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The Spirit of the Disciplines

• Seth McCoy

In this second installment of the Formed series, Seth explores what it is that holds us back as followers of Christ, or creates a gap between the person we want to be and know is inside of us and who actually are. We know that Jesus wants to give us an abundant life, but our reality is often one of spiritual scarcity and daily bondage to destructive ideas and behaviors. In this message we examine what it looks like to surrender our will and trust in our heavenly Father.

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We all have a word or words that would describe a central idea or theme in our life that holds us back from the life we desire in Christ. There are things we take on that are heavy. They weigh us down and keep us from stepping in to the abundant life Jesus offers. For Seth, that word is rejection. He did not know his biological father and when he was about 3 ½ years old, his biological mother placed him for adoption. He knows that written on a very deep part of his heart is this defining idea of rejection. He still lives in a mental reality that says at some point everyone will abandon and reject him. He feels this as a very immense and heavy burden. On the flip Seth’s given name actually means chosen. So there is a narrative describing his life that says he’s rejected, but also another very real story about him being chosen by his adoptive family. We all have situations like this where we’re presented choices daily about what story we’re going to choose to live in.

In reality the truest thing about us, no matter where we’re at in life is that we are a son or daughter of the most powerful King in the universe. This King has an incredible inheritance He desires to bestow on His children. He desperately wants to give us the gifts of His Kingdom, but there are parts He can’t until we’re mature enough to handle the inheritance. It can be dangerous to give powerful things to children.

Unfortunately we have a bit of an epidemic in our country where people are growing up later and later. So for many of us our challenge is to grow up in Kingdom maturity so that we can handle the inheritance God wants wants to give to us. Being mature doesn’t mean having it all together; in fact it’s actually the opposite. Kingdome maturity understands that on my own, I’ll never be able to get it together – my will power can’t transform me. Being childlike in our faith is much different than childish. God has more for us. He has designed us for life and life abundantly.

There are many examples in scripture of people who just took what little they had, surrendered it to God and amazing things happened. Sometimes our need is very large, and our resources are very small, but all God asks of us is to move forward with what we have. We’re not the only character in the story. It may seem like a giant gap between the person you are and the person you want to be, but we need to know that we have enough right as we are. We start the journey with what’s in your hands, and God provides the increase.


We don’t often think of Jesus in terms of being “smart” in our 21st century context. Sometimes we picture Him as a nebulous magician instead of the author of creation. When He turned the water in to wine, it wasn’t because he just prayed and hoped. In reality He is the master of all molecular connections and understands the minutest differences between water and wine. Jesus is incredibly competent at everything He does. He healed the sick and the blind because he understands the human body down to its last detail. He knows how the optic nerve, the pupil, and the retina work. He is the master and creator of the human body. We don’t see Him in these terms often, but Jesus is incredibly competent. There has never been a better decision maker than Jesus, and if I get him involved in my decisions things will always go better. The problem for us is the only way Jesus will agree to be our teacher is if we surrender.

The bible would diagnose our problem as having a stiff neck. We are stubborn. There is a gap between the person we are capable of being and the person we actually are because of our stubbornness. We don’t and will never have enough will power to close this gap. The only thing we have the power to do with our will is to start something, in this case our surrender. The only power in the universe that can change me as a person is the power of God. Our job is to hold out our hands, stretch out our arms, and let Him catch us. Just as a trapeze flyer has to let go of the bar in order to be caught, so also we have to let go of the bar of control over our lives and let God catch us.

The first discipline we have to fully buy in to is the idea that we can’t do it by our self. Just like with AA, I don’t say I’m just going to stop drinking. I say I’m powerless over this by myself and I need someone to help me. A yoke is great picture in scripture that helps us understand this concept. A yoke is used to join two animals together to plow. A mature experienced animal is paired with a young stubborn animal in order to learn and get the job done. Jesus’ yoke is great for a stubborn stiff neck. Jesus can teach us, but we have to be yoked with Him. Our job is to recognize and trade in what we’re yoked to, accept the gift of the Kingdom.

We can live all our life yoked to a word or idea that improperly defines us, like rejection. That yoke can be heavy and hard. Our goal is to take the will we have and use it to open our hands and trust that God has the care and competence to catch us, and Jesus has the brilliance to be able to teach us His ways.

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Topics: Discipleship, God's Will, Power

Sermon Series: Formed

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Focus Scripture:

  • John 10:10

    The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

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3 thoughts on “The Spirit of the Disciplines

  1. Mary Curry says:

    This is an amazing message. It was a message that so ministered to my heart. I had the picture of “letting go” of the bar and flying through the air to the hands of someone I can trust, who loves me, who accepts me as I am and who will always be there. I closed my eyes and felt that freedom but the trouble I have is “staying there”. That is why I listen over and over to the message so that I can keep hearing “permission” to let go and trust.

  2. Peter says:

    The latest ‘Formed’ series raises some interesting observations, especially those of bloggers.

    In the world today, violence and power struggles has led to an increasing numbers of refugees seeking to escape this form of tyranny for a better land. None more so than currently exists in Europe and the Middle East.

    In a similar sense Christians are refugees of the world system (although originally exiles of the Kingdom), seeking to escape both physical and spiritual oppression. However, in relation to this current series/theme of messages, how many of us are true refugees prepared to be conformed to the Kingdom’s lifestyle or, are we ‘economic’ refugees, that is, seeking the benefits of the Kingdom but still retaining our old lifestyle?

    While the Bible is littered with these sorts of situations, none is perhaps more obvious than the exodus from Egypt where you can take God’s people out of Egypt but, as was demonstrated at Mt Sinai, it is hard to take Egypt (the world system) out of God’s people.

    At Mt Sinai, Israel was given the Law that was in essence the lifestyle ‘rules’ for God’s people living in His Kingdom. While these laws were evidenced by outwardly obedient behaviours of the citizens….they were not easily motivated inwardly from a sinful heart. Hence, in part, the sacrificial system provided by God enabled them to be cleansed of their sins and provide the correct motivation for obedient life in the Kingdom.

    However, their continual failure to be conformed to this lifestyle, led to the prophet Jeremiah proclaiming to Israel (Jer 31:31-34), indicating that a ‘religious’ external obedience of the Law was not he path to follow and was to be replaced by an internal motivation,

    “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

    This led to the true Son of God coming to a fallen kingdom and living the obedient life (to the Father) and, as part of that obedience, providing the perfect sacrifice for sin.

    External obedience to the Law was probably exemplified by the Pharisees at the time of Jesus when He stated (Matt 23:28),

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

    Indeed when Nicodemus the Pharisee came to Jesus and said (Jn 3:2),

    “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

    Jesus answered him (Jn3:3),

    “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

    So not withstanding the religious veneer of Nicodemus’s life there was also a blindness to the Kingdom, unless one is born again (as Jesus describes Jn3:5), “of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And hence become a citizen/son of God.

    Lastly, Seth’s teaching on the yoke of discipleship is insightful as one commentator concludes,

    “ The yoke that Christ wears is the acceptance of the
    Father’s will. It is that yoke he invites others to wear. He invites them to share it. We are drawn, then, to this conclusion. The yoke of the Son’s submission to the Father is the yoke the true disciple also wears. Put another way it can be said that true discipleship is
    true sonship.”

  3. Jacob says:

    IS Jesus Smart. I’m having trouble with this line of thinking. Jesus was fully man on earth and “learned” carpentry not the molecular structure of wine. He laid down His divinity. He did not have a doctorate to perform miracles and I would suggest that to much knowledge can keep us from Faith. Sometimes what we think we know can keep us from what we need to experence!

    Jesus did what the Father was doing and said what the Father was saying. When we understand who we are in Him we will do the same. That is why He said you will do even greater things. It has nothing to do with earthly scientific understanding. It’s all about walking out your Faith and listening to what your Father is saying and doing what your Father is doing. You are a Son or Daughter! Act like it!

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