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Attachments 18

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Attachments 18

(We are coming down the stretch now in our dealing with the subject and book Attachments.  This month, I will complete all of the lessons except one.  So, don’t miss now!  We will pick up that last lesson after the 30th Anniversary Celebration services.

      If you want to follow along with me tonight, I am on page 160.  There we pick up:)

The Pathway to Spiritual Growth and Awareness

       At this point, the writers of the book use an illustration that I am not going to give.  It deals with Little League coaches who have not learned how to balance their approach to teaching Little Leaguers how to both train and try.  This is their lead in to talk about the pathway to spiritual growth and awareness, which is spiritual disciplines.  The writers state, “In his classic book The Spirit of the Disciplines:  Understanding How God Changes Lives, Dallas Willard shows that spiritual growth is governed by the same principles that regulate growth in other areas of our lives, like those experienced by Little League players….  Willard zeroes in on Paul’s first letter to Timothy, where he instructs his young friend, ‘Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.  For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come’ (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

       Willard tells us, as Paul told Timothy, that to lead God’s people effectively, we’ve got to grain in the ‘spiritual gymnasium.’  Just as with physical exercise, Willard says, ‘there is a specific round of activities we must do to establish, maintain, and enhance our spiritual powers.  One must train as well as try.  An athlete may have all the enthusiasm in the world; he may ‘talk a good game.’  But talk will not win the race.  Zeal without knowledge or without appropriate practice is never enough.  Plus, one must train wisely as well as intensely for spiritual attainment.’”[1]

       Well, I have read Dallas Willard’s excellent book and I did our Discipleship Conference on “The Spirit Of The Disciplines.”  So, I love this teaching and I believe it is what is missing from the lives of many modern believers.


“Spiritual growth occurs by the same principles as other important aspects of our lives, any of those strengthened by exercise.  Yet many Christian leaders still talk about spiritual growth as the first coach talked about baseball, implying that growth is all about having the pure willpower or motivation to behave in a Christlike manner.  Or, in lieu of motivation, they talk as if God will strike us with a bolt of Holy Spirit-inspired lightning and instantly make us into godly men and women.  So, we just sit back and wait to hear that perfect motivational sermon or to get hit by the perfect bolt of lightning, believing either one is fine, because either one will finally inspire us to change our ways and walk as Jesus walked.”[2]

But What Would Jesus Do?

The authors go on to comment on the WWJD—“What would Jesus do?” movement.  The point of their comment is that the movement was and is flawed, because it conveys the idea that to follow Jesus one simply needs to make the decisions that Jesus made, moment by moment.  But Jesus didn’t simply make decisions moment by moment, He lived a lifestyle outside of those moments that were demonstrated in His moment by moment decisions.  Hence, today, we have Christians trying to live in the moment, something different than what they live outside of that moment.  Spiritual disciplines will train us to live the lifestyle of Jesus, which will then naturally and normally flow out through us moment by moment.

·        Jesus didn’t pray in the moment; He cultivated a lifestyle of prayer outside the moment.

·        Jesus didn’t just seek God’s will in the moment; He cultivated a lifestyle of seeking God’s will.

·        Jesus didn’t just do the Father’s will in the moment; He cultivated a lifestyle of doing God’s will.  He said, “I always do the will of My Father!”


(So, let’s move on and deal with:)

Practing the Spiritual Disciplines

To Strengthen Your Attachment

       “Well, just as we learn that effortlessly fielding an eighty-mile-an-hour gournd ball doesn’t come naturally, so we learn that turning to God during times of distress doesn’t just emerge out of a simple desire to make Him first.  Both require training.  And training starts with discipline.  As Dallas Willard puts it, ‘A discipline is…nothing but an activity undertaken to bring us into more effective cooperation with Christ and His Kingdom.’[3]  A discipline helps us learn to rely on Him so that in times of crisis we’ve already developed the habit and we find Him much more easily…”[4]

       Therefore, we need to discipline ourselves to develop godly habits!!!  I was going to have Brother Kevin Dues come and tape me playing racquetball and talk about the training and discipline of learning how to react to and hit a racquetball that is traveling over 100 mph, but I have partially torn my Achille’s tendon, so we couldn’t do that.  Nevertheless, the top professional players are hitting the ball at around 200 mph.  I can’t do much, but I can stay on the court with the professionals.  Discipline!!!

       “Besides cultivating a more secure attachment with God, there are two more goals to these disciplines.  First, they help us break free from addictions.  In this case, we use the word addiction broadly, referring to anything that repeatedly replaces our need for an intimate relationship with God.

Second, disciplines help us to find God as our safe haven and learn to use Him as our secure base.”[5]

       “As a safe haven, God is our comfort in times of trouble, and we carry within us a sense of security, a knowledge that He is always there and He is more than sufficient to meet all our needs.  Armed with this security, we can approach the world with boldness and confidence, and our obedience follows more easily and naturally…


These disciplines are… hard work.  What makes them hard?  They may produce uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, depression, irritability, and intrusive memories about bad past events, particularly for those who have a history of abuse and other trauma.  Those with such a history may want to practice the disciplines at first under the watchful eye of a trained pastor or counselor.  But remember, no pain, no gain.  Just because the disciplines may cause some discomfort don’t avoid them.  The turmoil they trigger is often necessary, like the muscular discomfort experienced when lifting weights or in the agony of childbirth.”[6]

Please hear me!!!  Some people at our church are not personally inspired by my practice of the spiritual disciplines, because they treat me somewhat like they treat Jesus.  How do many people treat Jesus?  They don’t see Jesus as an example of the Christian life, because they see Jesus as living the Christian life through His deity.  Yet, the Bible is clear that Jesus did not use His deity to live His life, but He lived it through the power of the Holy Spirit.  With me people say things like, “Pastor Joey…you’re so disciplined!”  The meaning, “You are naturally more disciplined than me and that’s why you can practice the spiritual disciplines!”  Consequently, “So, God knows that I am not a disciplined person and can’t live my life that way!”  In the words of the great theologian, Oscar Mayer, “Baloney!”

You are right, I may naturally be more disciplined than you, but please hear this:  “It is just as difficult for me as it is for you!”  I don’t practice the spiritual disciplines out of my natural abilities only, but through the power of the Holy Ghost.  This is the same thing you will have to do.

Furthermore, what makes you think, even if I am more naturally disciplined than you are, that God has given me an easier personal racetrack to run than you?  We each have our own personal race to run and I believe that is equally difficult for each of us and we all need the power of the Holy Spirit to run that race!!!


(All right, back to the book.)

“Because pain may be involved, practicing the disciplines requires courage, the willingness to endure the necessary cost to achieve something far better.  When we avoid necessary pain, we only invite unnecessary anguish later.  Carl Jung counseled, all neurotic suffering, or unnecessary pain, is caused by the avoidance of legitimate pain.”[7]  Did you get that?  Neurosis is a “mild psychiatric disorder characterized by anxiety, depression, and hypochondria.”[8]  We are emotionally and mentally sick, because we have somehow substituted other things for legitimate suffering.  There are certain things that can only be learned through suffering, and I have in mind here particularly the suffering of discipline—and one of those things is character.  Reputation is what you are in the day; character is what you are in the night.  Reputation is what you are when people are looking; character is what you are, when on one is looking.  Character is the set of qualities that makes someone distinctive, and to develop a set of qualities takes practicing those qualities over and over again.  Again, Williard said, “…spiritual growth and vitality stem from what we actually do with our lives, from the habits we form, and from the character that results.”[9]

I believe Sister Pat Reece passed this little reading to me.

       “I am your constant companion, I am your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.  I will push you onward or drag you down to failure.  I am at your command.  Half of the tasks that you do you might just as well turn over to me and I will do them quickly and correctly.

       I am easily managed, you must merely be firm with me.  Show me exactly how you want something done; after a few lessons I will do it automatically.  I am the servant of all great people and the regret of all failures as well.  Those who are great I have made great.  Those who are failures I have made failures.

       I am not a machine, but I work with all its precision, plus the intelligence of a person.  Now you may run me for profit or you may run me for ruin.  It makes no difference to me.  Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will lay the world at your feet.  Be easy with me and I will destroy you.  I am called “Habit.”

       Author Unknown

Usually thought of Disciplines

·        Corporate worship

·        Bible reading

·        Prayer

·        Fasting.

Disciplines not usually considered

Searching the Scriptures

Bible study is the academic exegesis of the Word of God, according to the rules of hermeneutics.  Paul talks about “handling accurately the Word of truth,” but the wording is “cutting and flaying correctly,” which is language that is taken from the Temple.  The language concerned the priests who had to undergo intense training to learn how to cut up sacrifices.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB-U), “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

Bible study intimates and includes Bible reading and Bible study.  You have to read the Bible and meditate upon it to be able to study it.  But, I separate devotional Bible reading from Bible study.

       We also need to learn more and more about God’s, i.e. His person, will, and ways, as He reveals Himself in His Word.  This means some type of Bible study plan.

Ezra 7:10 (NASB-U), “For Ezra had set his heart to study (literally seek) the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Solitude

I sometimes fast from people.  I shut in and try not to talk to anyone for two or three days.  This refreshs the soul and allows you to talk to God.

Mark 1:35 (NASB-U), “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (emphasis mine).


Ambivalent persons separate from those they look to for guidance and direction.  They become anxious and fearful, bedeviled by thoughts like, I can’t do this; I’m too anxious.  I can’t stand to be alone.  I have to have somebody with me, or I can’t do this.  They may also struggle with feelings of guilt, thinking, This just proves what a bad Christian I am.  I try being alone with God and look how upset I get.  I’m miserable.  Such thoughts come from insecure attachment patterns.  If you experience them, endure them.  They result from your past, not from today’s reality.  As you practice the discipline of solitude, the power of God takes over.  Eventually the Word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit will give you a true sense of security—of safety.  God will show you just how powerful He is at bringing you peace.”[10]

       “In persons with disorganized attachment styles, solitude can produce many of the same results, but it should be practiced carefully.  If this is your attachment style and you have a significant history of trauma, we recommend that you practice the discipline of solitude only under the guidance of someone experienced and trained in working with trauma victims?  Why?  Because solitude literally dismantles defenses, which can allow flashbacks and other intrusive recollections to come rushing back.  Under the right person’s care, however, there is time when solitude is quite appropriate.”[11]

Silence

There are times when we need to quit talking so much.  Jesus would often go into the wilderness or even take a walk on the Sea of Galilee, where He was probably silent.

Jesus also cautioned people about talking too much in

Matthew 6:7 (NASB-U), “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.”


“Silence is the essential ingredient of solitude; without silence the impact of solitude is greatly minimized.  Willard notes that silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.  It reminds us of death, which will cut us off from this world and leave only us and God.  And in that total quietness, what if there turns out to be very little to just ‘us and God’?  Think what it says about the inward emptiness of our lives if we must always turn on the tape player or radio to make sure something is happening around us.

       As you can see, silence, when combined with solitude, dissolves our normal defenses that keep feelings of aloneness, vulnerability, and death anxiety at bay.  When we’re silent and alone, we may actually feel naked before a large universe.  It is here, without all the distractions, that we can seek God’s face, rest in His comfort, and respond to His invitation as recorded in Matthew 11:28 (nkjv):  ‘Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’

       Like solitude, silence addresses the fear of abandonment in both the ambivalent and the disorganized attachment style.  It can also be an effective discipline for those with the avoidant attachment style, especially narcissists with an inflated sense of self-love who seek the company of people who offer frequent praise and adoration.  They also love to listen to music, watch television, and hear people prattling around them.

       The discipline of silence can help neutralize all these defense mechanisms when you lay them at the foot of the cross.”[12]

Homework:    Attachments (pages 170-175).

God’s word tonight comes out of a particular Scripture.  The Bible reads in:

Mark 6:30-32 (NASB-U), “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. [31] And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) [32] They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”

Jesus is saying to some of you, “Discipline yourselves and come away, by yourselves, to a seculuded place, with me alone, and rest for a while!  Come away with me and I will reveal Myself to you!!!


(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)

Invitation

Call to Discipleship


----

[1] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, pp. 161-162.

[2] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 162.

[3] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines:  Understanding How God Changes Lives, Harper Row, San Francisco, 1988, p. 156.

[4] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 163.

[5] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 163.

[6] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 164.

[7] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 164.

[8] Encarta® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

[9] Dallas Willard, The Spirit Of The Disciplines, p. 20, HarperSanFranciso, New York, New York, 1988.

[10] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 167.

[11] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 168.

[12] Tim Clinton & Gary Sibcy, Attachments, Integrity Publishers, Brentwood, Tennessee, 2002, p. 169.

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