The Restored Life: Practice Makes Purpose

At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series called The Restored Life.

You’ve heard that practice makes perfect, but what about purpose? What is God’s plan for us? This week, we’ll be exploring how to incorporate regular spiritual practices into our lives that will help us live out a restored life with God and others.

Next Steps:

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.

“The Restored Life: Practice Makes Purpose..” Next Steps

Message Video:

WATCH The Gateway South Austin Inspire Service

The video below is from Gateway Austin Online:

Message Notes from John Burke

We’ve been exploring the Biblical basis of the 12 Steps—showing that the 12 steps are just spiritual disciplines to help us live as Jesus taught.

If you’re just joining us, you can get past messages at Gatewaychurch.com or on our GatewayAustin App. You can still join a recovery group or community group. So the next two steps include:

  • Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  • Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.

Steps 10 & 11 are sometimes viewed as throwaway steps, when in reality, they are probably the most essential when it comes to Living Life with God in our new spiritual home. 

Because, as we all know, just doing these steps once does not ensure that we won’t turn back to our old ways and trash the house again.

If the first 9 steps area all about getting a spiritual house in order, so that we can live with God in it, steps 10 & 11 are all about Living In It. 

  • These steps help work the decisions of the first 9 steps into the hours, minutes, and seconds of your daily life. 
  • Steps 10 & 11 help us live real life in the NOW–life in the present tense. 
  • You know, nothing creative or loving ever took place in the past or the future, only in the present. 
  • God wants us to live in the present.

Jesus said, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt 6:34

The Sin-disease we’ve been talking about wants us to live in the painful memories of the past—shackled to them, unable to move on and grow. 

Or it wants to keep us living in the fearful or grandiose future, with worries or fantasies that keep us from living the only moment we have—NOW. 

Living with God in the Present

Steps 10 & 11 are all about living with God NOW—in each moment, and actualizing the first 9 steps, moment by moment. 

  • Because you can’t control the future, you can’t change the past. 
  • But if you can have a good moment now (living the life God wants you to live), followed by another and another, you’ll have a good day. 
  • And if you have a good day tomorrow, and the next day and the next, you’ll end up with a good life.

But just think about how hard this is. 

Right NOW—what are you thinking?  How many of us have our heads in the past right now? (You feel guilty you haven’t lived in the moment your whole past? You’re doing it again). (Or you’re out in the future, thinking about what you need to do later, feeling anxious). 

But God wants to prompt us and guide us, relate with us, in the NOW.  But for him to do this, we must put some practices in our lives that help us learn to live in the house, with him, in the present moment.

What the founders of the 12 steps discovered when we do this is

Our Creator has entered into our hearts and lives in a way which is indeed miraculous.  He has commenced to accomplish those things for us which we could never do by ourselves.” –The Big Book of AA

The core idea of steps 10 & 11 help us do what Jesus did—he maintained constant contact with the Father, doing His will only, living honestly and lovingly before people.  It’s what scripture calls Living by the Spirit:

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and he will guide you so that you won’t always be doing the wrong things your sinful nature wants you to…[because] when you follow your own wrong inclinations your lives will produce these evil results:  impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism, hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, selfishness, complaining and criticizing, and feeling like everyone else is wrong…envy, murder, drunkeness, and all that…But when the Holy Spirit guides our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  Galatians 5:16, 19-23

What the Bible teaches, and the 12 steps actualize, is that the spiritual life is really simple. 

  • Want to be rid of the negative junk that trashes your life – like selfishness, or alcoholism, or anorexia, or impatience, or anger or worry—don’t focus on getting rid of it (that’s the point of the steps, you can’t, but God can). 
  • Instead of changing yourself, you learn to live in conscious contact with God’s Spirit –daily living on His wavelength, and it will happen naturally. 
  • Like a healthy apple tree naturally produces tasty apples, your life will naturally produce spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace in place of those negative patterns. 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that there’s no effort required, there is, but effort is all about practices to Walk with God’s Spirit, then positive changes come naturally.

When I used to play football, I hated two-a-day workouts.  We would lift weights, run through tires, push dummies, practice tackling. It got really tedious and boring. But it was training us.  We weren’t running tires for our health, or pushing dummies for our ego. We weren’t lifting weights just to look good in a Gold’s Gym tank-top (some people were).  We were doing all of those exercises for one purpose– to win the real game.  To train so that in the heat of the moment, we would Naturally do the right things to win the game. 

It’s the same in the Spiritual Life.

Steps 10&11 are all about putting Spiritual Exercises in our daily lives.  Spending time in prayer, the Scriptures, and in reviewing your day helps keep us connected to God’s Spirit.

Life gives us the chance to learn to trust God and love others. Working the steps help us do that!

Jesus put it like this: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 

Steps 10 & 11 establish daily practices to help us Live with God in this House of earthly life so that Spiritual Fruit grows.

So let me give you a sample model workout that you can try. 

I say model because there are many different spiritual practices and exercises that can produce the desired results, and your workout may need to change over time. 

But this one follows steps 10 & 11 and is a great place to start.

DAILY REVIEW

Step 10 – Continued to take personal inventory and, when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Step 10 says we keep taking a daily inventory like we did first time in steps 4-9. That cleaned out the moral & relational junk of the past, now we keep our spiritual house clean daily. We do it daily –I make enough mistakes in one 16 hour day to need a daily house cleaning, morally and relationally.

I’ve done this by journaling.  The practice of writing down my review before God.  For me, it focuses me to see it in black and white, but you could also do it mentally as you lay in bed. Before you go to sleep, take a few minutes, and in an attitude of prayer, invite God to review your day with you. 

Remind yourself that God loves you, doesn’t seek to condemn you “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1.

If you ran off into the moral ditch, or lost your temper, admit it and thank God for His forgiveness already paid for by Jesus. 

And this Daily Review is to learn—what caused that fall, how can I let God help me sooner?

You also learn from the good—God wants you to feel good about ways you are growing, responding and changing.

Celebrate where you saw spiritual fruit—patience, self-control, kindness.

God is not concerned about perfection but progress.

So practice this right now.

Think about yesterday, or Friday. Think through your morning, afternoon, night. Did you wake up worrying about a problem, then slowly tighten the coil all day until you were a ball of stress that exploded in an eruption of profanity when a car cut you off in traffic?  Talk to God about why that happened?  Think about how you could have done it differently by reworking steps 1-3 sooner. 

“God, I’m powerless over the future, but you have power – so take this worry from me, let me do your will right now (and give me peace that You’re in control).”

You’re learning how to Walk by the Spirit as you reimagine the day.

Think through the people you dealt with. Were you kind, encouraging—celebrate that fruit.   Did things go south—any conflict or blowups?  How did you handle it?  What was your part to own?  Do you need to make amends?

Ask God for clarity.  If so, commit to make Amends tomorrow.  Did any of your old character defects or compulsions creep back in during your day?  When?  Why?  Did you give God access to them in the moment?  Why or why not?

Were you too hard on yourself today?  Perfectionism creep back in?  Why?  How would God want you to treat yourself more kindly in this case?

See, what this daily review does is it helps you keep things clean between you and God, you and others, and you and yourself.  You don’t let things build up so that you have to do a total renovation again.  It’s spiritual house maintenance and upkeep.  So a Daily Review is Step 10.

JUMP-START PRAYER

Step 11 – Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.

Jump Start Prayer is making a habit of praying first thing in the morning.  Some of us learned about prayer reciting formal words that meant nothing to us, and so prayer is confusing, stale, boring. 

Like the little boy who began his bedtime prayer, “Dear Harold.”  And his dad said, “Wait son, how come you called God Harold?  The little boy said, that’s what they called him in church.  You know, “Our Father, who art in heaven, Harold be thy name.” 

The 12 step view of prayer is actually a refreshing return to what Jesus taught when he said:

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do…repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 May your Kingdom come…May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:7-10

Jesus told us, God doesn’t want ritualistic, repetitive, babbling senseless prayers. The founders of the 12 steps saw prayer as the “raising of the heart and mind to God” as a way to hear God’s Spirit and to align our will with God’s will. 

“Praying ONLY for knowledge of his will and the power to carry it out.”

Like Jesus taught.

In the 12-step prayer, there is very little about asking God to do things we want done.  The strong consensus among the founders of the 12 steps is that we are so self-centered and blind to our own tendencies that prayer easily becomes a crow-bar we use to try to pry God into doing our will, when we really need a change of focus on knowing and doing God’s will only.

Now, it’s not wrong to make requests to God.

Jesus teaches us to pray for needs, “give us today our daily bread”, and scripture is clear that God wants us to bring everything to him.

But, this is a good test. 

How much time to we spend telling God what we want versus listening quietly for what He wants to do in us? 

The tendency to try to control God to do our bidding is a common form of prayer—and a very frustrating one too. 

Have you ever done this one? 

When I was learning to pray, I would start praying about the things that I’m dealing with…my concerns, problems, questions—I’m wanting God to help me, guide me.  But the longer I pray, the more uptight I find myself getting, and pretty soon, my mind is wandering off on possible solutions or fixes, and slowly but surely, I pray myself into a frenzie – and in my anxiety, get up and say, man, I’ve got to get to work. 

That’s not effective prayer for living out Step 11.

In order to Live by the Spirit, prayer becomes a turning of our mind toward God’s Spirit, and it can happen many moments throughout the day.  At every decision, at every interaction, at every choice. It’s how Jesus lived.

“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing.” John 5:19  

But this takes training to spiritually “see” and “hear” God’s guidance, and we need to start slow.  So here’s a suggestion to get started.

Set some time in your morning to get a Jump Start on the day. 

  • Instead of waking up and just getting sucked up into the whirlwind– take a few minutes to Pray and Meditate. 
  • You can start by letting your first thought be directed toward God before getting out of bed.

“God thank you for another day, I give this day to you, help me to listen to you and do your will only today.” 

  • Or It can be setting a time and a place to grab your coffee and meet with God to set your trajectory for the day. 
  • Thank God for someone or something specifically. This focuses us in a positive way. 
  • Tell God how you are feeling. I’ve found this very helpful to just be honest.

“God, I’m stressed about this decision.  God, I’m still angry at my boss.  God, I’m feeling really lonely.” 

  • Then remind yourself before God of the decision you made in step 3.

“God, I turned my life and my will over to your care.”

  • Now Let go of things you can’t control—decide to Trust God with it today.
  • Then tell God about your worries or concerns and tell him you are ready for him to remove the worry (not the problem, but your stress about it). 
  • Ask him to show you His will today in each moment, to help you learn to hear his inner voice in your thoughts, and to give you the power to do what His will is. 
  • You may even take your calendar and imagine your day—ask God to prepare you for each interaction, to bring thoughts or ideas about how to do His will in that tough conversation you don’t want to have.

You may be thinking, what’s all this hearing God business? 

  • I’ve never heard God speak, and even if I did, I don’t know if I’d admit it. 
  • It’s not weird or spooky, when we speak our thoughts to one another, we must use the medium of voice, sound waves, and the ear to get our thoughts into other brains. 
  • But God doesn’t need an audible voice to get His thoughts into your brain—He can just put his thoughts in your mind. 
  • You can tune them out, just like you can tune me out, or you can learn to pay attention to God’s Spirit. 
  • So this listening prayer is all about learning to hear God’s thoughts and respond to His will, rather than just responding to past thoughts. 

How will I know if I’m hearing God or the lies?

That is the danger to this “hearing from God” business.  

This is where meditation comes in (that’s meditation, not medication). And specifically…

MEDITATION ON SCRIPTURE

Meditation is a way of listening more deeply to truth.  It is not emptying our minds, but focusing our minds.  It’s positioning our minds to listen through silence or through the words of scripture, so that we know what is true about God, about us, and about others.

Abraham, Isaac’s son meditated

“Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. [63] He went out to the field one evening to meditate….”  Genesis 24:62-63.

 Joshua says, “Do not let this Book of the Law [scripture] depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night” 

The psalmist says:

“Oh God, we meditate on your unfailing love.”  Psalm 48:9 

“I will meditate on all your works.”  Psalm 77:12 

“My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,  that I may meditate on your promises.”  Psalm 119:48 

“Whatever is true, honorable and right; pure and lovely and admirable…Let your mind dwell on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

So Scriptural meditation is all about focusing our minds on what is true about God and about us.  It’s letting these thoughts roll around in our minds over and over, picturing what is true.  Doing this with scripture can guard against delusional filtering.  If we are convinced that God is prompting us to do something, yet it goes against what he has clearly said in scripture—we can be sure it’s not God—it’s us or evil’s lies! 

In the church I was a part of before Gateway, a guy abandoned his wife of 15 years and his two children and shacked up with a young beauty, saying that God led him to make this move for the ultimate good of everyone.  Now, what do you think?  God, or the self-centered sin-disease that blinds us from really hearing?  Hard to know? 

Well, God says very clearly in scripture “Do not commit adultery. Do not trade up your spouse for a newer model” That’s my paraphrase but it’s in there.

So meditation on scripture and what’s true also sets us free from condemning, judging, harsh thoughts that punish us with guilt or fear or condemning thoughts.  

John Burke has told a story about a woman who struggled with anorexia to write down the thoughts that went through her head and drove her to anorexia. He took those thoughts, which were all lies about where her sense of worth and significance and lovability comes from, and he put down God’s thoughts from the Scriptures beside each lie.  She called him in tears saying, “this is unbelieveable, I’ve been believing lies about myself and it’s killing me—and yet I didn’t even realize it.  I thought the lies were what God thought about me, but scripture tells me just the opposite.” 

So steps 10 & 11 help us learn to Live daily in the house with God.  To experience his Love, Guidance, and Power on a daily and even moment by moment basis.  And as you do, Step 12 comes naturally.

Step 12:  Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Coronavirus is highly contagious—it spread disease and death around the world in 2 months. We know the negative end of Contagious Carriers.  But Malcom Gladwell in his book Tipping Point, gives case after case of positive Contagious Carriers.  In other words, the same principles that spread disease and death in this world can work to spread health and life and freedom. 

The recovery movement has been a great example of this since 1935.  After humble beginnings with two hopeless drunks having a Spiritual Awakening—these Contagious men had a positive effect that spread to millions of people all around the globe—freeing millions from alcoholism.  But what the founders of the steps realized is that If you’re Contagious with life, you’ll spread life to others, and giving life to others fuels life in you.   

This is Step 12:

Having had a spiritual awakening

Scripture talks about it like this: 

[We] are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun!  All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did.  2 Corinthians 5:17-18

What God gives to those who come to the end of themselves and start working the principles of these steps…is life!  God gives life.  When you’re seeing God doing something positive in your life—it becomes contagious, doesn’t it.

Listen to what one woman at Gateway wrote: 

“I was always scared to turn to God, but I was always searching for something too.  I was a single mom, struggling to support my two kids.  My boyfriend and I were struggling with issues too.  I just felt like something was missing.  We started attending Gateway and kept feeling like the speakers knew the struggles we were dealing with and were speaking right to us. One day, I realized I had never turned to God, and they said just tell him “I want you in my life, I want what Christ did to count for me.”  I did it right then…and to my amazement, the emptiness left.  It has been a life blessing as we’ve gotten involved growing.  People often ask me why I am always so happy and why I smile so much.  Now I tell them my faith in God helps me keep things in perspective, and I tell them if they want to know more, I’d be glad to talk.  Most often, they do.” 

That’s Step 12

“…we tried to carry this message to others…”

In that passage All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.”  2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (MSG)

God’s desire is to set off a spiritual epidemic of Life and Freedom.  To have people who start to experience a new sense of freedom and peace and life—be Contagious Carriers to others. That’s how the early Christian church spread. 

Those who had been with Jesus said, “We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:20 

It’s not about trying to convert people—but offering them what has helped us. 

You may initially feel like “Man I don’t have my act together, I can’t help anyone else.”  But what we find is that helping others, as we keep in Step with God’s Spirit, helps us grow even more.  And there are people all around you, right now, quietly suffering, struggling, wanting a path to life and freedom, but not knowing where to turn.

Step 12 is about experiencing a spiritual awakening and helping others do the same. I’ve got a great story to share about that from Zeus and his son Devin. Would you welcome them with me?

Think about how you might live out step 12 this week as someone here did for Tyler, and now Tyler is doing for others.

So let me ask you, in the midst of all we are going through, are you ready for your own spiritual awakening? It starts with acknowledging you need God’s help in your life. Just start with this prayer: “God, I need you. Please forgive me and lead me. I want what Jesus did on the cross to count for me.”

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