The case for muscle memory
by Dr. Marcus Warner for ReSermon.com, Marcus@DeeperWalkInternational.org
The following is excerpted and edited from a sermon series, “Living Right In a World Gone Wrong: Deep in the Walk” by Dr. Marcus Warner, President of Deeper Walk International, an Indianapolis-based ministry (http://www.deeperwalkinternational.com). Dr. Warner delivered this sermon on February 14, 2016 at Pathway Community Church in Fort Wayne, Indiana. To see or hear Dr. Warner’s sermon in its entirety, scroll to the bottom of this page or click here. For more information about Dr. Warner or Deeper Walk International, click here.
At Deeper Walk International, we are focused on training ministry leaders how to walk the Christian life by the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the power of the flesh, and there is a lot of confusion about how that works. Is flesh bad? Is spirit good?
In some ways, the flesh gets a bad rap. In a sense, we can do all these things thanks to our flesh. We read and study with our eyes, our brains, etc. We pray by using our hearts and minds, while resting on our knees or even prostrate on our bellies. We grieve and recover from our baggage by talking, journaling, thinking. All these things require the use of the flesh that God gave us, but God wants these “flesh activities” to be empowered by the Holy Spirit.
What does that mean? How do we do that? Anybody who has played a sport know the answer: Practice.
Second mile thinking: Called as a pastor-janitor
Jesus taught us the concept, “Go the second mile.” What does that practically look like for me, a Christian in the 21st century? My dad, also a pastor and teacher, taught me to train myself in second-mile thinking. He would say "Leave a place better than you found it." To this day, if I go to a restaurant and I use the restroom, I will clean up the restroom before I leave. I will wash up around the sink. I will find the empty papers. I'll make sure things are put away.
Second-mile thinking: Called as a pastor-tipper
While tipping at a restaurant, I tip generously. And this is a little more personal for me. When I was a waiter in my youth, I dreaded the Sunday after-church crowd. They were always the most demanding, needed the most stuff, and they left the poorest tips. I often asked to be allowed to cover the smoking sections of the restaurants, because the smokers were much more laid back and tipped well.
Muscle memory: Celebrating the right way to live "by the flesh."
It’s a habit so deeply embedded in my thinking and my muscle memory that sometimes I forgot that I did it, kind of like you can drive yourself home from work and yet not really remember the turns and bends you had to navigate along the way. My dad trained me well in the second mile principle, and today I do stuff like that automatically, and it is only that way because my flesh has been trained to practice in accordance with what the Holy Spirit wants.
So, what might happen in our homes if husbands and wives would imitate Jesus and follow his second mile thinking? There is a second mile-ness that we need to practice, and it starts in our homes and our families.
Instead of tit-for-tat relationships, what about affirming the covenant again and practicing turning the other cheek and going the second mile? This takes courage – Holy Spirit-empowered courage, not fleshly determination – and it produces a fragrant home atmosphere.
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By English: Cpl Erik Villagran [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons