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What is True Spirituality?, Part 1

From the series Momentum

True spirituality - what is it and how do you know if you’ve got it? Simple, right? Join Chip for this journey of what True Spirituality looks like in the lives of some of God's favorite people.

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Message Transcript

Welcome to the R12 journey. We’re going to talk about a series where we are going to dare to experience true spirituality. And as we get started, I’m going to ask you to reach back in the recesses of your mind and here’s what I want you to do. I want you to think back to either the very first or the most memorable spiritual experience you had as a young child.

When were you most aware that there was a God? That there is something more than yourself? The sense that God existed and maybe even that He cared for you, whoever or whatever this is going to be like, have you got it? Really try and think back. Sort of, that first “God experience,” awareness that there’s more than just the material world.

For me, I was eight years old. I still remember it vividly. I’m eight years old and I was the altar boy and I’m carrying this cross and the pastor is behind me and a bunch of other people. And I came – our church was a big A frame, about forty feet high and it was all stained glass with a cross in the middle.

And I put the little cross over here and he’d go this way and I would go this way. And I sat and that particular day, light was coming through the stained glass, and it hit just the base of the cross. You know, I’m just a squirrely eight-year-old, I don’t have any theological training and I don’t know anything.

But I had thoughts go through my mind that I never had in my whole life. It was like, “Wow, I wonder what God is like. If He made everything, I wonder what He wants me to do. I wonder how you know Him.”

And all I can tell you is I had this warm feeling of love and acceptance that vaguely said it has something to do with that cross. And all I can, you know, you’re an eight-year-old kid, so I get done and I don’t know what the pastor said, I was just a kid. But I told my mom and dad, “I want to be the altar boy every week from now on at eight o’clock.”

There was this drawing, there was this sense of warmth and love and what it was was God’s presence. I had never experienced it before. Looking back, I was being wooed by the Holy Spirit and I experienced God’s presence and so I wanted it again. That’s what happens when you really experience God.

And the bad part was my spiritual experience only lasted less than seven days because I remember the next week I told my parents that I didn’t want to get up; it was kind of early, you know, eight o’clock. Like, it was really cool last week but, you know…

And so I continued to go to church and the denomination I came out of has some very good Bible teaching, wonderful people. Mine wasn’t one of those. And so as I grew up, that was my experience, and then I grew up at a place where people, it was filled with being irrelevant, hypocritical, everyone saying certain things, acting certain ways, but their walk and their talk told a completely different message.

And then I guess I was naïve that when they said stuff, I thought, at least someone meant it. But there was zero expectation that anything that anyone said on Sunday would have anything to do with how you lived.

And so I watched this and I am a fairly logical guy so by about sixteen, I came to this conclusion: I think church and the whole “God” stuff is about adults creating religion to keep your kids in line morally for a few years so you don’t get totally whacked out. And then when you get to be an adult like the rest of us, you learn that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny, and no God. But it’s just sort of this sociological thing to keep them from doing terrible, bad things growing up and control them.

And so I just, at sixteen, said, “I don’t know where life and purpose is coming from but it certainly isn’t God, it’s certainly not the Church, and maybe somebody created all this, I don’t know, I don’t have time for it.” You know, you’re sixteen, what do you think about?

And so I went through, “Okay, so, where is meaning and purpose in life going to come from?” And I grew up in the sixties, and then early seventies was hitting adulthood and my dad was a very focused guy. He was a Marine. I used to say he was an ex-Marine. And after I said that in a talk, a guy came up to me and said, “Excuse me, young man? There is no such thing as an ex-Marine.” I said, “Yes, sir.”

And, honestly, I learned that when my father went home to be with the Lord, the Marines came and they were a part of that service and folded a flag and gave it to me. He was a Guam, Iwo Jima, Purple Heart guy.

But my dad had this very strong, if he said it, you just didn’t mess with him. And so it was like, “Look, son, here’s how life works. You want to be happy?” “Yeah.” “Then you need to be successful.” “Okay.” “You want to be successful? You set clear goals, you develop a strategy, and you work harder than anyone else. You got that?” “Yes, sir.”

And so I was, like, “Okay.” So I was that kid who was shoveling snow off of the driveway in the middle of winter because I was going to shoot while other people were watching games. So eight or nine hours a day I’m playing basketball.

And then I figure, it probably has something to do with money and academics so I worked hard in school and if you can become a workaholic at twelve or thirteen, I figured it out. I had my own lawn business, six or seven regular jobs. One all day job, two paper routes, lent my parents three thousand dollars at six percent interest, so they could buy a little piece of land.

And so when I got to high school it was just like lock and load. Okay, you want to academically be here? You have to date a cute cheerleader, get a scholarship to college, be all this and all that. I didn’t get it all done but basically, when I got to be a senior, I had all those little check marks and high school is not a really big fish pond but when you’re in it, you think it’s pretty big stuff.

And so I got my scholarship and did well and had the cute, little cheerleader and I’ll never forget the graduation night. I don’t know why, I can never remember why, but we were in this apartment and it was completely empty. It didn’t have any furniture. And there were thirty or forty of us sitting in a circle, this is the seventies, okay, passing a joint around and reminiscing. And I didn’t inhale. Not only actually, that’s a joke for some of you that remember years back.

Actually, I not only didn’t inhale, when you’re on a basketball scholarship and you are my size and as skinny as I am, you can’t put anything in your body that is going to hurt you. So, I just pass it on.

And so, no religious conviction, I just thought, You know what? Everyone is bigger, stronger, and can jump higher than me. I better not mess myself up.

And so this gal turns to me that was a good friend. She goes, “Chip, you must be really happy tonight.” And I said, “Why?” And then she started to peel off, this, Cute little girlfriend and you did well in school and you got the scholarship. And I had this emotion of the most empty feeling, at eighteen, I have ever experienced in my life.

And I really, someone just shattered my little box. It was, Wait a second. Happiness is by success. Success is you do this, this, this, this. I followed the plan. And I just felt this, So this is it? And what’s bad is I didn’t even celebrate, I mean, I didn’t even recognize that I had, sort of, hit the goals.

I had already, like some of us do, gone to the next one. I had already decided, I’m going to go to college, I’m majoring in political science, I will be a lawyer, I will marry a beautiful wife, we will have three beautiful kids, we will have an Irish Setter, I will have a luxury car, I will wear, back then, a two or three hundred dollar Armani or Brooks Brothers suit, was pretty cool. I’ll live in the suburbs and I’ll be a leader in the community by the age thirty-two to thirty-four. And it was just like, lock and load. Go do it!

And then I had this moment like, Now, wait a second. I did this once. I could go do that and spend the next fifteen years, what if I feel even more empty? And I’ll never forget driving home and then later that night, having, I’d say, sort of a “God talk,” and my prayer was, “God, if You exist, reveal Yourself to me. I don’t know if You do or not, but if You do and You’re powerful enough and can reveal Yourself to me, I want to know You. And if there is a purpose in life, I’d like to know what it is.”

A week later a coach paid my way to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp and it was actually a scary experience. I walked in, I got a t-shirt, this little, easy-to-read Bible, and I just thought I had landed in Jesus Freak land. I mean, people would say the word “Jesus” out loud, they would talk about God and they were professional athletes and college athletes and about seven hundred high school athletes. And Tom Landry came so I thought, Well, it can’t be that bad. He’s the coach of the Cowboys.

But, it was like, “Ooooh.” - this is 1972 and the Jesus movement. And I just thought, Get me out of here. I can’t take this for a week. And every morning, they’d  given you this little Bible and for twenty minutes you’re supposed to read the Bible before you do calisthenics and then eat breakfast. Now, all day was fun. You played sports and got to talk with some guys.  And so I just thought, They are not going to indoctrinate me. And so I wouldn’t open it up. And after about the third day, there was such an authenticity and a reality and a love of these men that I thought, You know, maybe there’s something to this.

And the fast-forward of the story is I realized that I had confused religion and Christianity with Jesus and a relationship with God. And I had rejected one and rejected the other, not knowing that they are very different.

And that night, for the first time, I understood that God cared about me, that He sent His son, Jesus, who was fully God and fully man to die upon a cross to pay for my sin and that I could turn from my sin and receive a free gift and, literally, the Spirit of God would enter my human body and begin a transformation that is called eternal life that sets you on a new course and brings peace and fills that emptiness in your heart and life.

And I prayed a very untheological, you know, Dear God, whatever it means for You to come into my life and I’m sorry for stuff I have done. It wasn’t a pretty prayer but I really meant it. And I knew that I couldn’t play games with God and I didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

And so there were a couple of things, I remember that night, just thinking, Boy, if I go down this road, I can’t play around. And I remember asking Christ to come into my life and forgive me. And I’d like to say that then someone followed me up and taught me all these things and everything went great. All I can tell you is I went home and I took that little Bible and I stuck it under my pillow because I thought my parents might think I freaked out.

They were religious but we didn’t talk about God and we didn’t pray. And they were good, moral people. And all I can tell you is my desires started changing. And there was joy and I found myself singing and it was like, whoa! And this is great! You know? And just desires changed and so I went away to college and it was really neat. Like, some of the really big sins were, bam! They’re out of here! And it was like, Whoa! This is awesome!

But then I found some other sins that were like, Whoa, these don’t go away so quickly. And then I started reading and I couldn’t get enough of the Bible. I would read it at night, read it in the morning. And as I was reading it and I’m in this college and I’m playing on the basketball team and there are four girls to every guy and there was sort of a way to live that looks really fun.

And I’m reading this New Testament that’s saying, This is not God’s way. And I didn’t mind Him forgiving my sins but this running my life stuff was, I didn’t really sign up for that. You know? See, how I was living and how God wanted me to live was like this. And this bricklayer came down who was trained by a group called The Navigators and he helped me actually start to read the Bible so I could understand it and talk to God.

And I was having these little God experiences like when I was a little kid, like, every day! And then on Thursday nights, all these kids would get together, remember, this is the seventies. And sitting on the floor and playing the guitars and singing.

And the presence of God, I got it again, it was like, Whoa, whoa, this is really cool! But I grew up thinking, like, seven out of ten commands is seventy percent. Isn’t that passing? I mean, that’s a C, right?

And I kept reading and it was like, You know, no. And so I developed this schizophrenic Christianity. Read the Bible maybe two or three times a week in the morning and meet with God and Thursday nights were fun. And then I got in the car with four or five basketball players every Friday and Saturday night and we hit every bar in Wheeling.

And then I felt really bad, God, I’m really sorry. Oh, gosh, I know I shouldn’t have said this, shouldn’t have done this, God, really sorry. Will You please forgive me? He would forgive me. And I’m going to get up read my Bible tomorrow, in fact, it’s three o’clock in the morning, but I’ll even try and get up and go to church. I’m really, I’m really sorry. You know? And then, Oh, thank you so much.

And then, I mean, I was nuts! You know something? Maybe not to that degree but all the research says nine out of every ten Christians in America is living a Christian schizophrenic life.

They intellectually adhere to, I love Jesus, I’ve asked Him to come into my life and my heart, I think these things are really important. Of course, my finances, my future, my relationships, my mouth, my priorities don’t show it but He grades on the curve, right? And I have never really met anyone who is really actually and so I think I’m kind of, and…

And so there’s this life and it’s usually filled with lots of guilt and lots of duty and you’re supposed to do more of this and less of that and then, so what happens is you try hard and you fail. And you really want to be authentic so you try really, really harder and you fail again. And then you realize, You know, forget it. You start just trying hard or not trying so hard and then you fake it.

And you learn a few verses and you smile and let a “Praise the Lord,” come out in some groups and let something else come out of your mouth in a different group. That’s Christianity in America.

See, what I experienced is, I couldn’t enjoy God’s presence because I had all this guilt and then I knew I was really a part of His family because I couldn’t enjoy the sin anymore because I had all this shame and conviction.

Here’s the question: what is true spirituality? How do we move beyond religion, church programs, legalism, performance orientation, or in my case, a compartmentalized life? I had basketball, girls, and academics over here and God and a few other things over here.

How do we move beyond that to grace-filled, authentic relationship with God? That’s what this whole series is about. What is true spirituality?

There are three things you’re going to have to understand if you are going to experience it. And here’s what I want to tell you: that moment, as an eight-year-old, or that moment that came to your mind when you had a God awareness, when there was a sense of warmth and acceptance and love and there was something outside yourself that maybe there is meaning to life – God wants you to experience that twenty-four/seven.

But it starts, are you ready? True spirituality begins with an accurate picture of God. You have to have an accurate picture of God. If you have a warped picture of God, it will send you down bad pathways. If you think God is an angry deity that you’re afraid of, that He is always looking to punish you, it will send you into ritual. So you do so many things a day and you have to do this and you have to do that and you have to do that and you hope someday, someway that you can appease His anger.

Or for others, you think God is a cosmic scorekeeper and He’s got this great board, you know, a chalkboard in the sky and there’s a chalk line in the middle: good deeds and bad deeds and your whole life is about good deed, good deed, good deed, I’m a good boy, don’t You love me today? Bad, You don’t really seriously…Good girl, good girl, bad boy…

And it’s a performance orientation. And you never pray long enough or hard enough or good enough. You never give enough, you never measure up. And somehow then you start grading on the curve and you just hope somehow, some way that the cosmic scorekeeper, that maybe your good deeds will outweigh your bad deeds, realizing that you totally missed relationship.

For others, you think, or have been taught, or at least the worldview is out there is that He is not an angry deity, He’s not even a cosmic scorekeeper.

He is an impersonal force. God is an invisible, impersonal force. He is in all things and even inside of you in some ways. And you need to become one with the universe.

And so there’s a formula. I’m serious! So the formula is an altered state of consciousness, the formula is techniques and ways to develop oneness with the cosmos. I’m going to tell you, God is not an angry deity, He is not a cosmic scorekeeper, and He is far from an impersonal force. He is your heavenly Father. He loves you. But He is a father.

You matter. He wants a relationship. He wants to, in ways that are very visceral and real, He wants to hug you and hold you and love you and direct you and guide you and like any parent, give you the very best.

The apostle John would write 1 John 3:1, “How great is the love of the Father that He has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it does not know Him.” Jesus’ life was a complete contradiction to all the religion of His day. His harshest words came to people that kept all the rules, that were squeaky clean, that did all the religious activities.

And He, in their minds, broke through all those rules because He was about a relationship with the Father. And they watched, and the thing that showed the intimacy more than anything else is His disciples. They would listen to Him pray and they would watch Him pray and it wasn’t duty and it wasn’t going through lists and it wasn’t to impress people like they saw growing up.

And so they said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” What does He say? “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, 24/7, 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 24/7, 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 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.

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 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 cannot 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.