Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
This weekend is kind of special for us here at Renovation. 3 years ago this weekend, we had our Grand Opening as a church.
It seems like a blur to me now, but it was a crazy day. My strongest memories from that day include not being able to get this basketball hoop up until 10 minutes before we started, the crazy lady who was so mad about receiving our postcards that she threatened to burn the school down, and mostly seeing all the people.
Many of you I met for the first time that day, and you’ve been coming ever since.
This Spring, we publically announced our goal that we wanted over the next 10 years, so by 2022, to start TEN new churches in TEN years out of Renovation.
This morning, our first 2 church plants (Ingite Church & Hope Bridge Church) are having their Grand Opening services much like we did 3 years ago.
9:30: We’re hoping to get an update on how it went by the end of the service, I’ll come up here at the end of the service and let you know.
11:00: We just got in attendance numbers, and they had GREAT Grand Openings.
Ignite Church had ____. Hope Bridge had ____.
And if we take our attendance from last week, that means ____ were in church today hearing about Jesus in the Renovation Church network.
Just over 3 years ago, that number was zero.
If that’s not a movement of God, I don’t know what is.
STAGES OF FAITH
This morning, we are talking about God’s movement in your own personal lives as we kick off a brand new series called, “Stages of Faith.”
In this series, we’re going to cover 4 different stages of faith that Christians can progress through in their lifetimes.
Here are the stages:
Stage 1: Infatuation. Stage 2: Direction. Stage 3: Darkness (Dark night of the soul) Stage 4: Surrender
Obviously there’s a lot more to each of those stages to explain but I guess you’ll just have to come back to hear more the other weeks J
These 4 stages are not explicitly laid out word for word in the Bible.
Meaning, I’m not going to point you to a passage in Romans 12 that outlines stages 1-4.
But, like a lot of the topics we study, it’s seen as an overall theme in Scripture.
We see a lot of language like this
(1 Corinthians 3:1) – NIV
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ.
1 John also talks about this development of children, young men, and fathers from a spiritual stages perspective.
Outlining “Stages of Faith” is not a new idea I came up w/ either (sorry if you were thinking I was actually creative)
Lots of theologians and pastors all the way back to folks like Augustine and St. Francis, have tried to derive stages of faith development from what we see in Scripture.
And there are plenty of books written on this idea, many of I’m used in my research.
And the idea of outlining a somewhat normalized “Stages of Faith” comes not only from certain “stages of development” we see in Scripture, but from a look at our own Christian lives and Christians from history
Now, all of our journeys with God are VERY different, BUT there are some certain similarities, and we see them in the Stages.
Let me make some pretty important prefaces on how the stages work before we get into talking about Stage 1 today
For one, the stages have very little to do with your actual age or even how long you’ve been a Christian. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
The stages themselves are very fluid.
We’re sometimes in more than one stage at once. As soon as you reach a certain stage, you can move back and forth and jump around.
SO, if you go from 1 to 2 to 3, you could go back to 1, or to 2.
But you’ll never go from 1 to 4. You always have to go through the stage before it first.
And you could spend years going through stages 1 through 2, and then in one event, be plummeted into stage 3.
And this is how faith in God often goes.
Rarely does spiritual growth advance in a straight line toward heaven. It’s more like a rollercoaster.
Which is one of the reasons we’re doing this series. I think far too many Christians expect some sort of nice linear growth to their faith where every year it just keeps getting easier and they keep getting holier.
But it’s a journey. And the journey’s more like a rollercoaster of mountains and valleys than it is a stroll on the sidewalks of Blaine.
Which has to be one of the flattest cities in the US
But, talking through a series like this is important, because if you don’t understand your journey is a rollercoaster, you’ll want to get off.
For instance, I remember, when I went to Disney World, I think because it’s Disney World, some people assume that all right rides, are well, “Disney like.”
You know, like you just go on the a nice smooth ride, and a bunch of creepy little people sing “It’s a small world afterall.”
But some of the rides there…they look pretty cute, but they’re actually rollercoasters.
And every once in a while, you’d see a kid on the rollercoaster with a look on their face that just screams, “NO ONE TOLD ME THIS WAS A ROLLERCOASTER! GET ME OFF OF THIS THING!!”
And in a similar way, if we as Christians don’t understand the mountains and valleys we will face in our journey, we’ll get to a valley and think, “I didn’t sign up for this! Get me out of here!”
You have to know what’s ahead of you.
Another thing about the stages…they are cumulative. You don’t just move on to the next one and leave it behind. They add together.
Just like growing up. We experience childhood, being an awkward teenager, young adulthood, middle age, older adulthood, being a senior, etc.
And while we retain some certain childlike qualities, we are all expected to become adults and move on through our lives. To stop throwing tantrums. To move out of our parent’s basement. To stop hanging out w/ the guys’ late at night and show up at our kids’ soccer games instead.
But, it’s cumulative. You aren’t supposed to abandon everything from childhood.
Jesus tells us even that we need to retain a childlike faith(mt 18)
Many of us could benefit from some childlike joy.
And the stages are built in the same way, you don’t just go to the next one, and leave the other behind. They build upon each other.
And while the stages should be cumulative, and you should see growth, I encourage you to not necessarily see them as “better.”
Don’t just sit here thinking, “I can’t wait to Stage 4! Then I’ve arrived!”
God has you where you’re at right now. And that’s ok. Yes, you want to grow forward, but often it’s on HIS timing.
It’s like, I said to one of my mentors, “I’m 30 years old, but I just wish I had the wisdom and patience and understanding of a 50 year old.”
And he said, “sorry to break it to you, it’s not going to happen until you’re 50. You can’t manufacture life experience.”
And the stages aren’t necessarily age dependent, but you also can’t manufacture the experiences.
There are some things you can do to grow (and we’ll talk about that), but others you can’t do.
You can’t, nor would you want to, purposefully throw yourself into a dark night of the soul in stage 3.
And you can’t, on your own, bring yourself out of it. God must do it in HIS timing.
So some of this is just going to take time.
But perhaps the biggest misunderstanding Christians often have of stages and spiritual development is this: “Time does not guarantee growth.”
You could be 75, and have been a Christian for 50 years, and you could still be in stage 1.
Or, you could be a 27 year old who’s partly in stage 4.
Time is indeed a factor, but time does not guarantee your growth.
Moving from stage to stage is a combination of bringing our responses and choices in sync with God’s timing.
And even though each stage builds developmentally on the previous experience, but we are not inherently better at each stage. We just are.
And God loves you the same wherever you are. You can’t earn His love.
Now, don’t run the full postmodern way with this and think, “well, then I shouldn’t do anything!”
True, you can’t earn more of his love, but you can live in more of his life!
And this is my last preface statement about the stages for you:
It is simply just kind of difficult to understand the future stages until you live it.
It’s like a teenager trying to understand what it’s like to be married with 3 kids. It’s just not really possible
BUT, the more that teenager thinks about it beforehand and prepares, the better it will go.
If no one ever tells you that marriage and parenthood is going to be hard, you’re way more likely to want to jump off when it IS hard.
And we don’t just want to show you the valleys that are coming, but what the mountains actually look like:
As Christian researcher George Barna has ascertained, “Most Christians don’t know what spiritual maturity looks like.”
It’s not as simple as go to church, read your Bible. Sure, that’s part of the journey, but it’s more complex than that, and we want to better paint that picture in this series.
By the way, this probably the most highly interconnected series we’ve ever done.
So if you miss a message, you will be confused. J
We encourage you to catch up online. You can watch HD videos of every weeks’ message on our website renovationchurch.org. It’s awesome.
So what does this “Stage 1” look like??
Stage 1 is the beginning of a relationship with God.
For a lot of people it’s the early years of their relationship with Christ.
And a lot of it is characterized by a lot of joy, love, and excitement.
For centuries theologians have identified the Israelites experience out of Egypt (in Exodus & Numbers) as a paradigm for the Christian life.
And it really is a good summary of many of the stages we go through.
At first, they’re overjoyed. They love God. He delivered them from slavery, led them through the Sea!
But then, in the desert, they struggle. They doubt. Some even turn away.
But eventually the settle down in the land of Canaan and their faith is renewed.
And today, we’re really looking at that first stage. God has just delivered you! You realize He’s real and working in the world today!
And it’s awesome.
We’re calling Stage 1: Infatuation.
Infatuation is when you get so excited about something you don’t see the negative.
It’s why I wore my Vikings jersey today. J Perfect example.
It’s easy for many fans to get super excited about all the positives and not see the potential negatives:
Oh yeah, our secondary is still terrible. Our QB, while not throwing an interception yet, still hasn’t thrown for over 300 yds yet.
Infatuation is when we get overly focused on just the positives
It’s mostly seen in dating relationships, right?
You meet someone, and you fall so head over heels, that, hard as you try, you just can’t think of any negative qualities about the person. They’re…well…perfect!
Now, the difference in definition here is that unlike humans, Jesus…is…well…perfect! And always will be.
“But what we get wrongly infatuated with in Stage 1 is not Jesus himself, but with what our new life will be like.
We enter a sort of honeymoon phase of our faith if you will.
And the fact that we do shouldn’t be a surprise, and is also, pretty normal.
I mean, think about what happens:
When we give our lives to Christ, we are awakened to God. It creates a new sense of awe in us.
We are a new Creation!
(2 Corinthians 5:17) – NIV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!
You just start to feel like everything’s new in your life.
You feel like:
(Psalm 23:1) – NIV
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
It’s the thought of, “I used to feel so hopeless, and now I feel like my needs are being met. I shall not want.”
We are experiencing something radical.
When God touches you, it changes everything.
You get a sense of love like never before.
We feel God in us. Maybe even speaking to us. Guiding us. Forgiving us. And it’s surreal.
It often even comes with a lot of zeal at first. Christians are way more likely to share their faith in the first 6 months than any other time.
We become like the people Jesus encounters in the Gospel. He touches them, and they just want to get up and follow Him.
And for a lot of us, it tends to be a fairly emotional thing (which isn’t bad)
While there are your rare intellectual converts that think themselves to Christ (C.S. Lewis the most reluctant convert in all of England)
For 98% of us, God just does something in our lives, and He messes with our hearts, and moves us to Him
He just speaks to us. Maybe at church.
Or maybe on walk in nature, we just “get” that He’s real.
Or sometimes it’s in the birth of our children.
It’s not bad that we are brought to God this way. IF it was, he probably wouldn’t bring most of us this way.
The psalmists even talk about how people recognize God this way.
That’s why so many of our worship songs (often which are taken from the psalms) always talk about the mountains, the hills, trees, the lilies of the field, etc.
BUT, there is a filling out and a more holistic development of our faith that will come later…but this is often how stage 1 starts.
But it can also be a characteristic of being stuck in stage 1
And lets talk about that.
For many of you. You’re just fairly new to this whole Jesus thing anyway and you’re excited to know Him. And all I can say to that is…that’s great! God is good
But for some of you…you’ve known Jesus for quite some time now, but you’re still stuck in stage 1.
So how do people get stuck? How do they not move on to stage 2, which is where we start to find purpose, a real active life of faith and direction?
Well, many people fall in love with God, but they never actually develop the relationship.
The only thing they have is that they once had really strong feelings for him in the beginning.
It’s kind of like many of our marriages. There was indeed an initial spark back in the day. I mean, why did they get married in the first place? They had some moments in the beginning where there was lots of love and romance, etc. So they got married.
But, and this is all too common, as soon as they got married, they let a lot of the basic things go. They didn’t really talk all that much anymore.
How was your day? “meh, Good. You?” “Meh. Ok. Goodnight.”
They didn’t really work on studying how to be a better spouse.
I mean, in the beginning, it was like, “Googling romantic dates.”
And now it’s, “Googling “How to pretend I’m listening to my spouse.”
And usually, spouses would never consider asking another friend…how are you making your marriage work?
The spouses don’ talk much, they don’t try and improve the relationship, they’re not really serving each other in love, they’re not asking for help, they’re just sort of “co-existing”…
And really, what they’re doing is: living off the remaining fumes and the remnant of an earlier love…back when they were dating
And so many of our marriages our like that. Yeah, we’re still together cuz we don’t hate each other yet, and we were really in love…back in the day.
But it’s almost IDENTICAL to SO many of our Christian walks. And this would be classic stage 1
You had a great experience…or experiences with God back in the day.
You got saved. You realized you were forgiven. God started moving in your life. You experienced his love. It was awesome. You were on fire.
But like so many of our American marriages, you and God stopped talking everyday. Besides the, “How was your day? Help me have a good day, God. Amen. See you tomorrow.”
You stopped learning on how to get better. Or, more than likely, again, like a lot of marriages, you never started.
You’re not around other Christians who are pushing you to grow. Probably not serving.
You’re just sort of EXISTING…on the remaining fumes of a former love affair you had w/ God back in the day. Hoping that it won’t dry up.
And that’s what Stage 1 looks like if it’s been a few years and you never really moved on.
And it’s usually characterized by not knowing a lot of other Christians, a lack of daily spiritual disciplines, and often a lot of shame.
Shame for our old lives. Shame for our “old self” creeping back up.
And this is bound to happen without growing in the knowledge of God and the encourage of others that will constantly remind you, “That yes, despite your continual rebellion, you are STILL a new creation…STILL forgiven…STILL loved.
But on our own…we get stuck…and get trapped.
Many of the emotions that we came to know God with are still good and should be built upon (which we’ll talk about in house groups this week), but we have to add more substance to our faith as well. We can’t build the foundation of our faiths on former emotional experiences.
Maybe it’s a little hard to see if you’re stuck in stage 1 right now without a clear explanation of stage 2 (which is why you have to come back next week), but if you are slightly feeling like you’ve been stuck here for a while…and want to move…. I would say this:
It’s hard for God to steer a parked car.
If anyone can do it, He can. J
But we have to move too. And what else can you do?
First and foremost, come back next week as we paint the picture of what the next stage of Christian maturity actually looks like.
And begin taking steps to move out of a faith that’s just built on emotion, the past, and individualism
Sign-up for a house group & walk out of isolation
Stop by the table in the hallway and pick resources for how you can grow more in your spiritual disciplines with God and better build a DAILY relationship w/ Him, & thus a stronger foundation
And as you begin to take bold steps forward into community, into God’s truth in the Bible, and into deepening your relationship, you’re going to see Him start to steer your car in a direction you weren’t going before
I do want to make mention this morning of a stage that we didn’t mention. And that is stage ZERO.
Maybe you were hearing all this amazing stuff about what life in Jesus looks like this morning…and quite frankly, it’s kind of intriguing. Or a Jesus you haven’t heard about before.
Or maybe you’ve even been around for a little while now, and thinking about really coming back to God or taking this thing seriously.
But you wouldn’t say that you have yet fully believed or have given your life to Him
Well, I want to give you that opportunity this morning.
Many people think of Jesus as just a great moral teacher.
But He was so much more. He was God’s son, sent to earth, to die for our sins.
What does that mean?
It means this: That you and I are not perfect. We’re imperfect. We’re messed up. We all are. I lead the parade of messed up people.
And the reality is we sin against a God who is holy.
And a holy and just God must bring justice to us. He’s the judge. It would be the strangest thing you could ever imagine if God wasn’t “just.”
But God loves you so much….so much…more than you could ever fathom, that this is what he did.
He sent his son Jesus….FOR YOU…to take your place on the cross.
Even though it should have been me there. Taking the punishment for what I deserved, he sent His son to cover us. To take our place.
And Jesus died on the cross for us. Taking all of the justice and wrath of God…as a symbol of love for us.
And if we would believe in that, if we would say, “God, I’m not going to do this my own way and try and impress you w/ what a great person I am…” but say, “God I’m broken, I need you, I’m sorry for what I’ve done, I believe you sent your Son to take my place, and I want to follow you.”
If we would believe that and commit to Him, the Bible tells us over and over, that we would be saved. Completely forgiven. Given a relationship with God and offered eternal life in heaven.
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And it’s that simple. And if you’re never given your life to Christ before…you’ve never said, “God, I believe you did this for ME. And I commit my life to you and will follow you…” I want to encourage you to do that today.
If you’re ready for stage 1. To be a NEW creation in Christ. To exp. the fullness of God’s love. His forgiveness. A relationship with Him.
If you’re ready for that, let’s do that!
Here’s what we’re going to do.
Let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to follow Jesus today, and believe that He died on the cross for you…I want to give you the opportunity to tell Him that you believe.
And for some of you in this room. Now is the TIME. Right now. Let’s make it official TODAY.
If you want to believe in what Jesus did for you and commit your life to him (to make Him your leader & forgiver), If that’s you…I want you to raise your hand right where you are. Right now.
As a way for you to make it officialNo one’s looking
I’ll give you a moment.
If you raised your hand, would you pray this prayer with me…
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…and the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me.Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
And that I have fallen short
But God, I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God, I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
Thank you God. Amen.
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
Let me thank Him and PRAY.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do just 1 thing for me
At the end of the service, I need you to head to the back of the room, and we’re going to give you a gift to help you get started in your relationship with Christ. So awesome! Let me just pray & thank God!
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.
OCTOBER 7, 2012