This week Graham continued the preaching series on the book Surprise the World by Michael Frost. The presentation is attached after the sermon notes.
You can listen again to the sermon here:
Part 2, Habits
5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralysed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’
7 ‘Sir,’ the invalid replied, ‘I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.’ 8 Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
The sermon last week ended with a reflection. I asked you to reflect on the rhythms of your life. I said you could ask yourself which of these rhythms are motivated primarily by your faith? I went on, of those, which do you think would qualify as practices that non-Christians in your life would find surprising or intriguing/interesting?
This week I want us to consider not just what we do, what our rhythms of life or habits are, but what we will choose them to be.
Discussion Question: One man had the habit of being at the pool of Bethesda. What did he expect from this habit?
Discussion Question: Another man had the habit of being taken to the Gate Beautiful in the temple. The people who brought him, why did they do it and what did they expect?
One (the man at the pool of Bethesda) was in the context of possible life change – transformation. The other at the Gate Beautiful was seeking to maintain the status quo.
What we do is evidence, or a symptom, of our faith.
See James 2:18
18 But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.
There is a link between our inner spirituality and our actions. In James we see that our behaviour is evidence of our faith, or a natural symptom of it. This is similar to the information the Apostle Paul gives about the power of our human nature compared to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
But look at the words of Jesus in John 14:15-17
15 ‘If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever – 17 the Spirit of truth.
Our devotion to Jesus and his rule, his kingdom is evidence that we really are born-again, really are transformed by our trust in him.
2 Habits and the Brain’s wiring
People studying the behaviour of the brain have made great discoveries in recent decades. This has had a bearing on treatment of addiction and addictive behaviours. It has had an influence on the chemical treatment of depression.
[Images of synapses – see presentation attached at the end of the sermon notes.]
The brain sends information along regular routes (neural highways). If the brain is damaged it can reroute the information highway. This is particularly seen in the process of recovery from brain damage.
A regularly used highway gets stronger. Those synapses get thicker, the connections get more developed. When information is about to get processed it will go along those routes that have been strengthened and developed for that information. This takes place when a person is learning to type or play a musical instrument. It is what happens during training in martial arts and other physical activities. It is also what happens when someone is addicted to something that they crave for, their mind runs along familiar tracks that their addiction has developed.
We become what we do. And we become what we don’t do.
Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
We could not rephrase last week’s reflection with, “What are the habits of our culture? In what way do our habits differ from the habits of our culture? But now I want us to think, what habits do I want to create? What new neural pathways do I want to develop in my brain.
Missional habits (see “Surprise The World” page 21-23)