At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called 2020: Envision a New You.
Through the chaotic rhythms of life in which most of us find ourselves, it’s easy to move to the same beat we’ve always known. Instead of growing and maturing, we can get distracted by the things we’re trying to accomplish or acquire and miss out on God’s invitation to experience what matters most: loving and being loved by God and loving and being loved by each other. When we dive into God-centered community, we receive the healing and accountability we need to change our lives and our world through God’s loving grace.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
Message Video from Gateway North:
Do you remember what you wanted to do and how you viewed the world at 16?
- You were convinced you would marry Justin Timberlake and become an architect and educated at an Ivy League school.
- Or you just knew you’d become a professional athlete and marry Tyra Banks or Jennifer Lopez. You hadn’t decided yet but you knew it would be one of those two.
- Now consider at age 26, do you remember how you viewed the 16 year old version of yourself? So young and so naïve! And you couldn’t help but wonder: how was I even allowed to drive a car?
- Well if you are older than that, at 36 did you look back and think how young and naïve the 26 year old version of you was? We see so clearly the opportunities missed and the mistakes made. I mean your brain was fully developed, but oh how you wish the 26 year old version of you knew what you now know at 36.
- At 16, I looked like Vanilla Ice and I loved Rock and Roll as you can see here in this picture with me and my parents. So Rock and Roll! In my mid 20s I went through my dyed goatee phase. Do you know how many baby pictures of my kids I ruined with that look?
- If only I knew then what I know how.
- I hate to tell you this if you are in your 20s or 30s, but the 46 year old version of you looks back and still sees the 36 year old version as so young and naïve. And we miss not injuring our back while tying our shoes, but we are glad we have learned from the experiences and trials since then.
- From what I am told this continues on and on.
- We miss aspects of being younger but we can keep growing more and more wise.
- I am sure a decade from now, I will see this version of me as so young and so naïve.
We are never too old to grow or to change.
Some of us are growing and excited about our spiritual journey. We know we’ve made progress, and we realize we still have a lot to learn.
Yet if we are honest, some of us have hit a ceiling in our spiritual growth.
There are three reasons I think we stop growing.
1. Some of us don’t believe we can grow.
Too often, we come to closure too soon on who God is in our life or what we think God wants to do in our life.
We don’t believe God can do the miraculous.
We’ve become cynical or jaded because of painful moments and what seems like unanswered prayers.
2. Some of us don’t want to grow because it means change or making sacrifices.
So as a result we settle for the status quo.
We look back with fondness on the past but we end up missing what God wants to do in us and through us right now and in the future!
3. Some of us feel like we want to grow but we seem stuck.
But some of that could be because we think we are more mature than we are.
We confuse progress with maturity.
Let me just say this outloud: none of us have arrived! I know I haven’t.
Wherever you might be right now – growing, cynical about growing, settling, or stuck, the Scriptures tell us that
“God is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine.” – Ephesians 3:20
Some of us have stopped asking.
Some of us have stopped imagining.
Some of us aren’t asking for enough.
Some of us aren’t imagining enough.
What if we are settling for good, but what God has for you is great?
What if we are settling for what comes natural, but what God has for you is supernatural?
“We are all imperfect people, which means, we have not yet arrived at our full potential.” – John Burke
How do we grow? (Science)
Scientists point out that our mindset is critical on whether we will grow or not.
The science of learning is backed by a basic understanding of neuroscience.
In 1998, a study showed that the adult brain is actually capable of growing new brain cells.
For many decades, it was thought that the brain was a “nonrenewable organ,” that brain cells are bestowed in a finite amount and they slowly die as we age, whether we attempt to keep them around or not.
As long as our brains are functioning properly, we can always learn, improve existing capabilities, and develop new skills. Our brains can grow as we age.
In the book Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck points out the differences between a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset.
Some of us have a “fixed mindset” that makes us fearful of being judged by God or others so we play the game of putting on a good face to feel loved or valued–but that keeps us stuck.
We believe things like:
- “Failure is the limit of my abilities.”
- “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”
“My abilities are unchanging.”
“I stick to what I know.”
- “Feedback and criticism are personal.”
Instead we need to have a “growth-mindset” so that can see our failures and shortcomings, but in the light of Grace. We see them as opportunities to learn and grow and keep moving toward a better version of ourselves. We embrace the fact that we are imperfect people with room to grow! Maybe that’s what drew us to this place Gateway where “No perfect people are allowed.”
People with a growth mindset believe things like:
- “Failure is an opportunity to grow.”
- “My effort and my attitude determine my abilities.”
- “Feedback is constructive.”
- “I’m inspired by the success of others.”
- “I like to try new things.”
This all reminds me of Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism where he wrote that “pessimistic people think of setbacks as permanent, universal, and internal; but optimistic people see setbacks as temporary, specific, and external.”
I want to look at two passages in the Scriptures that show the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. You see, the Bible has made this distinction for thousands of years before science discovered this idea.
Today we are talking about Growing as you Envision a New You in this year 2020. We talked about become a more accepting person two weeks ago, and last week we talked about become a person who serves others. We are known by our love demonstrated through acts of service. What if all of us became people who were accepting, serving, growing, and impacting? We would turn our families, neighborhoods, businesses, and our city upside down!
One of the most influential people to ever live was a man named Paul.
- He traveled all across the Middle East and what is now Europe reaching out to people
- and starting churches.
- Then he wrote his letters to the churches he started and the church leaders he mentored . These letters make up most of the New Testament and have shaped followers of Jesus and our world!
- He took the words of Jesus and applied them in the context of community.
- The churches he started spread all over the known world and have continued to spread even to Buda, our newest campus. (Not pictured on this map)
- Now, you and I can be mentored by Paul by reading and applying what we learn from his letters. That’s why reading the Scriptures and starting in the New Testament is critical to growing spiritually. Followers of Jesus have been meditating on his letters ever since he wrote them 2000 years ago.
- So Paul always traveled with others.
- Often when one of those he was mentoring was ready, he would leave them in a city with the task of carrying on their work but without Paul.
In one situation, Paul left Titus in Crete. It is the island there in the middle. Just south of Greece.
Titus’ goal was described as the following:
“The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” – Titus 1:5 (NIV)
Paul goes on to describe elders as spiritual overseers who have integrity, they aren’t corrupt or given to stealing or drunkenness. Instead, they are slow to anger, demonstrate self-control, trustworthy, hospitable. They are faithful to their spouse and they know and live out the truths found in the Scriptures. In essence, they were spiritually mature.
Paul points out to Titus that he realizes what a difficult task this is because there weren’t a lot of people in Crete that matched that description.
Now the Cretans had a fixed mindset.
One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”
– Titus 1:12
Think about this for a second!
The Cretans all believed this about themselves.
We are always lying.
We are all evil brutes.
We are all lazy gluttons.
In other words, this is just who we are. There is no changing us. There is no hope for us. If you don’t like the way we are then go to another island.
Even to this day, to refer to someone as a Cretan is not a compliment.
Paul left him there basically saying:
“Titus, I want you to turn Cretans, people who are always liars, evil brutes, and gluttons into spiritual overseers.”
Titus’ goal was to create a community in which evil people became overseers, a community where unlikeable people became world class leaders.
We see it right here in Scripture:
People are invited to come as they are, but they don’t have to stay that way!
Titus’ job was to turn people with a fixed mindset into people with a growth mindset.
Now I want to show you one of the funniest lines in the entire Bible.
One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. – Titus 1:12-13a (NIV)
I cannot help but think Paul was joking with his young friend Titus because throughout the rest of the letter Paul shows him how to help them change and grow – to move from being lying, evil, lazy, and gluttonous brutes to become trustworthy, godly, and honorable spiritual leaders.
So then, what is the process Paul and his mentees used to help people become the person God created them to be?
I mean they were going to into all sorts of crazy places with very broken people who had no understanding of a loving and just God or believed in lots of gods.
How do we grow? (Spiritually)
1. The process was relational.
They started a church.
The early church met all together in large gatherings and in homes – just like we do.
Paul describes all of these in this statement in Acts
19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing… 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. – Acts 20:19-21
We can see all 4 weeks of our Envision a New You series in this passage:
- Paul was accepting of people no matter their background. He grew up a very strict Jew but he was now accepting of what he was told were unclean people to avoid – anyone who was not Jewish – the Greek or in other places he used the phrase – the Gentiles.
He was serving with humility like we talked about last week.
- He was helping people grow as they gathered publicly and in homes.
- He was helping people find faith – impacting others like we will talk about next week.
Today we are focused on growing.
Discipleship is relational.
You cannot grow without others in your life. You cannot reach your full potential on your own. We need people to love us, encourage us, rebuke us, challenge us, and be with us on this journey.
We need community to become all who God created us to be.
We need to surround ourselves with people who have a growth mindset to learn how to have one ourselves.
Maybe you heard this as a kid growing up or maybe you have said this to your kids:
“We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn
I saw online someone say:
“Since we become more like the people we are spending time with, I am looking to befriend a millionaire.”
So with whom are you spending time?
Are you with people who live in a way you want to one day live your life?
Are you inviting people into your life who are exploring faith or new to faith to help them in their journey?
Years ago our Grow Team here at Gateway used this passage from Titus along with others describing a spiritually mature person to create our life group model.
How many have been in a life group and worked through some of the outcomes?
Go ahead and raise your hands – even at my home campus in South Austin.
These spiritual outcomes include studying the Bible thematically which is more of a systematic approach rather than verse by verse.
These outcomes are what we all need to be spiritually mature.
If we can grow in these areas, we will become more like who God has created us to be.
These outcomes are Bible studies looking at specific passages from the beginning to the end of the Bible on topics dealing with Loving God, Loving Others, Building in Character, and Being the Body of Christ.
I received an email from a woman in my life group this week who wrote:
“I want you to know that I really love this study! I have years and years of bible study behind me. I was privileged to enjoy good teaching since I was very young.”
Now these are for life groups that have been together for awhile.
But even still, you don’t have to have all the answers. You can come in as a novice when it comes to the Bible.
For some of you, you are looking for community – to increase the average of the people with whom you connect! You are looking for friendship and people who are may be a half step ahead of you on the spiritual journey. A Community Group could be just what you need!
Our groups are all about sharing life together, having meaningful conversations, and exploring what it means to follow Jesus.
This is the season that groups are starting so if you have questions or you’re looking for friends or if you’re stuck or if you’re wanting to go deep – we have a group for you! Alpha, Community Groups, Life Groups, and Restore (which are support groups dealing with specific issues). They are all starting in the next several weeks and now is the time to sign up for these groups.
We were made for relationship, both with God and others. Authentic community is essential to developing personally and spiritually.
The goal is not information. It’s transformation.
So be proactive. Do something new. Get into a group!
Or maybe you’ve not been in a group for awhile, jump back in!
If you want 2020 to be different than 2019, then do something different, get into a group!
Our Family of Origin
In my own life, I have been transformed in the context of community. The conversations. The insights discovered. The friends who listened to me, prayed with me, shared with me, encouraged me and even corrected me.
Here at Gateway, I feel like my head and my heart connected for the first time.
You see I used to have a fixed mindset. My last name “Bryant” means “noble, strong and virtuous”
Now, I used to believe that
“All Bryants are controlling, short-tempered, anxious, and cheap.”
But I have seen glimpses of Bryants being empowering, calm, peaceful, and generous!
Now, they all married into our family, but…
In the context of authentic community, I discovered I don’t have to be the controlling, angry, and anxious tightwad!
Your family of origin does not have to limit you.
Your last name does not have to define you.
Have you ever considered that God loves your family so much that He put you in your family so that He might help you find spiritual healing so that then you can bring that healing to everyone older than you and all who come after you?
You were created on purpose and for a purpose!
As you seek God and become intentional about growing in your faith in community, you can become the person God created you to be! Your family needs you to make growing spiritually a priority! Your neighborhood, your workplace, your friends all need you to make growing spiritually a priority!
2. Honest Conversations
Later in the letter, Paul gives more insight into what should be happening in this community in Crete – that will help us in our community here in Austin or wherever you live.
Which by the way, you know most of the books in the Bible were written to churches. Following Jesus is not intended to be just between you and God. You were meant for community – a community that helps you live God’s way rather than get sucked into the destructive ways of the world.
That’s what was happening in Crete. Not only did Paul and Titus start a church, but they were close enough to people in their community to have honest and sometimes hard conversations. That’s what a rebuke is when you see that word in the Scriptures.
3. Motivated by Gratitude
And then in chapter 2 to help the Cretans grow and even overcome their destructive habits and pursuits, Paul writes these words:
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11-13
God’s part in becoming who we were created to be is his grace – the love He lavishes on us even though we don’t deserve it.
Our part (and He helps us even with this) – gratitude compels us to do the good we were created to do.
We need to reflect on all of the great things that God has given us. And as I learned from Erwin McManus when we were serving at Mosaic in Los Angeles:
“We need to be thankful for what we have and not mad about what we don’t have.”
– Erwin McManus
God has given us so much! He has done so much for us!
Our lives should be motivated by a deep sense of gratitude.
We should passionately serve Him and follow Him willing to endure any trial that comes our way.
Some of us grew up in a religious context which inadvertently or intentionally may have taught us that we need to do good things to get God to love us.
The God in the Scriptures actually is a God of grace which means we are loved even though we don’t deserve it.
We do good out of gratitude for what God has done.
We need to shift our understanding of God and the Church.
You see this is not about religion. This is all about a relationship with God.
Cultural Christianity and American religiosity is more of a fixed mindset about God, our Heavenly Father which says:
“I messed up. My Father is going to kill me.”
Genuine faith in Jesus and having a relationship with God is more of a growth mindset which says:
“I messed up. I need to call my Dad.”
How do you view your relationship with God?
Is he always angry and unwilling to answer your prayers so why even pray?
Or do you see Him as loving and there with you in the midst of your most difficult moments?
Being in community helps us in this.
Too often we slip back into a religious mindset which is a fixed mindset rather than a relational mindset which is a growth mindset.
Getting into a smaller community where there’s “no perfect people allowed” and where we value authenticity changes us – a place where we can be authentic, confessing our struggles, and experiencing healing as a community growing together.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:16
Let me show you another passage really briefly that helped me switch my mindset.
Mindset Switch in Hebrews
The book of Hebrews was a sermon written to a group of Jewish Christians were suffering under tremendous persecution and some of those in the church had given up on their faith in Jesus. The author of Hebrews reminds them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures.
- Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice dying on the cross for our sins so there is no need to sacrifice animals for forgiveness.
- Jesus is the ultimate Priest, Prophet, and King.
- Jesus is greater than the angels and Moses.
- Jesus is the promised Messiah.
In chapter 10, we read this encouragement.
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25
We need each other!
We should not neglect coming together – on Sundays and in our homes as followers of Jesus have done since the Church began.
Let me just say something to those of you watching online.
- Let me encourage you that if you live in Austin, come join us at one of the campuses. Now if you are sick and watching from home, just wait until you are not contagious.
- But if you normally come on Sundays or used to come on Sundays but you just got used to watching in bed, you are missing all that God has for you.
- And if you live outside of Austin, let me encourage you to try one of our community groups online!
It’s hard to live out the rest of this passage watching on a screen without interacting with others.
Motivating one another to acts of love and good works happens best with others around you.
Encouraging one another happens when we are with each other.
Years ago I met with a friend of mine who was feeling discouraged and disconnected.
- I asked him when the last time he had served with others in our church, and he said it been several months ago.
- I asked him when the last time he had been to his small group, and he said it had been about 3 months ago.
- I asked him when the last time he had been on a Sunday morning, and he said it had been 6 weeks ago, but he had been listening to the podcast.
- I had an incredible insight in that moment for Him.
So I told him: “You feel disconnected because you disconnected.”
You see, he felt discouraged because he had removed himself from people who encouraged him.
We live isolated and lonely lives by default.
- Lee Higgins who leads our South Austin Gateway Guys group with Will Arnecke sent me an NPR article which indicated that 3 out of 5 Americans are lonely.
- A 2018 Cigna Study found that 47% of Americans said that they don’t have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as an extended conversation with a friend or quality time with family on a daily basis.
- And the emerging generation Z is the loneliest generation of them all – perhaps because of all the screen time.
- One study found that loneliness can have the health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day…and that loneliness can lead to an early death.
- In the book The Search of The Common Good Jake Meador states that between 1940 and 2010 the population grew by 134%.
During that same time period the number of service & therapeutic professionals like (therapists, counselors, mental health professionals, psychologists, social workers, and so on) rose by 3,206%.
- Steven Marche, wrote in The Atlantic that “We have outsourced the work of everyday caring”
- It makes sense because we’ve replaced meaningful conversations with screen time. We’ve replaced having a few genuine friends with having hundreds of Facebook “friends” we really don’t know other that what they ate for lunch yesterday when they post pics of their meals.
Who is spurring you on in life and in your faith?
Also consider: Who are you spurring on?
This was so important to the author of Hebrews because too many were falling away from community which was the step taken before falling away from their faith.
He goes on to say:
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
37 For,“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”
“But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.”
39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. – Hebrews 10:36-39
I love this! Did you see the switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset?
You may think of yourself as a quitter – someone who shrinks back and gives up.
But with God’s help you are not a quitter. That’s not who you are! Jesus has changed your identity!
When we say “yes” to following Jesus, when we ask God to forgive us and to lead us, we are made new. We are made righteous because of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross for us.
We are creating distance between ourselves and God when we give up, when we live with a fixed mindset, when we live life as if there was no God or when we live like God cannot do more than we ever asked or imagined, when we shrink back, when we turn back from our faith because of fear BUT that is not who we are.
God is not pleased when we shrink back, BUT we are not those who shrink back!
We forget who we are!
We do this all the time.
Which reminds me of one of my favorite clips from a classic movie. Peter Pan has grown up and forgotten his true identity.
“There you are Peter!”
We all need someone who knows us and can point us towards who we really are.
When we say “yes” to Jesus, we are forgiven!
We are free!
We are new!
We have the Spirit of God within us!
We have the same power that rose Jesus from the dead within us!
We are overcomers!
We do not shrink back because He helps us stand strong!
God is pleased with us because He loves us and He sees us through the righteousness of Jesus and what He did for us!
It’s 2020, can you envision a New You?
If you’re ready for that, be intentional about your relationship with God and your relationship with others in this church family.
It will require sacrifice, but it will be worth it!
Maybe take one night off from TV a week so you can be in a group or take one morning off from social media so you can serve in a network.
You see, every week God has something for you and wants something from you when you come on Sundays.
Every Sunday and every time you go to your group ask God:
“What do you have for me and what do you want from me?”
When you pray this prayer and have an open heart to respond, you will be amazed!
So make coming together regularly on Sundays a priority.
And add to your life meeting with others in homes if you have not already.
And if you are part of a network or new to a network, ask those in your network about joining a group together.
We all have a next step! Take your next step today!
Being intentional this year will lead to a new you!