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A Curriculum for Christlikeness

Matt. 7:24,25 So those who hear me and do what I say are like those intelligent people who build their homes on solid rock, where rain and floods and winds cannot shake them. Matt. 28:20 Train them to do everything I have told you.

It is possible to do what Jesus said. It is possible to train His apprentices in such a way that they routinely do everything He said was best. We are in a consumer oriented Christianity. We do not know what it means to be fully engaged with anything. If we were to be people who were fully engaged in the apprenticeship of Jesus, we would fear being looked on by others as overdoing it a bit. We need to change that. We need to get back to the realization of being Jesus apprentices. Jesus calls us to build life on a rock. Wouldnt you like to be one of those intelligent people who know how to live a rich and unshakable life? Isnt there something to a life free from loneliness, fear and anxiety that might attract you? Of course, you hear that and go, No way! But THAT is what Jesus is talking about. A life filled with peace and joy. A life where you would love your neighbor, even your roommate! Wouldnt you like a life free of anger, envy, lust, and covetousness? Wouldnt it be nice to be free from the need to have others praise us? Wouldnt a life spent in creative goodness be wonderful? Dont get too excited here! What would have to take place for that to happen? TOO MUCH! NOT WORTH IT! SEE YA! Our entire inner reality of thought and feeling would have to be transformed to bring us to such a place. We like the SOUND of abundant life, BUT, if we actually have to DO something well There is abundant life, but then there is that OBEDIENCE part! We cringe at obedience. Couldnt we just have the abundance?
Spiritual Formation 1 Curriculum for Christlikeness

Obedience makes us cringe. Wed have to give up our lives. It spoils our fun. It could ruin our lives! Here is the truth, though: Kingdom obedience is Kingdom abundance. They are not two separate things. When we decide to obey, abundance flows. The old options dont even come on our radar any more. We think of obedience and we think of trudging along. Get over that! When there is obedience, there is abundance. What we need is guidance to understand that abundance. We need guidance to learn this path Jesus put out there for us. We need a Masters Curriculum! We know we need specific training to hear and do. Here is the challenge: this is something that will always be a part of your life. You may think coming into this series that you can pick up some tools that would get you on the road and you would have instant spirituality. Sorry. The training is only just beginning. You will always be in the School of the Master. We need to pay attention to those who are a bit farther down the path. We can be continual learners that way. What we need is an expectation of ongoing training. We are trying to put that expectation in our congregation. It takes time. When you have a consumer mentality that says, Come to this seminar and youll get your answers, its tough to turn the ship. You need this ingrained in your life now. Take it with you. Demand it in your life! Always expect to be in the School of the Master. Expect it of your church. If you are going into ministry, DEMAND IT OF YOURSELF AND OTHERS. You will always be learners. We need a sense of expectation. We need to genuinely put out there this idea: If you enter into this training, when you are done, we will GUARANTEE you will not want to return to that old lifestyle if you will implement what we teach you.

Spiritual Formation

Curriculum for Christlikeness

Suppose a seminar announced to us How to live without purposely indulging in lust or covetousness. Wed do a double-take. How to be free of anger. Guaranteed. If you will put into practice the principles of this seminar, you will come out blessing those who hate you. Money back guarantee. We need expectations! When we teach our kids to ride a bike or swim, we expect them to actually ride bikes or swim. We dont just teach them they ought to ride a bike, or that it is good to ride a bike. Well, when we teach others to bless instead of curse, they should bless instead of curse! We need to have apprentices of the Master who WANT to be in His school and expect to learn! As a church, we must EXPECT apprentices! Teaching at the college level, I want to have in mind I want to do MORE than just dispense information. Too many times, students will take some class and quite frankly it just seems like the professor just doesnt give a rip whether students get it or not. No big deal. Its YOUR money. Well, in this school of the Master, it IS a big deal. The curriculum is designed for change. Imagine driving by a church and seeing a sign out front that doesnt say, ALPHA IS HERE. Instead it says, We Teach All Who Seriously Commit Themselves to Jesus How to Do Everything He Said to Do. You might think, Is this REAL? We are lacking a serious and expectant intention to bring Jesus people into obedience and abundance through training. We need to reestablish the thought out intention that we are to walk in the fullness of Christ. Beyond behavior modification, like a 12 Step program. We need the intentionality back where we will go the root of inner character and work to change it. We hear the call to apprenticeship and we heed it.

Spiritual Formation

Curriculum for Christlikeness

In this curriculum, we need to know what to study and how to train ourselves to learn from Jesus how live our life as He would live it if He were we. Again, this is beyond collecting information. If I tested you on this stuff, you probably wouldnt pass right now, but if you knew from the beginning there would be a test, you would study and regurgitate the appropriate information at the appropriate time. We are not testing for accuracy, however. In our culture, one is considered educated if one knows the right answers. Belief is not required. Many would regurgitate information on a test or paper of they thought simply it was what I wanted to hear. In this curriculum, belief counts. The apprentices of Jesus must bring themselves to actually believe all the things they have already heard. Our task in ourselves and in others is to transform right answers into automatic responses to real-life situations. We are on information overload in the church. We know right answers. We are just not believing them. The advantage of believing is that we can deal much more successfully with reality! What we need to do as a church is bring people to believe with their whole being the information they already have! What they already know about Jesus believe. If we can get to that point, we are on our way to true apprenticeship in the Kingdom of God. An apprentice will know they do not fully understand so much of the Kingdom. Their prayer is, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! When we will do that, Jesus will lead us to genuine understanding and reliance upon God in every aspect of our life. That progression takes some time. It is done individually, and it is done as part of the Body. We are in this journey together. Four Objectives We Do NOT Need 1. External conformity We need not enter into the new legalism of trying to bring external conformity to the exact words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. 2. Profession of perfectly correct doctrine

Spiritual Formation

Curriculum for Christlikeness

These are things that have obsessed the church visible for centuries. This one is threatening to run rampant the in the A/G right now. We are going through a litmus test over the initial physical evidence and it is going to cost us if we dont get a grip real soon. 3. Strategies Things like encouraging faithful attendance and getting involved in church activities or other religious activities. 4. Seeking special experiences These are good things, but they are not taken to be major objectives in an adequate curriculum for Christlikeness. These are all good things, but they do not produce inner transformation. The human heart needs to be plowed more deeply. Primary Objectives 1. Bring apprentices to the point where they dearly love and constantly delight in the Father. A place where they realize there is no catch, no limit, to the goodness of His intentions or to His power to carry out His kind intentions. When we will delight in the Father and His Son Jesus, we will come to the startling realization that perfect love does indeed cast out fear. When the mind is filled with this great and beautiful God, the natural response, once all inward hindrances are removed, will be to do everything He has commanded us. 2. Remove our automatic responses against the Kingdom of God. Free us as apprentices from the domination of the old habitual patterns of thought, feeling, and action. The very core needs to be transformed. We cannot just talk our bodies into change. We need to purposefully disrupt our automatic thoughts, feelings, and actions by doing different things with our bodies. We place our bodies before God and work so that our whole self is retrained away from the old kingdoms around and within us and into the Kingdom of the Master. This is the part that includes the disciplines.

Spiritual Formation

Curriculum for Christlikeness

These objectives are to be pursued interactively. You cannot do objective one, THEN jump to objective two. They go hand in hand. Turning the Mind Toward God How do we help people to love what is lovely? We ask them. We then assist them in every way possible. As teachers, we are to bring what is lovely, in this case the Father, before the apprentices. We do it as fully and as forcibly as possible. I am called to put my best effort into this! I want you to love Him! I want you see Him! I want you to know Him as I can know Him. If I do not know Him, how can you be convinced? But, in the final analysis, I must ask you to consider Jesus. I must ask you to step into this journey. I will not drive you to it. I cannot force it upon you. This is a grave mistake youthful leaders will make, especially if they have a prophetic bent. They think people are dead and lazy and they just give up trying to make people worship or make them love Jesus. HUGE mistake. Love Jesus. Then, invite others to love Him. Invite others to gaze upon Him who is altogether lovely. If you are not gazing, if you are not convinced, if the radiance of Jesus is not upon you, please do not ask others to join you! In asking, we bring people to a place of reflection. We need to take time. I know I can barely get people out to a series of meetings anymore. If I were to announce someone was going to be with us for three nights, I would get these looks from some people that would say, I have a life, you know! Yes, we do. But in our lives, we need to take time to pause. We need to take time to gaze. We must invite apprentices to pause and gaze. To linger. Learn to delight!

Spiritual Formation

Curriculum for Christlikeness

If anyone is to love God and have his or her life filled with that love, God in His glorious reality must be brought before the mind and kept there in such a way that the mind takes root and stays fixed there. The individual must be willing for this to happen. Any apprentice who is genuine will do it. It is why they enrolled in this school. So, how do we bring God adequately before the mind and spirit of the apprentice? We need to teach about what occupies our minds. Our minds have tremendous freedom. We will think what we want. We will dwell what we want to dwell on. We simply turn our mind to whatever it is we choose to think of. We also realize we involuntarily drift to things, even if we know its wrong, if we do not discipline our thinking. That is why many times we are directed in Scripture to think. Our thoughts must be purposefully directed. We must form insights and habits so we stay directed toward God. When that is done, a full heart of love will go out toward God, and joy and obedience will flood in. Ps. 16:5-11 We must hold the Lord before us. Where we fail is the place where we refuse to retain God in our knowledge (Rom. 1:28). We must learn again, or maybe learn for the first time, what it is to bring our lives into the presence of God. We need to slow down in our worship. We need to slow down in our study. We need to fix our minds. No racing. Acquiring the Habits of Goodness We need to break the power of patterns of wrongdoing that govern our lives. We must recognize our habitual patterns for what they are and escape from their grasp. Our problem is our consumer-oriented Christianity. We have so very few modern day models. In a consumer mentality, we utilize the grace of God for forgiveness and the services of the church for special occasions, but when it comes to giving over our very lives, our innermost thoughts and feelings and intentions over to the Kingdom of Heaven get real.

Spiritual Formation

Curriculum for Christlikeness

In a consumer-oriented Christianity, we are not inwardly transformed, nor do we wish to be committed to it. Evidence of consumer Christianity: We are dominated by fear, greed, impatience, egotism, bodily desires, etc. Many times we do wrong out of habit. We do not deliberate long. We just do wrong. It is our routine. Good news! Habits can be changed. You can train yourself to use the very cues that until now have served to activate habits of anger and lusting to activate thoughts, feelings, and actions that will rule them out. Good news and bad news: The training wont be done for us. Thats the bad news. The good news is we cannot do it by ourselves. How is that good news? We realize that under the grace of God, we have no power. We need His power. A great Dallas Willard definition of grace is this: The pressure is off. We know we need HIS strength, so we go there. We cannot put off the old and put on the new by ourselves.

The Threefold Dynamic THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE OF SPIRITUAL GROWTH CHART The Holy Spirit is at the apex of the triangle to indicate His vital involvement in the entire process. The bottom corners are the ordinary events of life (the trials we will face) and planned disciplines. There is a direct correlation between the trials in our lives and the disciplines we implement on purpose.

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Curriculum for Christlikeness

The Spirit His role is to move within our souls and direct our minds. He is working in us to present to us the very person of Jesus and the reality of His Kingdom. He makes the Word alive to us, so a key to all of this is to stay active in the Word of God. Another way He makes this all very real to us is by being with other believers. Being in worship with others is so vital. When you have a group seeking after the heart of the Father, the Father shows up! The action of the Spirit needs to be accompanied by our response. Tests Here is a reality: we are where we are. God has yet to bless anyone except where they actually are. We keep looking for some change before God blesses. What we need to see is that God knows where we are and wants to touch us right there. We keep looking for right moments. He can bless us right where we are! So if we feel we are in some tribulation, the wonderful reality is that God will be able to meet us in the middle of it. If we will realize that God can meet us right where we are, we will step into the wonderful blessing of being able to thrive anywhere. We need the power of the Spirit to stand in those tests. We must have the spiritual disciplines working powerfully in our lives so that our habits are Kingdom-oriented and we are fully prepared to stand. We need to accept the trials of ordinary existence. Every event is an occasion in which the competence and faithfulness of God can be confirmed to us. Planned Discipline Here is the tough rub: We are not told in any systematic way how all of this happens. There are no formulas. Thats because this is not about formulas. We are to look at all of this as a walk. The process is the walk. Colossians is a great illustration of the bottom corners of this triangle.

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Curriculum for Christlikeness

The first two chapters deal with our first primary objective: coming face to face with the Father. The last two chapters deal primarily with our second primary objective: putting off the old habits. Col. 3:1-4 Summary of the first two chapters. Col. 3:5 Kill off the aspects of your life that run on what is earthly. He moves from actions to character. All of what Paul says is focused on what WE are to do. He doesnt say HOW to do it, which can be really aggravating. He simply calls on believers do imitate him. Everyone understood what he meant. We need to demonstrate the goodness of the Kingdom. We need people who will genuinely act like they believe what Jesus said! We dont need just dissemination of information. We need it lived out. Then, we as believers, need to pay attention. Follows the example. That was what served me so well in ministry is observing my mentor in ministry, Pastor Hale. He demonstrated ministry so effectively to me while I attended that church. There were no big classes. I just observed. We need to put our lives on the line with others and let Christs example show through us. We dont need any more excuses. We need people who are following Christ, warts and all, and allow others to observe. We need to see the powerful demonstration of the gospel and not lame excuses as to why we say one thing and then go do another. We also need to be people who pay attention. We dont pay attention to find fault. We pay attention to learn. We can look at the life example of Jesus and know a LOT of what to do! Our problem is then going and doing it! In the life of Jesus, we can witness massive amounts of time in solitude and prayer. He knew the Wordthoroughly. I am reading a book by a Chinese evangelist. When he came to the Lord, he didnt have a Bible. He fasted and prayed for a Bible. When he got one, he memorized all he could. He became a key leader in the Chinese house church movement. When they trained leaders, they had to come together for 30 days and hide in a cave. Their

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curriculum was rugged. They had to memorize a chapter of Matthew every day. That was part of the requirement for leadership! Jesus was thoroughly acquainted with the Word! So many other areas where we see His serving, His worship, His silence, and on and on. You get the idea. Paul tells Timothy to become a pattern for the believers, in speech, behavior, love, faith and purity. He was to cultivate the gift in him. We must have order in our lives. THIS is why we focus on the disciplines. This goes far beyond a teaching or a series of teachings. I probably have said it before, but it bears repeating: I know someone who took this class a couple of years ago and they swear its the best class they have taken here. However, when I observe the struggles, I see a certain lack of application. You can look at all of this as something to shelve for later. You can look at it as something that may be really good. But, if two years from now I have the opportunity to see you, and you say what a great class this was, I will be glad, but more importantly, I will look for what has happened since. That is far more important to me. People who leave a worship service and tell me what a great message I preached does a lot for my ego. I love it, truth be told. The burning question in my heart, though, is, Well, what are you going to DO with it? I cannot put out platitudes for people to consider. I must put out life-changing principles they must deal with! I want them changing. Thats the long and the short of it. We need change! This American church MUST change! We are lost!

THE TABLE Lord, we need change in our lives. We need our lives anchored the reality of Christ. We come to this table, thanking the Father for having mercy on us. Thank you, Father, for sending Jesus to share in our human nature, to live and die as one of us, so that we may be reconciled to you. On the night Jesus was betrayed...

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We proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died Christ is risen Christ is coming again Sanctify this table by your Holy Spirit. Renew us in this act today. These are the gifts of God for the people of God.

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