A New Year’s Sermon Preached Jan 2009 at Earlham Church of Christ
Keep It Simple
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is looking forward to an abundant new year. I am not sure how you celebrate the New Year, but like a lot of people I tend to think about resolutions. The New Year provides me with an opportunity to think about how I would like for things to be different in the future. The New Year gives me a time to reflect on some of my past choices and at least chart a hopeful course for the days and months ahead.
As we get started today I want you to consider our Financial Peace University class for a few different reasons. The first reason is that it is a class that teaches biblical principles on Stewardship. We all need to be better stewards of God’s blessings. The second is that the world in which we live is uncertain. I can tell you right now that there people in this room who are unemployed who didn’t expect to be unemployed.
There are people in this room who have been adversely affected by our economy and I fear it will get worse before it gets better. The third reason is because this class can help you live in peace with financial matters, which are typically one of the top 2-3 stressors in everyone’s life. And finally, this class will help you employ a way of living that is simpler for you and ultimately better for you than your current way of living when it comes to stewardship management.
Please give your attention to the video for the next 16 minutes. At the conclusion of the video I have about 5 minutes of closing remarks and we will be dismissed.
Most all of us have heard of the KISS principle which essentially teaches that we should design our lives to be simple and unnecessarily complex. It is often expressed as Keep it short and simple or Keep it smart and simple or Keep it simple stupid. I tend to hear that last one more often than the many other derivatives.
Today I would like to relate that principle to Biblical principles of how to manage our stuff. As Christians, keeping it simple is often about the shedding of stuff…not the attainment of more stuff, more skills, more abilities, more wealth, more treasures, etc. Jesus said it this way in Matthew 6:19-21:
Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be.
When I think about resolutions I tend to think in terms of lifestyle adjustments that I can make that will aid me as a person over all. What parts of my lifestyle can I adjust so that I can be more engaged in God’s process of transforming me into His image? If my singular goal in life is to be transformed by the renewing of my mind so that my life becomes a living sacrifice for God, what parts of my life do I need to submit and resubmit to God to help this process along?
Spiritual Disciplines are simply the intentional activities that we engage in that cultivate our spirituality: i.e., what sort of things do we do on a regular basis to submit ourselves to God in order to live as Godly people? A spiritual discipline is a habit or regular pattern in your life that repeatedly brings you back to God and opens you up to what God is saying to you. They are behaviors that facilitate your spiritual growth.
There are two broad categories used to classify these disciplines. There are disciplines of abstinence and there are disciplines of activity.
Disciplines of Letting Go or Abstinence – In these practices we abstain from doing something in order to work character into our lives
· Solitude: Spending time alone to be with God.
· Silence: Removing noisy distractions to hear from God.
· Slowing Down: Putting ourselves in situations where we have to move at a slower pace to break the hurriedness in our lives
· Fasting: Skipping a meal(s) (or abstaining from an activity) to find greater nourishment from God. Fasting forces us to let God fill the needs being met by that particular activity.
· Secrecy: Avoiding self-promotion, practicing serving God without others knowing.
· Frugality/Sacrifice: Choosing to live with less money and still meet your basic needs.
Disciplines of Activity/Engagement – In these practices we engage in activities that nurture our souls and strengthen us for the race ahead.
· Study/Meditation: Spending time reading the Scriptures and meditating on its meaning and importance in our lives in order to cleanse our bodies and minds.
· Scripture Memorization: Memorizing the Bible in order to store it in our hearts and transform our thoughts.
· Worship: Offering praise and adoration to God in order to give our lives perspective.
· Prayer: Talking and listening to God about your relationship with Him and your needs in order to learn how trust Him as our source and provider.
· Thankfulness: Spending time focusing on what God has done for you and thanking Him for that.
· Fellowship: Mutual caring and ministry in the body of Christ through committed, accountable relationships.
· Confession: Regularly confess your sins to the Lord and other trusted individuals in order to experience God’s forgiveness and cleansing.
· Submission: Humbling yourself before God and others while seeking accountability in relationships.
This week I want to talk to you about the discipline of Simplicity. The question for you is: how can you make your life less complicated and simpler so that you have more time and energy to focus on the most important parts of life? Specifically, how can you live a less cluttered life emotionally and physically so that you can grow and transform spiritually?
The discipline of simplicity can be summed up in this prayer: Lord, show me yourself afresh so that I can once again see and feel that you are more valuable than anything I can own or attain—so that I won’t be so tempted to spend my energies accumulating things but rather living for you.
Richard Foster says: “The Christian discipline of simplicity is an inward reality that reflects an outward lifestyle.”
The discipline of simplicity is important. We so easily allow our lives to be defined by possessions, status, and all manner of social expectations. Being a disciple means shedding ourselves of anything that blurs our vision of Christ. The external side of simplicity is just as important as the internal. The outward lifestyle of simplicity is the natural expression of the heart of simplicity.
We cannot just have the internal and not the external. The change of heart should be expressed in the way we live. Richard Foster gives us 10 simple practices of simplicity that will help give expression to the internal heart change:
1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status. “Stop trying to impress people with your clothes and impress them with your life.”
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you. In our media saturated culture it can be hard, but “any of the media that you find you cannot do without, get rid of.” And, “if money has a grip on your heart, give some away.” “Refuse to be a slave to anything but God”.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away. De-accumulate!
4. Refuse to be lured into the need for gadgets and “new” everything.
5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation. “Simplicity means to discover once again that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’.”
7. Look with healthy skepticism at all “buy now, pay later” schemes. Be extremely cautious of incurring debt.
8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech (Matthew 5:37).
9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others. “In a world of limited resources, does our lust for wealth mean the poverty of others?” Consider buying food and other items that are “fair trade”.
10. Lastly, shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the Kingdom of God. This is ultimately where the heart of true simplicity lives. “always hold the Kingdom of God as the number one priority of our lives. To do so is to live in simplicity.”
Remember, the discipline of simplicity is not just about our actions, it is about our hearts and where our trust and focus are. Jesus calls us into a simple, pure life of trust in God and singular devotion to Him.
My prayer for you this year is that you will engage the spiritual discipline of simplicity. Don’t let the world rob you of your peace. One sure way you can find that peace is to apply the teachings of the bible to your financial life. Financial Peace University is a tool you can use to engage this discipline.
Let’s stand and pray.