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Showing posts with label Identity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Identity. Show all posts

Monday, July 25, 2022

5 Steps to Remove Obstacles to Growth In Christ

The following blog is an adaptation of a a talk I gave at a Chrysalis Youth Retreat.  Chrysalis is a ministry of the Upper Room and this blog/sermon was adapted from Talk #10, "God Sustains Us".

Introduction
As a child I was fascinated with flying.  I loved to watch birds soaring through the air.  I also liked to build models of airplanes and jets.  Sometimes my mom would give me those little Styrofoam trays that come with ground beef in the groceries stores after she washed them out.  I would build little Styrofoam toy airplanes that would fly across the room.  

Part of my fascination with flying was probably due to the rough conditions of my family life.  There was a lot of shouting and sometimes violence.  They idea of birds who could just spread their wings and fly away anytime they wanted was very appealing to me.  

So when I was only about 7 years old, I thought if I can build a model stryrofoam plane that can fly, surely I can build some actual wings fly myself.  I mean, I could see how birds were built and how their wings were shaped.  Why couldn't I fly too?  

So I got som sticks and big sheet of plastic and I build some wings.  And I ran through my house as fast as I could out the front door and jumped off the front porch, which was about 2 feet off the ground.  And... I fell flat on my face, because people can't fly--not even 7-year-old scrawny kids with an great imagination!

People have been fascinated with the idea of flight for thousands of years.  But there were many obstacles to flight.  Even in the early modern ages, when humans started building other amazing gadgets like telephones and light bulbs and automobiles, they still could not fly.  Their flying machines were imaginative, but unsuccessful.  Building materials and engines were too weak and too heavy.  And people didn't really understand the science behind flying.

However, eventually, with time and sacrifice and even many people getting hurt or dying, people worked together sharing their collective knowledge until the Wright Brothers were able to officially get off the ground.  Today, hundreds of thousands of people fly everyday to every corner of the globe.

I want to talk with you today about some of the spiritual obstacles that keep us from being all God wants us to be and how God’s grace can help us overcome them.

Romans 3:23-24
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.

The world is missing the mark. 
Just as God designed butterflies and birds to fly, God designed people to live together in harmony.  We can do so much more together than we can alone.  Unfortunately, society fails to live up to its potential.  We miss the mark.  Though created for love, society is full of hate, hostility, and fear.  

Society misses the mark because we, as individuals, miss the mark.  Though created in the image of God, Romans 3:23 says we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Like a shattered mirror, we reflect God only as a broken and distorted image.  Even Christian leaders in the Bible often failed to live up to God’s perfect standard.

After Jesus was arrested, all the disciples ran away and hid.  They failed Jesus.  Even Peter, who boldly proclaimed he was willing to die for Jesus, denied knowing Him (Mt. 26:34, 74).  The Apostle Paul, who wrote mst of the books of the New Testament, said he often did bad things even though he didn’t want to do. His sinful nature haunted him. (Rom. 7:15, 19-20).

In subtle ways, we all ignore or deny the most important relationship in our life, the root of all other relationships—our relationship with God.  The Greek word for sin, hamartia, is an archery term meaning "to miss the target."  Sin is whatever causes us to miss the target God has given our lives; it is any obstacle that separates us from the love of God and neighbor.

Sin sets up obstacles between us and God, that limit our ability to love, that hinder our growth in the likeness and love of Jesus Christ.  I want to name three specific Obstacles to Grace that keep us from being more like Christ, who reflected God’s love perfectly—three ways we miss the mark.

One obstacle is Not believing in God.  To believe in God is more than believing God exists; even the Devil acknowledges God's existence.  To believe in God is to "live by" God, to trust what God says and who God is.  You know, you can say, “I believe this airplane is safe to fly in.”  But you don’t really believe unless you are willing to personally get in the plane and go for a ride!

Sometimes, we don’t really believe God actually loves us like He says He does.  This is the most common form of unbelief.  We don't like who we are and so we try to hide from God and others.  We're like Adam and Eve who tried to hide from God when they ate the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3:7. 

Sometimes, we don’t really believe God forgives our past.  We condemn ourselves. We let our faults, failures, and bad feelings tell us who we are instead of listening to God’s love.  Whenever your feelings condemn you, remember that God's love is greater than your feelings (1 John 3:19). 

Another obstacle is Idols—believing in false gods.  Idolatry is not necessarily worshipping a statue.  I don’t know anybody who does that in the town where I live, but people still worship idols all the time.  We can make money, drugs, power, or people into idols.  The most dangerous things we turn into idols are not necessarily even bad things.  Sometimes they are good things.  But they become bad for us because we expect them to deliver something that only God can give.

We can turn our family into an idol.  We can turn our dreams into an idol.  We can turn our spouse, our friends, our job into idols.  When we seek the fulfilment from anything (even good things) that only God can give, they will always let us down, because idols are not capable of satisfying the deepest hunger inside.  Only the One, True God can do that. 

The true God is a God of grace and hope, forgiving our faults, redeeming our mistakes, offering a chance to start afresh.   

One more obstacle is Self-centeredness.  When we are self-centered, we try to be God.  We trust ourselves more than God.  We focus our life on our own selfish desires, making God in our own image.  We only see ourselves, our needs, our feelings.  We don’t see other people, their needs and feelings.  We may even feel jealous when others receive affirmation or are rewarded.  This is self-centered behavior.

Everyone is born self-centered, but we shouldn’t stay that way.  We need to grow up!  We must learn that other people have feelings and worth that are just as important as ours.  We are not the center of the universe.

Self-centeredness is when grown people act like big babies.  There is a baby in all of us who never grows up, who tries to make the world revolve around us. The Big Baby comes out in us occasionally in these ways:

Self-pity: When we always think, "Woe is me."  We feel and act like it's never our fault.  Someone or something else is always to blame.  We feel like the victim and take no responsibility.

Self-importance:  We think we’re better or more important or more valuable than everyone else.

Self-righteousness: We think we’re already perfect, like there’s no need for God’s grace.  

Following Jesus involves exchanging a self-centered world for a Christ-centered world.  When we do, we see people with new eyes.  We identify with others’ feelings.  We care about them the same as we care for ourselves.  Our goal is not to be right all the time but to be in right relationship with God and people.  

Not believing in God, Idolatry, and Self-centeredness get in the way of our relationship with God.  The first letter of each obstacle spells N-I-S.  Turn it around and you have SIN.

Sin is putting life together in a way that doesn't work, that stops real growth.  It is a major obstacle to God’s grace.  It misses the mark of what God wants for your life.

Thankfully, there is hope.  God gives us GRACE.

 

GRACE
The good news is God sustains us despite our sin. The grace in God is greater than the sin in us. God enables our daily dying with Christ (to unbelief, idolatry, self-centeredness) and daily rising with Christ (to faith, hope, love, life in grace).

Step 1:  Go to God.  
Let go of pride that keeps you from turning to God.  Let go of "I am unworthy" speeches.  Ask God for the help you need. Be honest with God about the obstacles in the way of your relationship with Him.  Admit the ways sin and selfishness take form in you.  God is full of grace to accept, forgive, and heal.

 



Step 2:  Remember who you really are.
Let go of everybody else's ideas of who you ought to be.  Remember, you are not who others say you are. You are more than your mistakes or successes. You are free of all that. You are who God made you.   Remember, you belong to God. You are God's child.  Let what God already thinks about you guide you.

 



Step 3:  Accept your acceptance.
Let go of feeling like you are not good enough, that you must prove yourself to somebody, or that you have to find a way to be important.  Accept God's unconditional acceptance of you, not as you think you ought to be but as you are.  Accept God's word to Jesus in Mark 1:11 as God’s word to you.  When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by his cousin, John, and he came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit descended on his like a dove.  And a voice from Heaven said, "You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased."  Well, if you put your faith in Jesus, then Jesus lives in you.  And when God looks at you, He sees Jesus.  And God says, You are my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.  Accept God's view of you. 

Step 4:  Connect with Christian community.
Let go of friendships that reinforce the wrong things in you.  Seek friends who share your faith and want to stay centered in God.  Connect with Christ by connecting with church.  Find a community of support, acceptance, and encouragement to grow in Christ.

 



Step 5:  Embrace the life God is giving you.
Let go of images of yourself that are less than God's plans for you.  Embrace your life as you are, as God made you with your strengths and weaknesses.  Embrace God's beautiful goal for your life in Jesus Christ.  When you fail God, yourself, or others, get up with God's help and press on.  Progress involves falling down and getting back up, dying with Christ to sin and rising with Christ to new life in God, again and again.  Decide your next step. How will you start to do what you need to do?

GRACE
The first letter of each step spells GRACE.

Go to God.
Remember who you are.
Accept your acceptance.
Connect with Christian Community.
Embrace the life God is Giving you.

Grace overcomes sin and removes the wall of obstacles between you and God. 


Conclusion
SIN and GRACE things we don't like to talk about, but they are two realities with which you must come to grips.  Sin breaks life apart.  Grace gives us life again.  Grace reunites us with God and one another.  With grace through Christ, we can overcome the obstacles of sin.

I want you to understand this:  There is always more grace in God than there is sin in us.  Therefore, no obstacle can separate us from the love of God we fund through in Jesus Christ.  So, what steps do you need to talk today to start allowing God's grace to overcome the sin obstacles in your life today?