Message Series: Emotionally Healthy Discipleship – What’s The Problem? – Sermon – 3 October 2021

communion cup and broken bread

Communion Worship Service

Reminder: If you are planning to take part in the Lord’s Table at the end of the service, have your bread and juice ready.

WELCOME

Good morning First Baptist. We welcome you to worship this morning. Be sure to remember your brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the week as you pray for them, and as the Holy Spirit brings their faces to your mind. Be sure to also connect with them in the ways that are possible. And if you have any questions or would like to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to contact the church through the church telephone and leave a message. (519-733-4144)

Call to Worship

It is God who has called us together. 
and so, we come here seeking healing and hope. 
We gather together to be in His presence because we are assured that in the midst of struggle and strife, God is with us. 
Even though many things in life hurt and disappoint us, God is with us. 
Come, bring your needs and wants to God, for God will hear your cries and restore your souls.

Songs

Opening Prayer

CONFESSION/ASSURANCE OF PARDON

Merciful Lord, you know that we are stubborn and willful. We believe that we know the right way to do everything and to heal all the troubles of the world. We resort to extraordinary means to provide healing only to find that we have not placed our trust in Your redeeming love. Our efforts fall far short of the goal of reconciliation. Forgive us our stubbornness and arrogance. Heal our wounded souls and restore hope and compassion to our relationships with You and with each other. Lift us up and cause us to serve You by serving others in this world. AMEN.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

God’s love and restoring mercy are poured out for us. Receive these blessings, for we are loved by God and granted forgiveness and mercy. AMEN.

Emotional Healthy Discipleship What's the Problem?

Introduction

As you know, prior to coming to FBK we took a break for 4 weeks to rest and recharge, to spend time with God and listen and to read.  One of the books we read was this one – Emotionally Healthy Discipleship by Peter Scazzero. You might recognize this name as the author that put out a similarly titled book – Emotionally Healthy Spirituality – in fact some of this congregation did some study around this book as a course some years ago.

In EHS, Scazzero, after burning out in ministry, put together this work largely out of self necessity, a kind of self help that served to help others. I’ll never forget the first words in this book. Chapter 1: Something is Desperately Wrong!

I won’t go into all of this book. I would commend it to your reading though. This first chapter is Titled Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality. As he said in the opening words of the book, “For many of us as Jesus followers… and those who are not…in our lives, in our culture, in our workplaces…. deep down we are all having to face the fact that in much of the world around us today, something is desperately wrong.”

If you fast forward to today, to right here and right now, you will recall that in our first series of messages to you we spoke about the great commandments and the great commission that Jesus gives to us; Loving God and our neighbour as ourselves and the making of disciples. And two truths we impressed upon you were that you can’t begin to love your neighbour as yourself until you actually love yourself. That’s an issue for some of us and that Jesus calls us to discipleship. So what if there are some fundamental issues for us to understand as Jesus followers, as citizens of a westernized culture, as humans even, that we need to understand and deal with if we are to truly live out these instructions of Jesus. Pete Scazzero thinks there are, and so do we.

So, for these next 8 weeks leading up to the Advent Season, we are going to spend some time together with this book. In fact, it is our intention that each fall we will bring you a message series based on a book that we think might be helpful to us as a community.

This book, and we hope and pray that this message series will help each of you with areas that you may or may not recognize as hindering you on your own discipleship journey.

Our Scripture reading for this morning is simply 1 verse from Jesus Himself who said this to His Disciples during their final hours together:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

— John 16:33 (NIV)

Prayer of Illumination

In the opening pages of this book, Scazzero recounts the story of a woman who for decades lived in a family system that kept her stuck and somewhat immature. Madeleine arrived at St. Benedict’s Hospital in 1980 at the age of sixty. She had been born blind and with cerebral palsy. Throughout her life, she had been protected, looked after, and babied by her family. What shocked the neurologist responsible for her care, was that she was highly intelligent, spoke freely and eloquently, but could do nothing with her hands. “I can’t do anything with my hands—they are completely useless.” She held them up. “Useless godforsaken lumps of dough—they don’t even feel part of me.” The Doctor thought to himself, the hands are not something usually affected by cerebral palsy. Her hands would seem to have the potential of being perfectly good hands—and yet they are not. Can it be that they are functionless, “useless” because she had never used them?

Had everything been done for her in a manner that prevented her from developing a normal pair of hands?” Madeleine had no memory of ever having used her hands. In fact, the Dr. notes, “She had never fed herself, used the toilet by herself, or reached out to help herself, always leaving it to others to help her.” She lived, for sixty years, as if she were a human being without hands. This led the Doctor who tried an experiment. He instructed the nurses to deliver Madeleine’s food to her but to leave it slightly out of her reach, as if by accident. The Doctor writes, “And one day it happened—what had never happened before: impatient, hungry, instead of waiting passively and patiently, she reached out an arm, groped, found a bagel, and took it to her mouth. This was the first use of her hands, her first manual act, in sixty years.” Madeleine progressed rapidly from there. She soon reached out to touch the whole world, exploring different foods, containers, implements. She asked for clay and started to make models and sculptures. She began to explore human faces and figures. Her hands became not just the hands of a blind woman exploring, but of a blind artist, a meditative and creative mind, just opened to the full sensuous and spiritual reality of the world.” Madeleine’s artistry developed to the point that, within a year, she was locally famous as the “Blind Sculptress of St. Benedict’s.”

That true story seems almost unimaginable. Who would have imagined that such a great artist and astonishing person lay hidden within the body of this sixty-year-old woman, who had not only suffered from multiple physical limitations but who had also been “disabled” by those who had thought they were caring for her? The reason we share this story with you this morning is because it also illustrates a disturbingly similar dynamic at work in our churches. Too many of us have been “babied” in our discipleship, to the point that we have become nearly disabled spiritually. Now that may sound a bit harsh, we don’t mean that to be offensive in any way but only to be truthful about the state of much of our ministry focus in the western Church today.

You see many in the Church today accept without question, a faith that promises freedom and abundance in Jesus, and yet they never seem to notice how they remain imprisoned, especially in unbiblical ways of relating to themselves and others. They shrug their shoulders as if to say, “It’s useless. I can’t do anything about that. It’s just the way I am.”

Some decades ago, a popular phrase used to describe the church was that we were one mile wide and one inch deep. Now, we would edit that statement to say we are one mile wide and less than half an inch deep.

So why, why would we say that to you here this morning?

Well, perhaps that leads us to another, more telling question which is this:

What are the beneath-the-surface failures that undermine deep discipleship and keep people from becoming spiritually mature? What is it that so many of us have been taught and modelled that has caused us not to mature to the extent that we could?

Well part of the issue is this dynamic that most of us have been born into and shaped as disciples.

The traditional model of discipleship expects people to mature spiritually as they connect in small groups, serve in various ministries, and give financially.

The transformative model of discipleship expects people to mature spiritually as they experience deep and lasting change beneath the surface of their lives.

So, as we asked a moment ago, what is it specifically in this traditional approach to discipleship that might keep us from experiencing the deep and lasting change that is required for a true journey on the path of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at 3 of them:

  1. We tolerate emotional immaturity.
    Over time, our expectations of what it means to be “spiritual” have blurred to the point that we have grown blind to many fairly glaring inconsistencies. For example, we have learned to accept that:
  2. You can be a gifted speaker for God in public and be a detached spouse or angry parent at home.
  3. You can function as a leader in the Church or any other setting and yet be unteachable, insecure, and defensive.

Why is this? Well, there are several reasons, but two key ones are these:

Reason One: We No Longer Measure Our Love for God by the Degree to Which We Love Others

Matt 22:34-40 – This was Marlee’s message to us in our first series together. Our own cultures desire to focus on self as opposed to neighbours has us focused on our relationship with God over those of others. Even though when asked what the most important command was, Jesus answered with 2 parts. Certainly, love God, but He immediately added our neighbour as well. We must consider the reality that a very accurate measure of how much we love God is found in the reality of how much we love those around us - our neighbours.

Reason Two: We Elevate the Spiritual and Distrust the Emotional

Now the second reason is a direct cause of the first reason that we just talked about the fact that we do not measure our love for God by how much we love our neighbour and a fundamental reason for this is that we elevate the spiritual and distrust the emotional. Let me say that again. In our western Christian culture, we’ve been taught and encouraged to elevate our spiritual being and suppress and not trust the emotions inside of us. Essentially, “The body is bad. The spirit is good.”

In other words, any aspect of our humanity that is not spiritual is not to be trusted, especially our emotions. In fact, to be emotional is, if not sinful, at least less than spiritual.

From as far back as Plato all the way through to Augustine, the philosophy and then the theology of the “badness” of our bodies, emotions, flesh has been percolating through Christianity and that causes a considerable problem in that it compartmentalizes the parts of our life to certain spiritual activities, such as praying, reading Scripture, serving others, or attending worship, and ignores the emotional side of our being. The emotional side of us as God’s creation.

When we fail to understand ourselves as whole people, unhealthy developments are inevitable but for some reason, however, we persist in exalting the spiritual over the emotional. Over time, this unbiblical mindset has led to a view that sees emotions (especially sadness, fear, and anger) not just as less than spiritual, but as opposed to the spiritual side of our being and that’s not in fact true.

God made us as His creation, in His image and we know through the sending of His Son that emotions and spirituality are part of His intended order for us as His children. We just need to accept and even embrace that truth.

Now, if that issue wasn’t big enough for us to struggle with, there are more.

Here’s the second issue that undermines deep discipleship and keeps people from becoming spiritually mature. We emphasize doing for God over being with God.

One of the greatest challenges for every Jesus follower is how to balance our doing for God and our being with Him. In our efforts to serve God, far too commonly, most of us actually end up skimping on our relationship with Him. And Gentleman, this is usually an issue that’s particularly focused on you, though not exclusively. More and more that state of our culture is that across the board, we’re in a perpetual state of hurry, struggling to make the best use of every spare minute.

I would go as so far to say that some of us are actually addicted here. Not to drugs or alcohol, but to the adrenaline rush of doing. We might read about the need to rest and recharge, but deep down we worry about how many things are going to fall apart if we slowed down. So, we just keep going. And we find ourselves in this hurried and exhausted state, along with the reality that we have little time or energy left to invest in our relationship with God, ourselves, or others. And that’s the treadmill that we’re on. As a result, our own lives remain largely unchanged.

“Work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually deteriorate—and us with it.”

And here’s the third issue we have been struggling with in our strive for discipleship. 

We define success wrongly.

For most of us, it is an absolute value, a number or metric of some kind. Bigger is always better. We want bigger bank accounts, bigger influence, bigger social media platforms, bigger homes, bigger budgets, bigger profits, bigger staff, bigger churches. Can you imagine a business, government agency, or most organizations actually, that doesn’t try to grow and increase its reach? And so, culture tells us that the logic then is simple: If you aren’t getting bigger, you are failing and potentially on your way to extinction.

So, we should not be surprised that the church more or less does the same thing. We measure our success by the numbers, and bigger is always the goal. We measure increases in attendance, giving, Bible Studies, and those serving in ministry. We count the number of conversions, baptisms and new programs. We’ve too often been taught that If our numbers are increasing, with more people participating in our ministry, then we should feel great and see our efforts as a success.

You may be asking: “If success by the numbers isn’t necessarily success, what is?”

Here’s how we would encourage you to answer that question:

Success, according to Scripture, is becoming the person God calls you to become, and doing what God calls you to do, in His way, and according to His timetable.

What this means is that it is possible for us to grow spiritually and not be successful by the world’s definition of success, and the opposite is just as true. This also happens to apply to your discipleship journey as well. We are asked a lot, already by some of you about some of this, how often should we pray, and for how long? Should I read through my Bible every year? How much should I be tithing?

People don’t generally like our answer at first, and our answer is always the same: Ask God?!

Do you remember the definition of success we shared a moment ago? Success, according to Scripture, is becoming the person God calls you to become, and doing what God calls you to do, in His way, and according to His timetable.

John the Baptist understood this truth. Rather than rushing in to address every need, John waited on God, literally in the desert, eating bugs and honey. But, in allowing the Word of God to penetrate the core of his being, he became the message that he ultimately preached. Instead of moving to the urban center of Jerusalem to start his ministry, John began his work in the wilderness—a place that required people to travel long distances to get to him. He ate and dressed oddly, appearing rough, crude, almost fanatical. Nonetheless, we know that thousands flocked to see and hear him.

The religious leaders had advanced educations.
John did not.

The religious leaders had wealth and status.
John did not.

The religious leaders were powerful in the world’s eyes.
John was not.

None of this mattered to John.

Our social media feeds roar with praise to those the world considers important, but John didn’t adjust his message or his approach to avoid offending those in power or to please the culture around him, even the religious culture. The fact that the religious leaders prayed five times a day, memorized large portions of Scripture, and fasted twice a week didn’t keep John from calling them a brood of snakes. (Luke 3:7).

John was crystal clear about who he was. He was in touch with his true self in God and he was equally as clear about who he was not.

Without hesitation he stated his identity:

  • I am not the Messiah (John 1:20).
  • I am not Elijah. I am not the Prophet (John 1:21).
  • I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness (John 1:23)

As a result, John had an authority and commanding presence the people of Israel had not seen in hundreds of years. At the same time, he experienced a steady and then steep numerical decline in his ministry. When we define success wrongly, little is left over for the true pursuit of discipleship, our own or that of others, especially when it produces what appears to be such a small and slow return to the world around us.

So, what do we do with all this? The reason we are starting here this morning is because we believe and have heard parts and pieces of this from some of you as we’ve been visiting. We believe strongly that a big part of our calling to First Baptist Church Kingsville is work together with each of you to:

CREATE A CHURCH CULTURE THAT DEEPLY CHANGES LIVES!

Let’s circle back to the question posed at the beginning of the chapter: What are the beneath-the-surface failures that undermine deep discipleship and keep people from becoming spiritually mature? What do we do about these things we talked about? Well, that’s where are we going for the next 7 weeks.

Deep change is what Emotionally Healthy Discipleship (EHD) is all about. For the next seven weeks we are going to dig into the marks of a biblical discipleship that deeply transforms lives:

Be Before You Do

Follow the Crucified Jesus

Embrace God’s Gift of Limits

Discover the Treasures Hidden in Grief and Loss

Make Love the Measure of Spiritual Maturity

A Theology of Weakness

Break the Power of the Past

The goal of emotionally healthy discipleship is to experience deep change.

Set aside a block of time to prayerfully reflect on any ways you feel stuck or wish things were different, in your life, in your leadership, and in your organization. For each stuck point, write down a corresponding “I need” statement. For example, I need a breakthrough. I need these mountains to move. I need hope. Be specific, writing down as many statements as come to mind for each stuck point. Entrust your list to God in prayer, asking him to meet you in your need.

Church, we want to grow alongside you.

Remember the mandates we talked about last week: Making Disciples. As much as we can’t love our neighbours until we love ourselves, we as a church community, we’re not going to be very good at making Disciples until we ourselves are healthy.

Things that affect how we can relate to issues around:

  • Our emotions and how we view them,
  • Your need to be accepted by God through doing for Him rather than being with Him, or
  • Maybe you struggle with your own view of what success is and how you stack up.

These issues that undermine our lives and undermine our lives with God are not part of His plan. That’s not what you were created for. Have you ever stopped to consider that this discipleship journey that we are on together is not supposed to be a burden, it’s not supposed to make our lives more difficult?  That’s not His plan for your life.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

— John 16:33

Jesus has done away with all that. He’s overcome that and when we truly learn to follow Him, we will know a peace and real freedom that so many in the world today believe can’t be attained.

Today was about identifying the problems and we have to do that to know how to fix them. Where we are going is the fixing part. We can’t wait to work through this with you, together!

Let’s pray to our Lord that by the Holy Spirit we can grow into the Disciples we are called to be.

Pastoral Prayer

Patient God, we want to have things go well and to have everyone be happy and content, but all too often we stand in the way of peace and hope. We recognize that life is not a fantasy in which everything turns out just right. We know that there is hardship and struggles and we stand in the midst of them. Our hearts and spirits carry the scars of the struggles and disappointments we have borne. Today we come to seek restoration, reconciliation, and relationship with You… and with others. We want to overcome the barriers which prevent us from being the Disciples You call us to be.

Father God we pray for:

– those that are sick, healing, in need of or undergoing treatment.

– those that are suffering loneliness.

– we think of those in our communities that are homeless today, provide for them

There is so much that needs to be done to aid in the cause of your peace and justice. Help us to become peacemakers and those who would bring hope.

Finally, Father there are those in our lives that don’t know You. We ask that through the Holy Spirit that You will draw them close to You. If You desire to use us for these purposes Mighty God, give us courage to become disciples who follow Your will and Your way. For we ask this in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN.

Come to the Table

The Table is ready. So come, you who have much faith and you who would like to have more; you who have been here often and you who have not been for a long time; you who have tried to follow Jesus and you who have failed.

Come, because it is Christ who invites you to meet him here.

Breaking Bread

Paul tells us

“On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Prayer for the bread

Thank You, Father, for this precious time of reflection on all that Christ did for us at Calvary. And as we partake of these hallowed symbols at this holy communion table, we humbly take this bread and bless it and break it, and eat it in remembrance of You, for Your own dear body was given for us. May we continue to walk worthy of our calling in Christ Jesus and live a life that is honouring You.

Cup

25 “In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.”

Prayer for the Cup

And Lord, may we also come to You today in grateful remembrance of what the Lord Jesus Christ achieved on Calvary’s cross for all of us, when He shed His precious blood on the cross, to pay the enormous price of our sin…

We thank You for Your sacrifice, knowing that as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until His coming again, In Your name we pray.

“Through the broken bread we participate in His body, given for you
Through the cup of blessing we participate in the new covenant Jesus gives.”

Take these elements and be thankful.

Lord Jesus, You have put Your life into our hands; now we put our lives into Yours. Take us, renew us and remake us. What we have been is now past; what we shall be, through You, still awaits us. Lead us out in love and service and always back to You. Amen.

Song

Benediction

Having been healed and made whole by God’s love, now go out into God’s world to be a healer and one who brings peace and hope to others. 

Know always that God is with you. AMEN.