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2021 online sermons » Levi Lusko » Levi Lusko - Growing Through The Motions

Levi Lusko - Growing Through The Motions


Levi Lusko - Growing Through The Motions

If you have a Bible, join me in 2 Kings, chapter 5, and Colossians chapter 2, two places. Colossians 2, 2 Kings, chapter 5. I want to give you a message that I'm calling Growing Through the Motions, Growing Through the Motions. Now, we normally say going through the motions, and it's usually a super negative thing. Like, totally phoned it in there. He is not engaged. Some cruise control. Some senioritis. Some I'm sort of wanting this to be just done. I'm not really putting my heart into it. We've all been there. You're on the phone. You're like, I really need you to mess with this reservation. There's no other flights available. Oh, come on. Can you please check? And you hear that clicking on the keyboard that you know is not even connected to anything.

And you know they're just doing it. No one types like that. You just hear that sound, like she's just going through the, no, there's nothing available. It's like, is that computer even plugged in? Going through the motions. I want to redeem that a little bit and show you that God wants to change your life, and he wants to do it through you growing through the motions. Doing the same thing over and over again to where it becomes habitual is only a problem if you're doing the wrong thing over and over again. But if we can get the right things baked into our muscle memory, the right things on autopilot, we will see God change us, shape us, mold us, and then do incredible things through us.

And I'm going to show you that starting in Colossians 2, where it says, "For I want you to know what a great conflict I have for you and those in Laodicea and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words, for though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ. As you, therefore, have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware, lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power".

And now if you have 2 Kings, chapter 5, we spent a lot of time here last week. But we've got unfinished business here in 2 Kings, chapter 5. I'm not going to read the whole section to you because it was super lengthy. But let me just jump in here in the middle, and let's remind ourselves of some of the details of Naaman's story. It says in verse 9, "Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot and stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him saying, 'Go, wash in the Jordan seven times. And your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.' But Naaman became furious and went away. And said, 'Indeed, I said to myself he would surely come out to me and stand and call in the name of the Lord, his God, and wave his hand over the place and heal the leprosy. Are not the Abana and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus better than all these waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?' So he turned and went away in a rage against the machine. And his servants came near and spoke to him and said, 'My father, if the prophets had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more than when he says to you, 'Wash and be clean?'' So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God. And his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child. And he was clean".

Now the reason I want to return to the scene of last week's message, and if you didn't watch it, you got to check that out because we learned a lot through Naaman's life. We learned a lot looking at Naaman's story. But basically he ended kind of as he began, interestingly enough. He started out listening to a child, and he ended up with skin like a child. And in the process of that transformation, he was not only healed of his leprosy, which he had a problem that he couldn't solve. And it caused every victory he had ever succeeded in to feel hollow because this now made him realize there was an emptiness going on on the inside. And it sent him on a spiritual search, a spiritual journey, similar to, I believe, every single person who's ever lived.

All of us are on a journey. All of us are on a quest, looking for something to deal with the emptiness that we all feel on the inside. And Naaman found what he was looking for. But he almost missed it, almost missed out on salvation for his soul and healing for his body. Why? Because when he got exactly what he asked for, when he received exactly what he had asked for, an answer for the man of God, speak to him in Israel, and tell him how to solve his problem, when he was given that, and the answer was, go wash in this river seven times, go dip in this river seven times, when he received what he asked for, he thought it would look different in his mind. And so he almost walked away. His exact words were, "I thought it would be better than that".

God gave him what he asked for, do you feel like you can relate at all, handed him something. And he looked at what got handed to him in response to his prayer. And he said, I thought it'd be better than that. Are not other rivers better than this river? I thought it would be different. I thought it would be better. I thought I'd be further along right now. What I've asked God for and what he's chosen to give me, they seem very different Now, notice the story that we read last week as we jump off here is in reference to salvation, is to becoming a Christian, is to becoming a believer , is to becoming a follower of God. He was given the opportunity to become a follower of God and to be healed from a disease on the way there. But God's plan for salvation was nearly missed.

And 2 Kings 5 nearly became the story of a miracle that could have been. Why? Because when it came to him, it was crude, it was odd, and it was full, bristling full of opportunities to get offended. It was crude. Go to a muddy river. It was odd. Dip seven times. And it was full of opportunities to get offended. The man of God didn't even come out personally. He told him the message through a servant. He wasn't sent on some exotic quest. He was sent to this crazy stretch in the wilderness. He wasn't honored and allowed to give big gifts and feel good about what he had, it was crude. It was odd. It was full of opportunities to get offended. So is salvation. Salvation's crude. It's a cross. It's odd. A carpenter dying to pay for the sins of the world. And it's full of opportunities to get offended because where we want to feel like a big shot and do something that would make God happy for us, he causes us to merely come to him as children. He leaves no room for our egos. So it is when we get saved.

But what I want to show you today and where it connects now to Colossians chapter 2, is that the same forces are at work when it comes to how we grow as Christians. Our journey to becoming like God, our journey to growing in our relationship with God is crude, It's odd, and full, jam packed full of opportunities to get offended. And that's what Paul is saying to the church at Colossae and at Laodicea, two churches he had never been to, two churches he had never visited personally. He said twice, you've never seen me in the flesh. He's saying I know I've impacted your life greatly, and that's amazing. But I've never met you. And some of you might even be... I've never met this guy that's making a difference. All I ever got to was read letters. All I ever received was communication from him, but I never got to meet him. Paul was sort of like their grandpa in the faith because he had led people to the Lord who had started these works. And so they were passing on things that Paul had imparted to them.

And so they were sort of like Paul's grandchildren in the faith. And what's cool about that, that that is a thing in the kingdom of God. Paul said I'm not with you in my body, but I'm with you in spirit. I care about you greatly. I'm praying for you. And one word he actually uses, I agonize in believing for you to change and believing for you to grow. I want so badly for you to grow up to maturity and for you to understand what it's going to take. And the fact that they were sort of grandchildren in his life, even though he had never met them, I believe the same forces are at work in reverse. The things that you're a part of indirectly, that you never get to touch, God is going to reward you for. When this podcast goes out and someone is encouraged in a difficult season, I'm telling you the reward doesn't just go to the Fresh Life staff or the people involved who actually sent the link to that person or invited them to come to that church service.

I'm telling you something. If you are a part of it in any way, you don't have to actually directly do it for God to see that you are a part of it. Kevin Bacon somebody. I'm telling you. Paul didn't go there in person. But because he had impacted the people that did it, he was a part of the story and had ownership in it. He had skin in the game. The problem was these two churches had this other crew roll up on them. And they sort of were talking to this, now, they had come to know Jesus through Paul and Paul's Padawan's efforts. But these people crept into the church, they came into the church. And they listened for a while long enough to go, oh, that's cute. Oh, that's amazing. Oh, well, it sounds like you guys are off to a good start in your journey. But they used two words a lot. And we know Paul was kind of pissed about it because of two key words he uses. The first word is basic. The second word is mystery. And those two things were these people's MO. It was their favorite thing. They would come in and they would go, that's cute that the gospel got you started. Or you've heard Paul's ministry. How basic.

Now, if you listen to us, if you walk this program out, this can take you to the next . Level this can take you deeper in your walk with God. Oh, that's cool that you're with Paul. You're probably not really getting fed. You need some deeper truth. You need some mysterious truth. There's things you don't know. You're going to have to go on a retreat with us or watch this seminar, go through this class in this order to learn these things and do this stuff. And if you do that, you can attain to real discipleship. No, no, no, we're going to take you deeper. We're really going to disciple you. We'll take you under our wing. Oh, Paul. Where is that guy anyway? He never even comes around here, probably doesn't even care about you. Oh, he only sent this person to you. Oh, come on. Paul doesn't really know what he's talking about. He's so basic. Paul. That's good. Oh, no. Paul's a good evangelist. Don't get me wrong. There's a place for a Paul everywhere. I'm really glad that guy's around. There probably wouldn't be any new believers. But you can't really grow to maturity under Paul's teaching. It's too basic.

And so Paul, who by the way is in prison, FYI, Paul who's getting shade thrown on him while he's suffering for doing the things that he's doing that helps start these churches, hears about it. And what does he do? He picks up the instrument that's mightier than the sword, the pen. And he writes this letter to Colossian Christians to clear up the confusion, the same confusion that, by the way, almost caused Naaman to miss out on the miracle of salvation. And he wants to avoid them the unnecessary heartache of missing out on the powerful truth of the reality of sanctification, growing in your new faith, growing up into maturity. And what does he tell them? He tells them three quick things. He tells them, first of all, you can't get more than what you already have. I know these teachers are telling you you're going to get more. Paul's like, so just so we're clear on that. You can't get more than you already have. What you've been given the day you came to know Jesus is all there ever is to get. Why? Because verse 10 says, you are complete in Him. You are already complete in him because he, Jesus, is the head of all principality and all power. And if he has come into you, you are complete.

So no one can, whoever tells you, I'm going to take you somewhere you haven't been, you can already say, that's not true because what I have the day I came to know him is the one who's the head of all principality and all power. Therefore, there is no power, there is no principality that's outside of him. So the day Jesus came to live inside of you, everything you could ever have, it's already there. But what is yours, Paul goes on to say, you must simply lay hold of. You already have everything you could ever need. But what you have to learn to do is to lay hold of what is yours. You see, the Christian life and growing to fullness and growing to power and growing to maturity and not being spiritual babies, me, my, waa, the whole idea of selfishness and becoming more other-centered and more loving and more self- controlled and more gracious, that's the goal of maturity.

I like how Roosevelt put it in that "Man in the Arena" thing. He said the most miserable way to live, the most miserable way to live is with a sneer on your face. I think sanctification is about God taking the sneer off of our face, that we're less, mm, mm, oh, mm, oh, look at them. And oh, how stupid. And oh, can you believe? And just that life of a sneer. I don't want to live a life with a sneer on my face. I want to build. I want to fight. I want to dream. I want to help. I want to hope. Heaven help us to not live with a sneer, taking pot shots, criticizing, shooting bullets, tearing people down. I wouldn't do it that way. Well, then do something. And we'll get to see the way you would do it. Someone said to a pastor one day, I don't like the way you do evangelism. And he said, well, what do you do? Well, you know, uh, uh. And he just cut him off and said, I like the way I do it better than the way you don't do it. So do something. Let's be a part of the solution to the problem, not a part of the problem. I got distracted there.

So Paul said, you've got to lay hold of what is already yours. What is that about? That's about possessing your possessions, possessing your possessions. Something can be yours but you not get the benefit out of it. A ticket left at will-call is technically yours. Your name's on the envelope. But if you don't walk up to will-call and ask for what's yours, you'll never receive it. It will never be yours because you never laid claim to it. So God has put completion in you when Jesus was willing to come into your heart as salvation. But what you have to learn to do, Philippians 2, is "working out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you both to will and to do. " Do you see that you have to work out what he works in? It's laying hold of what was put into you. It's going to possess experientially what is yours eternally through birthright.

So Paul said, you can't get more than what you have. You don't need new things. You need to learn to walk in what's already there. You need to work out what he worked in. Thirdly, Paul says, what got you here is what will get you there. What got you here is what will get you there. Notice, this is now verse 6. He says, "As you have received, so walk in him". As you have received Christ, so walk in him. So these other teachers were telling these new Christians, this got you going, but you can't get to the next level here. So you need to go somewhere else, learn something else, listen to something else. And he says, ehh. He says, no, the thing to do to grow is more of the same. The thing to do to grow is to say, what got me into this relationship with God, the answer, by the way, is something crude, something odd and full of opportunities to get offended, what got you here into birthright as a citizen of the kingdom, into being a son or daughter of the King, is what will get you there. As you have received him, you didn't earn it. It was the gift of God. That's called grace. You accessed it through faith.

Now you choose to walk in that again. So what are we talking about to grow? We're talking about scripture. We're talking about prayer. And we're talking about doing things that feel done. That's how you get saved. You hear a scripture, God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son so that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life. Hearing that scripture, because faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God, you pray and believe and access it, access that promise. And what do you say? I have received that, God. I trust you, God. I need you. You confess you're a sinner. And what happens? Salvation comes steaming into your heart, streaming into your life, flooding into your soul. That's how you received him. It felt stupid. How can this work? I don't even know. I'm praying this prayer. What is even happening? Is God even going to hear me? Dunking in the river. Dunking in the muddy river.

So how do you grow? Well, these teachers are saying, oh, you need to go through this seven-part class. You need to go to this thing. You need to learn, you need to be disciples. You need to talk to someone a lot who's probably got bad breath. And that's the only thing that's going to get you there. And Paul's like, no, as you have received, so now walk in him. That's how you get to the levels of the riches of knowledge. That's how you get to the mystery, all the mystery of the world, found in Jesus. What got you here, it's scripture, prayer, and doing something that at the time felt dumb. That's called faith, by the way. Almost every faith decision, it feels stupid. It feels foreign. It feels crazy. It feels weird. This is every person in the Bible. Noah building a boat before it ever rained. Abraham being super crazy old and being told, you're going to have a baby, and there's going to be so many great-grandchildren. It's going to be like this story. It felt stupid. It felt dumb in response to scripture, response in prayer, an act of faith. As you have received, so walk in him.

The point is the gospel isn't the ABCs of Christianity. Oh, it's the A to Z. We become complete in scripture, in prayer, in more of the same, in doing something that seems dumb, in stepping out in faith, in opening up a church in a prison, in going into another state, in doing video preaching when people say, I've never seen that pastor in the flesh, in doing it again, in stepping out in faith again, in giving millions of dollars away again, in fighting for people that don't know Jesus to know him again. When are we going to get past that? When are we going to really start to disciple people? When are we going to really focus on fellowship? When? When? When? Here's the thing. We don't believe there's any new mystery needed, any new program needed. There's not some missing ingredient. It's as we received him, now we walk in him.

We didn't deserve salvation, but it was given to us. And now we're going to fight to tell that simple, beautiful, precious, life-changing, eternity-altering message to as many people as we can until the end comes. And we're going to train leaders with that rugged simplicity, embracing something crude, something odd, and something beautiful. It's all about growth in our relationships with Jesus. How do you do that? Scripture, prayer, obedience, and faith, which feels like doing something stupid, doing something that feels wrong at the time, dumb at the time, that says it can't make sense at the time until we do it. And we go, Oh, God, I see that you were in it all along. It's growing in your relationship. That's so basic. That's so basic. Paul says that all the mystery is unlocked when you're doing something basic, growing through the motions. As you received him, now walk with him. All right. What next? You do it some more. You do it again. You do it again. You do it again. And you're altered in the process.

CS Lewis, if you come to the church at all, you're going to get so sick of me quoting him because that guy, man, I got a huge man crush on him. Oh, I love him. And I love his writings, love his books, and love his imagination. He died of kidney failure on the same day that John F Kennedy died, November 22, 1963. He died one hour before Kennedy, and almost no one in the world knew that CS Lewis had died. For as great and as prolific as he was, the great, overshadowing, dominating news story, of course, was the assassination of our president. And so for years after he died, people kept writing him letters. Because he famously had the baked-in-stone habit of, if a child writes me, I'll write him back. Every kid wanted to write CS Lewis and say I read Narnia. I love Narnia. I love Aslan. And he would write, he couldn't write everybody that wrote him, but he would always write the children. And so for a long time after he died, kids' letters kept coming in because a lot of people didn't know he was dead for some time.

And I was touched to find that less than one month before he died, where he was really medically going through a lot, collapsing at times, being hospitalized, collapsing. He'd get visited in the hospital by JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings. And he was raising his wife's sons, who were in heaven. So he was a stepfather, not a biological father, but loving them, raising them, serving them. And one of the last letters CS Lewis wrote was to a child, who had written to tell him how much they loved Narnia and that they loved Jesus as well. And I want to read you just a sentence, that this is a man on his deathbed, a man in pain, a man knowing the end was near, who had already told Tolkien, please, look after these boys for me. And he said, and I quote, to this little girl, "If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you. I hope you always do so".

Now to hear that from somebody, nothing much can go wrong with you, it'd be hard not to be a little bit glib about it and go, are you kidding me? Things could go wrong. But, remember, this is a man who's on his deathbed, who knows physically things can go wrong with you. What perspective he has is to realize nothing ultimately can go wrong with you. What he's saying is that he had not graduated past being enamored by the power of the gospel and what happens when you have a relationship with Jesus Christ. So I say to you, I hope you always love Jesus. For if you do, nothing much can go wrong with you. Paul's saying to the church at Colossae and Laodicea, don't get tricked by these people who are saying things that sound impressive, and this is a great idea, and let's go deeper, and let's really, really, really get mysterious about it. Let's not overthink it. We're talking about the power of knowing Jesus and walking with him. That's what can change a life. That's what can shape a life. That's what can build a life. That's what can shake the world.

So what does that mean then? That means then that like salvation, God's plan for our sanctification is intentionally humble, intentionally humble. God could have picked a way more fancy or a way more complicated to be the mechanism by which we would grow up to maturity in Christ, to be the way that we would, as Ephesians 4:13 puts it, "come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ". You see, there is so much more in store for you. There's so much more inside of you that God worked in that you haven't yet worked out. And the way that that's going to get out is intentionally humble. God could have picked something different than scripture and prayer and obedience and repeat. Scripture and prayer, application, repeat. Scripture and prayer, faith, and then repeat. But he didn't, and he didn't on purpose. Why? Because he doesn't leave room for vanity. And those things always leave us helpless. Those things always leave us having to submit. Those things always leave us having to be humble.

There's no room for ego. And God doesn't want it to be improved. He doesn't want Uzzah to put the ark on a cart. He wanted it to be carried by poles. He's like, this is clunky. Don't you know there's a better way? We could get a Toyota. And he's like, no. And in fact, the first guy who tries, look what happened to him. He was saying, don't you upgrade what I want intentionally crude and what I want intentionally odd and what I want intentionally to leave with ways for you to get offended. This is crazy we're carrying this thing. It's slamming me in the hamstring, carrying this ark of the covenant. Yeah, he wants you to, are you offended yet? Are you irritated yet? Is it worth it yet? It's a little bit difficult. It's a little bit crazy. Didn't you know there's wheels? Hello. Somebody invented the wheel. God's like, don't put don't put that ark on a car. I want it crude, I want it odd, and I want it to be riddled with opportunities for you to get offended.

So that you can choose to persist through it, to keep on going anyway. I'm going to keep praying. I'm going to keep fasting. I'm going to keep reading. I'm going to keep obeying. I'm going to keep serving. I'm going to keep preaching. I'm going to keep reaching. I'm going to keep serving. I'm going to keep preaching. I'm going to keep preaching. I'm not getting offended. You slay me. I'll follow you. I only have breath because you gave it to me. You sent your son to die for me. I dare you to offend me, God. Blessed is he who is not offended on behalf of me, God. And God chose intentionally to make it humble, basic, basic, basic. In 2019, for the first and only time in my entire ministry, I quoted Kobe Bryant in a sermon. It was called Helter-skelter, Morning Unite series, all about the rhythms of a healthy soul. God knew we needed it going into 2020. Rhythms of a Healthy Soul. And I quoted an author named Alan Stein Jr., who quoted Kobe Bryant. And the cool thing about that, I've never met this author, Alan. He wrote a book called Raise Your Game that I had read and loved.

And so I quoted it in that sermon. Somehow he heard it or saw it. Someone told him about it. So he reached out to me. And I was able to thank him for the quote. And he's like, it's amazing that you read out of my book. And I was like author high five. And, of course, I had no idea, as no one would that months later Kobe Bryant would leave this world suddenly and shockingly. And this week we're about to approach the one-year anniversary of Kobe's death, which was really the outset of difficulty and global suffering in 2020. And so I do hope we will all remember to pray for his wife this week and family this week. And while you're at it, please do pray for my friend, Pastor Ed and Lisa Young, our friends, whose daughter, LeeBeth, their oldest daughter, went home to be with Jesus shockingly, suddenly this week. And a beautiful girl, pastor's daughter, just wonderful servant. And so do pray.

And, of course, there's so many around the world we're praying for. But those are a couple to put a face to the many people that are hurting. And, anyhow, Alan had been invited, I wanted to read you the quote again because it so applies to this message. Alan had been invited to watch Kobe work out, to watch Kobe practice. And at the end of it he in the back of his head was a little bit underwhelmed because it felt so basic. It felt so basic. He thought Kobe Bryant, greatest in the world at the time, he's going to do something pizzazy as he practices. And so at the end, he came up to Kobe and said, thank you for letting me watch. "I said, I really enjoyed watching your workout this morning. 'No problem,' Kobe replied. Then I hesitated, not wanting to sound rude or worse, condescending. You're the best player in the world. Why do you do such basic stuff. He flashed that gleaming smile of his. 'Why do you think I'm the best player in the game? Because I never got bored with the basics.'"

And the quote goes on. And you can read Alan Stein Jr.'s whole book and get the quote context. But God intentionally picked the muddy river. God intentionally chose the rivers that did not look that great, intentionally humble. Secondly, jot this down, deceptively simple. Deceptively simple, meaning when we look at it, the reason we're tempted to scoff at it, it's like, that's so easy. That's so easy. It's easy. Oh, just scripture and prayer. I can do that. Then why don't you? And why don't I? Why do we so often miss out on that? Why? Because, as it's been well put, the easy things to do are also easy not to do. So it's deceptively simple. And that's why I think we gravitate towards the lofty idea of complicated and new and man-made. And this is our program for discipleship. And this is a system. And if you do just these few things, because it appeals to our ability to control things. But the deceptively simple thing of just walk with Jesus, just grow with Jesus, is actually more challenging than it looks, more invigorating, more rewarding, but also more challenging.

To choose every day to get up and honor him. To choose every day to get up and seek him first. To choose every day to pray and read scripture and pray again and bake it in and let him convict you. And when he convicts you, make a change in your life. And actually step out in faith when he nudges you to do something, give something, say something, serve in some way. And to do that again and do that again and do that, it's deceptively simple. It amounts to, though, picking up that cross and following Jesus, denying yourself even from the desire to overcomplicate things that God has chosen to be simple, deceptively simple, but simple. We find it, it's brutal. GK Chesterton said that, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried". It's not as though it didn't work. It's that you didn't work it. It's messy to walk with Jesus, to focus on your relationship with him.

We have to be vulnerable. We have to be comfortable sitting in silence and to grow OK with that and to be still and to quiet the noise of the world and the rush of everything going on. My dad this week, I was talking to him about my message. And he said, man, it's like Coach Woody Hayes. And I was like, Coach Woody Hayes? He goes, yeah, Coach Woody Hayes. He's an Ohio coaching legend. And his patented famous line for football was that victory in football is all about three yards and a cloud of dust, three yards and a cloud of dust. That is to say it's the block and tackle kind of game. It's not about the long bomb. It's not about the rearing back, ducking, and 80-yard. That appeals. That works on YouTube. That's full of sizzle, end zone dances. No. He said three things can happen when you pass the football. And two of them are bad.

So every time you do that, you're opening yourself up to things that can go wrong. So what is it? It's about fighting for three yards and a cloud of dust every time, a pile of bodies every time. I am convinced that victory in the Christian life isn't about some, I went to a retreat. I did some program. I graduated from some thing. It's not that long bomb. I'm telling you. It's three yards and then a cloud of dust. It's I fought and I gave and I read and I served. And the reward is waking up tomorrow and do it again. As I receive Christ Jesus, the Lord, so I walk in him. It felt so stupid to go into the muddy Jordan River. The prophet didn't even come out and talk to me. Does he even know who I am? But if you're going to get there, as the servants told him , it's three yards and a cloud of dust. And you have to do that so many times, fighting for every point, growing, walking, seeking, deceptively simple, intentionally humble.

Thirdly, jot this down. It's God's plan for your growth. Your growing through the motions is incrementally successful. Where you're going to find success, it's going to be in increments. That is to say phases. That is to say there's gradual aspects to it. It's not all at once. It's not steady and constant. How do I know that? Because Colossians 2 says, as you received him, I want you to walk in him. Then I want you to become rooted like a tree and built up like a skyscraper. He uses both an illustration from nature, and then he uses an illustration from structure, from building. And both those things have this in common. They take place in phases. And there are portions of the time of a building where you don't see anything going up. You're just going down. You're just preparing. And then then you see a slab. And then nothing happens for a while. And then little things are spiking up out of it. It's like, did we quit?

No, things are happening. You just can't see it. Then there's a part of the building. And then you have the roof. It's not all at once. And so it is in your walk with God. It's going to be like a building. It's also going to be as you push into your quiet times, push into devotions, push into going to church, getting into a small group. Why? For scripture, for prayer, and for doing something that feels stupid. It's grace through faith. It's going to be like a tree. Trees have enormous parts of the year when they don't grow. Trees don't just grow all the time, maybe in Florida, not in places where there's a thing called winter, not in a place where there's times of the year where it looks dead. Am I even growing right now? Do you feel like that sometimes? What am even, I don't feel any change. It doesn't seem like it's working. You might have a season where you're growing a lot, and then you're not. And you feel like, what's going on? I grew, I grew up a ton here. And now nothing. And now where is God? And now, I must need something new. I must need something crazy.

It's in those times we start looking for the Pharpar. Where's the Pharpar River? Give me that Pharpar River. I need to find my way to the Pharpar. Why? Because where I'm at is not working for me. Where I'm at, it was working for a while. But there's no growth. You're just a tree. And it's just winter. And you're in between phases. And you're just preparing for the next level. It's the same thing. In 2 Kings 5. Six out of the seven times he dunked, nothing happened. Six out of the seven times he dipped, his leprosy didn't go away. Six out of the seven times, there was nothing observable. Now, I believe that he was saved on the inside the first dunk. I believe maybe even he was saved walking to the river when he accepted what the servant said. If he told you to do something great, you would have done it.

So why don't you go do it when he tells you to do something super simple? I believe in that moment, bang, salvation. But he couldn't see salvation. And the actual manifestation of that healing, skin being like a child on the outside, it didn't happen till the seventh immersion. The point is the majority of the times he was doing the right things that would lead to him getting what he actually wanted, he couldn't see if it was working or not. And so it takes faith. It takes us being willing to see nothing happening. I read the Bible for three weeks. I did a YouVersion plan. I went through the, where's the growth? Where's the change? Where's the change? But to still keep going and to fight for three more yards and to see another cloud of dust. And to keep doing the basic things. And to keep doing the basic things. And to not rush out for the Pharpar River. Isn't it funny that Naaman said, are not the Pharpar and the other river, the river that is the, the Abana, I always forget the Abana. Are not the Abana and the Pharpar better?

Now, let me just ask you a question, pal. You lived there your whole life. Did they ever do anything for you? Have they ever been able to change you? But when push came to shove and his ego flared up, all of a sudden he was talking up things that did nothing for him. And isn't it funny how we in low moments go back to things, go back to people, go back to substances that never could help us? But in low moments we just think, I'll just go back to these things because at least I know them. At least I'm comfortable here. To the Abana. Isn't the Abana and the Pharpar better? Well, if they're so good, then why are you a leper? Because you've lived in Syria your whole life. But when we get offended and when we don't feel like it's working, we are tempted to think if I change location, to think if I change jobs, to think if I change spouses, to think if I change churches, I'm going to get new growth. And you will when you get there for a little while. It'll rally up for a bit.

And then the stagnation. And then all of the reality. God told me to tell you that it's a good thing that you want to grow. It's just a mistake to think you can't grow right where you are. Because God wants to meet you right here. Something is happening. Something is happening. Keep reading. Keep seeking. Keep praying. Keep obeying. Repeat. Keep spinning. Six times. He must have come up the fifth time going, I'm still a leper. What's going on? Is this even working? Lord, I say keep spinning. Keep dipping. Keep going. I'm reminded of my son, Lennox, the first time that I remember him being exposed to a jack-in-the-box. I wanted to show you this video.

It's a little scream. Oh, my gosh. It was getting there. He just didn't know when it was going to happen. And so it is with us. The tragedy, I think, for many people who abandoned things that were working, they just couldn't see that it was working, is that they walk away from the very thing that they wanted, perhaps just before it was about to break out, perhaps just before it was about to show up, perhaps just before God was about to incrementally show them the success that they were after. When he had obeyed fully, and seven is this idea of complete obedience. Seven is this idea of fullness. Seven isn't always just seven in the Bible. It just means fully obey. As we fully commit ourselves to him, fully walk with him, as we have received him, so we walk in him. The plan for salvation is the plan for sanctification. We grow up in what we already have and never need any more of. The longer we walk with him, the longer we walk with him, as we have walked with him our entire lives, we will see the thing that we longed for.

My builder friend was telling me about the fill that we talked about last week, clean fill... He said sometimes fill takes time to settle. If you put non-native fill in, it can take as long as 50 years for it to settle before you can build on it. And I just want you to think longer about your life. There's some things that God has still. There's some dirt, you don't see anything being built on it yet. God knows if he builds on it now, it'll shift. God knows if he builds on it now, it'll sink. So perhaps there's some fill in your life, some things in your life. Maybe it's not ready yet. Maybe God sees that. He plans to build on it, and if you bolt now, get crazy now, run off now, you're not going to see it happen. God just says to you right now, if you don't lose heart, you will see a harvest. I'm telling you something is happening.

So let's keep growing through the motions. Come on. We're growing. We're growing. We're growing. We're growing. We're growing. Put it in the, I'm growing. Tell someone right next to you. Say, I'm grow, we're growing through the motions. I'm not on autopilot. I'm with, intentionally building the right things into my muscle memory that I will see pay off. It may take 50 years. I might not see it happen even while I'm alive. I may look back from eternity and see, oh, I see what you were up to. I'm so grateful I just kept walking with Jesus. I never needed something more mysterious than that because all the wisdom is in him. And that's why I want to leave you with these three words before we walk away, dedication, concentration, and fascination. You want to talk about mystery? There's a mystery to being dedicated to Jesus, concentrating on Jesus, and remaining fascinated with Jesus. Offer your bodies to Jesus as a living sacrifice every single day.

Today here I am, God. Today I surrender. It's a brand new month. It's a brand new church. It's a brand new year. Every day is day one, walking. You just dedicate yourself to him. Offer yourself to him. He bought you at the cross, so give your life to him. You will watch God change the world through you. Dedication. Second word is concentration. Concentration. That is to say, you need to focus on Jesus. He said, come to me if you're hungry. Come to me if you're weary. Come to me if you're thirsty. And then he said, learn of me. Learn from me. Take my yoke. Learn from me. That means we need to focus on him. We're following his every move. He is our shepherd.

My dog, Tabasco, just stares at me. Eye contact. Very much an alpha relationship together. He just stares at me. When I'm not there, he takes care of Jennie. When I'm there he's like, what do you want? What do you need? I'm like, your creepy eyes. They're freaking me out. But he's concentrated because I'm his mas, the Bible talks about being Jesus' followers. He's our master. Let's concentrate on him. What does he need? What does he want? I'm ready for it. My eyes are on you. I don't know what to do. My eyes are on you. The situation is crazy. My eyes are on you. Concentration. Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, said, "Concentrate all your thoughts on the task at hand. The sun's rays do not burn unless brought to a focus".

For some of us, the reason there's not that blaze of fire is we're not focusing on Jesus. We're just looking at him and then over here and then over there. And we'll check in just a minute here. Let's focus on Jesus this year, Church. First Life. Let's focus. We will see a blaze. And then lastly, fascination. Fascination. Wake up the wonder. Stir it up. What an insult to think we need something new when we were given Jesus. In him are hidden all the treasures, all the wisdom, all the mystery. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And if you need any help waking up the wonder, the fascination, the beauty, the mystery, this is enough. The gospel is enough. The cross is enough. Think about the Resurrection. Think about what is in store for your body. Think about the fact that that same spirit lives in you. Heaven help us to never get bored with Jesus.

So here we are God. We're your people. We love you. We need you. If you chose the Abana and the Pharpar, we'd go there. But you chose the Jordan. If you wanted us to go to some epic thing or do some amazing thing to find you, we would do it. But you're here, Jesus of Nazareth, who died and rose. And you are enough for us. So we'll walk with you our entire lives. And we can't wait to see what you have for us.


If as I'm praying, you respond to this, in your heart you're saying, I'm in on this. I love this. God, here I am. I dedicate myself. I want to concentrate on Jesus and stay fascinated with him, would you please raise a hand up? Raise a hand up. Raise a hand up. Raise a hand up. God bless you as you seek him. God bless you as you search for him, as you refuse to be offended, as you refuse to get irritated, as you stay focused on Jesus. You can put your hands down. If you've never trusted him as Savior, as Lord, as friend, I want you to call out to him right now. It's an invitation. You don't know when your hour of death is coming, like we talked about CS Lewis dying. God loves you and wants to save you. There's heaven. There's hell. God's letting you choose. Respond to Jesus. Say to him, say:

Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner. But I believe. I want to be saved. I want to know you. I want to grow in you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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