The One Anothers: Challenge

At Gateway Church in Austin we continued a new series called “The One Anothers”

God is for us—not against us, and He wants us to be for each other, not tearing each other down. We all want this kind of encouraging environment, but it takes effort to create and sustain it. How should we be encouraging and building up the people around us as God intended?

These discussion questions are designed for your life group or family dinner to help you apply the message to your life.

NEXT STEPS

Audio of the Message I Shared:

 Here are the message notes by John Burke:

Last week we talked about the foundation of Loving Acceptance and Encouragement and Building Up each other. Creating a safe space where people start to believe God is For them because we are for them. That foundation allows people to address areas where they need to change to grow into loving, life-giving people.

Change is a part of life. Yet for some reason, most of us don’t like change, even resist change. We don’t grow spiritually healthy by accident. It takes intentionality.

Trying versus Training: See there’s a big difference between trying to do something and training to do something. Just like you couldn’t just decide to run a marathon and go run it, or decide to play Bach on the piano without practicing piano. Trying hard can accomplish only so much.  If I’m serious about physical healthy, I’m going to have to enter into a life of Training. Watching what I eat, training my body with exercise.

Well the same is true of the Spiritual Life. You don’t become a more loving person just because you TRY to be a more loving person.  You don’t become a more joyful person by just saying “I’m going to be happy.”  You don’t find peace or patience by just TRYING harder to feel peaceful or act patient.  If you really want to see spiritual changes, you can’t just try harder, you have to train for it.  You have to put things in your life that will help you change your perspective, your habits, and your automatic responses – things that will allow God’s thoughts to influence your thoughts.

We want to change, and yet somehow change doesn’t come that easily.  We keep trying to be better people – more loving, more peaceful, more compassionate and patient, more content.  Yet trying harder just leaves us more frustrated year after year.  Because trying can only accomplish so much.

This disappointment that we have all felt, can actually lead us to hope.  When we realize that all of us are in a state of dis-appointment (as my friend John Ortberg points out).  We are missing the life God appointed us to live.  We are missing becoming who he appointed us to become.  That, I believe, is the root of all our disappointment in life.  We don’t always realize this – but deep down we know, I have more potential than this.  There’s still more to life to experience, more I can offer the world than this.  And that realization can be the beginning of authentic spiritual change.  But we need 2 things if we’re really going to grow: Challenging Relationships, and Spiritual Exercises

CHALLENGING RELATIONSHIPS

If we really want to change and grow spiritually, we first need to intentionally put ourselves in the right relationships to help us grow and change.  If we just go with the flow, with what everybody’s saying and doing, expect the same results everybody’s getting. Scripture tells us “bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33 Who you hang out with does influence who you become.

Like Soil in your flower bed. Flowers grow naturally if the soil is full of the right nutrients and regularly watered.  IN the same way, Humans grow best in the right kind of soil, or environment. What God’s trying to do in the church is teach us to follow a New Father as part of God’s New Family, and He has New Family rules of how we should treat each other. These One Another statements of Scripture. Like I said last week, the right soil starts with seeing each individual as God’s Masterpiece and calling it out (even though we all need restoration work because we’ve all been muddied and damaged by a world gone astray), First we focus on building up and encouraging One Another. We looked at One Another Statements last week like:

Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Romans 15:7

How has Christ accepted us? As is!  This is that Come-as-you-are, Grace-giving soil of acceptance that every person needs to truly grow.  What God was doing in Jesus is paying to wash all our sins and wrongs clean in God’s sight—it’s an amazing act of love and mercy—we don’t deserve it.  Why does He do this? It’s the Soil we need to become His loving Children who grow up spiritually healthy.  Hebrews 10 is going to tell us to Challenge One Another—which we’re focusing on today—but it starts with this Soil of Grace. 

By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way…[so] let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean…. Hebrews 10:20-22

When we accept God’s free gift of forgiveness bought by Jesus’ blood shed on the cross—which shows how much our wrongs cost God and how much we are worth to him—that’s meant to set us free. See if you really understand your guilt has been washed clean in God’s sight, you can confidently approach God knowing He will never condemn you or judge you, so why subject yourself to anyone’s judgement or condemnation?  You don’t need to fear what people think at all.  Which is why we say No Perfect People Allowed—when we don’t pretend we are perfect or need to be perfect, then we can accept that we still need to grow, we can make mistakes and say I’m sorry, we can be challenged and not become defensive or combative or blaming.  We can Be Transformed. God wants his people to help each other grow.

Hebrews 10 continues… 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

If we really create the soil of Grace, accepting the person first, then encouraging the potential and the good—then we can also challenge One Another to grow.  It says think hard about how to Motivate one another to love and good deeds. And The word in Greek “motivate” is proxusmos (where we get proximity?)—you have to meet together and get relationally close enough in proximity to be able to do these One Anothers with One Another. You can’t One Another sitting in rows only. This is what we’re trying to do in Spiritual Running Partner relationships—where 2 or 3 people in your serving team or in a LIfegroup start meeting to Spiritually Run—like if you were training for a marathon, you’d get literal running partners to encourage, push and prod each other out the door to run when you don’t feel like it.  This word, Proxusmos, is a strong word.  Not just motivate, but push and prod each other to grow more loving and spiritually healthy. I’ve put it Challenge One Another. Why is this necessary—it feels a lot better just to accept one another. But here’s where confusion sets in. Grace, acceptance, no judging or condemning, only encouraging and building up—that is the environment God wants us to create as His New Family.

But…that Does Not mean we don’t Challenge each other to deal with sinful, broken patterns. Or Challenge each other to not just take the easy way out if our marriage is struggling. Or challenge each other when we see lies or addictions or harmful behavior controlling us.  We still love and accept and value the person, but we don’t love and accept behavior that’s hurting the person we love. Because we all have room to grow, yet we resist change, and so if we’re going to grow up into spiritually healthy people, we need to be challenged once in a while—and we have to learn to LIKE IT.

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important…we are each responsible for our own conduct. Galatians 6:1-5

Notice the attitude and soil of Challenge—humbly, gently guide back onto the right path…and be careful you don’t fall into the same.  It’s a sharing of One Another’s burdens and caring about the person—not a superior one-ups-manship. A Challenge cannot come from self-righteousness—I’m doing this so I’m better and you should too. It comes from a love and belief that wants to see the best in that other person and isn’t afraid to challenge them to rise up to their full spiritual potential.

Now, let me be honest.  At first…almost every time someone has challenged me to grow, to seek God’s help to change my behaviors, or challenged me to step out of my comfort zone—my knee jerk reaction was “Who do you think you are? Get out of my face. Let me tell you where I see YOU can change cause I’ve got a long, long list buddy.” Defensive, reactive, combative, protective—that’s usually our first natural reaction to Challenge. I didn’t see myself accurately, my pride blinded me. So we must humble ourselves to RECEIVE Challenge if we are going to grow. Ideally, when challenged you also feel so loved, so valued and believed in and inspired by the Masterpiece they call out, you want to change. That’s how we perfectly challenge and motivate One Another.. And yet…there are no perfect people…so we challenge imperfectly.

Which means…we must not just be people who can challenge others, but people who can receive spiritual challenges with Grace.

Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3-4  

Children don’t proudly resist help or growth—adults do that.  Spiritually Healthy people, who live in God’s Grace as God’s New Family, realize they’re Not Perfect People, so they humbly receive feedback and coaching and challenge, realizing we all have blind spots—and if you have a blind spot (which you do), guess what? YOU CANT SEE IT.  Let me say that again.

If you have a blind spot, YOU CAN’T SEE IT.

Which means you need the feedback of One Another or you stay stuck in your pride and blindness. Which is why it says:

“Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)

“…Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)

[but] Don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you. Proverbs 9:8

So we don’t just run around offering rebuke and correction to everyone—not everyone is humble, wise, willing. It’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Don’t throw your pearls to swine (meaning your helpful challenge) because they won’t appreciate it, they’ll trample you.” If you offer challenge and they resist, don’t force. But when challenged, don’t be pigs with lipstick on—trying to make yourself pretty on the outside but unwilling to let God change the inside—so the One Another’s point to Receiving feedback also:

“Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)  

“…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)  

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. Proverbs 25:11-12  Better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool. Eccl 7:5

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES

You need Challenging Relationships and Spiritual Exercises.  You need to put practices, or exercizes in your life to help you grow spiritually.

“Spend your time and energy training yourself for spiritual fitness.  Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”  I Timothy 4:7-8

This is what we’re helping each other do in Lifegroups, recovery groups-in Austin and Branson. In groups of 8-12 meeting in homes, we have 20 spiritual outcomes we help each other work on—so we grow spiritually healthy into more Loving, patient, joyful, Life-giving people.

Think about that last line in 1 Timothy 4:8  “Spiritual change benefits us in this life, and in the next life”. What if when you die, you are locked into that state of character—or that’s where you begin for all eternity?  I’m not saying this is what happens, but think about it.  What would you do for all eternity with a grudge?  Or a hate-filled heart.  With a very limited capacity to love?  What if this life is the time we have to stretch our capacity for experiencing God’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness.  And that capacity is what we have to work with in experiencing eternity?  That might change our willingness to do whatever it takes to grow, wouldn’t it?  That might change our attitude about what is really valuable and worth investing time and energy into.  Wouldn’t it!

There’s a mystery to spiritual growth.  God gives us the power to grow and change, but we must also put practices in our lives to help us yield to what God wants to do.  It’s kind of like sailing a boat. The wind gives it power to move, but You have hoist the sails, trim them just right and stay in the groove with the wind to move forward.

Don’t just copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.  Romans 12:2

Be Transformed is our 3rd Value at Gateway. God will help you change by transforming your perspective and outlook and the kind of person you are on the inside.  But we have to let him change us. He doesn’t force us to change against our will. So where are you at today? Maybe you’re not even in the game of spiritual growth yet—like Deb maybe you’re still doing it all by Your will and ways. How’s it working for you so far? When will you humble yourself to be like a child who can still learn from the One Who Loves you and knows you better than you know yourself? 

  • Eddie Williams

    Eric, thank you so very much for these posts. They are meaningful to all and open the door for continued study.

    Keep them coming.

    In HIS service, Eddie

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