Sermon:  Spiritual Strength

Summary:  In order to have the inner strength and insight to live godly in both regular 
and crisis moments, we need to devote ourselves to practices that enable us to draw 
closer to our Lord who will continually transform us inwardly in thought, emotion, and 

Know:  Human will power alone is not enough to be transformed into the image of Christ.  
It is God's work, but he desires for us to create the right conditions in our heart for him 
to work this change, and the spiritual disciplines can help

Feel:  The desire to spend alone time with God

Do:  Reflect on the depth of your relationship with God and the practices that strengthen 
it.  Evaluate your inner self and how Christ-like it is, even in times of crisis, anger, danger, 
etc.  Commit time for practices that will enable God to transform us and make us stronger. 

Text:  Mt 23:25-28

Scripture Reading:  Psalm 77:12

1.  A mother had some guests over for dinner
	a.  She asked her 4 year old son Johnny to say the prayer
	b.  Johnny protested.  "I don't know how
	c.  Her mother said, "Just say what I say."
	d.  Johnny bowed his head and said, "Oh, Lord, why did I invite all 
     	     these people over here today?"
2.  Sometimes what it on the inside has a way of coming out
	a.  That is so true when it comes to our soul
	b.  We need to nourish our inner life, our soul
	c.  Review of the series - Motivation, Use of Time, Wisdom & Knowledge
	d.  This Morning:  Spiritual Strength - Nourishing Our Soul
		- Our Soul is the Center of Our Being
		-  It is what is eternal	
		-  It is where we commune with God
		-  Yet it is often what we most neglect
3.  (Mt 23:25-28) - Example of those who did not nourish their soul
	a.  Jesus called them whitewashed tombs and inwardly dirty
	b.  They looked great to other people
		- They were very well studied in the word
		- They had law-keeping down to a science
		- They fasted, prayed, attended synagogue on schedule
		- Josephus writes about them, they were influential
	c.  They didn't look good to God 
		- Jesus leveled a whole tirade of woes against them
		- The Pharisees had missed the point
	d. They emphasized the external over the internal
		- System of rules - Sabbath, festivals, rituals, kosher laws
		-  Their outer self was changed, but not the inner self
		-  They did not nourish their soul - their inner selves
4.  We need to be changed from the inside out
	a.  Sooner or later, what is on the inside will come out
	b.  It will come out in several types of situations
		-  In the unguarded moments
		-  In a crisis moment
		-  When we think no one is watching
	c.  Sheer will-power is an inadequate defense in these times
	d.  How do we tend to our inner life?  How do we nourish our soul?

I.  Be Christ-like in spirituality
	A.  Illusion: I can be like Christ without imitating his spirituality
		1.  Jesus modeled and engaged in spiritual disciplines
		2.  Prayer, solitude, simplicity, to name a few
	B.  We need to understand what these practices are really about
		1.  (Col 2:21-23) - It is not about the "appearance" of wisdom
			a.  The Pharisees misunderstood this
			b.  Their religion was "self-made" will-worship
			c.  Their regimented practices were not supposed to be an 
			     end in themselves
		2.  What Spiritual Disciplines are Not - Lesson from Pharisees:
			a.  Barometers of Spirituality
			b.  An end in itself
			c.  A way to earn brownie points with God
			d.  A way to earn forgiveness
		3.  They create conditions for God to fill us and transform us
			a.  We know that God's grace is a gift
				- Does that mean God intends for us to do nothing?
				- No, there is something for us to do
			b.  Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning
		4.  What we are doing is providing the right conditions
	C.  ILL:  Like a seed
		1.  Willpower will not make it grow
			a.  If try to "make" it grow, it will not work
			b.  Can destroy it if you crack it open to make it grow
		2.  You create the conditions for it to grow
			a.  Prepare the soil
			b.  Water
			c.  Sunlight
		3.  It is the same way with spiritual disciplines
	D.  This is not something for monks, professionals, or super spiritual
		1.  There are practices meant for every believer
		2.  I am going to build on the cup metaphor Jesus used
		3.  Practices concerning cleaning the cup, and filling the cup

II.  Clean the inside of the cup (disciplines of abstinence)
	A.  You have to do this regularly
		1.  Seems like an endless supply every day
			a.  What would happen if we just stopped
			b.  There would be dirty, disgusting dishes
			c.  Attract bugs, mold, vermin, smell, etc.
		2.  We get clutter and stuff that need to be cleaned out regularly
			a.  (Mark 1:35) - This was a regular practice for Jesus
			b.  In the silence of solitude he was renewed by God 
		3.  We have to be changed from the inside out
		4.  God has given us the tools through which he will work:
	B.  Spiritual Disciplines of Cleaning - Briefly
		1.  Silence
			a.  There is a lot of noise, messages, etc. in the world
			b.  Need time to simply be with God with full attention on him
			c.  God typically doesn't yell over the noise
		2.  Solitude
			a.  Even Jesus took time for solitude regularly
			b.  But it wasn't to get "away" from it all
			c.  It was to come "to" God in a lonely place
		3.  Simplicity
			a.  Jesus modeled a simple life
			b.  "He who dies with the most toys……is dead"
			c.  There are dangers will amassing wealth and possessions
				- We think we own them, but they can own us
			d.  Simplicity as a discipline helps us with perspective
		4.  Fasting
			a.  Jesus gave instructions on fasting, assuming we would
			b.  Fasting with the right motivation is beneficial
	C.  ILL:  Trip to Science City
		1.  One of them had to do with optical illusions
		2.  One of them had you stare at the center of a turning wheel
			a.  The wheel had a black and white pattern on it
			b.  We were supposed to stare at it for a minute
			c.  Afterward, we supposed to look away at something else
			d.  Everything seemed to be turning or spinning
		3.  Like Computer screens
			a.  Images on the screen too long get etched on the screen
			b.  That is why there are screen savers
		4.  The disciplines of abstinence are screen savers for the soul
			- Helps keep the world from being etched on your soul
	D.  So we need to shut down regularly and periodically
		1.  The disciplines of abstinence will help
		2.  They help to keep junk from building up inside the cup
		3.  But cleaning the inside of the cup is not enough…

III.  Fill the inside of the Cup (disciplines of engagement)
	A.  It is not enough to simply clean out our inner lives
		1.  (Mark 13:43-45) - Not enough to clean house
		2.  Cleaning house is to prepare it to be a sanctuary for God
		3.  God gives you these disciplines to help you do this
	B.  Spiritual Disciplines of Filling
		1.  Sacred Reading
			a.  This is not reading for a Bible Study, argument, etc.
			b.  This is reading as though God were speaking to you
			c.  No agenda, just communing with God
		2.  Meditation
			a.  This is not emptying your mind as in eastern religions
			b.  This is to fill your mind with God
			c.  Ps 77:12-15 - I will meditate on all your work
	 		   - God is still at work today in your life
		3.  Journaling - Written meditation
			a.  If you are scatter brained, this can help order thoughts
			b.  Write down how you see God at work, what you learn
			c.  Write down prayers, confessions, etc.
		4.  Prayer
			a.  Write this down on your calendar, daytimer
			b.  Plan to spend time with God in prayer
			c.  Run out of what to say, then just be with God in silence
	C.  ILL:  Some of whom we consider spiritual giants all practiced these
		1.  Most of the Reformers practiced these
			a.  Most of them faced severe persecution
			b.  They had a spiritual clarity & strength that sustained them
			c.  I suspect these practices contributed to this
		2.  Deitrich Bonheoffer was a German minister during WWII 
			a.  Many German churches caved to the will of the Nazi 
			     regime, citing Romans 14 in submission to government
				- This was a result of sloppy intellectual thinking
				- This was a result of a weak spirituality
			b.  Bonheoffer dared to disagree and was imprisoned 
			c.  He wrote some of the most challenging works on 
			     discipleship and commitment during this time
			d.  He also practiced the disciplines
		3.  I met a man in Abilene, Texas named David 
			a.  Always seemed to know what to do and have the right 
			     perspective on everything
			b.  I don't think I have ever met anyone as wise as him
			c.  He practiced spiritual disciplines
		4.  Our Savior practiced spiritual disciplines
			a.  He was always going away to be alone with God
			b.  He was always praying, practicing simplicity, etc.
	D.  These practices go back to our Lord and Savior Jesus
		1.  If I want to be like him, I will imitate his spirituality as well
		2.  What kind of spiritual discipline do you practice?  

1.  Remember these are not ends in themselves, but will help give you the spiritual strength 
to live godly in daily life
	a.  "The reality of our faith is demonstrated more in the way we walk with Jesus in 
the mundane than in the number of religious meetings we attend.  If we with to serve and 
glorify God, the most authentic expression of this desire will be in the ordinary activities 
of life"  - Kenneth Boa, Conformed to His Image: Biblical Practices and Approaches to 
Spiritual Formation.  p.215.
	b.  The disciplines will help with this
2.  It is like training.  Need to train daily
	a.  Will power alone is not enough
	b.  If you are weak, simply wishing or wanting will be inadequate
	c.  These practices will help you gain spiritual strength for all challenges
3.  Have you begun the walk with God?  (Invitation)
4.  If you have begun the walk, consider these disciplines
	a.  Some of them may not do it for you
	b.  Some of them may become very powerful and meaningful
	c.  It takes time to nourish the soul, can't do it in a hurry
	d.  I just scratched the surface, I may do a series on this in the future


Small Group Notes:  Spiritual Strength

Summary:  In order to have the inner strength and insight to live godly in both regular and 
crisis moments, we need to devote ourselves to practices that enable us to draw closer to 
our Lord who will continually transform us inwardly in thought, emotion, and will.

Open  (choose one)
- What is the most ridiculous rule you have ever seen?
- Who have you had the most trouble communicating with?  Who do you communicate the 
best with?


1.  The Pharisees were champions at knowing the word of God and keeping rules.  What was 
missing in their lives? (Matt 23:25-28)

2.  Jesus made it a regular practice to find a quiet place to be alone with God and to pray.  
What did Christ's spiritual practices enable him to do?  (Luke 6:12; John 8:28-29)

3.  Can one really be Christ like without imitating his spirituality?  Why or why not?

4.  What did David gain from his communion with God?  (Psalm 27)

5.  Why is sheer human will-power not enough to serve God daily?  How would the disciplines 
help create the conditions for God to strengthen and transform us?


6.  If you are totally honest with yourself, how would you describe your inner communion 
with God?  

7.  Some people use metaphors to describe their spiritual center, such as a garden, gym, etc.  
What are some metaphors you might use to describe your spiritual center?  How might the 
metaphor help you in your spiritual growth?

8.  What is the deepest desire of your heart for your inner life with God?  What can you do to 
have that desire satisfied?

9.  Which of the disciplines are you strongest in?  Which are you weakest in?  What can you 
do to incorporate the disciplines in your life?

Plan:  Write down and choose one discipline to concentrate on.  In another week or two, add 
another, then another.  Carve out blocks of time for this, make an appointment.