Welcome to the r12 Journey: Dare to Experience True Spirituality. What does it mean to be truly spiritual? What's that look like in your life and mine? As we begin, I would like you to think of the very first moment that you can remember that was a moment of spiritual awareness as a child. The Sweet Taste of Grace. Maybe it was a sense of God's presence. You experienced your first little taste of God.
Later as you grew up you began to think that the people in church were irrelevant, unbiblical, and often hypocritical. The Bitter Taste of Religion. People said one thing and lived another. So you drifted - wondered whether God existed - didn't know where the answers are in life, but didn't think it's God or church.
You grew up in a generation where happiness was defined like this: Work hard, be successful, set clear goals, fulfil those goals and you will be happy. The False Hope of Success. You reach some level of success – school, university, sport, marriage and work. Still an empty feeling of unfulfillment.
Then comes conversion - for the first time in your life you understand what you experienced as a child. The Joy of a New Life. God loves me, he cares for me, has something for me to do and the cross is real. So you prayed and asked Christ to forgive your sins – “I don't understand it all, but I want you to come into my life.” It was a radical transformation - desires changed - couldn’t get enough of the Bible. Certain things changed very quickly and amazingly, and certain things were just tough. Some sins you kept struggling with. You tried hard, and asked God for help. As you kept reading through this Bible, you discovered that God's idea of how to do life and your ideas were really different.
You still did some things you wish you hadn't done - felt bad and asked God to forgive you -told him you'd never do that again. He’d forgive you - felt peace - get up and read the Bible again. Next week - did the same thing – The Misery of a Schizophrenic Christian Life. Thursday: God. Friday, Saturday: the world. Sunday: God. Many Christians today sincerely want to follow Christ but live a schizophrenic Christian life: in their values, their money, their future, their relationships, their integrity, their moral purity. Their words and desires and intellectual belief system are over here and lifestyles over here. It raises the question: What is true spirituality? How do you go beyond religion and church programs and legalism and performance? We have compartmentalised lives but we desire a grace-filled, authentic relationship with God.
What is true spirituality? We're going to walk a pathway over the next weeks that will help you understand that you're loved by God, that it's about grace, not performance, and that it's not about religious activity. It's not about a list of rules. It's about a relationship with God. Today I want to give you an overview because there are 3 specific things you've got to understand –
1. True spirituality begins with an accurate picture of God.
If you start with the wrong picture of God, you will never experience true spirituality. If you think God is an angry god and you're afraid of punishment, then there's a list of rituals that you'll do and you’ll pray x times a day so you avoid his wrath. That's one view of God.
Another view of God is that he's a cosmic scorekeeper - good deeds and bad deeds - so you run around like a good little boy or a good little girl. You have this performance orientation, and you're never quite sure if you're doing enough.
Another view of God is that he's an impersonal force. He's not really a person. He's in everything and around everything, so you need to discover the formula and get in touch with the higher consciousness - so somehow you can be one with the universe. That leads you on a whole different path than the way of God. 1 John 3: 1 "How great is the love the Father 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 did not know Him."
Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray - he said "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. This, then, is how you pray. 'Our Father in heaven...'" Matthew 6: 8, 9.
The right picture of God is you have a father. He's not a deity to be feared. He's not a cosmic scorekeeper. He is not an impersonal force. He is personal, loving, kind, holy, just Father who wants to love you and wants you in turn to learn how to respond and have a love relationship with Him. Those of you who are parents and have children, we all have a dream for our children. Your children will be the source of the greatest joys you ever have on this planet, and they'll be the source of the deepest sorrows you'll ever experience. No one can hurt you like your children because you care about them so deeply.
Your Heavenly Father has a dream for your life. You can grieve your Heavenly Father. You can make Him sad, or you can bring great joy. God's dream for all of His children is to make us like His Son. 2 Corinthians 3: 18 - the process He uses to make us like His Son. Romans 8: 29 - He uses every relationship, every circumstance, every difficulty, and every pain. He won't waste anything. He'll use that all for your good to conform you to the image of His Son - your character, your love, your kindness, your holiness, your wholeness as a person.
So true spirituality begins with you having the right picture of God. He is a father, and He is a father who cares about you.
2. True Spirituality is built on the Principle of Relationship.
It's not about keeping rules to gain God's favour. It's not about doing religious activities to develop some self-produced righteousness. Jesus was asked by the most religious people in the world, “What's the Number 1 commandment and the Number 2?” "Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”Matthew 22: 37 – 39.
It’s the principle of relationship. Jesus' harshest words were to the most religious people who kept all the rules and who had more religious activities than you could count. Religion, legalism, activities that make us think we're right with God, that we're better than other people are actually one of the most lethal, deadly things that happen for true spirituality.
True spirituality is loving God and loving people 24/7 from the heart. So, how does it work? What's it look like? What's the path to follow? You can get that in your head and say, "Okay, I want that," but how does it actually work?
3. Romans 12 Provides us with a Relational, Grace-based Pathway of True Spirituality.
There are many different directions - God loves me when I read my Bible, He hates me when I don't. God loves me when I pray a certain amount of time and He won’t bless me when I don't. I'll tell you what this produces - kind of Christian life: you try really hard, and you fail. You try harder, and you fail again. So, then you try harder, harder, harder and you fake it. When you get to know a lot of other real Christians and you really get to know them, most of them are faking it too.
Then there's this handful of people that seem like they're in the spiritual fast lane. You hear about God working in their life and sharing their faith with their neighbours, and they are generous with their money. You're thinking, "Where's all that come from?" We put it in this special category like, "They're superstars and we're sort of the normal." No, they're normal and we're dysfunctional.
There is a pathway to experience the love of the father out of relationship where the life of Christ out of His grace is produced in and through you that causes you to think differently, to speak differently, to relate differently, to feel differently and to have an impact that's like those people in the fast lane. The pathway the Apostle Paul gives us in Romans 12 includes - 5 Key Relationships - 5 r12 Biblical Responses.
We're going to spend the next 6 weeks going through these, so I want you to just get the overview today. Your relationship with God, your relationship with the world, your relationship with yourself, your relationship with believers and your relationship with nonbelievers. We're going to learn how to give God what he really wants the most - surrender is the pathway. Next we'll learn we're not to be conformed to this present world system. We'll learn through the life of Daniel the way to get God's best for your life by renewing your mind.
Relationship with yourself - sober in self-assessment. We'll study the life of Moses, a man with just amazing extremes who had amazing impact, but what you'll see is at one point he had a too high view of himself, at another point a way too low view of himself. Our relationship with believers - we're going to learn how to experience authentic community. Look at Jonathan and David - the principles of their relationship. Jesus said this kind of love is the most attractive thing in the world.
Finally, our relationship with nonbelievers. What do you do in a hostile world as a Christ-follower? What you need to understand is that we're looking at a picture of Christ living his life out through you. It's a picture of how I respond to God the Father based on my relationship with Jesus. I must keep it relational. In this relationship, true spirituality starts at a point where I'm surrendered to God, but it'll be a process of being separate from the world's values. I will learn how to have a sober self-assessment and view myself accurately. Over time I'll get connected with people. Along the way, those I am in community with will say some hard things, some great things and some affirming things, and I won't go through life alone. Over time the supernatural power of God will do something inside of you, and you will change and transform into being more Christ-like. It'll take time, it'll be a process, it'll be a journey, but it'll be normal. You'll just be an r12 Christian.
But the danger is thinking, "Okay, I have the picture, I went to www. heaven.com/disciple and learned how to become an r12 Christian. Now, I'm going to work really hard to be an r12 Christian." Stop. Warning. Put a stop sign next to that warning in your notes. r12 is not trying hard to live up to some moral code. It is a faith response to what God has already done for you.
The first 11 chapter of Romans tell us what God has done for us. Romans 1 – 3 - the problem of mankind is sin. All fall short of the glory of God - that problem separates man from God. Romans 4, 5 – Salvation -God's solution - what Christ has done on the cross for us. Romans 6 - 8 - this new life – sanctification - growing in Christ's likeness over time. Romans 9 - 11 - we're reminded that God is a sovereign, all powerful God and he is not only directing history but He has a plan for you.
Chapter 12 - how do you say thank you? How do you respond to the Father and say, "I love you; what do you want from me?" God says - "By my power through my people, through my word, I want you to surrender all that you are and all that you have. I want you to get involved in a process of renewing your mind, so you're not conformed to this world, and little by little I can change your thinking so you get my best. Then I want you to understand how I made you and that it's wonderful and you get a sober self-assessment. Then I want you to get connected with people, not just show up and listen to some guy talk or someone play some music. I want you to get connected from the heart with people and do life with them. Then when the darts of the fallen world and the pain come at you, I'm going to give you the grace to respond in ways that you didn’t think are possible.” That's what it means to be an r12 Christian, and that's where we're headed.
So, I have an invitation for you. Would you like to receive all your Heavenly Father has prepared for you? This is your Heavenly Father saying, "Do you want all I have to give, or do you want to keep going through religious motions?"
Would you like to experience true spirituality, the love and the freedom that Christ purchased for you? Love and freedom - that's what the Christian life is about, not duty and guilt.
Are you willing to commit the next 6 weeks and join us on the r12 journey to true spirituality?
Now, grace is free, but it's not cheap. The opposite of grace is merit, not effort. Paul says we need to work out what God has worked in. He says make every effort to trust and learn to appropriate. If you're stagnant in your spiritual growth, sort of lethargic, r12 is the “start here” point. If you’ve become disengaged in your church experience, maybe you're just here and realising I haven't been to church for a while, or I kind of sit. I come every other week or so but I'm not really in the game - r12 is a start here for you. If you're a new believer, boy, this can save you a lot of heartache. Don’t go down the paths a lot of us did. Start r12…get clear on what it means now. If you're a mature believer and you're thinking to yourself, "I want to multiply my life, I want to invest in other people," I highly encourage you to join with us and develop a lifestyle that you can pass on and reproduce.
Here's what commitment looks like: 1. I commit to attending all 6 weeks. 2. I will participate in an r12 small group using the workbook. By the way, if a friend or a family member is in hospital and you miss your small group no one’s going to hold that against you. Let’s have a little biblical common sense here. Obviously if someone has a business meeting or something that's out of town, it's unavoidable, but do you get the heart behind this? The heart behind this is a commitment to God. "You know what, God? I'd like an accurate picture of you. God, I want a real relationship. When I read Romans 12, that's the kind of follower I want to be."
Prayer - Lord, we don’t just want to do a program. We long with all of our heart to have more of you. We long to be r12 Christians. God, in our workplaces, our homes, and in our community, people are longing just to meet some Christians that actually live like Christians, who are grace-filled, holy but not judgmental. Lord, we want to be those people. So, will you give us grace to keep our commitment? Lord, we love you. We need you, and we're excited about what you're going to do, in Jesus' name. Amen.