21 Days to a More Authentic Faith
2 Timothy 1:5-14
Rev. Sandy Johnson
February 19, 2017
I want to invite you all to join me in a pilgrimage. In the next 21 days, you will have the opportunity to ask yourself and ponder one question each day so that you can do some serious self-examination as we prepare for Lent.
Ok, somebody with a calendar is going to say, “hey pastor, Lent begins in only eleven days. You’re ten days off.” And you’d be right. This series was originally scheduled for three weeks but due to a change in schedules it will only spend two weeks. Next week I will give you a handout you can take home. SO, we all will have the opportunity for some homework! Call it extra credit!
When John Wesley, the founder of Methodism and his brother Charles were students at Oxford University, they began meeting together with fellow students to devote themselves to “a rigorous search for holiness and service to others.” Their fellow students mocked them by calling the club The Holy Club. I think today they’d be called the God Squad. This group of committed Christians met each day for devotions and to study the bible. They fasted twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays until 3 p.m. each day. They received Holy Communion each week and went out into their community to visit prisoners and those who were ill.
They ascribed to a lifestyle that they knew would bring them closer in their relationship to Christ. Learning about the Holy Club and examining their methods, the original methods of our founder John Wesley, we can expect to improve our experience of and our being shaped by God into the human beings that God intends for us to be. During the next two weeks “we are going to seek to learn how we can grow in our spiritual lives, looking at practices and perspectives that can take us to a deeper spiritual life.” And that is exactly what we are focusing on this year, a deeper faith.
In your bulletin insert there is a list of the 21 questions, the questions for Godly Living. Pull it out. This morning we are going to review the first seven. Then you will want to take one each day to dive deeper into, to take the time to ponder, review and examine yourselves completely.
Here are the seven questions on which we will focus this week:
Sunday – Question 21: Is Jesus real to me?
Monday – Question 8: Am I enjoying prayer?
Tuesday – Question 13: Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
Wednesday – Question 6: Did the Bible live in me today?
Thursday – Question 12: Did I disobey God in anything?
Friday – Question 10: Do I pray about the money I spend?
Saturday – Question 7: Do I give time for the Bible to speak to me every day?
Let’s start with today. Question 21: Is Christ real to me? This is the most important question of the list so we begin with the end. This one question cuts through to the crux of the matter, the whole “point of our Christian pursuit of holiness and witness. Wesley wanted Christians to make sure that we are not simply following a religion, but experiencing a relationship with Jesus. When Jesus is real to us, that reality shows itself to us and others through its impact on our words, actions, disciplines, and practices.
Discipleship, the spiritual growth process of becoming a deeply committed Christian, isn’t about outward piety. Rather, discipleship in the way of Jesus, it is about experiencing the person of Christ. Jesus becomes more real to us through the practices of discipleship each day. Scripture reading, study, prayer, mission work, fasting, moments of solitude, submission to God’s will for our life and joining authentic community, all change the lens through which we view the world. How can you make Jesus more real to you now? What discipleship practices can you put into your life to become a more deeply committed Christian?” Go ahead and write down an idea or two. (Scripture reading, study, prayer, mission work, fasting, moments of solitude, submission to God’s will for our life and joining authentic community)
The next question is number 8: “Am I enjoying prayer?” The question isn’t “am I praying,” but am I enjoying prayer? It’s more than simply doing it, the question rather asks if we can rate experience as joyful, regardless of where we are praying daily or hourly, or only when it rains. “Prayer is meant to be a positive and enriching worship experience. To pray, and enjoy it, is to regularly engage in the practice of prayer, and as a result find a deeper, more fulfilling understanding of God, of yourself, others and the world. We pray to lean into God’s goodness and strength. When we pray well, we learn to enjoy it.”
Monday when you ponder this question, I challenge you to “commit to establishing a prayer routine. Pick a quiet place in your home or office. Pray at the same time each day. Start simply, dedicating just a few minutes at first. Pray in a way that works for you. If you enjoy writing, you may want to write out your prayers. You may want to pray aloud. You can pray as you walk or exercise. Consider downloading a prayer app or sign up for a daily devotional email. The important thing is to find the ways that lead you to a richer experience.”
Tuesday morning, your question will be number 13, “Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?” Do you know the feelings we get when we insist on doing something we shouldn’t? Something like gossiping, lusting, lying, stealing, cheating, etc.? They usually signal the goodness in us battling the human desire to usurp God’s authority and be in charge of our own life. A rightly trained uneasy conscience is a good thing. It reminds us that we are called to live into the goodness in which God created us.
“Every time you find yourself leaning in to a temptation, ask yourself: “What are the consequences of giving in to this weakness? Who may be hurt by this? Will the satisfaction of this moment be worth the consequences I may face?” And then force yourself to answer the questions before you act.”
Wednesday brings us to question number 6: Did the bible live in me today? This is a question to be answered at the end of your day. “The Bible is a love story—the story of a loving, creative God who is good. It is a collection of wonderfully engaging stories, written in a variety of genres such as poetry, prophecy and parables, meant not just to amuse or entertain, but to shape our very life. Engaging the Bible is about intimacy more than literacy. Reading the Bible for knowledge of God is one thing. Allowing the Bible to read you for transformation is altogether different.
“Wesley didn’t ask, “Did I read my Bible today?” but “Did it live in me?” Is the Bible actively
shaping your heart, your inner self? To allow the Bible to live in us we must be humble people, taking a posture of listening, learning, action and service. How do you let the Bible live in you each day?
Thursday’s question is number 12, “Did I disobey God in anything?” “When we choose to obey God, we honor God’s love for us and live as God desired. When we disobey God by choosing to live our own ways, we live into our freedom, but also make the possibility of sin a reality. How do we move beyond a love for self and toward a whole-hearted love for God? When we don’t do what God intends, we must choose to confess our actions (or lack of actions) and ask for forgiveness. Confession taps into God’s forgiveness, and forgiveness gives us a fresh start. God’s love is always greater than our biggest blunder.
Friday brings us to “Do I pray about the money I spend?” Question number 10. “Wesley famously said, “Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” That was why he included the question, “Do I pray about the money I spend?” To pray about the money we spend, means that we go to God realizing that we do not possess any money of our own. Rather, we are simply holding God’s money for the purposes of God’s work in the world.
What inner reactions did you have to Wesley’s statement, “Gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can”? How does this approach to handling money match up with advice you get from financial publications, web sites or advisers? In what ways does it differ?
On Friday, evaluate your recent spending. How closely do your habits align with Wesley’s advice? Make a three column chart: Gain, Save, Give. In each column, estimate the amounts you have gained, saved, and given in the past year. How do you believe your spending habits, as they might be reflected in next year’s chart, might change if you prayed daily about the money you spent?
Saturday, the last day of the week, ends with question 7: “Do I give time for the Bible to speak to me every day?” Wesley didn’t ask this question to create more for Christians to do. He wanted us to look at our efforts to daily engage the Bible as a way for God to speak to us, to shape us into more deeply committed Christians. Bible reading is not a task to be completed, a box to check off. It is a habitual practice to shape us and mold us into who God invites us to be. Do you struggle with finding (or taking) the time to read the Bible each day? As with any other good habit, start small—even five minutes a day, and let the time increase as the discipline strengthens your spiritual life.”
If you seem to have enough time but your challenged more with understanding and interpreting what you read then find a good study bible, or commentary. If you know someone who has developed the discipline of reading their bible, ask them for suggestions. Of course, you can always ask me.
What’s important about these questions is they are another tool that we can use to up our game, to take our faith to a new level. Timothy reminded us in the scripture this morning that God has given us a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. When we tap into this power we give God room to transform our lives.
This week’s Wesley questions all relate to our relationship with Christ, to prayer, Scripture reading and obedience to God. They help us to, in the words of Paul, “not be conformed to this world”—that is, shaped into the worlds’ mold—“but be transformed by the renewing of your minds,” so that we might know God’s perfect will and do it.” Take the challenge this week to consider the first seven questions we discussed this morning. Perhaps develop your own Wesley Holy Club – meet with a few friends or neighbors over coffee. Share the questions and your answers. Be intentional in your actions, don’t miss the opportunity to do some foundational work that will enable you to dive deeper. Amen.
 http://www.cor.org/21questions Accessed November 16, 2016
 2 Timothy 1:5