Why You Want to be Spiritually Ripped!

bible_armWhat’s the difference between the unsaved version of you and the saved version of you?

Beyond the fact that you’re going to Heaven and you have the option of dropping to your knees and and whispering a prayer in crisis situations, what is it that constitutes a practical advantage over that version of you that doesn’t know Christ?

Imagine this:

I) On Your Stomach

Lay down on your stomach and close your eyes. This is the perspective that you have of yourself and the world around you, as far as the unsaved version of you (Ps 19:8; 36:2; Is 6:10; Matt 13:15; 2 Cor 3:14; 4:4; Eph 4:18; Jas 4:13-14). You’re virtually “blind” to what is going on around you in terms of the spiritual realities that comprise the human experience. And before you dismiss the term, “spiritual” as some kind of ethereal mysticism that has no place in the context of a practical perspective, bear in mind that you can’t put anger in your pocket nor can you put happiness on like a ball cap. That which irritates us or makes us feel good may be a solid object of some kind, but the emotions and the psychological machinery that’s initiated by those objects aren’t things you can quantify or package. Our whole world is one big box of “spiritual” commodities that we’re constantly processing according to the way our personalities are wired. It’s what inspires our values, it’s our mood, it’s our outlook, it’s all of what make us unique as individuals – it’s that host of intangibles that we encounter and contend with everyday (Eph 6:12). When you’re spiritually dead, everything that drives the way you process yourself and the world around you is based on what you “feel,” rather than what you can truly see and know (see 2 Cor 4:4; Phil 3:19). Rather than being upright with your eyes open – and even standing on top of something so you have a good view of what’s going on -you’re in the dirt and incapable of processing the world as it truly is. We’re oblivious to what’s under the hood. We can hear the car running, maybe, but we don’t see life as anything beyond what we want and what we feel. The bigger and the more important picture is “hidden” and we tend to wear ourselves out attempting to understand and control that which cannot be managed or anticipated (Jas 4:14).

II) Do You Smell That?

On the other hand, the born-again version of you has a clue. At least, we have access to a perspective that takes into account the Reality of that which is unseen (Heb 11:1). Purpose (Eph 2:10), Peace (Gal 5:22-23) and Power (Acts 1:8) – we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) and our eyes have been open to what constitutes the difference between light and darkness (Jn 9:39; Acts 26:18). For the sake of our illustration, we’re on our knees with our eyes now fully open. Do you smell that? That is the aroma of Divine Perfection and it lives within us (1 Cor 1:30; Col 1:27). That’s motivating!

But what does that mean? There’s no doubt, that’s True. But how does that translate to something practically advantageous?

And let’s go ahead and acknowledge the obvious perk of being able to bring our troubles before our King in prayer. That piece of it, along with the guarantee of Heaven, is a given (Jn 3:16; Phil 4:6). But what about Monday morning? How does being a follower of Christ resonate in the context of homework, bills, bad debt, dreams and car tags? What’s the difference in the way you negotiate the everyday, as far as the approach the saved version of you is going to take as opposed to the spiritually clueless version of you and the way that person is going to engage the day?

Are you ready?

Buckle up…wait for it…

Everything. Everything is different. Take a look:

III) Every Moment –  It’s Never About “What’s Happening…”

It’s never about what’s “happening,” it’s what God is doing. You are not a victim of circumstance – ever. Your triumphs, your defeats as well as all of the decision you make – both the good and the bad – are laid out before your King Who’s not limited by the constraints of time or space. In Psalm 139:16 it says, “…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Couple that with Jeremiah 29:11:

 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer 29:11)

…and Ephesians 2:10:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:10)

…and you have a life that reeks of Purpose, Significance and Substance. However this particular moment appears from a human standpoint, there is a stamp of Divine Purpose upon it and when you get your head around that, something shifts in the way you process your activity and your surroundings. It’s motivating. Even if you’re just cutting the grass, that’s a point in time that was on God’s radar long before you decided the yard needed mowing. And while knocking out some chores doesn’t reverberate as profoundly as the career you choose or the person you marry, it is nevertheless an investment of time and effort and that is therefore a part of your life – the existence that God purposefully initiated before you were even born.

And the thing is, God didn’t just haphazardly throw you together and give you a role as an “extra.” The Plan that’s in place for your life is uniquely tailored for you and the strengths He gave you. The greatest amount of fulfillment you could ever hope to experience is in the context of living out the Purpose that He created you for.

Park here for a minute because this really is a game-changer.

Years ago, I was working a job that lacked substantially in prestige. I had just gotten out of the USMC as a Staff Sergeant and I had moved to Nashville on the tail end of a very successful tour that had me thinking I was on the cusp of a successful career as a full time musician. Fast forward several months later and I’m working for a buddy that owned and operated a fast food franchise at the local food court. What started out as “temporary” thing had bloomed into a full time dynamic and I was smelling like a chicken nugget at the end of everyday.

Not happy.

But as I was making my way into the mall one particular morning, I was encouraging myself with the fact that I had yet to be asked to clean the commode. That was one task that I had not been assigned. That morning, as if by Divine Appointment, my buddy, the manger, greeted me at the door with a green scouring pad and a can of Comet. “I’ve got a job for you,” he said.

Moments later, I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing the ceramic throne and having a very frank exchange of ideas with my Heavenly Father. I was reflecting on the how I had exchanged some stripes on my sleeve for a nametag on my shirt. Where I had been interacting with a who’s who of Contemporary Christian Music artists and hearing the thunderous applause of arena sized crowds every weekend, I was now listening to disgruntled customers complaining about the availability of certain menu items. And now, here I am, scrubbing the contaminated floor surrounding the toilet in the employee restroom.

“You seein’ this?” I asked.

I’m praying as I’m scrubbin’…

I’m talking to God and I heard Him in my mind ask me a question: “What if I had been the One Who asked you to clean the commode rather than Michael? Would that have made a difference?”

“Well, sure!” I said.

Then God replied, “Well, guess what…?”

At that point, I remembered Psalm 139:16 and other verses that talk about God’s Sovereignty. Fact is, because “…all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,” He had tasked me with that job and while the clean up operation didn’t suddenly become anymore prestigious, my perspective changed dramatically.

It’s never simply a matter of “what’s happening,” it’s what God is doing. There’s a Plan in place that allows you to process even the most inconvenient and annoying occurrence as something that has Purpose. When you’re confronted with something that takes you by surprise, you can maintain an even disposition by claiming every Resource that God’s already unpacked and placed on the table because He knew this moment would come long before it happened. And when the pressure’s on and it’s up to you to turn in a truly noteworthy performance, there’s something about how God’s had this on His screen for quite some time that makes the inclination to reach for the Strength along with the Calm that He offers that much stronger and intuitive.

Even when things are going great, by reflecting on how it is God that orchestrated your situation, the tendency to be thankful is that much more automatic (Rom 12:3; 2 Thess 5:16-18). The Bible is full of personalities that God elevated in the context of wealth and power who then allowed themselves to become corrupted by crediting themselves with the success they enjoyed (Dt 8:17-18). Authentic gratitude is more than just “thanking God” as a courtesy, as much as it’s a comprehensive theme of reverence and humility that characterizes your perspective on yourself and your accomplishments. Being intentional about constantly seeing yourself within the framework of God’s overarching Purpose is not automatic, despite it being the most logical and the most healthy approach one could take. But it’s far easier to do so when you remain cognizant of how this moment and every moment of your life was known and planned by your Heavenly Father long before it ever showed up on your calendar.

phasechangeIV) Momentum – the Guarantee of Forward Movement

While we can rest assured that every moment of our lives is chock full of Divine Purpose, there’s also the guarantee of forward movement.

In Chemistry, there’s an anomaly called the “Latent Heat of Fusion.” You can see it illustrated in the graph to the right. What you’re looking at is the change in temperature as an ice cube is being melted. You’ll notice in the first blue area, there’s no change in temperature despite the fact that you’re increasing the amount of heat you’re applying to said ice cube. You see the same thing happen when it’s going from a liquid phase to a gaseous state. Again, there’s a zone where, although you’re increasing the amount of heat, yet there’s no measurable change in the temperature. The two segments of the graph that are highlighted in blue represent what’s called the “Latent Heat of Fusion.” On the molecular level, what’s happening is that rather than the molecules moving about more “furiously”- which is registered in terms of temperature – the energy is being absorbed by the process by which the molecules that are grouped together according to whatever state they’re in are now coming apart. During that timeframe, there’s no change in temperature.

Life can be like that sometimes. You’re working towards a goal, you’re waiting for additional information so you can make a sound decision – it’s during these seasons that you can feel as though you’re stalled. Nothing’s happening. But we can rest assured that God’s not dormant nor is our situation being ignored.

One of the best examples of that is the story of Joseph. Bolstered by dreams and his father’s favoritism, Joseph is convinced he’s on the threshold of great things. Apparently the gift of subtlety was not among Josephs strengths, nor was humility given the way he saw fit to inform his older brothers that one day that would bow down before him. You know the story of how they sold him into slavery and how he eventually ended up in prison. By this time, Joseph doesn’t seem as forthcoming when it comes to promoting himself. As a matter of fact, when he’s given the chance to distinguish himself before Pharaoh, he’s quick to say that it’s not by his own ability that he’s able to discern the meaning of dreams, rather it’s God. That’s quite a move for one who’s spent the majority of his young adult life either as a slave or as a captive. Think about it. Why would you not attempt to take as much credit as you could for being able to do something extraordinary when you’re standing before the one individual who has the power to set you free?

How often do you think Joseph asked for God to intervene and end his enslavement or to commute his prison sentence? He was sold into slavery when he was seventeen (Gen 37:2). He entered Pharaoh’s service when he was 30 (Gen 41:46). 13 years spent waiting for…something.

A Good Plan

God uses the word “agathos,” often in the New Testament which means “good.” But it’s more than “good,” as in the way some might process that to mean “acceptable,” but not especially noteworthy. It means, “moral and spiritual excellence.” The Greeks used it to describe a skilled and noble warrior. It’s more than being merely “nice,” it’s more than just a silver medal as opposed to first place finish. It is a standard and a goal that goes beyond victories, accomplishments and acquisitions. It is the Perfect Storm of character and quality actions. Not just “good behavior,” but a standard of excellence that originates from one’s core and spills over into everything that they engage. That’s “good!”

That’s a lot of “latent heat.”

But it was during that time that God was transforming the character of Joseph into what would need to be in place in order to administrate the largest political power in the world. God wasn’t slow, He was intentional.

There may be something you’ve been praying about for a while. Perhaps you’ve reached that point where you’re poised on the threshold of some serious disillusion thinking, “This prayer thing doesn’t work!” Don’t throw in the towel. Remember there’s a Divine Purpose attached to every moment including those moments when you don’t seem to be moving forward. Even then, there’s supernatural activity being conducted


John 5:17 says:

17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” (Jn 5:17)

God is always working. He’s never idle so to be suspicious that your appeal has been ignored or lost is a pointless perspective. Things are moving forward and they’re moving forward at a pace that is nothing short of perfect in that it’s consistent with the tempo that matches the flawless Plan and Purpose of the One Who’s got your best interests at heart.

V) The Mandate to be Excellent

 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2)

“Good” is more than just “acceptable.” It’s the Greek word, “agathos.” The Greeks used it to describe a noble warrior. Scripture uses it to describe moral and spiritual excellence.

Think about this for a minute: Imagine an employee that’s good at what they do (Col 3:17). They show up to work on time (Matt 5:16), and when you’re needing to get something done, this person is one of the first people that comes to mind because they’re that dependable (Prov 25:13). They function well as a team player and when the situation calls for someone to step up to the plate and lead, they have a knack for bringing out the best in others (Matt 7:12; Phil 2:3-4) and they’re able to oversee an effort that achieves the kind of results that exceeds expectations (Ecc 9:10).

What do you with that kind of employee?

You promote them! You put them in a position where they can effect the greatest amount of good (Prov 22:29). Thing is, even if they don’t get the kind of recognition they deserve, the thing that makes this individual extraordinary is that they don’t go out of their way to be noticed by others. The applause they get from the crowd is not what drives them. Rather, they’re focused on personifying and pursuing a standard of excellence as a means to honor their King.russell

There’s a great scene in the movie, “Cinderella Man,” where Jimmy Bradock, played by Russell Crowe, is being interviewed by a mob of reporters who want to better understand how he was able to be in contention for the heavyweight championship of the world after having had to contend with several years of poverty and unemployment due to an injury and the Great Depression. His response included a comment where he said that he now knew what he was fighting for. It wasn’t the money, it’s wasn’t the title., it was “milk.”

To him, the “prize” wasn’t about promoting himself, as much as it was being able to provide for his family – something he hadn’t been able to do for a while. His drive and his resolve were now fueled by something greater than himself.

In a similar way, we are commanded to be “lights” (Matt 5:16) and “standouts” (Prov 22:29; Titus 2:7). Colossians 3:24 says it best:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Col 3:24)

VI) On Top of my Spiritual Disciplines

Go back to that earlier illustration of being on your stomach with your eyes closed. That’s the unsaved version of you. Spiritually blind and limited in the way you see yourself and the world around you, as far as the spiritual realities that define the human experience (2 Cor 4:4; Eph 6:12). Now imagine a person on their knees with their eyes open. This is the saved version of you. You’re aware of your need for Christ and you’ve handed Him the keys to your life (Acts 26:18).

Keep moving to the right and the next person you see is a person standing on their feet. This person also has their eyes open, but because of their being on their feet, they have a better view of the world around them. The qualifying factor in what defines the difference between themselves and the person on their knees is that they’re not only aware of God, they’re familiar with God’s Word (2 Tim 2:15). Finally, the fourth and final person is standing on a chair and significantly higher than the version of themselves that’s simply on their feet. They’re not blind, their eyes are open and they’re aware of their need for God’s grace. But while they know God’s Word, more importantly they know God. It’s not just an informed faith, it’s a tenured relationship. That’s where you want to be!

Being on top of my spiritual disciplines increases my capacity to see myself for who I truly am and to see the world as it truly is. And it’s more than just an intellection / emotional disposition. Ultimately, it’s a Presence that commands the majority of who and what I am. It’s not just a filter, it’s a default setting and the benefits that go along with that kind of spiritual maturity cannot be overstated in terms of an active strength, an influential character, a practical wisdom and an appealing depth. It is the greatest level of success you could ever aspire to in that it resonates on all levels.

I want to be spiritually ripped because that kind of fitness prevents me from seeing myself as a victim of circumstance, rather, I’m an agent of change. I’m not defined by things that are destined to die, quit or fail, I target that which endures and that is what fires me up. I aim to achieve a level of excellence in all that I do because I’m commanded to do just that. Regardless of the scoreboard or who’s not returning my calls, my focus is on the King of kings, my God, my Redeemer. I am being constantly inspired in the most profound yet practical way to reach, to accomplish and triumph over a casual work ethic, a lazy sense of morality and a self absorbed agenda.

The Moment, the Momentum and the Mandate.

Constantly reaching for more of Christ that I might become all that He created me to be.

Bring it!

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