The Shape of Things to Come

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Sunday, November 12
The Divine Conspiracy, Week 9
Scripture: Colossians 3:1-17
Rev. Jill VanderWal

3 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, 3 for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.[b]7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.[c] 8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive[d] language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal[e] there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord[f] has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ[g] dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.[h] 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.



12 step AA program.

Let me begin today with insights from JoAnn Campbell-Rice, who reflects on her journey of recovery.

“We recently moved, and I’m now shopping for a step ladder so I can reach my cupboards. Because it will be a permanent fixture in the kitchen, this ladder must be durable, sturdy, tall and elegant. It’s not a big leap to see that the Twelve Steps also function this way in my life—they lift me to a better place and allow me to reach what I want, if I just use them.”

“When I was active in my addictions, I thought my happiness depended on things external to me changing. I needed the perfect mate, the right body size, a certain number in the bank account, and other people always to behave with kindness and understanding. Since that wasn’t possible, I drank or got high in order to escape a reality that wasn’t pleasing to me.

In recovery through the 12 step program, my ladder, I learned I am responsible for my own happiness. So today when I’m off-center, I have a set of tools to inventory what’s going on in me, identify what I need to do to come back into balance, and, if I find myself not using the tool, I can call on others who understand these principles and pray to a higher power to help me use them promptly and properly. I live the Twelve Steps.”

The best part of living the Twelve Steps is I don’t do it alone—I have a community who interprets the world through a similar lens, a sponsor who freely shares how she’s navigated challenges, and an increasingly close relationship with the holiest part of myself, the world, and others that shows me time and again that this world is a marvelous place, that nothing really goes wrong, and that there’s always a new opportunity to do it better today. Today, I’m happy with what is and eager for more.

This is the path to growth and fulfillment I’ve been seeking my entire life

Here are her 12-steps rewritten as suggestions for lifelong recovery:

  • Embrace the presence of the Holy (guides, angels, teachers, higher power, God) as the path to a better life.
  • Be wide open to life, no expectations or fears, no preconceived ideas or concerns.
  • Be willing to be changed. Knowing and not knowing are both acceptable states of being.
  • Be totally honest in my questions, hurts, desires, dreams and longings. That level of honesty with self makes me less tempted to control others.
  • Hold nothing back from a sponsor or a home group. Share it all, not just what I think they want to hear.
  • Love myself—the good and the bad. Laugh at mistakes and give up on perfection. We can’t do this wrong and stretching is how we all grow.
  • Seek help when things get hard.
  • Stop worrying about past mistakes. People were hurt because that’s how they interpreted things. I was hurt because of my story and interpretation. Shift internally and act differently.
  • Love the people in front of me—strangers in cars, the lover in the bed, the sister on the phone, the friend obsessed with his pain. Love them all and watch wounds heal.
  • Be totally present. This is the only moment, so hold it gently and savor.
  • Open to the divine often. It is always available, accessible and even eager. Do not pray for answers only, but affirmation, assurance, and the sheer pleasure of that connection.
  • Be helpful. Share what I know now without waiting for it to be perfect. Say Yes to life’s invitations whether I think I’m ready or not.

The focus of chapter 9 is a curriculum for Christ-likeness.

Dallas Willard highlights programs such as AA, Divorce Recovery, Disciple. How are we learning the way of Jesus? The journey of seeking, questioning, listening and examining how we are to be actually shaped. How do we become like Jesus? Jesus’ great commission to his disciples, is to “go forth and make disciples….” If we are not making disciples…then we are just playing church and that leads to a spiritual dead end.

We need in our spiritual life a clearly-defined road map that leads to healing and transformation – a way out, and way through. Willard warns us against dead ends. He warns us against and tells us to avoid:

  • External Conformity – if I just look good and dress the way people do here…
  • Professing correct doctrine – if I just say the right things…
  • Regular attendance at Church or other activities – If I always go to church…
  • Seeking ecstatic or special experiences – I need to feel alive and happy all the time…

Why are these all dead ends? They’re all a facade. In Matthew 23 Jesus calls out the fake religious people for being white-washed tombs. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is concerned with the internal shaping of our hearts.

Objectives in becoming Christ-like, living on the rock as one who hears and does…

  • To dearly love and constantly delight in God the heavenly Father as made real by Jesus. Willard says “love what is lovely in the kingdom of God.” This is the new life Paul talks about in Colossians. You are chosen, beloved,
  • To replace patterns of wrongdoing with automatic responses that flow with the kingdom of Jesus – not done by controlling outward behavior, but by cooperating with God’s grace so that the inner person is changed. Again in Colossians, put to death all impurity, evil desires, greed, idolatry – addiction to the things that fill you or sustain you. Get rid of anger, wrath…and hateful language.

We mourn again this week the latest victims of hate. We live in a violent society. Violence stems from uncontrolled anger and hatred. The way of Jesus shows us and gives us a guide to reject fear, hatred and violence – and to choose life. We have a crisis in our inner lives of being lost, desperate. Isn’t this where recovery, healing, begins?  It’s when we hit rock bottom…that we start looking for a different rock to build our lives on.

Discipleship: Knowing the voice, person, character and values of Christ.

Richard Mouw tells the story of the man on a plane on their way to TX. “Have you heard about the senate race? This is my candidate, he’s for oil and I’m an oil man. Dr. Mouw replied and was not interested in continuing the discussion. Later the man pulled out a Bible and notepad. After reading a bit he turned again to Rich and said, I know you won’t understand this but I just have to say that I’m an oil man and I’m trying to follow Jesus. See, Jesus talks about the poor, hungry and orphans. My candidate does not, and his opponent does care about those things, so…I’ve decided in the primary I will vote oil and in the general election, Jesus.”  This man models what it is to be a disciple….to have a conversation with Jesus about everything!  And to allow Jesus guidance to shape our core convictions and actions….knowing very well that Jesus will challenge us.

Have you given Jesus a voice in the conversation? A seat at the table among the many voices we listen to in our heads, hearts.

So how are we learning to hear his voice? What is the curriculum? Willard reminds us of the Spiritual Disciplines. Jesus didn’t name them by this title but he lived them. They are things we practice or do, or abstain from that shape our spiritual life. They engage our mind, body and spirit. Willard mentions two broad categories: Abstinence – which includes solitude, silence, and fasting, and those of Engagement – which include, study, meditation, prayer, service, worship, confession and celebration.

Some disciplines are individual – you will need to feed yourself. Also many involve community – who do you share your spiritual life with? Who disciples you? Who do you disciple? I see this all around me in this church. In leadership, in PW, in Bible studies, children in worship leaders….this is the good life.

In closing, I want to celebrate a personal story from an inmate who Paul McNergney mentors through prison fellowship. Hear his works of transformation…These are Mark’s words (and pray for him this week and the many others who become disciples while incarcerated).

“After years of unsuccessfully doing it my way, I decided to give Christ a chance. I started to take personal inventory of aspects of my character, consequences of my actions and the individuals I chose to associate with. I prayed that God would touch my heart and change my wayward ways. I chose to be a product of change. As I’ve become embraced in the bosom of our Lord and Savior I’ve witnessed a change in the way I interpret things, I have compassion for others. I am becoming meek with humility and acquiring a spirit of helping others in times of trial.”

In his letter to God….he says – “Thank you for working in me, you have allowed me to see my potential, instilled purpose and given me hope with a new heart” and he prays that God will continue to transform him.

You are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Journey with one another, forgive one another. Above all, live in love which holds everything together. Live in Christ’s peace as one body, be thankful, live in this book and let its words be alive in you.