Messy Faith,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings

Live in the outflow: a new way of looking at Christian living

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This post is one of many in a series entitled Grace: How a Recovering Legalist Moves Forward in Faith. Most recently in this series, I have been speaking about where I got “stuck” along my path out of legalistic fundamentalism and into grace-filled Christian living. I encourage you to visit the landing page to read the posts in order so you have background for this post. 

In the last segment of this series, I spoke about the practical struggle of everyday Christian living when you are a recovering legalist. Mainly, doing the “right thing” when you don’t want to, navigating spiritual disciplines, and how to know if you are living in your own strength or God’s power. I concluded my last post by saying that there were five incidents at my church which helped to bring these concepts into focus for me.

The first thing was the introductory “vision Sunday” sermon for our church for 2017. Each year, our pastor picks a theme for the year. A vision (not a literal one) for the congregation – a direction he wants to lead us in. The theme for 2016 was “Develop your theology: get to know God.”

Being honest? I struggled to connect with the theme for 2016. I was deep in the throws of some very dark days – including severe problems with our special needs kiddo, snow days, illness, and an infant who wasn’t sleeping due to cutting six teeth in five weeks. Let’s just say that theology may have been one of the furthest things from my mind.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2017. I was in a much better place (thanks to Zoloft and therapy) and further along in healing from everything the last few years had thrown at me. I was more ready to receive something – anything – of a spiritual nature and hungry for growth.

Just a few days prior, I had written this on my blog:

In 2017, I want to continue to grow. But rather than focusing on growth and change, I want to focus on nourishing the parts of me that desperately need that changing.

So when I sit down with the Bible, sit down for a discipleship meeting, or sit in the pew at church – rather than being overcome with guilt, shame, or struggle…to breathe it in and let it nourish the places in me that are thirsty for God.

Nourish is not about checking boxes. Nourish is not about perfection. Nourish is not about striving, goal-setting, or resolutions.

Nourish is about watering that which is thirsty. Feeding that which is hungry. Loving that which is starved for affection.

Nourish leans into the present rather than the future.

Nourish goes deep. Nourish takes time. Nourish pours in.

Nourish cares, tends, nurtures, cultivates, and infuses.

Nourish is concerned more about the roots that people can’t see than about the branches and leaves that can be seen.

Nourishment will result in growth, no doubt…but will enjoy the process of growth and change.

Our Pastor presented our church with the theme for 2017: “Live in the outflow.”

Sometimes, I’m presented with something and it takes a LOT of time to sink in. That’s how this was. For some reason, I ended up attending this message sans husband (due to him needing to stay home with sick kids or for mental health reasons). I found the message really helpful, and I wanted my husband to listen to it. I am not the kind of person that just loves listening to sermons in her free time (um, what free time?), but this was different. Also, that week, we had to drive to an appointment that week which gave us 45 minutes in the car, so I turned the message on so we could listen to it.

This second listen really helped the content sink in.

I highly recommend that you take 45 minutes or so and listen to this message (you can do so here). I’ve listened to this message about six times now between then and now and it continues to sink in deeper each time I listen to it.

Live in the outflow: a new way of looking at Christian living

The sermon was an exposition of the verses in John 7:37-38:

…Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Our Pastor proceeding to build the whole theme for the year (“Live in the outflow”) on the back of last year’s theme (“Develop your theology”).

You can view my whole notes here, but here’s a few tidbits:

For there to be outflow, there has to be a fountainhead. If there is no fountainhead then the Christian walk and joy is all going to be a put-on.

For there to be an outflow of hope, joy, and positive Christian living – that flow has to come from somewhere.

Which is where what our pastor calls the “four habits of regeneration” come in:

Christian Living: The Four Habits of Regeneration

Draw near to God (James 4:8)

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8
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Abide in Christ (John 15:5)

Abide in me John 15:5
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Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16)

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Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16)

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The fountainhead: Who is God, what is He like, what is He all about? This is the fountainhead. You knowing God, you pursuing God so that you know Him in the way that He’s revealed himself…and you pursue Him in His word.

Hang with me here. I know I probably cringed like, “Okay, so you are telling me I just have to read my Bible and pray? *sigh* Got it.”

But then this drew me in:

The branch doesn’t have to work at fruiting…fruit is nothing more than outflow of the branch abiding in the tree.

Don’t live your life so that others will see your testimony. Now, I know what the Lord says, “Let your light so shine before men.” But where does the light come from? You are reflecting the Light. You’re not producing the light.

And this:

If your walk of faith is an awkward, uncomfortable put-on – you’re not living in the outflow.

But what if Christian living IS an awkward, uncomfortable put-on? What do you do then?

Go back to that 2016 challenge, and then build on it in 2017. Develop your theology, get to know God, and then live in the outflow that He has for you. If there’s something missing in the outflow, go back to the fountainhead.

A few weeks ago, I jokingly told my pastor that I’m “a year behind” because I’m finally figuring out how to apply these concepts a year after the fact. For the majority of 2017, I found myself going back to the idea of feeding the fountainhead, rather than pursuing the outflow – which was quite fitting given what I had written at the turn of the new year.

This isn’t a really a “new” concept for me. I wrote about it several years ago:

Letting go of legalism isn’t about throwing out the guidelines that the Bible gives us for Christian living. It’s about realizing who God is, believing and resting in what he has done for you and who you are in Christ. It’s about good works and obedience to God being an outpouring of the Spirit of God, the righteousness of God, that was given to you at the moment of salvation – rather than a fleshly means to earning God’s favor all on your own. The good works are still there. But the motivation is completely different. – My motivation: “chosen, holy, and dearly loved”

The difference between what I wrote in 2013 and where I am now is in my willingness to relationally pursue God – which I will be writing more about in the posts to come – and a supportive community around me modeling this to me.


I haven’t been able to really do these concepts justice, so I encourage you to listen to the message if you can. I also would love for you to subscribe (check the “Messy Faith” box) to receive the rest of the posts in this series via email. This is only one of many lessons learned in 2017 which I will be recounting that helped to cement these concepts deep in a brain which is still very wired for legalism.


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