never had in your life.
Next, we’ll look at our relationships with fellow believers. And we will learn that far from Christianity or being a Christian, coming and sitting in a room and hearing some person talk and playing a little music and saying, “Well, I got that done today. Let’s see, let’s see, I ate, uh-huh, I ate, that’s important. I went to work, church, okay, got that one done. And it was a little more interesting. Yeah, well, it wasn’t bad.”
And you’re going to realize, No, no, no, it’s about doing life. “Let love be without hypocrisy,” literally it’s take off your mask. “Abhor what is evil.” Come clean, you don’t have to protect and hide and fake it. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” And you’ll learn to serve in love. And we will look at the life of Jonathan and David and a relationship where they peel back the layers and they are heart-to-heart and face-to-face and devoted at deep levels. And they experience this connection and you will learn how to experience authentic community.
And then, finally, we will look at the most supernatural of all. And, by the way, this one can’t happen until the others do, because in a fallen world, you get knocked, don’t you? You have mates that walk out on you, you have bosses that betray you, you have what you thought were “Christian” friends or “Christian” business people who you are left with the debt and they left with the money.
We are all going to get a raw deal; it’s a fallen world. Really bad things happen to good people and what bothers me almost as much or more is really good things happen to some bad people, for a season.
And you’re going to have to discover, What are you going to do about the evil that is aimed at you? And you can whine and complain and not forgive and be bitter and you become a little prisoner of your own little world. Or you can bless those who persecute you. You can bless and curse not. You can not be overcome with evil but you’ll learn how to overcome evil with good.
And you’ll just choose to do it and you won’t feel like doing it and you’ll be with a group of people now and by now you’ll get to know really one another. And some stuff you’ve held onto for years will get on the table and God will break the prison that some of you are in and you will do good for some people that have done you wrong and you will forgive from the heart. And you will be free.
And people will wonder, “What in the world happened to you?” Because what is happening is you are just an authentic, regular, ordinary, normal Christian. You’re an R12 Christian, surrendered to God, separate from the world’s values, sober in self-assessment, serving in love, and supernaturally responding to evil with good.
That’s the journey we are on. That’s true spirituality. Now, here’s the deal. Everything I just shared is going to be an exciting journey, but right now, if I could have red lights flashing in the back, beep, beep, you know, like with those big trucks? Errrn, errrn, errrn, errrn, like, when you go backwards? There is a warning. Turn the page. Here’s the warning. Very, very important.
Because we are human, because we like to control, because we want to know where we’re at, the danger is we will make the R12 profile, or pathway, we’ll just make it a new set of rules! And it will become our new set of externals and we will try to do it in our own energy.
R12 is not a “Try hard, moral code” to live up to, but a faith-response to what God has already done. Listen to that. Let that wash over you. A faith-response to what God has already done.
If this was like, if you could imagine this is a number line, and the book of Romans was actually an open book and I could stand right here and God would supernaturally open the book of Romans and I would say, “Come on, you guys!” We would walk through chapters 1, 2, and 3 and I would say, if I would summarize all of it, this is the problem with all people of all time. We miss the mark. We know what’s right and we don’t do it. We know what’s wrong and we do it anyway.
We try hard. We fail. And God is an absolutely holy God and it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The glory of God says, “Anyone, to have a relationship with a holy God, your moral character, motives, needs to be a perfect score of one hundred all the time.” And God says, “No one does that.”
How do you solve that problem? Being religious doesn’t do it. And so in chapters 4 and 5, if we moved through the book, is God’s solution to the problem of sin is salvation. The word salvation means deliverance.
And chapters 4 and 5 are about God the Son, Jesus, coming to the earth, living an absolutely perfect life, being convicted of nothing, being the central person of all time and history, and He would die upon a cross, being fully God and fully man. And when He died upon the cross, He took on your sin and my sin, once and for all, and He paid for it. He atoned for it. It means He covered it.
And so He took the first three chapters and He covers it and the only way you can receive that forgiveness that is an absolute free gift is by faith. God, forgive me. I repent of my way of thinking. I admit that I have sinned and I ask You right now to give me the gift of the life of Christ to forgive my sin. And He says He will.
When that happens, the Spirit of God enters your life and so we move into chapters 6, 7, and 8. And the theologians call this sanctification or how do you live this new life in freedom and in power? And then chapter 6 says whatever happened to Jesus actually happened to you. You died with Him, you have been raised with Him.
Chapter 7 says as long as you are in this physical body, you are going to have a battle between the flesh and the spirit and it’s going to be three steps forward, progress, and then you’re going to really blow it. It doesn’t mean you’re not a Christian, it just means you’re human. And you stay on the path.
And chapter 8 will say, “Thanks be to God that there is no condemnation, therefore, for those that are in Christ.” And the Christian life isn’t hard. It’s absolutely impossible. And chapter 8 will teach you and me that the only One that can live it is Christ. But now that His Spirit lives inside of you, your only goal, you abide. And as you abide and surrender to the Spirit of God and are in the Word of God, in the community of God’s people, the life of Christ will be produced in and through you. He lives His life through you. That’s true spirituality.
I look back out of that book and God says, “Now, here is how the pathway for followers. I want you to surrender all that you are and all you have to Me so you can get My best. I want you to turn from the world, have your mind renewed, in such a way that I will show you My will for you and give it to you. I want you to discover how I made you. I want you to get connected with people to get loved and give love. And then, in a world that is absolutely evil until I come back, I want you to stand with Me and say to them, from the heart, without being a passive doormat, ‘God, forgive them, they know not what they do.’ But in strength and in power.” The word is meekness or gentleness. We blaze a trail where we don’t give evil for evil, but we return good. And in that power, as we have seen historically, it brings about transformation in people, in groups, and in cultures.