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Sunday, 28 January 2018

'BECOMING SPIRITUAL FORMED'

Rev. Brent Russett
By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:
http://www.sunnysidechurchottawa.com/   

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PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, January 28th, 2017:
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Broadcast Notes:
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Becoming Spiritual Formed
    



I would like to thank Bruce Newman for sponsoring this program. And I know that one of Bruce’s favourite ministries is Jericho Road. So I would like to give a shout out to them. They are a local charity that exists to serve the poor, the addicted and the mentally ill. It really is an amazing ministry.


             
             I know that some of you who are listening have been followers of Jesus for a long time, and I know that others of you think of yourself as spiritual, but you are not really sure of this Christian thing, and I know others of you just curious how people of faith think. I trust that wherever you are on yours spiritual journey, that you will find this program interesting and informative, and I believe that for those of you desire it, God can use a program like this to take you another step closer to Him

            One of the things I am interested in is how people are spiritually formed. I have read a lot of books on the subject. I have talked with a lot of people on the subject. I have done a lot of writing on the subject. What I have found is that in some ways it really simple. If you are going to be spiritually formed – you need to follow Jesus and do what he says. In other ways it is really complicated because we all enter this world with a sinful nature and in brokenness. But we are all broken in different ways.

            Sometimes I feel like I am following Jesus and yet I am walking with a limp. There are things that drag me down. Circumstances, personality issues, challenges, particular life choices have made me what I am. Some of them have made it easier to follow Jesus and others have made it harder to follow Jesus. In the middle of life is the question how do we become spiritual formed? Or to put it another way, how do we walk in relationship to God so that we are living out the life he intended us to live – abundant and full – a life that makes a difference?

            Becoming spiritual formed is a journey. The first step along the way is you come to a place where you give your life to Jesus. You ask Jesus into your heart. You ask him to forgive you of your sins. You choose to follow him. That is what the bible calls being born again. You are given the Holy Spirit. You are adopted into the family of God. You are transferred from the kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of light..

            When that happens, you are just a babe in Christ. There is so much growing and maturing to happen. There is still a long journey.

            Jesus told about a farmer who went to his field and sowed. The seed fell on a path, rocky ground, amongst weeds, and in good soil. As you might guess they grew very differently – here is how Jesus explains the point of his story.

Matthew 13:18–23 (NLT)
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

            Some hear the gospel, but they don’t respond. Others year the gospel and the run with it for a little while, but when the going gets tough, their spiritual life withers and dies. Some people continue to grow, but they have weeds that grow along side of them, and they get choked out. Some thrive.

            If you are going to be formed spiritually as a Christian, you have to start by receiving the good news. The good news is that God loves you. And he has done everything that needs to be done so that you can have a relationship with him. We have been so warped by sin that we can’t connect to God. But Jesus came into the world and took our sin and gave us his goodness. If you will receive the work that Jesus did on your behalf – by faith, Jesus forgives your sin and gives you life. That is the good news, the gospel in a nutshell.

            But even when you receive Jesus, you have to be spiritual formed. You have to grow up spiritually

            So how are we spiritually formed. How do we grow up in Christ?

            Well the reality is that a lot of Christians don’t. You may have been a Christian for 30 years, but that does not mean that you have matured spiritually. I used to know a preacher who said, if people went to the Sunday School class that was based on their spiritual maturity we would have a lot of 50-year-olds in the primary class.

            A lot of people don’t grow up spiritually and it is sad.

            I have been looking at American Evangelicalism and following my Facebook feed and there is just this sick feeling that comes over me. If you have been spiritual formed, you – as the bible says – hate what is evil – and cling to what is good. Notice it doesn’t say hate those who are evil. I see more hating of people and less hating of evil – that is not what it means to be spiritual formed.

            When People refuse to grow up spiritually – it ends up giving Jesus a bad name – and he so doesn’t deserve that.

            Canadian Christians are not immune. Our sins are just nuanced different. But the amount of Christians in Canada who don’t know their bibles are staggering. You can’t be spiritually formed – at least Christianly, if you are not into scripture. The amount of Christians who set themselves up as judges of the word of God rather than the other way around is incredible.

            Canadian culture is slanted towards the common good. So we sometimes deceive ourselves with how enlightened we are – but I wonder how we will handle life if and when it gets hard.

            When Christians fail to grow up spiritually it has a way of giving God a bad name. I know a lot of people who when they get to know him, love Jesus – but they are not so sure of church people. That is really sad.

So the question is, how do I grow up spiritually?

            There are basic things like pray and read scripture. There are important things like connecting with other believers – and learning to love one another.

            But this morning I want to walk you through some of the things that get over looked. I am hoping that these things will be really helpful in your spiritual journey.

            Before we go there let’s listen to Pray put to music

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            I want to take you
Romans 8:1–4 (NLT) first
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power* of the life-giving Spirit has freed you* from the power of sin that leads to death..

            When it comes to being spiritually formed – here is the starting point. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

            When it comes to spiritual formation as a Christian, you start and you live in a place of acceptance by God. You start in a place of being loved by God. You start in a place of being forgiven by God.

And even when you sin, when you fail, that does not diminish God’s acceptance of you. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

            Becoming spiritual formed is not about you being accepted by God, it is about you loving God and returning his love for you – and then in that love becoming all that you were meant to be.

            Does that diminish horrible nature of sin. No. Jesus died because of our sin. Sin is something that can never be taken lightly. But in spite of our sin and failure we are accepted by God.
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            I know some of you struggle to try to please God. Can I urge you just to ask God the question, what would I look like for me to just love you? God loves you so much and what he longs for is your love in return. He is not a God who you try to pacify with your behaviour, he is a God who you love with your heart. He has done everything so that you can have a relationship with him.       

             Don’t to earn his favour. You have that. It is not about being good enough for God, it is about loving God. Just love God

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            That is the first thing you need to know, don’t worry about performing for God, just love God.

            The second thing I want you to know is that your spiritual life has a lot more to do with your body than you might think.

            I know we tend to think or our spiritual life, or our hearts first. When you become a Christian you give your heart to God. But to be formed as a Christian – it has a lot to do with what you do with your body          

Come with me to
Romans 6:12–14 (NIV)
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself (Gr. your body)  to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

            When Paul talks about how to live out our spiritual lives it starts with the body. Romans 12:1. I beseech you therefore brethren, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice.

            Prayer is important. Scripture reading is important. How we think is important. But Paul starts out with our bodies.

            He says don’t let sin reign in your body. Don’t offer any part of your body to sin.

            Well what does that mean? There of a number of ways to think about your body. You can think of your body as how you bring your will to bear on this world. You can do good or evil with your body. So when it says don’t let sin reign in your body – don’t use your body to do sinful things.

            Well duh – that is not profound. Don’t do evil.

            But not only does your body bring your will to bear on this world, but it goes the other way too. Your body shapes your soul. Your body is the input apparatus for your soul.

 Or to put it another way, much of what affects your soul comes through your body’s  5 senses. 

          Sight
          Hearing
          Touch
          Taste
          Smell

When it says “don’t offer any part of your body to sin” one of the ways of thinking about that is, “don’t offer your senses to what is sinful”

            Your body is the doorway to your soul. Your soul is formed by what it sees and hears and touches and tastes and smells. Don’t offer your senses to sin.
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            The problem is of course that we live in a world where evil is very close. The internet has given us the ability to offer our bodies to sin through the simple act of a click.

            Think about what you see and hear in the media and magazines and Facebook and politics. A lot of what they do is promote the seven deadly sins: Pride Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth and Greed.

            Now here is the thing about sin. Sin is always goodness distorted. All those deadly sins start with a kernel of beauty and of truth but they get inflated and distorted. We are surrounded by good things that have become distorted, and it affects us. Our body is the doorway to the soul, and being surrounded by these things has a way of forming the soul.

            So what do we do? In a world that is steeped in sin, how do we keep ourselves by being spiritual formed by those things?

            There are various ways of distancing our bodies from sin. There is the Amish way, or the way of the hermit, where we try to withdraw from the world. Not many of you are going to go there, although a few of you would like to get a cabin in the woods and hibernate.

There is the cluster method where we surround ourselves with everything Christian. We only have Christian friends and listen to Christian radio and read Christian books. There are some of you who choose to go there.

            The problem with those solutions is that it is very hard to be salt and light in our world, if we are  not in our world.

            When there are so many things around us that can form our soul in a warped way, - how do we handle that.

            What I have noticed is this. When people start to understand that what they do with their body matters – their first response is often legalism. They make rules for themselves. I am going to only watch x amount of tv in a week. I am only going to go on Facebook x times a day. I know from experience that that is not helpful. The way forward is not to somehow withdraw from the world, or somehow manage the sin around you

            The way forward is to engage in goodness. Instead of figuring out what you are not going to do, figure out what you should do instead.

            Lent starts in the middle of February. Some of you will choose to give up something. Chocolate seems to be a favorite, although, some give up Facebook etc. There is something good about fasting. It reminds us that our bodies are not the boss of us.

            But I would urge you to take up something good as well. It may be scripture reading, or serving a neighbour, or caring for a friend. Learning new habits godly habits are the better way to go in dealing with our bodies. When you are engaged with what is good, you don’t have to be near as concerned about being surrounded by what is bad.

            The start of spiritual formation, is knowing that you are accepted by God. The way of spiritual formation, is understanding that what we do with our bodies forms our souls.

            Now let me take you to the spiritual formation of our minds and hearts. Or to put it another way – what do you do with your desires.

Romans 8:5–8 (NIV)
Those who live according to the flesh (Sinful Nature) have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.


            Your are going to be dominated by one of two things, your sinful nature and your spiritual nature. And it is going to depend on what you focus on as to which one wins.

            You have two natures. The sinful nature wants to take the things God meant for good, and repurpose them for evil. It wants to push us towards the seven deadly sins. And there will be times when your desires push you in that direction.

            Instead of being glad about who we are and our own success, we become proud as we become self focused and think ourselves better than others as we compare ourselves to others.

            Instead of being satisfied with what we have and building on that, we want what other people have. We envy.

            In stead of being angry over injustice in this world, we get angry when life isn’t all about me. That is wrath.

            You get the idea, our sinful nature wants to distort what was meant for good. That sinful nature runs deep in all of us. You can focus on that. The result according to the scriptures is death.

            Instead of living your insides will shrivel. You will become hostile to God. You will be unable submit to God. You can’t please God.

            But if you are a Christian, your sinful nature is not the real you.

            Put simply the very definition of a Christian is one in whom Christ dwells. And if Christ lives in you, then that is the most important thing about you. The Spirit of Jesus living in your, goes deeper than your sinful nature.

            But your spiritual formation will depend on what you choose to focus on. You will find that the Spirit has put good desires in you: to love, to rejoice, to be patient, to be good.

            So you have a choice -and it is a real choice, which nature are you going to live out of. Choosing to live out of your sinful nature – it brings death. Choosing to live out of your spiritual nature brings life.

            Here is what the bible says about your spiritual nature.

Romans 8:14–16 (NIV)
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

            At the core of who you are Christ lives there – and with that you are led by God and loved by God.

            When you are led by God – you will get this deep sense about what is right and wrong. You get this sense, some call it a check in their spirit. Some call it sense that they should do something. But that is part of God at work in you. That is your spiritual nature.
The start of spiritual formation, is knowing you are accepted by God. The way of spiritual formation, is understanding that what we do with our bodies forms our souls. The challenge of spiritual formation is focusing on the good desires that God has put with in us.

            There is a steep price to pay for not growing up as a Christian. God is calling you to grow in him.

            God wants you to know love and peace and joy. He invites you into a relationship with him, He also wants you to grow up in him – so that you can experience all that he has for you. My question is --Will you cooperate with him on the journey?
           

Lord Jesus, I pray for those who have been thinking where they’re at in their spiritual journey and that they want to be spiritually formed.
I’m asking, Lord, that you would take them another step closer to you.
I’m asking, Lord, that you would allow them to see you for who you are; and that they would be led by you; that they would know that they belong; that they would know how to live well in this world; and that they would focus on what is good and true to the desires that you put in them.
I pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN.


            And Thank you for listening to Good News in the morning. 

            This program is on the air by the grace of God and donations of many faithful people.. Again thanks Bruce Newman for sponsoring this program.

            My name is Brent Russett, and it has been a privilege to bring you Good News in the morning.

By Rev. Brent Russett
Pastor of Sunnyside Wesleyan Church in Ottawa:
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PODCAST LINK to the CFRA broadcast:

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