John Ortberg on Spiritual Formation at Catalyst 2010

John Ortberg Catalyst Pre-Labs 2010

What Kind of people are we producing? There are a lot of churches that are doing evangelism/ worship/ serving really well. But where are the churches that are producing humble, loving, transparent people – like Jesus.

How do people get formed spiritually?

There is a God. It is not you.

So, your life is not your project – it’s God’s. Eph 4:10.

So only God knows what he best version of you is, and he’s concerned to help people do that. He has many tools to use, he is patient, it’s way larger than we think it is. Now, we live in a gap between our destiny(what God wants for us) and the reality.

Most people have a great idea about the person/parent etc they want to be – and then there’s the reality. Everybody has these dreams about the person we want to be and find ourselves crushed and bruised because of the gap caused by sin.

Can I bridge that gap myself? No. It takes grace, not effort. And when I respond to grace it changes everything.

But there’s still a gap – between me and the me God wants me to be. And lots of people who understand how to be saved by grace go on to try to live by effort.

Transformation requires at least as much grace as salvation does.

People think if they listen to another talk, work harder, try to be nicer, get up at 4am to pray (even though you’re not a morning person & even Jesus doesn’t want to be round you at that time).

We try harder, doing things that some writer or expert says to do but eventually fatigue sets in. After you get tired enough you quit. Then feel guilty. So try again and it kills people!

Living in grace is learned behaviour

A very bad thing has happened to the word grace, where it’s been reduced to ‘the forgiveness of sins.’ But in the NT it’s so much more expansive. Paul says he wants people to grow in grace.

Grace = God doing in me, what I could not do myself – and have not earned.

You were intended to live by grace, from the first moment to the last.

Dallas Willard “Saints burn more grace than sinners ever could.” You can burn grace like rocket fuel to propel you into God’s purposes. We need to learn to live by grace.

John 7:38-39
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Thirsty = to be driven by unsatisfied desires. Our world knows what that looks like.

Who is more content, the person with a million dollars or the perosn with 12 kids?

– the person with no kids doesn’t want any more!

From your belly – (Greek word is what we get colitis from). Having a strong core is salvation in our day! The core is the deepest place; out of that can flow rivers of living water. In those days – a desert place, wherever water was there was LIFE.

Gen 2:10 – a river flowed in Eden. That’s God’s intention in our lives – that we live not with unfulfilled desires, but with grace.

Psalm 42.

Rev 22 is your destiny;
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.

Could the nations use a little healing?
The world is waiting for agents of transformation. God’s plan for healing the nations is that people with rivers flowing form their bellies go to schools and cities and need.

What if Jesus was right?
What if the Spirit is like a river, constantly available and flowing.

People don’t understand what spiritual formation is. It’s not a program for reading Henri Nouwen or Lectio divinia.

Spiritual formation is happening in you and everyone, all the time, for better or worse, every day. There is an inner me, a flow of thoughts, feelings, intentions, character – that os being shaped every day like it or not.

By TV, at work, in conversation. Spiritual Formation is not just for introverts.

What if your job is just to jump in the river, and look what opens the flow, and what blocks it? What quenches the work of the Spirit? It’s not rocket science – just figuring out “How do I connect and live in the flow of this Spirit as THIS moment?” SIN keeps me from living in the flow of grace.

Growth is hand crafted, not mass-produced
This is true about growth in every dimension. What would feed a mouse would starve an elephant – the key is not to treat all alike but discover – how does this flourish? Parents soon discover that they can’t actually treat all your kids he same. we have to ask, ‘How will they grow?”

God deals with all his people differently throughout the scriptures.
Jesus deals with people differently in the gospels.

God has existed before – but he has never had a relationship with YOU before- and he wants to do a new thing.

Growth is hand-crafted not Mass Produced.

But people hear from a talk how he deals with the Pastor and think it should be the same for them; but it requires freedom & there’s no ‘one size fits all.’

Not everyone should journal! (It’s become a verb, and a badge of honour). Not everyone likes to!

Jesus never journalled!

CS Lewis STOPPED journalling when he became a Christian, cos he’d done it for years before and it made him too self centred. So don’t feel guilty if you don’t. There are bigger things for you to feel guilty about!

People can be apathetic about racism and starving kids,and feel guilty cos they didn’t journal today.

You do not measure people’s devotion to God by their devotional life. Your ‘walk’ is not a list of spiritual activities. (How many people can we get to journal?). The Pharisees win that kind of system, if you gauge spirituality by activities the Pharisees will win again.

If someone asked you ‘Hows your spiritual life going’ – what’s the right matrix?

Dallas Willard said….
Am I growing more or less irritable these days?
Am I more or less easily discouraged these days?

These are indicators to help me know if I’m living close to God. That’s where grace gets experience. Disciples ae hand crafted – nt mass produced. He didn’t pray “May they all have identical devotional practices – but that ‘they be ONE- with you.’

cf MONVEE – this ministry showed a video at the end of the talk…
A group asking, how do people grow best, spiritually?

Eg., Introverts get it easier on spiritual formation. Solitude? Okay for an extrovert if you can take three or four people with you.

What’s your learning style?
Not everyone’s the same. Some people don’t like to read. If I love to read and I say, ‘You have to read this and that’ I can make people feel they don’t love Jesus very much if they’re not like me.

What blocks the rivers?
You have a signature sin.
You do not sin at random.
You will be tempted in areas which are linked to your passions and gifts.

A peacemaker will be tempted to never confront
A leader to manipulate
An artist to give way to ungodly passions
Tell me your gifts and I’ll tell you your sins…

YOU are God’s handiwork, and you will always be you.

I do not have to grow spiritually to be like anyone else. You will never be anyone else. Redemption is always the redemption of Creation. What he redeems is what he created. Redemption is the reclamation of creation. Embrace that.

The world is not likely to respond to a gospel of transformation proclaimed by untransformed people. So, are the rivers of living water flowing through your body – right now?

When Jesus says, ‘Seek first the Kingdom’ he’s not putting something heavy on you.

Job number 1? Dallas Willard says – ‘Live with deep contentment & joy in your everyday experience with God.’

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