Friday, May 20, 2011

Spiritual Obesity

In the last post, i mentioned that we would begin looking at practical steps (see assignments at the end of this post) to pursue God's most treasured desire for us, His ultimate will for our lives: to be conformed to the image of His son Jesus.   It is pointless to read a book or a blog, listen to a sermon, or have a conversation over coffee about how we are going to be more devoted to God, unless it somehow leads to some sort of repentance or life adjustment. 

i can't tell you how many amazing conversations i've had, books i've read, and sermons i've listened to without responding in genuine repentance (or making a life-change based on a revelation from heaven).  i admit, i have been content to leave those moments with a fleeting inspirational feeling and an empty promise to myself that "i will change starting tomorrow"....It rarely happens. 

i'm sure that i am not alone in my confession that i eagerly consume information about God and the Christian life on a grand scale.  As Christians in the West, we avail ourselves to innumerable books, sermons, lectures, conferences, discussions, etc. to the point where we have become spiritually obese.  It's a shameful thing that i have such a large library on how to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, and do very little with what I learn, whereas a 16 year old girl in China is about to plant her 24th house church this year with only the book of Matthew as her guide.

Simply put, this knowledge without response is DECEPTION.  God calls it deception in the book of JamesSadly, most of us are hearers only and unfortunately have deceived ourselves into thinking that we are doers of the word because we talk about it.  We do little with the fuel that we put in our spirits except TALK.  i liken it to spending hundreds of dollars on nutritional supplements, massive amounts of creatine and protein powder just to go to the gym and talk to people about working out while never lifting a weight.  i don't know about you, but i'm tired of just TALKING about devotion.  i want to BE devoted.

Example: The Dead Sea is the richest mineral body of water in the world, yet nothing can live in it.  Why?  Because it has no outlet.  Even if it had one tiny tributary from whence its water could exit, the Dead Sea could support life, but because it does not, it remains lifeless.

The reason many of us do not accomplish the dream of God for our lives, is because we get overwhelmed with all of the "spiritual food" we are consuming, and become too "stuffed" to move.   Paralysis by analysis is a common side-effect of over-eating extra-biblical spiritual food.  God was right when he said, knowledge puffs up.  Being an American Christian is kind of like going to an all you can eat buffet: by the time you leave, you are either sick or too full to do anything but go home and sit on the couch. 

With such a smorgasbord of opinions and opportunities we get lost in the huge empire of material Christianity, and with such lofty ideas that are rarely birthed in the Spirit, we are left  inspired but overwhelmed at the enormity of the task that awaits us. Thus, most Western Christians either give up on having a dream all together, or deceive themselves into thinking they are doing God's will by merely talking to their friends about it.  As i said in the last post, "In our neglect of the incremental, we sacrifice the dream."

So how do we"[learn] to appreciate the hard work of developing durable habits of moral excellence in a covenant community[?]"   In the classic 1991, Bill Murray comedy What About Bob? our question is answered:  " step onto the elevator... baby step into the elevator... I'm in the elevator.... AAAHHHHH."  From What About Bob? to Dave Ramsey to the book of Zechariah, the day of small beginnings is the wisest way to start repenting...Small, incremental steps toward transformation, in my opinion, is the best way to insure long-term spiritual success and character conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.
Are you going to join me on this incremental, baby-step-by-baby-step process of spiritual re-formation?  I hope you will.  Mark Scandrette said, "The solidarity of a group experiment can provide the resolve to make the changes we haven’t been able to make on our own." 

Assignment # 1:

Think of one area of your life that you believe God may want you to examine for the purpose of becoming a more devoted follower of Jesus (or re-monking).  Remember to think small!  No dramatic life changes here!  It's only the first round.  I sense that the Holy Spirit will be highlighting an area to some of you even as you read this, so take note of it and write it down...

Caution: All we want to do with this revelation, once we discover that small area/thing in need of change, is to think about it.  Don't commit to any action yet.   

Assignment # 2:

Explore this thing with God.  Ask Him to show you how it interferes with your devotion and/or relationships.  Ask Him to reveal to you how it may open unhealthy doors in your life.  Pray for revelation into how it started or where it came from.

Assignment # 3:

Please post a comment to indicate that you are going on the journey with us, so that we can encourage one another along the way.  Who knows perhaps it could lead to some re-monking forum?  We will see how it goes. And be sure to check back often...  I will be adding new posts every few days, so follow me on twitter or facebook to be sure your in the loop! 

In the Lion, In the Lamb,

Mark Whitten


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