God is Working in Us
A fellow preacher and friend has said, we don’t come here because we are perfect people. We come here because we aren’t and God is working in us. If you are in Christ, God is at work helping you overcome sin and imperfection. Right now, He is actively working in your life to make you perfect. Paul said that God predetermined that those who love Him will be conformed to the image of Christ, Romans 8.28-30. If you love God, He has already decreed that you will be transformed to reflect Jesus. He is in the process of doing that right now. Each of us are at some point in that process. Some are farther along than others, but we’re each on the journey to becoming who God wants us to be. This principle is seen throughout the New Testament: Romans 16.25; Ephesians 3.16-17; 1 Thessalonians 5.23; 2 Thessalonians 3.3; 1 Peter 5.10; and Jude 24-25. Please take a few minutes in your personal study time to read all of these passages. Comfort and assurance are found there.
Another great passage that talks about the process we’ve embarked upon is Hebrews 10.12-17. First, Jesus offered a single sacrifice for sin, 10.12. In 10.14a, it is called a single offering. It has powerful effects. By it: he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Note how we have been “perfected for all time,” but we are still in the process of “being sanctified.” Not only is our sanctification an ongoing process, it is something being done to us. We become willing participants with God in His plan for our life, which results in God’s promise that I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more, 10.17. Praise God! As you participate with God in the process, you have room to fail, pick yourself up, and try again. He helps you every step of the way!
This brings us to a passage that we’ll examine in today’s sermon: Philippians 2.12-13. We’re probably most familiar with verse 12: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Paul did not think God’s work on his behalf meant he could sit back, relax, and do nothing on his way to heaven. The thought of God moving in Him moved him to action. For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Our job is progress. God’s job is perfection.
Many times we focus on perfection and actually let that expectation derail our spiritual goals. We get out in the middle of the water and the challenge looks larger than we considered when we began. There's no way I’ll ever get there. Our efforts are imperfect and sometimes ineffective. In our mind we wonder if it’s worth trying. When these thoughts come, we must resist them and keep on persisting. You don't have to be perfect like God. Just do your job and trust that God is able to and willing to do His. He will help you reach your spiritual goals.
— Matthew Allen
Why Build a Spiritual Life Plan?
This month we’re talking about building a spiritual life plan. Last week we looked at a 7-Step system that we can employ as we craft our spiritual goals. Those goals need to be specific, measurable, actionable, risky, time-keyed, exciting, and relevant.
After we set our spiritual goals and set out in excitement and anticipation, reality will set in. We get caught in what Donald Miller calls “the messy middle.” How do you get through it? In life, anything meaningful we undertake will be met with obstacles, set-backs, and even failure. Sometimes, after we start we begin to wonder why we started all of this to begin with.
This week, we’ll discuss the importance of identifying and connecting with the motivations for each of our goals. The tough stretches will come and we can’t skip them. So, how do we do it?
On Sunday, we’ll do four things:
- Talk about the myth of fast, fun, and easy.
- Learn four strategies that help us resist fast, fun, and easy.
- Learn how to discover our why.
- Learn how to make all this work.
As you prepare for Sunday’s worship, please be thinking about these questions:
- How is the myth of fast, fun, & easy affecting you and your persistence in achieving your spiritual goals?
- Why must remember there are no exceptions when it comes to facing obstacles and failure on the road to success?
- What do you think about the quote: “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”
- How can we overcome a sense of entitlement?
- Why do we need an emotional attachment to our goals?
Song Leader: Jim Rutter
Scripture reading: Justin Spargo (Hebrews 12.11-13)
Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
How does one go about constructing his or her spiritual goals? It’s an important question as we discuss building a spiritual life plan. Only after we’ve addressed our limiting beliefs and worked to complete our past, will it be appropriate to look toward the future. Setting our spiritual goals is an exercise where we actually commit the thoughts inside our head to paper and devise an action plan on how to achieve the spiritual progress we all want to make. I’m sure you’re like me. When you begin to consider the magnitude of God’s grace and mercy that has been personally demonstrated on your behalf, it moves you not only to thankfulness but to action. Paul describes how God was rich in mercy and moved with great love and has given us the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2.4, 7. You’ve been given the freedom to launch forward in faith. Gratitude for outrageous abundance takes away the fear of failure and discontent. It creates a path toward success, joy, and fulfillment.
Since we have no fear of failure (Romans 8.1), we can move from a position of trust. When failure comes we get back up and keep going. We can take risks for God and get outside our comfort zone. This is where the real growth happens. If you are out to accomplish significant things in your life, you are going to be spending a lot of time outside your comfort zone. You can either be comfortable and stagnate or stretch yourself — become uncomfortable — and grow. You may think that comfort leads to happiness. It doesn’t. Happiness comes from growth and feeling like you are making progress (Michael Hyatt). As you set your goals, remember that this is not just about what you accomplish. It’s not just about the destination. It is about who and what you become. Goals are about growing and also about the journey along the way.
What are some areas of your spiritual life where you need to stretch yourself? Is it in the area of self-control? Hospitality? Managing your tongue? Reorienting the way you look at people who hold different perspectives? Getting control of your finances? Conquering your bad habits? Praying every day? The list could go on and on. Your stretch goals will look different from mine and mine from yours, but everyone of us have areas where we need to really push ourselves.
Here are four recommendations from Michael Hyatt (Your Best Year Ever) on setting your stretch-goals and embracing risk: 1) Be sure to see the value. Getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing. See Ephesians 3.20-21. 2) When you get going on the journey toward your goals, discomfort will come. Embrace it. You have to go through the realm of discomfort to get what you want in life. 3) Push through your fears. The ability to do this is often the only thing that separates those who succeed from those who don’t. And finally, 4) don’t overthink it. When you set a stretch goal, you may not be able to see the entire path to the destination. All you really need is clarity for the next step. When you get that, take it in faith believing you will be given the light you need to take the next one.
No matter where you are on the spiritual path and how long you’ve been on the journey to heaven, it is always good to have a plan for spiritual growth. What is your plan? How will you demonstrate your thankfulness and trust in God?
— Matthew Allen
This month we’re talking about building a spiritual life plan. Over the past few weeks we’ve talked about the problem of limiting beliefs and how we must conquer them. We’ve also talked about how completing your past is an essential to designing a better future.
In this week’s lesson we’ll talk about how to set your spiritual goals by taking the information off of our spiritual assessment (p. 6-7 in this year’s Vision Book) and writing down some goals for growth and improvement. Putting your plans in writing is an absolute essential to your success. It brings clarity to what you want and spurns you to action. It allows you to measure your success and gives you the opportunity to experience the power Paul mentioned in Ephesians 3.20-21.
On Sunday, we’ll do three things:
- Discover seven characteristics of effective goal setting.
- Learn the difference between an achievement goal and a habit goal.
- See how God’s word calls on us to stretch ourselves and move forward in faith.
As you prepare for Sunday’s worship, please be thinking about these questions:
- Why do you think clarity in setting goals is so important?
- Why do you think setting measurable goals is so important?
- How do deadlines spurn action?
- Why should your goals be relevant to your particular season of life?
- Why is being comfortable overrated?
Song Leader: Dru McLaughlin
Scripture Reading: Joel Zehring (Matthew 20.29-34)
Surviving Your Past
If you could return to a previous time and get a chance for a “do-over,” what would you change? When asked, most people would like to change their past in some way. Maybe it would involve altering various decisions and choices, that we now know were a mistake. Maybe we would add some opportunities, eliminate tragedies, reduce hardships, or even remove a disease or death. Maybe we would change the way we were raised and the bad habits we’ve picked up along the way. The list of ways people would change the past could go on and on.
None of us can change our past, however. Running or hiding our past is not productive. Denying or fantasizing about it can be harmful. So how do we deal with it?
We need to destroy the burden we carry. You cannot do that by yourself. To experience success in burden-killing, you have to hand them off to the one who created you and sustains you: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light, Matthew 11.28-30. In his first epistle, Peter writes: Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you, 1 Peter 5.6-7. You can’t carry your burdens by yourself and be effective in the kingdom.
We must accept and trust forgiveness. It is impossible to survive your past if you are chained in the slavery of guilt. Your guilt has been designed by God to move you to action, not to drive you to inaction and misery. Have the courage to make things right (Luke 15.11-23) and when forgiveness is received accept it, learn from your actions, and move on. David Chadwell has written, “The fascinating thing about forgiveness is that you will not forgive yourself until you accept and trust God’s forgiveness.” For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more, Hebrews 8.12. This promise is real.
We must be liberated from the person created by the past. The horrible thing about being enslaved to the past is that we often keep living and acting like the person of the past. God has saved you to give you the opportunity to escape the old mentalities and behaviors. By giving you salvation, God’s intent is to change you, which begins with the renewing of your mind, Romans 12.2. This leads to fruit being born out in your actions, Colossians 3.9b-10.
Chadwell writes, “God says, 'I am the God of your past, the God of your present, and the God of your future. If you allow me to be your God, I can recreate you. I can make you a new person with a new life and a new future.' God can do it. That is not the issue. The issue is this: do you believe that God can do it?”