Be Transformed by Rick Shurtz

Today at Gateway Church in Austin, Rick Shurtz spoke at the McNeil campus, and I spoke at the South Campus. We shared on our core value “Be Transformed.”  Here’s some of what we shared:

It is counterintuitive and countercultural to be physically healthy.

For example, even when you are full from a good meal, why does your body seem to keep telling you, “YOU NEED MORE!”

Our bodies  lie to us. After we are full, we don’t need ANYTHING!

To say “no” and to hold back, was counter my intuition. It was counterintuitive. There are times you have to go against the cravings of your body.

In addition, to be healthy is counter-cultural. Our culture does not help us make healthy choices. On a road trip, the meal choices abound with saturated fats, sugar, and sodium, all of which makes you crave MORE saturated fats, sugar, and sodium.

You have to go out of your way, in our culture, if you want to eat healthy. You have to be counter-cultural.

You might think of it like this.
By counterintuitive, I mean the internal struggle, the cravings from within.
By countercultural, I mean the external struggle, the pressures put on us from outside of us.

Have you ever joined a gym? They offer a free consultation with a physical trainer. They ask a series of questions. It is human nature to put your best foot forward. You might choose to describe what you would eat on a GOOD and HEALTHY day rather than a typical day. When asked about stress level, you might want to share about your stress level on a day off rather than your busiest day at work.

So coupled with this first observation, that being healthy is both counterintuitive and countercultural, I have a second observation. And I say this, because I don’t think I’m alone in it.

We tend to understate unhealthy physical habits.

How often, when we think about our health, do we do so by comparing ourselves to others? This is terribly deceiving, because we can always find someone less healthy than ourselves.

This is why a conversation with a physical trainer can be so helpful and so painful. After all the questions then the trainer gets out this little device and pricks your finger to draw blood for the moment of truth. Blood is very revealing. It’s like truth serum. It will tell how honest you have been. Usually the blood test reveals we underestimate our intake of carbs and sugar.

You might think, your choices compared to others are healthy, but your body doesn’t care about how it compares to others. Your body cares about being compared to reality.

Which leads to a third observation about physical health.

Little things – over time – are big things.

Glucose levels in the mid-range now doesn’t seem to be a big deal, but the mid-range, over decades, is a bad deal.

Physical health and spiritual health parallel each other.

Just as It is counterintuitive and countercultural to be PHYSICALLY healthy, it is counterintuitive and countercultural to be SPIRITUALLY healthy.

Do I have internal cravings, that if I give into them, they compromise my spiritual health? What happens to me internally, when I’m confronted with temptations I know will compromise my integrity?

Spiritual health, character development, integrity, these are all-too-often counterintuitive, we very often have to go against our cravings.

It is also countercultural.
Just like the world is not helping me be physically healthy, the world is not helping me be spiritually healthy.

 

We tend to understate unhealthy SPIRITUAL habits.

Just like that physical trainer likely knew I was putting my best foot forward, I’ve been a pastor long enough to know we all do the same thing spiritually.

We have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. We know we’re not perfect, we’re far from that, but when we watch the news, or when we look around, we can always find someone who is living a more self-destructive life than we are. We may not be honest…but we’re no Bernie Madoff’s stealing billions.

So what happens if we embrace a little truth serum? What if instead of comparing ourselves to the nightly news, we open the pages of Scripture and discover God’s call on our lives?

In this series, we’re going through the book of Ephesians. We’re looking at selections from Ephesians 5 today.

And this passage, it has a single word that I think makes a profound point for every single one of us.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:3-5, NIV

Look at these words: immorality, impurity, greed, obscenity, foolish talk. All these words are re-defined by this one word: Hint.

Which brings us back to our third observation about physical health and it’s spiritual parallel.

Little things – over time – are big things.

This passage doesn’t seem to distinguish between the seriousness of going deep into these problems or just having a HINT of them. My glucose issue may not seem extreme. Over time, though, it could show itself to be a big deal, though.

What’s true physically is true spiritually. My hint of greed could be a sign of major problems in my life.

Let’s go back to where we left off in our passage…

For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:3-5, NIV

That’s an ugly statement. We’re talking about people who have HINT of these, and in the very same breath we read that they have no inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ. Seems a bit much. Why would this passage say that those who indulge in sexual promiscuity or greed or these other items listed here, why would it say they have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God, even if it’s just a hint of that? What’s that about?

What do we mean by idolatry? Around Gateway, when we describe Spiritual health, we describe it in terms of what we call the way of Christ. The way of Christ, as we describe it here at Gateway has four areas.

We start with the center.
The center represents the center of our lives. How do I know what’s at the center of my life?

Ask yourself this question… What do I look toward to give me LIFE?
If I could have THAT, I would have LIFE. It’s what I live for.

Love God
Scripture teaches us that we were designed to have God at our center and to look toward God to experience true LIFE.

 

But let’s say we don’t put God there. Let’s say we when we ask this question, “What do I look toward to give me LIFE?” Let’s say we look to financial gain.

Our passage tells us that greed is idolatry? Greed, then, is when we put $$ at our center.

I look to money in a way that I should be looking toward God. Money is a good thing. I prefer to have more of it than to have less of it. But, it makes a lousy god. We were not designed to have money at the center of our lives. We were designed to have God at the center of our lives.

You take something, anything, and put it at the center of your life, the center of your hope, what you’re looking to in hopes of it giving you LIFE, then you have effectively made that object into YOUR God.

Scripture calls that idolatry. We’ve made that object into an idol. And every single one of us has done it, myself especially.

We read that these idolaters, they don’t have any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and we noted that this sounds a little harsh.

But let’s think of it like this.

If we’ve decided to not live for God, then God is simply letting us not live for him. That’s not harsh. That’s simply honoring our wishes. If we don’t want God to be our God, if we want to put something else at our center, then Scripture is telling us, that’s our choice, and God allows that, but there are implications, and those implications are not just the ultimate implication implied in this passage, but a whole host of implications along the way.

Consider this: who is MOST affected by what’s at the center of your life? You are.

Of all the people in the world, I am MOST affected by what’s at the center of my life.

The second area of the way of Christ, and the second circle, we call BUILD CHARACTER.

What happens to my character, when my hope, my wellbeing, my life is dependent upon the accumulation of money? It affects my decisions, my character, my integrity. That which is at my center, I will obey it. I will follow it. I will do anything to have it. If I idolize sexual expression, if I live for sexual satisfaction, and that’s what’s at my center, it will effect my character, my decisions, what I do with my life.

And here’s what’s powerful… When God is at my center, he’s building my character, he’s setting the tone of my integrity, he’s giving me the power and the wisdom to make better choices.

Let’s take it out another ring. Who else is impacted by what’s at my center? Well the people around me, they’re powerfully impacted. The third layer of the way of Christ, we call LOVE PEOPLE. I want rich and healthy relationships with the people in my life.

Here’s what’s fascinating…
Well intentioned people, will often put people at the center.

What do you live for? What do you look toward to give you LIFE? And what do we do? We put people, or family at the center.

The irony, and the tragedy, is that when we idolize people, we become enslaved to people, we become people-pleasers, we become co-dependent. Rather than having better relationships, or even a better family, we sabotage our relationships and do damage to our family.

 

So that center circle, it affects ourselves, our character, our relationships, love people, what else does it affect. It affects what we DO in this world. Around here, we call this BE THE BODY. What do we mean by that?

The church functions like a body…the body of Christ. We all play different parts. One person is a foot, another is a hand, another is a mouth. Together, collectively, we work together to make a difference in a world very much in need of difference makers.

Think about this with me. It’s powerful.

When God is our God, when he is at our center, he promises to take care of us.

If God is going to take care of me, guess who I don’t have to worry about anymore.
I don’t have to worry about ME. If I don’t have to worry about ME, what can I live for? I can live for making a difference in the lives of others. That’s be the body. That’s participating in what God is doing in this world, and working to make a difference.

Now let’s take a step back from this picture. Every time I talk about this, and meditate on it, I’m awed by how much this matters. What I put at the center of my life, IT MATTERS. It effects EVERYTHING.

When as a church, we say, we have four values: Come as you are, Live connected, Be Transformed, And Change Your World, this third one, BE TRANSFORMED… It’s everything.

If you and I, if we want to make a difference in this world, and if we want to live effective lives, then we will first and foremost give careful and constant attention to what we are putting at the center of our lives.

Putting God at our center, letting him be our God, it liberates us to live the life we were created and designed to live.

How do we do this? How do we live this out? How do we put God at our center?

Ephesians 5 gives us a powerful little illustration that I’ve found helpful over the years. I want to show you a line that comes just after the passage we’ve read together. It’s one, if you just gloss over, you’ll think it’s okay, but not necessarily profound. But if you dwell on it, and meditate on it, I have found it very helpful.

Give a look to Ephesians 5:18, just a few lines after what I read a moment ago. It reads…

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18, NIV

First read, fair enough, don’t be a drunk. We get that. It’s good. We need that reminder. But look a little more closely.

Strangely, I have found it helpful to meditate on the parallels between wine and the Spirit of God. What does excessive wine do in a person’s life? What happens if you pour wine into the center of a person’s life?

It makes them do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do if sober. Right? Unfortunately, they’re destructive things. You don’t ever hear people say, “I got liquored up, and wow, I was better father.” It doesn’t work that way. That excessive wine, it effects a person’s character, and their interactions with people, and their impact on the world. Each of these is negatively effected though.

Parallel that with the Spirit. What happens in a person’s life when they’re filled with the Spirit?

Just like wine, THEY DO THINGS THEY WOULDN’T ORDINARILY DO! The dramatic difference, though, is that when it comes to the Spirit, the things we do that we wouldn’t ordinarily do without the Spirit, they are constructive rather than destructive. Scripture makes a parallel between wine and the Spirit, because both make us do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. The difference is that one leads us to things that or destructive, and the other leads us to things that are constructive.

I think the parallels go further. Wine is an acquired taste. You don’t like it at first. The Spirit of God is also an acquired taste. You’re initially put off by it. Once you acquire the taste of either, though you can’t shake it, and you only want more. The difference, though, is that more of one will ruin your life and more of the other will fulfill your life.

Let me give you a bit of how I’ve applied this in my life. If I genuinely want to be transformed, if I want to have God at my center and see how this transforms the rest of me, then here’s what I must do…

Drink deeply from the Spirit.

If I drink deeply, I will do things I would not ordinarily do, the question is, what is it that I’m drinking?

Today I’m going to get highly practical. I’m going after the, “What can I do on a daily basis to fill the center of my life with more of God’s presence?”

I have a new development on our web site I’d like to show you.
You can find this at…
www.gatewaychurch.com/nextsteps

 

First, look up at the top right, there is a tools menu. From the tools menu, you will find Scripture reading plans.

One of the ways God will speak into our lives, is if we simply listen to his voice through Scripture. We get to know God when we do that. We talk about Scripture here on Sundays, but if that’s the only place you hear Scripture, it’s not unlike you eating 1 meal a week and expecting to be physically healthy.

 

The second thing I want to show you from this site is the Be Transformed menu. When you hover over the Be Transformed menu, you will get this drop down menu, and you will discover something familiar after today’s message. You will see the language…
• Love God
• Build character
• Love people
• Be the body
The four areas of the way of Christ.

Under each of these words, there are 5 links. Each of these links are what we call a Spiritual Outcome –  a more specific next step to develop LOVE of God or the BUILDING of Character.

For each of these Spiritual Outcomes, we have created next steps for how you can cultivate it in your life.
• Read or study – where you will find books and studies from scripture about this spiritual outcome.
• Watch or listen – where you will find past gateway messages or messages from other churches on this topic.
• Do or experience – where you will find exercises and experiences you can do to cultivate this spiritual outcome in your life.

In other words, if you want to grow, if you want to go deeper in each of these areas, we’re making it easy to find next steps.

If you want to drink deeply from the Spirit, if you want to pour God into the center of your life, a simple thing you could do, is find 2 friends and go through the spiritual outcomes or through Morph (a journey through the Way of Christ) together.

OVERVIEW OF OUR VALUES:

Come as you are.
We are a church where no matter where you are, no matter what you’re experiencing in life, you can come and not pretend to be something you’re not.

This applies to those new to Christ, and it applies to those far along in their faith journey. Every single one of us needs a place where we can be open with our struggles. but we don’t stop there. We keep going. What do we do?

Live Connected
We ask that each and every one of us make an effort to connect to others. Why?

If I just come and sit in these seats every so often, I won’t go deep, I won’t grow, but if I get in relationship with others, and those relationships are of the type where I can be open with my struggles, then I can go deep.

Be Transformed
We are to take next steps.

With each other, we get after what’s at the center of our lives, and we let that center affect our character, our relationships, and our impact on the world. We engage Scripture. We engage a holistic plan around the Way of Christ where we can take intentional next steps for drinking deeply from the Spirit of God. But we don’t stop there. We keep going.

Change Your World
We embrace our fourth value, Change Your World. We are talking about this next week, but you can see the trajectory. If I’m living out “come as you are” and I’m in relationship with others and living out “Live connected” and if I’m “being transformed” then me and those I’m doing life with are well positioned to change our world.

Powerful things happen in us.

Powerful things happen through us.

Powerful
That to say, you put all that together, and both powerful and deep things are happening in and through this church. At no time in the years I’ve been at Gateway have I been more excited about what we’re doing than I am right now.”

Joining gym
But here’s the deal.
And this is my fifth and final observation about physical—and of course—spiritual health…

It’s far easier to join the gym then it is to use the gym.

Showing up every now and then to this auditorium or online, that’s great, but we call this service the Inspire service for a reason. It is intended to INSPIRE what we do OUT THERE.
This time together is not an end, but a means to an end. It is easy to show up every now and then and claim “that’s my gym” I go there. My hope and prayer is that we wouldn’t be that church, because we’re not that church. We are a group of people who drink deeply from God’s presence, so we ourselves will experience transformation, and we will bring that transformation to those around us.

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