Los Alamos Church of Christ

2016… Connections

Ascetic 3





One week from tomorrow we leave to go on Trek.  There are 25ish of us going.  We are going to climb Blanca Peak which is just east of Alamosa, CO.  This will be something like the 35th Trek I have been on.  I first went on Trek in 1982.  I have been on more than one in a year.  It has been and continues to be one of the high points of my year.  I am excited about Trekking Blanca the last time I was there was in 1988.




--It is a time of literal highs in that we hope to make it to 14,345 feet above sea level,

--but it is also a time of metaphorical highs. 

--It is a high point spiritually for the year, this year we are working on maturing our relationship with God.  The campfire devos and solo times are highs.

--It is a high point for my naturalist temperament… which we start next week.  Coincidence?  I think not.

--It is a time of highs socially, as we get to know each other, eat together, work together…  We have a great group of kids and above average adults going…

--It is a physical high point… my motivation to get in shape comes from trek.



I have loved trek for over 30 years because of the highs.  I say all this to make this point. 



There is a danger in loving the highs of any activity.  Whether it is Trek, rallies, conferences, or music concerts it is sometimes challenging to come back down.  The trick is in managing the lows which follow.  There is a corresponding low for every high.  Coming back down to the ordinary, is challenging. Living in the valleys after enjoying the highs… is a challenge. 



One of the principles that I have learned, in my 62 years, is that Christianity is mostly…a million boring things.  Along with being ON FIRE! Because God is AWESOME! There is maintaining a level of commitment to keep on doing; to keep on obeying; to keep on serving; to keep on loving.  There is… a million boring things.  It requires discipline.  It needs consistency.  It necessitates faithfulness. 



The Christian life, for many of us, is a 70 to 80 year grind in being kind, being gentle, giving to others, being joyful, being patient, being loving, being selfless.  Christianity, over a lifetime, is a million boring things. 



You learn that God isn't only on the top of a mountain. What you learn is that Holy Ground

--is standing patiently in the grocery line.

--is learning to listen well to your child, your wife or co-worker.

--is being reliable.  You do what you say you will do that is Holy Ground.

--is being nurse when someone is sick.

--is taking out the garbage.

--is cleaning up after yourself.

--is mostly showing up.



Being more and more like Jesus is… a million boring little things. A truly radical life of following Jesus is made up in the obedience of… a million boring little things. 



This is the first gift the Ascetic Temperament lays on the table for us to receive. 



1) The Ascetic rejoices in a million boring things.

--Being involved in learning your Bible.  Reading, studying, Bible Class, learning your theology… is a boring thing.

--Being kind to the marginalized… sacrificing for your family, helping a neighbor, Tanya went and cooked an omelet for an old lady… a boring thing.

--Praying everyday… not the emergency prayers of crisis, but everyday bringing others before the LORD.  One boring thing.

--Practicing your art… piano or painting… improving your sensate abilities to be valuable.

--Getting up early to worship and work.

--Teaching kids, preparing for a picnic, packing food for a trek, leading singing…



The Ascetic temperament presents a gift of joy in the discipline of… a million boring things given to our LORD.



That is the first gift the Ascetic offers… let’s look at three others.






2) The Ascetic seeks God in separation from the world.



One of the more popular passages which speaks to the separation is…



ESV Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.



God is found in the gap you create in separating from the world.  The sacrifices you make in denying yourself the stuff of the world creates a space where the will of God can be heard.  When we fast, for example, God can be heard in the hunger which identifies with Cinderella.  Last week I talked about Cinderella… the single mom who supports her daughters by making big rocks into small rocks.  When we identify with a Cinderella in fasting… that sacrifice creates a space where God’s will can be found.



When we exercise solitude, in the quiet we might hear the moving of the Spirit.  We separate ourselves from the world, to seek God.  That is a precious offering the Ascetic teaches us.



The problem of a living sacrifice is that it crawls off the altar.  The dead lamb stays put.  But we are living sacrifices.  We are living lambs.  We must understand that through our unselfish million boring little things we are not like the world.  In that separating ourselves in selflessness, we create a space for God.



In order to draw closer to God we need to put in some skin.  Un-invested Christianity is not going to find God.  The ascetic teaches us…when you deny something that is your “right”, you invest in your relationship with God.  If our relationship with God is a one way street… if God is Santa Claus… we do all the getting… we are most likely not going to be very close to God. 



Seeking God involves some sort of sacrifice; separation from the world… This Ascetic asks us… what have you given to draw closer to God?



There is a third gift…






3) The Ascetic identifies with the suffering of Christ. 



It is difficult to be a follower of Jesus without some asceticism.



ESV Matthew 16:21-26  From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."  But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man."  Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?



"If anyone would come after me let them deny self and take up the cross and follow me."  To be a follower of Christ we sacrifice… we deny… we give up… we let loose… We identify with Christ in his suffering.  Wow… We join Christ on the cross, in little ways, when we deny ourselves.  “This hunger pain is with you Christ.”



The Ascetic asks… “What are you willing to sacrifice to identify with Christ?”



On the upside… there exists a potential that if we can…

--rejoice in the million boring things;

--if we can seek God in separating ourselves from the world;

--if we can identify with the suffering of Christ then…



Number 4 gift…






4) The Ascetic realizes a deeper life in the Spirit.



“Deep within us there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice to which we can continuously return.” Thomas Kelly



Or as Paul writes…



ESV Romans 8:8-14 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.



--Those who are in the flesh who live as the world cannot please God.

--But the good news is… The Spirit of God dwells in you

--The Spirit is life within you.  There is a place within you that you can be with the Spirit. 

--Denial of the flesh, the body, the selfish center, the being just like the world… leads to life.

--Identifying with Jesus…puts to death the deeds, the selfishness, of the body

--We can be led by the Spirit.



That is what the Ascetics offer a deeper connection to the Spirit through solitude and discipline. 



This is a precious gift… The Ascetic calls us to discipline in order to find the sanctuary of the soul. 



Those are the offerings.  I say offerings because they are on the altar for us to pick up



Let’s shift gears… let’s quickly look at a few dangers of the Ascetic temperaments.






The seductions of the Ascetic Temperament…



1) The Ascetic can be seduced by legalism.  Ascetics can struggle with not knowing grace. They can attempt to earn God’s favor with their denials. Instead of offering denial as a gift, it can become offered as a checked box.  They only are interested in duty not connection. 



2) The Ascetic can find it hard to offer grace to others.  Because they live strict lives they are unsympathetic toward those who are not as strict.  “They are not real Christians…”



3) The Ascetic can become obsessed with self.  It can be all about me. All the silence, solitude, self-denial can be self-focused.  There is no need for community.  Selfishness can threaten the Ascetic. 



4) The Ascetic can seek discipline for discipline’s sake.  Many of our world’s athletes turn the Ascetic temperament toward worship of their own bodies.  Discipline, training, practice, pushing the body, achievement becomes the goal, not God.  



As with all the temperaments, when they turn inward instead of upward there are dangers. 



Let’s end on the positive…






The Christian life is a series of highs and lows; ups and downs; 90% boring little things and 10% Awesome!  The Ascetic Temperament reminds us that in the 90% boring little things there is the joy of being with our God.  It is in the ordinary where we create space to connect to God!



Ascetic Mark 12:29-30 “Hear, O Busy One: The Lord our God, the Lord is the Unassuming one.

You shall love the Lord your God…

…with all your heart, making time for your LOVER.

…with all your soul, spent with the LORD alone.

…with all your mind, with thoughts of Him.

…with all your strength, in discipline.”


My temperament is God’s gift to me.

My temperament is my gift to God.

My temperament is my gift to the body.

My temperament is my gift to the world.


Tim Stidham

July 3, 2016

Los Alamos Church of Christ