How many of you have heard of the tooth fairy?
There was a 2nd grade girl who had collected money from the "tooth fairy." Every time she lost a tooth, her parents put it under her pillow. Behold, in the morning, the tooth was gone and in its place was $2, which was great because two dollars is a lot of money for a 2nd grader. At least it was until one day when she visited a friend of hers. Her friend was telling how she had put her tooth under her pillow and found $10 the next morning. The girl then asked her friend’s mother if she would mind calling her mom and telling her which tooth fairy she uses.
Paul writes that godliness with contentment is great gain.
This little girl had lost her contentedness. Why? Because she had fallen prey to one of the most devious traps known to man. A trap that robs more Christians of joy and satisfaction in life than any other. It’s one of the traps that Paul hints at when he says, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap” (I Timothy 6:9).
What is this trap that can rob us of contentment? It is the ENVY TRAP. Notice, that the little girl had gotten $2 a tooth. A 2nd grader with $2 in their pocket should be satisfied (most like coins). But suddenly, that wasn’t enough! Why? Because her friend got $10 for her tooth, and now $2 was no longer enough.
Here is what Solomon had to say about it:
“And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind” Ecclesiastes 4:4
Apparently, envy is the driving force in the lives of many people. It pushes them to be competitive, hard working and successful. You would expect that such a motivation would be a good thing, but it seems to depend on what is actually behind the motivating push that is important.
“What comes out of a man is what makes him unclean. For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man unclean.” (Mark 7:20-23)
“If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.” (James 3:14-17)
And Paul warned:
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
In other words, envy can make us unclean, unspiritual and even rob us of our salvation.
It is a trap in our lives, and one that we must continually guard against.
WHAT LIES AT THE HEART OF ENVY?
The heart of envy is the belief that we deserve better than we get.
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 20:1-16 about Laborers in the Vineyard.
Did you catch what made the workers so mad?
It wasn’t FAIR that people who worked less than they did got the same amount of money that they did. It didn’t matter that they got what they had been promised. It didn’t matter that the money was his to spend however he wanted. Somehow, they DESERVED better, because the other workers had worked less than they had.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE FALLEN INTO THE ENVY TRAP?
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” (Prov. 14:30)
In other words: if you are NOT CONTENT it is a sign of envy in your life.
Here is an interesting statistic…
It comes from a US News and World Report. Americans with household incomes under $25,000, say that it would take $54,000 a year to fulfill the American Dream. Those who make $100,000 crave an average of $192,000 to live as they want.
Do the math…the American Dream usually lies nearly twice the distance away…ALWAYS!
This reminds me of the Bruce Springsteen song Badlands, where he sings, “Poor men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be kings, and the king ain’t satisfied ‘til he rules everything.”
The dream life is always unattainable, so maybe it’s time to redefine the dream!
This week, pray for CCC and our needs to continue doing ministry that brings people to Jesus, heals relationships, and brings hope and peace and joy to places that desperately need it. Pray that our ministry is not about us, nor about buildings and programs, but about helping people become the people God has called them to be.
I want you to think about a few of these guys and what they have in common…
What do they have in common?
They were responsible for a paradigm shift in how we view the world around us. They were responsible for uncovering things that rattled the old establishment, and changed the world forever. And as much discomfort as these changes caused, we are better off today because of them…changes in physics, cosmology, philosophy, etc. Because of their work we see and understand things much more accurately.
I think every Christian goes through a paradigm shift in his or her life. When we gain the knowledge of Christ and make a decision to follow him, that decision changes our world forever as well - we have a Copernican shift – a paradigm shift – and everything that follows is now different because of that one decision.
I think that kind of paradigm shift also needs to occur in the Church as well. We need to step back and look and things and prepare to change, and when that shift happens, we have to be ready to never see the world, nor the church, in the same light again.
One of the things that needs to shift is from being comfortable to comforting others.
But before we get there, let’s remember there are some non-negotiables…
Our commitment to Jesus will stay the same
Our commitment to the Bible as the source of truth will stay the same
Our mission and vision will stay the same
Our core values will stay the same
But there are some things that will change as we draw closer to God in our walk
We cannot continue to look at things the way we always have. How accurate would our view of the world be if we still thought the sun revolved around the sun and we never challenged that view? How much would we know about quantum physics if Einstein had just read Newton and never challenged his ideas? But when we see the world around us more clearly, paradigm shifts are required!
Here are (5) paradigm shifts that we will encounter as we shift from being comfortable to comforting others.
WE WILL SHIFT FROM “SERVE US” TO “SERVICE”
Too many of us have a “serve us” attitude
There’s no question that a church ought to meet your spiritual needs, but I have found that when I am focused on having my needs met, then I most likely to gripe and grumble.
That’s when I am most likely to be miserable and not grow.But when I shift from “serve us” to “service” I find my needs miraculously being met - and I grow!
At CCC we want to equip you to do ministry: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” - Ephesians 4:11-12
One of our goals is to equip you to be obedient to God’s call on your life to serve, but before that can happen, we have to broaden our definition of “ministry.”
We have been conditioned to think of “ministry” as something that preachers do, but here’s a definition of “ministry” that I like: “Ministry is meeting another’s needs with the resources God gives to you.”
So ALL of us are ministers…we are to be serving others as a normal part of life as followers of Christ.
WE WILL SHIFT FROM IMPRESSING FROM A DISTANCE TO IMPACTING UP CLOSE
We are impacted by things that we can interact with
With that in mind, we need to be in a setting where we can interact with others, and unfortunately, that rarely ever happens during a sermon. All that happens there is one sided, but we grow best and we grow most in a group environment.
So we need to have a paradigm shift that allows us to get closer to one another
Some of us aren’t growing is because we won’t commit to get into a group
That makes us very unlike the followers of Christ in the early church. Look at their commitment to being together...Acts 2:42-47.
We want to see an increasing percentage of people here get involved in a group. It provides in-depth study where you can interact with other Christians. It provides accountability. It provides a way to deep relationships and interaction. So make a paradigm shift and find out how to get involved with others.
SHIFT FROM SUPPRESSING GENERATIONS TO SUPPORTING GENERATIONS
It’s easy to be uncomfortable with the attitudes / appearance of other generations
When that happens we sometimes make it difficult for them feel welcome. Not only that, but we make make it difficult for them to be involved or lead.
Look at how God wants us to see generational differences:
We need a paradigm shift to support all the generations of this congregation. That means our youth, young adults, adults, and seniors - all have different needs and we need to recognize those needs.
SHIFT FROM WATCHING TO WORSHIPING
Way too many of us are spectators during Sunday services
Because of Jesus, we’ve been given the greatest gifts of all - forgiveness of sins, freedom from guilt, purpose for living, power to live abundantly, and a place in God’s Kingdom -
yet, for some reason, some of us are held back from offering the praise and thanks to God that He deserves.
Look at the scriptures:
I hope you are ready to make the shift from being "Comfortable" to "Comforting Others" as we move forward, side-by-side!
Welcome to week three of our #SideBySide journey in praying for CCC and our church family. This week, we are praying that we fully grasp the meaning of the Kingdom of God, and pray that we can intersect our story with the Story of God.
Take a minute to read Matthew 6:8-15, commonly known as the Model Prayer or the Lord's Prayer, as we begin to think about praying for CCC this week.
God’s people were desperate for God to become King
Putting it bluntly, Israel was fed up with the reign of kings they had. Things started badly with Saul, and just continued to get worse. Other than a few high points, like King David, their kings were almost always corrupt. The Roman emperors were a curse, and Herod’s dynasty was corrupt and a joke.
It was time for God to be their King, as was the plan before they picked Saul. They wanted God to step into history and claim the Kingdom for his own. It was something that the prophets promised it:
This prophetic vision is the basis of the Lord’s Prayer. But what will it mean, when Israel’s God returns to be King? According to the prophets above, there will be a new Exodus: the evil empire will be defeated, and God’s people will be free
In this prayer, Jesus took the three parts of Isaiah’s kingdom-message and implemented them:
First, release for captive Israel (Is. 52:1-2)
Second, Jesus implied that evil’s long reign would finally be defeated through his work
Isaiah’s kingdom-message promised defeat for the evil regime which had enslaved God’s people since the time of Adam (Is. 52:13-15)
Thirdly, Isaiah had declared that God himself would return to his people (Is. 52:8)
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, Thy Kingdom Come…
He wanted them to pray that he would succeed in it. That prayer was answered. They thought it hadn’t been, but the resurrection proved them wrong. From that point on the disciples believed that God’s Kingdom HAD come, and that his will HAD been done - heaven and earth had finally dovetailed together.
All the prophecies had been fulfilled, though not in the way they expected. The Kingdom coming doesn’t mean some new religious advice or improved spirituality - it is much more dangerous than that. It means that in the unique life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the whole cosmos had turned a corner from darkness to light. The kingdom was indeed here, though it differed radically from what they had imagined, and some didn’t like it (like the oldest son on the story of the Prodigal Son).
So here is a good way to look at this: Jesus is the musical genius who wrote the greatest musical score of all time. We are the musicians, captivated by his composition ourselves who now perform it to a world full of background nose and out-of-tune notes. The Kingdom did indeed come with Jesus, but it will fully come when the world is healed, when the whole creation finally joins in the song - but it must be Jesus’ music.
And the only way to be sure of that is to pray his prayer.
What then might it mean to pray this Kingdom-prayer this week?
Thy Kingdom Come:
When we pray for the Kingdom to come, we are praying for several things:
Welcome to week two of our #SideBySide journey in praying for CCC and our church family. This week, we are praying that we take the command to tell others about Jesus personally - in other words, that we have it a personal habit to tell others about what God has done, and is doing, in your life.
THE ANDREW COMMITMENT
If I asked you to define the word “Evangelism” what would you say that it is?
Evangelism is - or should be - the normal expression of Christian experience.
But what is our story? What is your story? What is my story? I am convinced that the answer to questions like that are not found in where we were born or who our parents are or what we do for a living - our real story is how we met the redeeming power of God through Jesus Christ, and how we have been transformed from hopelessness and wandering into a having a place in God’s family.
I John 3:1 says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called the children of God.”
I believe that evangelism like this only occurs when people are so enkindled by contact with the fire of Christ that they, in turn, set others around them on fire.
There is a great example of this in the Bible, and it is called "The Andrew Commitment."
In the Gospel of John, Andrew is so inspired by the presence of Jesus, his Messiah, that he lives out the kind of evangelism I am talking about:
John 1:35-42 -"The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.
One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus."
Did you catch that? When Andrew figured out who Jesus was for himself, the first thing he did was to tell his brother, Peter, "We have found the Messiah," and then he "brought him to Jesus." WOW!
So as we pray #SideBySide this week for us to personalize the story of Jesus and tell as many people as possible about him, I pray that we all are inspired like Andrew. I pray that we all develop an Andrew Commitment, and that the presence of Jesus becomes so overwhelming in our lives that our response is to bring someone to Jesus!
Our theme for 2018 is Side By Side. We believe that when we walk alone God can enable us to get by and accomplish a few things, but when we walk together, Side by Side, God can do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine!
One of the best ways we can push forward Side By Side is in prayer. In Frank's message from a few weeks ago, he gave us 9 things to pray about as we work Side By Side, and topping the list was that we learn to pray BIG PRAYERS to a BIG GOD! To do that we need a new perspective - we have to begin to see our prayer life differently.
Here is the thing about prayer for many of us, it never changes! We have been praying the same prayers for years, "Protect me, keep me, bless me," but is that all our prayers should consist of? In 2018, and praying Side by Side, we believe that how we pray needs to be challenged and rethought. Consider looking at the facets of a diamond, you change the perspective angle of how you look at it, and it appears different, but the diamond hasn't changed at all. Seeing our prayer life from a different angle doesn't diminish our prayers, but it helps us to see how multi-faceted our prayer life really is - it challenges us to pray differently!
So, let's talk about praying BIG prayers to a BIG God!
I have heard it said that "How you pray will determine what kind of life you live."
If you only pray small, ordinary, get-by prayers, most likely you will live a small, ordinary, get-by life. But when you have a boldness to pray BIG things to a BIG God, when you ask Him to open doors that normally would not open, when you pray God-sized prayers, you will see the greatness of God.The Bible is full of examples of people who prayed BIG things that were "unthinkable" to us, but God showed up, and they saw a BIG God do BIG things!
* Think of some of those prayers, and compare them to the prayers we typically pray.
One reason we don't see God do BIG things is that we pray for such small things, such as praying over food, for protection, and for wisdom. We need to do those things, they are important, but we also need to remember to pray for the BIG things as well.
* What can you pray for this week that is a BIG reach, and that when it happens, it can only be because a BIG God showed up?
Let us know in the comments below so we can all pray SIDE BY SIDE this week!
Frank's sermon this past weekend challenged us to continue #SideBySide in our work here at CCC! One of the most important things we can do as a church is learn to pray together with a common goal in mind. In light of that, I want to share with you (9) things we can continually pray about:
Over the next several weeks we are going to unpack all (9) prayer points in our blog, so we can specifically be praying together as a church for a common goal. But for this week, I would like for you to begin by reflecting on what it would look like if we all worshiped, worked, prayed, and served #SideBySide. How might our church be changed? How might God change our community? How many relationships might be healed? How many who are hopeless might find hope? How many who are lost might find their way?
Looking forward to sharing the next several weeks with you as we begin to pray #SideBySide!
*These points have been adapted from a message by David McKinley
This is week 3 of our Uncomfortable series. During this talk, Frank talks about the Holy Spit's work in bringing us together in a community called the Church.
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:12–14
Big Idea of the Message: The church is made up of people we may not always get along with or agree with—but that’s something God can use for our good.
Introduction: We all have encountered awkward, uncomfortable, or downright obnoxious people at church (the huggers, the know-it-alls, the church ladies, the flaky plan-cancellers). We all have people in our churches that rub us the wrong way, people that we try to avoid when we see them walking down the hall. The body of Christ is made up of people from all backgrounds and all walks of life, and sometimes that makes living in community difficult.
Point #1: Everyone Is Welcome and Has a Part to Play (vv. 12–14)
Paul uses the metaphor of a body to describe the church (vv. 12–13). A body is made up of many different parts—toes, arms, legs, a head—and each part has a unique purpose. Every part belongs to the body, and without that part, the body is no longer whole. So it is with the church. It’s easy to look at the worship team, the preachers, and the greeters and assume that these are the important people in the church, but in fact everyone—“whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free”—plays a crucial role in the body of Christ (v. 13).
The biblical image of the people of God is that we are stones being built together into a dwelling place. A dwelling place requires not one big stone but many pieces of stone, interlocked and fortified together. It’s not that the stones lose their individuality or their unique textures or shapes; the image is not one of identical bricks or prefab concrete blocks. It’s just that only together do individual stones achieve the structural purpose of becoming the household of God. … Together our unique shapes complement each other and create a more structurally sound "building."
Application: The question we should ask when we’re thinking about our church community, is not “Does this community hit all of my check boxes, my preferences, and my desires?” but “Is this a place I can faithfully serve the community and be a committed part of this body?”
Point #2: Being Part of the Church Is Really Hard (v. 13)
Paul emphasizes that all who are baptized are part of one body, even “Jews or Gentiles, slave or free.” Another way to read Paul’s words in verse 13 is like this: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—regardless of background, nationality, social status, political belief, or any other arbitrary dividing lines that don’t matter in the kingdom of God.”
The reality is, living in community with people, especially people different from ourselves, is really, really hard. There are disagreements, uncomfortable moments, awkward silences, and plenty of frustrations. It can be tempting to just leave and find a place that is decidedly more within our comfort zone. If you’re in an abusive situation, it’s absolutely wise and right to set boundaries and potentially leave. But generally speaking, when it comes to the daily challenges and discomfort, the Bible doesn’t give us that option. The tension of a diverse conglomeration of people coming together in Christ’s name will often be combustible, but it’s also at the heart of the gospel.
"“The church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by grace, who, though they are saved, are sinners still, and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow believers. The church is the nursery for God’s weak children, where they are nourished and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ’s sheep; the home for Christ’s family” (Charles Spurgeon, “The Best Donation” [sermon, Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, April 5, 1891].
Application: Rather than searching for a church full of people who look, think, act, and believe like us, we must realize that that church doesn’t exist. And even if it did, it wouldn’t be the church we need. Embracing the tension and struggle of being part of a church community teaches us how to love others and love God.
Point #3: Although We Are Different, We Are United in the Most Important Way—By the Spirit (v. 13)
The church is not made up of a motley group of people who just so happen to enjoy getting together for worship once a week and meeting for small groups on Wednesday night. No, the uniting factor, the thing that brings the church together week in and week out, despite differences and conflicts, is the Holy Spirit (v. 13). The church is made up of people who have all experienced something life changing—repentance from sin and the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. This has consequently bound them together with a bond that calls them to transcend every difference and dividing line, a bond that challenges them each to yield their own preferences and comfort for the sake of their brothers and sisters. That doesn’t mean all churches must look alike or worship alike, but Paul is reminding his readers that in the Spirit all Christians are united as one.
In one of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues, the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V, King Henry inspires his soldiers in the face of grim odds with a rousing speech about how the men who fight this battle with him will be forever united as a “band of brothers.” This is a king speaking to peasants, and yet he’s saying that what they’re about to go through will unite them all as brothers. As Christians, we are united with one another by an even stronger bond.
Application: It is easy to forget, but the church is made up of people who have the most important thing in common: the forgiveness of sins and our love for Jesus Christ. Because of the work God has done in all of our lives, we can embrace the uncomfortableness and live in community with people with whom we may not naturally connect.
In case you missed the message, here are the highlights from Richard's message that will help you work through the questions at the end:
Introduction: Have you ever read something in the Bible, something Jesus said, and it left you scratching your head? Jesus had the ability to say things that made us so uncomfortable, that we either try to explain them away or we wonder if we could ever really follow something like that.
Point #1: We should expect uncomfortableness because the crucifixion and what Jesus did on the cross is at the very center of our faith (Mark 8:34-38)
Explanation: Crucifixion in the ancient world was more than just a death sentence. Sure, the person being crucified would certainly die, but there was much more to it than just a gruesome and torturous death. By carrying your cross through the streets, Rome wanted everyone to see and know that this is what it looks like to be under the weight and authority of the Roman Empire.
Likewise, when Jesus tells his followers to pick up their cross and follow him, the implication is the same. When someone would see a Christian carrying his or her cross through this world, they should see and know that this is what it looks like to be under the weight and authority of the Kingdom of God.
If that is what it looks like for us to carry our cross, then we should always expect to be uncomfortable in our walk.
Point #2: John 8:2-11 is one of the most uncomfortable stories in all the Bible
Explanation: Jesus sat down to teach, which marked a formal time of instruction from a rabbi to his disciples. To question a rabbi during such a time would challenge his authority and his interpretation of the Law and Prophets.
The Scribes and Pharisees bring before Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery and begin questioning Jesus as to what they should do with her. Leviticus 20:10 said that both the man and woman should have been held accountable, but here we have only the woman, so this is obviously a set up.
If Jesus came down on the side of the Scribes and Pharisees, he would align himself with corruption and the religious politics of the day, and he would alienate himself from those who were flocking to hear the message of the Kingdom of God. He he came down on the side of the woman, he would alienate himself from what the Law and Prophets said about how to handle such a woman as the one brought before him.
But Jesus does something so uncomfortable that it forces the people to lay down their stones and leave one by one. He bends over and begins writing in the dirt. Much has been said about what he was writing, but it likely revolved around Deuteronomy 19:16, which said if a witness was "malicious," meaning they were only seeking to harm or trap others, then what they were trying to have done to someone else would be done to them. When confronted with an accurate rendering of Torah, the people drop their stones and leave.
Because Torah demanded that there be 2-3 witnesses to condemn someone, Jesus tells the woman he doesn't condemn her, but he leaves with a solemn charge: "Go, and sin no more."
Conclusion: The right to condemn had been taken away from the woman's accusers, they were malicious witnesses and their testimony was invalid, but Jesus has an uncomfortable moment with her when he tells her to "Go, and sin no more."
So what would it look like for us if we realized our condemnation was deferred to the cross of Christ, and our response to such grace and love is to pick up our cross and follow?
Romans 8:1 says, "There is no condemnation in Christ." But once we realize that, we are still left with the charge of "Go, and sin no more." If we lived that out, how would it change our relationships, our homes, our church, and our community?
This past week we began a new sermon series entitled "Uncomfortable." So over the next four weeks our blog is going to unpack several of the big ideas mentioned in the messages, and pose some solid questions for you to consider in relation to the things we talked about.
In case you missed the message, here are the highlights from Frank's message that will help you work through the questions at the end:
Introduction: What is your dream church? We all have one, and there’s a good chance CCC doesn’t check all the boxes on your list. This is the focus of our new four- week series “Uncomfortable.” What are we to make of the fact that following Jesus often leads us into uncomfortable and awkward situations? What does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus tell us about embracing the challenge of living in Christian community?
Point #1: Church Is Not about Your Preferences; It's about Knowing God (1 Peter 2:4–5, 9)
Explanation: Peter is presenting an image of a community that is focused entirely on Jesus. It’s a community that puts aside preferences, quarrels, and comfort zones for the sake of becoming “living stones.” The entire purpose of this community, this “holy nation,” is to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (v. 9). It’s all about knowing God and worshipping him as king. This is contradictory to a consumerist approach to Christian community, which places our personal desires for what church should be like on the throne and tempts us to walk away from communities that don’t meet all our standards.
The reality, of course, is that the “dream church” we long for is a myth. It doesn’t exist. The reign of King Jesus, however, is real and eternal, and becoming “living stones” that are “acceptable to God” should be our ultimate aim.
“If I had never joined a church till I had found one that was perfect, I should never have joined one at all, and the moment I did join it, if I had found one, I should have spoiled it, for it would not have been a perfect church after I had become a member of it. Still, imperfect as it is, it is the dearest place on earth to us. All who have first given themselves to the Lord, should, as speedily as possible, give themselves to
the Lord’s people. ... As I have already said, the church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s.” (Charles Spurgeon).
It’s easy to have a consumerist approach when it comes to committing to a church. Do I like the worship style? Is the preaching entertaining enough? Is that church down the street a better fit? But when we allow a market mindset to influence our spiritual lives, our faith can become less about knowing and serving God, and more about finding a community that serves us and our desires. Rather than trying to form communities around our own preferences, we must allow ourselves to be formed by God and his people.
Point #2: The Christian Life Is Supposed to Be Uncomfortable, so Embrace It (John 12:25)
Explanation: While predicting his own death, Jesus tells the crowd that following him requires dying to ourselves (John 12:25). These are challenging, countercultural, and seemingly not very comforting words! What he’s saying is that if you love the comforts of this life above all else, you’ll miss out on the comforts of eternal life in heaven. This life is not all there is, and we must live with that eternal perspective in mind.
C. S. Lewis writes, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity." It’s easy to find basic happiness and comfort, but living the Christian life and being part of a church community requires making sacrifices that may feel uncomfortable but ultimately help us to become more like Jesus. It’s a trade-off that’s always worth it.
Jesus tells us what it will cost to follow him: our lives. We grow by leaving our comfort zones and entering into the challenges and discomforts of our faith. Instead of avoiding this truth, we should embrace it and press into the joy of dying to ourselves and living for God and neighbor.
Conclusion: What if we gave up the “dream church”? What if we stopped trying to find fault with our Christian community and instead embraced the discomfort? In order to know God and be known by his people, we must reject the consumerist church-hunting mindset, lay our preferences down, enter into the awkwardness, and die to our own desires—just like Jesus did. We’ll dig into Jesus’s example next week.
. There is a saying that goes something like this: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely." While that may be true, I believe there is something that corrupts even more than power, and it is fear.
Fear corrupts in two ways. First, fear immobilizes us. Many times we fail to react to a situation because we are afraid of the outcome, so we persist in unhealthy relationships, unhealthy behaviors, and unhealthy spirituality because we are immobilized by fear. Fear keeps us from making the changes we need to make in our lives, hence the phrase "scared stiff." Second, fear also mobilizes us. Because we are fearful of loss, we are often mobilized to maintain what we fear we might lose. That kind of fear pushes us into unhealthy patterns of passive-aggressiveness, where we retreat in fear for awhile, but when the fear of loss grows too great to bear, we lash out quickly and often harshly.
Since we moved to CCC, my wife (Kim) and I were trying to live in two different worlds. We relocated where we lived, where the kids went to school, where we worshiped, and where I ministered, but Kim kept her job in Princeton. She held our insurance through her employer, and we needed the second income, so we figured it was best to keep the job in Princeton until something else came along. For months she left the house before any of us was awake, made the 1.5 hour commute, and came home late in the evening, exhausted after making the 1.5 hour trip back home. Life was tough for her and for our family. We knew God brought us here to CCC, and while church-life was great, home life was exhausting and tough for all of us. Our family rhythm was out of sync and out of step.
We were praying God would open doors for her, but nothing was happening. I was growing frustrated more and more, thinking, "God, you brought us here, so why have you not provided?" After asking our church family to pray about the situation, and after receiving some counsel from some wise friends, we decided that she just needed to quit the job in Princeton. We would have no insurance, we would lose her income, but putting all our time and energy into where God wanted us, and into our family, was the most important thing we could do. So in faith that God would work it out and provide for us, she resigned.
Within a week, God opened a door to a temporary part-time job. It wouldn't fix our insurance problem, but it would provide enough income to replace what we had lost. We celebrated, but the celebration was premature. God wasn't finished. Within two weeks of beginning her new job, she was offered a permanent full-time position with insurance and benefits.
Because of God's goodness I could stop typing here and wrap things up. We could celebrate God's provision and move on. But there is more at work here than we might imagine. There is a fundamental lesson here that we would all do well to grasp...
Fear often keeps us stuck in the past, it immobilizes us when God is calling us to freshness and newness in the present. We learned that we had to have enough trust to cut loose our old life, knowing that God would provide what we needed in the place where he had called us. We had to step out in trust that God would work it out, even when we couldn't see how all the pieces of the puzzle would fit together.
I think may of us try to walk that way with God. Israel did. God had called them out of Egypt, and then promised to deliver them to their Promised Land, their inheritance, if they would follow him completely. In trust, they had to leave Egypt behind, the only place they had ever known. In trust, they had to walk through the Red Sea while Pharaoh pursued them. In trust, they had to follow the cloud and pillar of fire when they had no idea where they were going. But when they wavered in their trust, when they wanted to go back to Egypt, they lost their way in the wilderness. For 40 years they wandered, out of step and out of sync with God. It was only when they began to trust again that God delivered them into the land he promised to them and their ancestors.
So trust God. Leave fear behind. Don't cling too tightly to where you are that you miss the fullness and freshness of where God is leading. Sometimes that means that you step out in faith, knowing that God has everything already worked out, even when you don't see it.