Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Before we get started this morning, I want to share some exciting news.
God is doing some cool things in our church lately, and one of them is just simply bringing more and more people.
Mostly through people like you inviting them.
Because of that, we are going to be able to do 2 services on Easter Sunday.
We are going to have a service both at 9:30am & 11:00am
Just for that Sunday…the Sunday after, we will go back to meeting at 10.
But, what’s great about this is it’s going to allow us to reach even MORE people and have them hear the good news about Jesus Christ.
So being praying now that God would use you to bring someone with on Easter
INTRODUCTION TO SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
We are starting a new series this morning called God’s Gym
We’re going to be taking a look at practical things you can do to get closer to God, have him change you, mature you…or even just practical things you can do to begin finding out about God if that’s where you are on your journey.
In Christian history, they call these things, the spiritual disciplines.
The idea is that the more we can discipline ourselves to do these practices, the more we will become “Renovated” to become more like Christ.
It’s really it’s quite similar to getting in the “real” gym.
Why do people go the gym 3 times a week and run on the treadmill?
Because that’s their idea of a good time?
Anybody who does that for a good time is a sick individual
Why do people go to the gym and lift heavy weights while making unintelligible grunting noises?
Because they think it looks cool to lift heavy things and scream? Perhaps…
But MOST people do these things because it accomplishes something else for them. It helps them stay fit…or get fit…or bulk up…or whatever.
It’s not so much about the discipline itself, but about what it does for us.
For instance, I run 3 times a week.
As I’ve gotten more into it, I’ve actually started to like running itself (which I know, makes me a weirdo), but from the moment I started, there was always one thing I always liked: Being done.
And not just because the pain and torture was over…
But we love that feeling of accomplishment afterwards…the feeling of being a little bit more in shape…the feeling of being changed…even if just a little.
See it’s not so much about the discipline, but about what it does for us.
And the same is true for some of the “God’s Gym Disciplines” we’re gonna talk about like reading the Bible, or getting away to pray, or fasting, or meeting in community
We don’t worship those disciplines, but we are thankful for what they create in of us.
Or what God does in us when we do them.
OR…how we get to meet God when we do them.
So these disciplines are ways we can train ourselves to be more Godly.
Check out these verse from the Bible…They’re sort of our theme verses for this series:
(1 Timothy 4:7-8) – NIV
7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
And here’s what’s really cool about this: The Greek word here that’s used for “train” (NT written in Greek) is actually “goomnadsia” which is where we get our word gymnasium for.
So…it’s really is God’s Gym. These spiritual disciplines we do are like training exercises in God’s gym. Training to be Godly.
And discipline takes effort. Results take time. But it’s worth it.
One of the things that all the Godly giants of the past have in common is that they were all quite disciplined.
You can’t really get very Godly without…you know…spending time with God.
But ultimately discipline has to have a direction
You know why I think a lot of kids quit playing the piano? (besides the fact that it’s boring)
No, seriously, I think a lot of kids quit because they have no sense of direction.
“Why are you learning the piano???”
“Cuz mom said I should. Cuz it’ll help be musical…whatever that means.”
What if you could somehow transport that kid to the future and show them themselves playing in front of thousands of people at a concert? And then him or her getting a standing ovation???
How do you think that would change their practice habits??
It’s the same concept I alluded to before w/ the gym.
Why to people spend 4 hours a week sweating up a storm on the Elliptical….it’s not cuz they think they look awesome doing it.
They do it because they are picturing the future! And that future is them 30 pounds lighter.
But that, what they are doing…is discipline w/ direction!
Our discipline needs to have a direction.
And I would ask you, what’s the direction of your discipline?
Why do you read the Bible? Why do you pray? Why?
I fear that most people can’t get beyond “I should.”
But “I should” isn’t very motivating.
The same people who say “I should” exercise, never do.
Let me give you two good reasons for spiritual disciplines:
One, we do it because God gave us everything, so we owe him everything.
He died on the cross for our sins, in our place, he bought our lives…and our role is to now lovingly serve Him w/ your life being a thank-you letter back to Him.
And secondly, we do it because we want to be better renovated to better accomplish our main purpose on this earth.
It’s like our vision as a church, which we talked about last week:
To be a people being changed by God TO change the world.
So we want to be changed to change.
So we want to submit ourselves to the spiritual disciplines so that God flows even more through us, and that he could use us even more to make an impact on our surroundings.
That he would start using people like us to turn Blaine from the easiest city to get Lost in to the easiest city to get found in.
That’s why. That’s why it matters.
GOODNESS OF THE BIBLE…WHY WE NEED IT
Each week of this series we’re going to study a different discipline. A different part of God’s Gym if you will.
And this week we are going to start with the manual. The fitness manual. The Bible.
Now, I know…who actually reads manuals? Nerds. Nerds like this guy.
Anyone ever played the board game “Settlers of Catan?”
Lindsey and I were really into it a few years ago, and each year for a few years for Christmas or my birthday we would get a new expansion of it
And I remember one year in particular, we were down at my in-laws in Oklahoma for Christmas, and we got this complicated expansion pack version of it.
And I decided that I would spend the rest of the Christmas afternoon reading the manual. The instructions.
Although I was repeatedly mocked for doing so…I believe that when we actually played the game, it went much smoother and was much more fun because we knew what we were doing.
And it’s not that different in life. The Bible is your manual. Your guide to life. And life tends to work a little smoother when we pay attention to how the designer of the Game (that’s God by the way) intended for us to play.
Or imagine with me that you got shipwrecked on a desert island, and as you were trying to figure out what to do, the books from the ship library floated ashore.
And you opened one of the books, and it was title, “How to survive alone on a desert island.”
I mean seriously, how much would you cling to that book? Rely on that book?
You’d probably never stop reading it. What a blessing to have that book!
Is it not the same blessing to have the Bible here on earth?
A guide that leads us… It tells us that itself. Check this out
(Joshua 1:8) - NIV
8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
(Colossians 3:16) - NIV
16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
(Psalm 119:11) - NIV
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Or as the saying goes, “Sin keeps us from the Bible, but the Bible keeps us from sin”
(Psalm 119:165) - NIV
Great peace have they who love your law,
and nothing can make them stumble.
And each time, what is it talking about? The fact that God’s Word guides us through life.
YET, 10% of Americans read the Bible every day.
When we isolate that to just Christians, not much better.
Only 18% of born-again Christians read the Bible every day.
And why do we need to even read it every day?
Let me ask you a question or two…
How many days of the week do you face problems, temptation, and pressure?
How many days of the week could you use some extra instruction? Extra guidance?
How many days of the week do we need to hear from God, feel his touch, or know his power?
EVERY day. Every SINGLE day.
We can’t survive on just a service on Sunday. It’s good, but you can’t survive on it.
One of my favorite quotes from D.L. Moody (Billy Graham of the 1800’s) is: “A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough (in 1 sitting) for the next six months, or take sufficient air into his lungs at one time to sustain life for a week. We must draw upon God’s boundless store of grace form day to day as we need it.”
The Bible is the WORD of God. But it’s like bread. The bread of life. It’s food. And you can’t LIVE if you don’t EAT.
Jesus says to Satan in Matthew
(Matthew 4:4) – NIV
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Or, in John 6, he calls himself the “Bread of Life”
And yet, we struggle with it. We really struggle to stay consistent with
J.I Packer once said, “If I was the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop people from reading the Bible.”
And that makes sense! In fact, the Bible has the highest correlations for spiritual growth out of all the spiritual disciplines.
In simple terms that is this: The more you read, the more you grow in God!
So of course the devil doesn’t want you to read it!!
I think we have to start asking ourselves this question: What are you living for?
Or more specifically, what you are disciplining yourself for? What are you TRAINING for?
And if you don’t know,… we can do a little reverse investigation and find out what you’re living for.
How you’re spending your time (in other words…what you’re training for) is what You ARE living for.
Check this out…You know how they always have those stats on how many hours of TV Americans watch a month?
They’ve now updated them because we now watch “Video” in additional ways, right?
Like, I would say at least half…if not ¾ of the TV viewing Lindsey and I do is actually on our computer, not our TV. Others even watch TV on their cell phones or portable devices.
In fact, when I was at the gym on Monday, the guy next to me was watching the Biggest Loser on his portable device while he was working out. How’s that for motivation!!!
So, now when they add it all up by including TV, computers, and any portable device like a cell phone, Americans now watch 153 hours of video a month. That’s 35 hours a week. But 153 a month!
So…I own an mp3 Bible. It’s on my iPod. And I got curious, and checked just to see how long it would be to listen to the entire Bible on mp3.
Total time: 84 hours. And really it’s probably less than that because every book has this cheesy introduction to it: “The book of Matthew”
84 hours and yet we spend almost twice as many watching TV….a month.
We gotta ask: What are we training for??
If there’s a pop quiz on the history of television when we die, I guess there’s going to be a lot of Americans in heaven.
Did you know that if you read 3 chapters a day in the Bible, you can read through it in a year?
Even one chapter a day, and you’ll be done in 3 years.
What are you training for???
We’ve somehow lost our hunger for the Bible as a society. We’ve forgotten how precious it is to have the very words of God in our hands.
I stumbled across this video a couple of months ago and I wanted to show it to you
PLAY WEST PAPUA VIDEO
Let’s get hungry for the WORD of God!
HOW TO READ IT
But, just like if you were finally convinced to go exercise, you still need a plan, right?
So, maybe you’re feeling like…I want to get back into reading the Bible…Back into God’s gym. Back into training for Godliness.
OR…maybe to do even do it for the very first time. To start checking it out.
I started reading the Bible myself before I was a Christian. In fact, I read it every day for 6 months before I even decided to commit my life to Him.
So if you’re feeling like starting to read the Bible or to get back in the gym…what are some things you need to keep in mind? Some pointers that will help.
A couple of things.
First of all…pick a consistent time.
Like forming any other habit, consistency is the key.
I’d be willing to bet that people who have the discipline of going to the Gym three times a week consistently for an entire year, have set times they go.
They don’t go at 5am one week, and 7pm the next, and 2am the next.
Consistency creates habit.
For a lot of people, that’s reading the Bible every morning when they get up…As they eat breakfast…or right before the head out the door.
Some people do it first thing when they get to work.
Others every day over lunch.
Others right after dinner.
And many others…right before bed.
We are all SO different from each other, that there’s no perfect time…but experiment a little…find something that works for you…and stick w/ it.
One of the most important things you can do is to have a plan.
If you were just going to start working out at the gym, you wouldn’t start by getting off the couch and then trying to run 10 miles a day.
That would last all of about…one day.
Most people that succeed in diet and exercise, study up and develop a plan first.
And the same thing is helpful to do with the Bible.
Most people logically assume that when you start a book, you start where? The beginning of the book
Not so with the Bible.
The best place to start is actually the New Testament. The back 1/3 of the Bible
To make the situation even more complex, the Bible isn’t laid out in most logical step by step order. From simplest to most complex.
It skips around
You could read one book that’s pretty easy, then the next is easy, then the next is REALLY complicated, then the next is easy.
It would sort of be like learning math in this order:
1. Learn how to count. 2. Learn how to add 3. Practice calculus 4. Learn subtraction. 5. Learn trigonometry 6. Learn division.
And I think this is one of the biggest reasons people stop reading the Bible a month or two into it. All of sudden they hit a book that they’re not ready for. Often…Leviticus… “Or any book where they haven’t read enough other stuff in the Bible to understand that particular book yet”
They don’t have a foundation.
Look under your chairs right now and you will find a Bible pyramid for everyone.
DO me a favor and leave those white cards underneath there for now.
We LOVE these Bible pyramids at Renovation Church and a lot of you are already using them.
If you’re looking for a guide, the Bible Pyramid is a helpful way to begin reading through the Bible.
And what it does…is it puts the foundational books first…thus a pyramid.
So you start with the NT, and the books focused on the life of Jesus…and then get to the more complicated ones from there. And THEN go to the OT.
Or if you’re a little more experienced in the Bible, and just want a different plan. You can do both pyramids at once.
And along with your plan, set a healthy time goal.
I always recommend one chapter a day to start out with. It’s easy enough. Chapters in the Bible are small. We’re talking 5 minutes. IF that.
And when you read, take some time to stop when you feel like God is talking.
I mentioned this at Worship Night on Wednesday. So often we read the Bible, and as we read, we think, “HUH.” Or “That’s interesting” Or “I should focus on that.”
But what we do?!? We keep on reading…because, well, we’ve got a chapter to read.
And most likely, in that moment, God is trying to tell us something, but we’re like, “God…SHH!! I’m trying to read here!”
So when that happens, put your time goal away for the day and start talking to Him about it.
The Bible is incredible because it’s not just a guide like a “guide to survival” on a desert island…it’s more than that. It’s also a way for God to talk to us.
Every time we stop and open the Bible, it’s like turning up the volume knob of God’s voice two notches.
And, this is important. Sometimes we miss this when we read. I feel like a lot of people just read in a very consumeristic sort of way.
“Well, none of that directly applied to my life this week…what a waste.”
Reading the Bible really affords you 3 incredible things:
An opportunity to apply things to your life
An opportunity to better hear from God
AND, and opportunity to better learn ABOUT God
It’s not all just about US…
And if you’ve been doing this Bible thing for a while, I think it’s important that you mix it up once in a while. I’ve been doing this a lot this year, and I’m loving it.
Every night I read my normal Bible right before bed because, well, that’s what I’ve always done. It’s like brushing my teeth for me.
And that’s okay. Sometimes I think it is the consistency of our disciplines that keep us from falling.
Like, I think the downs of my faith would be much lower without discipline.
Discipline is like a safety net that keeps us in the air
So I read every night, but I’ve also now been reading in the mornings online at BIblegateway.com.
And I’ve been reading in a total different version in order to keep it fresh.
As I mentioned earlier, I also have an mp3 Bible on my iPod.
For an entire year once, Lindsey and I just stopped reading our normal Bibles at night and listened to the mp3 Bible.
And it was awesome. They act it out and everything. “NO God I don’t want to go to Nineveh” By the way, Jonah is Cuba Gooding Jr. J
Or, the other day I was driving home, and I had an hour to go, so I decided to load up the book of Exodus, the story of how God used Moses to free the Israelites from Pharaoh.
Now, I’ve read the story before…I know how it goes. But there’s just something SO different about hearing it. I was literally eating it up.
I think when I read it, I must speed-read over the 10 plagues God sends or something because while I was listening, I kept saying, “SHUT up! Another plague! I don’t even remember there being a plague of flies!”
It made the Bible fresh.
Or like we say, for the many of you with smart phones, there are free Bible apps like from LifeChurchTV or the Bible.Is app. Get them.
Many of you spend half your day staring at your phone, so you might as well spend 5 minutes reading the Word on it.
And some of those apps as well will play it for you out loud as well.
The Bible is an incredible gift God gave to us.
A love letter, a manual, a guide.
And we need it.
This life is hard. Sometimes it’s really hard.
We need direction.
And the great thing is…God wants to give it to us.
And if it’s been a while since you’ve been serious about this discipline…get in the Gym again. Get in God’s gym and start getting spiritually ripped again.
This is an incredible disciple…but it takes work, dedication…but man does it pay off in the end.
Or if you’re just getting started…Maybe you don’t even have a Bible.
If you need one…and there’s a person from this church that you came with, just ask them, and they’ll get you a Bible.
If you don’t know anyone. Talk to anyone on staff here: Myself, Zach…Rachel, we’ll get you one.
But if you’re just at the stage where you’re seeking out God, this is an incredible way to start investigating Him…seeking Him out.
Honestly, people have SOOO many misconceptions about God and the Bible.
Before I knew Him I thought the whole Bible was like, “On the 7th day, take the ram and …..”
And then I just started reading it. Investigating. And Jesus blew me away
You owe it to yourself to find out for yourself what it’s all about.
I challenge you to just read a chapter a day from our Bible pyramid for a month.
Check out God and see what happens.
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.