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Evan Earwicker: What is a Rhythm of Life?, Romans 12:1-2

October 15, 2023

Audio Recording

Rhythms of Life keep us connected to Jesus. They move us beyond religious checkboxes into a lifestyle that integrates faith into everyday moments.

Evan Earwicker: What is a Rhythm of Life?, Romans 12:1-2

Sermon Transcript:

You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. The way your life is going is a result of the systems that are in place. Your rhythms, your habits, the way your life plays out day after day after day. And that those systems are producing the kind of life you have and they are doing a masterful job of it.

Now, that doesn't mean all those systems are designed well or good. Some are, some aren't. But whatever those systems are in place in your life, those are what are creating the life we live. And how was your morning this morning?

That's all right, right? Probably not too memorable. Probably because it was exactly the same as last Sunday's morning, right? And tomorrow you'll have a Monday that probably will look a lot like the Monday before it. This is what Gretchen Rubin says. She says, for good and bad, habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. And research suggests that about 40% of our behavior is repeated almost daily and mostly in the same context. 40% of your life is unoriginal today. And this of course, saves us a lot of trouble if we had to have a sit down discussion, either with a spouse or with ourselves, about like, do I wear socks today or not? Do I take a shower today? Should I brush my teeth? Let's have a conversation. Let's make a decision that would be exhausting. And so, thankfully, our minds work in such a way that many things go on autopilot and we just do them day after day.

But the danger of that, of course, is that unhealthy habits can slip into our daily rhythm and they become the natural default that we live in. And day after day, year after year, we start to find out that the output of our lives, the outflow of our lives, looks a lot like the habits that have found their way into our rhythm of life. And so that's why it's so critical and so important that we consider what the rhythm of life that we have is. Because no matter what I guarantee you, you have one. The question is, do you know what it is? And is it working for you? Do you know what it is? And is it working for you? And so we're going to talk about this. Romans, chapter twelve, verse one and two. Out of the message version.

Paul writes this to all of us. He says, So here's what I want you to do. God helping you take your everyday, ordinary life. You're sleeping, eating, going to work, walking around life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out, readily recognize what he wants from you and quickly respond to it, unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity. Somebody say amen to that.

God brings out the best of you and develops well formed maturity in you. I want to be well formed and mature in my faith and in my life.

I think the best version of ourselves that we can offer to those that we love and our families and our friends and to the world around us is one that is deeply formed by the life of Jesus.

And it is easy in a community like ours to live off other people's spirituality, right? We actually don't find that in Scripture. We don't find that coming from Jesus. Jesus asks all of us to take our lives and place it before God as an offering.

Most of us own Bibles, but do we read it expecting to hear from God for ourselves? We know about prayer, but do we take the moments in our day to pray?

What are our hopes for our world and our family, our children? Do they look any different from those outside of this community?

Well, during Jesus'time, following Jesus meant something pretty drastically different than it means today. If I talk to you about following Jesus today, you probably think in religious terms, right? You probably think about an association with this church or that church. You might think of a way of belief or a system that creates a worldview for you following Jesus as maybe an intellectual exercise or a system of beliefs. But in Jesus day, when he was walking around to follow Jesus, literally meant to follow Jesus.

And for some, it became a really challenging experience of belief and faith, and all this was shaped. But originally, for all these guys and these women that were following after Jesus, it started with a simple agreement to actually just walk behind him, to follow him.

And for those who followed Jesus, it was a very clear distinction for those who were not following Jews because they were leaving behind an entire way of life to take up a different way of living.

After Jesus'resurrection. The church forms. A new community emerges, and Jesus is no longer present for them to follow in physical terms, but in a like manner, the church forms in this really distinct, unique way. They gather every day. It says, in the temple for prayer.

They meet in each other's homes, and they share meals, and they sell possessions and land so that when there's need within the community, those needs are covered by what's been sold. Their lifestyle looks different than those around them. And if you, in those very early days, were to ask a Christian, what is this movement you're a part of?

How they would not respond. They would not respond in terms of, well, I attend this church.

I am a part of this religious order. They wouldn't speak in terms of religion or organized religion or churches, what they would have responded with if you said, what is this movement you're a part of? They would have talked about Jesus himself.

They would have talked about this teacher, this rabbi from Galilee, who seemed like he was a nobody, born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth and just working class. But somehow the spirit of God seemed like it was on Him in ways that we couldn't explain.

And he healed and he spoke in a way that we had never heard before. And then he died. But there was rumors after that that he was alive again. I mean, they would have talked about the person of Jesus, but all that changed in about 300, the year 300, when Constantine has this vision. The Emperor of the Roman Empire has a vision of a cross.

And after that vision, he immediately says, okay, Christianity is no longer going to be persecuted. It's going to be legalized, and actually it's going to be the official religion of the Roman Empire.

And that might sound like a good thing, but what actually happened was that it melded the world of Christian faith with the world of the Roman Empire. And so the values of Rome started to get diluted with the values within the Church. And it got to the point over those next couple hundred years where this Holy Roman Empire might have had the title of Holy, but it became an environment that was actually hostile to actually following after Jesus.

The Christian faith at this moment in history is both politically powerful and spiritually impotent. Never had this much power, never had this much influence, as when Constantine declares, this is everybody's religion now. Never been more politically powerful, and yet Jesus is missing oftentimes in the expression and the practice of the faith. And so what happens is there's these faithful men and women who realize, like this system, the Holy Roman Empire, and all that the Church is becoming is no longer conducive to following Jesus. And we need to find a place where we can rediscover what it was like for those early disciples to actually follow after Jesus. And so they go out literally into the desert, and they become what we know today as the desert fathers and the desert mothers. And at first they're hermits. They're just individuals, like living in the sand, but word gets out of this radical reformation of the faith, and so before long, you have hundreds and then thousands of people coming out to visit these desert fathers and desert mothers to hear the ancient wisdom and to be stirred again in following after Jesus.

And sometimes I wonder in our day in the world we live in with the delusion of Christianity in the 21st century, if we don't need to rediscover a desert place to recommit to a connection to the life of Jesus, we need to find a desert. Maybe not a literal one. Maybe we don't withdraw from our jobs and vocations. Maybe we don't leave our families behind to go live the life of the monastic people out in the desert. But maybe we find within our everyday rhythms the way we work and live and are in relationship and have families how we wake up, how we go to sleep that all the way through the rhythm of our life we carve out these moments, these desert moments where we pause to remember that our life comes from Christ.

And that if our life has ceased to look any different from everybody else we know inside or outside the church maybe we need to rediscover what it looks like to drop our nets and follow the demand. Jesus and so what this looks like, I think, for us is hopefully inspirational. But I think it's deeply practical, deeply practical that we would turn again to some of these ancient ways of understanding how we live. And the desert fathers, when these thousands of people were coming out, they realized, like, oh, we need some structure here. This is a lot of people. And so they created these two kind of guiding structures for their communities. One was the structure of faith and one was the structure of life. And the word that they used in Latin was the word for trellis. It was this way that life could grow, but not grow wherever it was guided in its growth. And so the rule, translated in English is rule, or the word is rule. And you might think that's, like rules, it means less about rules and more about, like a ruler or a trellis or a structure. And so they had this structure for their faith, what they believed, and then they had a structure for the life of how they would practice what they believed and how it would look like in real life, day after day, week after week, year after year. And it's this structure for life, this rhythm of life, that we want to dive into today and consider for ourselves a modern version, a version that is different and adaptable to your life and your stage and your personality, but a way that we can say, jesus, I want to stay connected to you.

The root of all this idea for the ancients and also for us today is from Jesus in John Chapter 15. When Jesus sat with the disciples at the Last Supper and he taught them this profound idea in John 15 five, he says, yes, I am the vine and you are the branches. And those who remain in me, and I in them will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing. I want you to take notice that he says that it's in remaining in him that fruit is produced. We love to compartmentalize our spirituality with the rest of our lives, right? Sunday morning, from 1030 to 1130, maybe 35 today, we'll see how long I go that's my spiritual time. Okay? And that's great. I'm glad you're here. And then that's over. And maybe in the afternoon, then I shift into other time.

And we love to compartmentalize our faith from what we would call, like, real life.

And Jesus says, if you remain in me, if you stay connected to me throughout the whole day, jesus, that's like crazy. What do you want me pray all the time? That'll go over well at parties. That'll be fun, right?

Here's the thing. There is a state, I believe, of constant connection that we understand in the modern world, right? We know what it is to be connected all the time. Now, there might be some young people in the room, and you never knew the joy of growing up in a time and place where once you left your house, your parents had no way of reaching you.

This was wonderful.

Mom and dad need me home early. They can't find me, right?

There's no way to reach me. I think of that old book and movie call, The Wild, where the young guy goes out into the Alaskan wilderness and tries to live off of the bushes and berries. It was like that for us all the time, right? We were just in the wind as children without cell phones, like no way to connect to us, just living our best life.

Well, of course, now we are connected all the time, right? If the kids are too young for phones, they get these watches where helicopter parents can track their every move. It's suffocating. And this is the life we live in, right?

If I forget my phone at home on the way to work, more than likely I'm going to turn around. I don't want to be disconnected all day long. That's too high of a price to pay in our day and age. And I think it gives us actually a picture of a state of constant connection that we can actually envision when we think about our life in Christ.

Hopefully you're not on your phone 24 hours a day. We'll talk about that later. If you are, hopefully you're not, but you have access to be reached that if someone needs to get a hold of you. If some breaking news is happening, you're going to find out about it because you are connected in the same way, and that's an imperfect metaphor, but in the same way. Our connection to Christ is one where, no, we don't become people. That all we ever do is mumble prayers under our breath in the line at costco. That's not what we're talking about. But we are talking about staying in a state of connection to Jesus, to where we are listening and available. Should he speak to us through a conversation or in a quiet moment in the car that we have our ears tuned. And we have created space in the rhythm of our life to hear his voice and to respond to Him, to receive his goodness and his love and things as simple as a beautiful sunrise or a moment with a friend that we experience the presence of God. One of the probably most well known desert fathers was a man by the name of Ignatius. And there's this story, and it's a very old story, but a story of him. And he actually was watching as one of his disciples was teaching and was explaining that there was a certain hours long requirement for prayer every day in solitude. And Ignatius rebukes him and he says, over an hour in prayer, you only need five minutes if you're doing it right.

Okay, well that is from like 300 Ad. So that I probably translated a little bit, paraphrase a little bit. But the idea was this, that we experience God's presence in many places and we need to stop thinking about it in compartmentalized terms, that God only visits us in a worship setting or in a church service. But that every day as we walk through the regular ordinary day that we have, that we experience God's goodness and his presence in our lives.

And so through this, what we're going to do as a church over the next few weeks is we're going to encourage you to write down what a rearranged life could look like, a new rhythm of life.

This may not look like carving out hours and hours of your day. It may not look like completely throwing out everything you do. You have obligations, you have families, you might have children that need care, you might have parents that you're looking after. All these things that press on our time, we're not saying to stop doing those, but we're saying can we rearrange the way that we live in such a way where we stay connected to the life of Christ? An example in my life I was realizing this is about a year ago, that one of the most stressful moments of my day was my drive, my commute, my short commute from my house into the church every morning.

And in those minutes, it's not long, but in those minutes, all the stresses of what was coming at me for the day started to flood into my mind. And so by the time I would arrive at church, I'm thinking about emails I have to respond to and I think about appointments I have to have, and I think about church people that are angry at me. I mean, that never happened, but you can imagine if it did and all the different things that are on the list of to do's for the day. And I found myself stressed out before I even got to my day.

And so I was challenged by this. And about a year and a half ago, several of us went to this seminar. And it was around prayer. And out of that seminar we were given some scriptures and old prayers to pray and I thought, maybe I need to replace my stress time with some simple prayers. And so because it's a bad idea to read while you're driving are we not clear on this? Do I need to explain this? Okay. Anyway created an audio track of some of these prayers. And so now for those about seven and a half minutes on my way to work, I'm listening to the same prayers every single day. And they're not flashy and they're not crazy and they're repetitive. But I'll tell you what, every morning when I get to work, instead of stressing about what's awaiting me and what's on my to do list, I'm praying these prayers like Psalms 23 that Lindsay read this morning.

Surely goodness and mercy is going to follow me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. Bless the Lord o my soul.

Forget not all his benefits.

He redeems your life from the pit. He heals all your iniquities. He crowns you with lovingkindness. Bless the Lord o my soul.

The Lord is my shepherd. I don't want for any. So I start praying these prayers every day. I've been doing this for six months or so. And I'll tell you what, there is a marked difference in my posture and my approach. The problems of my day when a few minutes are carved out to refocus and reconnect myself to the life of Christ doesn't change how much productivity I can get out of the day. It's these simple pivots and tweaks in my life so that I can pause long enough to remember that my life is not my own, but I am the most fruit producing, productive person when I'm connected to the vine that is Jesus.

And so we've created a very simple worksheet for you. Some of you are like, worksheet, yikes. And some of you are like, oh, give me all the worksheets. Pastor Evan, I love homework. This is for you.

So it's at slash life. It was going to be slash rhythms, but there's two h's in that. I know it can be confusing to spell, so we went with life, which everyone can spell. Maybe that's just me. slash life, it's a simple two pages. It just gives you some prompts to think about and write down. And then on the back, four areas of life to consider different ways that we can integrate into our life rhythms that focus our attention on Jesus. Now, these are not all religious rhythms, right?

We can be focused on the life of Christ and connected to Jesus through intentional conversations with people we love. Good meals, times where we set the phone down and we speak to our children. Can you imagine last night, my wife, God bless her, she was playing a board game with our daughter. And then my son is like, sitting next to them and he's just like, daddy, where are you, Daddy? And he said, dad, do you want to play a board game? And I felt so bad because I'm on my phone on Instagram, and I didn't respond this way, but I thought how rude would have been if I sorry, son. I'm looking for funny memes on the Internet. I'll get to you later. No, of course not. So I set the phone down, and I realized, like, I got to have better rhythms about when I do, and don't you hear what I'm saying? So this isn't all about just religious practices. This is about creating rhythms and space for prayer, but also for rest.

Are there moments during your week where you say, this isn't about productivity right now? This whole idea, this ancient idea of Sabbath all the way back to the Ten Commandments, all the way back to the creation story in Genesis where God rests after six days and takes a whole day off? We do that, too. Why? Because we remind ourselves in resting that we're not God and that the world is not reliant on your productivity. And so we rest to remind ourselves that God is in control.

Relationships and family and then work. And vocation. How do we see God's work displayed through the work that we do? Whether we're swinging a hammer or selling insurance or running a large multinational corporation, whatever you do, how is God's work reflected and mirrored in the work that we do? So check that out. Also on that page are some of those scriptures and prayers that many and our pastoral staff are praying every day. And I'd welcome you to pray along with us. So a few things as we close today. What the rhythm of life looks like.

Number one, the rhythm of life requires intention.

Requires intention. I don't know if you saw in the news a few weeks ago, maybe a month ago, there was a fighter jet on a test flight flying over the continental US. And for some reason, I don't remember why, the pilot ejected out of that plane. And then the plane kept flying. This is a very expensive multibillion dollar, I think, F 35. And so he parachutes down, and they call, I think, just 911. It sounds like a skit, but it's not. It really happened. He calls 911, and he's like, hi, I'm a fighter jet pilot. I had to eject. And I don't know where the plane went.

So they get in touch with the US. Military, and you can look it up. The news from a few weeks ago, the US. Military sent out notification to just random people in the area where the jet was flying, asking them if they could look up and see if they could find it. Because it's stealth, right? They can't find it. I'm amazed that the US Military would spend these billions of dollars and not even put, like, an air tag for, like, find my friends on that thing. Right? The technology exists.

The plane eventually crashed. No one was hurt, thankfully. But it's a problem, right, when the plane keeps going. And I was thinking about how many times we have our spirituality, and it's like this plane that we're riding in, and if Jesus ejects out of that plane and we keep flying, it's not going to end well, right?

And so we need to turn off the autopilot and stay connected to the work of Jesus in our lives. We don't have an autopilot spirituality.

Even as we integrate practices into our life, we don't do it in such a way where they just become rote routines. We are engaged with the life of Christ in a way that requires intention. And this is where in the Gospel of Mark, we see this rich young guy, this ruler, it says. And he shows up to talk to Jesus, and he starts out with this kind of bragging about how good he is. He's like, I'm super successful, and also I'm really devout. I keep all the commandments. I've got it all going on Jesus. And I imagine he was hoping Jesus would be like, you're amazing. Good job, buddy. And instead, the rich young leader says, what should I do to get eternal life? And I'm imagining him thinking like, and Jesus is going to be like, you already got it, bro. You're in. And instead, Jesus says, you actually need to realize that it's going to take intentionality to follow me, and you need to leave some things behind, just like Peter and James and John did in the boat. You need to leave some things behind to intentionally follow me.

And it says he went away sad because he couldn't do it. And I think the call for that young ruler is the call to us. Are we willing to set some things aside, not all of our obligations, not all of our lives, but some things aside to follow Jesus in practical ways. I don't want to play act Christianity.

I don't want to go through all the motions and not realize that Jesus is no longer in the cockpit.

Number two, this rhythm of life is a lifestyle, not a to do list.

We don't need more checkboxes in our lives, especially not religious checkboxes.

It's really easy to turn our faith in Christ into a series of do's and don'ts and checkboxes that if we click through them, we feel good about ourselves. That's what the rich young ruler is doing. And Jesus said, it's not about that. It's about your whole life intentionally following after me. And so even on the worksheet, you'll notice there's no prescribed practices. There's no specific things that we're demanding everyone do. They're questions that are saying, how are we going to stay connected to the life of Christ? Not only when we come to church, not only when we have our morning time in the Bible or time in prayer, but all throughout our days that we find God in every conversation, in every moment, in every relationship that we experience his grace and his presence through the Holy Spirit. And then finally, the rhythm of life is practical. I think oftentimes things that we teach on and talk about in this space are ways to think and believe and our perspective, and that's all really important. But there are moments where we really have to think about how is this playing out in my real everyday life? How does this look in my relationship with my spouse or my kids or my coworkers? How does this play out? And so this is a really practical thing that we are inviting the church into to consider our rhythms of life. If you're listening to this and you feel stuck like that, and this feels like an impossible task because of the ways that you are trapped in cycles of thinking and behaviors that are damaging and destructive.

I just had the sense, I think it's from Jesus as I was preparing for this, that Jesus is really happy to see you when you come before Him, even with your stuff.

In fact, in Matthew 1128, he said this to those that were listening around Him. He said, are you tired?

Are you worn out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me, and you'll recover your life.

I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me. Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.

I won't lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you.

Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.

And I'm telling you that feel stuck today, that this is an invitation into the living freely and lightly that is marked by the unforced rhythms of his grace.