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May 13, 2022 6:00 am
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There's love, generosity, patients thankfulness.
Every virtue I believe brings so much joy and empties out so much frustration with Gary Thomas and he's our guest today on Focus on the Family here to share powerful truths about God's purpose.
You, thanks for joining us your hostess focus Pres. and Dr. Jim Daly and I'm John: John and I came to know Christ as a teenager it was a process I think I really dug in spiritually at about 20 to 23 is where I can align my heart up with my head, pulled together if I could say it that way but I can remember the excitement that came with being a new believer wanting to live differently.
You know say no to things in high school that I easily would've said yesterday before but after you've walked with God for a while. It's easy to turn on autopilot. I don't know where that might be for most people 10 years 20 years 30 years maybe never. And God bless you that's awesome if you'd been able to live that path bright and burning right from the get-go's typically not the human experience.
Maybe find yourself struggling with that same sin comes back again and again and you're feeling defeated. Are you feel disconnected from God. For whatever reason, and today we want to encourage you to stick with us so that we can talk with our guest out what the Scripture says, as we draw near to God and as I mentioned Gary Thomas is with us. He's a popular broadcast guest here been here a number of times discussing marriage and parenting and spiritual formation. Gary is an international speaker and best-selling author and the concepts we talk about today are covered in his book the glorious pursuit becoming who God created us to be and we got copies of that here check the episode notes or give us a call.
Gary welcome back to focus.
Thank you guys.
It's always great to be back here, it's good to have you let me start the conversation this way, that idea of holiness and tipping in toward holiness, righteousness. Some churches that they were not even preaching about it any longer.
Why isn't this something that we long for that we thirst for more than we are. This is why I be honest I just like I'm swimming a little upstream when talk about practicing the virtues I talk about practicing holiness. We seen very wary of legalism and we should, we are saved by the finished work of Jesus Christ not by her own righteousness. All of our holiness depends ultimately on Christ's righteousness, but because of that we tend to ignore the many Scriptures call us to grow in righteousness. It's our spouses and our kids that bear the greatest burden of our lack of sanctification are anger, our pride, our selfishness, our impatience, a lack of gentleness they pay the greatest cost.
So when the greatest gifts we can give to our family.
Thanks when the greatest gifts a pastor can give it to his church. I think it is a trap to work on your sermons and not work on your character. While that's true for all of us, you will certainly right-click with what you've gotten look it's it's a challenge. Yeah, and it's well said that you know practicing the virtues isn't something we do to earn our salvation. You mentioned that. But why is human beings do we tend to lean that direction.
When we practice the virtues we begin to think I'm a lot better than that guy is so oddly human. To do that.
But why were not earning our way and were trying to reveal the character of Christ and are good virtue. I think because we compare ourselves left and right instead of up. James is a classic case.
James three to James grew up as the brother of Jesus Christ. Roman Catholics with a group as the cousin of Jesus Christ.
The key is that they grew up together as young boys and he's the one who said we all stumble in many ways, and the early church knew what he was talking out. That was his status because he grew up around Jesus and he could say look, trust me, I've been around literally the only perfect man who ever lived. I've seen virtue perfected in his tone in his actions and says it and if you like me had done that, you would know that the best of us on our best day will stumble in many ways and I think the reason Peter talks about it in and Paul talks about it. They had lived around Jesus they knew what was possible we try to find the worst husband in the church of Christ. I find it worse. Life in the church and hope they stay because were compared to them. We feel okay but that's not who Paul Jesus or Peter Collis to model ourselves after you know many Christians we believe growth happens when you let go and let God.
That's a common phrase in church.
Some people may not even understand what does that even mean to let go and let God. So what role do we play in our own spiritual development.
I think Scripture calls us to a very active role second Peter one says make every effort the mother's words, every effort to add your faith and then he goes on and lists a number of the virtues that second Peter one verse five. Now I was just saying that people say harassing to say. Will this is accident quoting Peter and then explains why he says if you possess these qualities in increasing measure so we don't corner the market on them. We should be making every effort to add so there increasing measure they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, but whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind for getting that they have been cleansed from their past sins so Peter would say that active salvation reminds us of the need to grow, it doesn't remove us from the need to grow that is so good. I remember talking to a Christian leader and were talking about the fruit of the spirit and he said and I just I don't have much patience and I remember thinking I may have said it, I don't think it's like a menu you can order from you me a dose of love like it lots of love for people that I don't have much patience for people. It is that idea of increasing and those things, even where you have a deficit in your own temperament and personality speak to that fermented hat.
If you are that guy you know it's not make fun of them. I like a dancer with a different word, but I have a deficit in one of the virtues of the fruits of the spirit, love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, mercy, self-control. What should I do if I don't have something to the adequate level that I think I should have a ghost of the home model with the ancients called practicing the virtues I believe the ancients looked at the virtues like modern bodybuilders look at weights you do certain exercises to build your biceps and shoulders.
Your legs obviously I'm speaking theoretically here. Thank goodness, but I but the key is that you could look at the virtues of Christ, how he acted. That's where I think this is very a very Christian thing.
It's not the virtues is apart from anything but we want to become like Christ and you practice them.
Jesus was generally says in Matthew 1129 I'm gentle and humble in heart, so how do I begin to practice gentle Jesus was courageous. Jesus was patient and so you look at the things that Jesus didn't say out I want to practice that and I believe it's inside out, but also outside and it needs to begin with insight that we need the Holy Spirit to make it possible for us to change. But once the Holy Spirit redeems us and empowers us to do that. The more we act in a humble way.
The more humble we become neural plasticity.
The way that you become a better golfer or a better flute player it do anything. Your brain is shaped by your actions. Now that is so good week.
We touched on this idea virtues. He talked about humility and will certainly explore that a bit more but what are those specific virtues I get well. I think humility is been called the Queen of the virtues for good reasons. All of the classics distress how key humility is based on that that that I can't think of the sin I could commit without humility you can't steal from somebody if you have humility because you would rather go without and deprive someone else. You can't gossip you can exalt yourself over someone you can oppress someone you would want to serve him instead of take advantage of them.
So really, humility is the key.
If you get humility down there is more but the other ones that often we don't think of as virtues, but they really give so much joy to life. A big one you see in Jesus's life was surrender. Jesus said in John 638 I've come down from heaven not to do my own well but the will of him who sent me defined Jesus and what brings more vexation and frustration in our life than things don't go the way we want to go and Jesus had this amazingly peaceful things would just happen. He didn't sketch out as they didn't have antlers given in 15 minute blocks of an exorcism era teaching their cast out a demon. It was really spontaneous. He surrendered what God brought up, so I thought. Surrender is very hard for me but a very joy filled one detachment is great. One of course there's love, generosity, patience, thankfulness. Every virtue I believe brings so much joy and empties out so much frustration there so much more valuable than we realize. We just chase after things that don't matter that we can't hold onto, but the virtues are really, I think where life fulfillment is found that is so good night. You know, again, you sit there and you take a quick evaluation of where you're at right that when I Inc. I understand this one and I may be a light and we've all been there. I believe your wife I think in the book you talk about your wife complementing your attitude once and went to your head so funny and I shared that vulnerability because that's what certainly what I would classics warn about it because if you aren't rooted in humility, i.e. the only righteousness that matters is Christ's righteousness. Then when you start to see a victory.
It makes you proud which they say is the worst sin.
And so you're back at the bottom and so it's recognizing that again. This isn't about obtaining favor before God, or special credit with God that he's going to owe us. If we do this. It's really just a call to a better life. One time after I did a podcast here. My wife, she's great at planning things you need to take some time off. So we went to is a Glenwood Springs that would have iron Mountain hot Springs that have you ever been there. They have all yes oh yes and and we were there we are going to the polls. It was really relaxing and I think it was a bachelorette party that came in because there were probably 10 or 12 young women to me. I'd say late 20s early 30s and is there going from pole to pole. He came into our pool and they just started talking about how much time, effort and energy. They spent trying to look young. Millie already looks to me right there. I mean just their given doctors address is talk about will discuss that much runs of this. This is what all the Kardashians are doing now, which is a world I didn't know existed, and after a while he said carried you mind if we go to another call I had alleged great and Lisa asked me does it bother you that I'm not so into that and I just been reading William Law at the time he is an 18th-century Anglican really stresses the virtues and what he said was this women and men should earnestly pursue humility, patience, generosity, faith, compassion, courage, kindness and forgiveness.
This is a key with the same intensity that those in the world pursue wealth, fame, worldly achievements and physical beauty were all pursuing something. Those women are pursuing trying to stay looking young. They're going to fail. I eventually did get a fail we all pursue money. You'll fail because on the day you die you don't get to keep any of it with you what we all pursue all of these things and the classics and I believe Scripture and Peter and Paul, and William Lawson. You know what why don't you pursue humility, why don't you pursue patience and generosity and find a fulfillment that grows because you mention the fruit of the spirit jumped the fruit of the spirit grow yell the bank account. You can have $1 million in stocks and have a bad day 70 of $750,000 in stock you can't guarantee that when the spirit makes the fruit grow your making a deposit that will get better and better as the years go by, not worse and worse. Most the things we are obsessed with achieving in this world die, they decline Scripture and the classics calls to something that can grow that in fact will be a mirror of what will have an eternity because that's when the virtues are fully leased when we see them will be like him for will see him as he is Gary. I think one of the things it's so difficult in this life is our sin nature just keeps pulling us away from those very things that we want to do like what Paul said right those things I want to do. I don't doing the things I don't want to do. I do, and boy, can we relate to that in this walk of life.
In that regard, you know again how how do we stay focused. How do we stay kind of you know, with the right thing in front of us and that drives our marriages to a better place that drives our parenting to a better place you when you have a bad day.
How you recalibrate this okay Lord, that was a well with this letter. Now what you do, how you regain that equilibrium to say I can get back on the right track it.
That's what I love about this ancient practice of practicing the virtues instead of focusing on not doing something bad which is the trap that religious people fall into its focusing on what were to become and I just think positive growth is more joy filled growth is a glorious thing about being a Christian that Christ forgives us that your righteousness doesn't depend on how long it's been since you committed you last worsen you. I get the whole thing about addiction and you have your sobriety days and whatnot.
I'm not not not at all.
I'm actually a fan of twelve-step groups that are righteous depends on what happened over 2000 years ago on Calvary, not what we did last week or last year. How many decades even. It's been. And so for the virtues. What it did is it release me from focusing. I don't want to do this. I don't want to get to this is what I want to become an entity gets a call to the church. The church is so concerned about getting people in the church.
I think what if we had just as big a vision for what kind of people come out of church people coming out of church where people of gentleness and humility and surrender and patience.
I think more people would want to get into it, but our focus is really we just can get the bodies there without thinking.
What are the souls being transformed while they're there and they leave as different people.
I think that will be the biggest draw for the church going forward to be very appetizing for the world to see people behaving like that I think even the idea of surrender. Let's move now to surrender away from humility, which again is the kind of the bedrock for all but surrender even Gary.
I played football. I like to surrender. I'm in the battle.
I love King David. I'm a no win for the Lord I'm in a go do what I have to do battle my way into this and make sure the Lord is victorious that we went by at least three touchdowns on, you know, I know, and the challenges isn't that the failure to surrender that brings so much anxiety and raises our blood pressure and so much frustration and impatience with her family.
I noticed something one time with just commuting to work if you try to change lanes. Every couple of minutes and you and and it just never really helps surrender that close the gap.
Don't let that person in Gary Kaman, but if I go back and I'm saying okay. I can't change this guy who can I pray for.
Can I get. I know this sounds okay but as our worship song I can saying is, or just something I can just sit and listen. Is there someone I can call I just found surrender is very difficult for me to do, but one of the most beneficial things for me when I actually do it I think is so crucial because it's rooted with humility you can't have humility without surrender.
Surrender recognizes God is sovereign. He lets things happen.
He's going organize things we don't have to make everything happen. I think especially with our kids, sometimes with our adult kids we have to say Lord I'm putting them into your hands and that's where we can recognize we don't rule the universe as much as we would like to but but I think surrender preserves contentment. Write it out sometime. Surrender shows itself in circumstance, mostly right you had a story in the book about I think you and Lisa wanted to move and realize when you rethink your put your house out that it was gonna sell for less than you bought it for probably not a good time. It was in northern Virginia. Terrible time to sell.
We wanted to get back so that our kids could be with our grandparents yelling noble aim.
We want to know that we thought it would be a better community and we talked to a realtor and he said yeah we could sell this house. It probably cost you $10,000. Are you supposed to make money on your house and it just wasn't there and then Lisa went to a Bible study and a lot of people were trying to move.
It was an area where a lot of people move out of northern Virginia and she said this great offer came through. They were surprised that we can get to move and Lisa just got Windsor miracle going to come through because we just couldn't make it happen until she was praying one time and really felt the Lord saying has it ever occurred to you. I wanted you to buy that house because we pray before we bought it. We I had asked out.
Are you sure this is where we should go I'd sought counsel, everything said by the house and God challenge lease with these words is ever occurred to you.
I wanted you to move into that neighborhood for reasons other than financial gain, and without of the churches would been involved in with that of the neighbors we touch the friends we had made. We had to say. Yeah, God could lead us to make a decision that would cost us financially, but would be prosperous spiritually and that's what we are able to let it go because it was going to happen regardless. I know and that's the kind of thing where we just have to say.
We forget God. You get to come through for us and nothing will make you have a more important work here.
You can't read the New Testament without believing that God wouldn't ask people to make financial sacrifices for the sake of his kingdom. I mean, Jeremiah bought a field that he knew would never come back. He prophesied that it was can be taken away, but he buys it because he says that's gonna be a picture of God, bringing the remnant back and so on buying this fealty would never own the field, but he spending money to make a spiritual statement while I think I can work that way in 21st century as well.
Gary that really is the battle for life were always faced with choices right it's always choices and he is do you make the right choice in Christ. That's what you're saying and you know, for the folks listening or watching via YouTube were here for you. That's one of the great things and John will give those details in just a moment before he does. I also want to go back to where we started. Really we talked about the long spans that Christians can find themselves in this wall and their relationship with the Lord you doing the right things for the most part let's say you're living in 95% right life on just you know putting all 5%. That there for sin because bosses were all sinners saved by grace, but in that context generally you don't see things that you need to work on your relationships may be going okay but it feels like you just sailing notes the wind and I'll go for a minute ago you had that feeling. A few years ago you had that wall in your relationship with the Lord night. Again I appreciate your transparency in that because at some point, we all tend to live in that spot what arrested your attention. Why did you say okay some's gonna change here were those elements and I'm hoping it will help many other people that are in that same spot. It was actually some years ago when her kids were really young and I think the biggest marker was a lack of joy this was happening. We had young kids. I had a long commute. I was in northern Virginia, so it could be an hour or more with long days and you know how it is just with duty and I get frustrated with the drivers. I was frustrated with things at work I was frustrated that my dream of becoming a writer just wasn't happening. I just AFL has ramping up against the brick wall every day and not getting any closer. So there was no surrender. There was no patience that usually undercuts humility got.
I deserve more than this, and you know how it is when you're raising small kids and you're working on many there's a lot of given their and husband and wife are both trying to give, and it itches it and I just noticed this get you just have a sour attitude it will wasn't resembling Christ at all.
And that's where humility was sort of the key to bring the joy back I just go to brother.
Look I'm not addressing this. I'm not addressing that. I thought it could be drifting here I could I could be drifting there. I just really need that young people call to come to Jesus moment the mouse still going to church every week and I still mostly have quiet times but that sense that just overall I wasn't addressing the positive growth I was drifting along where my disappointments would take me where anxieties would take me were pressure would take me.
I wasn't making every effort to add to my faith and I realize I drifted a lot lot farther than I thought. And so just that one little prayer and this was a confessional pricing. Sometimes it just really does help to confess with the brother what's going on in your heart and just being received by God at church that next Sunday that the warmth that just fell through me when I just put it up and got that I receive you, accept you, I forgive you. And that's the glorious thing about being a believer in Jesus Christ's gym.
He always takes us back to what were doing. Now he's just waiting what you think. We take half a millimeter step toward him and he runs under my hopes to bring us back. And so I really hope people see the says and maybe I have drifted in on I'm impatient, I'm arrogant. The last thing I do is surrender I'm harsh, I'm not gentle, rather than be discouraged just say Gus is today's new start taking care of that you can start over. You can know is joy you can know is acceptance you can know his love and his word points out the way on how step-by-step you can get back to that place.
It's a good night.
I really want to turn to the listeners the viewers to say if you're in that spot where you feel like you're drifting, don't stay there.
That's a no man's land.
And believe me, in John 1010, where the Scripture says that the evil one.
The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.
And he's after you and I think it's a killing field. When you're in that spot for a variety of reasons, and you're not moving to deepen your relationship with the Lord, and you feel like you're drifting and were here for you. One things we'd love to do is get you a copy of Gary's book. If you can make a donation for any amount will send it as our way of saying thank you if you can afford it. That's not the exchange herein to trust others will participate in ministry with us and cover the expense of getting you a copy of that wonderful book the great resource to help you. The glorious pursuit becoming who God created us to be what a great title, by the way Gary and I want to get that in your hand. So get in touch with us today and let me just add we have caring Christian counselors. Here the donor community makes those great men and women possible for you to have a free consultation with the book is the glorious pursuit.
As Jim said donate.
As you can get in touch with us when you call 800 K and the word family 800-232-6459 or go to the episode know all the details right there. We hope you enjoy your weekend with your family and your church family as well join us on Monday and wife will share a powerful story of how God redeemed her broken marriage. I just remember breaking down completely just begging got everything facedown on the floor and no clue what I don't know where to go turn.
What do you have Jim Daly entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting you back. As we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ and I knew my marriage was falling apart.
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