HOW TO LIVE A DYNAMIC, LIFE-CHANGING FAITH

Remember your days in geometry?

Did you have a teacher who diagrammed what a difference a degree makes the farther you get from the point of origin?

Example:

If you were travelling toward a specific destination and were off by a single degree – after one foot you would be off course by only 0.2 inches. Hardly even noticeable to the naked eye, right?

But what happens if you travel a longer distance?

After a mile, you would be off target by 92 feet

Travelling from your town by circumnavigating the globe, you would miss coming back to your current location by more than 435 miles. Oops!

And if you were travelling from the earth to the sun in a straight line, you’d be off by 1.6 million miles!

The same is true for your faith – the Christian faith – what we believe to be true

Hebrews 2:1 “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”

The further we have come from the point of origin – the birth of the Church as seen in the book of Acts, chapter 2 – the wider the gap between what the first Christians believed and what we, as believers, hold to be true today

And thus the way they lived their faith as contrasted with how we, today, live our faith

Example:

There are many verses that we choose to ignore as a Christian community 

Matthew 19:23-24 “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Fairly clear, I would think

Jesus even repeated Himself so there would be no confusion

But the widening distance between our present condition (living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world) and Jesus’ unambiguous statements forces us into interpreting His words and coming out with a less strong statement – thus twisting the real truth

See, the ‘eye of the needle’ is actually a very low gate outside of Jerusalem” that a camel would need to kneel to go through as well as unload what it is carrying aa it would not be able to get through with any of its regular cargo carried on its back

Or, we simply ignore the statement altogether

Or when someone preaches from the Beatitudes…

They preach from Matthew’s version:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”

They don’t preach from Luke’s version:

“Blessed are you who are poor”

Much less volatile with fewer post-sermon emails

We are drifting and the further we get from the point of origin the wider the gap between the truth Jesus taught and lived and the truth that we believe and base our lives on

As a result, our lives look very much like those lived by those who do not believe the Christian faith and have no use for the Word of God – the Bible

Francis Chan said, “Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers”

And, the greater the drift – the rift between truth then and truth now … 

Then the great the difference between what we are trusting God for and what they were believing God for

Remembering the words of Jesus, “Be it done unto you according to your faith”

(Matthew 9:29)

So, because of our drift away from knowing and living biblical truth… and trusting God totally

Somewhere along the way, we stopped aiming for radically impossible God-sized dreams and instead settled for realistic incremental man-sized progress

We have drifted away from seeing the lives of non-believers transformed to seeing believers informed

In my study of who Jesus is and the way that He lived while with us as a human being …

In my study of what the early church – before the drift began – believed and especially how they practiced those beliefs…

I saw that they arrived at a different destination than we do

It became evident that they lived their lives vastly different than we live ours

I discovered that they had a deep, even radical, commitment to seven aspects of the Christian faith and the resulting Christian life-style

Seven aspects of living out the faith that changed their lives 

Attitudes and behaviours that made them look more like Jesus

A life-style that caused others to see Jesus in them so that non-believers started asking them questions about the faith

These seven areas are:

    • Surrender
    • Scripture
    • Submission
    • Service
    • Sacrifice
    • Simplicity
    • Suffering

In the life of Jesus…

Surrender – Jesus refused to exercise earthly power as He surrender His life to God’s plan

Scripture – Jesus spoke the truth

Submission – He didn’t call an army that was at His disposal but trusted God’s plan

Service – He washed His disciples feet and healed all those who were sick

Sacrifice – He was not rich; leaving all the riches of Heaven to become one of us

Simplicity – He had no place to call His home and lived a very simple lifestyle

Suffering – He was crucified for us so we could be forgiven and live as disciples

Jesus and the early Church – the followers of The Way – lived these seven aspects of the Christian faith

But, it was more than seven things added to the way we are to live

S + S + S + S + S + S + S

It was more a cumulative effect – a multiplying effect on their lives as each aspect interacted with the others…

S x S x S x S x S x S x S

These seven aspects of the early believer’s faith and thus lives have had a multiplier effect on the spiritual life of the early believers

Let me show you what I mean – let’s replace the “S” with the number “10”

10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 10 = 70

Now 70 is a big number … but let’s try multiplying 10 by itself 7 times

10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x10 = 10,000,000

Ten million is bigger than seventy…

My point is:

That every time we make a commitment to living out another one of these seven aspects of the faith 

Every time you make one of these areas a practice in your life

It leads to an exponential increase in your faith and your impact on non-believers

Because we have generally lost the practice of these seven spiritual aspects of the Christian faith… 

Somewhere along the way, we stopped aiming for radically impossible God-sized dreams and instead settled for realistic incremental man-sized progress

We have drifted away from seeing the lives of non-believers transformed to seeing believers informed

Many are holding to the outward form of their religion but living without life-changing power. (2 Timothy 3:5)

Let’s take a quick and brief look at these seven aspects of a vibrant faith that results in lives being transformed and churches growing in influence and changing the world just as we have been called to do

SURRENDER…

The earliest Christians were surrendered to God (Lordship) in ways we have never experienced

A decision to follow Jesus in the early days often came with fatal consequences 

To the early Church our baptism phrase “death to self” was not just a slogan or a metaphor

Today we have made ‘surrendering to Christ” easy and comfortable, certainly not challenging and life changing

Even in our wording … “accepting Jesus”

In the early Church becoming a believer was like signing your own death warrant

In our world we have made it in to a personal decision where we accept Jesus’ offer like we sign for and accept a package from FedEx

To surrender is our heart admitting our weakness

To accept is our ego demanding the illusion of still being in charge

Surrender is an issue of the Lordship of Jesus which is almost a lost concept in some churches today

Lordship is recognized when we understand that we played a very small part in our salvation

John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”

Moses did not have a say in the bush burning near him

Mary didn’t get to choose if the angel suddenly appeared

Paul had absolutely no control on the Damascus Road

The “accept Jesus” lets us pretend to play a role in encountering Jesus, but God demands that our surrender be unconditional … we do not determine the conditions or details

He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all

SCRIPTURE…

Spurgeon, a great British preacher of the 18th century said:

“A Bible that’s falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t”

Today, most believers spend more time reading a devotional than they do the actual Bible

Many believers only read it when it is convenient or they are in a panic or crisis mode

The Bible is a book 

Breathed into it are divine secrets of the universe

Woven into every page is our Creator’s revealed plan for our daily lives and our eternal destiny

Yet, most Christians are illiterate when it comes to the Bible…

Why? Because we believe that human logic is the only answer to every question

Joshua 1:8a “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night…”

This verse goes on to give us a cause and effect…

 Joshua 1:8b “…so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

God’s Word, not human logic, is what we all need and we find godly wisdom and direction for our day when we spend adequate time in His Word

SUBMISSION…

“Ability to resist temptation is directly proportionate to your submission to God”

Ed Cole

This is a word that offends many people today – especially younger people

Submission offends many because it presents a direct challenge to our self-centered lives that point out that we are important 

May I say, that many act like everything is about them and that they are center of their focus and should be the center of everyone else’s focus

Once we, as believers, are yielded to surrender and have seen the importance of Scripture in our lives – Submission is the next critical step

This submission was seen in the early Church in two ways:

1> Submission to biblical church authority

2> Submission to the principles and teachings of the Bible

Many believers have moved so far away from obedience to Scripture that they pick and choose doctrine to suit their own whims

They have become “Cafeteria Christians”

Jesus demonstrated this ‘submission’ for us – so we have an example to follow

Philippians 2:5-8 “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Submission to the perfect will of God actually leads to more freedom and liberty being experienced – not less!

SERVICE …

Galatians 5:13 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

We all know that we are to serve others as Jesus served…

Matthew 20:28 “…the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”

It is a biblical obligation for all true believers

But, often we are not involved in serving because, to be brutally honest, it is messy

It takes a lot of time

It is not about us – it is all about others

Those you help will seldom thank you

And, there are professional believers who do this for a living – leave it to them

So, give to them and let them do the work (service)

That is not the right thinking and not the way it is suppose to work

Helping in after school programs

Coaching sports for children

Working with recovering alcoholics

Supporting those who are coming off of drugs

Not because it makes you feel good about yourself as that is self-centered and co-dependant

This type of service can transform lives and communities…

Example:

The early Christians attracted the attention of the Romans by racing to the heart of places hit by the plaque when well-to-do Romans were racing in the other direction

Throughout history … 

Built leper colonies

Hospitals

Schools

And still do in many challenging places among other religions

In North Korea – a country where people are arrested for owning a Bible

The Ignis Community is a Christian outreach that openly operates under the watchful eye of the Communist leadership. The reason? They founded a program in Pyongyang to help children with disabilities (particularly cerebral palsy) learn to walk. In addition to working with severely disabled children, the Ignis Community also distributes medicine, food, and other essentials to the remotest areas of the country. Since their service to the disabled community in North Korea is making such a difference, and since there are virtually no other treatment programs for cerebral palsy in the entire country, the government not only allows this Christian ministry to continue in a Communist country but financially supports the effort.

Self-centered, self-absorbed Christians are capable of such world-changing actions only when they are willing to surrender, willing to follow the commands of Scripture, willing to submit to authority, and willing to serve others (first four).

These seven areas are:

    • Surrender
    • Scripture
    • Submission
    • Service
    • Sacrifice
    • Simplicity
    • Suffering

The first four set the foundation for the last three

The last three disciplines strike a fatal death blow to our comfortable, consumer-driven, controlling hearts

SACRIFICE …

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”

Jim Elliot (Operation Auca, serving the Waodani – People of Ecuador) 

Sacrifice has nothing to do with giving up some little thing to help someone less fortunate 

Sacrifice is not giving up chocolate for Lent…

Sacrifice is Jim Elliot giving his life for the Christian mandate to reach all nations

Sacrifice is Elizabeth Elliot going to the people who killed her husband and living with them to earn the right to share the gospel

The key to being willing to sacrifice something / everything… is to really realize that everything we have and everything we are is God’s and not ours

Then sacrifice doesn’t seem like a sacrifice at all

Telling others about Jesus, going overseas to share the Gospel, tithing … no longer feel like a chore and they start feeling like us giving back what was not ours in the first place

That is what makes it possible for ordinary people to give up extraordinary things – homes, careers, money, reputations, and even people they love the most

For the God who gave us everything, including His Son, sacrifice becomes our gift back to Him

David Livingstone:

“If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honour, how can a commission by our heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?”

SIMPLICITY …

Simplicity demands that nothing get in the way of our relationship with God

In our modern world we are running at a pace never seen before

With the explosion of mobile devices and other screens demanding our attention, we are constantly bombarded with data

On average, each person in North America sees up to 5,000 media messages daily!

The world today is screaming at us saying, “you need that.”

The average North American is between $16,000 and $20,000 in credit card debt

Will Rogers (comedian) states, “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.”

Jesus, on the other hand, calls us to a life of simplicity

Simplicity demands that nothing get in the way of our relationship with God

In the Kingdom economy there are many counterintuitive truths…

By choosing less in every area of our lives, we gain more

First benefit of simplicity: When we allow the Holy Spirit to search our hearts to streamline our desires, we slowly acquire proper perspective – His perspective

With it, our urgent desire to relentlessly consume fades

A second benefit of simplicity is …

The way other people, non-believers, perceive us

Acts 2:44-47 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

These believers still had homes to live in

They were selling some possessions and distributing the proceeds – they didn’t sell everything

So what were they doing?

They were simplifying…

This simplicity led to unity, generosity, and joy

This simplicity was infectious as they found favour with many and some were saved

SUFFERING … 

“It is eternally impossible to preach what Christianity is in truth without having to suffer for it in this world” Soren Kierkegaard in ‘Attack Upon Christendom’

For most of Christianity’s history, persecution has been part of life

Even today, persecution is the norm for much of the world’s non-Western Christians

Arrest for worshipping at an unlicensed house church is common in China

Dismemberment and torture by Boka Haran is the risk you take for being a Christian in Nigeria

Being driven from your home, losing your job, or even death by beheading is the punishment for being a Christian in many parts of the Islamic world

Russian pastor Nik Ripkin states, “For us, persecution is like the sun coming up in the east. It happens all the time. It’s the way things are. There is nothing unusual or unexpected about it.”

In the west where we live, the idea of suffering for the gospel is virtually unknown

Most democracies have laws protecting the freedom of religion

But note this:

It is not a coincidence that in parts of the world where persecution still exits, people there are on fire to share the gospel of Jesus

This is a quality that they share with the earliest Christians who were so aligned with Jesus that they were honoured to suffer as He did

In the Bible and throughout history there is a direct connection between persecution and passionate and effective evangelism

But in most modern Christian circles, evangelism is dead

We have stopped sharing the story of Jesus

We have gone silent as a trade-off to avoid any sort of discrimination

Revelation 3:16-17 “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

So, there are seven elements of a dynamic and contagious faith as seen both in the life of Jesus and in the life of the early Church…

    • SURRENDER our present and future to the Creator
    • Immerse ourselves in SCRIPTURE
    • SUBMIT to the authority of God, His Word, and true leaders of the Church
    • Choose love and SERVICE to others over personal comfort and pleasure
    • Seek to SACRIFICE what we have been given as a gift back to Him
    • Focus our lives in SIMPLICITY to be living examples to others
    • Then we can step out in faith telling others of Jesus prepared for the days of SUFFERING

These 7 elements of the Christian life are the call of Jesus that radically transformed the world 2,000 years ago and can do it again

They are the path back to a dynamic and vibrant faith

They are the way back to living with the miraculous

These ancient values are the keys that unlock the ability to lovingly confound and convict an uninterested and hostile culture

Peter writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”  (1 Peter 2:9)

Another version: “a peculiar people”

That is a goal – to be a peculiar people – different than the world

In the world but not of the world

To be so unique that the world notices the differences and wants to embrace it

Final thoughts:

Every other religious faith wants to escape the world, but Jesus wants us to renew the world. That must start with a renewal of ourselves.

When I was born again no one talked about or mentioned these seven elements of a dynamic faith and powerful Christian life and witness

I was told to go to church, read my bible, pray, tithe, worship… all actions and disciplines that are good … but they don’t really bring life transformation

These seven elements of the life and ministry of Jesus and the early church will bring transformation for anyone who focuses on them and builds their life around them