Have you ever taken a trip, gotten lost, and realized, you were more lost than you thought?
Have you ever thought your finances were okay until you met an advisor, and realized, you were financially, lost more than you realized?
Did you ever think your relationship was okay until you sat down and spoke when them? Then you realized, wow, we are way off.
That’s what we talk about today. Spiritually, how do we know we are lost? And maybe we are more lost than we thought?
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.
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.
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.
Commitment 5: The highest level of discipleship is serving. Serving is the only thing that moves us from being ‘success for me’ driven to ‘compassion for others’ driven.
Commitment #6: Know truth and believe it because if you don’t, it can destroy you from the inside out.
Commitment #7: Live in courage because if you don’t; fear may determine how you live.
To begin today I want to read the end of the parable. It’s the parable of the prodigal son or what some call the lost son. In this story, the younger brother demands his inheritance early. He takes the money, moves to the city and blows it all on prostitutes and parties. He finally comes to his senses and comes home. What does he discover, his father is waiting for him. His father, who represents God, is waiting for him to come home so that He can love his son. It’s a beautiful story that shows God’s patience for us. At the end of this story, the older son hears that his brother came home.
25 “All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day’s work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26 Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. 27 He told him, ‘Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast – barbecued beef! – because he has him home safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t listen. 29 The son said, ‘Look how many years I’ve stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? 30 Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!’
31 “His father said, ‘Son, you don’t understand. You’re with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours – 32 but this is a wonderful time, and we had to celebrate. This brother of yours was dead, and he’s alive! He was lost, and he’s found!'” MSG Luke 15:25-32
The younger brother represents the person who runs from God. The older brother represents someone who does all the right things but who isn’t close to God. The older brother is faithful, trustworthy, and hard-working but he doesn’t have a relationship with his dad. For us, it’s like the person who goes to church and knows all the rules but that’s it. He has no real relationship with God. His Christianity is about the rules and regulations.
I want you to see this. Both sons were lost. The younger son was lost and over time he discovered how lost he really was and he came home. The older brother was also lost but what makes is story a tragedy, he never understood how lost he really was. Over time, his heart grew cold. So cold he couldn’t celebrate his younger brother. He couldn’t be happy that his brother repented, said he was sorry, and was now back in the family relationship. The only thing the older brother could understand was that he earned his spot. His younger brother blew his chance. He worked hard and deserved a party. His younger brother deserved nothing. He did all the right things. His younger brother did all the wrong things. He was very proudful of his work record. His younger brother should have felt shame for his work record.
His pride blinded him. He couldn’t understand his dad’s love and grace for his younger brother. When he heard about the party, that was just over the top, too much. How could his father celebrate his brother? It wasn’t fair. And that is kinda the point. Grace isn’t fair. A hard-hearted person, filled with pride, can’t understand that.
Commitment #8: Celebrate others. Why? Because when you celebrate others, you are releasing God’s grace and it will forever change your heart. Here is my question for you: do you celebrate people around you or is it easier to see what’s wrong with them? Do you walk through life; weigh and measure people, and they always come up short and you are comfortable to tell others about it? Here is a follow up question to make you think a little more. Do you think, maybe, when it’s easier to see what’s wrong with people; you are acting like the older brother because your heart is growing cold? Maybe you don’t see how lost you really are?
Scripture says this about the critical person.
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 Romans 2:1-2
Just a balancing statement. I am not saying, if you work with someone and they are stealing from work, you should celebrate them. As the business owner, or boss, you fire them. You say, “Bye – bye.” You don’t’ celebrate a thief, you fire them. I am not saying, if you are in an abusive relationship, you should celebrate them. We need to use common sense. I am saying, in normal day to day relationships, you should celebrate those around you because it releases God’s grace and forever changes your heart.
Scripture tells us how to treat others around us.
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 Philippians 2:1-4
Think about this. How many friends do you have around you that are able to focus on you and are help you get you through the day or week? And, they never take advantage of you.
Follow up questions. Can your spouse say that about you? Can your kids say that about you? Can your parents say that about you? Can those at church say that about you? Can those at work say that about you?
This issue of celebrating others is an issue of the heart. What comes out of your mouth, starts in your heart. If you can celebrate others, it’s because you have grace in your heart. If you can’t celebrate others, if you find it easier to be critical, judgmental, gossipy, it’s because, maybe, your heart has grown cold and you don’t realize your true condition. Commitment #8: celebrate others because when you do you release God’s grace and it will forever change your heart.
Think of this like you would an elevator. You get into an elevator, you only have two options. You will either go up or go down. Every time, in every relationship, people enter the elevator with you. You have control of the buttons. You will either take them up or take them down.
How many of you have people around you that when you enter their elevator, they take you down? You get on the elevator feeling pretty good and by the time you get off the elevator, you want to cry because they have stolen all joy from you?
As you walk through your day, to take the spiritual concept and make it practical, you should ask yourself, “I am taking people up or am I taking people down?” This has profound spiritual implications. It shows what is really in your heart.
With the time I have left, I want to talk about why we tend to take people down and what to do about it.
Why do we take people down? Reason 1: We tend to make a huge mistake, we compare.
We look at someone else’s life and quickly conclude, they have it easy. All along, we look at our lives and conclude, no one could do half of what I do because I have the hardest life ever. Allow me to prove it.
When you are a young parent with children in the grocery store, what happens? They cry. When you see someone else yelling at their kid in the store; what do you conclude? They are bad parents. When you yell at your kids in the same store; what do you conclude about you? I’m a great parent and if others in the store knew how tired I am, they would understand.
How about where someone works? School teacher, that’s easy! They have three months off. State worker, easy! Actually, you are right – no just kidding. Pastor, so easy, they work one day a week. Have you ever seen a pastor in a bad mood? They probably don’t even wake up till noon! The business owner, easy! They just tell people what to do. Truth is, the great teachers spend hours at the school trying to impact the kids and take credits in the summer. Truth is, state workers don’t work in a vision driven job, it can suck the life out of you because of the politics and red tape. Truth is the job where people burn out the most is being a Pastor because of people’s expectations. Truth is the business owner is struggling to make it and feels the weight of making payroll.
When you compare yourself to others, you will always give yourself the benefit of the doubt. It will be hard for you to see others as they truly are. It will be hard for you to celebrate them.
Why we take people down? Reason 2: In general, we are burned out, maxed out and we expect others to serve us.
When we are flying through life at speeds that exceed the Indianapolis 500, we will fail to experience God’s love and grace and validation. We then enter relationships and expect others to do for us what only God can do. It ruins relationships. We expect others to validate us. We expect others to celebrate us. We expect others to be really good friends to us but we don’t think about being good friends to others. Over time, your expectations will tire out that relationship.
Your husband cannot possibly meet all your needs. Your wife cannot possibly meet all your needs. There is no perfect local church. There is no perfect place to work. There is no perfect school. At some point we understand, regardless of everyone around me, I will bring life to others.
When you live in a burned out, maxed out kinda of life, you can’t celebrate others.
Why we take people down? Reason #3: we don’t know how to take them up.
This is real. How many people in this room or reading this can say, “I grew up in a home, school and community where building people up was normal?” We know how to cut people down; we honestly don’t know how to build others up. If we do know how build others up, we feel awkward doing it – right? I can prove it.
How many husbands openly build their wives up, at home and behind their backs, with their words, actions and notes?
How many wives openly build their husbands up, at home and behind their backs, with their words, actions and notes?
How many church people openly build other church people up?
How many people do you work with that openly build others up?
That’s my point. We don’t know how. Here is how you take people up. You find something about another person you like and you tell them that they are great at it. When you are at a party or community event, you build them up in front of others. That means you must stop being critical, judgmental and replace it with celebrating them. Why? Because what’s in your heart comes out of your mouth.
If you don’t know how to take people up, you won’t be able to celebrate them.
Why we take people down? Reason #4: we are insecure.
To hide our insecurity, we can criticize others. This is so common. Most people walking through life are insecure. They feel like they have been rejected, they feel lonely, they don’t feel celebrated. This is why it is very normal to hear people cut on other people. Being critical, making jokes, etc., is the easy way cover the fact that we are insecure.
Ever meet a hunter who says the other hunter is a great hunter?
Ever meet a construction guy who says the other construction guy is great at construction?
Ever meet a financial professional say the other financial professional is great?
Ever hear a pastor say the other pastor is great?
Do you see my point? If we are insecure, we struggle to celebrate others. We would rather have our teeth pulled.
When someone gets on your elevator, do you take them up or do you take them down?
Make the commitment to celebrate others because it releases God’s grace and it will forever change your heart. And if you struggle to do this, if it’s easier for you to see what’s wrong with others, then maybe, you are more lost than you realize. Like the older brother, maybe your heart is colder than you think.
The way to do some serious heart work: start with your mouth.