How to Put on Christ (pt 2)
How do I listen to God's voice? What do I do when I walk away from reading the Word or hearing a sermon? The prayer of recollection is to remind me of who I am in Christ so when I hear the Word, I am open to Him. It's also to help focus my thoughts by detaching from false identities and attaching to my true identity. Lectio divina brings together the commands to "be filled with the Spirit" and "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly."
6. How do we decide what kinds of training to do? (cont.)
a. Ask whether I am to give myself to an intention, rhythm or regimen. (cont.)
b. How do we hear and respond to a word from the heart? (cont.)
1. Present myself as a sacrifice
3. Honesty or truth-telling
4. Discernment regarding what to become
5. Discernment regarding what to do in light of what He is doing.
6. Discernment regarding a plan
C. [4 in the notes] Things to remember about this training
D. The prayer of recollection
E. Lectio divina
F. Questions and answers
Course: Spiritual Formation
Lecture: How to Put On Christ (Part 2)
That’s great. Well, let’s a - let’s turn into the notes and continue. I want to finish with some things about hearing the Word and then we’ll see if we actually have time to do a - a few disciplines together. But again the – the issue is how is it that we are going to hear and respond to the Word in a reasonable way, in a way that is realistic given our life, and open to what God wants to do rather than maybe what’s going on in our heart that we think we ought to do. That’s going to be a major issue is to discern what is it that I should give myself to. I say here – I think it’s in the notes – Willard’s point is this: If you shoot for nothing, you will surely hit it. And, that is a major issue. Is to not to walk away from the Word and say, “Hmm. That’s interesting.” But the question is: How to walk away from the Word? What do we do this – With this? And so, in general, I want to say this. That the disciplines of intention - presenting, recollection of the heart, honesty and discernment – these are going to be the foundation disciplines of how to hear and respond to the Word next time that you’re in a quiet time, next time that you’re in a sermon. There’s something out of which you can open yourself to. You can practice the discipline.
Now, like all disciplines, the goal is these would become habits of my heart.
They would become habits that are going on all the time, but like a training, you’ve got to start somewhere. And so, even if something is going on in this – in the Word I’m reading and, “Oh. I’m so bored.” I still present myself. And then I’m going to be open to what’s going on in my heart with this. And so, I don’t know where you are with these disciplines, but I’ll tell you one thing. Like all disciplines, as Willard says, “It is within your power to open to do them. It’s not in your power to transform yourself.” And so, as I hear the Word to love my wife, to put on Christ - As I hear the Word of I am in Christ, how do I present? How do I open to this?
Well, number one. And we’ve – We’ve said this before so I’m just going to do this briefly. I’m going to present myself as a sacrifice. As I hear the Word of God and the command I am going to intend – Now this is within my power – I am going to intend to allow myself to become confronted. I just – I don’t want to walk away from the world – from the Word as if kind of nothing happened, like as if it was a – a minor car accident and, “Oh well. That was kind of interesting.” I want to allow myself to become confronted and I want to say, literally, and I – I would encourage you as you’re sitting in a sermon this Sunday or in teaching and you’re hearing it say, “God, I hear You. I’m here. I want to open myself to You.” Those are words that you can present, and that’s where we begin. “God, I hear Your Word. Here I am.”
And secondly, as I hear the Word, as I’m opened to this call of God, as I’m reading, I want to intend my heart. I’m going to say, “God, whatever I’m going to do or whatever I’m going to become, I want to do this in You. And I – I want to do this with the Spirit and I want to be open to that, God.” No matter what I’m hearing, I want to do this with Him.”
And number three is so important. Number three is so important as you get on in the faith because number three is where you are – You engage in honesty, the spiritual discipline of truth telling. “God, what really is going on in my heart?” This is where you intend to open to the truth of what’s really going on. Pastor Dale some weeks ago he said that feelings are lousy leaders. And that is so true. But you know what they are? They’re excellent windows. We talked about that last week. Feelings are lousy leaders. I’m not going to use my feelings to determine whether I’m going to present myself. But at some point, I am going to want to open up to my feelings, to what’s inside, because I want to know, “God, what really is going inside here?” And those of us who get older in the faith, this is where we can miss this. Because we’ve heard the Word, and we’ve heard the Word, and we’ve heard the Word, and we’ve heard the Word. And we can hear it and say, “Yeah, I need to do it. Yeah. That’s good. Yeah, That’s – That’s kind of going on in my life.” And then we go on.
Here is where the mature, especially, you need to let the Spirit do a little heart surgery. “God, as He’s sharing, as I’m listening, God continue to open my heart. What really is going on in my marriage? I might be hearing a sermon on the forgiveness of sins. Then God, what’s really going on in my heart about it? Do I really care about that? Is that – Is that truth just kind of bore me now? Okay, I’m forgiven. Whatever. God – God, I want to know the truth.” Because, see here, I can open to the Spirit, open to the Spirit of what He wants to teach me. And what will happen is this. As I open my heart – if my heart is congruent with what I hear – “Oh God, this is what I – This is good. This is what I want to experience more deeply and open to You. I want to open to You.” That’s cool. Let it be. Then you know the Spirit is giving you a moment of experience a part of your soul as congruent with that truth. But if you’re opening the heart and you see something else, like “Oh, whatever. I – You know – I - I should love her like Christ. I don’t know. Whatever.” How cool? Yum Yum. Eat them up. Because at that moment, the Spirit has decided out of His kindness, to show you part of your heart that is not congruent and now you have a whole journey. “God, this is so good. I need this. Something’s going on here.”
And number four. This is key I find. This is key to us as we’re getting older: discernment. Discernment now. And there’s going to be a couple of places of discernment. The first one is just this. And you can always ask this and we should always ask this. “God, if that’s what You say I am to do or experience, what kind of person do I need to become to experience that? I’ve just heard a sermon. I’ve just read about the forgiveness of sins. God, what kind of person do I need to become if I’m going to really experience the forgiveness of sins and enjoy that? Not just for salvation’s sake, but daily? Or if I’m to love my children, “What kind of person do I need to become?” And so here I’m going to intend and I’m going to say, “God, what kind of person do You want me to become?”
But now number five. This is another discernment. And this is, for me, when the rubber starts hitting the road. And this is where we get a little confused and we can get a little lost because now the discernment is, “God, what - In light of the kind of person I need to become to really experience or obey that. God, what are You asking me to do?” This is the bottom line. This is a transaction.
In psychology, there is an old psychology called transactional analysis. And in preaching and in teaching and hearing the Word of God, you know what is going on? A transaction. Well, you know when you’re buying a car, a transaction’s going on and you’re getting really nervous like, “Am I going to do this? How much is he going to come down? Are they going to come up? What’s going on?” When you hear the Word of God there is a transaction. Don’t walk away without closing the deal. I’m really serious about that. Now, what does it mean to close the deal? Because you’re not going to walk away from this quiet time totally perfected. But here’s what you can do: “God, what are You asking me to do?”
And now in A, B and C. This is what now I want to encourage to ask to close the deal each time, to experience the transaction. Those of you who are preachers and teachers, this is what you need to lead your people to do. And here’s the questions. There’s three kinds of questions I can imagine and the first one is this: “Lord, what I have heard should this be only an intention of my heart?” That’s a serious question to ask because, you see, you’re going to hear – Again, five to twenty things this week about what you should experience of being in Christ, about what you should do, about good things that could take place – And you cannot give yourself to a regimen and a training and rhythm to everything. And you need now to open to the Spirit. You need to open with another teacher perhaps. “God, have what I heard, should this just be an intention?” And you know what that means? That means you just say, “God, what this is going to be. I’ve heard this is good, and God, I desire – I desire this to be in my life. And Lord, I desire that when You bring up specific circumstances that I would respond this way. I commit myself. I present myself as an intention to be this way.” And then, you let it be.
You don’t walk away with magical thinking that everything was solved. You don’t walk away thinking that now you’re going now to obey from the heart, from the Spirit, in the next time you - this comes up. But you’ve just realized this with some discernment with the Spirit, “God, there are other things I – I need to give myself to right now. I’m not going to take this thing and make it a rhythm or regimen. This is going to be an intention.” You know, most of us that’s how we walk away from the Scriptures. But now I want to be explicit about it. And I, as a teacher, want to say, “Look. Some of you should not necessarily be given to the training of this. This is the ongoing thing. Make this an intention of the heart and then the Beatles song, Let it be. Let it be. Let it be. Let it be.” Otherwise, you’re going to walk away thinking, “God, what should I do about this?” No. Resolve it right here. It’s the transaction. “God, this is my intention and now I can go fellowship with others. And God, as I go, You can keep bringing it up.” We just had a sermon of love my, you know, love my children. “Fine. You’ll be bringing a lot of stuff up.”
But then I’m going to ask another question: “Lord, should what I have heard, should this be a rhythm in my life? Is this something ongoing that I need? Is there something here that is so profound and it’s so pronounced and it’s – it’s a need in my life for the next year, for this next three months, whatever. I need to build something into here as a rhythm. He’s just talked about praying without ceasing. Well, I don’t pray for more than five minutes a day. God, this is something I – I need. Lord, I want to open to You in this. I want to open” – And now you can give – This is totally up to you. This is within your power. Do you want to get into the training or not? It’s – It’s just so simple. You can give yourself to a rhythm. And that’s something that you’re going to need discernment with the Spirit and maybe even others, “God, is there something that is really that important?” Because not everything you read can you now build as a spiritual discipline, as a rhythm. You can’t do that. But there are some things you’re going to need to. And so, “Lord, I want to open to. Are there certain rhythms – And this is where reading books by Willard and Foster are helpful cause they can kind of mirror some things to you to discern, “God, is that something I need? Do I need more silence?” Or maybe, you know, you could even take loving your wife as a rhythm for a training. Well, of course, we all want to love our wives, but now you can make it into a rhythm part of the training: “God, I think that for the next three months I need about 20 minutes a day to ponder my wife.” This is crucial. It’s up to you. It’s up to you.
Or “Lord, should this be a regimen? Should this be a regimen?” This is where Willard has impacted me. Is this something I need to address now as a short-term project? Has something that the preacher said, the teacher said, that I read - This has grabbed my heart. I – I want to develop a short-term project right now. I want to develop a little plan. I want to take three hours next week. Five hours. Two hours. Whatever it is. There are a million things you can do in making plans. You know, I found I used to do this when I was a younger believer. I’ve gotten a little lazy. You know, I – I called it sloppy agape. That was a Jay Vernon McGee (?) would say when I was a – He was a professor of mine. That’s sloppy agape going on. [LAUGHTER] I feel that in my own self. But something’s good has gone on because these have become more my heartbeat. But I don’t want to let go of these. This is the training. I’m in a training. Don’t assume you’re suppose to do a regimen. Don’t assume you’re suppose to do a rhythm. You always need to offer yourself as an intention. That is always the case.
And then, if you decide one of these. Number six. Ask the Lord, “God, help me make a plan. Help me make a plan. Help me get into training.” You know, isn’t it amazing? If you want to pick up anything in life to learn right now, you would have to do this? You would. If you wanted to learn the computer, you’re going to have to do this. You’re going to have to do the training. Well, this is the Christian life. This is within our power. Plan and then do it.
Now, what I’d like you to do and I will end the lecture notes I think, but we’ll – we’ll do some disciplines maybe at the end. Turn to page two in your lecture notes. I want to come back to this plan and then do it. What do you mean do it? Well, this is number four. In the spiritual disciplines, in training, what do you lead with, where do you begin? You just made a plan for yourself, a rhythm, a regimen, an intention. And now all of a sudden, as an intention you’re – you’re in with your children. Well, here’s what you do. This is always in the church, been the way.
We lead with the body to open the heart to the Spirit. That is always the path of spiritual disciplines. You don’t lead with the heart. You lead with the body. Kind of the Nike commercial, right? You do it. The focus is on the intention of presenting yourself. You know, when you’re a beginner, that’s cool. “Yeah.” I remember when I was discipled. I had a guy who discipled me in lots of projects. “Whoa. This is good.” This guy was really into spiritual regimens. And it was so cool. You know, I would go home and Greta and I would spend three nights together and then we’d talk about certain things. That was so wonderful. But you know, as you go on, for those who are especially in dark nights, it’s not going to be so wonderful. The rhythms are going to feel really boring and dry. Yum. Yes, good. If you do these things, if God gives you consolation, ride the wave. If you’re doing these things and it’s dry say, “God this is so good to know about my soul. It is so good that I have no taste for this, God. Now show me what’s in my heart.”
And so we lead with the body but it’s always to open the heart. We let the heart mirror what’s really going on in our life. If I’ve – If the - If the worship leader says to sing congregational music - I remember I was at a church and they had put A Mighty Fortress to I don’t know what it was, rap music or something. [LAUGHTER] [INDISTINCT SOUND] And I’m like, “Whoa. Okay.” I think this is dumb. It doesn’t work, but I’m called by the sovereignty of God to present myself. And so I will sing this. And as I sing it, you know what may happen? God may say – He may open up my heart and I will just, “God, this is so good. I love You.” But He may open up my heart in other ways and He’ll show me a part that will say, “Oh. This is so dumb. This is dumb music. Whatever” And now I have a wonderful conversation with Him. Because, you know, the truth is when your heart is so open Balaam’s ass could talk [LAUGHTER] and it would be glorious. That’s the way the heart is.
Here I find a generational difference. The older generation led with the body, very faithful, but not very open to the heart. And the younger generation picked that up. And the young generation opens the heart, but they don’t lead much with the body. And so, they’re pretty faithless. And so where the older generation may sometimes seem unreal, even arrogant and superficial, the younger generation is flaky and undisciplined and unfaithful. But here we lead with the body but to open the heart, and to open the heart really to what ultimately to the Spirit. That’s what it’s all about. It’s the Spirit of God who is the transformer of the soul and in spiritual disciplines – while I’m doing all of this, you know what? Now, at my age, 50, what I’m really doing? See, this stuff is a given. I just want say that. To Paul the apostle, this stuff is a given. What I really want to do now at 50 is, I want to watch out for the Spirit. “Okay, as I’m spending this evening with Greta, Spirit, I’ve got one ear to her but I’ve got one ear for You because I’m watching for You. You’re the lover. You’re the transformer. You’re the One who’s going to lead me to places that I cannot lead myself.” I want to be open to that.
I just want to end these lectures just by saying what I’ve said a whole bunch of times. The process and the transformation – That’s not up to you. But what we’ve talked about tonight, so much of this, is up to you. So much of it.
What I’d like you to do is turn to page 17. We have half an hour left. I’m going to teach you a spiritual discipline. This spiritual discipline. The first one is called prayer of recollection. I’m going to teach you one form of it. It’s on – It’s on - What page is it for you? 10. Oh, I’m sorry. Yeah. I had another one. Yeah. I have 17 pages in this thing. So I skipped a bunch. You can read some of that other stuff another time. I’m going to teach you a little about the discipline of recollection, then if I have time I’ll teach you the spiritual discipline of Lectio Divina. These are two of the most ancient spiritual disciplines in the history of the church. Ones that were actually carved out as official kind of classic disciplines where they just started doing this.
The prayer of recollection is, I would say for my wife and I, this is probably one of the most longer standing ones of a discipline. It’s become kind of a little bit of our heartbeat. It’s been so dear to me. You know what the prayer of recollection is? It’s the idea to recollect the heart back to its center. That’s what it means. It was used by the early church before they heard the Word of God. Before they hear the Word, they wanted to collect back, at their center, what I really am in Christ so that I can hear the Word not from fantasy or grandiosity or guilt, but “God, open to You. I’m in Christ.”
It was also suppose to address the scattered heart. Have you ever – Have you ever, you know, gone into a sermon and you’re hearing the – the sermon and your mind’s kind of zipping through the universe? [LAUGHTER] Or have you ever – Yeah, sorry. Sorry Pastor Dale. But, yeah. Or have you ever been in a prayer time and your mind’s just going. I’ve been in prayer times where I wondered, God, I – How did I get over there? And I retraced it. Oh my gosh. I had seven conversations with myself. [LAUGHTER] I’m not even praying. “How cool to know. How – How – How harsh my heart is. Yeah, it’s great to know God.”
And so, whenever you felt your heart scattered, your mind wandering, this prayer of recollection was to help kind of open back to this is what I am at the center. In the prayer of recollection I – We’re not going to read it because of time, but it really came from Philippians chapter 3 verse 7 and following. In Philippians 3 Paul says – after he listed all these things that he’d become – He says, “And whatever things gained in me, those things I’ve counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count everything as lost.” Now that’s the first half of the prayer of recollection. It’s to count everything as lost in comparison to Christ. It’s to detach from potential false idols and it’s to detach from potential false identities. That’s the – That’s what the prayer was. It was to open the heart to, “John, what really is driving you?” And so, I’m to speak truth into my heart. And then the second part of the prayer is going to be, “I consider all things lost in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and I count as rubbish so that I may gain Him and may be found in Him.” Not a righteousness of my own, but that which is through faith in Christ. He – He’s recollecting his heart in Christ, and so they took Paul here and they made it into prayer. Detaching from false identities and attaching to my true. That’s what the prayer is all about: Detaching from false identities. Attaching to my true identity.
This has many forms, but what we’re going to do is - We’ll just do this for a minute or two. I – I’ll – I’ll just kind of teach it quickly and then we’ll do it. What – What you do in these prayers is you send these truths down into your heart. And as you send them down into your heart, you open to whether or not they’re congruent or not. Kind of like sonar, you know, you send it down. So the first thing – One of the things we’re going to send down is, we’re going to send down the fact that I am at – at my core, my core identity, is not being a professor. Now, that’s one thing I’ll do. And so as I send that down, “John, at the core, you are not a professor.” Now sometimes when I send that down my heart says, “Yeah. It’s so good, John.” You know, other times I send that down, you know what my soul says? “Liar. [LAUGHTER] That’s exactly where you’re finding your identity.”
You know, I do this most of the time every time I go to speak now. You know what I say to myself? I recollect my heart and I say to myself, “God, I am not a person who needs to be loved by those who hear me. God, I am not a person who needs people to come up and say, “That was insightful.” God, I don’t need, at the core, that this night go off well. What am I at the core? I need You. That’s what I need.” Sometimes when I do that before I speak, it’s cool. Other times, the anxiety’s really high and I know, “Liar. You want people to come up saying, “Oh. Dr. Coe, that was so good.” [LAUGHTER] And so if I hear parts that are “God, that’s not true in my heart right now.” How cool. And now I have something to open to God.
So here’s what we’re going to do. The first thing in this one – This is just one form of it. I’m going to affirm the truth that I have a finite physical body. What does this mean? I am affirming the truth of my limitation. That’s what I’m going to do. “God, I am not You. I am a human being that has a body. I cannot do everything. I am not infinite. I can’t grant everybody’s wishes. I can’t meet everybody’s needs. God, I am finite. I – I’m going to affirm that to my soul because I want to speak the truth, I want to recollect my soul into the truth.
And then number two. I’m going to affirm that I’m a finite spirit. Now this involves two things. The first one is I’m going to disregard all the potential idols of my soul. That is, I – I am now going to go through a litany and I can send my students to do this for two days or I can have them do it for five minutes. In the morning, I can do this in 30 seconds to remind y soul what I am not. See, I am a father, but you know something? Some fathers find their whole identity in being a father. And I want to – I want to make sure that is not my identity. And so I’m going to say, “At the core of my soul, I am not a father. At the core of my soul, I am not a professor.” I know some professors were that is the core of their soul. I know that at the University of California where I taught. “At the core of my soul, I’m not a – I’m not a husband.” Yes, I am a husband, but that’s not my core identity. You know, some of you mothers really need to say this about being a mother cause you finding too much of your – Now there’s always a person who – who’s not finding enough of their identity in being a mother. That’s for sure. But some of us have gone the other way. We have found way too much of our identity in being a mother.
And whatever you find your identity in something finite, you know what happens? You squeeze that thing to death. And children know when they’re getting squeezed to death because at 18 trying to scrape mom off. I’m going to say things like, “Even at the core I’m not a son.” Now if I’m having problems with mom, it might come up saying, “Liar. You are attached to that because you’re struggling with her. It’s hard to really love her.” But I’m going to go through this litany.
You know something? I can be an angry person. But you know what the truth is? The truth is at the core John Coe is not an angry person. Now it’s one thing to deny anger. It’s another thing to say, “I have anger.” But it’s another thing to say, “I am just my anger.” There are some people who go to counseling who have identified themselves with their anger. “At the core, I’m not my anger. At the core, what am I?”
And here in B, I affirm the real identity: I was created for union with God. That’s the core. I came naked into the world as a naked spirit longing for a perfect love and now I’m clothed with Christ’s righteousness. This is the core of John Coe. I have said this prayer so many times. And sometimes my heart is just in love with this and sometimes my heart is just dry as dust. And when it’s dry as dust, I know I have a conversation with my Father. And how cool that is.
And then number three, in this particular version of the prayer, I’m going to ask my soul in the presence of God how I’ve been approaching God. This is now not truth talking about my identity, but this is truth talking about how I even been praying to God. And one of the questions I’ll ask is, “God, have I been approaching You as if You were a genie? Have I been praying to You as if You have a will to or it’s just my will?” And then we would do that we would sit a while, and we would hear the Word of God. And that’s the next page: Lectio Divina.
And in Lectio Divina, we will – we will only read the Word here. But Lectio Divina – it’s called Divine Reading – was one of the oldest spiritual disciplines. And what it was it was a bringing together of two passages in the Scripture where it says, “Be filled with the Spirit” and “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Because in those two texts, the result is the same: “Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” And so the early church said, “Then our relationship to the Word of God is also a relationship to the Spirit.” And so, we’re – Would you open to the Spirit and the Word? And so, what they would do is in number one. It’s very simple. Lectio is just Latin for reading. They would just read the Word over and over again until it kind of – They hear it with the inner ear and they meant it takes. “Hmm. Oh yeah. Oh.” Have you ever heard a sermon and you’re not listening? And then all of a sudden, “Hmm. I just heard that.” And then they would engage in menatatio. In meditation, that means you roll the Word around and you let it richly dwell in you. And then in oratio, you know what you’re supposed to do? This was so simple. You would just speak what’s going on in your heart. So you spend 20 minutes doing Lectio Menatatio. In oratio, whatever is taking place in the heart, that’s what you talk about with God. If you find your mind is wandering, that’s what you talk to God about. There’s another spiritual discipline where you pray over the Word. And that means when you take the Word of God and you pray the Word. But oratio means you’ve let the Word come in and whatever’s coming up - if you’re thinking of the Ram game - that’s what you talk to God about because now, that’s an interesting question. “You know, Lord, I’ve – I’ve been thinking about Your Word for 20 minutes and I’m thinking about the Ram game. What’s going on?” And then in contemplatio, all that is you just sit there. “God, I’m here. I’ve heard Your Word. I’m here.”
I want to do this for two minutes, three minutes. Then we’ll have ten minutes for questions. I want you all to put your feet – Both feet on the ground if you would. Just to remind you, “I’m here. Right here.” And I wish now for you to pray with me and I’m going to take you through this prayer ever so quickly.
Father, we just present our self. Here we are. Here we are, Lord. Oh God, we need You. I want you to just take – as you’re opening your heart to the Lord - I want you just to remind yourself and God your soul the truth of your limitations. I want you to tell the Lord, “God, I have a body and it’s limited.” And just for a moment, ask God, “Is that been true in my life or I’ve - Have I been doing too much? God, is that true?” Just ask Him. “God, I have a body. I have limitations. Open me to my weakness.” Just remind yourself you can’t meet everybody’s needs. Your children. Your spouse. And now just moving on, speak to your soul and to God, and disregard all potential idols of your soul, false identities. Just begin to say, “At – At the core of my spirit, I’m not a father or a mother or a son, daughter, an angry person, a student, a pastor.” Focus on one or two and just open that that is not you at the core anymore. Open to the truth. I’m just moving on in this exercise. Affirm who you really are. “I am in Christ. I was a naked spirit now clothed with Christ. I’m precious in His eyes. He calls me Beloved.” Just open to that truth. If you don’t feel it, just talk to Him about that. Just open to Him. And now just moving in this exercise. “God, how have I been praying to You lately? Have I been praying to You as a genie to do my will or am I open to Your will?” You might even be looking at things you’re wanting or praying for and – and are you open to His will? Just open to that with Him. And now hear the Word of God. “I am the Vine. You are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. I, the Lord Jesus, am the Vine. You are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit for apart from Me you can do nothing. I am the Vine.” Jesus. Imagine you’re a branch connected to the Vine. That’s what you are. He who abides in the Vine bears fruit. “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Oh Lord, teach us these things. Lord, bless these people. God, open our hearts. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
We have ten minutes so I’m open to, in these ten minutes, any questions for the whole series? Anything that’s come up? Or some thing that’s hanging in your mind? Or something from tonight? That’s fine. But anything of any of the nights? Anything? Comment? Question? Yes? Hmm.
[INDISTINCT QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE]
You know, these – These are all artificial distinctions but we see them in the history of the church and we can see them in our life. The rhythms were generally things that the church as it began to develop they say these as kind of long-term responses to needs in our life. That we all have a need to pray. We all have a need for silence. We all have a need to opening to God and not just to all of the other noises. And we all have a need for some solitude. Now, we’ve kind of wrapped all that in the quiet time. But these were ongoing disciplines. These really became the classical spiritual disciplines where they thought these should be rhythms that are probably long-term, ongoing. Now, there are other elements that can come in there. Like, for instance, if I – I – I really believe that there is time in our life with our children or with our spouse or with some element of our life at the business or something like that - Where this might even go into this kind of rhythm because it – it really needs to be addressed and then it’s going to be long-term. But generally, the – the spiritual disciplines were the disciplines of love, to stay attached to God. And they’re – they’re the ongoing ones through life where the spiritual regimens were when you’re hearing the Word, or you’re reading – You’re reading a book or something and something’s really grabbing you. Or you had a conversation with somebody, you’re just broken about something and you – and you just know you need to give yourself to that, to working on some – An element of your marriage or your relation with your children or it might be some vices that you’ve become aware of. And these are now more short-term projects that have a, you know, specific plan that you want to give yourself to. It would just be like, you know, if you want to lose weight. Now, losing weight is an interesting thing. There’s a kind of rhythm there, right? It’s the ongoing, healthy way? And then there’s a kind of regimen. And the regimen of training is a little more short-term to kind of bump start this whole thing. So again, you can take almost any kind of training and you’ll have certain rhythms and then certain regimens.
Let me say this also that the later church, they started talking this way about disciplines. And, you know, part of the reason why was they said, you know, when the early church was under persecution, the church naturally did all this stuff. But once the persecution ended, and it was a time of peace and prosperity, well, the church noticed in the third, fourth and fifth century, the difference between rampant, you know, Josiah, who is in the persecutions of the church and his stories about what it means to wait, to pray and to be together. And now in a time of peace and prosperity, you don’t have to be very disciplined at all. You don’t have to put yourself through a training. You can get up in the morning and the biggest decision you have is, you know, “Am I going to have eggs or waffles?” And so, this was the development of what they call the white martyr. The red martyr were those believers who had died for their faith and they were in the training just by necessity. The white martyr was the one who realized in times of peace and prosperity, there is nothing external in my life that forces into the training. I’ve got a great life. But I am going to now intentionally give myself to the training. And those guys became to be called the white martyrs. And the white martyrs are those who give themselves intentionally to a training even when life’s circumstances don’t call for it. Well, that’s us. That’s us. Yeah. Yeah?
[INDISTINCT QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE]
Yeah. And that’s where the – See, the disciplines of abstinence are really disciplines of putting off. Those are times where they’re a part of the spiritual rhythms, typically, silence, solitude, fasting. These are times that open us up to what’s really going on inside. They help us hear. His – His view, too, and I agree with this, he said, “Evangelicals do more the disciplines of engagement or – or what’s called disciplines of attachment than the disciplines of abstinence.” And I – I – I think that’s true and that’s because we – in our evangelical tradition – have focused a little more on the putting on than the putting off with some consequences. But yeah. Yeah, that’s right. Willard says that. Yeah?
[INDISTINCT QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE]
Yeah. You know, here’s – here’s what the – Kind of back to the red martyr, white martyr. They accomplish the same things. When Paul is talking about 2 Corinthians 12: 10 and following where he says, you know, he had all these trials, everything that’s happening around him, especially these thorns in the flesh. And out of them, God didn’t grant those to him and God grant him so much trials. But Paul discovered through all of that, that in weakness the power of God was being perfected. So, that’s explicitly text about external trials. As the early church went on into the time of peace and prosperity, here’s what they noticed. They noticed that individuals no longer had external trials to peel the heart, and so that’s when God seemed to do this especially through dark nights. So that, I have no troubles in my life. In fact, when I was going through a – a – a - an extended dark night, the main trouble was, “God, where are You in my prayer life?” Cause you know what dark nights do? They do the same thing trials do. They finally open you to your heart, “God, what’s going on?” And now God’s ready to take you on that journey.
So, in life right now, some of you if I – if I spend 20 minutes with you, I find out whether there’s times, seasons of desolation in your life, consolation, maybe both. I’d also find whether external trials are major. I’d bank on it. There is probably going to be two or three people in here where there’s a major trial, an external trial going on. And then, you know, we talked last time about depression. And that’s a whole different kind of thing than the dark night. Yeah?
[INDISTINCT QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE]
Could be. You know what? All it is is this. I am just watching what the Spirit of God is doing now. Now I’ve – I’ve been, you know, at this faith a little while and a number of years, man, really confused at what’s going on. And now, I - I want more. You know, God – If during your prayer time it’s dry or whatever, that’s – That’s fine. That’s cool. What are you doing? Cause God, He’s always here. And so I just want to track what the Spirit – what He wants to teach me. I want to watch where He’s taking me. And so there are early dark nights that we talked about, dark nights of the senses. It had to do mostly with the desire for spiritual pleasure, but it’s the later dark nights I talked about last week that I’m really interested in. And those are the dark nights where those of us who have gone in the faith a bit now are beginning to be turned inwardly to say, “God, You’re doing something more now. I’ve heard that sermon a number of times. And God, others are blessed by me but, God, this isn’t enough. I want You. I want You to teach me.” So again, who knows what God will take us through? And the external trials are the same thing? During times of consolation, “Oh, it’s so wonderful.” And the - the greatest thing is we are made for that so the fullness of the kingdom will be total fullness of the Spirit of God in love. Yeah. Yes?
[INDISTINCT QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE]
So do you want like, what can you do or how you can help them or what is - What is your? [INDISTINCT CLARIFICATION FROM AUDIENCE] Yeah. That’s an issue. That is. Because I’m around some individuals in my work where entering into these places, that’s not what they’re interested in. That’s not necessarily what they’re doing. And you know something? I – I have to let it be. I have to let it be and just, you know. Cause here’s what - This is where I am, God. This is where You’re taking me. And so, as you enter into these things, I – I will agree they get a little messy. It gets a little messy, “God, what – what really is going on in this issue right now between my spouse and I? Or my relationship to You?” And I - My – My general advice is this. The messier it gets, the better it’ll be if you have someone who can go in there with you. That’s the point of a spiritual director or spiritual counselor or a therapist. Someone who’s – who’s got some wisdom about the soul, who can take you into those places especially in opening up maybe to the Spirit. But if you’re in one of those times, this is a time to enter deeply into that place. This is also a time where I would encourage you to be gentle because some people get inside their soul and they start ripping stuff up because of guilt, frustration. And here’s where I want to encourage you, “No. Let Jesus be the gardener. You’re to take His yoke upon you and – and – initially I want you to just open to the truth and sit there with Him. Get used to experiencing the truth of yourself with God, not running away. Now, when you are ready, then I might move to these. If I begin to see certain vices in my life or tendencies towards my daughters or my wife, now I might move into some regimens. But I’m also going to try to stay disciplined and faithful to these rhythms. Anyway. Yeah. Last question and I think we need to stop.
[INDISTINCT QUESTION FROM AUDIENCE]
Could be. Absolutely. But again, when I was a young believer I’m just so glad when I went to church cause I just immersed myself in these, but much of it was in the power of my baby self. It was wonderful. It was just absolutely wonderful time, but much of it was my fortitude. Not that I was saying, “I’m doing this in the power of me.” I just was because I was a baby. I just was more filled with myself than the Spirit of God. That’s just the truth. So I engaged in those, and yes, I engaged in these. I had a discipler who loved this stuff. It was so wonderful. This is a great time for developing your – again, we talked last time – your mind map and your character map, this theological grid. However, here’s what will happen. When dark nights come, they will begin to expose how full of myself I really was doing all of this. But it was – There was no other way to do it cause I was a baby. And so God is now beginning to cause me to limp when I do those and realize, “God, you know. Doing these. That won’t transform me, Lord.” That’s just minimal presenting because now you have – I think there’s a developmental thing. These really are the heartbeats of the Christian life. “God, I want You. God, I want to do this in Christ. I want to be open to what’s really going on.” I think this is the heartbeat. I think most begin here. I think most begin actually here, and that’s cool. That’s where I’m going to start beginners and I’m going to move them here and begin opening them here. For those of us who’ve gone on in the faith, this is the place to live. But don’t forget these. Don’t forget the training. Why don’t we close in prayer?
Father, I – I thank you so much for just these five weeks. Lord, You have taught me so much. You have opened up my soul to so many things again. Lord, I just really ask You to bless and love these folk. And open up the hearts of those of us here - Doug, the pastors, the leaders - of what all of this can become as we ponder these things with You. What form and shape they might have. But we first ask that, God, You would just open our heart deeply to You. Lord, teach us to love You. Teach us how to put on our Lord Jesus. Father, we bless You. Teach us to do this from the heart and in the spirit. We need You so much. We pray these things in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
- Discuss with the Lord the degree to which the disciplines of “spiritual intentions” of honesty, presenting, recollection and discernment are at work in your life. Briefly prayer the following prayers of intention and open to God:
- Presenting: “God, Here I am. I am open to you and your will. ” Recollection: “God, what ever I am to become or do, I want to do this in Christ and I don’t want to do this alone but abiding in You.” Honesty or Truth-telling: “God, what is going on in my heart regarding the truth of myself in relation to You and others.
- Discernment : “God, What are you doing in my life and what are you asking me to do?”
- Ask the Lord whether there are any particular areas of your life that He might like you to establish a short-term regimen for the purpose of transformation.
- Discuss with the Lord whether there is any temptation towards magical thinking that this area could be resolved by mere self-effort and natural fortitude.
- Ask the Lord, “What kind of person must I become to live out this command or put off this sin from the heart by the Spirit as a habit?”
- Ask the Lord for wisdom regarding establishing a short-term plan to begin to try to practice something that will assist you in becoming that kind of person in the Spirit. This should be a short-term project appropriate to the issue (possibly 2 hours over a week’s time).