We are in a series called Different. If you want to be different spiritually, we need to make a commitment to be different.
A quick recap of where we have been. If you want to start a relationship with God, it begins with being broken. That means you see your need of God. You realize you need someone to rescue you. Someone who can wash your soul clean. Being broken is key. Why? Because when you are broken, you will follow God. What God askes of you, you do. The reverse is true too. If you have pride in your heart, God will ask you to follow and you will say, “No, I’m going to do it my way.”
Then we said, to begin following God requires faith because life is messy.
Here are the first 5 commitments we challenge you to make.
Commitment 1: Be intentional about putting God in first place of your life because if you don’t, you will naturally want to be god and that leads to chaos.
Commitment 2: Be intentional about loving others because if you don’t, you will naturally fall in love with yourself which leads to chaos.
Commitment 3: Be intentional about growing because if you don’t, your Christianity will be like painting by the numbers. We said when you stop following Christ, that is sin and where there is sin, death soon follows.
Commitment 4: Be intentional about being generous because if you don’t, greed will grow around your heart and choke out God’s love and grace. Greed is when we are filled with worry, financial stress, feeling like there is too much to do today. Slowly, like thorn bushes around a new plant, those things will choke out God’s love and grace in your heart.
Commitment 5: Serve. It’s the highest level of discipleship. Serving is the only thing that moves us from being ‘success for me’ driven to ‘compassion for others’ driven. We said knowledge without serving is useless. Serving always starts in your marriage, your home.
Today we talk about commitment #6.
Maybe you had this experience at work. Your company isn’t doing well. Did your boss ever tell you, “Hey, I want to meet you first thing in the morning”? What do you begin to think? Did you conclude you are getting a promotion and a raise? No, you probably start thinking through all the possible reasons they want to meet you.
Have you ever texted something important, or emailed them, and they didn’t get back to you right away? Nothing for a couple of days. What did you begin to think? ‘They are angry with me.’ ‘They don’t like me.’ ‘I did something to offend them.’
Those moments make your head spin right? You don’t know what to you think.
How about spiritually? Maybe you have given your life to Christ but now you are facing hard times. What do you begin to think? Do you conclude that God loves you and you are in the center of God’s plan for your life? Or did you try to think of what you did to deserve these bad times? Kinda like God is punishing you now for past sins.
Have you been to an Easter service and heard that Jesus defeated death? And because of that, you can overcome anything. On the way home, you have an argument with your spouse. You go to work, and you get crushed with responsibility. Come home to kids failing in school. In all of it, you feel so defeated. You wonder, is God really with you?
All these scenarios leave us feeling doubt and confusion. We struggle with, ‘Maybe God is with me, maybe God isn’t with me.’ We are just left with more questions than answers. We can feel beaten up by life. We want to believe in God and what scripture says but our minds tell us not to believe. We want to live with courage and confidence but we live in fear and doubt.
Do you connect with that feeling? Confusion? Tiredness? Wanting to believe but struggling to believe? If you aren’t careful, you can begin to believe lies.
Believing a lie, can destroy you from the inside out. In our minds, we can believe a lie and replay it over and over and over and we can become defeated and confused. And every time we replay the lie, we make it worse and our emotions wear us out. We become spiritually worn down. This can be one of the biggest barriers in the Christian faith and it can cause enormous damage.
I met a lady one time who was wrestling with guilt. She was the classic good Catholic girl. All her life she did the right thing. Faithful to her husband. Loved her kids. She told me how her late mistreated her. He got angry, yelled and was mean. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Ken, I feel guilty like I should have done more, why do I feel so horrible?”
I told her that I have daughters. If one of my daughters came to her and said, “My boyfriend gets angry, yells and is mean with me.” What would you tell her? Is it her fault? Would you tell her to leave?
The lady’s head dropped and she said softly, “Of course it’s not your daughters fault, I would tell her to leave.” I said, “It’s also not your fault that your late husband was who he was and made choices that he made. The truth that you would share with my daughter, you will need to live with the same truth.”
It was in that moment, that truth completely rocked her world. She moved from being slave to guilt to freedom. When we are looping in a lie, it can destroy us for years. It can destroy a healthy relationship with Christ.
Scripture explains the source of the lies.
There is no truth in him [Devil]. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. NLT 8:44 John
Your enemy is one goal: to royally mess up your life. The best way he can destroy you starts in your mind with very small lies. Let me share with you a couple of lies that have shredded people’s lives.
Lies about ourselves
I must be perfect. I must have everyone’s approval. It’s someone else’s fault.
Lies about the world
You can have it all. You are only as good as what you do. Life should be fair and easy.
Lies about marriage
Marriage is hard so we must not be right for each other. My spouse should meet all my needs. They owe me.
Lies about sex
Sex outside of marriage is better. When I get married, sex will be easy. Sex should be your identity.
Lies about religion
God’s love must be earned. Because I’m a Christian, nothing bad will happen to me. My problems are because of my sin.
All these lies can destroy your life far into retirement. Jesus comes to tell you the truth.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” NIV John 8:31-32
Do you see it. Your enemy is coming to destroy you with lies. Jesus came to set you free; and He does it by telling you the truth.
So here is my point for today. Chances are, maybe, that if you are not living in freedom, spiritual freedom, you might be believing a lie. I didn’t say your life will be happy all the time. I didn’t say that you will be comfortable, healthy or safe all the time. I said, spiritual freedom. That means you know in your mind that God loves you. And, you experience God’s love for you at times like worship.
Today I want to talk about five lies and put them next to scripture.
Lie #1: I’m stuck with my negative emotions, so I have to walk through life with fear, guilt and shame.
For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us! TLB 2 Corinthians 5:21
Do you know what this means? It means that the day you believed in Jesus God took all your sin, fear, guilt and shame and poured that junk into Jesus. And at the same time, God took all the goodness and righteousness in Jesus and poured it into you. It was completely unfair to Jesus. We call it the unfair exchange. The day Jesus died on the cross is when God poured all your sin, fear, guilt and shame onto Jesus. He was crushed.
God forgave you of your sins and redeemed you from your sins yesterday, today and tomorrow. Every day is a brand-new day for you. You are not stuck at all. Your negative emotions, your sin, your failures, all of it, gone. So quite literally, everyday you wake up, you have a choice. A choice to stay stuck or a choice that says, “I believe the truth, God has washed my soul clean, He has given me the righteousness of Jesus and I am free.”
Let me tell you a story in hopes that this drives the truth deeper into your heart. Imagine if you lived hundreds of years ago in a world where there was a king. And imagine that you found yourself alone and stuck in a life of poverty so you had to turn to prostitution.
The King out laws prostitution in his kingdom. Months later, the king’s men come and jail anyone who was found still in prostitution, that includes you. You are stuck in prison. Life has been rough and now it’s even worse. Now stop and think about how you would view yourself. You view yourself as a prostitute. A prisoner. Someone who failed. You are labeled. If you were freed, you would probably go back into that life style.
One day, the king walks through the prison. He sees you and tells the jailor to free you and to send you to his throne room. You are thrilled. You are so excited to be freed. You meet the King and tell him how grateful you are to be free. Then the king says, “You don’t understand, I didn’t want to just free you, I want to marry you.”
You are now you are the queen. You have been fully redeemed. You wake up every morning with a choice. Do you go back and live your old life or do you wake up everyday and enjoy being the queen? That’s what God has done for you.
Everyday you wake up, your sin, fear, guilt and shame has been poured into Jesus and you have Jesus’ goodness and righteousness poured into you. Now live like it.
If you are stuck in negative emotions, sin and fear and feelings of failure, maybe it’s because you are believing a lie. Be free.
Lie #2: I live everyday scared that God’s judgement will fall on me.
Those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged guilty. NCV Romans 8:1
Please hear me tell you the following. The judgement, the hammer, that is supposed to fall on you, fell on Jesus the day He died on the cross. Jesus took your judgement so that you can walk through life in freedom. He took your beating for you to walk in freedom. He was crushed for you to walk in freedom.
From this day forward, you should never walk in fear of God or His judgement. If you believe in God and are learning what it means to follow Him, you should never fear God or His judgement. Be free.
From this day forward, you should never walk with the idea that because you sinned at age 12, God is coming to make you pay for it 50 years later.
If you walk in fear of God, chances are, maybe, it’s because you are believing a lie. Be free.
Lie #3: I don’t feel God so God isn’t with me.
And you also became God’s people when you heard the true message, the Good News that brought you salvation. You believed in Christ, and God put his stamp of ownership on you by giving you the Holy Spirit he had promised. GNT Ephesians 1:13
If you believe in Jesus, scripture says, God put His stamp of ownership on you. You belong to God. Regardless of how you feel, you belong to God.
This lie is scary because it’s based on your feelings. Two stories of people not feeling God with them.
God was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they stood in front of the king. The king threatened to kill them by throwing them into a furnace. They said to the King, we will serve God. If we die, we die. If we live, we live. They didn’t feel God in that moment. They had no idea of the outcome and yet God saved them. They simply believed.
John the Baptist, we are told, was the greatest man who lived. He was in prison, a couple of miles away from his cousin Jesus. Did Jesus save him? No. He was beheaded. He didn’t feel God. In fact, he sent his disciples to Jesus asking Jesus, “Are you the one? Are you the Messiah?” John wasn’t sure because he was stuck in prison and he didn’t feel God. God allowed him to die and yet God was with him.
You may not always feel God’s presence. But based on scripture, based on the truth, if you believe in Jesus, you belong to God.
If you feel like God is not with you because you don’t feel Him, maybe you are believing a lie.
Lie #4: My home is on this earth, I live for today.
Dear brothers, you are only visitors here. Since your real home is in heaven, I beg you to keep away from the evil pleasures of this world; they are not for you, for they fight against your very souls. TLB 1 Peter 2:11
Earth is a temporary stop off, heaven is your home. Think about that for a second. If that is true, why do we act like the things that happen in this world matters so much? Why do we act like we own everything? Why do we act like we are managing our stuff? Why don’t we see and understand that actually God owns everything, we just manage His stuff? Our time on earth is simply temporary.
If I believe this world is my home, the things of this world will become a very big deal to me. My success. My American dream of comfort, health and safety. I will try to control everything and everyone to get what I want. And, the things of God, church stuff, they are kinda of a distraction to me.
If I believe that heaven is my home, it changes everything. Jesus taught that he gave us all talents that we are to invest into building His kingdom. Our priority, our focus, what brings life meaning, is when we invest our time, money and energy into advancing His kingdom.
16 Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. 17 The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity. MSG 1 John 2:16-17
Heaven is our home and we have a small window of time on this earth to tell people about God’s grace.
Lie #5: I’m not close to God, I need a Pastor to pray for me.
It is through Christ that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, are able to come in the one Spirit into the presence of the Father. GNT Ephesians 2:18
You have the exact same access to God that I do. Every time you pray, you are in the presence of God. You can’t mess up your prayer.
Before the time of Jesus, there was a temple. In that temple there was a room called the Holy of Holies. That room was the resting place of God. It was where the Ark of the Covenant rested. No one could go into that room but the high priest one time a year. That day was called Yom Kippur, the day of anointment. Walking into that room was literally walking into the presence of God. It was so real, that they sewed bells on the bottom of the priest’s rob and they put a rope around his ankle. If the priest walked into the Holy of Holies and the bells stopped making noise, he was dead. Then would then pull on the rope to drag him out.
Historians believe the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies was four inches think. It was so strong that you could put horses on opposite sides of the curtain, have them pull away from each other, and it would not rip. Did you know that the moment Jesus died on the cross, that curtain ripped in two. God ripped it for everyone to know, there is nothing between Me and you. No longer do you need a high priest, a special person to represent you. I am now yours.
Please hear me, you have as much access to God as I do. When you pray, you are in the presence of God. And, you can’t mess that up.
Chances are, maybe, that if you are not living in freedom, spiritual freedom, you might be believing a lie. Let me ask you, are you enjoying spiritual freedom? Are you enjoying God’s love for you? If not, you need to discover why.
Here is the greatest battle, the greatest lie that messes with me.
“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power but self-rejection. When we come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions.
The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.”
My dark side says, “I am no good, I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.” Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us ‘beloved.’” – Henri Nouwen in the book: Abbas Child by Brennan Manning
The greatest truth you can constantly remind yourself of is that God loves you.
I must end with this; are you experiencing Spiritual Freedom?