It feels near impossible at times, whether it's the honesty required when trying to lose weight or the denial of your dominant urges when the alarm goes off and you need to get out of bed. It's no wonder why soul care is often neglected, for while we can see the effects of neglecting our bodies we don't always catch how overlooking our spiritual life affects everything else.
But it does.
To clarify, when I say "spiritual life" I don't mean the times you decide to go to a church service or read your Bible... I mean that everything is spiritual, because God is everywhere and a part of everything, whether we recognize in Him or not. This means that folding your laundry or going for a walk in nature can be as spiritual an activity as popping in a praise CD or praying.
If you don't understand this, then take a moment to think about it before you move on a read the rest of what I've written here... otherwise, you'll miss out on the core point. (Here's a hint - what is the difference between a businessman sitting in a church service merely to get clients versus another sitting right next to them who wants to connect with God through what is about to happen? And is the same thing possible when you're cooking in the kitchen or watching a movie?)
I'm writing what follows at the request of a couple of friends who have asked me, "How do I get from 'here' to 'there' when it comes to lasting life change?" For example, this past Sunday the speaker in our church services invited people to respond to God by letting Him break them on the inside - from pride, religiosity, sin, and everything else. There is something amazing that can happen in this moment, but we need to fan that flame to be sure the moment becomes a "movement" versus a "monument." Here are a few thoughts on the factors that need to be in place for this:
1) New Jesus. To follow the real Jesus, you need to trade in the "Jesus" in your head. After all, everyone likes to dress up Jesus in their favorite ways. "Your Jesus kicks people down who ________? Cool! Oh, my Jesus is the 'Judge not, lest ye be judged' Jesus. He doesn't know any other Bible verses, but that one works just fine. My friend was just showing me his Jesus who doesn't require him to do take part in church services to be a Christian. We might trade next month."
Quit dorking around on this - if you call yourself a Christ-follower, then follow Christ... don't ask Him to follow you. Honestly, that's what we do when we step forward a foot to "say a salvation prayer," and then slow down our growth to millimeters (if that) afterward. Growth is going to look differently for everyone... but it does boil down to you looking to take another step with God versus defend the steps you've already taken.
2) New community. Surround yourself with people who aren't just nodding their head at Jesus, but who are making sacrificial steps forward with Him. Let's face it, if you want to keep doing what you're doing without anyone passing judgment on whatever it is, you can find other people in any church who want the same. We'll sort of not say anything to one another, and keep on doing what we all like doing... and we'll write it off as just "another version of Christianity - you have yours, and I have mine." We'll even feel good about how we're doing a few things for God, like helping out or showing up.
When that happens, no one grows... even though we think we are. So find brothers and sisters in the faith who will sharpen you as you sharpen them. Tell them, "I want Jesus to be my number one priority in life... can you kick my tail on this?"
3) New habits. What in life do you need to say "no" to that you've said "yes" to in order to propel further down the road with God? What about the reverse - what do you need to say "yes" to Him on that you've been otherwise resistant to? Confess these in all truthfulness - in fact, use that "community" from step 2 to be a part of that. Make sure another spiritually-mature Christian knows 100% (beyond a pastor, that is - we are easy to confess to, even though we're not easy to confess to, if you catch my drift). And then share your idea to start a 1-3 new habits into your life, asking him or her to fan this flame in you.
4) New food. Don't wait until the next upcoming church service or Bible study to get fed... feed yourself spiritually, or read up on how to feed yourself spiritually - like this article: http://www.christians.org/grow/grow01.html Find a Bible plan that you will be consistent with, and dig in.
Why? Because if you don't eat you won't be healthy... and you will have zero strength when something or someone in the world strikes at you.
The bottom line? You need to have an openness to brokenness - what God has broken up inside of you now must be rebuilt into something new. And He has given you a large part of the responsibility in this.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:22-26)
This "fruit" of the Spirit is the product of spending time with God - not the predecessor or the point.
Which means if you want to want what God offers, you have to want God - not what He offers.
And to gain Him and that, you must till the soil of your heart, do some digging, plant the right seeds, water it, and expose it to the Son... and as it grows, you will be able to feed yourself and others around you.
The change you want to see in the world begins in you.