We concluded the Soul Revolution series at Gateway Church in Austin. Lead pastor of Gateway and author of the book Soul Revolution John Burke shared at the McNeil campus, and I spoke at the South Campus. Here are some of the ideas we shared:
“We’re in a 60 day experiment in faith. Today we wrap up the Soul Revolution series, but the experiment is not over yet. I hope you realize, it’s not supposed to end. The goal of the experiment was to get you to take a chance – to take God at his word. If we simply learn to stay connected to His Spirit throughout the moments of the day, with an increasing willingness to listen and respond to those quiet thoughts that try to guide us in His will and ways, we will start to see Him shape our souls into something beautiful. Like fruit grows naturally on branches that stay connected to the tree trunk, love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, self control start to come out of us more and more. Without trying hard, fruit grows naturally by staying connected to the Source of Life and Love. It’s not too late to start. Find a few friends, pick up Soul Revolution, and let it guide you through the experiment.
If you quit, start again. Like any relationship, you don’t instantly have trust and intimacy. It takes risking and trusting more and more over time. God wants us to keep practicing a growing connection to Him and He will slowly shape our souls in ways that lead us into Life and Freedom.
So many people believe the lie that following God leads to a repressed, bored, lifeless version of yourself, when just the opposite is true. Jesus said He’s like Good Shepherd to us:
‘The sheep recognize his voice and come to him…he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice…the thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.’ John 10:3-4, 10
‘If you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ John 8:31-32
Life and freedom like we’ve always wanted—that’s where he leads. As we learn to hear and respond, he takes us on the adventure of a lifetime.
What is the adventure God has for you as you trust Him?
God shapes our soul into the people we’ve always wanted to be. Too often we’ve been too afraid, too worried about what others would think, too self focused, too hurt and protective, too busy trying to prove our worth, or too numb trying to cover the pain with drugs or alcohol. There’s a Life and Freedom so much better as God shapes our souls. God uses 3 things to shape us into more and more of the people He intended. They’re like 3 legs of the same stool. I find these three practices, all about Staying Connected, are the most important to fully become ourselves: Staying Connected to His Spirit, Staying Connected to His Words, Staying Connected to a Spiritual Family.
1. Stay Connected to God’s Spirit. This is what we’ve been experimenting with, what Jesus said was central his last night on earth:
‘You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.’ John 14:3-4
A branch doesn’t have to work hard to produce fruit, it just stays connected to the Source of Life, and fruit grows naturally. Staying connected to God is all about a loving relationship. We have nothing to offer God but our trust and our willingness to respond. This demonstrates love to God. The more we do, the more this eternal quality of life comes naturally through us. You won’t have to try hard.
‘Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ John 17:3
It’s all about relating to our Creator, and letting an eternal quality of life flow through us more and more as we know and trust God more and more. When we respond in faith, that’s when we get to see the miraculous.
2. Stay Connected to God’s Words. Remember, Jesus said we will know the truth and be set free. The truth is just reality according to God, the One who sees all and knows all. To experience the truth setting us free, we must remain connected in His word, His teachings. This keeps us from being lied to and deceived. That’s why Jesus prayed this his last night on earth:
‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.’ John 17:15-17
Knowing God’s truth about us and about God is so important because we too easily believe lies.
3. Stay Connected to God’s Family. We can experience an authentic and confessional community.
‘Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ James 5:16
God heals our wounds as we stay connected to His Spirit, to His Word, and to others willing to be real, honest, and authentic even about failures, sins, and weaknesses. It’s all about relationship: Loving God by knowing his will and ways through his Word, then listening and responding to his Spirit, so he can lead us to love one another in new ways. When we follow Him, we don’t judge and condemn each other because He died to set us free from condemnation and judgment. In that community of grace, we can be like Jesus to one another.
Don’t let your failures keep you from community with others. You need them, and they need you. God is trying to teach us to love one another in a new way.
Don’t just run away when relationships get hard. Don’t stay isolated so you won’t ever feel hurt again. He is forming a new family who learn to love with a greater love – one that follows His Spirit to restore what’s broken, reconcile lost relationships, and bring people together in unity.
‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ – John 13:34-35
He always leads us toward others. We can’t follow Christ if we don’t let him teach us to love one another in new ways – to serve, encourage, be honest, resolve conflict, apologize, forgive, care! We can’t all care for everybody. It’s impossible. I can’t model Jesus’ love by serving, encouraging, and being there for all of you, but I can be there for about 10-15 in my life group. In groups and networks, everyone can find 3-15 ‘I got your back’ people. That requires all of us willing to follow His Spirit to be the church in confessing, loving community to one another. It’s how God restores the world: stay connected to His Spirit, His Word, and His family. When we do, He leads us into Life and Freedom.”
To watch or listen to the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.