Closing the Gap – Week 33 Notes

By August 19, 2018Sermon Notes

Vietnam War:  

Robert McNamara was the Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War.

He was smart and he believed everything could be quantified, including fighting wars.

But of course, this was not true…and the consequences of his thinking were tragic.

His military strategy was essentially to try and reach what he called a “tipping point” where we killed enough of the enemy so that they would lose heart and give up.

So body count became the measure of success…which was wrong at many levels.

Because the will of the people…hearts and minds was real issue in the country…and the body count mentality was working against that which was most important.

Now to my point…it was best said by an Army advisor in Vietnam

“When you can’t measure what is most important, you make what you can measure most important.”

There is a lesson there that covers so many areas of our lives:

  1. The current, sad, situation regarding Bill Hybels and Willow Creek

-Their crisis is not only because of making what you can measure most valuable…but it partly is.

-Measuring success based on numbers, size, access to powerful people, perceived influence…can detract from what matters most.

-Which is growth in Christlikeness…but how do you measure that?

  1. The measuring of impact based on the number of followers on social media…can distract people from things that matter most and the things that actually have lasting impact on the culture.
  2. On a personal level we have been trained to make what we can measure the most important thing in our spiritual lives…because it is just so hard to measure what is actually most important.

*And we want to measure…and often it is helpfulto do so.

But again, what is most important is hard or impossible to quantify.

*Sabbath mode on the oven…allows observant Jews to not have to break Sabbath laws by using modern technology wrongly on Saturday…this is fascinating.

Nothing has changed for thousands of years…this what Jesus addressed when he said…

Matt. 23:24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

It part of the make “what you can measure, most valuable” mentality.

Paying attention to how many steps you can take on a Sabbath, or what you can eat and, how you should pray…a Sabbath mode on an oven…all very quantifiable, easily measurable things.

But they are not the things that matter the most.

We cannot measure what is most valuable…but we can move there in our hearts and lives.

But to move towards what is most valuable we have to have a working idea of what it is.

When God was leading his prophet to select a king…even that great prophet Samuel used common human ways of measuring what is most valuable.

Samuel suggested that God had picked a man out of the lineup who was impressive in appearance.

1Sam. 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

So how do you measure the heart?

How do you measure growth in Christlikeness?

You don’t…you pursue faithfulness and you become Christlike.

There are some important things you can measure, but they must not distract you from what matters.

*When I was a child we had offering envelopes with little boxes you could check:

-Brought your Bible, studied the lesson…

-Those numbers were logged into church records

But they were meaningless numbers at best, and distractions at worst

They had no value in terms of measuring what was most important for the church.

Does bringing your bible, giving, church attendance lead to spiritual growth?…maybe…maybe not.

It depends.

You won’t grow without them…but you won’t necessarily grow because of them.

It doesn’t mean measurables don’t matter…it means they don’t matter most…they are a means to a greater end…if used properly.

Its fine to measure means…the things you can count…as long as you understand they are the path not the destination.

Becoming like Christ is the destination…the path to that destination are all the many things we do, think and become…as we close the gap.

When the means becomes the end…then we have made what we can measure most important…and we will miss what is in fact most important.

We are aiming to become people who “Love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and love others.”

This means we must see ourselves holistically not simplistically…look at that verse, called the “Great Commandment”…you see that we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind, will, body, relationships.

Scripture does not take a simplistic view of humanity…we are complex beings.

Dallas Willard helpfully gives descriptors of who we are:

  1. We are souls…eternal beings made by God
  2. Who exist in relationship (God and others)
  3. Who have physical bodies
  4. And Minds (thoughts and emotions)
  5. At our core is our Spirit (also called heart, and will)

These are not like separate components…carburetor, transmission, wheels

These are more descriptions of our complexity and how the various aspects of who we are interact with each other.

I said we complex…but to understand who we are, and how we change, at a working level, is not complicated.

That sounds bold because many “experts” have formed various models of who humans are and how they can change over the years…very complex models, and often their models are later discredited…Freud, Skinner, and others.

But these models have been based on a view of humans that says we are more like machines, or animals than imager bearers…so they fail because their starting point is wrong.

We are complex…but we can all get a handle on how we can change…God has not hidden this from us.

You don’t have to be able to forge steel and shape wood in order to use a shovel to dig a ditch.

I’m sure the physics of a human body interacting with a shovel are quite complex…I’m also sure I don’t understand them.

However in spite of my lack of ability and knowledge, I used a shovel last week…and very effectively accomplished my task.

We are complex…but we can understand enough to know how to change.

I used to teach suicide intervention classes for airmen

-The military gave us multiple power point slides to use…very busy slides.

-Its often called “death by power point” and there is a movement away from that approach…good thing too.

-The very first slide I would see airmen’s eyes glaze over and nothing that would follow could penetrate the coma like state they were now in.

I don’t want this to happen…we actually can get this.

Let me give you the bottom line up front:

You are a thinking, feeling, choosing, spiritual being who has a physical body.

All this together is the real you…you are an eternal soul.

To close the gap, to become like Christ…we cannot simply “try harder”…exert more pressure on the “will”… as important as that is…we all know it doesn’t work well.

*Paul said that harsh treatment of the body (discipline alone) has no value in training the heart. (Col. 3:23)

We can’t make become like Christ just checking boxes on external activities.

That was what the religious experts did…they figured out how to be perfect by externalizing and quantifying everything…they made what they could measure most important.

But yet, their hearts were far from God.

Paul wrote in Phil. 3…that as regarding legalistic righteousness…he was faultless…top of the class.

But he went on to say that it was all rubbish, worthless…compared to knowing Christ and having his actual righteousness in his life. (A different heart)

Most approaches to change are exclusively…try harder…or externals.

So if you have…tried Scripture memory, worship, prayer, small groups, fasting, rededication, conferences, accountability, resolutions…and they didn’t work.

What did you expect those things to do?

If they were not part of an overall approach to life that takes into account the whole of you are…then yes, they will fail.

But if we see these as parts of a total strategy to life change…means to a greater end…then they all “work”.

We need to see how what we think about shapes what we feel about things…what we feel impacts our will…and directs our choices.

Over time those choices…create automatic responses in our bodies (habits)…which impacts our relationships with God and others.

So read your Bible, worship, fellowship, fast, pray, think right thoughts…all as a part of becoming more like Christ…these are not ends in themselves.

So if you struggle to love your spouse…you don’t just try harder to be more loving (you do that)…but you also think about God’s love for you and her, and you practice being grateful, and you do loving things (even without your spouse or anyone else knowing) to shape your character(who you are when no one is watching) and to impact your will (learning to want to want what is good to want)

You address feelings that are wrong, you include others in your life…and you ask God to help.

And you worship…so you will see God’s greatness and your own humble status…and your desires and emotions will change.

You put up sticky notes to remember to train your tongue to speak kind things.

And sure enough…you are closing the gap…you are moving into “loving your wife as Christ loved the church”…it is happening…you are becoming that person.

This is true whether you want to live in ongoing victory over pornography, or jealousy, or an addiction, or laziness, or any other issue that is important in your life.

Let’s try to get a handle on this:

  1. Mind: Thoughts:

*Right now some of you are thinking of food, or a nap…these are thoughts of another time and place.

Thought enables us to range beyond our own space and time.

-You can think of God, of stars, of the future and the past…of things real and things that are not real.

-Like God, you are a thinking being.

We are told to be transformed (in our lives) by renewing our minds…this is essential to any change.

  1. Mind: Feelings: Feelings move us toward or away from things that we think about.

-What you think about something evokes feelings about it…can be very small or very large feelings.

Even apathy (I don’t care) is a feeling.

If you had a certain experience that was terrible…just to think about it evokes strong feelings

If you think of a certain vegetable it evokes feelings about it…attraction or revulsion.

Those feelings impact your will…you eat the veggie, or avoid it.

I gagged on some veggies as a child, that I now enjoy.

We tend to say “that is growing up” and its true…but what does growing up mean other than we have trained our thinking and corresponding feelings and it impacted our choices…our bodies…our palates’.

  1. Spirit (heart, will)

-In the Bible these three words are used interchangeable to describe an aspect of who we are.

-Choice is to exercise the will…we can originate things or events that otherwise would not occur

Another aspect of being made in God’s image…all things originated from him.

Some things now originate from us…like words.

-From the abundance of the heart…the mouth speaks.

-We choose to speak a word…it didn’t exist, now it does

Why did we choose that word? Because of how our heart has been shaped.

Our heart was shaped now it chooses to create that word…or that deed.

The idea that is so prevalent now is that a choice made is said to “not be who I really am”

Of course it is…it may not be all of who you are…but it is certainly part of who you are.

This does not mean we should not show appropriate grace for others who fail…but we must not disregard the implications of our own choices…they tell us who we are.

What we think, say, feel, do…is indeed “who I really am right now.”

If we face this honestly then we are positioned to become something else…like Christ.

Think about this in a normal example:

Someone is unkind, or unfair to you, or ignores you (an external circumstance)…you feel angry, or hurt, or shame…because you think they are treating you poorly, or you are being disrespected, or diminished…so you choose to respond with harsh words, or a cold shoulder…your blood flows with adrenaline, your eyes flash, your face becomes flush. 

There you have feelings, thoughts, choices, relationships, your body…all tied up together.

You say…”I can’t help how I respond.”

Yes, but you can…if you cannot then why do we talk about becoming more like Christ?

And what does that even mean?

If we respond 10 years from now to the same external events like we do today…and today it our response doesn’t like Christ would respond…how can we say we are growing?

Even if 10 years from now…you know a lot more theology…or do a lot more Christian things.

Are we not trying to become like Christ in response to actual circumstances in our lives.

To become like him…we must address the entire human “soul”…all of who we are.

Notice that in the example the body responds to thoughts, feelings, and will…it develops its “own mind”…automatic responses…words fly, chemicals surge, eyes flash.

“Are you saying we can change how our bodies automatically respond?”

Of course I am, to a degree we can…it happens all the time in many parts of our lives…training for a hobby, or a job skill, or to drive or ride a bike.

We work on the mind, the feelings, the will…and it impacts the body’s response.

  1. Body:

-Our choices are carried out by our bodies…what we do with our eyes, hands, mouths, feet.

-Our bodies tend to move towards making choices reflexive…its the body’s design.

-Think of how cumbersome it is to first learn to walk, or ride a bike, or drive a car.

-What we do over and over with our bodies in response to our will…becomes reflexive.

-The body can take over, in a sense, for the will…we can drive and think about other things, we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

-This is really good…and it can be really bad…it depends on how we are training our bodies.

People with very helpful skills as well as people with destructive addictions have trained their bodies.

Much of what is attempted in terms of growth in Christlikeness or Christian character is to apply more and more pressure to will.

Read more, pray more, try harder…don’t watch this or that, or say or do this or that.

This is all very important, but it is incomplete.

When we make what we can measure most important it most often leads to pride (look at what I can do) when we succeed…or discouragement (I am a failure) when we do not succeed…neither is the path to Christlikeness…in who we are on the inside.

One way to know if you are changing in ways that are important is to pay attention to what happens when circumstances external to you are unfavorable for you…how do you respond…thinking, feeling, and choosing and your body?

Is the way you think about self, life, and others more and more matching what you see regarding the mind of Christ in scripture?

What about your emotions…are they?

And your actions…your words, your service, your giving…the things you actually do…when no one will know you are doing them?

Do you find yourself showing love to others when in the past you wold make sure others know you are unhappy or feel slighted.

Do you do, for no reason other than you want to…do what is right and good in the eyes of God…and no one will know.

Jesus said “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.”

This is both training for a heart that is fully his, and the fruit of a heart that is fully his.

*Do what is pleasing to God because it is pleasing to God…then over time you do what is pleasing to God because it is pleasing to you.

These kinds of changes are hard to measure…but they are impacted by things you can measure.

Spiritual disciplines, Christian community, taking steps of faith, acts of service, giving your money, forgiving others.

Matt. 12:35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him.

When you shake a cup, what is in the cup comes out of the cup.

What is in the cup, is what was put there before the cup was shaken.

*We are past halfway in our year long training in closing the gap…and this is the last week of our summer sub-series…a conversational relationship with God.

*As we move into the fall and to the end of another year…let’s rouse ourselves…let’s say to our soul’s…”Wake up!” Ps 57:8

We want to actually change…and we believe that we can…do you believe you can?

Have you given up…are you skeptical?

Have you been dismayed by the failures of others or your own?

We must look at our lives realistically.

We are not playing at this…it is a joyful life, but it is not a game…it our lives.

It is our our eternal lives…eternity, for every human, begins at birth not at death…you are living in your eternal life right now…rouse yourself.

The enemy would have us sleep walk…he would have us believe we cannot and will not change.


Read Together

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Eph. 6:10-18)

This summer we have looked at a conversational relationship with God from different perspectives…praying like a friend, like a child and others.

Here we have another way of looking at praying…Praying in the Spirit.

Here Paul presents a life of active faith as a form of combat.

Praying in the Spirit means to pray in the realm of God’s will and power for your life.

*This has sometimes been turned into something more like “pray in a state of emotion”

But it is a life of surrender…taking full responsibility to follow and at the same time fully relying on God not self.

In times of respite and in times of direct spiritual combat, there is a phrase in this passage that is critical to remember. “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

You must move into the battles and you must endure the conflicts that will come, but you must do so by putting your fullest confidence in the Lord and relying on his power, not your own.

This should not lead to a diminished personal effort, but rather it should invigorate your efforts because success does not finally depend on your strength but on the Lord’s.

As you move into the various battles that rage in your life, you must remember that God ultimately will prevail and that you must choose to be strong in his power, not your own.


You must give all of yourself to the battle – heart, soul, mind, and strength.

There is no part of you that you can hold back in fear or laziness…no part you can fail to give attention to.

But, then, you must remember that in this battle you give yourself in love to God – heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Love God with every part of your being and then you will see God, who is your friend, reveal his mighty power in your life.

Look at the balance here…

Be strong…your choice

In the Lord…his reality

Put on the full armor…your choice

Of God…his resources

Our struggle…your choice

is not Against spiritual enemies…we need God

After you have done everything to stand (no more I can do)…then stand firm.

“That’s it, I’ve been faithful, I’ve given my all…now what do I do?”

“You continue to stand there…Stand in his truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, Word of God”

Look at that phrase…”Pray in the Spirit.”

This is not some emotional state you work yourself into.


This is not to pray with unintelligible sounds.

The realm of the Spirit’s power is the realm of God’s will for your life…this is about a life of full surrender

It involves your mind, emotions, will, and your body surrendered to him…all of who you are trained to respond to him.

A life of ongoing surrender is essential to a life of praying in the Spirit…and living in the Spirit’s resources.


Young friend who lost a great deal of weight this year:

1.He had specific thoughts as to what it would take, what it would do in his life, the impact on him and others.

-He shaped those thoughts, choose them.

-They were thoughts of the present and the future

-They were ideas

  1. Those thoughts impacted his emotions:


-Feelings of accomplishment as he reached goals, and felt satisfied

-Feelings of dread at times…that required him to use his thoughts to shape those feelings.

  1. His thoughts and emotions became the allies of his heart or will:

-He told me that when his alarm went off at 4:30 he got up and worked out.

-He didn’t lie there every morning and simply say, “self, get up, lose weight”

-His will was impacted by his thoughts and emotions…they were his allies in this.

  1. His body became shaped into helpful habits…it gained momentum in his favor.
  2. Relationships encouraged him, helped him in material (physical ways)
  3. His overall soul…who he is in his total relationship to God and others was shaped by the entire process.

*”Terry, that’s a bad example…that is just weight loss…a physical example.”

Watch that you don’t fall into a two-story trap:

You are a spiritual being, and a thinking, feeling, willing, physical being.

My friend’s goal was not purely physical…his weight loss was a part of an overall life directed towards Jesus.

It is just one part of how he is being shaped in his heart towards Christ.

His heart, his will…is more and more wanting what Christ wants…for him, weight loss was part of what faithfulness looks like for him…may not be for you.

All change at every level is inter-related…the Scripture sees it that way…so must we.


With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (what is coming out, is what is actually in)

*Those words…indicate who you really are.

*If the spring really is fresh…no salt water is coming out

*If there are olives, its an olive tree…even if you swear its a fig tree.

Be honest with where you are…by looking at how you live and respond…so you can close the gap…not to be in despair…but to change.

Who is wise and understanding among you? (who has thinking that is aligned with truth) Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility (heart, emotions, thoughts) that comes from wisdom (the truth of who God is)

But if you harbor (your choice to hold on to) bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts (thoughts that shape your will) do not boast about it or deny the truth. (Oh, I’m just a straight forward person, I’m confident, Ambitious…No, that’s not true about me…if it is true then its true…face it so you can change”)

Such “wisdom” (wrong thinking) does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition (bad thinking, bad feeling), there you find disorder and every evil practice.

*WE must face the reality of who we really are now…so we can move towards who we can be in Christ.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:9-17)

*Yes! Sign me up for that!   That’s what I want!


Want to close the gap, change…life in the Spirit?

Choose what thoughts to hold consistently before your mind.(Scripture)

Evaluate your feelings…are they like Christ…are they moving you towards the good?

-Thoughts produce feelings…feelings drive behavior.

Heart: Instead of just applying more pressure to your will…shape your heart so that it desires what is good.

Body: Habitualize the things that are good. Do not let the body take the lead…let your Spirit under the control of Christ…lead your body.

Grow! Change! Tell your soul “Wake up!”

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