Obedience of Faith

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “obedience”? As we kick off Dying to Live, a sermon series on the book of Romans, Nathan Wagnon shows us what the obedience of faith is, and the importance of daily surrender in your relationship with Christ.

Nathan WagnonAug 15, 2021

In This Series (8)
God is for You | Romans 8:31-39
Harrison RossOct 10, 2021
Future Glory Over Present Suffering | Romans 8:18-30
Blake HolmesOct 3, 2021
Changed by God | Romans 8:1-17
David MarvinSep 26, 2021
Acceptance Over Performance | Romans 7:7-25
Blake HolmesSep 19, 2021
The Law and Spirit | Romans 7:1–7
John ElmoreSep 12, 2021
Our Identity in Christ | Romans 6:15-23
David MarvinAug 29, 2021
Dead to Sin, Alive to Christ | Romans 6:1-14
Blake HolmesAug 22, 2021
Obedience of Faith
Nathan WagnonAug 15, 2021

Summary

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “obedience”? As we kick off Dying to Live, a sermon series on the book of Romans, Nathan Wagnon shows us what the obedience of faith is, and the importance of daily surrender in your relationship with Christ.

Key Takeaways

  • The spiritual life is not about trying harder and achievement. The spiritual life is about surrender to what Jesus has already done and what He continues to do.
  • The obedience of faith does not come from the law.
  • Three ways we fall into a trap of making our actions ultimate instead of making Jesus ultimate: Pretense (obedience without love), Moral Formation (comparison), and Ministry Activism (doubling down on ministry).
  • Self-reliance ultimately ends in despair.
  • The obedience of faith is not something we do.
  • The law exists to expose our sin and need for a Savior.
  • No one can live the Christian life on their own strength. The same love that drew us to the cross is the same love that sanctifies us and carries us home.
  • As Christians, we need to make a daily return to the phrase “I can’t”.
  • The obedience of faith is something that requires surrender.
  • The key to understanding Christian obedience is to recognize that it is first and foremost a work of the Holy Spirit in us.
  • What we do after we finally realize we are completely incapable of transforming ourselves is “the obedience that comes from faith.”
  • To be actively passive is to actively cooperate with the work in our lives that we passively receive from the Spirit.
  • Spiritual disciplines are the things that we do to cooperate with the Spirit and the work God is already doing.
  • There is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • Can you identify with using pretense, moral formation, or ministry activism rather than resting in God’s grace? If so, how can you unlearn self-reliance?
  • Do you truly believe that there is nothing you can do to make God love you more or less? Or are you tempted to believe that you have graduated from the gospel?
  • Name some opportunities you have to say “I can’t” rather than striving and trying harder out of your own strength.

Good morning! How's everybody doing this morning? Right. Hey, it's promotion Sunday, right? My now 6-year-old, who turned 6 on Friday, was like, "I am going to K-1 RACE." He is pumped! He is pumped! My name is Nathan, and I serve on the Equipping team here at Watermark. Any time you give an Equipping person the stage, we're going to give ourselves a commercial.

So just so you know, the things that are happening with the Equipping team starting this fall, we have Equipped Disciple. Anybody? Come on. Come on. Equipped Disciple is starting Wednesday morning and Thursday evening, September 8 and 9. Then we have Women's Bible Study. Any ladies in the house? All right. That's starting September 15 and 16. Then…shout out to all the men…Summit, men's Bible study, starts September 23.

Those are things to mark. You'll find all that stuff in the Watermark News, but I would get in trouble if I got up here and then in a team meeting on Tuesday, they were like, "Come on! Why didn't you give us a shoutout?" So there's our shoutout. Well, I was with you guys on July the Fourth, and had a lot of fun with you then. I showed you a picture of my family, and I'm going to do it again.

Here's my family. There they are. Yeah. We're in Crested Butte, Colorado, which is one of our favorite places to be. It's kind of God's country. I shared with you a little bit about my story and a little bit about my family then, a lot of stuff about my experience with the military, but this morning I want to share a little bit more about me personally.

I want to let you in on part of my story. A huge part of my story for a long time is that I lived the spiritual life out of a very performance-based mindset. It was very much a, "God as cosmic coach, God as general, what have you done for me lately?" mindset. I was trying to make it from one achievement to the next without totally crashing.

So the tradition that I grew up in gave me a great foundation for theology, but unfortunately, it also gave me a really strong foundation for performance. It was kind of like, "Hey, if you do this stuff, then God is going to bless you and it's going to be awesome and everything will be just fine." Then there was also this, "But when you struggle and you fail and you're kind of over here, then it's not going to go so well for you."

So I spent a lot of my life looking at people who were failing, and going, "Man, I don't know. I don't want to do that. If I'm going to be accepted, then I need to perform." I literally used to think that the Christian life was about what I had to do in order to achieve things for God. It's kind of like this mindset of, "Hey, God has gracefully and, in love, died for us on the cross, and now it's our turn. He's like, 'Okay, I've done that. Now you guys get to work.'"

That's very much the way I lived for a long time. It was just kind of like, "Man, I have to achieve. I have to live a life that's worthy of being used by God." There are all kinds of serious problems with that we'll talk about this morning. So I worked. I worked really, really hard. I worked hard to discipline myself. I worked hard to do the right things. I worked hard to just bring about this life in my inner life that would have been worthy of what I was called to.

Then I totally and completely crashed in 2005. I was right in the middle of seminary. I was almost done with seminary. I was a Masters of Theology student at Dallas Seminary, and I totally crashed. I was exhausted. I was anxious. I was depressed. I did things out of compulsion. "I just have to do this. I have to do this." The harder it got, the harder I tried. And the harder I tried, the worse it got.

So it became really obvious that my exterior life, what I was doing for God, the resume I was building to present to God, was outpacing my interior life. I bet you I'm not alone in this. I'm looking out across the sea of faces, and my heart goes out to you if what I've just described is you. Like, "Dude is reading my mail." I get it.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Oh, great. We're starting a series on the spiritual life. You're going to tell me how I need to double down my effort to read the Bible more and pray more and share my faith more and do more things at church and serve. Ugh. All right. Here we go." We toss a word. "It's okay. Just abide."

But for so many of us, the word abide means read the Bible more, pray more, share your faith more, and do these things more. Instead of creating inside of us an inner peace and rest for our souls, our abiding ends up leaving us exacerbated and wanting more. Then we're like, "Dadgummit, I can't even abide!"

As I was prepping for this, I had some friends tell me, they're like, "Hey, you're already intense, so when you feel this thing come up inside of you, simmer down." My wife literally texted me. I was right down there in that seat… She was like, "Gentle and lowly, baby. Gentle and lowly." Margaret is good. She is my ēzer. She is good that God has given me a helpmate. That is exactly not what this series is about.

In a season of disorientation, Jesus taught me something that was extremely profound. This is it. The spiritual life is not about trying harder or achievement; the spiritual life is about surrender. I'm going to say that again. This is on the test. The spiritual life is not about trying harder. It's not about achieving. It's about surrender. It's about surrender to what Jesus has already done and what he continues to do.

So the spiritual life for us is about not knowing. I've literally… I got a little workout in before I came in because my nerves, you know. So I'm trying to work some of that out. I was praying while I was exercising. It literally was like, "Lord, I don't know! I cannot do." The Lord is like, "That's where I want you!" That's where he wants all of us: not knowing, non-achievement. It changed my life, and that's what I want to talk to you about today.

So we have to set this foundation of the spiritual life so that when we do talk about imperatives in the Scriptures… Because imperatives are there. There is stuff to do, but we're not going to talk much about that this morning. We'll end up getting there, but so often that's where we start. Because we start with the imperative, "Come on, guys. Go do it!" We don't understand the vast amount of biblical literature and the message of Scripture and the gospel of Jesus that shouts out to us constantly, "I have already accomplished this! Live into me."

So that's what today is going to be about. I want to give a little bit of an overview of Romans, and then we're going to launch into… It's funny. They're like, "What are you talking about?" I was like, "I'm going to talk about two words today. That's it. Out of the whole Bible: two words." In Romans, which is where we're going to be over the next however many weeks this series takes…Romans 6, 7, and 8.

I'm going to give you a sense of what Romans is really quickly. Ultimately, it's Paul's apologetic. It's his letter. It's his defense of his gospel. His gospel is what he would call an attempt to settle the issue of, "If you're a Gentile, do you have to keep the law? Do you have to observe the law and become a Jew in order to become a Christian?" That's the question the first-century church in Rome was asking. That was the dominant question.

The letter to the Romans answers that question, and it answers it in a resounding, "No! You don't have to follow the law." This is not about keeping the law. This is about faith in Christ. That's what Romans is about. So you have, in chapters 1 through 3, Paul establishing that, "Hey, are you a Gentile? Then you're a sinner." And all the Jews are like, "Amen. The godless, pagan Gentiles."

Then he was like, "Well, hey. Do you think if you're just moral that you're going to be okay?" Paul argues in chapter 2, "Nuh-uh, you're guilty too." They're like, "Dang." Then he turns and talks to the Jews. They're like, "Whoa, dude. No, we're people of God." He was like, "Dude, you guys have the law, and you don't even keep it. What in the world?"

Chapters 1, 2, and 3: the Gentiles are bad, the moral man is bad, the Jews are bad, everybody is bad, right? Romans, chapter 3, verse 23 says…what? "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" Why am I even up here, man? This is awesome. I love it. So the appeal that I would make to you right now is, "Look, if you have a recognition of your own sin…" (Because it's one thing to go, "Hey, yeah, people are sinners." It's another thing to go, "Whoa, I am a sinner.") "…and you've never placed your faith in Jesus to save you," our invitation today is, "Come! It's free! It's the gift of God. It's not by anything that you do so that nobody can boast. You don't earn it."

But guess what, guys? That's justification. That's like that first faith decision you make to start to follow Jesus. That's justification. But guess what, guys? The gospel doesn't stop there. It continues. So we're justified by faith. We also live what is called sanctification, this process of becoming more and more like Christ. That is also the gospel, and that is what we see in this section on salvation in Romans from chapters 4-8.

Then that begs the question for the Jewish community. They're like, "Well, what about Israel? If the Gentiles are grafted in, what happens to us?" Paul answers that in Romans 9-11, talking about the sovereignty of God and how he is working all these things for the good of the salvation of the whole world.

Then lastly, there's this huge shift in Romans 12, verse 1. He says, "Therefore…in view of God's mercy…" See Romans 1-11. Then in Romans 12, he says, "Now offer your bodies." Now you get into a lot of imperatives. What does it look like to live this out? That's what the book of Romans is about.

This morning, I want to talk to you about a bookend. The bookend of Romans we see in Romans 1:5 and 16:26. So turn to your Bibles really quickly to the book of Romans, and we're going to just look at this one phrase. The phrase in Greek is hypakoē pistis. It's two words. In English, we translate it the obedience of faith.

So let's look at Romans 1:5. It says, "Through [Jesus] we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the…" Hypakoē pistis. "…obedience that comes from faith for his name's sake." So we see at the beginning of Paul's letter to the Romans, he is saying that we have received this grace and apostleship so that we can call people to this thing. Then he argues for 16 chapters.

Then in the end of Romans, in chapter 16, verse 25, he says, "Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the [nations] …" Panta ta ethnē. All of them. "…might come to the obedience that comes from faith…" He bookends his letter to the Romans with this obedience that comes from faith.

So what I want to do this morning is just ask that question, "What is that? What is the obedience that comes from faith?" So to do that, I think that it's always helpful, at least it is for me a lot of times, to think about, "Hey, I want to define something." So in defining it, it's helpful for me to talk about what it's not, to start to eliminate options so you can zero in on, "Okay, this is what it is." That's what I want to do this morning. So hang with me. We'll eventually get to what it is, but first we're going to talk about what it's not.

Firstly, the obedience of faith does not come from the law. A lot of people will view the spiritual life as, "I have to achieve. I have to prove my faith through obedience." It's like we take the gospel that's a free gift of God and we receive the forgiveness of God, but then we immediately think, "Okay now, that's God's work. Now I have to get to work."

That's taking the gospel and turning it into law. That's exactly what that is. We either think we're in this ongoing transactional relationship with God and we can move in and out of his favor depending on the quality or the quantity of our obedience, of what we do. We'll fill these scorecards. It gets really weird, right? Because nobody has the same scorecard. We all have these scorecards of…

Typically around here, the scorecard will look like, "Hey, have you done this program? Have you done re:gen? Have you done re|engage? Have you done Equipped Disciple? Have you done Men's/Women's Bible study? Have you done…blah, blah, blah?" Around here, I call it being waterlogged. Right? You're like, "Dude, what in the world?" Which I'm not… Everybody is like, "Dude."

I'm not saying anything bad about those programs. They're awesome. The Holy Spirit uses them. They're just not the main thing! They're intended to be a catalyst or an environment that you step into so that you can encounter the presence of God. He is the main thing! Can I get an "Amen"? Come on! We think that the means to the end is the actual end in itself. "Just read more. Just pray more. Just go to re:gen more. Just go confess more. Just go to your Community Group."

You're just like, "Okay, we're missing something." We think that it's our work to change ourselves through obedience to the law. Look, I think if we're really honest, if you're really honest… Just be really honest with yourself right now. How many of us live like that? It's okay. It's okay that that's where you are. In fact, it's imperative that you be honest with yourself, because guess who meets you in your honesty? Jesus does. He knows you're there. He is inviting you.

Andrew Murray said in Abide in Christ, which is such an awesome work… I commend it to you. He said "The idea they have of grace is this—that their conversion and pardon are God's work…" Again, like we already talked about. "…but that now, in gratitude to God, it is their work to live as Christians, and follow Jesus. There is always the thought of a work that has to be done, and even though they pray for help, still the work is theirs. They fail continually, and become hopeless; and the despondency only increases the helplessness."

"I tried really hard. The harder I tried, the worse it got." Just grit your teeth, white-knuckle, come on! But we have to understand that this is actually the way of the Pharisees. This is exactly the mistake that they made. The Pharisees very much saw themselves as the true Israel. "We're the true Christians. We're exceptional. Look at us. Look at all of the things that we've done. Just look at our resume in the city of Dallas. Have we not done this? Have we not done that?"

On some level, they felt responsible to maintain, "We are the stalwart of doctrinal orthodoxy of Christianity. We have to stand our ground for the truth." They saw it as their responsibility to keep covenant with Yahweh through faithful orthopraxy or what they did. They did not believe they were hypocrites because they could point to external actions that matched their stated belief.

Yet what they essentially propagated was obedience without love, doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and Jesus let them know it. Look, you know you're stuck in this pattern when you have this neurotic self-talk that goes on in your own mind. See if you identify with these things. I definitely did. I was doing this list. I was like, "Oh, I'm typing this out because this is totally my story." Right?

There's straight up pretense. "Fake it 'til you make it. I know I'm doing the right thing, even though it's totally exhausting and I have to kind of will myself to keep doing it. I can't really let anybody else know that, because I know I'm doing the right thing and I can't be like, 'Uh.' Actually, I don't know. Am I doing the right thing?" Fake it 'til you make it.

Another one is to turn to programmatic or personal solutions. "I can try harder. I can do better." How many times in our Community Groups or in things around here have we counseled each other with just blatant appeals to pride? "Hey, you can do it! Come on, let's go! Put this other thing in place so that that will help you to try harder, to do better, and to become more disciplined.

Or we turn to thinking that the spiritual life is just changing ourselves to behave better. We'll call this moral formation, scorekeeping, comparison. This is where we'll literally go, like the Pharisee with the publican in Luke 18, "I thank God that I am not like other people." We thank God, as Watermark, that we are not like other churches. Now I'm just meddling.

Or we double down on ministry activity, and we think things like, "I'm validated by what I can achieve. Surely the Lord's hand must be on me, because look at what I have achieved." This is ministry activism. All of these things result in a deeper habituation of self-reliance that ultimately ends in despair.

Because, look guys, the thing that's missing from all those things: pretense, programmatic personal solutions, moral formation, scorekeeping, comparison, ministry activism… You can do all of those things without God! My question to you this morning is, "Is that you?" It's okay. Be honest. Guess who meets you there? Jesus does.

Secondly, the obedience of faith is not something that we achieve. In Galatians, chapter 3, verse 3, Paul says, "Are you so foolish?" "Hey guys, I came and preached the gospel of faith and grace to you." "Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?" Paul has a resounding answer to our ability to sanctify ourselves. He says in Romans 3:19 and 20,

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."

So Paul makes it super clear that the law is there to expose our need, not to follow it to the letter. That's like saying, "Oh, sweet. I have an MRI that tells me I need knee surgery. Awesome!" And then going back to the MRI and going, "Okay, when are we doing surgery?" The MRI can't fix your knee. You need a doctor for that, an orthopedic surgeon for that.

The law is the MRI. It's the thing that shows us that we don't have what it takes, that we need help, that we need surgery. But it's foolish of us to think, "Okay, the law has exposed our sin. Okay, thank you, Lord, for forgiving that sin, but now I need to keep getting an MRI every day." It's like, "No, you need a doctor." Jesus is the doctor by his Spirit.

Paul makes it super clear that nobody is able to live the Christian life in your own strength. Nobody! It's funny. We talk about Romans 8:13, where it says, "…put to death the deeds of the body…" or put to death the deeds of the flesh. Everybody is like, "Okay! Ready? Go!" Right? You walk out here, and I'm like, "Hey guys, just go put to death the deeds of the body. All right. Good luck with that."

Except, and if you don't understand how important prepositional phrases are in the biblical text, this is really important one. Right? He is like, "Okay, go put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit." The Spirit is the one who is actually working in you to put to death the deeds of the body. He is the one who is working. It's our job to cooperate with what he is already doing.

So the love that first drew us to the cross, that love of, "You're mine. Come. Come to me. I will forgive you. I will make you whole." That same love that first drew us to the cross is the same love that sanctifies us and carries us home. The gospel is not just the way to Christ. It is also the way to maturity in Christ. You don't graduate from the gospel.

You don't go, "Well, I'm forgiven so I don't need that anymore. Thank God it's kind of in the past. All right." It's like, "No." That same posture of dependence that you started in? Stay there the rest of your life, every day. Stay in that posture of not knowing, non-achievement, dependence. "I can't." This is so critical to understanding the spiritual life.

Eugene Peterson said, "Given our sin-damaged memories that render us vulnerable to every latest edition of journalistic spirituality, daily re-orientation in the truth revealed in Jesus and attested in Scripture is required. And given our ancient predisposition for reducing every scrap of divine revelation that we come across into a piece of moral/spiritual technology that we can use to get on in the world, and eventually to get on without God, a daily return to a condition of not-knowing and non-achievement is required."

Watermark, we have to get really good at this one basic thing: "I can't." Otherwise, what are we doing? I don't know what we're doing. It's not Christian. Okay. What is the obedience that comes from faith? Well, it is something that requires surrender. Not achievement, surrender. Look, guys. Obedience is a loaded word, right? As soon as you hear the word obedience you're like, "Ugh."

I literally went back to some different courses that I've taught. If you've taken an Equipping course or something like that here, these are some of the responses that people gave me when I was talking about, "What do you think of when you think of the word obedience?" So I'll give you a few seconds. What's your knee-jerk reaction? Obedience. It's probably all over the map, right?

These are some of the things that I heard. "It's about doing something that I don't really want to do." My kids definitely identify with that. As we live as adults, all we're doing is our childhood tendencies of responding to those kind of things have just matured, but they're still there. We're just grown up kids. "Obedience equals discipline." This is funny. "Obedience sounds like my alarm going off at 5 a.m." It just kind of has that sense of, "Ugh."

The last thing I want to try to do is convince you to do something that you don't really want to do anyway. If we're honest, it's like, "How many of y'all really want to get up and be in the Word? How many of y'all really want to spend significant time in prayer? How many of y'all really want to share your faith with your neighbor? How many of y'all really want to fast and pray and meditate? How many of you really want to do that?"

The spiritual life is not about externals. We have to talk about following Jesus on the level of desire. What do you want to do? That's where the Spirit is working. The thing I want to do more than anything this morning is to wake you up to the reality that the Spirit is already at work in your life. Whether you're suppressing it or encouraging it or… The Spirit's work is constantly already churning and moving. What I want you to do is just become aware of that, that he is already working inside of you.

So the third key to understanding Christian obedience is to recognize that Christian obedience is first and foremost the Spirit's work in your life. Before you ever do anything, something is already being done to you. That's just true, which is totally awesome. It's like, "Dude! Before I ever do anything, like, 'What? Something is already happening?'" Yes! That's amazing!

We're completely incapable of bringing about the obedience that comes from faith. It's not our job to achieve that. It's our job to surrender to the Spirit's work that is achieving that. That's so critical. It's not our job to achieve the obedience of faith. It's our job to surrender to the Spirit's work that is achieving the obedience of faith. Just don't get in the way.

What we do after we finally realize that we are completely incapable of transforming ourselves is the obedience that comes from faith. When you finally get to that spot where you're like, "Yeah, I don't know. I can't do. Lord. Uhh…" Look, this is so counterintuitive to us because we want to bring… Our promethean selves, our god-like selves are going, "Uh, no, I have to do this." It's like, "Yeah, I hear you, but that's just not Christian. That's not what it means to follow Jesus."

The ground is level at the foot of the cross. We have no idea where we're going, which is why we have to wake up every day and go, "Lord! I don't know! I can't do, but you know and you can do. I'm with you!" This obedience is a work of the Spirit. It's the natural outworking of his work in our inner being. That's why the fruit of the Spirit is not knowledge or activism or moral behavior or how much Bible you know or read or can memorize or recite. That is not the fruit of the Spirit!

The fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace and patience…like inner transformation that you cannot conjure up for yourself. We're like, "Well, how do you get there?" The answer is, "Well, we can't, in any kind of sense, discover our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest and then failing." Because, like Lewis said, unless we really try, whatever we say, there's always going to be at the back of our minds the idea that, "Well, if I just try harder next time, then I'll really succeed in being completely good."

In one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder, but in another sense, it's not trying that's ever going to bring us home. All of this trying, all of this achieving leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and you say, " You must do this. I cannot." That is where you live the spiritual life. If we get out of that spot, whatever we're doing is no longer Christian.

So what do we do? I'm going to teach you two words. It's going to drive this entire series, okay? It's called actively passive. For those grammarians in the house, you're like, "Oh, sweet." Now we're talking about the mood of a verb, right? The active mood of a verb is…what? That the subject is doing something to the object, right? The subject is doing something.

The passive mood of the verb is that the action of the verb is being done to the subject. So what's super important is to be actively passive is to actively cooperate with the Spirit's work in our lives, this work that we are passively receiving from him. Another way to talk about this is to cooperate with the Spirit. Check out what he is doing in our lives.

Philippians 1:6: "…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…" That's awesome. That's been so comforting for me. It's like, "Dadgum. I feel like I'm two steps forward, one step back. Three steps forward, five steps back. What in the world? I'm back where I started, right?" It's like, "Hey, don't worry about it. He is doing it."

Philippians 2:12-13: "…work out your salvation…" Right? There is this process of cooperation with the Spirit, but remember that it's God who works in you. First Thessalonians 5:23-24 is my favorite passage in all of Scripture. "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and…" What? "…he will do it."

Yes! Isn't that awesome? Do you know what happens when you live into this? You relax. You rest. It's almost like Jesus came to give us rest for our souls. What? Colossians 1:29: "To this end I strenuously contend [I'm working] with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me." The more you try, the harder you go, the more you realize, "Oh, I'm not actually doing anything. It's God who is working in me."

First Corinthians 3:6-7: "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." These things that we do to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, these practices, are not achievements that we do. They typically and traditionally have been called the spiritual disciplines.

In the spiritual disciplines, what we are doing is we are actively working to keep ourselves into an environment where we can freely receive from God his love, his work. It's our way of cooperating with the Spirit to stay out of the way. The difficulty is to reach the point of recognizing that all we have done and all we can do is nothing.

Handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean you stop trying. C.S. Lewis said, "Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you."

That's so good. Let the kingdom of God out. Let it come out of you like a stream of living waters. What I'm telling you this morning is stop and surrender to it. Look guys, I've lived an achievement-based life for a long time. It's a vulnerable position to be completely exposed and completely known if your identity is tied into your resume.

The thing that God taught me in that moment, in that disorientation season, is that even though I was completely exposed, I was completely known. Ultimately, I was afraid because I was afraid that if people really knew the real me they would leave. I was afraid being exposed and that if people really knew the real me God would leave.

It was in that moment where I literally was just like, "All I bring and all I have is nothing." At that moment in my life, I was over… I cannot even… Words fail me. I was overwhelmed by the love of God. "I love you! I see you! I see you in the pain. I see you trying to achieve something that you can't achieve. I see you. I love you. Come to me."

He loves us. We are simultaneously completely known and completely loved. The obedience that comes from faith and the good news that we are loved by God through Christ is the practical outworking of the Holy Spirit's work in our inner lives, which naturally produces a transformation that we could never bring about by ourselves.

I think it was Dallas Willard who said (and I think he is right) the spiritual life is what you do when you finally realize you can do nothing. That's what we're going to talk about in this series. I don't want to give you more tasks to do and load you on with heavier burdens. I want to invite you in. I want to invite you into the actual spiritual life. What you find there is rest for your soul.

Now we're going to do something that's epic. It's called Communion. Our campus pastor, Blake, is going to come up right after I pray, and he is gong to walk us through. I just want you to use this time to confess to the Lord. "Lord, these are the areas of my life that I'm still godlike trying to control. I'm trying to achieve it. I don't know that you really love me. I'm afraid because I feel exposed." Confess all those things to him. Then receive through the elements, the gospel. We don't graduate from it. We have to continue to live in it.

Lord, help us. We need your help. We cannot do it. I pray that you would use this time to shepherd us into a deeper love and a deeper surrender to the gospel. In Jesus' name, amen.