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Jesus and JOY!

Teaching Notes: Sunday 28/01/2024

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Where-ever you might be on your spiritual journey, you might be wondering if things can change. YES! Two basic ingredients are required for change: Discomfort & Action

The action/answer: Apprenticeship Jesus aka discipleship aka spiritual formation aka following Jesus. It is the process of becoming more like, and closer to Jesus. It's a way of life, not just believing and doing the "right" things.

Staring at the salvation moment, there is a paradox of becoming who you already are - Position and Progress. This way of life requires your Presence, Participation, and Patience

Why apprentice yourself to Jesus:

1/ Relationship is what you have been created for and where you find love, purpose, value

2/ Redemption Story I believe the aim of God in human history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God himself at the very center of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant Dallas Willard

1/ History

Much of what we know as discipleship is based on the assumption that knowledge is the way to change: understanding the truth, making better choices, add the Holy Spirit's power to make that work. Right thinking leads to the right action. At the start of the faith journey, this leads to exponential change as a Biblical worldview reframes a secular worldview on things like relationships, finances, sexuality, prayer, etc. The problem is as time goes on, the deeper issues remain largely unresolved - the unJesus stuff is still very much there, and more "right thinking" doesn't seem to help.

So the question remains how do you become the type of person who does not

Worry about tomorrow, objectify others with lust, have anger outbursts Fantasize about a different life?

2/ Neuroscience

The Brain operates in a master/servant system, where the right hemisphere is the master. The master system, which is home to your core identity, personality, and relational processing - is the one that gives you your feelings, like when you see a loved one, or when someone makes a snarky comment and gets angry. The servant system makes choices and solves problems, but is largely informed by the right hemisphere.

The enlightenment-based assumption tends to emphasize the left brain: more truth, make better choices but leaves the identity part largely untouched, and while there is change at first, eventually you can end up with sin management / behavior modification.

The left hemisphere is what we use to correct problems, but not what we use to develop identity.

The solution is to begin to change the master system. This is where the deep work of spiritual formation has to happen - and it comes through relationships.

3/ Relationships (attachments)

Simply put: We behave much more according to who (or what) we love rather than what we know or how hard we try.

Forming relationships (attachments) forms identity - you become like those that you are close to. In other words, those that we are attached to are the ones that create environments for transformation.

So, who are you becoming?

4/ Joy

Joy is what your Brain desires most. It is a relational neurological response i.e. an active process. It develops in the right prefrontal cortex, especially in babies. It is primarily facial -face and eyes are very important. Joy is not the same as happiness, as it is independent of circumstances - it is when two people see each other and say "I see you and I am with you." even on the darkest day. Joy is key in forming relationships/ attachments thus shaping identity.

In summary joy forms relationships, which shape identity, which ultimately drives behavior.

When Jesus is one of your closest people, he has a profound impact on your identity and your behavior. Apprenticeship to Jesus is not just about believing the right things and doing practices, but it is a way of life with Jesus - a deep relationship with him and with others. This is why Jesus is so focused on relationships and the heart.

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” A. W. Tozer

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete John 15:9-11

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God Heb 12:2

Fix our eyes on Jesus - Jesus came to reveal what God is like. And the Holy Spirit mediates his presence into the lives of his followers. So, you can, with the eyes of your heart, see Jesus in a sense. and experience joy - and you need to know and believe that when he looks at you, there is joy!

For the "relational response" set before him, Jesus endured the cross.

You make known to me the path of life;  you will fill me with joy in your presence Psalms 16:11

The Hebrew word translated as "your presence" here means "face" - in other words, in the face of God, there is joy!

As the church, apprentices of Jesus, we have an incredible role in bringing joy into people's lives by looking them in the eyes and saying "I'm glad to see you".

(Thanks to Ruth Hailey Barton Michael Hendricks, Jim Wilder, Dr Iain McGilchrist, John Mark Comer, Dallas Willard, John Wesley, Mike Avery)

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