Finding Power (Unchained 3) by John Burke

Today at Gateway Church in Austin, we continued a series designed to go beyond just a new year’s resolution. This is an opportunity to get past what has kept you from becoming the person you were created to be.

John Burke shared some of the following ideas:

“Do you ever wish you could just change the rules?  Just quit playing the game of life by the old rules we’ve been given?  What if we could just play by a new set of rules?  Like, what if we just quit playing by the old rule that says you have to worry? Worry about the future, worry about your work, worry about money, bills, worry about finding a spouse, worry about finding a different spouse…worry worry worry.  What if we could just say—new rules—no more worrying.  Wouldn’t it be freeing?

What if we could just change the rules and say, “No more trying to prove yourself.”  You know, life’s rules are that you’ve got to prove yourself.  Prove your pretty enough. Prove you’re skinny enough. Prove you’re strong enough. Prove you’re smart enough. Prove you’re worth something—prove it.  What if we quit that game, and played by new rules where you no longer had to prove you were worth something?  That’d be awesome!

What if we could change the rules about love and acceptance?  You know the rules—right?  You may be loved a little bit, But don’t let anyone really know what’s going on inside—protect yourself.  Cause if they really knew you—you’d be rejected.  If they really knew what you’ve done—well, no one’s gonna accept you then.  If they really knew how insecure and incompetent you feel most of the time—they wouldn’t love you.  What if we didn’t have to play that game either?  What if we could feel secure, loved, accepted fully!

What if we could change the rules about judgment?  You know the rules—judge first, lest you be judged?  So we compare, and assess, and make mental notes about what’s wrong with everybody else—it takes a lot of time and energy—but it’s necessary. Cause the old rules are—you need to show yourself that you’re better than most. What if we could feel so forgiven and set free of all fear of condemnation or judgment, that we lost all need to compare, judge, be jealous or fear what others thought?

What if we could just change the rules of Life—live a new way?  Too good to be true? But who made these rules that we all obey? What if the way we naturally do life is actually NOT what God intended?  And in fact, the reason we end up enslaved to fear, worry, anxiety, drinking, drugging, sex, pornography or World of Warcraft (did I cross a line there?)—is because we’ve made life way more complicated than it needs to be?

We’re looking at the 12 Steps of recovery (and teachings of Jesus they came from) as a way to find Life and Freedom whether you feel hopelessly addicted to Meth (like Kenny spoke about last week), or like me, you just struggle with feeling overwhelmed by life at times—you struggle to find peace, or joy. I’m convinced, we don’t have to play by the old rules. Really. It’s what Jesus was trying to say in the Sermon on the Mount:

25 “So I tell you, don’t worry about the food or drink you need to live, or about the clothes you need for your body. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothes. 26 Look at the birds in the air. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. And you know that you are worth much more than the birds. 27 You cannot add any time to your life by worrying about it…[and] even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers. 30 God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today but tomorrow is thrown into the fire. So you can be even more sure that God will clothe you. Don’t have so little faith! 31 Don’t worry and say, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 The people who don’t know God keep trying to get these things, and your Father in heaven knows you need them. 33 Seek first God’s kingdom and what God wants. Then all your other needs will be met as well. 34 So don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will have its own worries. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus actually came to set us free of the old rules of life.  To lead us into an unchained, unburdened, stress-free, worry-free way of life—fully living the moments we’ve been given.  Seem too good to be true?  Well, let’s talk about what’s required, and why most people (Christians included), don’t in fact live this way.

Last week we looked at Step 1: Admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, our lives had become unmanageable. Some of us think this isn’t for me since we don’t think we have an addiction. Well, simply substitute the word “addiction” with the word “sin,” “struggles,” or “self-centeredness.” If you can say, “I never sin, have no struggles, and am never self centered” – then you get a pass.

Jesus started the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” when you admit something’s wrong, you’re not all powerful, in control—then you’ve got an advantage, you’re blessed. Why? Because now, God’s Power can work through you. It’s what the Apostle Paul realized when life wasn’t going his way—he kept asking God to change His circumstances.

The Lord said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 1 Corinthians 12:9

My family loves going to the Oasis for salsa dancing, but I’m not the dancing type. As the instructor talked us through the steps from stage, I was intellectually taking it all in and thinking it out.  Meanwhile, my wife, son, daughter are out in the aisles actually practicing the steps. I didn’t like feeling out of control, clumsy, or awkward, but my son and daughter were actually getting it. These 12 Steps are like that. You have to dive in and try it. It’s clumsy and awkward at first. Maybe you’re talking to a God you’re not sure is there—but you experiment.  You work these steps together, sometimes many times a day, 123, 123 until they become a new rhythm in life. Once I finally stopped intellectualizing my dance lessons, got over my pride, and started practicing the steps, before long—I felt a new freedom on the dance floor.

Step 2 says, “Come to believe that a Power Greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.”   Step 2 is all about TRUST.  CAME TO BELIEVE…Step one is all about admitting powerlessness.  Step 2 is all about where we put our TRUST. It’s the slow shifting of trust from me to a Power Greater than me.

Faith is a powerful thing. This is what the originators of the 12 steps came to realize.  In order to grow, you must believe in something other than yourself. You must put your trust in something Greater – something outside your own four walls of self-sufficiency.

Unfortunately, often we try to play God in our life. We put ourselves at the center of our lives or other people’s lives, a place reserved for God alone.  As AA puts it, “Selfishness—self-centeredness: we think is the root of our troubles. [To get better]… we had to quit playing God.” – Big Book

Even professing Christians have a hard time with this one. We keep on firing God and trying to get the universe to obey our will. Once God is successfully sidelined, then I have to take control.  Now I feel the pressure to prove my competency, my ability, my worth. But I can’t control the future, I can’t control other people, I can’t control much of anything if I’m honest. Have you realized this?

There’s a Much Better Way—You don’t have to play by those rules: let Go of playing God, and let God be God. We must quit trying to play God, and believe that God will help us. At this point, you may have very little understanding of God, but you take a step of faith. Hebrews 11:6 says:

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” 

Faith is very important to God. Faith is how you form a relationship, with anyone, including God.  This simple act of trusting, of faith, is very powerful. And God wants us to put our trust fully in him.

God can’t really help us grow until we’re willing to let go of playing God (the old rules) and trust Him.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Believing is Seeing! Only when we let go do we experience God’s power holding us up.  Picture that area of greatest need for spiritual growth. Will you let Go and let God? Willingness is the key.  Once you’ve taken step 2, you’re ready for

Step 3:  Make a decision to turn our lives and wills over to the care of God.  Step 3 is a decision of your will. It’s all about your will or God’s will.  It’s the step of complete surrender, and that’s why it’s so hard to take. If you consider yourself a Christian this step is not just a one time prayer to ask Jesus to rescue us. That’s a start, but this is a daily decision to surrender your life and will into God’s care so you can do his will only.

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

If that were happening in churches all across America, Christianity would not be so repulsive to so many people. People would be asking “what makes you so alive—so loving—so free? I want some of that!”

When we live each day for God’s will and ways our struggles lose their power over us more and more.

Let’s get really practical for a moment.  Let’s put these first three dance steps together and see what they look like on the floor.  We all need to work all three steps in an instant throughout each day.

For example, say you are struggling with alcohol. You’ve already decided to take steps 1, 2 and 3. Now you are at a work social, and the people all around you are drinking.  You start to think “I can just have one drink. That won’t hurt.”  At the first thought, that’s where working the steps needs to kick in.  Don’t try to do the steps with three beers in your belly. It won’t work.  At the first thought, you go back to step 1 “I am powerless in this situation God. I don’t have the power to resist.”  Step 2 “God, I believe You have the power to restore me to sanity right now.  Give me your power to resist and think differently.”  Step 3 “God, I gave you my life and will so that I can do your will.  Show me what you want me to do right now—give me Power to do the next right thing.” Do that moment by moment, if you fail, you’re not condemned—start back at step 1 admitting powerlessness. You will find freedom.”

What is your next step?

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