There was a problem with the recording of the sermon from 5.31.15 and the podcast is unavailable. Below is a synopsis of the message: The Rule of Life - An Introduction.
What is it that we long for most as human beings?
What do we desire?
What drives our daily decisions?
Now by "happiness" I don't mean that sort of flitting, momentary euphoria you feel when something goes right or you got a good night's sleep. I'm talking about that settled sense of wellbeing that comes about because your life is grounded, ordered, whole, coherent, meaningful, and properly oriented towards Reality.
Human life was meant to function in a certain way and when it does, when our lives are grounded and whole, happiness is the result. When it doesn't, misery and disappointment are sure to follow.
How many of us live in a chronic state of disappointment? Disappointed for my life as a husband or a wife; a mom or a dad; a friend or a neighbor. Disappointed for my life as a human being in general. Disappointment not so much with particular things I have done as with aspects of who I have become. This nagging sense that all is not as it should be.
Where does this disappointment come from?
The most common answer in our society is that it is a lack of self-esteem, a failure to accept oneself. However, the older and wiser answer is that the feeling of disappointment is not the primary problem, but the reflection of a much deeper problem — my failure to be the person God had in mind when he created me.
The word itself is appropriate - “dis-appointment”. I am missing the life that I was appointed by God to live. I am missing my calling to become the person God had in mind when he designed me.
But the good news of the gospel is that this disappointment does not have to last. That the transformation of the human personality really is possible. Never easy. Rarely quick. But possible. It begins to happen anytime people become intensely serious about learning from Jesus how to arrange their lives. Wise people across the centuries have devoted themselves to this.
We are all becoming something. Our daily decisions, habits, relationships are shaping our lives. And God cares about who we are becoming.
So what is the goal? To become nicer people? Better citizens? Good parents or spouses?
No. The goal of spiritual transformation is Jesus Christ. Christianity’s goal is that we become more and more like our founder.
Unfortunately in many churches the call to fall Jesus has been watered down to mean: trust that he made an arrangement to get me into heaven after I die. But it is never used that way in the New Testament. In the New Testament when it talks about following Jesus, what it means is to trust that Jesus is right… about everything.
Repent. Believe. Follow.
In Mark chapter one Jesus makes his inaugural address:
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” - Mark 1v15
By kingdom, Jesus meant a new way of life. A new arrangement and set of values, a new set of priorities and commitments, a new vision of peace and how to achieve it.
He then lays out three imperatives as invitations to live in this new reality, this kingdom, following Jesus.
1. Repent = requires a decision to leave one way of life and set out on another. Change of mind, change of heart that results in a change of direction.
2. Believe = requires a personal, trusting, relational involvement in this comprehensive reordering of reality.
Repentance and belief are huge steps, but they are only the beginning. I know so many people who have taken these steps and have stopped here and they are frustrated with their lack of spiritual growth.
The truth is Jesus never meant for you to just believe or just behave, He meant for you to follow. We have to move to Jesus’ third imperative in order to experience the adventure and the abundant life promised to believers.
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. - Mark 1v16-17
3. Follow = True spiritual growth is the process of turning everything over to the authority of Christ. To begin to think and behave and believe the way Jesus did when he walked on earth.
A lot of Christians believe and behave; the problem is that they never actually follow. We have made it possible for people to think that they’re trusting in Jesus to get them into heaven, but they don’t trust Him for anything else. We trust him about the John 3v16 stuff but we don’t trust what Jesus actually said about money, or anger, or sex, or worry, or fear, or servanthood, or caring for the poor. People think they trust Jesus; but they have never seriously faced the decision, will I do what He said?
A New Way
When Jesus said in John 14v6, “I am the way the truth and the life” he used the word not just as a simple noun designating a road that leads to a destination, but as a rich metaphor. Jesus didn’t just lay out the path for heaven, He came to show us a new “way” of life.
Jesus wants to change the way we talk, the way we use our influence, the way we treat each other, the way we raise our children, the way we feel, the way we eat and on and on. In fact, the primary term for identifying followers of Jesus in the early church was “the Way.”
During the course of His ministry, Jesus did so much more than simply pass on theological truths, He laid out a radically new way of life. New values, priorities and commitments. And this new way of life called for radically new practices.
For example, instead of the practice of loving friends and hating enemies - this new way called people to love enemies as if they were friends. Instead of focusing people’s attention on fashion it focused people’s attention on the simple gifts of life. Instead of worrying about 401k’s its focus is on God’s providence and investing in the Kingdom of God Instead of accommodating the common male desire to use females and discard them, it called each man to either celibacy or loving marital fidelity in thought as well as action.
These practices are about life - right here and now. They’re about training ourselves to become the kinds of people who don’t just survive it, but experience it fully and abundantly.
The Rule of Life
The Rule of Life is a tactile means of spiritual formation in which our lives are increasingly oriented towards and drawn into God through concrete spiritual practices, in order to bring the whole of our lives into an ever-increasing likeness of Jesus.
Now a "rule of life" may sound like a really scary or lofty idea, but really, a rule of life is simply a set of practices that groups of people or individuals commit to in order to keep their lives grounded, rooted, and oriented to God’s love. Perhaps the most famous such "rules" is the one developed by Benedict of Nursia (5th century). Benedict, the founder of the "Benedictine" order of monks, gathered people together around practices which centered on two main ideas: ora et labora (prayer and work) and pax (peace). The idea was that a life lived around the integration of work and prayer (prayerful work) would result in tangible blessing and healing for the world (peace). Whole people do good work and good work blesses and strengthens the world.
At Gateway we have devised our own rule based in part on the Benedictine version. This rule is no absolute and will not win anyone points with God for doing it. It is about cultivating our lives towards the kingdom.
To follow Christ is a process, and it is a process of change that involves the heart and head and body. It is a step-by-step walk of both inward change and outward expression; physical and spiritual acts of worshipful obedience.
Our goal is to become believers who see their faith as more than a one-time event or just a small compartment of their life on Sunday mornings, but people who want to be entirely transformed from the inside out by Jesus Christ.