Spiritual Formation

The Great Commandment helps God’s people live rightly in the here and now as they turn toward Him and cultivate a life of praying without ceasing.

Scripture: Matthew 22:34-40

Transcript | Audio


If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab those. We’re going to be in Matthew, chapter 22. If you don’t have a Bible, there is a hardback black one somewhere around you. Why don’t you go ahead and grab that? As I always say, I want you to see I’m not making anything up. All right?

The apostle Paul (or as he was originally known, Saul of Tarsus), according to his own testimony, was a blasphemer and a violent man. What we know about him historically is he was a murderer and one who hated Jesus Christ, hated the church, sought to destroy the church, and was fairly effective at intimidating, shaming, and belittling the cause of Christ.

The Bible tells us he with legal documentation was headed to Damascus to (as best he could) put to open shame the followers of Jesus Christ by parading them in chains through the ancient world. He was on his way to Damascus when Christ showed up. Christ himself showed up, and Saul of Tarsus became the apostle Paul.

What we know of the apostle Paul is he was a juggernaut of the faith. In fact, we see very little in his life that would make us look at it and say, “Ah! He could probably do that better.” In fact, at almost every turn, if you hated Jesus, Paul was a brother you couldn’t do anything to. I’ve oftentimes just tried to bring to your attention that if you tried to kill Paul, he got excited about that because to die was gain. But if you left him alone, he was excited about that because to live is Christ.

If you thought you could torture it out of him, he had this weird kind of eschatology that said the future glory was so magnificent it didn’t matter what you did to him today. He would literally say, “The worst torture you can do to this human body isn’t worthy to compare to what I’ve got coming, so do your worst.”

Then literally if you put him in prison, he’d convert all your guards and the rest of the prisoners. There just wasn’t anything you could do with him. In fact, it seems as we’re reading the Bible that he is like on a skyscraper, like Jesus gave him a cape or something that’s just flapping around in the wind behind him. He is a man who has to say this: “Not that I have already obtained all this…”

If you’re a Christian, have you ever felt the need to explain to people around you that you’re not perfect in Christ yet? Who has to say that? Who has to gather people together and say, “Okay, listen. Not that I’m perfect, but one thing I do…”? Even the thorn in the flesh Paul turned into this kind of amazing thing. “There was given to me by God an evil spirit to torment me. Why? That I might not boast in my exceedingly great revelation.” I mean, what could you do to this man?

Then (praise his name) there’s the apostle Peter. We don’t know when the apostle Peter became a Christian. Some would argue, “It’s when he dropped his net and followed Jesus.” Others would say, “No, no, no. It’s when he proclaimed in Mark’s gospel that he (Jesus) was the Messiah, the Son of God.” What we have in Peter, I think, is the greatest encouragement of our day that God is at work in us now.

If Paul is a picture that no one in this room has a past that’s so bad that the grace of God can’t cover it, then Peter is a shining example to all of us of the steadfast love of God that’s immovable despite our myriad of failures. Think about Peter’s life. He says, “You are Christ. You are the Son of the living God.” Jesus is like, “Blessed are you, Simon Peter.” I mean, he was just getting blessed by Jesus! “Blessed are you, Simon. God has revealed this to you. Man has not. This isn’t your personality, brother. God did this.” You’re thinking, “Oh man! Peter…this guy…we should make pastor.”

Then…what? Four verses later, Jesus calls him the Devil. Now you’re thinking, “Okay, well, he blessed him, but he called him the Devil. So he can’t be pastor anymore.” Then they’re around the fire, and Jesus is trying to help his disciples understand what’s coming. He is like, “I’m going to be delivered up, and they’re going to kill me, but I’m going to rise again on the third day.” Do you remember what Peter said? He was like, “Even if I must die, I will not betray you, Jesus.”

Now look. I know I’m being goofy. How encouraging is this? Because how many times have we had a spiritual experience and said to the Lord, “Never again, Lord” or, “For the rest of my days, God”? That’s all Peter was doing. I love that Peter’s drift away from the Lord is not slow. Many of us have said those things to the Lord, and over the course of six weeks or eight weeks or six months, all of a sudden, we’ve kind of drifted away. Peter didn’t make it through a 24-hour period.

I mean, you want to talk about spiritual highs? He is sitting around the institution of the Lord’s Supper. “Even if I must die…” Jesus is like, “I love your zeal for me, Peter. I love that you get all excited about me, but here’s the thing. Literally before the alarm goes off tomorrow morning, you’re not only going to deny knowing me, but you’re going to do it three times, and the last time it’s going to have a lot of non-Disney words in it. All right? I just so appreciate the zeal, but…”

Jesus moved toward him, not from him. Then what happens? He totally denies Jesus, and the last time with non-Disney words. Then when Jesus is raised from the grave, who does he go find? Peter. He goes and finds Peter! He restores him. So now you’re going, “Okay, yeah. Peter. All right. Great! I mean, he has been restored. I mean, who can fail at that level again?” Peter can!

So first he is indwelt with the Holy Ghost. Now we have the Holy Ghost, so surely you don’t screw up once the Holy Ghost is in you. He stands up, and he preaches at Pentecost. Thousands of people become believers and followers of Jesus Christ. You’re looking at Peter, and you’re like, “Man, he is killing it! He can be our pastor again.”

Then he is used instrumentally in the life of Cornelius, of the Italian cohorts. The Gentiles are becoming Christians. The church of Jesus Christ is exploding, and yet we read in Galatians that Peter falls back into his old ways and has to be confronted for some blatant racism in which he was walking. There it is again.

Here’s what struck me over the course of the last couple of months. For some reason, all of us consider ourselves more Pauline than Petrine, but all our heroes in the Bible look far more like Peter than they do Paul. All our heroes in the Bible look far more like Peter than they do like Paul! The conversion and Holy Ghost power in Paul is stunning, and it’s a real thing. But most of us kind of look like (I’ll just do the list) Peter, Moses, Noah, or almost anyone else in the Bible.

What can happen is our joy can be taken from us because we don’t see ourselves as men and women who God’s pleasure, forgiveness, and love rests on while he over a long period of time sanctifies us, loves us, and stays with us despite our failures. Jesus keeps moving toward Peter. If there’s ever a guy we would fire and be done with, it’s Peter!

God is never done with him. He keeps coming back to him. He keeps building him up. He keeps chiseling things off of him. He keeps extending love. “Surely the steadfast love of God is better than life.” Today in our 30-40 minutes together, I want to talk about spiritual formation, what it looks like to be formed through the lenses of a Peter-like life that has highs and lows, wins and losses, and struggles and victories instead of trying to pretend all of us have a cape in the wind and have Paul-like victory in all the areas of our lives.

What I know about most of us is when suffering comes, it’s disorienting before we can agree with Paul. When real suffering comes for most of us, we don’t meet it with cape in the wind and going, “This is from God on high! I rejoice and be glad!” It’s discombobulating. It’s scary. It’s disorienting. Then what happens if you’re not careful is you’ll heap shame on yourself because you’ll think you should respond differently than that.

No one is harder on us than we are…look at me…especially God. Did you hear what I said? No one is harder on us than we are, especially God. God is not as hard on you as you are on you. If you could ever get that, we could really grow into something more beautiful than we could fathom. We see him keep coming back to Peter despite his foolishness.

I want us to look at this here in Matthew 22 as we think about what it looks like to become more and more and more like Jesus over a period of time starting with where we are today. Let’s look at this starting in verse 34. “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.”

They’re not asking Jesus a question to find out an answer to anything. They’re trying to trap Jesus. They’re trying to discredit his ministry. Here is the question: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Here’s how they’re trying to trap Jesus. This lawyer is banking on, whatever Jesus answers here he is going to, out from his followers, cut out a group who don’t think that’s the greatest commandment.

There are 613 commandments, and there is a massive debate in this period of human history about which one of those commandments was the greatest. They thought all the commandments were serious. You couldn’t break any of them, but surely they were weighted (they thought). So what’s the greatest commandment? Most are probably thinking, “Surely one of the Ten Commandments. Maybe even the first commandment.” But Jesus doesn’t go that way at all. Let’s look at this together.

“And he said to him, ’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’”

Now I want to answer this question first. I want to answer the question of what love is, because love in our culture is a junk drawer word, right? I mean, you have said this week you love your spouse, a good friend, and tacos. Right? I mean, we don’t know any other way to communicate the emotion of, “I really like this.” So it’s, “Man, I love football season,” or, “Man, I love fajitas,” or, “Man, avocados…I love them. My kids. Gosh, I love my kids!”

We need to define when we’re talking about love (specifically, loving God with all of us) what we’re talking about. Here’s John Piper’s definition of love. I’ll explain as I preach why I like this definition. Piper says love for God is delighting in him and a desire to know him and be with him. It’s so simple, straightforward. It’s delighting in him and a desire to know him and to be with him.

When this text says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” what I’m trying to communicate and what I think this text is trying to communicate is that with your heart, you want to delight in, you want to desire, you want to pursue, you want to turn toward. We don’t turn away; we turn toward.

We start with what it looks like to be sanctified over an extended period of time. As we are in all our brokenness and folly today, we love with all our hearts. Not part of our hearts; all of our hearts. Now the truth is for many of us because of brokenness or backgrounds, all of our hearts as it one day will be isn’t available right now. So all we are for today, with all of our hearts, we want to love the Lord.

Here’s how the Bible is going to (if we had time to build this out) build out what the heart is. The heart is the source of our feelings, our thoughts, and our intentions. That’s what the heart is. Second Corinthians 3 I think does a good job of explaining what happens when our heart moves toward the Lord. Here’s how it’s described.

“But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

I want to try to tie these things together for us. Before we’re Christians, before we experience the love of God, he loves us first. We don’t love him first. He loves us first, and that creates in us a love in return, a reciprocity. What this text is saying is at conversion, at regeneration, the veil is lifted. Now we see the beauty of God, and in beholding that (so turning toward that and beholding that), we then start to be transformed (now watch this; this is very apostle Peter-ish), one degree of glory to the next.

It’s not download ultimate maturity in a nanosecond. No. Now your salvation worked that way. God saving you forever happened in an instant (regeneration), but sanctification is a life-long ride. If we could ever get that we don’t arrive, he arrives, then how much more free would we be to pursue him? You don’t arrive. Whatever is on your list to be conquered, there is somebody else behind it. If you’re looking at this sin or this thing as the one thing you have to conquer. No, no, no, no, no. There is much more even behind that!

Sanctification is you can’t even see that till this gets handled, and God is going to handle that in his time. It’s one degree of glory to the next. Let’s just agree together. Man, I wish it were faster. If we could ever have a spiritual Matrix thing, I’m just in. I would love that, but that’s not the way this works. In joy and in sorrow, he is going to chisel you. In success and in failure, he is going to shape you. Your failure doesn’t disqualify you because it cannot disqualify Christ. Right?

This is what it means to love God with all our hearts: to turn toward him, to trust from one degree of glory to the next. He is shaping us. This isn’t permission to stay in sin. This is a reminder that to turn toward him and not away from him and behold him shapes us in ways that are slower than we would like and more profound than we realize. If you’re a Christian, you’ve experienced some of these things.

Then he moves from heart on in to soul. When the Bible says to love the Lord your God with all your soul, it’s talking about our consciousness or what maybe psychologists would call the self or the true self. Now the reality is we’re all sorts of different personality types with different backgrounds. There are all these kind of tools that help us learn about ourselves.

Maybe you’re into the Enneagram. You’re like, “Well, I’m a 4 with a 9 wing.” Maybe you’re like the animal, and you’re like, “Well, I’m a Golden Retriever,” “I’m a monkey,” or, “I’m a tiger.” Maybe you’re like, “I’m an INFP.” We have all these ways of kind of measuring what we are. “I’m a Harmonizing Persister. I’m an Achieving Dreamer.” You know? We have all these ways.

The truth is, regardless of your personality type or background, God has created you to reflect his beauty and grace. To love the Lord our God with all our heart leads to loving him with our whole soul, consciousness, self. How does that work? Well, the reason we fail to reflect who he is is we have our own agenda, our own desires, our own ways of wanting to live our lives.

As we turn toward him, when we love him, gaze upon him, and delight in him, we begin to be conformed. As we are conformed, what ends up happening is my desires start to be his desires. What he loves, I start to love. What he hates, I start to hate. Now if you’re a Christian, then more than likely, you have the testimony that at one point you gave yourself over to things that now where you are now, you look at and you find them to be dead and deformed things.

There were things you used to celebrate that now you would look at and go, “I can’t believe that! I can’t believe I was a part of that!” Well, what happened? You’re loving the Lord your God with all your soul, your consciousness, your self. It’s being shaped and formed by the Spirit of God.

Then lastly, he moves to love him with your mind. Now the mind is that part of us that informs the heart and the soul about what is true. Look at me. This is why the Bible and knowing the Bible is such a big deal. Because the Bible is telling us this is what’s true about God and about us. If we want to see, marvel at, and behold so we might be transformed from one degree of glory to the next, it becomes key that you and I understand and know who God is.

The only way to know who God is is to go to the Book. Your feeling about what God is is irrelevant and more than likely wrong. We have a tendency to make God like an ideal version of ourselves. That’s you being God, not God being God. God is going to confront you with himself in the Book. He is going to on repeat say, “It’s not about you. It’s about me.” God is going to be about God, and the Bible is going to say from beginning to end, “God is big. God is beautiful. God is powerful. God is gracious.”

Every time we go to the Book, he is lifting up our eyes from our own weaknesses and failures and building into us the confidence that he cannot fail, will not fail, And his love is sure because it’s been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. Right? This is what’s happening, but this involves getting our mind and not just our emotions into the game.

Although emotions are a good gift from God Almighty and we’re not to be afraid of emotion… Emotions are a good thing, but we can’t be ruled by them. They often lie. They don’t always lie; they often lie. We are people of the Book, and what it means to be sanctified over an extended period of time of highs, lows, successes, and failures is to give ourselves where we are as best we know how to fully loving God as a whole person: heart, soul, and mind.

Can we stop for a second? This is one of those sermons, right? At this point, everybody is like, “Yeah! That’s right!” But we don’t really know what to do with it. You know? It’s just like we leave, and we’ll be talking about it this week. “Did you know the soul is like consciousness? It’s like the self.” But we don’t really know how to apply it or do anything with it.

Here’s what I want to do with the last 10-12 minutes. Maybe 20 minutes. I’ll just put it there. I want to talk about what it would look like to turn toward and love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind as best we know today. There are some things we’ve tried to just lay the tracks organizationally for you. The Training Program is about this. Home Group is about this. Bible study classes are about this. Group Connect is about this.

In fact, even as we gather tonight for Encounter, we sing, we pray for the power of God, and we commission teams that are going all over the world to herald the good news, what are we doing? We’re cultivating. We’re turning toward him. But many of us have done these kinds of activities most of our lives. It’s not all of us but many of us. If you’re a church kid, you’ve been doing that stuff as far back as your memory will go.

I’m speaking Baptist-ly now. You were in RAs, or you were in GAs. You had something you were doing in student ministry. We’ve just grown up around these things. We know about quiet time. We know about reading our Bible in the morning. We know about journaling. We know about these things, but there’s this disjoint between what we know and what we do.

Here’s what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how we might actually turn toward him and cultivate a life that prays without ceasing. I want to talk about how we cultivate a life that prays without ceasing and rather an approach of great discipline that seeks to check off boxes, instead we figure out, “How do we create a life that’s serious about abiding in the presence of Jesus?”

We’ve talked about this before. I think nothing has been more helpful to me personally than establishing what Calvin called a rule of life. A rule of life is just about living intentionally. You’ve only got three ways you can use any given minute of your life. You can cultivate, you can create, or you can consume. You’re always doing one of those three, and there’s not another C. No matter what you’re doing, you’re cultivating something, you’re creating something, or you’re consuming something.

What we want to do is look at how we’re living our lives and be serious about turning toward Jesus, not organizationally like the church does but just as we think about and own our relationship with Christ. Own it, and loop in our loved ones and people in our Home Group. Here’s what I thought I would do. I want to lay before you my rule of life, and then I want to show you a friend of mine named Rich who lives up in New York. I want to show you his rule of life, because he does it very differently than I do mine.

I do mine like this: days, weeks, months, years. That’s how I break it down. Let me go days. Depending on the time of year, I’m going to get up at either 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning. Summer is here, so that means 6:00. What I need is uninterrupted time in the morning by myself. I don’t need a kid there going, “What are you reading? What is that? What are you writing? Where are you going? What’s today? Can you eat lunch with me today? What are we doing this weekend? When are we going on vacation? Are we going to the beach this year?”

I can’t. Maybe you can multitask like that, but I’m not sanctified enough. Summer is here. It will be 6:00. For about 45 minutes, I’m going to read my Bible in a Bible reading plan. I’m going to take some notes, and then that last 15 minutes, I’m going to pray through my daily schedule. On the truck ride to work, yet again I want to cultivate in that space. So I’m going to listen to a podcast in my truck, I am going to listen to an audio book, or I will be blaring worship music in a way that will harm parts of my future.

All of this is about what? Orienting my heart toward the Lord. I don’t want to read my Bible, pray, and forget what I did by lunch. I want to root there. The only way I can do that is just to repurpose that. Then what I’ve asked for as best as I can (and I can’t always control it) is I need space between meetings and tasks. Otherwise, my day cascades from one to the next, and I can’t be with you because I’m already behind you.

Are you tracking with me on that? Have you ever caught yourself not paying attention to the person who is in front of you because of what you have after that person? It’s a terrible way to live life. The only way I know to combat that is to take 10 minutes between this meeting and this meeting or this task and this task and reorient my heart and go, “Okay, Lord, give me eyes to see. I pray for this person right now. Help me see and get a sense of what you’re doing so I might speak life, truth, and what’s good into that.”

Then right before lunch (because maybe you’re godlier than I am), at that point I’m not sure what to pray about anymore. I have a book on my desk. It’s sitting in there right now. If we were all to go in there (it’s not big enough but), I have on my desk The Valley of Vision. It’s a book of Puritan prayers. Right before I go to lunch, I open that thing up.

Because I’m an embodied creature, I put my hand on my chest. I don’t know why. It just works for me. Then I will read one of those prayers out loud. It takes about a minute and a half. All right? It takes about a minute and a half. Then I get in my truck, and I head to my lunch.

Then before I leave in the afternoon… Let me ask a question. How many of you at the end of the day at work have been really frustrated? Anybody like angry? It’s not frustration. It has crossed over frustration and into borderline rage. Go ahead. You can do this. It’s confession. It’s super helpful. Yeah! Okay. What I need to do is… I don’t want to take that home with me, and sometimes that’s not easy.

What I want to do is I want to put my hands on my desk. Again, I’m an embodied creature. I want to put my hands on my desk, and I want to just take stock of what’s going on in me. Am I angry? Am I frustrated? What is it? I just want to leave it spiritually on my desk because I need to eat, sleep, and be with my family.

God doesn’t need to do any of that. He is going to work on all of that while I’m not. I need to remind myself of that because I’m a doer, and (God help me) so often I can feel loved by God when I’m doing for him rather than when I’m just trusting him to do. I want to leave that at the desk.

Then one of the more important times of prayer is when I get into my driveway. I’ve called it this for the last… I just need a “driveway prayer” because I don’t know what I’m walking into. I mean, I could walk in and it could be the smell of dinner. We don’t do screens during the week. The kids could be doing a craft.

Or I could walk in, and Lauren could be in the fetal position, and I can’t find the kids. I don’t know what’s gone on in that household. I’ve been gone! What I need to do is here… It is mine and mine alone to love Lauren Chandler as her husband, and it is mine and mine alone to love Audrey, Reid, and Norah. It’s been given to no other man but me.

I want to remember that privilege has been given to me and me alone. My father-in-law is an amazing man, but he is not their daddy. I am their daddy. He is not Lauren’s husband. I am her husband. It’s been given to me alone to love. I just need to stop for a second (because I’m almost always weary) and go, “Okay, Lord. Second shift. Let me walk into this place and love Lauren like you love the church. Give me a sense of what’s going on in the hearts of my children so I can speak life and truth and not be short. Help me before I walk in!”

Otherwise, I’m going to walk in and be like, “What have you been doing all day? Oh my gosh! Do you know what my day has been like?” I’m a jerk and a sinner, so I need to orient my heart. Then at dinner, we’re going to play “highs/lows.” “What’s the best part of your day? What’s the worst part of your day?” This gets us talking about life. If you ask yes/no questions, you get yes/no answers. Figure out questions to ask to which you can’t say yes.

We play highs and lows, and that gets us talking about our day, life, what’s good, what’s not good, where we’re struggling, where we’re not struggling. Then when I go to bed at night, the last couple of minutes, I just remind myself that God’s affection for me has not changed on whether or not I’ve been able to do all that or not. That’s a day.

On a week, I fast from breakfast and lunch on Wednesdays and repurpose those times. Lunch is in here walking around praying over these chairs and asking the Spirit of God to do unique works among us as his people. I break fast with my family at dinner. Once a week, I gather with you, and that’s part of my rule of life, that I’m going to be a part of this church not just as a pastor but as a member of this church.

Then that takes me to monthly. Once a month, I have a day. It’s on Mondays. It’s called “The Day” because I’m not overly creative. “The Day” is just a day I’m not turning on my computer. I’m not using my phone. It’s my Bible. It’s my journal. It’s Jesus and me. Oftentimes it’s one of the more difficult days of my month.

I almost need to accomplish something. It’s hard for me to rest and believe God just loves me without me doing anything for him. That’s just me. That’s just my confession to you. I’m a Harmonizer in that I want everybody to get along, but I have some Persister/Achiever in me. I need to, right? I don’t know what that is on the Enneagram. Maybe a 2? I don’t know.

I can feel like, “Oh my gosh! I’m worthless because I didn’t accomplish anything.” That day is like spiritual surgery to me. It’s God reminding, cutting, and showing me what’s ugly in me, because that’s what happens when it gets quiet. I don’t like quiet because I can find myself there. I spend a lot of time trying to avoid me. I spend a lot of time trying to avoid me, and it’s in the quiet the Lord lets me see me. I don’t always like what I see, but God always works when I see me.

We also do Restore as a staff the first Wednesday of every month from 9:00 to 11:30 or 12:00. We worship. We pray over each other. We encourage one another in the Lord. Then I’m always trying to weave play into my life. I want to play. Play is a divine, good gift of God.

Then that takes me to annually. The reason I wasn’t here last weekend is every year (Memorial Day the last four or five years), we have gone with a group of our friends. There are no children because that would not be vacation; that would be a trip. We went down to the beach, and we played volleyball.

We had an epic way-too-competitive ping-pong tournament. I got to the second round. I actually lost to Natalie Patterson, which has been tough for me, just so you… Prayers! It’s just been tough for me to swallow. Maybe I’ve been practicing at my house, maybe I haven’t. All right? I lost to Natalie in the second round. All we did was play, eat, and laugh because God is serious about us enjoying his good gifts. Play and rest are not counter to what is holy, right, and good. They are a discipline we must embrace.

Once a year, we (my crew I walk with most closely) have a feast. Around New Year’s Eve, they’ll come over to my house, or we’ll go to somebody else’s house at about 3:00-4:00. We’ll bring the best we know to bring: cuts of meat, bottles of wine, appetizers. We cook it together, and we laugh together. We tell stories.

I think last year it ended at like 2:00 something in the morning. It took me a full month to recover from feasting. That’s where I am in life now. I used to be able to go hard like that. I’ll be 44 this month. That’s over for me! I have to weigh it out. “Do I want to do this? That’s going to cost me a month. Let’s go.” Right? We feast because these are divine, good gifts of God. We want to give ourselves over to feasting.

Then later this summer with my family, we will take a trip. We will play, and we will play. We’ll rejoice that God has made us a family. It’s a beautiful thing, and it’s a good thing. We enjoy one another 99 percent of the time! That’s a high number! We’ll play on the beach, and I try to not say no to anything on vacation. I know where we’re going, so Reid is going to have me at some video arcade till midnight. We’re just going to go get after it because it’s holy and divine. It’s a discipline that shapes us over time practicing for heaven.

That’s not how Rich builds his. Rich builds his like this. Let me put Rich’s on the screen. Rich is going to build his love for God around prayer, rest, relationships, and work. Here’s what his life looks like. I’m not outing this brother. This is a public document.

He around prayer is going to pray the Daily Office two to three times a week. Daily Office is all I was explaining earlier. It’s stopping at some natural transition of the day and reading a Scripture, quieting the soul for just a minute or two, and remembering who you are, what God has done.

Then he is going to read one book per week. Look at me. If you’re like, “Pastor, I don’t read. I read like a book a year,” okay. One chapter a month could be on your little section here. These are just tools; they’re not rules. Don’t try to be Rich, because I’m not Rich. Rich is plowing through information. Your rule of life needs to be oriented around you. If you’re not a reader, great. Maybe this is read 12 minutes a week. Praise God! That’s 12 minutes of reading you’re not doing now.

Then he wants to read through the Psalms six times in 2018. Then he wants to go to counseling monthly. I don’t know if you know this, but pastors are human. We’re also on this path of sanctification, and oftentimes we need to help ourselves. I just want to demystify the collar. We don’t wear collars but whatever. Then he wants to go on an overnight silent retreat every three months. Let me tell you something about your pastor. I might combust if I tried that. Maybe it’s in my future. I don’t know.

Now here’s his rest. He takes a weekly 24-hour Sabbath. I know this about Rich. I’m trying to learn it from him. It’s a 24-hour Sabbath. He plays. He rests. He doesn’t do anything else. It’s amazing! I can’t quite figure out how to make it work. He has two young kids too, so I’m a learner right now.

He plays basketball two nights per month. Notice that play is woven into this. Do not separate out prayer and fasting from play and feasting. All of those are good gifts that shape us. Then he wants a day alone with God twice a month. Then he is going to abstain from social media five to seven days a month.

Here are his relationships. Date night with his wife two to three times a month. A CTR with his wife, Rosie. That CTR is just them sitting down, looking over the calendar, looking at everything they have coming up, and considering how they might consistently live a life that brings glory to God. Then he wants to take his little girl on a date one time a month. Then he is going to gather with three pastors once a month just to encourage one another on a video call.

Then at work, he wants to train six or seven preachers. Then he wants to disciple 12 leaders in their School of Theology and Formation leadership cohort. Then he is writing a book right now. That’s Rich’s rule of life. It’s just another example of how you can organize it.

All we’re doing here is with great intentionality turning toward Jesus. That’s all we’re doing: turning toward Jesus. Now what I know is a lot of us are of that kind of Achiever build-out. What happens if you’re an Achiever is you’re really strong at starting. Then you can kind of lose energy as you move forward. Does anyone just want to confess really quickly? I get geeked up about ideas for about six weeks, maybe less. Maybe you’re Peter (six hours).

Here’s what’s dangerous right here. If you take all that and you’re like, “All right. Starting tomorrow…” it’s going to be like what you do to yourself when you go to the gym after you haven’t been for a while. You just crush yourself, and then for eight weeks you’re like in Epsom salt baths, you can’t move, and you just stop going altogether because you did really bad things to yourself.

Remember one degree of glory to the next. I don’t know what you’re doing right now. I don’t know what your daily habits look like. Gosh! You might not have any. Maybe the right start for you is just to get on some of these pathways we’ve created for you: to join a Home Group, to get in a Bible study class, to get in the Training Program, to just turn toward him.

Hear me. The reason I started the way I did is I know some of you in here are like, “Man, you don’t know my background. There’s no way I could find a place in the story.” Well, the apostle Paul says, “Excuse me? I was unaware you were murdering Christians, because that’s what I was up to when I got sucked into this thing.”

Or you’re acting like Eeyore. “I’m just such in a dark season, and I just don’t… I’m such a failure, and I just can’t imagine that.” Then here’s the apostle Peter like, “Hello? He called me the Devil. I think I win!” There’s this invitation to get in here and turn toward him. Maybe you’re a church kid, and you’ve done all of those things. What does it look like for you to pray without ceasing? I don’t think you should jam your day full of all of this. I think you move just a degree at a time. If you’re getting up in the morning and you’re getting in the Book, praise God!

What does it look like for you to repurpose your drive to work? What does it look like to take a minute and a half before lunch? This isn’t something that just works for preachers. Regardless of domain, regardless of what you do for a living, this is orienting our hearts and lives around the presence of Jesus.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, where is the space? What are the natural transitions? Is it a nap here? Is it right before lunch? Is it when your husband comes home? Where is it? Because that’s something you should be able to ask. “I’m going to need five minutes to get my soul back before we move into the evening. I love you. I’ll be right back.” Kiss, and then just go.

What does it look like to repurpose? What does it look like to take these transitions and turn toward? These little things are what over a period of time shape us into something more beautiful than we can fathom. I know what we all want. We all want the road to Damascus, Christ himself to show up and bam! kick everything off of our lives.

I might know two people in 20 years of following Jesus who have that story. Almost everybody I know is like Moses, Noah, or Peter who does really well and then stumbles and falls. Then they do really well and then screw up. Then they do really well… The Lord just keeps moving toward them and keeps moving toward them. Then he keeps taking off of them, keeps blessing them, and keeps calling them up.

This is what God has for you. This is what he has for me. What does it look like for you to turn toward him, to love him with all of your heart as best you can right now, love him with all your soul as best you can right now, and all your mind as best you can right now?

The reason I’m saying that is a year from now, you’ll have more heart with which to love him. You’ll have a more awareness of self to give over to him, and you’ll be smarter than you are right now if you turn toward him now. Then it will be all of your heart then and all of your soul then and all of your mind then until glory. Let’s pray.

Father, thank you for these men and women. Thank you for your sustaining grace today. I think by and large, our confession is we want to love you like this. We want to turn toward you like this. You know we’re frail, feeble, weak, and broken, and yet you still consider us beautiful. I pray specifically for a man or a woman who might be in here who just has a past that’s so haunting that the consistent lie they tell themselves is they’re disqualified from all of this. I just pray against that lie now in the name of Jesus that you would break it and call them up into yourself.

I pray for the weary and downtrodden among you who love you but are in that season much like Peter was where for those three days after he denied you, he was just waiting. I thank you that you move toward us in our failures. I pray you would bless us. We look forward to what you’re accomplishing in us. We look forward to what we’ll look like a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, and 10 years from now if you tarry.

What might you do in us as we see what you accomplished in the apostle Peter who, by the time he was an old man and writes in 1 Peter, is so convinced of your love for him, your care for him, that despite unbelievable suffering has learned to rest in you and delight in you consistently? Help us. It’s for your beautiful name I pray, amen.