Every year, the Lawsons and the Rushings go to the National Peanut Festival (at least once). A couple of years ago, Allison, Misty and myself were standing in front of one of the fun houses. You know the one with the glass maze as you enter. Bradley was either on a corndog run or had already left to finish up his sermon or watch LSU lose to Alabama. Anyway, the three of us were standing there with Keller while our little girls entered the maze. We stood there talking and then either Allison or Misty said, “Where’s Keller?” At about the point panic starts to set in, we look up and see 3 year old Keller in the middle of the glass maze, trying to follow the bigger girls. Except he’s stuck in the middle of this maze and every time he try to step forward, he’s met by this cruel invisible wall of glass. After a few minutes of laughing and seeing that Keller was on the verge of an emotional breakdown, I went in to rescue him. It was obvious that he wasn’t getting out of that maze.
Now as the new year approaches, we find ourselves on the verge of leaving a spiritually exciting time in our church, as we just hosted around 4,000 people with Walk Thru Bethlehem. And in our lives, in general, as we’re leaving the Christmas Season. WTB is packed up, The Christmas decorations have, or will soon, be placed back into the attic. It’s true that we have New Year’s just before us, but that excitement will soon fade away along with our resolutions. And then we’re into the day-in and day-out of our spiritual lives.
Chances are, if you are like me, at some point you’re going to feel spiritually stuck. Like a 3 year old, trapped in a glass maze, and no matter which way you turn, you’re hitting your head against a wall that often times, you can’t even see.
3 Mental Mistakes That Lead Us To Be Spiritually Stagnant
Desire – Romans 7:15-17 –
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
15- Paul is articulating here something that is very commonplace. We are creatures with mixed desires. We are never left with only one desire working in our hearts or in our minds. The whole business of making choices is a very complex thing, and that complexity is intensified by the fact that we have several choices or desires coexisting within our hearts at any given moment.
Paul brings about the crucial issue.
Life Principle: There is often a disconnect between our heart and mind. What we think or know and what we desire.
16- Paul’s hatred toward sin, is a testimony that he loves God and understands that God’s law is a good thing.
17- Paul is not denying personal responsibility for his sin. What he is saying is that the real I, the new I, the person that I am in Jesus Christ, is not doing that. It is the old self who has been put to death with Christ that is gaining the upper hand here.
ILL: Mama has been wanting a new car…happy wife, happy life. So, we’ve done some shopping and found something that we hope will work well for our family. We broke it in the other day by taking a trip to Walmart, when we walked outside, Allison said, “I was looking for the luggage carrier on top of our old car.
Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves of the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Jesus Christ has drastically changed who we are. We are, in fact, something new.
Quite honestly, sometimes I think we lack the desire that Paul writes about in Phil 3:12-14. – 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
But no Christian in this world achieves a 100% consistent desire to obey God only. There is a powerful desire left over from the fallen nature. When we have been born again and the Spirit has been shed abroad in our hearts, we have new natures, new desires, new inclinations, new attitudes, new love for the things of God. But that love is not perfect, it is not pure, it is not yet completely realised in our lives. There is a constant daily struggle and warfare with the old self whose desires are battling the desires of the new self.
Discipline – Rom. 7:18-20
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
I’ve always admired 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
For those of you who don’t exercise, why don’t you exercise? It takes effort. It hurts.
For those of you who do exercise, why do you chose to do it? you like the results, you feel better, etc.
What does it mean to approach your life with Christ with discipline? According to 1 Cor. 9 above, it takes 1) preparation, 2) self discipline, and 3) planning.
We must be proactive in our pursuit of God. No one accidentally improves their spiritual fortitude or vitality.
So, go ahead and consider this upcoming year. How will you approach your time with God? Prepare now. Will you use a devotional? A Bible reading plan? Go ahead and think of these things now? When will you do it? Find a time that is both consistent and good for you mentally. There are several options for you to help you in your weekly pursuit of God. I’ve used several. Right now I’m using a devotional, scripture reading guide called f260. They have a method of Bible meditation and journaling in which they use the an acronym H.E.A.R. HIGHLIGHT. EXPLAIN. APPLY. RESPOND. I like it because it helps me focus on a biblical truth or principle that I can think about though out the day.
How about your small group bible study attendance here at church? We have a strong Sunday School here, but it’s not perfect. 1) As far as percentages go, our church has a pretty good ratio between Sunday School attendance and worship attendance. However, we are not really satisfied with what we have. All of us need to be involved in Sunday School. Why? You can live our a version of American Christianity by simply attending large worship services, but you cannot live out biblical Christianity without being involved in a small group. There are benefits that you receive from a small group atmosphere that you simply do not receive by attending a large group atmosphere like our weekly worship services. If you need suggestions on a class for you, I’d be glad to help. 2) Let me ask you a question. Be honest with yourself. You may have just answered, I go to Sunday School. That’s great. May I pry a bit more? How often do you attend? Out other bigger problem in Sunday School is consistency of attendance. Studies show that we consider ourselves to be committed believers, but that doesn’t match our commitment to assemble together. Could you be more consistent in coming to Sunday School? Our disciple making options here at church are designed to help you move forward in your pursuit of God.
Contentment – Rom. 7:21-25
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
Did you notice Paul’s lack of contentment with his present struggle. But I want you to see his approach to this discontentment is different from the way you and I may approach spiritual discontentment.
How do we approach spiritual discontentment? We try harder. We put in more effort. Why do we do this? I think it’s because we have a warped view of sin and holiness. We view these in terms of personal victory and defeat. I read a book recently that said we see sin in terms of personal victory or defeat. Instead, we aught to approach sin as an offense to a holy God and holiness as a way to glorify a holy God. Instead of trying to work harder, Paul looks for rescue.
Let’s go back and think about Keller trapped inside of that glass maze? Could he get out? I suppose he could, maybe eventually. Or, he could still be in there today. He needed someone to come in a get him. He was stuck. He needed rescuing.
Paul recognized that he needed a rescue from his situation, and that he had one in the person of Jesus Christ. Christ has defeated both the power and penalty for sin for those who believe (Rom. 8:1).
So, if you find yourself too content, what do you do? You look to Christ and surrender to him.