So last week we started our brand new series ‘Sticks and Stones’ where we began a journey into some reading material on Emotionally Healthy Relationships.  I think this series is an extremely big deal because let’s face it…whether you want to or not, we all deal with people.  We all have relationships and we learned some really important things last week about our ability to love others well or not and how that reflects on our relationship with God.  I think one of the most important things about last week was to start the series by us all getting to a place where we understand the importance of keeping loving God and loving others tied together.  They can’t be seperated.  I think this one idea was the cause of so many confrontations between Jesus and the church people of his time.  He was constantly reminding the religious leaders of that time that loving others was a really big deal.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38 This is the most important, the first on any list. 39 But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40 These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” MSG

It’s so interesting isn’t it, everything comes back to these two pegs that Jesus speaks of here…and frankly the thing that really bothered the religious people of Jesus’ time the most was the loving others part of this.  Think about it, they were great at the loving God part.  These guys did everything right for God.  They did the church thing perfectly.  They memorized entire books of the Bible.  They followed all the rules…but the one thing they didn’t do was love others well.  And Jesus time and time again reminded them that loving others is a big deal.  It drove them crazy that Jesus loved others…think about how offended they were when he would hang out with people that they looked at as less!

Mark 2:14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” NIV

Do you see it?  The religious leaders of that time were great at the loving God thing, but they struggled with the loving others thing.  We spent a lot of time last week looking at the idea that our ability to love others well ties to our ability to love God well.  Our relationships with people is a reflection of our relationship with God.  Love is a really big deal and for so many church life has been a challenge, and most of the time the challenge or hurts or emotional things that happen around church happens because so many people are good at doing the loving God thing while missing the loving others thing.  These two things cannot be separated…and frankly I think if more of us Christians kept this in mind we would see more people open to Christ because they would be experiencing Him through us people who know Christ as our Lord and Savior!  It’s amazing how it always comes back to these two things…loving God and loving others.  We need both!  Jesus really pushed in on this thought, and we must live it out!  I think it’s so important for us to understand that we can do everything right as Christians.  We can have the best Christian looking Instagram and Facebook accounts in all of the World Wide Web.  We can follow all the good Christian rules, and check all the good church behavioral boxes.  We can have perfect church attendance and be the most discipled Christian on the planet…and it means absolutely nothing without love.  I love the way Paul talks here…

1 Corinthians 13:1  If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. MSG

Yeah but Sam, you don’t get it I go to church every Sunday and I tithe on all my income!  Sam, have you seen my Facebook and Instagram accounts lately?  I mean they look great.  Sam I have this whole church thing down…ok, ok, you do look holy but Paul would say without love it’s really a gigantic waste of time.  This can drive the religious crazy because they aren’t really into loving on others…and for many they would rather just look the part than actually step in and help someone out…this is why the religious leaders couldn’t stand what Jesus did, hanging out with sinners.  They didn’t want to “lower” themselves to that type of person…which is the exact opposite of the heart of Christ.  Remember the new command that Jesus gave us?

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  NIV

It all comes back to this idea of loving God and loving others…everything ties together there.  If you remember last week we started diving into this relationship series by taking a test to see how we are doing with our own relationships, and we did this by looking at a beautiful story in scripture.  It was the story of the Prodigal Son, but we looked at it from a bit of a different angle.  We focused last week on the older brother and we ran him through our relationship test.  Which I think was a big deal for all of us to see.  Do you remember our relationship test?  It was actually pretty simple.  It came down to answering one big question and we did it by asking three practical questions.  So the big question to whether we are doing ok in the area of relationships and the relationship test looks like this.

Can I be genuinely happy for others?

  1. Can you accept people as they are?
  2. Can you build others up with your words and your attitude or do you tear them down?
  3. Can you simply love on others with no expectations or do they need to perform for you?

So that is where we spent our time last week, and I think it’s such a big deal that we Christian’s recognize the importance of love.  I really believe most of the weird and hurtful things that happen around church are because we do the loving God thing really well, and miss the loving others thing as we dive deeper and deeper into religious activity, and maybe we start to resent others who don’t do things as well as we think we are doing them…just like our older brother did last week.

Today we are going to stay with the same story in Scripture but I want to hit something else that is going on in there…so in a moment we will look back at this story but I want to really talk to you today about what I believe is one of the biggest battles that we all face.  It’s really a battle over our perception of what is going on around us.  It’s the battle that every one of us face as we walk through our life on this Earth…it’s the battle to stay grounded in the truth of reality verses getting to a place where we begin to assume things that aren’t true, or we simply agree with lies of what is happening around us, which takes our reality and distorts it.  It makes for a counterfeit type of life, and it’s difficult to get out of that type of life because you are believing something is truth that isn’t.  So I’m going to really want you tracking with me today because I truly believe as I have hit my 40’s this is the number one scheme of our enemy.  To mess with our minds and perceptions, to get us to a place where we assume things that aren’t true…because when we do, our warped perception becomes our reality and we walk in a world that just isn’t accurate or true.  So I’m going to try to draw this out for you by showing you some of my own life, and then showing you the reality that the Prodigal son created for himself in that story from last week.  I think this is such a big deal.  But first I want you to understand something about the reality of this life that you must understand.  You are opposed.  You do have an enemy.  I know many people don’t like to talk about the devil but he is real, and his job is to keep you from standing as the person that God created you to be, because if you do, you will do damage to what he is trying to do, while building God’s kingdom on this Earth…so we must understand this, you have an enemy, Jesus tells us this in my favorite verse…

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV

So this is very important for you to understand, why Jesus came is the biggest deal, but also that you have an enemy who is coming to steal, kill, and destroy…but because of Jesus and His ultimate victory on the Cross your enemy can’t really do anything to you, accept try to get you to agree with his lies, tricks, and deceptions.  He has already been defeated by Jesus so he resorts to lies…and he is good at it. Scripture calls Satan a lot of different things, but one of the things we must understand is that he is “The Liar.”

John 8:44 You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies. MSG

So you have an enemy, and he is a liar…he is The Liar and his job is to try to get you to agree with things that just aren’t true.  So if your enemy is a liar and has no truth in him what would our Savior be?  Yep, he is the truth.

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. NIV

So I wanted you to see this as we get into this today.  We live in a world at war.  We do have an enemy who is the liar, who is trying to get you away from The Truth.  He wants you living in a counterfeit world, that isn’t God’s reality for this life or for your own personal life…and I will tell you I think this is the biggest challenge that we all face today.  I really think this is what Paul talks about in his first letter to Corinth here…and I love the way it’s worded in the Message version…

1 Corinthians 13:12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. MSG

Can you relate to this at all?  Walking through life not seeing all that clearly?  Like we are squinting in a fog or peering through a mist?  I think so many of us can say that is exactly how we feel as we walk through life.  Let’s face it life isn’t all that easy, and a lot of our confusion and our frustration and a lot of the unclear thinking we have is because of how messy life with people can be!  So this becomes a really important thing to talk about today.  How can I walk and stand in the truth as I make my way through this whirlwind I call life, with an enemy who is scheming against me, in a world full of messy, imperfect people that don’t exactly make life any easier on me?  Well that is exactly where we are going today.  We need to stand in the truth and reality of the life God created for us, even in a world that seems designed to keep us from that…and I want to start by showing you how this whole counterfeit life can build up around us and so quickly become our reality…and to do that I will share a little about me, and then shift back into our story from last week.

So sometimes people laugh when I tell them this about myself, but I’m actually an introvert.  I know, I know I am not real shy, and I’m not the quietest person that you would ever meet.  But I would tell you that I like to be alone.  It is where I gain energy.  I like to hike and trail run by myself, and find that I gain energy alone, and the opposite is true of that too.  I drain energy around people.  This is part of who I am, but because of that I can naturally drift to being by myself, and if I’m not careful I can get myself into a lot of trouble on the inside by assuming things about people.  I also have an amazing ability to struggle with distractions and noises and shiny things can catch my eye…so put me in a room full of people or on the sideline of a sporting event and I kind of hear and see everything all at the same time…so I feel overwhelmed, tired, and more often than not say something that I look at as really dumb, or I’m afraid I lost a conversation midway through because of something else that happened…so what happens? I go off by myself after the event and replay things in my mind…everything to what I said to how someone looked at me or whatever.  It’s amazing what I begin to assume about things.  Maybe someone didn’t come to church for a couple of weeks, or maybe someone looked at me funny as they were leaving.  Or maybe I’m at one of Syd’s soccer games or Jaden’s track meets and I often am cheering a little louder than I would have liked and someone looked at me or laughed or shook their head…and I walk away replaying those types of things over and over in my mind.  It’s interesting because I don’t really have the truth of what was going on for that person, but I sure can assume a lot about how people think or feel or perceive me…and frankly those assumptions if I’m not careful become my reality quickly!

This is so interesting, with every assumption I make about a person, I risk believing a lie about that person.  When I do that, I begin to create a counterfeit world because that lie misrepresents truth or reality.  Don’t we do this?  We sit at home and make assumptions, and those perceived things become our reality and it actually affects us emotionally, and it effects our relationships both with others and even with God.  Remember they tie and reflect one another.  I hope you are tracking with this, because it’s such a challenging thing to see, and I think when we see it we can actually do something about it.  We can live in a world that we have made our reality, we come to conclusions that we are less than who God created us to be and it effects everything around us.  You know, it’s interesting but I would say that I’m so quick to make things about me that just aren’t about me at all.  I’m often shocked to realize the truth, that the person wasn’t as focused on me or what I was doing than I realized…amazing I thought everyone thought about me more than they do. LOL!

Listen, I want you seeing this when we assume things that aren’t true we can begin to agree that they are true…then the problem is they become our reality and effect how we live our lives and whether or not we can stand as the people God created us to be.  It’s amazing as life comes at us, and we walk in and out of so many encounters with people how quickly we get hurt and when we are hurt or disappointed by someone, we can quickly enter our fake, or counterfeit world.   We can’t always see clearly in the hurt, then we make quick assumptions, which we think, helps us see the person with clarity, and what we are seeing just isn’t truth.

Can you see why this can be so damaging?  We make assumptions that aren’t true and we can literally end up living in a counterfeit world that we, with the help of our enemy are putting up around the real thing…and we can really become a prisoner to that if we aren’t careful.  Let’s go back to our Prodigal Son story and look at this false reality that the younger brother creates around himself based off of hurts, and assumptions.  This is so important for us to see today…remember the story from last week?

Luke 15:11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.  NIV

So let’s look at this for a moment.  The younger son has messed up royally.  He has rebelled, sinned, and is in a terrible spot now starving to death but did you notice that he also has decided some things about his dad that just aren’t true.  He assumes that his father won’t accept him as a son.  This assumption is his reality.  Because of his hurts and his perceptions he is starving to death and feeling like less than he is.  Do you notice that his reality is not actual truth at all, but just what he believes truth to be?  His father loves him but the younger son can’t see that as truth until he experiences it.  This younger brother’s assumptions weren’t truth, but unfortunately he was a prisoner to that false reality until the father tore that all down and showed him how much he loved him.  Do you see the danger in assuming things?  This young man could have died in a pig pen of starvation just because he assumed things that aren’t true!  This is what our enemy does!  Remember he can’t do anything to you other than get you to make agreements about yourself on things that just aren’t true.  He has already been defeated by Jesus so this is all he has…unfortunately he is very good at it, and many of us fall victim to these schemes all the time.  Just like the younger brother we assume things that aren’t true and it really effects our lives.  So what do we do about this?  Well I think the answer is found in those awesome words we read from Paul earlier…

1 Corinthians 13:12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. MSG

It starts by trusting in the truth.  We must trust steadily in God and really anchor to God’s word.  We read earlier that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is the way to God and we must be spending time with Him each and every day.  I will never be able to stress this enough if your relationship with God is just something you come and do on a Sunday morning you will never hold up to the lies, schemes, and tricks of the enemy who isn’t just coming after you on Sunday morning but is all week long.  We must anchor ourselves to God and His love and truth as we walk through life on this planet.  Life isn’t easy, but because of Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross we can actually walk in a daily, and intimate relationship with God.  The more time with spend with God who is truth, the easier it will be to discern what is truth and what is a lie or assumption that you are making.  This is so important…I know I say it every week, but I always will tell you the most important thing you can be doing is taking time with God each day.  He is the truth and with all the lies and schemes and assumptions and deceptions of our enemy we must offset that with The Truth!

Now there’s one last thing I want to say about combating these assumptions and really battling through the lies of our enemy.  It’s something that has really helped me and again it comes from some great wisdom of Paul.  I couldn’t get this out of my mind as I prepared this talk for you today…

2 Corinthians 10:3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. NIV

Do you see it?  We live in a world at war.  The weapons we fight with are not of the world…they have divine power.  I want you to see this, you are opposed.  You are at war and that war is profoundly spiritual.  And did you notice what Paul says there…we must hold every thought captive…we have to demolish the arguments every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God!  I think this becomes crystal clear in the Message version…

2 Corinthians 10:3 The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way — never have and never will. 4 The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. 5 We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. MSG

Nope the world and our enemy do not fight fair.  We must be able to hold onto the truth and reject the lies that are being thrown at us all the time.  We must realize there is a battle being fought, and our perceptions are under attack and if we aren’t careful we can walk in a false reality that will never allow us to stand as the people God created us to be…we counter that by spending time with God in His truth and holding every thought captive.  As you leave here today I want you thinking this all through.  Do you see areas of your life where you may not be standing in God’s truth but maybe have made some assumptions about yourself or others that can be effecting your ability to love God and love others well?  It’s so tough because this world is such a whirlwind but I believe as we anchor ourselves to God’s truth and hold every thought captive we can stand in the truth, in God’s reality rather than walking through life in a false or counter fit life that your enemy has designed to keep you down and feeling like less than you are…and who you are!  Your enemy never wants you to stand as the treasure that God created you to be…because when you do, you will build into God’s kingdom.