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How have you been formed?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Philosopher Dallas Willard insists, “You have a spirit within you and it has been formed. It has taken on a specific character.”

Willard asserts there is something deep within us – something at the core of who we are – that motivates our action, drives our desires, and shapes the way we interact with the world. He argues that we are more than our biological responses and reflexes. We certainly have those. And they do exercise some power over our habits and routines. But, he maintains, there is something deeper, more powerful at our core.

And that, Willard argues, is our spirit. And our spirits have been formed.

Willard writes: “Spiritual formation… is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite ‘form’ or character. It is a process that happens to everyone. The most despicable as well as the most admirable of persons have had a spiritual formation.”

Everyone – from Mother Theresa to Mussolini – has been spiritually formed, has been affected deeply, at their core, by certain ideas and experiences and beliefs. That thing within us that drives our behavior and shapes our reactions – it’s not something we’ve created on our own; it’s something that’s been shaped and formed by others.

Our sermon series, A Story Worth Living, was intended to help us identify and explore the ideas and beliefs that have shaped us in significant ways, and give us space to ask together: How have we been formed?

It’s a question we hope you’ll keep asking.

How have you been formed? What ideas, what experiences, what people have shaped you? Do you know? Can you name them? What thinkers, heroes, books, and songs have formed you at the deepest levels?

Keep reflecting on how you’re being spiritually formed and how the Bible affirms, contradicts, and reshapes those voices that influence you. Perhaps you might revisit a sermon? Return to the book of Genesis? Or watch some of the videos our pastoral staff recorded (Facebook Live) in response to your questions?[/vc_column_text][vcex_button url=”https://www.facebook.com/pg/christcommunitykc/videos/” target=”blank” style=”outline” align=”center” css_wrap=”.vc_custom_1507323230830{margin-top: 15px !important;margin-bottom: 15px !important;}” icon_left=”fa fa-arrow-circle-right”]FACEBOOK LIVE VIDEOS[/vcex_button][vc_column_text]If you’d like to learn more, we also encourage you to pick up a copy of Tim Keller’s recent book, Making Sense of God. It speaks thoughtfully and intelligently about the ideas and narratives that currently dominate our culture.

Our prayer is that this series will continue to give us the ability to better identify the narratives and scripts that have shaped us. And more importantly, help us determine if the story we are living is a story worth living.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Origins of life, evolution, and the age of the earth. Embracing a better Story.

The first three chapters of the Bible, Genesis 1-3, are probably some of the most familiar of any chapters in the Bible. They have been ground zero for debates over the origins of life, evolution, and the age of the earth.

While these are certainly important conversations to have about Genesis 1-3, our focus on these questions often causes us to miss some of the most important reasons these chapters were written in the first place!

In order to understand the depth of what is happening in these crucial chapters and how they connect to our lives today, we have to ask the questions: Why were these chapters written and who was the original audience?

What you discover when you answer these two questions is that the main point of Genesis 1-3 is to help God’s people embrace a better story — the true story — about reality in the midst of many other competing stories about what is most real, important, and good. Genesis 1-3 introduce us to a reality where there is one true God as the Creator and Sustainer of everyone and everything. A reality in which self-giving love and self-sacrificial loyalty undergird all goodness, beauty, and truth.

Who was the original audience and why were these chapters written?

Answering the first question — who is the original audience? — holds the key to answering the second question — why were these chapters written?

The original audience of Genesis 1-3 was God’s people as they prepared to leave Egypt and journey to the land that God had promised to them.

For the past 400 years, God’s people had been enslaved in Egypt. They were surrounded by Egyptian culture, architecture, stories, beliefs, and religion. They knew all about the Egyptian gods and the Egyptian stories of how the world came to be and how it worked.

Now after all these years of slavery in Egypt, God sends Moses to rescue his people, to lead them to the Promised Land. But the Promised Land, Canaan, was also a place full of people who had all of their own stories and beliefs about the gods, origins, and meaning. How would God’s people maintain their unique identity and story in the midst of so many other stories and ideas?  God would remind them of their own story!

Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke explains:

“After the Exodus, the people of Israel travel in the wilderness. They leave Egypt, a place saturated with pagan mythology, and head for Canaan, another place saturated with pagan mythology.… Faced with the threat of paganism, politically redeemed Israel needed a creation narrative because they were in need of spiritual redemption. Confronted by the ubiquitous presence of pagan beliefs, Moses… does not leave the new nation without a creation narrative… to counteract the mythic way of looking at the world” (Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 174-176).

Do you see the answer to the second question — Why was Genesis 1-3 written? —  coming into focus now?  It was written to give God’s people their own story, the one true story, about who God is, who they are, about what’s wrong with the world (and us!) and how it will be fixed.

Moreover, not only does Genesis 1-3 provide a framework for answering these questions, it is also constructed in such a way that it subtly responds to and undermines the rival stories of the other nations around Israel, such as Egypt and the Canaanites.

Each day of creation in Genesis 1 directly addresses rival stories and deities that God’s people faced in Egypt and would face in Canaan. In Egypt and Canaan, nearly every element of the world was associated with a god or gods. There was the sun god and moon god, fertility gods that made the plants grow and the rains come, sea god, animal gods, etc. At every turn, Genesis 1-3 confronts these stories and demonstrates that there are not many gods but one God who made all things.

Old Testament scholar, H. Conrad Hyer, points out:

“Each day of creation … dismisses an additional cluster of deities…. On the first day, the gods of light and darkness are dismissed. On the second day, the gods of sky and sea. On the third day, earth gods and gods of vegetation. On the fourth day, sun, moon, and star gods. The fifth and sixth days take away any associations with divinity from the animal kingdom. And finally human existence, too, is emptied of any intrinsic deity — while at the same time all human beings, from the greatest of the least, and not just pharaohs, kings and heroes, are granted divine likeness…” (H. Conrad Hyer quoted in Bruce Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, 177).

Genesis 1-3 provides God’s people with a rich introduction to the story — which takes the entire Bible to tell! —  that is to shape every element of their lives.

The Ancient Story and Our Stories

Genesis 1-3 continues to serve God’s people in this way even today. God’s people around the world from Kansas City to Kenya are surrounded by a myriad of stories that attempt to make sense of the world.

For example, one of the dominant stories in the Western world is that the material world is all that there is. All life is the result of time plus chance plus matter. There is no overall guiding purpose or meaning to life. Death does not mark the transition to a different state of existence, but is simply the cessation of existence.

In the West, elements of this sort of materialism are also mixed frequently with elements from other cultural stories. Perhaps there are elements of Eastern thought about karma or reincarnation. Other elements may include a moral sense that all good people enter some sort of heaven or reward when they die.

However, for most of us in the United States, perhaps the most pervasive cultural story that shapes our lives is a consumer story. A story that tells us that happiness and contentment are linked to having financial success that allows us to secure comfort and security through what we purchase.

In service of this story, we may not sacrifice animals or or visit pagan temples, but we do make sacrifices. Full devotion to the consumer story will require that you sacrifice time with friends and family in order to work long hours in order to make more money to obtain more security and comfort. The more things that we acquire, the more those things own us and make demands on us. We must maintain and insure them. We must replace them with new and better models. (Have you upgraded to the new iPhone yet?)

Just as Genesis 1-3 spoke into and addressed the competing stories of Egypt and Canaan, so too does it address the competing stories that God’s people face today.

In the face of materialism, Genesis 1-3 provides a liberating view of the world that is not closed. There is a Creator who is separate from creation, who created all things and gives them meaning and purpose. There is life possible beyond death. Not all is lost when we die. We are accountable to a creator, and therefore life has meaning and purpose. We are loved. We exist because of love. We are not accidents.

In the face of the consumer story, Genesis 1-3 provides us with a view that affirms the goodness of the world and all the many pleasures and comforts that it has to offer. These are all a gift to us from God! He made the world and called it very good. But our hope and security are ultimately found in the Creator, not in the creation. The Genesis story frees us from the endless cycle of acquisition and allows us to find contentment in God’s good gifts.

Genesis 1-3 is an anchor for God’s people, providing them with a life-giving story that is worth living!


In our fall series, A Story Worth Living, we are asking these questions: How does Genesis 1-3 relate to the stories that our culture is telling, stories that influence everyone of us? Where does Genesis 1-3 affirm the stories of our culture? Where does it challenge the stories of our culture?

Cultivating Habits of Life and Death

Vices kill. Simply put, vices are habits, repeated sins, that can kill you. Mind. Body. And Soul. Perhaps not literally, and not immediately. But over time, as we’ve heard throughout our sermon series, vices can stunt spiritual growth, undermine relationships, and wreak emotional and physical havoc. One of the worst things we can do is ignore the impact of vices in our lives. Our repeated engagement with any of the seven capital vices ultimately causes heartache, mars relationships, disappoints God, and even rewires our brains.

We all have our vices. And we owe it to ourselves and to our neighbors to look inside, identify our vices, and take concrete step to combat them. N.T. Wright helpfully distinguishes between the easy gravity of vice and the upward climb of virtue:

“…anybody can learn a vice; all you have to do is to go into neutral, slide along with the way stuff is going, and before too long, certain habits of life will have you in their grip. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to try; it’ll happen. But virtue, you have to think about…you have to make a decision to be this sort of person now…

Ouch, right?

It takes work to combat vice. Hard work. Thankfully, as we have seen, the Bible points us to remedies. And to grace. But while grace is free, it is never cheap. N.T. Wright goes on to explain:

“Virtue is what happens when you make a thousand small decisions consciously thought out so that on the thousand and first occasion, you will unhesitatingly and instinctively – by second nature – act virtuously. Nobody does it by nature. Some people, thank God, do it by second nature.”

So where do we go from here?

How does what we’ve learned change how we live on Monday, on Tuesday, as we interact with those closest to us, or go about our work? How do we cultivate life-enriching habits?

Even after eight weeks of sermons, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

The summary below offers a brief inventory of the seven deadly vices and their corresponding virtuous solutions. We’ve paired each set with a few thoughts or questions to help us recognize what these topics might look like in our own lives, and a brief (but not exhaustive) list of resources for each topic to place us on the path that is hard work but ends in reward.

Our sermons will always be available for listening if you need a refresher course. (Want extra credit? Consider listening to the same sermon topic from one of our other campuses to get a slightly different perspective.) Remember that we were not meant to walk this path alone. Talk to a trusted friend, meet with a pastor. Seek help if you are struggling.

Our prayer is that this series would continue to speak to you and challenge you in your walk as we work together to multiply disciples of character in our homes and community.


Sermon Series Resources

  • Glittering Vices by Rebecca DeYoung
  • Killjoys: The Seven Deadly Sins by John Piper
  • Sermon Series, “The Seven Deadly Sins” by Timothy J. Keller
  • Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.
  • Changes That Heal by Henry Cloud

Envy/Kindness

Big Idea: Envy is the death of love; Kill envy with kindness before it kills you.

Vice: Envy – feeling bitter when others have it better

Virtue: Kindness – receiving God’s kindness and extending that kindness to others

Notes:

  • Envy often begins with simple comparison but leads to despising those who have what we want.
  • The biggest difficulty with this is that envy’s roots lie in our own insecurities and misshapen identity.
  • Kindness works in two ways. First, to receive God’s kindness for you as enough. And second, to extend that kindness toward others.
  • Your value is rooted in God’s love and not in comparing yourself to others.
  • Extend kindness toward your rivals. Write them an encouraging note. Do something to make them look good in front of others. Seek their betterment whenever possible.

Resources:

  • Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson
  • Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley

Vainglory/Humility

Big Idea: Whose applause are you living for?

Vice: Vainglory – the desperate desire to look good to others

Virtue: Humility – displaying the glory of another

Notes:

  • Vainglory literally means “empty” glory and can be borne out of arrogance where we think we are better than others, or insecurity where we are afraid others will discover we are not all we pretend to be.
  • One way we can check ourselves is to ask, “whose applause are you living for?”
  • Vainglory is combatted through the practice of humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.
  • We must seek to display the glory of God. This leads to true freedom.
  • The way forward in growing in humility is through secrecy. Secrecy is practiced through silence (abstaining from talking) and solitude (removing yourself from any audience).

Resources:

  • Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
  • In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
  • Silence and Solitude by Ruth Barton
  • Vainglory: The Forgotten Vice by Rebecca DeYoung
  • Humility by CJ Mahaney

Sloth/Diligence

Big Idea:  Sloth hides best in busyness.

Vice: Sloth – laziness with what matters most

Virtue: Diligence – being faithful to work hard on what matters most

Notes:

  • Sloth is too lazy to change. We won’t put forth the effort to work on the best things rather than good things.
  • Sloth is too lazy to love. Loving and serving those around us requires hard work and diligence.
  • We need to slow down and spend time working on what matters most.

Resources:

  • Emotionally Healthy Leader by Peter Scazzero
  • The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things by Leighton Ford
  • What’s Best Next by Matt Perman
  • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Greed/Generosity

Big Idea: The more you want the less you have.

Vice: Greed –  being too attached to money and possessions, always wanting more

Virtue: Generosity – giving ourselves away for the good of others

Notes:

  • Greed promises happiness but can never be satisfied.
  • Greed robs us of the joy in celebrating what we do have. Instead, we are always thinking of and moving on to the next thing, wanting just a little bit more.
  • What we are looking for is already offered to us. God has already offered us security, status, and significance through His Son, Jesus.
  • Generosity thrives on faith.
  • Generosity frees us from the tyranny of wanting more. God tells us that we are created to be generous, in the image of God, and we are supposed to mirror Him.
  • God commands us to be generous because He knows this is what is best for us.

Resources:


Anger/Patience

Big Idea: You’re angrier than you realize.

Vice: Anger – demanding justice on our own terms

Virtue: Patience – using anger properly

Notes:

  • We are all angrier than we realize.
  • We often dismiss our anger as “not a big deal” or excuse our anger by blaming someone else: “they made me angry.”
  • We need to own up to the fact that we are often too easily angered and that our anger is often excessive.
  • Scripture doesn’t say anger is a sin, rather it says to be angry about the right things.
  • The opposite of anger is not apathy or indifference, rather it is love, and sometimes love requires getting angry.
  • Anger is almost always a secondary emotion to fear or sadness.
  • Ask yourself what lies beneath your anger?
  • Understand that it’s ok to be angry, but instead of lashing out and responding in anger by hurting those around us, practice patience. Properly wield your anger to love those around you.

Resources:

  • Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way by Gary Chapman
  • Emotionally Healthy Leader  by Peter Scazzaro
  • Unoffendable by Brant Hansen
  • Consider keeping an anger journal, or talking with someone about what lies beneath your anger.

Gluttony/Temperance

Big Idea: Our hunger can never be satisfied with food.

Vice: Gluttony – the endless pursuit of pleasure above all else

Virtue: Temperance – self-control and moderation

Notes:

  • Gluttony isn’t just a love of food. Gluttony is the endless pursuit of pleasure above all else. It’s a life dedicated to the quest for superficial satisfaction.
  • This is a vice for anyone who asks food to make them feel ok (whether unhealthy or healthy food).
  • Food becomes a problem when we start to make it god.
  • Food can be redeemed through the virtue of temperance: self-control and moderation. Pursue contentment with our daily bread.
  • Delight in community and celebration. Say “yes” to food and feasts not for satisfaction but to celebrate and praise God.
  • Bring Christ to the table. Let Jesus be the guest of every meal.

Resources:

  • A Hunger for God through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper
  • God’s Chosen Fast: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Fasting by Arthur Willis
  • Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa TerKeurest

Lust/Chastity

Big Idea: Long for more than what lust desires.

Vice: Lust – places sex over love and is sexual desire on a one-way street

Virtue: Chastity – the wisdom of wholeness; puts desire and love in their proper place

Notes:

  • Sex and sexual desire are good, God-given gifts.
  • Lust is not a problem because it wants too much from sex but because it desires too little from sex.
  • Lust places sex above love. Lust is sexual desire on a one-way street; it makes it all about me and not the other person.
  • Chastity is about wholeness. It puts desire and love in their proper place that we might enjoy authentic relationships to find intimacy and greater joy.
  • Practice chastity:
    – by setting boundaries and having accountability
    – by expressing love to all people as people and not commodities
    – by fighting worldly shame
  • While the wounds of our sexual sin cut deep, the grace of God through the gospel of Jesus cuts deeper.

Resources:

  • Teaching Your Child Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns
  • Real Sex by Lauren Winner (adults and older teens)
  • Sex: It’s Worth Waiting For by Greg Speck (students)
  • Singled Out: Why Celibacy Must Be Reinvented in Today’s Church by Christine Colón and Bonnie Field
  • Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert
  • Closing the Window: Steps to Living Porn Free by Tim Chester
  • Covenant Eyes software
  • X3 Watch software
  • Ever Accountable software

Jesus and Judas: Friend or Foe? | Digging Deeper

As a pastor preparing a Sunday morning sermon, one of the hardest parts is knowing what to leave out. Because, believe me, we could add so much more. In fact, that is really one of the beautiful things about scripture. Even after thousands of years of being read, studied, and taught, this fountain of life never seems to end. Thus, on a Sunday morning our prayer is that the main message of a passage is preached and reaches you afresh.

On the other hand, blogs likes this allow us to dig a little deeper, or really just follow the rabbit trails we find interesting. Our hope is that you will also will find them not only interesting but edifying to your study of the scriptures and love of God’s Word.

This week I spent some time studying Matthew 26:30-56. This text is so rich, as we catch a glimpse into Jesus’ prayerful walk with the father, though all others fall away. It is one of the most emotional and climactic moments in Jesus’ life. After this moment of submission to the father’s will, everything else seems like a concomitant event. While this is no doubt the main purpose in Matthew’s writing, this week I was struck by Jesus’ conversation with Judas in Matthew 26:49-50.

We all know Judas is a complicated guy to say the least. He is the very definition of betrayal. Not only that, but Jesus’ knows it beforehand! And yet, in verse 50 we read that Jesus calls him “friend”. It is this relational designation that I found fascinating this week.

When we look a little closer at this word, “friend,” we notice that Matthew chooses an uncommon New Testament greek word. In fact, in all the New Testament this word is only used two other times. Both of which are found in Matthew.

Matthew 20:13 – “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?” In this parable of the laborers in the vineyard the friend is the one who worked for the master, but didn’t think like the master. To him the master wasn’t fair.

Matthew 22:12 –  “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” Here at the end of the wedding feast parable, the friend is one who was invited to the banquet but doesn’t show up as he should. A party crasher of sorts. In other words he was in, but not fully aligned with the king.

So now in Matthew 26:50, Jesus is no longer referring to a parable but his walk to the cross. The friend is Judas. And all along, these two previous stories have been preparing us to know the sort of person we find in Judas. He is a friend but not the sort of friend we might think.

Though we have lost some of the classical meaning of friendship, in the first century true friendship was among the highest virtues. And when compared to Matthew’s word choice a different word for friendship would often be used. A word related more toward love than anything else. Euripides will say that these sort of friends share “one soul,” or that they have the same values and see the world the same way. Aristotle will similarly say that friends hold all things in common.

C.S. Lewis further makes an important distinction between co-operation or camaraderie and true friendship. He observes that true friendship lies in asking the question, “Do you care about the same truth?” Those who find themselves caring about the same thing and loving the same thing immediately find the true bond of friendship present.

But here in Matthew 26:50, the unusual use of the word for friend makes the attentive reader take pause and highlight the different relationship between Jesus and Judas. The previous two parables in Matthew prepare us to see this coming distinction. Judas is not a true friend, but a mere comrade. He is with Jesus, but he doesn’t see like Jesus, and he doesn’t love like Jesus.

Judas is not the sort of friend who loved what Jesus loved, instead he was the sort of friend that was there when it matched his priorities. He didn’t love like Jesus loved, and that was at the root of his betrayal. And we are left asking, what sort of friend are we?

Listen to more from our series in Matthew, The King’s Triumph. LISTEN >