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PASTOR: MATT DENNINGS
“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.”
—1 Timothy 4:6–10 ESV
Well, I once had a friend say something that changed everything of what I thought it meant to be a Christian. And, it caused me to have to rethink everything I thought about what it meant to be a disciple, or a follower of Jesus Christ. It was back - I was about, I think about 26 years old, and I was in graduate school. I was working at Starbucks, he worked at Starbucks with me. And, he turned to me in the middle of the morning one day, and he said to me … you know, Matt? You’re really, really good at your theology, and those kinds of things. You’re really bad at serving your wife. And, I told him to shut his mouth, right? No, I just stood there kind of stunned by it. But, I realized as I contemplated, that he was absolutely right. He then went on to say, you know, I’ve noticed, too, that you work every day at the counter and our customers love - because, I make a good latte, I’m not going to lie, and a good cup of coffee - and, the customers love engaging with you. How many of them have you even attempted to share the gospel with? And, I realized that, too. He needed to shut his mouth.
I realized, though, he was right. And, he was bringing up something that I had realized. I had been discipled intensely, at that point, for about seven or eight years. When I came to faith, or I really started growing in my undergrad years, and I had been intensely discipled by some great mentors, and they helped me to learn how to think about who Christ is, and the word of God. But, what I found was - and what my friend was pointing out - was that I wasn’t growing, I guess you could say, in a well rounded way. That, I was growing in an area that was very natural to me, that I had a natural interest in, a natural inclination to, which was kind of theology and kind of thinking about my faith. But, what he was pointing out, was that yes, that is very, very important, but God saves the whole of us. And, we as human beings are more than just thinking beings. We are also flesh and blood beings. There are other aspects of life, as well, that need to come in to our understanding of discipleship, and what it means to be a healthy and growing follower of Jesus Christ.
But, I realized over those years - and as I then started to think, how could I grow beyond this? - I found myself continually, I didn’t know where to go other than just to read some more, and study some more, and I found myself going more, and more, intellectually deeper in my faith, and I didn’t know how to round it out. I was stuck. Stuck in discipleship, even though I earnestly wanted to grow. And, this is important, because … and, I should say, because the fact that you’re here this morning says that, most likely, you take your faith pretty seriously. That, in fact, you take it seriously, and at least there’s some aspect - something in you - that says, I want to genuinely know God. I genuinely want to follow him. I genuinely want to please him with my life. You’re committed to investing in a local church. You’re committed, and desire to see God do big things, both in you, and in others around you and through you. You’re not just looking for a Sunday faith, because you know that Jesus isn’t just for Sundays.
You want to see God transform every area of your life. You want to see God transform your passion for him. You want to see God transform your relationships. You want to see God transform your sense of purpose, and what it looks like to live out your career, and to engage in the field that you’re called into. You want to see God work in those ways. You want to see God help strengthen you and your ability to fight sin, and to glorify him. You’re after long-term, well-rounded growth in Jesus Christ, because you know what matters. You know what matters for the health of your soul, you know what matters for those that God has placed in your life, whether friends, roommates, classmates, coworkers, a spouse, children, grandchildren. And, you know what matters, ultimately, because it matters to the glory of God.
Yet - and today - we are going to look at how, by God’s grace, that growth is possible. Kind of, well rounded, not just kind of one little area. I always liken this to … when I describe how it was back then, I always say there was that guy at the gym, and he’s always in the corner, and he’s usually looking into the mirror, but he’s in the corner, and he works out one muscle. And, it’s kind of like he’s behind something, and you’re like, man that guy’s huge! He’s so in shape! And then he walks out from whatever he’s behind, and he’s got, like, completely out of shape legs, than the rest of his body, and you’re like, has he just been, like, just lifting weights with his arms for, like, 15 years, and that’s it? Right? That’s just awkward.
It’s the same way, sometimes, spiritually, that we get into this one kind of routine, and one thing that we’re really good at, and we keep working that out, and we grow that muscle spiritually to the detriment, or just overlooking the importance of the rest. And, I guess we could say, it’s awkward, the results. But, I want to save you the wasted years that I experienced of unbalanced growth in Christ, by looking today at our fourth vital gospel distinctive, which is gospel rhythms.
Paul is going to say in his second letter to Timothy - again, today we’re in the first letter to Timothy - but, the second letter, chapter 1 verse 13, he says … follow the pattern of sound words, the matters of faith, and love, and in Christ Jesus … Paul comes back around, and around again to Timothy, saying there are patterns. There are rhythms. There are disciplines to the Christian life. And, God has given us these gospel rhythms which are rhythms and disciplines, the gospel weaves into the fabric of our lives, so that we grow in Christ. And, Paul says - and I’ll unpack what these rhythms look like - right now, you might be going … I kind of, maybe, think I see where you’re going. But, hold onto that thought for a little bit. We’ll unpack what we mean by rhythms very, very concretely.
Well, what Paul says in this letter today, that you are to train yourselves for godliness. Do you know that there is a call to … part of obedience, of following Christ, is to train ourselves, to actively train ourselves in godliness, so that we might be more like Christ. And, Paul says, you are to train yourselves, and today we’ll look at what it means to train ourselves with these rhythms of the gospel.
And so, my goal is pretty simple today. One, I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you that the desire that you have to grow in Christ is from God. It is a healthy desire. And, also, the second goal is to walk away with a plan, a plan for where to start, where to grow, and how to begin in discipleship. And so, what we’re going to look at today is, what’s in the way? What’s in the way that actually keeps us from actually growing many times as disciples of Jesus Christ? And then, secondly, the reorientation that must take place. We’re going to take about a basic shift, a reorientation to how we grow as disciples. And then, third how to start. We’re going to look at a plan for training in godliness. So, let’s pray and then we’ll jump in.
We thank you that in your word you have given us, and in your gospel, specifically, everything we need to grow in Christ-likeness, to know the way, the truth, and the life that is offered us in Jesus Christ. And so, Father, I ask that, today, you would encourage us, and that you would give us discernment, guide us in the steps we need to take to follow you, and to, practically, to walk with you on a day to day basis. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
I. WHAT’S IN THE WAY? (v7a)
Well, what’s in the way? Well, here’s the normal way I think that it tends to go with discipleship. So, discipleship is just a biblical word that means to follow Jesus. Disciples are those who follow Jesus, who learn from him, who follow him, who learn from his way of life. And so, we are called to be disciples, to be discipled. And so, you hear, obviously when you hear that you probably say, yeah, that’s important. And then, after you hear it’s important, then you agree that it is important. And then, after you agree that it’s important, then you step back and you go, well … and you realize it’s a complete mystery, as far as what does it mean to begin to follow Jesus, to begin to live a life of being a disciple? You want to grow as a disciple, but you don’t know where to start.
When you attempt to jumpstart your spiritual life, you find yourself overwhelmed by the everyday circumstances of life. Let’s be honest, we don’t come to our schedule and the first thing in our agenda says discipleship, right? The first thing that happens, is somebody cries in the middle of the night, and your day starts way earlier than what you thought it would. Or, your life is filled with diapers, your life is filled with emergencies, your life is filled with deadlines, your life is filled with bills, your life is filled with everything that makes up the circumstances of life. And, the sense that you’ll never break free of the cycle, this cycle of saying I know it’s important, but I keep getting distracted by the things of life, and therefore, I don’t know if I will ever actually be able to begin to follow Christ. That cycle haunts you. It haunts you. And, in the busyness of life, you feel like every aspect of you gets the attention it needs, except the most important one: your walk with Christ. Does it sound familiar? Everything else gets attention, except for that one area.
The same cycle of spiritual defeat was familiar to Paul and Timothy. It’s what Paul warns Timothy against in the beginning of verse 7. He says … have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths. Now, what’s interesting there is it goes back to verses 1-5 of chapter 4, the chunk right before this passage where he unpacks this some more, where everyone’s kind of throwing out some ideas of what it means to follow Jesus in Ephesus. And, there were all these pagan temples around, and different pagan religions, and they all had a say, and everyone’s grabbing whatever they can.
If you go back to chapter 1 of 1 Timothy, the whole chapter is Paul saying, I’m writing to you as a young pastor, to help you think about what it means to follow Jesus so you don’t get overwhelmed by everything around you. See, we don’t know all the exact details of what these silly myths, these different ideas were. But, what we do know, is that there was a vacuum that existed about what it meant to follow Jesus. There was a vacuum because there was not a specific plan, what does it mean to follow Jesus, and into that vacuum was rushing every other opinion, and every other idea about what it meant to find life in this one that they call Jesus Christ. And so, already in Paul’s day, there were many competing ideas of what it meant to follow Jesus. And, in the confusing thrall of ideas and opinions, the average Christian - if we read what’s going on here - it seems there are two options that Paul is saying they’re starting to fall into. Which, one, it seems like, the first option is just to go with the flow and try to take all these non-biblical, and un-gospel ideas of what it means to grow in Jesus, and just try to use them them vainly until you get semblance of life out of them. And then, the second option was what we know so well, which was just to give up.
Because, most of these options that they were giving them, if it’s not rooted in the gospel, it can’t be rooted in grace. It doesn’t say that God really came and saved you by his grace alone, and by faith alone you can be saved, and it’s not by any works you do that saves you. Now they’re saying that if that’s not there, it must be by your works, it must be by your righteousness, it must be by getting your life together, it must be by checking off the boxes, those religious boxes every single day, or else you will not be saved. And so, most people said, well if that’s the case … they maybe fake it until they make it for a while, until they realize … I can’t live with myself. And they tap out. They tap out. That’s what was going on in Paul’s day.
And, if we’re honest, I bet some of you are probably in one of those two camps today, in that camp where you say, I don’t even know where to begin to find what it means to follow Jesus. There are all these ideas and opinions swirling around me. And then, some of you are saying, some of the ideas of what I’ve heard of what it means, it’s just this huge, lofty idea. And so, it seems like unless maybe I’m, I don’t know, a professional monk living in a monastery, or unless I’m a religious professional, than this whole thing is not for me. And, you’re thinking it might be time to tap out.
I think because of where we’re at in our society, we can no longer just passively believe that the culture will somehow disciple us, and that passively without some actual practical way of looking at our faith and what it means to follow Jesus Christ, we’re just going to get washed away. And so, many of you, I would say, this is a place where you can admit … I’m there.
The reason we fail to train ourselves in godliness is because, often, we just don’t know how. We just don’t have a clear path. What’s in the way? Yes, I should say, what’s in the way? Often, yes, is our simple apathy. Often, what’s in the way, is our hearts. What only compounds it is the fact that even if … once we deal with our hearts, we don’t know where to go, and we don’t know where to start.
Back in undergrad, I went to Ohio State University … The Ohio State University. And, I ran one of the rec centers from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., so I worked in the middle of the night at one of the rec centers, Jesse Owen Centers - [sarcastically] another great athlete who came from Ohio State … just saying. Sorry, I’m just up here to speak truth. But, anyways, so at Jesse Owen’s rec center, I worked there in the middle of the night, and something odd always used to happen. Which was, there would be people who would come in the middle of the night - I’m talking 2 a.m., and they come in, and all of a sudden they got this idea, like, I woke up, I need to get in shape. Right? So, they just come down to the rec center in the middle of the night, and they’re like … they would walk in, I’m swiping cards. At that time, I had never worked out in a gym a day in my life. I just ran a gym. So, they walk in, they walk up to the desk, and I’m just sitting back, you now, lounging, reading all night, cause there’s, like, 10 people in there. And, they’ll come in and they’ll be like … so, uh, so what do I do? And, I’d be like, dude, I just swipe cards, right? And they’d be like … but, what do I do? Can you show me some stuff? And, I’d be like … alright.
So, I’d get up, and I’ve got the nametag on, I work at the gym, and I’d go over there and be like … well, there’s this thing here for your thighs, and you just … you know … put as much weight as you can handle and just go at that for a while. And, I would just, like, start walking them through the machines. And, I learned later that half of them, I literally showed them the wrong way to use the machine, okay? Wrong body part. Had no idea what I was doing. You know, after they leave at the end, they’re like … yeah! And, they’ll come back after a few days and be like, man, I was in so much pain. And, I’m like … pain’s good, pain’s good. Right? And then, so they would experience this for a few days, and then after a while they just wouldn’t come back, and I’d never see them again. Because, what would happen? They’re going to burn out. There’s no real plan. We’re just, like, hit it hard, go at it, make it up as you go.
And, I think today that’s a picture of what happens often in our discipleship. We all of a sudden wake up and go, oh my gosh, I’ve got to grow. I’ve got to have a plan. And then, we run towards who looks like the best expert we can find, and they’re like, I don’t really know if I know how to do this. But, we’re like, just give me something. And they’re like, okay, I’ll just make it up as I go, whether or not they’ve actually ever lived it out. And, we just start grabbing at stuff from the Christian subculture cause it seems like maybe a good source, or we just start grabbing at whatever we can from self-help manuals, and we go, I guess I just got to mash this all together and make it work. And, what happens is the same exact thing, which is, we end up doing things the wrong way, we end up burning ourselves out, and then we end up giving up, and we’re inoculated now, because we think that we know what discipleship means, but we’ve never actually experienced it.
That’s what, often, our discipleship looks like. It’s a plan, but it’s a plan to fail. And, unfortunately all to often, the church only adds to the busyness, without providing a plan for growth. I want to tell you, for years we have grappled with this dynamic at Emmaus. We have, for now seven years, very specifically been grappling with, how do we grow in the gospel? Put everything else aside. If we are not making disciples, if we are not growing in Christ, as disciples of Christ, all the other stuff is just noise. So, that is at the heart of what we’d wrestle with. How do we prioritize and cultivate growth in the gospel? And, what we’ve discovered is that for healthy discipleship to happen, we need a reorientation around the gospel.
II. THE REORIENTATION (v7b)
So, point number two, reorientation. Paul says, don’t go down the road of just grab-bag discipleship. What he says, then, in verse 7 - the second part after … have nothing to do with irrelevant silly myths … he says, … rather … instead, do this … train yourself for godliness … train yourself for godliness. Now, you might immediately say, well, what is godliness? What does he mean there? Where do we start?
Well, it’s interesting because just a few verses earlier, you can flip back or look up just above, back in verse 16 of chapter 3, godliness, it says in verse 16 … great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness … The first time that he starts talking about godliness, that now he’s referring to in chapter 4. And so, you say, well what is this godliness? Well, here’s what’s interesting. He says it’s a mystery, and then immediately, hear how he describes it … he was manifested in the flesh … Sunday school question: who is that? Jesus … vindicated by the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory … Paul inserts, almost, part of this early church poem that they had about Jesus and the incarnation, and he says, if you want to know godliness, you can’t try to see - as he says in chapter 1 - the invisible God, but he has become visible in coming to save us, by taking on our flesh, and taking on our ungodliness on the cross, and we now can see a picture of who God is.
And so, what does it mean to train in godliness? It means to train in what it looks like to be godly, and we see what it looks like to be godly, in the life of Jesus Christ. And, we do not just see an example in the life of Jesus Christ, Jesus said, I am the way, and I am the truth, and I am the life. We also see, not just in the life of Jesus, as if we, in and of ourselves, could emulate the life of Jesus, but also we see it in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, where he says what it means to be godly for us who are unrighteous and ungodly is to repent of our sin, to come to Christ and receive his righteousness. In other words, it is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is only through the gospel that we come to Christ, it is only in the gospel that we continue in Christ, and therefore if we want to know what it means to train in godliness, we must reorient our lives around the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is how we train in godliness. Now, you say, what does that look like with the gospel, to train? I’m glad you asked. Cause, this is at the heart of what we wrestled with. If we want to reorient everything around the gospel, what do we mean by gospel?
Well, this is what we found:
Aspect: Cross Kingdom Grace Glory
These are what we call the four aspects of the gospel. We went through, exhaustively, the New Testament, looking at the Old Testament as well, and distilling it into four aspects.
The first is the cross. That, the gospel is about the historical facts of what happened on the cross, in a historical moment. There was a cross, there was a resurrection. This is what Paul says in I Timothy 15. He says … Now, I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you … What is the gospel he preached? He says … For I delivered to you, of first importance, what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures. The historical elements of the cross.
Second, the kingdom. This was in the gospels. Jesus will say, the time was fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel. The kingdom in the gospels, and the gospel always go together. And so, the proclamation is of a new king, of a new reign, of a new power. Election is coming up in 2020, folks, let’s prepare. We have a king who is on the throne. Let’s start now, before our hair is on fire, okay? We have a king, who is on the throne. The true kingdom is his kingdom, and it is coming in its fullness. The gospel proclaims the good news that his kingdom is coming.
The third aspect of the gospel is the grace of God. We see this explicitly in Acts 20, when Paul says that … if only I may finish my course in the ministry that I received from Jesus Christ, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. What does that mean? It means that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. It doesn’t say that once we got ourselves together and cleaned ourselves up that then Christ died for us. For, a man will die for a friend or someone that he loves. But, who is this Jesus that he would die for us when we were yet sinners? It is only by God’s grace. And so, we are those who extend grace to others.
And then, fourth, Glory. This actually comes from 1 Timothy 1 … In accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted … Paul says. He refers to the gospel as this glory of God. As we’ve talked in this series, you have the holiness of God, of who God is in and of himself, and when that goes public, it’s glorious. And then, in the gospel, we have the glorious demonstration of God’s very heart in his love to redeem, even his children, even his creatures who have rejected him. And so, we see that it’s all his work. He has finished it. It’s not our work, and therefore we can even rest in what he has accomplished. It’s his glory, not us.
Now, we have those four aspects, then because, you know, maybe because we’re pastors, we have to alliterate it into action words, okay? So, you should go, what do we do with that? We have these four aspects, I get that in my head, what do I do with it?
Well, these actually start to look like four actions, four rhythms we call them, in our daily life. And, these four are this: that the cross - the historical facts, think theology, all the realities and data that we should know to think rightly about our faith, the things we confess - we need to study those things. Part of our walk in Christ is, and following Christ, is to study what it is that Christ has done. Not to go about our lives just being tossed by every wind and tossed by every wave that comes along of doctrine, Paul will say elsewhere, but that we should think rightly.
The second is that we serve. We have a king who said in John 13, when it says in one verse, I think it’s John 13 verse 3, when it says that … then Jesus had been given all authority in heaven and earth … then the next verse, what does he do? This king of the universe takes a towel, puts it around his waist, and he gets down on his hands and feet and he starts washing hands. We have a king who’s radically served us by washing us and making us clean. And, now we follow in his footsteps by serving him and making him known, and serving others.
The third aspect of the Christian life - by the way, that’s what my friend, I realize you can see where some of this language is coming in, when he said, man, you don’t really serve your wife well, but you know how to study your faith well. Maybe you could use a little bit of the serve rhythm in your life. The third, though, is share. That, we then take the grace that God has given us, and we share it with others, that found people find people. That, we don’t just take this grace and go, goody, goody, goody, it’s all mine, and it’s my little precious, and I’m going to go hide it in the hills somewhere. No, but we take this grace, and now if it’s truly at work in us, we make it known to others. We are missionaries. Sometimes, in my life, I have found that when I am doubting my faith, you know why? Because, I am putting all these thoughts in my head and all these truths, and I’m never turning around and just turning to someone and saying, guess what is true? And, what happens is when I bottle it up inside, what I’ve realized, after a while what I do with that in my heart, is I start to just say, maybe it’s just a myth that I’m telling myself. And so, that share rhythm takes me outward.
And then, lastly, we have seek. Now, some of you have been around for a while, know that this used to be called sabbath. Okay? We’ve changed this to seek, largely because it pinpoints exactly what we are going for here. And, seek means that we seek the glory of God, which means that we seek God and his gory, his work, not ours, by things like prayer. This is largely things like spiritual disciplines, where we’re going before the Lord in silence, we’re going before the Lord in solitude. I don’t just take and study God’s word, but I also bring it before him, and I pray through those truths on the behalf of others in intercessory prayer. I also take God’s word, and I bring in that seek rhythm, and I also meditate on God’s word so that I don’t become a hypocrite with it. I take that serve rhythm, and I take in, and I bring in some solitude and slowing down before the Lord, so I don’t just become a Martha-busy-body. Martha is a biblical character, right? Not a person here. Sometimes I say a name, and somebody’s like, what? Gospel of Luke, read it.
Anyways, so, we have these four rhythms, and we’ll flesh this out in a moment just a little bit more, but to emphasize, the turnaround for me came when I realized the path to experiencing life in Christ, training for Godliness and discipleship, isn’t about orienting my life around church things or just what happens to be popular right now. True life in Jesus Christ is about reorienting our lives in the church around the gospel, in the whole gospel, not just one aspect of the gospel, but the whole gospel, as much as we can, getting our hands under the gospel, and saying, God, I don’t want to lose any of this. It’s like taking a diamond and looking at it from different angles. You don’t go, well, you know, it’s pretty, so let’s just kind of, like, cut it down into a little segment of it. No, I want the whole thing. I want to learn the whole thing, and for it to come to bear in my life. And so, we reorient discipleship around these gospel rhythms, and we have a training regiment in the gospel, in these.
Personally, I have to say that as a follower of Jesus Christ, this reality has changed everything. It doesn’t make everything perfect, but it has absolutely changed everything, because I find that I grow in areas that, before, I had not been growing in, because I see that there are these other areas that are actually even limiting my ability to think rightly. We all are inclined to one of those rhythms. Some are you are, like, heavy serve folks. Some of you are heavy seek. Some of you are heavy study, like me. Some of you are heavy share. We’re all inclined to one, and that’s great. That’s probably God’s giftedness in us. But, we also don’t want to be handicapped, because either one, we segment our churches off into just study churches, or serve churches, or share churches. One, I’m not even going to go into that, but that’s a huge conversation.
So, we need one another in the body of Christ with us, with other giftings, but also that we round ourselves out with these other giftings, and they don’t become, for instance, study doesn’t just become for me … hypocrisy, and I don’t become a Pharisee. That’s the only way I’ve found that it guards me from going down that road. So, let’s do this, let’s discover that life by putting this into action.
III. A PLAN FOR TRAINING IN GODLINESS (v10)
So, a plan for growing in godliness. I’m going to go through three steps. First, I’m going to hit briefly, so I have time to hit the second one more.
The first one is that we start with our identity. One of the things, when we start, this is the counterintuitive aspect of starting in discipleship and growth in any area. We tend to think about, that we want to start with outcomes, right? So, you go, I want to be a Christian who’s really loving towards others. And so, we start with that outcome, and so we go, I’m just going to start filling my calendar with things that help me get there. But, where we should start, is we start first … cause, here’s the problem … you do that for a while, and then after a while, you feel like you’re just pretending. What we start with, first, is something we’ve been rehearsing in the liturgy all morning, which is that our identity is in Christ. We are a new creation in Christ. We have a new king, we are in a new kingdom. We are children of the God of the heavens and the earth, and that is our identity. And, so often every day when we wake up, we forget that. We have amnesia. We don’t remember who we truly are, and what God says about us.
And so, the first step is actually our identity. And see, this makes a difference because what Paul is saying here, he says that we are to strive, that we are to push, and we are to train. And why does he say this? Well, he says it, then, in verse 10. He says, for to this end we toil and strive because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the savior of all people. It’s because we already have this hope, and it’s sure, we already know who we are in Christ, we already know that it’s a sure thing. And so, therefore, because of that, we act, and we train. He says it elsewhere in Philippians 2, Paul says this … He says … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure …
You see, we are called to strive not because it’s dependent on us. We’re called to strive because of who we are. We’re called to strive because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, God’s Holy Spirit. And then, we’re asking, how can I be godly? We’re to strive because we’re working with God’s spirit already in us, a down payment of his kingdom that is coming in full, at work in us. And so, we strive working out that reality that’s already true of us. As Dallas Willard says …
Grace isn’t opposed to effort, it’s opposed to earning.
We are to strive, we are to work. There are commands in scripture that say work out your salvation, strive, toil. But, that starts with out identity in Christ. It’s because of who we are in Christ that the biblical writers are saying these things. There is a reality and new life that is yours to work out, that is yours by grace. So, first step is identity.
Second step is the process. So, the discipleship process. So, I’m going to talk about these four rhythms in two contexts. Here’s what I mean by two contexts. If you go back to 1 Timothy chapter 3 verses 15 and 16, Paul is talking there about … he even says that the way you are to be have in the household of God … and, what we have there in the context, is, he says there is essentially two aspects, as a Christian, that are a part of, really, where your world orients around. And, those around when you gather with the people of God, the household of God, has he says, the church. And so, one context that you live your life in is the gathering.
The second aspect of where you live your life is what we call scattering. That, we then are sent to wherever God has us, our spheres of influence where God has sovereignly placed us to live, and relationships we have, that then we scatter to those. So, you can think about your life in two contexts, that you gather here to be formed and to rehearse what the gospel is - we’re going to go more into that - and then you scatter into your everyday life. So, there’s two contexts, but then there’s these four rhythms, and because of that, let’s put some flesh on it, I’m going to walk through some quadrants here, and this is where we get practical about what it looks like to start to train ourselves in godliness.
Aspect: Cross Kingdom Grace Glory
Rhythm: Study: The Cross Serve: The King Share: His Grace Seek: His Glory
Gather: Rehearse the truth Stewardship Come & See God’s Glory in Worship
Scatter: Live the truth Serve Others Go & Be God’s Glory in Prayer
So, what we have here is, again, these two contexts, and the four rhythms. And, what this looks like - here’s the thing - first, in our gathering, whether you know it or not, everything single thing that we do at Emmaus has to fit into one of those four rhythms. You may not have known that. One of the first things we talked about last year when we started talking about the merger, was we laid this out, and we all felt like this was wise to continue forward, that we want everything as much officially of what we’re doing to be fitting into these four rhythms. And, we’ve seen fruitfulness from this, because it focuses us. It is just as important to know what to say no to, as it is to what you say yes to. We can say yes to a million thing, it doesn’t mean that we’re called to do it. You, in your life, can say yes to a million things. Some of you may be doing that, and you’re getting burnt out, and you need to stop. We need to know what we need to say no to, as well, and this is our focus, because we want to make disciples.
So, when we gather, we rehearse the truth. Every week, when we gather, we do the call to worship, and you’ll hear something like … we rehearse the gospel. Now, if you want go into what I’m about to say, by the way, we did a series in the fall called Draw Near. 9 sermons, there, that will extend out what I’m about to say for 30 seconds, and you can listen more in depth, and you can listen more in depth if you want to.
But, what we do every week when we gather, is we rehearse the gospel. And, what we mean, is from the moment that we do the call to worship, and every single movement after that, we come into God’s presence, he’s called us here, it’s not because I woke up and I’m awesome and I woke up not dead in my sins, but in fact, actually without God giving us life, we would not respond to him. So, God invites us to himself. We come here because God has invited us with his grace, and we hear a call - usually words of Jesus - calling us to himself. And then, we respond with a song of adoration, usually about some aspect of who God is. But then, as we sing that song, you may feel it, that you raise your hands to worship God, and you realize what these hands have done. You realize that you’re singing praises to God, and you realize what this mouth has said over the past week. You realize that you’re a sinner in the presence of a holy God. That’s healthy. That’s very, very healthy. You should experience that.
And, as a church, we shouldn’t just come in corporately and go, let’s just pretend that none of that’s true, and let’s just kind of come in here, and let’s have a good time in the presence of a holy God. High five, God, and then we leave, like our sin is cute. Our sin is not cute. But, here’s the good news. God welcomes us here, and then what we do, is we go before him, and we confess our sin, and we receive the assurance that is found in Jesus Christ alone. And then, enjoy, we begin to sing songs that express that joy that is found in Christ alone, so we don’t have to be hypocrites, we don’t have to pretend, we don’t have to perform. We come in here as equals before God, as sinners. And, when we’re going to leave here, we leave as redeemed saints in Jesus Christ alone.
And so, I won’t walk through the rest of it. It has implications in why we turn and do the passing of the peace, the offering, all these things, it all flows together to rehearse the gospel. We’re not so concerned about how it transforms you after one week of being here, or just the high that it gives us. We do ask ourselves, though, after five or 10 years of gathering here as a people, how does it form us? What kind of Christians does it make us? That’s a very, very important question to ask, because often we come in here, and the church is very different than the rest of everyday life, and the everyday life is actually forming us in ways we don’t realize. And so, if we make church something that doesn’t connect with everyday life, then it’s so, so very different. Then, what happens is, everyday life will form us more slowly over time.
Anyways, the second quadrant, stewardship. We serve by stewarding our time, our talent, and our treasure. This is through things like volunteering, this is through things like our offering, and tithing our finances. This is through our presence here in the gathering. What we say is that our life is for our king, and so we gather in these different ways, and we serve in these different ways.
The next one is that we just say, come and see. This is invitation. This is the fact that we invite others to experience the grace of God, and hear about the grace of God in the gathering, when they’re invited through you here, and we also experience the grace of God in our relationships with one another as we fellowship through here, together.
The next one, is God’s glory in worship. That, as we gather, we sing praises to God, and it is about God’s glory. Here’s the thing … it’s not about me, or Forrest. Forrest is the other pastor who, usually, we rotate in the pulpit for a reason. Because, we don’t want this to be about one person. It’s not about you, it’s not about me, it’s not about us, it’s about Jesus. He is the head pastor of Emmaus. And so, it points to him. If you are a volunteer, you know that we strive, that you only volunteer one time a month, and that’s for a reason. Because, right now we have one service, we don’t want you - for instance, in the kid’s wing, and never in here, experiencing worship, worshiping with God’s people, and being refreshed and renewed in the gospel. And so, we take weeks off from serving, that way you’re actually present, sitting with your family, and worshiping. I love that I have weeks off where I’m sitting here with my wife, and someone’s talking at me, verses just always talking at you. That is very healthy for my soul. Amen? And so, we have these rhythms of Sabbath, where we rest, and we seek God’s glory together.
Then, the next one is scatter. In our daily lives, we want to live the truth, not just rehearse the truth. And so, what we do, the primary expression as a church, when we scatter, is our gospel community groups. And, these are communities throughout the Inland Empire that we gather, and we work out these rhythms together. And so, one of the ways that we do this as gospel communities, is that we will discuss sermon implications in the sermon guide. And, what we discuss there is built upon the sermon, and we move it to implications. How do we live this out? And, we usually think about that with one another. So, it’s not just about information, it’s about transformation from God’s word. It’s not just a Bible study. And so, the other ways we do this, you might be saying, well my life … there are a lot of other things we do at Emmaus, like, for instance, I run Bible workshops. You need to have the word of God in your daily life. This looks like the spiritual discipline of reading the word of God. This looks like growing in theology, this is why we do theological foundations. I would encourage you over the summer, a lot of our gospel community groups either are closed for the summer or taking a break for the summer, and if you’re new to Emmaus, I would encourage you to take advantage of those opportunities to grow. We’re going to have one on the gospels and how to read the gospels, a Bible workshop probably in July. I need to schedule it this week. And, we’ll also have theological foundations in June. So, I encourage you to jump in to those, and those are all, again, those are scaffolding around our gospel community groups. That way, in the fall, you’re connecting with other individuals, you can join up with a gospel community group to go deeper into community with others in some of these areas.
But then, serve. We serve others, one of the things our gospel community groups will do is they’ll look for opportunities to serve. Now, we support one another, someone has a baby, you bring them meals and you do those things. But, we also are called to look outside of our walls. And so, we look for ways to serve our neighbors. We look for ways to serve those God has brought into our life, and to do that as a group. Then, the next one … and then, by the way, I should highlighty, we just finished it, but we’re going to do it probably about every 6 months, the Helping Humans workshops, if you want to think about it in really specific way, I would highly recommend that when we do those again that you make time for those. Raymond Morehouse leads those, he is fantastic at bringing you from theology to practical application of what it looks like to serve others around us.
But then, share. So, what does it look like to live out the grace of God? Again, the primary way is through our gospel community groups. But, our gospel community groups try to have rhythms where they’re inviting in nonbelievers, where they’re opening their doors, and they’re making relationships with those who don’t know Christ, because it’s not just fellowship with one another, but it’s hospitality towards outsiders, as well, where we make room for others, and we witness to them. So, gospel community groups I’ve been involved in, we have regular game nights to invite people in, build relationships, and give them a chance to just experience the community of God’s people in a way that is not so different - it’s kind of a dynamic entry point where they can experience that. So, do you have a rhythm of serve in your life?
And then, the last one, is seek, that we seek God’s glory in prayer and in other spiritual disciplines. This one that we’re going to be working on workshops this summer, or in the fall. We want to go deeper into this one. We feel that it’s something that, as a body, that we need, so we’re investing time in it. But, this is something, why we have our gospel community groups, we have them take regular weeks off - at least one or two weeks off a month - and a lot of them take off the summer, so there’s this rhythm of rest and sabbath, so that we have time for prayer and reflection.
So, these are, again, the rhythms. This is where things fit. The question is, as I’m going through this, probably one of these stuck out to you. Probably one of them, you kind of hanged your hat on, you went, I want to know more about that. I want to grow in that.
One of the things I would recommend … well, the third step here, to close, is that you start small. Now, you might be looking at this and be like, I’m going to do them all. Bad idea. Bad idea. That’s like the guy that came into the gym and I had him, like, do all the machines. Right? Bad idea. Start small.
I encourage you, consider where you’re strong, and where you’re weak. If you don’t know, ask your spouse or your friend. They’ll tell you, right? But, bring them before the Lord, because you’ll probably find that you’re strong in one, but you’ll probably find that there’s some that you’re ignoring, and then ask what kinds of results am I getting in my spiritual life because of this? Ask the Lord. What kind of implications is this having for my walk with the Lord?
Start small. If you want to start with a simple time of Word and prayer in the morning, I would say start with 5 minutes. I would actually say the thing you check off every day to say, yep, I’ve done this, I’m building up this habit, is that you would just lay out your Bible the night before. I’m serious. You need to master the art of showing up before you try to master the art of putting up. You just lay out your Bible the night before, and say, I’m going to be here tomorrow, I’m setting my alarm five minutes earlier, and start there.
And then, if you want to be more consistent at attending the gathering, lay out your clothes and breakfast the night before, right? Just start by small ways that you start working some of these rhythms in. It may be signing up for a gospel community group, a Bible workshop, theological foundations, it may be saying, I’m going to commit, today, to going to the men’s retreat. It may be, today, saying, I’m going to commit to volunteering. What are the ways that God could round out your walk with him? But, start small in one rhythm, and I would suggest for about 30 days, and mark it on your calendar each day. Keep track of it. And then, after that, then start stacking the next habit, or stack five minutes more onto that habit. Purposefully orient your life around the rhythms of the gospel over the summer, and make it your spiritual goal to break out of that downward spiral of spiritual death, so you might experience a cycle of life in Christ.
At the end of the day, this is what we are about at Emmaus. Everything we do is meant to help you train in godliness. We want to be a church that is serious about discipleship and true growth in the gospel. We help overwhelmed Christians, like you, become passionate followers of Jesus Christ, equipped to navigate our changing times with the truth of the gospel. Our mission is to give you the insights, to give you the grace, to give you the tools that you need to start living a new life in Jesus Christ. That’s our focus. So, I encourage you to take time this week, or have a conversation at lunch afterwards today, to talk about how you can begin to engage in these gospel rhythms, to train yourself for godliness. For, while bodily training is of some value, godliness is a value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come. Let’s pray.
Lord God, you alone have saved us from the cycle of spiritual death, and you alone are our sure hope. Open our eyes to the new life offered us in Christ Jesus. Jesus, you are the way, you are the truth, and you are the life. Give us a willing spirit to live in light of the truth of your holiness. Guide us in the way of righteousness. By your Spirit, compel our wills so we might find life in Christ. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.