Prayers & Principles

Prayers & Principles is a growing set of posts that serve as a personal manifesto on the themes around which authentic spiritual pursuit is fostered and sustained.  This page has all of the links to the various posts and files to download.

Purpose.  To build a culture1 that is God glorifying, Christ centered, gospel (grace) saturated and redeeming to those that are a part of it; a culture that is marked by people in authentic pursuit of Jesus to know Him more deeply and serve Him more fully; people that are intentional about having their heart’s affections stirred up for the Lord.  The fabric of this culture has some common threads that are woven in to it and help to create a worldview through which we see life and engage others as we chase after Christ.

Introduction

Background Assumptions.  God created all things for His glory.  Man was the pinnacle of God’s creation and are his image bearers.  As image bearers, man is to glorify God by reflecting his attributes to all of creation, relating with God & each other, and reigning over the created order.  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  God is sovereign over all things and nothing happens that is outside of the sovereign will of the Creator.  Even the fall of man did not surprise God; God is infinitely more glorified in the redemption of a rebellious and spiritually dead creation than if man would not have rebelled.  The cross was not “Plan B” because “Plan A” had failed.

I.  God Centered Perspective.  Intentionally placing God as the central figure in our faith by removing us from center stage.  This means that we dwell more on who God is and what He has done than on who we are and what we need to do.
A.  Position.  God is Creator and we are created; He is sovereign, we are not; His perspective and understanding is eternal, infinite, and unlimited and ours is limited, finite and tiny.
B.  Broken.   As a result of the fall, ALL things are broken – man & creation – and will never be completely restored until Jesus returns.  We don’t posses the power to fix things within ourselves and are powerless to effect true ongoing change apart from God’s intervention; we are spiritually dead and totally depraved.  We must fix our hope on God and eternal things – this gives us the ability to face affliction, depravity, disappointment and difficulty with hope. Instead of running and hiding from difficulty or insulating ourselves, as if hardships do not exist, we can weep with those who weep and enter in to their pain and offer Hope. Only hope in God will satisfy.
C.  Dependent.  Our initial and ongoing response to God is one of absolute surrender; we recognize that we have nothing to offer God to win His favor; all of our righteous works are like filthy rags before God.  We are spiritually bankrupt and have nothing with which we can barter; we recognize our total inability before God.  We rest in the finished work of Jesus.  Acknowledging this moves us from behavioral modification to heart level transformation.

II.  Heart Motivations.  When the bible refers to the heart, it is saying that it is the center of our feeling and thinking.  It is what drives us and sets the direction for our life.  It is where our motives and convictions lie.  Whatever captivates the heart sets the trajectory for life by determining what it will pursue to gain its identity.  Whatever the heart looks to establish its identity will drive the actions and behaviors to build that identity and purpose. Our hearts always move slower than our minds, just because we know it with our heads does not mean that it has transformed our hearts.  God is after our hearts.
A.  Worship.  We all worship something, we are worshipers.  The problem is that we prefer to worship created things rather than the Creator of all things (Romans 1:21-25).  We prefer the gifts rather than the Giver.  The greatest problem in the world is not a moral, economical, or social problem; the greatest problem in the world is a failure to acknowledge and worship God.  The heart must have something to worship, something to fix its gaze upon, something to pursue.  It will be an idol or the true God.
B.  Grace.  Grace is God pursued and regenerated us as we ran from and rebelled against Him; grace is God’s work in which we had no part.  Law reveals sin (Romans 3:20-26) and functions to restrain its effects, but is powerless to redeem and restore the soul – only grace redeems and restores.  Grace is what produces heart level transformation that empowers real and lasting change in our behaviors.  Grace causes us to fix our eyes upon Another, for nowhere in scripture are we called to fix our eyes upon ourselves.  Instead of just addressing the emotions and surface level behaviors, the gospel of grace addresses the root; the emotions and behaviors are symptoms of a much deeper sickness, a sickness that is terminal and can only be treated by the application of the gospel in one’s life. The gospel kills the “functional saviors” that exist in our lives.  As the gospel is pressed deeper into our souls, it reveals the things that we really trust for our identity and hope. Only the continual application of the gospel in the life of a follower of Christ can transform the life and the behaviors of the Christian.
C.  Treasures.  What you treasure is what you chase and what you chase is at the center of your soul.  Until we see Jesus as our ultimate treasure, we won’t chase Him or see Him as infinitely worthy of knowing and loving; instead, He becomes a means to the end (staying out of hell, protecting us, giving us something we want, blessing our ministry efforts).  Our greatest joy and fullness of live is found in Christ; this is the fuel that drives our pursuit

III.  Grace Driven Effort.  The pursuit of Christ likeness and holiness from grace, not for grace.  There is a big difference between the two.  The gospel of grace is the basis of our holiness not the goal of it.2  All of our efforts are fueled by grace, not self discipline.  This is a significant shift since many Christians discipline themselves rigorously and then become self righteous or worn out as a result.  Discipline and effort that is fueled by the gospel of grace is sustainable.
A.  Pursuing Depth.  The normative state of Christians is to be in constant pursuit of Christ to know him more deeply and be made more like him.  Shallowness of faith is a sign of immaturity.  It is by chasing Christ that sin looses its grip, control and influence over our lives.  As the unbelievably good news of the Gospel is pressed deeper into the heart of the saint, he views God with greater grandeur, awe, appreciation and worship that produces a desire to know Him and walk with Him.  Mature believers feed themselves, follow good doctrine and leave milk behind; we should develop a taste for truth, even difficult ones (like Romans 9 or Leviticus 21), pressing in to them and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself more deeply.  As we work through hard and difficult truths we learn important things about the character and nature of God and ourselves.
B.  Spiritual Disciplines.  The spiritual disciplines are often times called “The Means of Grace.”  There is an acknowledgement that the disciplines, in and of themselves, are powerless to produce love and affection or effect any sustainable change in our lives.  The disciplines, rather, put us in a position to empty ourselves of us and position ourselves under the waterfall of God’s grace so that we can be filled and transformed.  The disciplines move us to dwell on ultimate realities.  The disciplines exist to stir up our affections for the Lord and foster authentic pursuit of Christ.
C.  Missional Living.  If the gospel has transformed us inwardly, it will propel us outwardly.  If we are here to glorify God then living on mission, by nature, involves tangible ways in which we glorify God.  Not just “religious ways,” but also in our every day lives as accountants, mom, mechanics, engineers, doctors and construction workers.  If God just gave us a formula of what we should do then that would be the law and God is after the heart.  We might feed the poor, build a school or care for orphans, but we will not make disciples, transform souls or glorify God.

Notes:
1Webster defines a culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture.  A culture is formed out of what is valued, what is important.
2Christ Formed in You by Brian Hedges (Kindle Edition location 1749)

Links & Downloads:
Complete Working Copy (PDF)
Outline (PDF)
Introduction (PDF)
Background Assumptions (PDF)
God Centered Perspective (PDF)
God Centered Perspective:  Position (PDF)
God Centered Perspective:  Broken (PDF)
God Centered Perspective:  Dependent (PDF)
Heart Motivations
Heart Motivations:  Worship (PDF)
Heart Motivations:  Grace (PDF)
Heart Motivations:  Treasures (PDF)
Grace Driven Effort (PDF)
Grace Driven Effort:  Pursuing Depth (PDF)
Grace Driven Effort:  Spiritual Disciplines (PDF)
Grace Driven Effort:  Missional Living (PDF)

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