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Layers: Living a Life Unhindered

What is holding you back from experiencing God in a spiritually intimate way? Do you desire to hear His voice and to understand His will for your life, but you feel as if your prayers aren’t even reaching the ceiling? Then step into this study with Kristi as she travels through the layers we so often place between us and God. Things such as pride, anger, doubt, shame, self-reliance and unforgiveness. Just as an onion has many layers hiding away the fleshy heart of the bulb, we, too, allow layers to wrap around our hearts, hindering us from hearing His voice. So, what are you waiting for? We’ve got some peeling to do!

Topical Bible Study– dives into the “layers” we wrap ourselves in which hinder us from hearing God and knowing His will

Who would benefit?: Women of all ages

Layer of Superficiality

Superficiality is being at the shallow end of the pool.  In the water, but not yet ready to swim in the deep.

Offering Up…

The Bible tells us in the good book of Ecclesiastes that there’s a time for everything.  As I’ve prayed and thought, wept over and wrestled with God about this study, He’s gently reminded me of all the layers I’ve so often allowed to wrap around my heart.  You know the ones…those brittle layers of excuses and judgmental attitudes, or the thicker ones such as pride and unforgiveness.   Oh my, how I’ve gotten so focused on the layers that I have literally drown out the voice of God calling me into a deeper relationship with Him.

How about you?  Do you see them in your own life?  Sweet friend, I pray that as we begin this journey together, it will not be just another study from another wannabe writer, but this will be a study that shakes us to the core and cuts us loose of all the layers of unnecessary burden.  God wants us to be still before Him; nothing holding us back, just honest, raw love.  I don’t know about you, but I want that.  Won’t you pray with me now as we embark on what will hopefully be a release from all our apprehensions and pain, and joyfully join Him in a walk of intimacy and freedom?  God bless you, my sister.

 

Layers 

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Have you ever peeled an onion?  That’s a silly question, I know, but this Bible study came about as I was peeling an onion.  I remember looking at the layers…first the outer crumbly skin, then the next thicker protective fleshy layer, and so forth.  Each one represented to me a layer of hindrances I’ve had or still battle with, keeping me from an intimate and mature relationship with the Lord.

In this first lesson, you and I are going to reflect on superficiality, something I like to compare with that thin, paper-like exterior of the onion.  It’s fragile and easily torn, having no purpose other than to keep the dirt away from the rest of the vegetable.  It gives off an outward appearance of what may or may not be underneath, and often hides other deeper imperfections.

I hope this doesn’t describe you or anyone you love, but if it does, you’re in good company.  Matter of fact, you are reading words written by probably one of the most superficial persons there is.  I have so much to learn, but yet God is so good in drawing me deeper as I hunger for it.  And, thankfully, the Bible is full of stories of everyday folks who simply lived their lives as surface Christians.

 

There is Hope

Let’s face it; most of us can have our superficial moments.  At times, you and I are like that tumbleweed in the desert caught up in a great whirlwind of turmoil, never putting down sturdy roots.  Other times our roots are so shallow they only run centimeters deep beneath God’s rich, fertile soil.  Sorry to say, but I’ve been there.  Many times I’ve been scorched by the heat or blown by the winds of change, being left broken and parched and thirsting for God’s touch all because I failed to dig deep and have my heart firmly anchored in Him.

Here’s the good news…His love is so strong.  He seeks us out and pursues us until we surrender to his loving, but sometimes painful, transforming hands.

We are going to discover why this outer layer is often the one we most heavily rely on; why it becomes our shield and our false bravado before the world’s eyes.  If only we can learn to allow the Master to strip it away and reveal a tender heart underneath.  That secret place or hidden chamber is the one God is trying to reach.  That, my friend, is the place of total surrender.

  • What is superficiality?
  • What does it look like?
  • What are some causes of callousness?
  • Am I superficial?

 

What is Superficiality?

According to the free online dictionary at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/superficiality, superficiality means to be on or near the surface, and concerned with or comprehending only what is apparent or obvious; shallow.

Now put that into human form.  Do you know anyone like that?  If you do, hold that thought!

Several months ago, Rick and I were in Wisconsin for a police wives’ conference where I was the guest speaker.  After the event, we were able to spend some time with our middle son who is attending school at the New Tribes Bible Institute.  Since our visit fell over a weekend, that Sunday we made our way to a mega church on the outskirts of the city for Sunday morning worship.

Enthralled, would probably not even cover the assault on my emotions as I entered the worship sanctuary.  It was the largest thing next to a professional ball stadium I’d ever been to.  The décor was pristine and even the women’s restroom was lavish.  Believe me; I was made for lavish restrooms!   I couldn’t help but think to myself how awesome it would be to worship in a place like that every Sunday.

Finding my way to a seat, the praise and worship music began to fill the room.  Just as I was getting caught up in the moment, I felt the Lord invading my thoughts with a vision of a desert.  I could see the wind whipping the steamy sand across the barren plain, sand dunes in the background.  In the foreground, I noticed a wooden pulpit in the shape of a cross.  Taking in the site for a moment, a voice spoke directly within my thoughts, “Would you worship me even if you were in the desert?”

Friends, I believe what God was saying to me was, “Don’t get so wrapped up in earthly extravagances.  Those things will pass away and are nothing but rubble.”  True worship is when you or I can worship Him even in the midst of a desert – those dry, sullen places that have nothing to offer but God, Himself.  That is when we know our roots go deeper than just the surface.

If you will, please turn with me to Matthew 13:1-9 where we see Jesus teaching on the Parable of the Sower.  Draw a line from the word on the left to its true meaning on the right, according to this parable.

 

Sower

The Word

Seeds

Careless hearers

Birds

Jesus/Ministers of the Word

Path

Superficiality

Thorns

Worldly cares – fruit of the curse

Rocky places

Eager listeners/doers of the Word

Sun/scorched

Trials of this life

No root

Hypocrites – those who profess Christianity but fall away

Those along the path whose “seed” the enemy stole

The world

Good soil

Satan

 

If you had any trouble with those, read what Matthew Henry, a well-known English Commentator of the Bible, said about this particular passage:

The parable of the sower is plain. The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers. Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so many pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully. So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground. Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon, who do not profit by it. They are told of free salvation, of the believer’s privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Saviour, or the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance. But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system. Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned. Worldly cares are great hindrances to our profiting by the word of God. The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed. What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites. Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit.  –

Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Concise); http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/matthew/13.html

 

Friend, we have an epidemic of gigantic proportion happening in our churches today.  Many folks who come are superficial in their faith.  I want to tread lightly here, and I pray you will have grace to receive what God has given me to say, but often our faith runs no deeper than yesterday’s news.  We hear with our ears a pleasant sermon once a week then think no further of it the other six or seven days, until we again enter the sanctuary.

Jesus was trying to tell the people that there are different types of hearers within our families, churches, communities and world.  Probably the majority have no roots at all or shallow at best.  They’ve either been so inoculated to “religion” that they feel as if they don’t need any more of it, or simply don’t care.

Many of those who hear a message or have someone in their life who cares enough to witness to them, have it snatched away by the enemy ever before it plants and takes root.

Then there are those who, for whatever reason, have allowed sin to cause them to become complacent.  They eagerly hear the message, may even participate in Bible studies such as this one, but after time, fall away when the going gets tough.  You see, the problem is that they never put into practice what was learned.  They fail to continue on in daily Bible study, prayer, and fellowship with other Christians, thus their roots begin to wither and fail to produce fruit.

Oh, but great news!  There are those few…the ones hungry for the Word; those who seek after God’s own heart and rejoice as they see Him at work in their lives.  Theirs is a healthy harvest and a sturdy stalk.  Friend, I pray that you and I will fall into this category and be considered “good soil.”

Ted and Cindy began attending church after being invited by a good friend.  Neither one had been raised in a faith, so hearing the Word of God for the first time was exciting, and it provided much needed guidance.  Soon, both came to know the Lord, and followed the Lord in baptism to prove their faith and devotion.  Over time, the newness wore off and their business began taking up their Sundays leaving no energy for God or each other, and no strong roots to keep them firmly planted.  Eventually, Cindy walked away from the marriage.  Though for a while it seemed as if their relationship was completely over, eventually they did rekindle their love for one other and for God.  However, the final blow came a year or so later when their church fell into turmoil and split over unethical practices by the Pastor.  Ted and Cindy’s faith was not strong enough to weather this final storm.  They fell away and never attended church there or anywhere else, but simply quit altogether.  Today, Ted and Cindy have no outward signs of faithfulness to God.  Though they are still together, their business has become their god.

This is such a sad story, but it is exactly what Jesus was describing.  Though I would dare not judge Ted and Cindy’s heart, what I do know is that two people who professed Christ are now living every day as if there isn’t one.  The enemy snatched away most everything that had been lovingly planted.  I don’t doubt for one second that either of these two know and love the Lord, yet their lives tell a bigger story.  Those they serve every day miss out on the opportunity to see God in action through them; to hear them describe His goodness, all because their roots were not burrowed down.

Fault of their own or fault of their upbringing?  Both.  We are responsible for our own actions.  We choose whether or not to dig deeper with the Lord, or to go our own way.  Our choices trickle down on our children, grandchildren, etc.  In Ted and Cindy’s case, they were not given a firm footing as children, but as adults, they also chose to not continue on in the growth process, thereby making themselves vulnerable to attack by the enemy.

 

Let’s look at another example of superficiality.  It’s my belief that this one hits a little closer to home.

Flip over to Mark 10:17-23.  Read the passage about the rich young man, and then answer the questions below.

What was wrong with the young man’s question to Jesus?  Where was his focus?

 

How do we fall into that trap today with our worship, our offerings to God, our faith?

 

 

Jesus reminded him of the Ten Commandments.  What do you think was his reasoning for doing so?

 

 

How did Jesus get to the man’s heart and what was his response?

 

Are we ever like that?  Is there ever a time when we want to follow God, but on our own terms?  Ashamedly, I have to admit that I’ve been that person.   I’ve wanted enough Jesus to ensure my eternal security, but not enough to mess with any plans I might have for my life.

 

A couple of years ago, I set out on a business venture.  I prayed about which road to take, but when push came to shove, I just didn’t have a clear word from God.  Instead of waiting and seeking further direction and peace, I simply went ahead with what I thought was the best way.  Months into the deal, I found out I had been scammed, losing not only quite a bit of money, but my inventory, and my dream.  I was crushed, but the only one I could blame was me.

This experience taught me some very valuable lessons.  First, God knows the plans He has for me.  He knows the timing, the best way, and the most profitable, not only for my spiritual health, but also my physical needs.  Nothing compares to His love for me, therefore, I must submit to His leadership and His direction.

Second, I need to always wait until He says “Go!”  Like the rich man, I wanted to run ahead and fix things.  I wanted to do God’s work in my way and on my terms.  Sadly, my self-determination only led to devastation.  God showed me that if I would’ve just given Him everything, He would have led the way.

 

We’ve looked at examples of superficiality in our receiving of the Word, putting it into action, and giving God total submission, but what about those believers who are still spiritual babes or have become “dumbed down” to the Word?

The Apostle Paul confronted the members of the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3: 3 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly —mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?

 

Paul was addressing the church’s lack of depth in their worship and Bible study.  You can almost since his frustrations as he mulled over their worldly behaviors.

 

The writer of Hebrews explained it similarly in Hebrews 5:12-14: 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.   13You need milk not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

 

Even Jesus said in Matthew 13:14-15a, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.  For this people’s heart has become calloused.”

Friend, a calloused heart is often a cold heart.  Callousness allows us to become emotionally hardened, unfeeling, and to develop an indifference to the suffering of others.  I can speak from experience; it is an easy thing to develop a calloused heart.  All it takes is a little stress and friction and voila!  We begin shutting the doors to God and muffle His voice in our lives.  In essence, we say to Him, “You can come this far, God, but no farther.  It’s as if we have a little room in the attic of our spiritual heart that is locked away, secured with chains and padlocks.  “Not in there, God.  Anywhere but there!”

 

Read the following scriptures about hardened or calloused hearts and see how these verses speak to you today.

Psalm 73:7 – From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

Psalm 119:69-70 – Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart.  Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law.

Zechariah 7:12 – They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets.  So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

Ephesians 4:18 – They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.

 

Reflection…

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Well, sweet sister, our first lesson and already I can tell there may be some squirming going on.  I’ll admit that I’m right there with you!  God is telling us today that we must examine our hearts.  We have to do a mental checklist and ask the following:

  • How is my heart – calloused or soft?
  • What are my motives? (Tradition/routine, social aspect, desire for God)
  • Can I truly say I desire God?

Take the next few minutes to just sit quietly before the Lord.  Ask Him if there is anything He wants to say to you and write down what He says.  Then, draw a key on this page and label it “Master’s Key”.  Tell Jesus that He is welcome to take this key and unlock the door to the real you inside…that secret place that has been off limits.  I know it’s kind of a silly illustration, but trust me.  Every time you give Him control, something small begins to change inside.  Eventually, you’ll be at that point of total surrender, and you’ll love it!

God bless!

Links:

www.kristineace.com

 

About the Author

Kristi Neace is a seasoned author, blogger, speaker and Founder of Badge of Hope Ministries.  She has been a guest on numerous media outlets such as CNN, Breitbart News, The Hard Line, BOTT Radio, Larry Connors USA, and many others in regard to civil unrest and the law enforcement response.  Kristi has served for over 17 years in women’s ministry and is an avid Bible teacher.  She and her husband reside in Missouri.  They have three grown children/spouses, and two grandchildren.

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