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Bo Stern Brady: What Is Spiritual Transformation?, Matthew 4:17

April 25, 2022

Audio Recording

What we think is very much a matter of what we wish and seek to think, and what we feel is very much a matter of what we wish and seek to feel. In short, the condition of our mind is very much a matter of the direction in which our will is set.

Renovation of the Heart
Renovation of the Heart
Bo Stern Brady: What Is Spiritual Transformation?, Matthew 4:17

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Hi friends. It's good to see you happy day. I know a lot of you well, and some of you, I don't know. Well, so I thought I would start with, if my life had an ingredients label, I think the top five ingredients would probably be these, even though I'm too old to be able to read labels anymore. I just realized that the other day I was reading this how to stay healthy and they were like, read all the labels on your stuff. And I'm like, well, that would be great. That's a young man's game reading labels. I can't do it. I've had to explain to people in the store I can read. I just can't see. So could you tell me the price of this please? number one, I am a wife, number two, a mom, number three, introvert, number four, not as old as I, not as young as I used to be number five faster.

00:51 These are the things that I think are kind of my labels. They're kind of who I am. And, there are other things of course, but those are the things I think about lot. These are the things that call a lot of the shots in my life. And so I wonder if you would be willing to participate in this this morning, I was gonna have you turn to your neighbor and say something, but the introvert in me one out, and you're welcome for that. and so , if you would just put your hand out in front of you and think of five labels, you say these are some of the ingredients of my identity.

01:36 Couple of months ago, I spoke at a girls conference and it was for girls ages 14 to 18, and it was awesome and they were awesome. And I had the best time, but I had a moment. I was up in the green room and I was just waiting. I was excited and I loved what I was gonna share with them. Actually, with some of this, I loved what I was gonna share with them. And I was ready. I mean, I was, I had some caffeinated coffee. I was ready to go and I heard the music start and I walked into the sanctuary where they were, and it was filled with girl in sweatshirts, worshiping their hearts out. They were beautiful and skinny and so young, so, so young. And I was watching them thinking like a, this is awesome. B I am old. I am so, so old.

02:29 And they were exactly as young as I, you and I started to question everything all of a sudden, this one thing in my identity starts to pull my thoughts away from the stuff that I had thought would be good for them. And all of a sudden I'm like, I'm not enough for them. I don't know. I don't speak their language. I don't know what the things that they are saying mean I don't dress like them. I don't all of those things. And then I remembered the week before I have visited my parents and my parents live in a really lovely retirement community and their place where they live has a big picture window. And outside the window, there is a one mile kind of track where all the residents love to gather and walk and a woman was walking by their window and she was lovely, beautiful woman. And she's pushing a Walker. And my mom said, she walks this track every day. She does the full thing every day. And she says, my name is Harriet, and this is my chariot. Speaker 4

03:30 I know I love it.

03:32 And she is 100 years old. I know. And I was, I was amazed at that also at the very same time thought, I'm not that old I'm okay. I could do like a one and a half of this track. No problem I could, without a Walker, I could do it. And so I was thinking how subjective it is. These labels that we think are so defining and they move us and they make us make decisions. And they call the shots in our life. Real are almost always, they could be true. The label. I am a mom. I am a wife. Those things can be true, but they are unreliable narrators for your identity. They aren't good at telling you who you really are when everything else is stripped away, because I had labels and in my life that I really counted on and I really thought I would own them forever.

04:23 I was a Bible college student, and then I was a wife and then I was a mom. And then I was a caregiver. And then I was a widow. And then I was a wife again. And then I was a stepmom. I mean, my labels in my life have always been changing and that's not bad, but it's not a reliable grid for who I really am. And so you probably have all kinds of labels in your life. Maybe you were the funny one, or you feel like you're the too much one, or you were athletic or you were successful in business, or you feel like a failure or your label is divorced. Maybe these labels feel very true of you. They feel maybe like the truest part of you, but I'm gonna say the only thing that is the truest part of you is the thing that can't be taken.

05:13 If it can be taken it, can't always be reliable in terms of describing your identity. And so when I stand before Jesus, when all of this rap SEP, I will really only possess one label that I think I can have throughout my whole life on earth and my whole life in eternity. And that is loved. I am loved. And that is the label that can't be shaken or taken or moved or changed. It is always there. We are unconditionally. Scandalously loved by a God. Who's crazy about us. And even as I say those words, I know that they bounce off of some of your labels. Then it's too hard to understand, but this is, I think, essential that we get that we understand that there is only one thing on which we can bank our whole identity. There's only one thing we have to live out of the core of the one thing as a mom, I wanna live out of the core of the fact that I am loved by God as a wife, as a past, as a what I wanna live out of that core.

06:19 And when I do, when I orient my thoughts and my decisions and all of who I am around the fact that I am loved rather than orienting it around the fact that I am a mom or a wife or orienting around my labels, my life changes. It starts to look, I think like what Jesus had in mind from the very beginning. So spiritual formation happens when the character and way of Jesus is formed inside of us. We talk a lot about discipleship. We there's, there's a million books on it and conferences, and we've had a lot of conversations about it, but often those conversations center around what we want people to know. But for the next six weeks, we wanna talk about how we want people to form. What should our life look like in the nitty gritty in the, in the daily kitchen, sink decisions, conversations, how does a life look that is fully oriented around the unchanging?

07:17 Love God, how would that look if we did that? And so we're gonna really dive into that. And in order to do it, what we wanna do today is decide what is it? What are the elements of our human condition that we are even orienting around the love of God? What are we made of? And it's really six things. This is from Dallas Willard's book, renovation of the heart, which has been transformational for me, but it is a tough read. I will give you that, but it's, it's a really good book, but the six dimensions of the human condition are thoughts, feelings, decisions, body, relational, context, and soul. So these six things are all the things that make us make us who we are. They, they they're the things from which our decisions flow. The things, how, what, how I show up in my world is the product of these things, who I am when no one's watching.

08:12 So the product of these six things, I'm really fascinated in my life right now, by thoughts, feelings, and decisions, because the they're all so wrapped up together, they're distinct, but they impact one another. I mean, you can know that it's really good for you to eat, right? You can know it, you can read all the articles you can, you know, and you can make a plan to eat, right? You know, your thoughts and your fee, and you can want to, you don't really want to, your feelings can be there, but if your decisions don't activate, don't engage. You're not gonna do it. I know this because I do know it's good for me to run, even though I used to love it. And now I don't love it so much, but I have to do it. And so in order to do it, I make one decision.

08:57 I, because my thoughts, no, it's right. My feelings aren't really there. So I've gotta make a decision that moves around my around my, feelings. And my decision is not tomorrow. I'm gonna run at two o'clock. My decision is in the morning, I'm gonna put my tennis shoes on. I'm gonna start right there and hope that that will, one decision will carry the weight of my resistant emotions and get to a trail. And so we do this, we, we, we start to see how our thoughts and our feelings and feelings are a big deal too. This is, I think sometimes when you say you have to orient your feelings around the love of God, it sounds like you need to orient your feelings around happiness. You need to be happy. You need to stop being depressed. You need to stop being a complainer. You need whatever.

09:40 But this means I get to bring all my honest feelings to Jesus. I get to feel exactly how I feel, except in his presence. I get to bring my, and I'm just, I'm learning in my life. How to experience sorrow and not just try to grow from it. I get to experience it. It's okay. And so these kinds of things, as we start to bring them in front of God, as we start to say, I wanna move all of these things, your direction. I wanna build my life around your love. This is what it begins to look like every week for the next six weeks, we're gonna be going through each one of these things and saying, how do we do it? But I wanna talk today about why we do it. And one of the why's is because the Bible tells us to, and it uses the word reorientation a whole bunch of times, old Testament, new Testament.

10:33 It's a lot of places where you look it, but it isn't actually the word reorientation. It's the word meta. And the word meta is the Greek word. That means repentance and repentance is a lot of times we'll say it means to turn around and go the other way, but to turn around and go, the other way is just behavior modification. It really doesn't mean that what meta means is to thought by thought layer by layer, turn your thinking in a new direction, start to think differently. And then actions that flow out of that will be the result of real true transformation. And so meta, we see it as a reorienting of our thought, turn your thoughts around, go a different way with them. And things will start to change in your life. And so the Bible promises a lot of things. If we are willing to move our thoughts toward the love of God, the first one is rest.

11:31 Dallas Willard said the most important thing we can do to become fully devoted followers of Jesus is the ruthless limb of hurry. And I am a world class Herer. I will brush my teeth while tying my shoes. I wanna do everything at one time. I will have the TV on and my laptop and my cell phone. And I'm like, I have a terrible attention span. And so all these things, and I'm starting to learn that that is the product of a broken soul. That is the product of wanting to just keep out, running, whatever I don't wanna feel. And so when it's time to bring my whole self to Jesus, this, and say, here I am. My thought is, what do I do here? Well, I could worship. I could journal. I could write. I could whatever. And then it's like, no, just be, just be loved.

12:24 Be loved, sit in his presence and see how that impacts the decisions you make when you leave that place. So rest is a big gift of repentance is says, Isaiah 30 in repentance and rest is your salvation in quietness. And trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. So I love that Jesus was never in a hurry. He moved at his own pace through a world that was pulling at him to do more, preach more, be more, Jesus lived an unhurried life. And I wanna try that too. The second thing is refreshing, refreshing. Isn't a word that I use very often. It's kind of a big marketing word, but it's not a word that I use, but it's beautiful. acts three 19 says repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out. And the times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

13:13 This is a little it like when, if you're trudging through a desert and you're hot and thirsty and you just want to stop and you come up on an Oasis and you get to take a drink and sit in some shade and renew your strength and renew for the journey. This is also like a flight lounge at the airport. Same idea. Exactly. When you can renew for the next leg of the journey, this is big and reorientating your thoughts. It produces this in our life. It gives us a chance to stop and take from God and be refreshed. Fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is another, byproduct of repentance or reorientation says produce fruit in keeping with rep penance. So those who repent produce the fruit of repentance. What kind of fruit comes from an apple tree? I know you always feel like I'm tricking you, don't you.

14:05 And I promise I'm not, I'm not yet. I mean, apples comes from an apple tree Walnut come from a Walnut tree, the kind of tree that it is produces the kind of fruit and what kind of, where, where, what comes from a money tree. There is no money tree. That was the trick actually. But if you spend less than you save, the fruit will be wealth. If you take care of yourself, the fruit will be health. The fruit that comes from repentance, from orienting, our thoughts toward who God is and his character and his life, and his love for us is that his character and his life and his love will start to grow from our life into our world. We'll start to carry into the world. The very kind of fruit that has worked inside of us when we connect to the right tree.

14:56 So, fruitfulness, the next one is light and clarity of thought and direction. Matthew for says, the people living in darkness have seen a great light on those living in the land of the shadow of death. A light has dawned from time on Jesus began to preach. Repent for the kingdom of heaven is coming near. Do you see how Jesus connects repentance to light in our darkness? Jesus came to be the light. And as we connect to him, we start to see direction. We start to see clarity. I find that when I orient my life around my problems and I start to make the, the pro and con list, and I start to try to figure out an answer and I start to figure out what to do. I get messed up. But when I orient my problems around the love of God, I start to hear from him direction.

15:44 How do I respond to an enemy? Dallas Willard says in his book, the, the truest grid for discipleship, whether or not you are a follower of Jesus Christ is how you spontaneously respond to your enemies. So when I have an enemy, how do I respond? Do I respond? Protecting my labels, protect. I'm a mom. I need to protect my kids. I'm a pastor. I need to protect my reputation or do I respond? I am a follower of Jesus who turn the other. This will be the fruit of those who orient around the love of God and not around their problems, light and direction on how to respond. And then, life, when they heard this, they said they had no further objections and praise God saying. So then even to Gentiles, God has granted repentance that leads to life. Jesus said the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but I've come to give you life.

16:41 And now we see, okay, life comes from repentance. So when we orient around the love of God, we understand that the primary role and goal of the thief is to turn our thoughts toward who, toward him. I don't think so. I think toward me, I think the, the enemy is always gonna wanna steal from me peace and joy in life, by turning my thoughts away from the goodness and the grace of Jesus. And so it's not, this is not about I, I need to not sin because we've sin over on this hand and holiness over here and sin is bad, but fun and holiness is right, but boring. And so I should probably go this way. It isn't that I, I, I think God wants for us life. It's not that he wants for us to follow the rules. The rules are only there because they produce life and freedom and joy and more life.

17:37 And so repentance, reorientation leads to life. And then reorienting our thoughts toward the love of God leads to having no regrets. Second Corinthians says godly. Sorrow brings repentance. That leads to salvation and leaves, no regret, but worldly, sorrow brings death. And so this regret thing is really big. It's been big in my life. I was praying one day and I felt this really. I just felt like I had a weighty cloudy soul, just like my soul was living in this cloudy. Maybe it's cuz I'm in Portland. It's like, this good clouds in the rain are in my very soul. And I, I was just praying and kind of visualizing the landscape of my soul. And I also, holy spirit show me my soul. And so I started like seeing my soul as a garden and in the garden, there's an orchard and it's fruitful and there's some cool things and cool vines and things happening.

18:38 And then I come around a corner and there's this dark place. And all the plants there are dead and everything is dying and crunchy, dry. And I felt like the holy spirit said, this is the garden of regret. This is where you store all the decisions you wish you would've made the failures. The words you wish you wouldn't have said, the words you wish you would've said, this is where you keep all those things. And it lives inside your soul, alongside the fruit. And, and it is taking from the life of the rest of it. And so good news. We have a master gardener who can come in alongside us and say, what could we do with this plot of ground? What could we do with what you've learned from having a pile of regrets that you wish you hadn't done, but what could God do? A God who made so out of nothing, what could he do with that? And the promise is repentance leads to salvation and no regret. And so that is a beautiful part. And so many lovely things that come from this idea of, I want the character of Christ formed inside of me. I don't wanna live to protect my life Ables. I don't wanna live to protect my agenda. I don't wanna, I wanna live knowing that I have been called to be a reflection of his grace and mercy in my world.

20:02 We can sit at church week after week and listen to the message of the kingdom. We can communicate it to others in a way that is true and even beautiful. And, but are our lives really being changed? Are we being transformed? Are we still struggling with peace or with faith? Are we wrestling with fear and anxiety or insecurity? Are we hiding away? Some Simine disappointment or disillusionment has our I, our ideology become ideology. Am I being transformed? This is a step by step process. And I don't wanna do it because God will be mad at me if I don't, I wanna do it because I understand there is so much beauty on the other side of letting his life come alive in our lives. That's what I wanna know. It's just so easy to give ourselves to information and never truly experience transformation. Every public figure, every public failure by a spiritual leader is a result of one thing.

21:07 A failure to orient the big six of their human condition around the love of God. We see it actually in the disciples over and over again. But the most prominent, I think example is Peter. Peter lives with Jesus, watches, him, sees him. And then it says, Jesus comes. And he says, who do people say that I am? And, and they speculate a lot of things, but Peter stands up and he says, you are the Christ, the son of the living God. And in this moment we see a man whose whole condition has been oriented to the truth of who God is in his world. And Jesus says, blessed are you flesh? And blood has not revealed this to you. You are rightly oriented. Your thoughts are straight. You've got it. And on you on this foundation of truth, I'm gonna build my church. And then he says to the disciples, that he, or order them then to tell no one who he was.

22:04 Why do you think? I think maybe because they've got this of who he is, but they think he is supposed to be, they, they orient the Messiah around their label. What is their label? Captives of Rome. And so when we look at the Messiah through the lens of our label, I need a physical deliverer. We're gonna represent him wrongly to our world. We're gonna represent him as political rep retribution rather than suffering Redeemer. And so until they see Jesus suffering, Jesus understands you're gonna represent me wrong until you see more of who I am. And then he says, from that time, Jesus began to point out his disciples, that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things from the elders and to be killed and to be raised up on the third day. And yet Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him saying, God forbid it, Lord, this shall never happen to you.

23:04 Do you see how fast his, the trajectory of his thoughts turns from you are able to do anything to, I need to protect your reputation in a minute, our thoughts can change and become oriented around a problem or our own person or our own need instead of the truth and the, the unmitigated, veracity of the love of Jesus and the, then Jesus says, get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block to me for you are not setting your mind on God's purposes, but men's the direction of our thoughts and our decisions and our feelings and our relationships and our body and our soul is everything about who we become. It will determine who we become and how we serve him.

24:00 Just true confession. As I was a little girl, I was raised church. I I've slept on more pews than you can imagine. and, I never imagined a time in my life when I wouldn't go to church for even two weeks. I just did when my, my husband and I were people who went to church on vacation, that might be a regret. but pandemic came and all of a sudden, I don't a church to go to. And I would've told you, my thoughts were oriented around the love of God. And, and that I was walking in his way. Well, are you serving the poor? Sure. Because my church serves the poor and I give to my church. Or are you serving widows? Yeah, because my church does and I give my church. Are you worshiping? Yeah, because my church does and I sit in the front row a lot and all of a sudden it was like, oh, I think my thoughts have been oriented about God are oriented around the church church. Isn't bad. The church is true, but I want them oriented around the love of God. It's the love of God that surpasses all meetings and programs. All of the things we've built

25:11 And stands alone, no matter what, One of the very thing we thought Satan had sent to destroy the church is the thing that God has sent to build us up. As people who truly know him, truly orient around his grace walk in true repentance. Speaker 5

25:32 What if that

25:36 Would you take the communion cup That you have In your empty hand, you have your labels

25:47 And they are powerful. It is easy to wanna become more of all of those things or less of all of those things. But in your other hand, you hold the body and blood of Jesus Christ who died for all that. You are all that you think you are all that you wish you weren't. And it, this tiny sacrament is more powerful than even the most defining label than even the most bitter heartache than even the most remarkable triumph. And so I would love to ask you to just hold your hands together, both the body and blood of Jesus and the things that you think define you and Jesus, you see us, he here, You see how we long to be more like you. We long to let your life come alive inside of our lives. We long to represent you well to a world that is so sad. And we long to, know what you've promised us. And so God, today we ask that as we gather around your supper, as we gather around this sacrament, as we gather, we remember that your love has the final say in every debate, in every decision, your love has the final say and together we join

27:10 In remembering you. If you open up the bread side And just hold this in your hand and just remember, this is the body of Jesus. This represents the greatest act of love anybody's ever done for you. Jesus gave the bread to his disciples and he said, every time, remember me, this is my body broken for you. And they didn't know fully what it meant, but we do. And so gather, we take the bread and we remember the body of Jesus Christ, Jesus bless the cup. And he gave it to his disciples and said, this is my blood. Take it and drink it. And remember, and so we remember together, the blood and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jesus, we're in awe of you. And we love you. And we wanna build all our lives around you. We will build our lives upon your love because it is a firm and unshakable foundation. We give you glory today and we thank you for the body and the blood of Jesus Christ in your name, we pray. Amen.