So we are rolling right along in our series Different and from week 1 I wanted you to see that when we encounter Jesus we will actually be different because of God’s love living and active in our lives!  It’s all about life change.  We love talking about life change at MRC because seeing our lives change spiritually, living differently makes this so real, and we love it when our spirituality is real!  Being different spiritually affects you, and frankly it will affect people around you too.  Today we are going to hit something that will absolutely make you look different, because it’s so opposite of the way we see most people act in our world today.  Today we are going to talk about making the commitment to celebrate others rather than competing with or comparing ourselves to others and while I think this should probably be an entire sermon series we are just going to go for it today.  You may not think of this as a big deal but today I want you to see some very important things when it comes to comparing vs celebrating others.  It reveals a lot about our heart condition, and frankly it reveals a lot about who we are as people.  It will reveal a lot about what we focus on, where we spend on our time, what the margins of our life look like, and even the words we speak.  So this is very important to our spiritual condition.  I have to tell you this is a big topic, so big that it was hard to really focus on just a few things for the time we have today!  So I want to start with this idea, your ability to celebrate others or not says a lot about the condition of your heart.  I would like to start with this scripture as we get rolling today.

Philippians 2:1  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care —   2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. MSG

What a special verse and one that I think we would all agree with…now check out the same verses three and four this time in the ESV…

Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. ESV

Celebrating others is such a large marker of our faith.  Because it shows you are defeating self-interest.  Why does that matter?  It’s because self-interest is at the very center of the sin problem that we humans deal with…so yeah, this is a big deal.  When we build others up, and celebrate others it is revealing the true love of Christ in us, and shows something that just isn’t in our human nature at all.  When we can look at someone and genuinely celebrate others we are showing God’s love to this world in a genuine way that scripture from Philippians continues…

Philippians 2:5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He 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

This was Jesus’ mindset and as we allow Him into our lives this becomes the kind of life we live as well.  We will walk with a genuine love in our hearts towards others, which is such a big deal!  But can I just ask you something…do you see many Christians acting this way?  Maybe a better question for us today is how do you do with this?  Can you celebrate others?  Do you compare yourself with others?  I will tell you something, I think the comparing game is very dangerous one.  I think it’s also very easy to slide into and when you do it’s hard to turn around and celebrate someone when you realize they may have some things in their life that you wish you had in yours!  I think this is a huge set up for us as people.  We live in a world where we see everything everyone else is doing in real time, and it’s easy to see all they have and wish we had it.  Which swallows us up in a vicious cycle of needing things that don’t matter, completely distracted from what does matter…all while losing our focus on God and His amazing love for us!  Add restlessness instead peace, and pride where love should be and this can really get messy, really quickly.  So yeah, this is where we go today, and yeah it’s a really big deal!

I’m pretty new to the Facebook scene but I have to say in many ways I have been pretty amazed at what all goes on in the world of social media.  There are some things about Facebook that have really been amazing to me.  First, I had no idea how passionate some people are about the politics…like wow, passionate about politics.  Second I didn’t know that by changing my profile picture to whatever the latest issue in the world is that I was actually making a difference.  Third, I have learned a lot about people that has helped me…but I won’t get into that.  Fourth, I had no idea how interested we are in what the other person had for supper or lunch every day…which is interesting too.   The thing I find fascinating though is the competing and comparing that comes from this Facebook thing.  The first thing I see is that we aren’t seeing too much of the real anybody on there are we?  We see a lot of highlight reel moments, and perfect moments…but not the real stuff.  I mean no one is really putting the worst photos or the most boring parts of their life out there for all to see…and because of that it’s pretty easy to start comparing, competing, and maybe even thinking to myself; “hmm, they are back on another vacation again…must be nice!”  Ha, I have a daughter playing soccer and I didn’t know early on that I shouldn’t be liking the posts of a friend of ours, whose daughter’s team won the championship for another club.  Yikes, you don’t do that Sam!  And you certainly don’t like posts for someone who went to an elite tourney that I can’t afford to send my daughter to, why would you do that?  They are winning right?  I have to tell you, it’s easy to get into that comparing and competing mode isn’t it?  Even in church world, I wish I could say that all us churches sit around and pray for and celebrate each other…but sadly many times we fall into that trap too…comparing, and competing which just shouldn’t be…This comparing game is everywhere.  I think it’s a big time trap that we slide into especially in the world of social media where we are seeing the best of everyone else all the time and thinking, it sure must be nice to be them!

So do you do in this area of comparing and contrasting?  Do you need the car that they have?  Do you wish you had the time that he has or the money that she has?  When you scroll through Instagram and see all that they are doing, and how happy they all look are you happy for them?  Even when they are enjoying the vacation you wanted or needed in your mind?  Even when their child won the trophy your child should have?  I will tell you, if you can celebrate them something will change in you.  If you can’t, well…you will feel that too.  You know, maybe the better question is can you be happy for someone when they have success, or does it bother you?  This is a big deal…and I think it is one of the bigger traps that we face today, because when we start comparing and competing with others, we lose sight of what actually matters, it’s a big time heart issue, and also a major distraction to our focus, really trapping us in the moments of today, and locking us out of where our hearts and minds should be which is on God, and His amazing love for us!  So this is where we go today, we are making the commitment to celebrate others rather than compare or compete.  When you celebrate others, you are releasing God’s grace which will forever change your heart and the contrast is that when you are comparing and competing, well it’s not God’s grace being released by you that is for sure.

So this trap of comparing is a big deal for a lot of different reasons, and there are major spiritual ramifications because it deals so much with our hearts.  Jesus teaches on the subject by telling a parable about it that I really want to look at with you today, I have always enjoyed this one…

Luke 18:9 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: 10 “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. 11 The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. 12 I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ 13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'” 14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” MSG

Ok, so I love this story and I just want to point out a couple of things here first the two men in the story are very different.  We have talked often of the Pharisees, and religious leaders of Jesus’ time, so we know that while we often make them out to be the bad guys of the New Testament they weren’t necessarily bad people.  Yes they kill Jesus, which is a horrific thing but they were the good people of that time.  They had good jobs.  They were leaders of the church, and they loved God.  They were very well respected during this time.  Which would be the opposite of the other guy in this parable.  The other guy is a tax collector.  These guys were considered the worst of the worst of the worst.  So we see two people that are completely opposite in this world…one coming from the top, and one from the lowest of the low.  So knowing that we can now look at these prayers.  They are as opposite as the two men are.

I love the Pharisees prayer, basically he says “Lord, thank you that I’m not like that guy!”  Wow!  And while it is funny to hear this and pretty easy to pick at the guy for praying something so prideful and hard hearted towards the tax collector, I think it is easier to slide into this than we realize…in so many ways it’s just easier to look around at everyone else and deal with their issues, but think about how prideful and how unaware this is…Paul says this about this type of thinking…

Romans 2:1 Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. 2 But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done. MSG

So when it comes to spiritual things we compare which is pretty rough.  We may not pray as rough as this Pharisee but we do similar things.  You ever think, ok…I may not be the holiest person in the world but look as this person or that person.  I don’t sin like they do.  Makes you feel better doesn’t it?  I mean how many times do we sit in church and hear a Pastor preach and think, boy…I hope so and so is listening to this one because they really need to hear a talk on this subject!  When I do that I don’t have to really look at my own heart condition do I?  Frankly it is a nice way to live…where you don’t have to worry about you, because you are so worried about everyone else, but you simply won’t grow.  One of my favorite authors is Pete Scazzero.  I’d like you to listen to what he says about knowing yourself in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

“You can go to church for 20 years and listen to the gospel and still do life in unhealthy ways.  That requires the work of Discipleship.  You cannot change what you are unaware of.” Pete Scazzero

A very easy way to stay unaware of yourself is to look at everyone else, and never deal with you!  This stunts are growth spiritually which isn’t good!  So there are different traps when it comes to this game of comparing and competing with other people.  We just a few of the things that happen around church that can really stunt your spiritual growth.  We also looked at how difficult it is to be content and celebrate others when we are scrolling around Facebook and seeing all the amazing things someone else is doing.  Looking at their cars, their better vacations, and their happier lives!  This can put you in a very bad spot, very quickly…it’s miserable to not be content, and frankly it’s exhausting to be in constant competition with everyone else, and on top of that we don’t want to be known as the kind of people who don’t build others up, who root against each other, and tear each other down, I mean how miserable is that to scroll through Facebook tomorrow and just grow more and more upset…over what you don’t have, that sounds like such a bummer, and frankly it’s completely opposite of what God’s word says, remember this from earlier?

Philippians 2:1  If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care —   2 then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. 3 Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. 4 Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. MSG

So what do I do if I’m sitting here today and realizing that whether it’s inside or outside of the church, I want to celebrate others, and build into people’s lives but I am just not doing it.  Well this is really where I want to spend my time with you today because I think there are some practical things that we can look at and do, that can make a huge difference in our lives in this area.  I’m going to do this by asking you 4 very simple questions.

1. What are you focused on? So one of the biggest challenge we face on this planet is focus.  We need to keep an eye on this, and stay focused on what matters.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  NIV

You focus is so important, because what you focus on determines so much of your attitude.  Are you focused on God and eternal things or the things of today, that won’t last?  I will take it step further, are you focused on the things you have or the things you don’t have?  What you focus on is an extremely big deal and it will determine your attitude.  Think about this for yourself.  What do you focus on?  Maybe if you are unable to celebrate others and be content with what you have it is a focus problem.  Fix your eyes on what matters!  I know it isn’t easy in the world we live in today but the issue may not be a heart thing, it may be as practical as you learning to focus on what you have rather than what you do not!  Your focus determines your attitude.

2. Where do you spend your time? Ok, so this is a really big one.  Where do you spend your time?  Do you spend time with God on a daily basis?  Do you spend time in prayer and focusing on God’s word?  This is so important.  There is no quicker way to lose the ability to love others well, than to not spend time with God…who is love!  We need to stay connected to God so that we can walk in the kind of freedom and love that comes from being with him!  Remember what Jesus told us right?

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.” NIV

Do you remember the fruit?  What was it?  It was love!

John 15:10 “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” NIV

And what happens when we are connected to God, and remaining in this amazing love?

John 15:11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. NIV

So Jesus would say that we must stay connected to God and remaining in God’s love and when we do we have joy.  The kind of joy that would allow me to build into people’s lives, and not feel threatened by them but actually helping me be willing to celebrate others!  This isn’t something we can do without God’s help!  Which means you will need to spend time with God and I will just say this, if you spend all your time surfing the internet looking at everything everyone else has, and everything everyone else is doing and listening to everything but God’s love and truth…I don’t think you can have joy!  Actually, I don’t know how you wouldn’t be resentful and restless.  How much time do you spend in the God’s word?  This is so important.  Where and who you spend your time with shapes and molds your thinking whether you like it or not!  So look at where you are spending your time and who you are spending it with!

3. Do you have any margin? Did you ever notice how hard it is to stay focused on the right things when you are tired?  When is the last time you took a moment to rest?  God did not create you to run and run and run.  He wants you to rest!  It is so important to rest, to take a deep breath and refresh your soul. If you are struggling to have joy, and to celebrate others, you may need to look at the margins in your life. It’s amazing what can happen when you have margin.  Physical, emotional margin…even financial margin is nice!  Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to be generous when you have extra of something?  Well this becomes a really big deal.  We aren’t created to run 24/7 and many of us are really struggling with our perspective on things and it may just be that you need to rest!  I can tell you first hand that when I’m tired it’s easy to get fed up with life, and it’s hard to see positives.  When I find myself struggling to focus on the good in life, and struggling to stay positive it’s a good sign that I’m exhausted!  Listen to what Jesus says here…

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” NIV

Are you struggling to build people up and celebrate their victories?  Maybe it’s time to rest.  Look at your life, when is the last time you rested?  Now I’m not talking about a week’s vacation and then right back at it, I’m talking about true rest…where you unplug from this world and connect with Jesus so you can walk in that joy that we read about earlier.

4. What are you saying? Here’s what we know, our words are a really big deal.  That whole idea of sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me is simply not true.  Scripture says this about the power of our words…

James 3:3 A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. 4 A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. 5 A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything — or destroy it!  MSG

So words are incredibly powerful.  So if our words are powerful we need to take a look at them.  I see this as something that we could put in practice that could totally change our lives.  It could literally break us free from the hold this comparing game can have on each other.  If you see yourself struggling to celebrate or support someone and you want to change that here’s a simple thing you can do.  Say something nice about them!  Words are incredibly powerful things we can build up or we can destroy with our words…so when you find yourself scrolling through Facebook and you see someone getting something you wish you had, stop in that moment and say something nice about them!  It’s a simple thing, but it can really be a game changer.  Your words matter.

Listen, I don’t think it’s in our human nature to be super happy for people as they get “ahead” of us in one way or the other in this world.  So we need God’s help.  We need His love pouring in and pouring out of us.  The big spiritual commitment that we are looking at today is so important because when you get to a place where you aren’t competing and comparing with others anymore, you will find a new level of peace and joy that can’t happen when you are constantly looking over your shoulder at what others have.

Can you imagine if we could act this way as people?  Literally celebrating others rather than stepping all over each other for the next great thing?  Imagine what our community would be like?  Wouldn’t the sideline of the local youth sporting event be a little nicer place to be?  How about this one…think about what the church as a whole could be if every church in the Dillsburg and Gettysburg area could pray for, support, and celebrate each other!  Imagine how many people would be seeing God’s love in this area.

I think we would all say we want to be the type of person who has joy.  Who supports and builds up others.  The kind of person who can literally celebrate others, I want this too!  Well to do that I think we need to think through these simple questions as we leave here today.

  • What are you focused on?
  • Where do you spend your time?
  • Do you have any margin?
  • What are you saying?

I think this commitment is a game changer, because it shows God’s love is in and coming out of you.  It also shows others God’s love, and on top of that…it just feels good.