16but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
- II Corinthians 3:16-18
Note that in this passage Paul says that the Christian experience is one of transformation and ongoing change. Spiritual maturity is a journey, not simply a destination. Because it is so, the process is often difficult, uncomfortable and quite challenging at times. However, the satisfaction and peace obtained by the experience far outweigh any inconveniences.
In our last session, I said that intimacy with God helped us become more like God or godly. The idea was that the closer we drew to God, the more He would mold us into His image and the likeness of Christ. It is the simple idea that we tend to copy and repeat the character and behavior of those we closely associate with, good or bad.
So, an intimate relationship with God yields a greater imprint of his character on us. I also said that for intimacy with God to develop, we must:
- Conform to His will. This is where the first step to maturity, personal discipline factors in.
- Let Him deal with us on His terms and His timetable.
In this session we will talk about the 3rd step to spiritual maturity, the condition that permits intimacy to take place, and that is:
A simple life promotes intimacy with God. In the book, "So You Want to be Like Christ", Chuck Swindoll lists five sources of mind/life clutter common to the 21st Century lifestyle:
- We say yes to too many things.
- We do not plan for regular leisure and rest.
- We rarely take the time to savor and enjoy the pleasure of accomplishments.
- We owe more than we can repay comfortably.
- We think technology is actually simplifying and improving our lives.
I will give you a chance to comment on these in the discussion part of this session. For now, let's read II Corinthians 11:2-3.
2For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Note that Paul says that whatever physical goals we may have (finish college, save for retirement, lose weight, etc.), our spiritual and thus primary goal is simple faith and devotion to Christ. The Greek word for simple (Haplotes) ... is a word referring to "...a piece of cloth without a crease in it." Too much clutter in your mind and life leaves too little room for simple devotion to God and Christ. For intimacy to grow, we need to simplify (weed out) the garden of our minds and hearts in everyday life.
Simplifying my life
Here are a few strategies you can use in order to simplify your life:
1. Learn to say no
Not every opportunity or need is a calling from God. There will always be more to do, more needs to care for than there is time or strength. Choose carefully what you can do well and trust that God can raise others to do the rest.
For example, Jesus had only 12 apostles. He stayed in His own region. He preached primarily to the Jews. The restricted nature of His ministry and simplicity of His life should serve as an example for us to not overcomplicate our lives, and the best way to do this is by learning to say no to requests for more of our time and energy. If it is truly God who is calling you, He will find a way to reach you and convince you to invest your life into a particular service or cause.
2. Make time for rest without guilt
God designed us in such a way that we need rest - and a lot of it. Jesus rested and He encouraged His apostles to rest. It is quite acceptable to do nothing at times, to shut down the machinery of thought, the constant turning of our ambitions and the ever growing and demanding "to do" list.
3. Take charge of debt!
Get rid of junk and material overload by paying down debt. Instead of staying on the treadmill of materialism by buying more stuff - invest in your peace of mind by lightening your debt load. Of course, the best way to control debt is to prioritize spending. Here is an example of a simplified spending plan:
- God's portion first - it is the sanctified part.
- Caesar's portion - taxes, dues, etc.
- Obligations - family needs, debts, transport.
- Yourself - savings, investments, education.
- Recreation - holidays, outings, new purchases.
By putting God first, you discipline yourself for greater simplicity in life since you are consciously putting God first and new stuff, playthings, last. That financial shift will ultimately make your entire life more about Him and less about stuff - and thus much simpler to manage.
4. Make time for you and God alone
6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you.
- I Peter 5:6-7
The famous retailer J.C. Penney, who was a devout Christian, once said:
If you are too busy to worship God on the Lord's Day, you are just too busy.
Simplifying your life will not only give you more time with God, but it will also give you more time.
- Describe what your day would be like if you lost your cell phone. How would it be different?
- In your opinion, which of the 5 sources of clutter mentioned in the devotional (listed below) most complicates your life? Why?
- Say yes to too many things
- No plan for rest or leisure
- Don't take time to savor accomplishments
- Owe more than we can repay
- Reliance on tech to simplify life
- Describe in your own words how the Greek word for simplicity (Haplotes)... a piece of cloth with no crease... adequately describes simplicity. As a group, try to come up with 5 examples.
- For example, "A piece of cloth with no crease is like simplicity in that..."
- Describe the first step you would need to take in order to simplify your life.
- In your opinion, what do you think would be the greatest benefit for you personally if your life was more simple? What is holding you back from making a change?