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A Life Worth Living - Sermon #06 - Developing New Habits that Produce Life

A Life Worth Living - Sermon #06 - Developing New Habits that Produce Life

Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • May 28, 2017 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor

Disassemble the Scaffolding - Be Born Again

Let’s start again with the exchange between Nicodemus and Jesus. If you have a Bible or a house Bible, a Bible app on your mobile device, or if you have already committed the entire text to memory, we will start reading in John chapter 3, verse 1 through verse 4. Page 727 in the House Bibles.

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” 4“How can anyone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:1-4, pg 979)

Time and again, Jesus presents a picture of God that he hopes will catch us up into the goodness of God; producing joy, and inviting and welcoming the renovation of our heart by the Spirit of God.

For this series, I’ve been focusing on the images of God that we live within and operate under. I’ve attempted over the past five weeks to give us the images of God that Jesus, himself had. These images, if we allow them, will help create opportunities for us to inspect, and where necessary disassemble, the scaffolding, on/from which we have attempted to build our lives.

The measure of a good life that I’ve offered during this series is a life that is full of joy, dependent on God, learning to trust God as we take risks seeing, loving, and serving others.

This is a life that brings the reality of heaven into our present reality and frees us from fear because we follow a resurrected Messiah who conquered and destroyed death, who calls us to follow him into life. The disciple’s life is learning to live in this reality free from fear, willing to love our neighbors as ourselves, learning to give generously because we know that all that we have comes from God, a life that is kind and compassionate and makes space for those who are at the margins offering them welcome and inclusion. This is the disciple’s path, a path of transformation that starts with our learning to lose ourselves that we might find ourselves.

But, if the Empire succeeds in its goals to keep us anxious, self-centered, constantly consuming, and exhausted, it will choke out any opportunities we have to draw life from Jesus and be transformed. We are at risk of missing out on the Kingdom life in which Jesus invites us to participate  Life that Jesus says is joyful and abundant, not just “full”. This isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky dreamscape, Jesus says it is possible.

Come and See

There’s this strange interaction with two disciples of John the Baptist in John chapter 1 that I want us to consider together:

35The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”

39“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. (John 1:35-39)

Do you notice their strange and illogical answer to Jesus? There so much disruption here, they are completely thrown off. All they know is, they want to be with Jesus. The routines which formed their habits about God didn’t have space for God to act so personally, so intimately–the way he is acting in Jesus. When John the Baptist reveals who Jesus is, they are immediately challenged. They have a choice to make, do they allow the routines that have shaped and formed their understanding and life with God, stand, or do they break those habits?

They are a little off kilter as they answer Jesus,

“Rabbi, where are you staying?”

Bundled in their reply is all their hope, it’s full of risk and potential. All they know is, they want to be with Jesus. They want their lives to be shaped by his reality.

They want their lives to be influenced by his presence. They want their lives to be like his, so they respond:

“Rabbi, where are you staying?”

In reply, Jesus says, “Come and see.”

And there you have it.

You want the joy-fill life, then you have to come and see.

Come and see,” Jesus says, “Open your eyes to the reality I see.”

I love this picture that Jesus offers us in Matthew 9:35-38.

35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:35–38)

I want to draw our attention to what Jesus sees and invites us to see it as well.

36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  (Matthew 9:35–38)

It’s compassion because the people were harassed and helpless. Jesus uses this as the basis for his instruction to his disciples. See what I see. Feel what I feel. The harvest is ripe with people who are harassed, helpless, ready for the kingdom people to reveal the good and beautiful God in their midst. The Lord just needs workers.

Practice makes permanent

Jesus invites us to get caught up in the goodness of God, which can produce joy and life in us, but our existing routines and habits may get in the way. It’s not that we are victims to our habits, it’s that we are not aware that we are forming them. Our routines are the unconscious patterns that help shape and give meaning to our lives. Our habits are formed here in our daily routines, our pre-programmed responses, our unquestioned confidence in our own perspective, our lack of wonder.

It’s the glass of milk or the bowl of cereal before bed. You just need to unwind, it was a stressful day, and the Fruity Pebbles are just so delicious and comforting.

Or it’s like waiting in line at the grocery store, as soon as their is a lull, you are on your phone checking FB, Twitter, or Instagram or playing Candy Crush.

You didn’t give permission to your brain to store this loop and later form it into a habit, just because you wanted level-up on Candy Crush that one time. You didn’t realize the first time you poured the cereal into that bowl that you were lighting up your reward center. “This is important,” you signal your brain, “pay attention.” And because we slip so easily into our habits, we often don’t inspect how they shape our reality or our expectations. Causing us to miss things, we miss experiences, opportunities, and chances to experience wonder.

This is why we must be born again, we need space to start over and create new routines and habits that reveal the very presence of God at work in our daily lives.

3Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” (John 3:3)

We continue to surrender our narratives, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and God. We replace the false pictures of God we have inherited with the picture of God that Jesus presents.

One way we do this is by practicing spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, worship, silence, solitude. Habits formed and shaped in the reality that Jesus presents. Habits of expecting God to hear when we pray. Habits of expecting the kingdom to break into our reality. Habits that allow us to expect the unexpected.

Habits are formed in wisdom, not in righteousness. We add these habits not to get back on the salvation ladder, we do them because Jesus presents himself as a good physician, and he tells us the best way to live our lives.

We create and form these habits because we choose to believe in a Heavenly Father who sees us, who longs to draw us close, and who wants to reward us with the intimacy of his presence, with the tenderness of his compassion, and who wants to give us the grace that we need. Because God wants us live joy-filled lives. That’s the only reason to risk, to seem foolish, to even try. It’s because the reward of his intimate presence, with tenderness, and compassion is so compelling that yes, we would be willing to do what ever it takes to lay hold of him.

“Come and see,” Jesus invites us.

It is not easy to give money when you know you might need it. In fact, you do need it. It's not easy to pray, to set aside time and to stop our motion and the self-management of our lives and cry out in need. It is not easy to fast and go without food or something else and feel the hunger. And yet as hard as those new habits, these routines are, the risk of not doing them is greater than the risk of doing something.

This is why we incorporate habits in the presence of Jesus, so we can live better lives.

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