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Jesus and Connection

Notes: Sunday 11/02/2024

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In life, things shape us -  unspoken cultures at work, relationships, families, social media, and the stories we tell ourselves.

Spiritual formation is something that has happened and is happening to you, some things deform you, some things transform you.

Good news… unlike the rocks that are at the mercy of being shaped by the ocean, you can move! This means intentionally taking stock of what is shaping you, and positioning yourself in environments that bring about positive change.

Spiritual formation in Christ  (aka discipleship, apprenticeship), is the process of becoming more like, and closer to Jesus - the goal, is to be transformed into a person of love.

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:17-20

For Jewish rabbis and their apprentices, learning was fully integrated into life, a lived reality. Today, being a "Christian" is often just about believing the right things, and is disconnected from a lived reality. Faith in Jesus is an add-on to our lives, not systemic change. Someone may say “I believe,” but just saying this doesn’t really affect how they live life.

Jesus' invitation is to systemic change: a whole new way of doing life, a kingdom way. The Kingdom is not a geographical place, or just "in heaven". It is where the rule and reign of God is, where God's will is done!

One of the dangers inherent in many current approaches to spiritual formation is that we tend to reduce it to a privatized matter that can be handled primarily by offering a program or a retreat here and there. We are looking for an attractive add-on, not systemic change. Ruth Hailey Barton

Paul writes, in the context of arguments about who eats what passing judgment on each other:

17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17

Righteousness, Peace, Joy - these are all relational words.

  • Righteousness: Restored into right relationship with God through Jesus. Truth, integrity vs Deceit, Shame, Guilt, Hidden,

  • Peace: Irene (Gk) Shalom (Hb) - goodwill, not just calm, vs chaos, anxiety, tension, insecurity

  • Joy: glad to be with you, vulnerability, strong connections vs isolation, superficial, lonely

​1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

Kingdom is where God's will is done: Good, pleasing, perfect: Love God, Love People

CONNECTION is at the heart of the Kingdom.

The problem we have today is that while we are "connected" we are really more disconnected (isolated, lonely) than ever before - and it has a huge impact on spiritual formation.

Two major trends: breakdown of the family and the decline of the community (Todd Hall)

An Assumption to be Corrected

1/ “There is an assumption that the appropriation of biblical knowledge will by itself lead to spiritual maturity.” Barna Research Group The State of Discipleship 2015

Formation happens in deep relationships, vulnerability, there is both an explicit knowing and implicit, internal knowing…

A Battle to be Recognized

There are forces at work in our culture, and in our hearts and habits, that disconnect us from ourselves and others…extreme forms of individualism and materialism. This “good life” values independence over friendship, personal comfort over commitment to others, solitary achievements over the common good, and economic success over social and emotional well-being. Todd Hall - The Connected Life

Local Church Practises

- Tithing - break the power of materialism

- Serving - commitment to others, common good

- Life groups A place for connection and emotional healing

A Choice to be Made

Will you stay at the current level of disconnection, or move toward a deeper connection?

Past hurts can lead us to believe that we don’t need others. However, "a deep and authentic connection with God is hindered by hiding pain, even if unconsciously" (Todd Hall). We may think we relate to God differently to people, but what's going on inside is pretty much the same. That means when you have been hurt, or let down by people close to you, in some way, you internally might expect God to do that, even though you "know" that He is good - and so healing is needed!

All of us want to know and be known, to love and be loved, to know we have value and purpose. This is found in loving connections with God and others. We are born to connect and we need to belong.

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