As a father of girls, I remember the days when the girls where much younger. There were days when they came off the bus in tears. They were hurt that day in school. I remember laying next to them that night, hugging them, as they cried and cried. As I laid there, all I wanted to do was pull that hurt out of them and put it on myself. I felt their hurt and all I wanted was to pull it out of them.
I think that is a picture of how God loves us. Now, what God did was much more intense, but it is an analogy of God seeing our pain and taking it from us. What I want to talk about today, is how we view our world. Seeing the pain and wanting to do something about it.
Two weeks ago I talked about sin and what happens every time we allow sin into our lives. It’s the worst deal ever. We trade God for sin. We literally give away God for loneliness, trust in ourselves and an empty ego. With sin in our lives, it becomes a huge barrier between God and us. It’s a prayer blocker. We talked about how important it is to invite God in and confess that sin.
Last week, Sam came and said something very powerful. He said, your focus will determine your Christian experience. After inviting God in, if you focus on the rules and the effort it takes to be holy, your Christian experience will be; tired and stuck. We like to call it religion because it focuses on what you do, your effort, your ability to live out rules. If you focus on God and what He has done for you, your Christian experience will be, bold and free because you focus on what God did, His power, His love. That’s called grace because it focuses on God.
When you focus on God, a few things happen. You can surrender your life to God. You can be transparent with others. You can forgive others. You can be generous. This is who you are supposed to be in this messed up world.
So why is our world in such a mess? A one word answer is: sin.
Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. …God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. MSG Romans 3:23-24, 8:3
Our world has a problem. A sin problem. Our world is a mess because of sin.
You and I have a problem. A sin problem. Looking back over the years of our lives, we have a history filled with a long list of sin and struggle. In the professional world, if you are looking for a job, you create a resume to let people know what you have accomplished. In the spiritual world, it’s like we have built a resume filled with sin and all our failed attempts to get it right. Scripture says, our spiritual resumes are so bad, God had to personally get involved.
Think about that for second, God came to you. He didn’t hit the reset button. He didn’t stay in heaven and ignore you. He personally got involved with your mess. He freed you and I from sin and its damage and gave us the power to live holy lives. God personally got involved with our mess. Scripture explains it like this.
6 He [Jesus] had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. MSG Philippians 2:6-8
This is remarkable. Your well-being was more important that His well-being. He allows Himself to be vulnerable and weak in birth. He lived a humble life as an ordinary carpenter. He was rejected and hated as a leader. He was killed for being your savior. This is remarkable. What king do you know, does that? Your well-being is more important than His well-being so he takes on the status of being a slave all the way to death. That is the core of God’s love.
In the Old Testament, when the world was a mess like today, God sent prophets to talk to the people. It was common for the Kings and leaders of God’s people to practice idol worship. The kind of idol worship that involved prostitution and the sacrifice of babies. There was social injustice; people took advantage of the weak and poor. High interest rate loans, deals that those in poverty could never live up to, no care for widows. And all along, the people ignored God and all the things of God.
In the passage I’m about to read, God sent the prophet Ezekiel to confront the people. This is part of what God told Ezekiel to say.
I looked in vain for anyone who would build again the wall of righteousness that guards the land, who could stand in the gap and defend you from my just attacks, but I found not one. TLB Ezekiel 22:30-31
God was looking for people who would stand up for what was right. People who would destroy idols. People who would end injustice. People who could be counted on. He wanted to move through people, so he looked for anyone who would help him and He couldn’t find one person.
Today, it’s no different. God is looking to move through churches. God is looking to move through people. God is looking to move through you. Scripture tells us the following.
He [Jesus] died for all so that all who live – having received eternal life from him – might live no longer for themselves, to please themselves, but to spend their lives pleasing Christ who died and rose again for them. TLB 2 Corinthians 5:15-16
He gives us eternal life. Not for us to spend pleasing ourselves but to please Him. He gives us eternal life to join Him in redeeming the community.
Why is the world such a mess? Sin, but maybe, God has been looking for a church filled with people to build a wall of righteousness to guard our community. People who are passionate to get rid of their sin. People who are focused on God’s love and grace, free from religion. People who today will surrender their lives to God. People who are transparent with others. People who forgive. People who God can count on to be generous.
Think about this, God’s life sends the message to us, “Your well-being is more important than my well-being.” What message does the local church send to their community? God wants to redeem your world through you in the local church. You have the ability to bring God and your world together through prayer.
I want to share something with you that you won’t hear from the success driven Christian or Christian leader. Maybe God has you where He needs you and maybe it is hard. Yes. Maybe God is waiting for you to bring Him into that hard place. Maybe God wants you to engage the mess, wear that burden and pray.
Do you hate your job, ya I get it, don’t leave, pray to bring God into it. Is your boss a jerk, like the top 10 of all jerk bosses? Pray to bring God into that moment. Parents, are your kids a mess, don’t give up on your children, pray. Husbands or wives, are you tired? Don’t disengage your family or spouse, pray. Is life hard for you? Do you think moving to a new place will give you that fresh start? You don’t have to move. You are in the community, pray. Does your neighbor struggle with God stuff? Ya, pray for them.
Please hear me. Jesus lived in a way that said, “Your well-being is more important than my well-being.” He engaged our mess. Part of being a disciple of Jesus means you will be in a hard place and feel that burden. It’s not easy street. You will feel that weight and you can bring God into those moments. The answer in those moments is you praying. You bring God into your world through prayer.
Today, many North American Christians in churches believe, “God’s will is easy street.” We think God’s will means more comfort, more security and more success. That’s nonsense if you read scripture. John the Baptist watched his followers leave to follow Jesus and was beheaded for challenging the leader over sexual purity. That’s not more comfort, more security or more success.
The problem with success Christianity, it’s not reality. As we walk through life, we will face significant challenges. Instead of facing those challenges head on with character and courage, we think, “This is hard, this must not be God.” Instead of wearing that burden, that challenge, and praying through it, we think, “I am facing something is hard, this must not be what God wants.” Truth is, maybe it’s exactly where God wants you. If we think Christianity is easy street, we think, “I should move, I should upgrade my spouse, get a new job, God’s will can’t be me walking through this challenge, etc.”
Let’s read what Paul wrote about easy street.
17 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. 18 There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. 19 But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. 20 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! MSG Philippians 3:17-20
Now before I go on, let’s be clear. I didn’t say, “Don’t have fun.” I didn’t say, “Don’t be healthy.” I didn’t say, “Stay in an abusive relationship or job.” I didn’t say, “You shouldn’t have gotten the divorce.” You get what I am saying right? Please understand that. This is a redemptive talk about looking at today and moving forward. This isn’t a talk about looking back, over analyzing and feeling guilt.
Maybe it’s time for us to send the community a message, “Your well-being is more important than our well-being.” That means we are deeply rooted in our family, church, community and pray. Why is the world a mess? Because God is searching for people to build a wall of righteousness to guard this community.
Will you be that person? Do you want to be the person God can count on? I’m not trying to be confrontational, but I want to ask you an honest question. Do you hear this and want to avoid it? Do you hate Christ’s cross? Every time Jesus invites you to lay your life down to please Him, you run from it. Do you want easy street? I get it. I want easy street sometimes too. But God didn’t give me eternal life in this life and the next to live for myself.
So what in your world is hard? Your work, community, family, school, kids, marriage, what? Maybe God doesn’t want you to run from it but to it.