Ten Habits for Spiritual Life Part Three
Ten Habits for Spiritual Life Part Three
January 21, 2024 |
Sunday Morning
Ten Habits for Spiritual Life Part Three
John C. Majors |
Romans 12:9-10
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Well, good morning to all of you. Great to be with you today. As we continue in our study of habits, what are the small things that we can develop put in place in our life? Especially our emphasis is spiritual habits that produce big results over time. I was reminded of a story this week of that playing out small changes, producing big results. Going back to World War Two. Of course, there were many things that influence the outcome of World War two, many things at play. Such a huge event in the history of the world, but one that had a big influence and probably was the determining factor in the air war over Britain. France was the number 13. 13 is the difference between 87 and 100. I know you’re like, John, don’t start into math this early, right? 87 was the standard octane number. That was the octane fuel that the Germans used in their planes. But the Americans developed 100 octane fuel and that made just enough difference that allowed them to go farther, to go faster. And if you add that up, drop by drop, plane by plane, flight by flight over time, over the year, eventually you wear the enemy down, seemingly small change, same equipment produced really big results. Now, how do we apply that to our lives? Small changes that produced big results. We’re going through this ten Spiritual Habits for Life. And we’ve looked at having a heart of humility. We’ve looked at hearing God’s word. We’re going through the word habit letter at a time. Last week, we looked at how do we abide abiding, community abiding relationship and abide in prayer. This week we’re going to look at the letters B and I, and all this is to help us kick off January, to kick off a new year and developing stronger spiritual habits. And so first, we’re going to look at the letter B and with the letter B, really just use one phrase how do we build up one another in love? One of the habits we want to develop is the habit of building up one another of loving one another. Well, that’s a key attribute of of the church to love one another as Christ loved the church. So also, should you love one another? We’ve been looking at Romans chapter 12 as we talk about these habits. So if you have a Bible, turn to Romans chapter 12. If you don’t have a Bible, we’d love to put one in your hands. We have them out in the connection corner. Those are free for you any time. And the page numbers on the screen tie into that specific Bible. We’re in Romans chapter 12, and today we’re going to look at verses nine and ten to set up this idea of how do we build up one another in love. ROMANS Chapter 12, verse nine Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor. All right, that’s a rich section on what it means to love one another. Well, to build up one another in love. And the first thing that stands out there in verse nine is Let love be genuine. Let love be genuine. That same word shows up the first Timothy one five, where it describes our faith as a sincere faith, sincere, genuine, real, authentic. The word behind that word is really interesting. It’s where we get our word. It sounds just like our word hypocrite. At the time, hypocrite was just a term. It’s the same word we use now. Actor That’s all it describes. Someone who was an actor, someone who was a pretender, someone who was playing a role of someone they really weren’t in real life, but for the moment they were playing a role. Now, of course, you can see how we end up with our understanding of the word hypocrite. Now, someone who does that and tells you you should act the way they do, but they’re not really living it out. The interesting part of this word here where it says Let love be genuine, it’s actually the word not is on the front end of the word hypocrite. Let love be not a hypocrite. Let love be real, not pretending fake love, real, genuine, authentic love. That’s the love that everybody wants. Everybody here wants to be love. And you desperately want real, authentic love. When you don’t get that, it hurts deeply. When I thought about this verse, though, the thing that really is I think unfortunate is that we even have to add a word to the word love. Love is one of those words that should not have to be modified with something to make sure that we’re doing it right. I mean, there’s a host of words this way. I mean, let me just give you a couple of examples. I throw this one up on the screen. Something cannot really be here. It comes very unique. It’s either unique or not. It’s not more unique. Here’s another one. This might be a little more dramatic. Extra virgin olive oil lovers. I’m sorry. There’s you’re either virgin or not. There’s not extra virgin. You understand? Love? Because love has been so distorted. We need to add words to it. Genuine love, real love, authentic love. That’s a tragedy on one level. And yet it’s also necessary. And it’s an important thing for us to strive for. What’s interesting about this passage is I think he shows us four ways in particular here to display genuine love for means of living out genuine love. As you think about how can I love genuinely, not only do we want genuine love, but I want to be known as a person who extends genuine love. I want to be fake. We all slip into that at times, but that’s not where I want to be. How do we do that? There’s four short phrases here that give us the means of doing that. Look back at verse nine Let love be genuine. First, abhor what is evil, abhor what is evil, detest what is evil, have a disdain for what is evil. You can’t stand to be in the room with what is evil. You want to run, flee from evil. That’s what’s behind this idea. The same word was used by an ancient historian, Herodotus. He was. He chronicled a lot of ancient Greek, especially Greek history. And he found the story of a guy, this Greek aristocrat, lawmaker, rule maker. His daughter had gotten engaged to a young man. And of course, he’s kind of sizing him up, wondering, what’s this guy worth? Is he going to be any good as my son in law? Well, they have a party. There’s a big party. Many people are there. And this future son in law got a little tipsy at the party and he initiates and takes part of a large dancing competition here at the party. All these guys showing off their moves. Big dancing competition and the future father in law is watching on. And because of how foolishly, how ridiculously this son in law, potential future son in law danced, he said he abhorred him. He disdained the idea that this idiot could be my son in law someday. Anybody felt that way. Don’t raise your hand. Actually, don’t. There might be family members in the room that might be offended by that. But you can see in this moment this guy is going to be married to my daughter. No, sir. We’re going to have no part of that disgust, disdain. I can’t stand to be in the same room, flee. I want to run away from this guy. That’s how weird to think about evil. Like Joseph with potty for his wife. I’m out of here. I’m leaving my clothes behind. I’m out of here. I’m doing whatever it takes to flee. This in contrast to, I think, some who would dabble in evil, entertain evil, maybe not openly, but maybe I’m still okay with allowing it in my life. Just a little, allowing it to entertain me. I read a story of a guy. He was in the mortgage industry mid 2000, early 2000s, of course, killing it, making tons of money, lots of mortgages are going out the door at that time. One comes in though, and the income’s just not quite right for this long to get approved. So he goes to his manager. She’s saying, hey, look at this paperwork. Tell me what you think, what do we need to do? And she said, You know what? I think this is pretty close. Let’s just adjust this number just a little bit, make this small adjustment on the income. And he said, adjust. You mean change? You mean make it up? no, no. It’s just an adjustment. Well, that guy went on as a result of that one moment where the door was opened to compromise. He went on to commit something like $10 million in mortgage fraud that opened the door. Well, hey, that adjustment worked. Let’s make another one. Let’s make another one before it. He’s completely faking identities and people in realities and names and everything. Abhorrent is evil. Run from evil. Don’t allow even a hint of it in your life if you want to love others, well, stay away from evil. Abhor what is evil. Now, second, look back here at verse nine. Look at the next phrase Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. Number two hold fast to what is good, hold fast to good. As hard as you run away from evil, grasp on to what is good, grasp on to it. Like your life depends on it. I saw a pretty powerful picture of this at play, holding on for dear life. This is a video we’re going to show you of a guy who here has been hang gliding before anyone. Well, if you haven’t, you may not want to after this. So just give you a heads up. This guy’s going for the first time. Let’s go ahead and start that video. Now, you’ll notice they’ll highlight it. This guy is attached. The other guy is not attached to the hang glider and they take off and right away he’s hanging on for dear life, literally. Now, the average time a person can hang on to a bar in a controlled environment with no wind not hanging on for your life is 2030 seconds in a good setting, 45 seconds. He’s trying to land there, trying to get down. Willy, make it. We’re up to about 36 seconds right now. How long could you hold on when your life depends on it? Do we have this kind of mindset to holding on to good 36 seconds, 45 seconds on the Nigerian, 2 minutes and 14 seconds he holds on till they hit the ground, even rips a bicep in the process. I’m not letting go no matter. What? You can take that down. Grasp on hold on to good for dear life. Flee from evil. Hold on for life to good. You want to love others? Well, run after good next phrase we see here Let love be genuine abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good Number ten Sorry verse ten Love one another with brotherly affection love one another with brotherly affection. I love that phrase that sums up a lot. It’s this idea of love the way you would your family, assuming you love your family, you know what I mean? There’s a difference in a love relationship with a family. I was in a meeting the other day with some folks from church. I walk in, in walks a lady, and she’s married. Her husband wasn’t with her. I saw her walk up, kiss another man right on the lips who was not her husband. And I thought we got some stuff to work on here at Valley View. I don’t. Is that normal? I don’t think we implemented that verse. Great. One another with a holy kiss. Maybe no one said anything. I thought, this is interesting. No one in the in the room said a thing and I thought, obviously there’s more going on here. But when I left it, it finally I realized I remembered a brother and sister. It hit me after I left. Now, you may not even like to kiss your brother and sister that way. That’s fine. But you understand right away we’re with that. There is a connection, a brotherly affection, a family affection that’s different than just normal life. And one thing that’s interesting about that, in fact, Proverbs 1824 says there is a friend who is closer than a brother. And if you’ve been in church, any amount of time and experienced Christ, genuinely, you know that when you have a brother in Christ, a sister in Christ, a family member in Christ, there is a connection there that even closer than family, but like family that they don’t give up on you just because you messed up. You don’t give up on them because they offended you. We move towards one another, we press through hard things together. We persevere together. We serve one another like family, like brotherly affection. The other thing I love about this word, though, it’s actually two words for love combined together, which is appropriate. We’ve already talked about. Can you really add a word to the word love? It’s like Paul was thinking, I don’t know how else to describe a love other than a loving love. Love one another with a love that loves with brotherly affection. That’s another way that we move towards genuine, real, authentic love. And then last phrase here that describes that. Look back at verse ten Love one another with brotherly affection. This is how we have genuine love outdo one another and showing honor how to do one another and showing honor. I love that picture. It’s kind of like the Chipmunks in the old classic cartoon. No, you go first. No, you. There’s this competition for one to do better than the other. Maybe that’s a little bit of the challenge with the word outdo. We don’t want to turn love into some weird competition where you’re trying to one up the other person just to show that you’re a better lover. So some of the ideas behind this word that I think are helpful are phrases like, Go first, show the way, take the lead in love. And how powerful is that? We don’t wait around for the other person to love us first. Now, I’m not going to show them love till they’ve shown me love. I’m not sure if they deserve it or not. That’s not unconditional love. That’s self love. Love me, love me. Maybe I’ll love you. No, go first. There’s a great book. It was really popular ten or 15 years ago. Marriage book called Love and Respect. And if you read it by Emerson Mega-rich, it’s a handful people have read it. The concept comes from Ephesians chapter five, where it talks about how the woman is called to respect her husband White men. Before you order it for her, listen to the rest. Men are called to love their wives. Women, men love. Of course we both need to do that as well. That’s the emphasis in Ephesians chapter five. But what happens? The husband doesn’t feel respected. So I’m not going to extend love. You can’t respect me. I’m going to withhold love. And then the wife doesn’t feel loved. What does she do? You don’t deserve my respect. You haven’t shown me love. He calls it the crazy cycle. It just keeps perpetuating both, refusing to extend to the other what they both want. The book, he emphasizes. How do you break that crazy cycle when you get stuck there, when you find yourself spiraling downward? I’m not going to You don’t deserve. Here’s what he says. Somebody’s got to go first. How do you know who should go first? This is so sneaky. It’s kind of mean, he says. Whoever is more mature should go first. Well, I’m more mature than she is. Go first, outdo one another in showing love. Be the first one to say, Look, I’m doing this by faith. I don’t feel it. I may not get the return I want, but I’m called to love to go first with love. So if we want to experience and extend genuine love to others, if we want to build up others in love, abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another and showing honor. That’s the letter B Build up others in love. Now let’s look at the letter I and that word habits. We’re unpacking the word habits. Achebe Now we’re to the letter I, and there’s two with the letter I. We’re going to unpack, invest and invite or invite and invest. Those are the two we’re going to unpack. I’m going to start with invite. Look at verse 11 with me. I’ll do one another and show in honor, verse 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, but be fervent in spirit. Serve the Lord. If you look here at that verse, pay special attention to the energy words and sometimes some words just come with. Delivering more energy and zeal is one of those zeal. You also see fervor be fervent in spirit. There’s a sense of urgency in those words. There’s a sense of earnestness in those words that as Christians we should carry in all that we do, but especially here, he says in our service, in our love. And I think when it comes to our burden for the faith in the way that we carry this, this overwhelming urgency that others have to know about Jesus, others have to know what Jesus has done in my life. The people around me have to get to know him because of how he has radically changed my life. Now I use the word invite toward that end, and inviting others is a habit to develop as a Christian. And by the way, that can look a lot of different ways. That doesn’t just mean invite to church. That’s great. If it’s the right time to invite someone to church, that’s great. But there are times, in fact, with many of my neighbors, I’m going there. I cannot invite them to church yet they are not ready for that. Instead, invite them over for dinner, invite them over for a barbecue, invite them out to lunch, invite them over for coffee or out to coffee or you know what I’m talking about. Meet them where they are. Get to know them, love on them. Open the door to eventually be able to talk about the hope that Christ has put in you. But that’s a discipline we need to develop. It’s a habit we need to develop and it can be intimidating and it can look different for a lot of us. When we served in missions in the South Pacific, there was a guy who was known all throughout the area. His name was Joe Fire, and this guy had said as a goal every day he would not go to sleep until he had talked to someone about Jesus, too. He had shared his faith with someone and there were times where he was laying his head on the pillow and the Holy Spirit prompt him. You haven’t done that yet today, and he’d have to drag his body out of bed. Go find someone on the street, corner him, tell him about Jesus. Go back to bed. Let me tell you, that guy saw hundreds of people, thousands of people come to know Christ every year because many days it wasn’t just one time, two, three, four or five, ten, 20 people. He developed that discipline, that habit of sharing his faith. Now, I’m not saying that’s what each of you need to do. I’m not saying that’s your call. How is God calling you to have a burden to invite to tell others about him? It’s a habit we’re striving for. Invite the last word here today. Letter I invest. Look at verse 13. We looked at verse 12 last week with prayer, verse 13 Do not be slothful zeal. Serve the Lord, rejoice in hope, patient tribulation be constant in prayer. Verse 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality, contribute to the needs of the saints, and seek to show hospitality. We want to build up others up in love. We want to invite people to come to know Christ. We want to invest. Now. There’s a lot of different ways we can invest. Obviously, there’s giving to the needs of the church. We mention that every week at the end of the service that we know how to do that. That’s an important part of what we do, but that’s not the only way that you invest in others. That’s one way. Financial investment. We have tons of ministries here that are focused on meeting the needs of people. We have Project Hope, which is where we collect, used or new whatever. We collect household items that people need beds, dressers, whatever. And so then people in moments of need when they don’t have anything, can have something we have helping hands that goes out on Monday nights feeds the homeless. Yes. They even went out this last week. That’s commitment we have there to care. There’s there’s a house right down the street where we serve food out of that one day a week. We give out to that. In fact, here’s what I want to do. If you’re involved with Project Hope, helping hands there to care, will you just stand? I know these folks don’t like to draw attention to themselves, but I want you to see some of the people who are involved in that stay standing. You know, keep standing. Because if one of those ministries sounds like something you’d want to be a part of, that’s something I want to do. I want to invest in others that way. Just look around at someone around you. You may not even known that they served in those ways. Just go over and talk to which one is it? that’s not the one I was interested in. Who should I go talk to? They’ll point you. They know. They know each other. Okay. You can be seated outside, invest, invest. We want to be pouring into the lives of others. This last Christmas, white Christmas boxes, boxes of food go to neighbors. They were overwhelmed with joy. And by the time all that’s over, I start hearing from different life groups that people had been taking up money for those in need. No one. It wasn’t a program of the church. No one asked them to do it. They just couldn’t be stopped. Invest, invest, give, serve, pour into others. That’s the letter I know. What we’ve done all throughout this series is part of what I do is I just take a moment to talk about building strong habits. Some tips for building strong habits. How do we put these disciplines into our life day after day after day? Because it’s the really small things that ultimately make a difference. The really small things add up and make a difference. How do we build some of these habits into our lives? We’re going to look at five more of those today to give us tips for building happens. Go ahead and throw the first one on the screen. The first is make it attractive. Do something to make a habit attractive. This is an example of making something attractive, more so not specifically to a habit, but I used to. I couldn’t. I got I had to fly a lot in the ministry. I was serving with travel, go around, speak meetings and it got to be or is one, two, sometimes three times a month traveling, flying, you know, and there’s no airplane seat. Even the nicest one as comfortable as your worst recliner at home. And there’s no mattress. Well, some mattresses are pretty nice. There’s no hotel room as nice as your home. Well, okay, you can understand what I’m saying. And I just got to where I hated it. I was like, I’m so sick of this airports. I don’t want any part to do well. One day I go on a trip with one of my coworkers, and the whole time we’re on the plane heading to this airport, he’s like, I can’t wait till we get there. There’s this restaurant there I can’t wait to show you. I love going to this place. I’m like, It’s an airport. It’s a restaurant in an airport. What are you talking about? You got to see this. And he takes me. I felt like a five mile hike across this airport. We get to this restaurant and he’s just glowing full of joy. So happy. And I came away from that going, I want that. I don’t care. The restaurant, it was okay. I want that kind of joy. And enthusiasm for what I got to do anyway. And so I started to do that. Before I go on this next trip, I’m going to pick someplace in this airport that I actually want to go see and make it attractive. How do you make a habit attractive? Maybe. You know, I really do need to get better at telling others about what Christ has done in my life. What can you put in place to make it attractive? Maybe it’s your favorite coffee shop that you love going to and it’s an excuse to go there. Invite someone to go or you got. You can tell I like coffee. You got your favorite bag of coffee that you saved just for when people come over to show them this, look at how good this coffee is. Whatever it is, what is. And of course, those are small, almost silly examples. And that’s the point. It’s those small, silly things sometimes that make the difference between us doing something or not. What is something you can put in place to make that habit you know you want to do attractive. All right, that’s the first one. The second one is similar. It’s kind of the flip side of this. Literally flip it positive. If there’s something that you can only see as negative, how can you flip it positive? A lot of these tips, by the way, I’ve mentioned before, come from the book Atomic Habits. And in that book, he tells the story of a guy, a friend runs into a friend he hadn’t seen in a long time. And this guy, his legs have been paralyzed. He’s in a wheelchair. Last time he saw him, he wasn’t that way. And he says to him, you know, I’m so sorry. And tell me what happened. I’m so sorry that you’re stuck in this wheelchair. And the guy said to him, stuck, this wheelchair is my freedom, flipped it positive. You know what? Without this wheelchair, you know what I’d be doing? Nothing. Be stuck in a bed. This is about freedom. How do you flip it positive. How do you when you see someone in church and maybe you’re like, I don’t like the way they’re dressed, I’m not sure they should be here like that. How do you flip it Positive. Thank you, Lord. They’re here. We say this all the time. Come as you are. Come as you are. So you don’t have to stay as you are. And none of us want to stay where we are, myself included. No. No matter where you are in your journey. Come as you are. Come as you are. So you have to stay as you are. How do we flip it? Positive. Third habit to develop for developing spiritual habits. How do you make it automatic? Of course habits. Ultimately, the beauty of them is that they become automatic. But of course, on the front end, that’s not the case. They’re really hard to establish. How can you speed that up and make a habit automatic to begin with? One example I heard of this was a family that was struggling to connect the evening. They were all on their devices. The TV was on Internet computer. Everybody’s drawn different directions. So here’s what the dad did. He took their Wi-Fi router, their Internet Wi-Fi router, and he put it on one of these timers. You see, these are used to plug a lamp in to make your neighbors think you’re home when you’re really not. Put it on a timer, set it for 8 p.m., APM Wi-Fi shuts off. sorry that Wi-Fi is off. That timer is at it again. You know, somehow trying to distance himself from that decision is the dad. And so now we got to connect. Made it automatic. Didn’t even have to think about it. Everything shut off and now what happens? We talk, we connect, look at one another in the play family games or just sit around doing nothing. Make it automatic. The more things in life that you can take away that emotional energy, put the bills on, autopay, put your giving on autopay, whatever it takes, make it automatic, make it easy so that you don’t have to think about it. Next one. Number four Find a trigger habit that will initiate the habit. Friend of Mom. When we were serving in missions, this was a guy who was trying to lose ¬£100. He was making a lot of good decisions. One of his goals as he lost the weight was to be able to do a single pull up just one. He couldn’t do one. And so here’s what he did. He said he applied this specific idea. Each time when I walk into the office, the ministry office they served in, when I walked into the door, there was this one piece of wood where he was sturdy across the doorway. Each time I walk in, I will try to do one pull up. You see the trigger walking through the door. And of course, for a year all he did was just about that. That’s all he could do. A year later, he texted me the other day, John, I’m up to five pullups now. Trigger habit. When I do this, this will happen. How do I attach it? Notice how he kept the bar low. I’ll try one pullup up. Going to try one trigger habit for many is picking up your phone. A friend of mine just shared this with me just the other day. I randomly ran into him. A guy who grew up here in church with lives way on the other side of town. I go into a coffee shop I’ve never been in, and he had never been in either. And we run into each other. He goes, John, let me show you something. This has revolutionized my spiritual life. Glenn threw up the screen. This is the Bible app. How many of you have the Bible app on your phone? When you open the Bible app, you don’t have to go looking for Go ahead and let it play. You don’t have to go looking for content on the Bible app. It starts with a verse of the day. There’s a little video under that that you can play that’s an encouragement. And you see some random dude has a devotion, some pastor somewhere else. There are prayer prompts as well. There are journaling prompts, he said. I love the guided prayer moments in this. He said, When I pick up my phone at the beginning of the day, it’s the first thing I do. You know, you can clear off all your other apps off the homescreen. Have that one there. And you know, if you already have some system, you use our church Bible reading, plan your own devotion, book your work. That’s great. But for those who are struggling to get in God’s Word, how do I make it easy? How do I make it automatic? How do I attach it to a habit? I’m already doing a trigger habit. That’s number four. You can take that screen down. And then number five, lastly, how do I reduce distractions? How many would say they find themselves distracted that times? Okay, the other half of your lion, right? Or maybe you’re distracted right now. I’m going to have to I won’t say this person’s name, but when I came in this morning. They said, I know what this church needs. We need outlets under all the chairs to plug in our phones. No, we don’t. That’s the worst thing we need. How do you reduce distractions in your life? One family, what they would do, much like the Wi-Fi router at night, they all put their phones in a box and locked it. Let’s connect. How do we connect? Sometimes that requires taking drastic steps to be able to reduce distractions, to connect with one another and with God. Because what we want to do are build these habits that let us build up others in love. Invite others to know Christ, invest in others, invest in the church. That takes time. Let me tell you, it matters. These small little things matter. I got a letter from a God this week. I mean, that sums this up perfectly. This is a guy group of values. He’s serving in other areas now. He sent me this letter. You want to talk about the slow drip of ministry? The the little bitty touches in his life over decades and how it made a difference. Here’s what he said. Hey, Pastor John, I look back and thank God for what Valley View meant in my life. For whatever reason, he had this moment of reflection and just wanted to share. As a dad, I’m reminded daily how special it was for me as a teenager to have a community of Christians loving and supporting me and who doesn’t want that as a teen, who doesn’t need that as a teen? People loving you, supporting you. I desire for my kids to have what I had at Valley View. Then as a teen, when my parents hit a rough spell, it was Danny and Lisa morris and Bill and Natalie Brooks and a host of other couples at Valley View that modeled what a godly married couple should look like. They were there with them, coming along, side them, loving on them through the challenges. I look at Valley View and I’m eternally grateful for all that happened in my life. I’m really thankful for what God is doing at Valley View. Now. My four year old just had his first haircut last week from Larry Breeding. Larry was talking all about how things have been going great at the church. We pay him well for that. The mid-week emails are always so encouraging and challenging. I read them and I’m more hungry for God and his Word every time. Thank you again for everything. God bless you and Valley View. I tell you what I love about that. I love that that’s true of this church. I love that that email, not just in the past. It’s true of this church today, just this last week, someone shared with another person who related to me. They said, I’ve never been in a church before where I didn’t feel judged. Come as you are. They didn’t feel judged. Here was the point. Come as you are so you don’t have to stay as you are. Come as you are. Spiritual habits that lead to life. Build up others in love. Invite invest. These are the things we want to build into our lives so that as a church we just continue to show the love of Christ