So here in 2019 we started a pretty big series entitled “What is your kryptonite?” and it’s really our prayer that you are tracking with this series so far because there have been some pretty big concepts that have come out as this series is starting to get rolling. Starting with this whole idea of what our lives SHOULD look like as followers of Jesus, do you remember that? We were using terms like freedom, and victory and power that we pulled right out of scripture…here’s an example for each.
Freedom – John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. NIV
Victory – 1 John 5:4 For every child of God defeats this evil world by trusting Christ to give the victory. 5 And the ones who win this battle against the world are the ones who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. NLT
Power – 1 Corinthians 4:20 For the Kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God’s power. NLT
So this is what our lives as Christian’s SHOULD look like, but for so many of us if we are honest, this is not how we would describe our spiritual lives at all. We want freedom, victory, and power in our lives. We read scripture and know that we SHOULD and COULD have this in our lives, but it really isn’t our reality. And what we are starting to see, is that there is this “thing” out there that can take, distract, and weaken us…keeping us from being the very people God created us to be. For the purpose of this series we are calling this “thing” our spiritual kryptonite, but what we are actually talking about is sin and what we are really doing is looking at how this “spiritual kryptonite” can keep us from being the kind of people that we read about in scripture. Sin can keep us from hitting that mark of freedom, victory, and power in our lives that we SHOULD be seeing in our lives but thankfully God has an answer for this sin problem, and that answer is Jesus.
Listen, there is a reason that as I read those inspiring scriptures to you a few moments ago, for so many of us it sounds nice but seems so distant, almost impossible to walk in that kind of freedom, victory, and power. Well we are going to be spending a lot of time here in the first few months of 2019 investigating these things that weaken and take from us and then (and this is the fun part) we are going to look at the steps we need to take to break free from this “kryptonite.”
So I want you thinking back over the last couple of weeks for a moment because Ken walked us through some really important concepts. First we looked at where this battle really can center on and that is in our minds. This was a profound moment from that teaching and something that we need to keep in mind moving forward with today’s talk…Ken said, “The battle will be believing that God is with you and in you and in love with you.”
Romans 8:5 Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. NLT
What a profound statement, if you think about it, what we think literally becomes our reality regardless of how accurate or true those thoughts are, so this becomes a major battlefield. I think this battle of the mind will really tie into today’s subject and will be well. Then if you remember, we talked about faith. This was a very powerful talk, where Ken helped us see something that is so important. We live every day and believe that God placed His strength inside of us. Remember that freedom, that victory, that power? That belief in what we can’t see but know to be real is called faith.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. NIV
2 Corinthians 5:6 That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. NLT
Faith means, I believe God will protect me and provide for me. I give God control of my life. I surrender my right to demand that life be about me, it’s now about God and what He is doing.
So this idea of faith was a very important topic to hit before the series transitioned last week to begin a discussion on idols and idolatry. So I think all of us know that when it comes to sin, worshiping something other than God is a big no-no right? I mean God was pretty clear, that we have one God and we worship Him and Him alone right? I mean this is the first two commandments.
Deuteronomy 5:6 ” ‘I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt. 7 ” ‘Do not worship any other gods besides me. 8 ” ‘Do not make idols of any kind…” NLT
So it’s pretty clear, and it’s at the top of the list of things we are to avoid doing. But I think for a lot of us, we can worship idols and maybe not even realize it. We think about idol worship as what we saw in Biblical times, people bowing down to golden statues, and worshiping cows and animals, and really silly things like that and I think because we can kind of frame idolatry as those types of religious practices from Old Testament times we don’t realize how real of a danger it still is today. The reality is that there are more idols and more idol worship happening in modern day times than ever before, it’s just not as obvious as bowing to a giant golden cow. I think we can think to ourselves we are way too advanced, or intelligent or even holy to ever bow down and worship a Golden Calf, or a big wooden pole, or a statue of some dude…but make no mistake about it, we struggle with worshiping modern day idols every day.
Last week Ken helped us see that our modern day idol is really the thing that we turn to instead of God, and he helped us see that in the end we can’t find contentment because we are turning to our idol whatever it may be (money, the kids, house, success, alcohol…etc.) instead of turning to God.
Today I want to continue this discussion on idolatry and I will start by telling you that the idol we are talking about today is stubbornness. This is the kryptonite we will be looking at today, which is interesting right and may not be something you would have framed as sin, or idolatry but it’s something we really need to look at because I think it is much more active in our world and culture today than you may realize. When I think about this term stubbornness in our spiritual lives I think of a couple different characters and verses in scripture…first I picture Stephen in the book of Acts, where he preaches an amazing sermon (and is stoned to death afterwards) where he calls out the religious people of his time saying they simply won’t follow God, using the term “you stiff-necked people.”
Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! NIV
Stephen was calling out the very people who would tell you they love God, and what he was saying is that regardless of how you look, you simply won’t allow God to lead. He said you resist the Holy Spirit…which you and I know is our guide to life! Now when you think about this, it is kind of easy to dismiss isn’t it? We can kind of shrug this off because he is going after a very specific group of people right? I mean this is directed more at the religious leaders of that time, so we can relax that isn’t us. Well, check out another example of how I picture spiritual stubbornness, this one comes out of Revelation, and frankly this scares me on a personal level…maybe a better description is, this terrifies me and I think it can really ring true to our culture today. This is pretty wild.
Revelation 9:13 I heard a voice speaking to the sixth Angel from the horns of the Golden Altar before God: 14 “Let the Four Angels loose, the Angels confined at the great River Euphrates.”15 The Four Angels were untied and let loose, Four Angels all prepared for the exact year, month, day, and even hour when they were to kill a third of the human race. 16 The number of the army of horsemen was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard the count 17 and saw both horses and riders in my vision: fiery breastplates on the riders, lion heads on the horses breathing out fire and smoke and brimstone. 18 With these three weapons — fire and smoke and brimstone — they killed a third of the human race. 19 The horses killed with their mouths and tails; their serpent like tails also had heads that wreaked havoc.20 The remaining men and women who weren’t killed by these weapons went on their merry way — didn’t change their way of life, didn’t quit worshiping demons, didn’t quit centering their lives around lumps of gold and silver and brass, hunks of stone and wood that couldn’t see or hear or move. 21 There wasn’t a sign of a change of heart. They plunged right on in their murderous, occult, promiscuous, and thieving ways. MSG
With the end of the world upon them there is still no change of heart, this is really scary isn’t it? I can’t imagine the chaos all around them, the death, the massacre, the intensity of this moment and those that are left just kind of shrug their shoulders and go right back to the life that they wanted to live. WOW right? How could there still be no life change. Such indifference, such…stubbornness. I’m going to do what I want, when I want. That shakes me to my core and it really makes you wonder, what could it or would it take for a change of heart if that kind of chaos doesn’t even make us blink. I could take you to a lot of different stories and characters in scripture and talk about stubbornness and people not willing to follow God, we could talk about Jonah just not wanting to help the people of Nineveh, or the Israelites constantly turning from God’s will to do what they want, or battle after battle that Jesus faced with the religious leaders of His time. But I have a different goal today. I want to show you why we are calling this spiritual stubbornness an idol, and then I want to ask you a couple questions and show you how to move past this spiritual kryptonite in your life. So here’s where we find this idol in scripture and its God speaking through the prophet Samuel to Saul who was the first king of Israel.
1 Samuel 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king.” NKJV
So to give you some context, Saul was commanded by God to wipe out the Amalekite Kingdom and people. God clearly had told him to get rid of them all, like…all life, gone…and he did most of it. He conquered them, but he didn’t do all that God had clearly asked him to do, this is how it went down…
1 Samuel 15:7 Then Saul went after Amalek, from the canyon all the way to Shur near the Egyptian border. 8 He captured Agag, king of Amalek, alive. Everyone else was killed under the terms of the holy ban. 9 Saul and the army made an exception for Agag, and for the choice sheep and cattle. They didn’t include them under the terms of the holy ban. But all the rest, which nobody wanted anyway, they destroyed as decreed by the holy ban. 10 Then GOD spoke to Samuel: 11 “I’m sorry I ever made Saul king. He’s turned his back on me. He refuses to do what I tell him.” MSG
So Saul knew what God asked of him and he did a lot of it…you know like 90% of it, but he didn’t listen fully to God’s instruction and this really becomes the moment of his downfall, and we see from this moment, that not doing God’s will, this stubbornness…is idolatry. The reality is this, when someone knows the will of God, and knows what God has spoken, and yet pushes back and doesn’t obey, it is idolatry. And do you know why? It’s because what they have done is placed their will, their agenda, their wishes and desires above God. Remember what Ken helped us see last week. That anything we place before God is a modern day idol in our lives. I wonder how many of us are dealing with this spiritual kryptonite and we simply have never even realized it.
So you might be thinking to yourself, Sam I really am hoping I’m not one of those stiff necked people that Stephen talked about earlier…and I don’t think I would be so stubborn that the end times when monsters and scary horse snake things are killing people, that I would ignore it, I’m pretty sure that would get my attention. I have never had God ask me to wipe out a kingdom somewhere, so I’m thinking when it comes to this type of spiritual kryptonite I think I’m ok. I really don’t see how does this relates to me?
Well first I would say that when it comes to us people, I think there is a part of us that always defaults back to wanting to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. I think its part of our nature and the tension we all feel between God’s will for our lives, and our will for our lives. So here’s what I would like to do today. I would like to run you through four questions, and then show you the secret to beating this thing and really all of the idols, and spiritual kryptonite that we talk of through this whole series. So these questions aren’t really from a book, these questions are just you and I talking today about some areas that quite frankly I can’t get out of my mind lately. So let’s walk through these questions together and talk a bit.
Can you go all in for God, or not? This one really hits where Saul was right? I mean he did most of what God asked of him. Have you ever known that God is clearly asking you to do something but deep down inside you are just unsure if you can do it? Maybe you aren’t sure if you want to do it? Or even if you should do it? Maybe you don’t feel up to the challenge. Maybe you don’t feel qualified or spiritual enough, (just threw up in my mouth a little bit just saying that out loud) but you know God is leading you into something. Can you go for it? Can you jump in all the way or not? I don’t know that anyone ever feels totally adequate or qualified for what God is asking them to do…but the ones who are not struggling with this spiritual kryptonite move into what God is calling them to do…all the way. So I would like to ask you, is God calling you to do something? Maybe it’s in ministry…maybe it’s a big move, maybe it’s something financially, or in business, maybe it’s something relationally. Can you do it all the way? If this spiritual kryptonite is in the way, you probably can find a way to tip toe around God’s will for your life. You might do some of it, but not all of it.
Can you see what is right and change or adapt to it, or do you fight to keep everything the same as what you learned first? I have been thinking about this a lot. It seems to me lately that whatever we as people learn first, we just can’t seem to ever get past that, and we fight and fight and fight to keep everything the same as it was. I think a great case study is me trying to play video games with my sons. They love to play these split screen games, and I just can’t even figure out which of the four screens I mine! They laugh at me, because I’m terrible at it and they don’t understand it, but I will tell you why. I learned video games on Atari 2600! We had one button and stick! We see this in church world a lot especially here at MRC where we have a pretty unique identity. We have people who come to our church and experience freedom and God’s grace in a way that they never have before. And it’s a huge moment for them. They see how our message matches Scripture and find passion and joy and personal redemption. They feel God’s presence, and find the simplicity and clarity of who we are and how we do things so refreshing and then what do they do? They try to push us to be like the church they left, or what they think church should look like! Even if they came from somewhere they were hurt or couldn’t find Christ or never were able to experience freedom and grace or be themselves. Why? Because they learned that first and struggle to change. I see this in Gettysburg a lot as people are trying to figure us out. They come, love it, feel God, and wonder why we don’t look like the rest of the churches and then the tension becomes can they stay and engage or do they have to change it or leave. I see this not just in the spiritual life of ministry but in all areas of life. Try coaching sports with a teenager who already has everything figured out…it’s tough. Which is why coaching them the right way young is so important! Change is so hard for us people, it’s almost like we are a little stubborn…oh man, we know that is idolatry now so we should choose a different word. Change is hard because we get so set in our ways, there we go…much better.
Seriously though, it’s so interesting what we learn first seems to be what our minds decide is right regardless of what lines up with scripture, or what actually is helping us move forward spiritually or not. Can we see what is right and change or do we stay stuck in our ways and push back? Your answer to this question can be the difference between freedom and being stuck spiritually.
Can you see past your circumstances to what God is doing in your life or not? I want to be very honest with you here today. You probably wouldn’t think this to know me, but I actually battle feelings of loneliness and depression a lot. I can battle feeling alone, and defeated…a lot. And do you know what I have come to realize about my really down moments. When I’m at the lowest points of my life and kind of that inward spiraling inside my own thoughts and head there is a reason. And it is because my focus is 100% on my circumstances, and me…rather than on God. Which maybe you think is sad as the preacher that tries to remind you weekly of the freedom, victory, and power that we should have in our lives, I am the guy who reminds you pretty much every week of what Jesus said in John 10:10…
John 10:10 …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. NIV
But Jesus needs to stay my focus, after all He did die so that I could have life and have it to the full, and at times I struggle to focus on that. I would say that is my biggest personal battle, depression and loneliness…feelings of defeat, and as I look at those down moments it’s because of my focus. I can even look at how I pray and realize that in those painful moments, and I would be begging God to change my circumstances without taking the moment to remember that in those moments He is trying to change me, not necessarily my circumstances.
In these tougher moments I often am drawn to study David, and the Psalms. David, who God says is a man after His own heart, struggles with emotions and thoughts, and one of the things I have come to realize that has brought me peace is that as he struggles it is typically all about his focus. And his heart and soul is redeemed as his focus shifts off of his circumstances and back onto God. Here’s two beautiful examples of this…
Psalm 13:1-2, 5 How long Lord? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. MSG
Psalms 43:5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God — soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. MSG
I love that phrase “fix my eyes on God…” I think David is helping us see something here. Often the spiritual kryptonite takes, weakens, because it is distracting us from God. Our focus is really important, and when our focus is on our circumstances and not God, we can really hit dark places quickly. Can you see past your circumstances to what God is doing or do you stay focused on you? This may be the most important question I ask you today. And I will say and I hope you hear me, it is very easy to watch your focus shift off of God and onto you and your circumstances. This is my struggle at times too.
Can you love, forgive, and share grace…or not? Can I tell you something? Hating is easy. Judging is easy. Holding grudges and keeping score is much, much easier than letting go. Remember me telling you earlier that one of the things I have been thinking about a lot lately is that whatever we learn first seems to be the thing we lock in on…well, we step into this life as sinners. We learn to center on ourselves first, and we find that self-interest comes pretty naturally to us. It takes the Holy Spirit living inside us pouring God’s love in and out of us, for us to get to a place where we can love as God loves. Where we can forgive and share the same grace with others that we have been given. When you can love, and forgive and share that grace, you know you are free from the spiritual kryptonite that we are talking about today.
I wanted you to see something pretty important today about an idol that can be pretty hard to pick up on and it’s this. When I live my life deciding very intentionally or not all that intentionally, that I’m going to do what I want to do, whenever I want to do it, then I’m centering my life on me and my will, rather than on God. Which is idolatry. Idolatry is anything that we are placing central or ahead of God in our lives. This spiritual kryptonite is sneaky, and a very dangerous because when we are in it, we just will not change or grow. I think this was why those four questions were so important to me today, because how you answer them can reveal this idol in your life…and as I always like to say, when we know something is there we can actually do something about it.
You know in the end I think the way to combat this idol is all about focus. Our focus is such a big deal. If you don’t really like how you answered those questions I don’t want you to lose heart, or feel defeated, it’s ok. I want you to realize that the solution is all about shifting your focus back on to God. It’s when you center on Him that you can combat these idols. You don’t need to feel like a total loser because you are struggling to stay focused on God. We all have our moments there and quite frankly, we live in a world that is built and designed by your enemy to to pull your focus off of God and onto everything and everything else. This happens to all of us, it isn’t easy to stay focused on God, which in this world and culture that we live in which is why Ken and I are always begging you to continue to spend rhythmic and intentional time with God on a daily basis, because this world will pull your focus off of Him and onto you and your circumstances and it does it very intentionally. And it isn’t just you and I! I mean I could walk you through a lot of the big heroes of scripture, and take you to some of their big emotional break down moments and really show you that in the end it was probably because there focus. Their focus wasn’t fixed on Jesus as David showed us earlier…
Psalms 43:5 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues? Fix my eyes on God — soon I’ll be praising again. He puts a smile on my face. He’s my God. MSG
So as we leave here today I want you thinking about this spiritual stubbornness. It is an idol. It is sin…and we need to really move through these four questions for ourselves today…please personalize this and answer these questions for yourself today.
- Can you go all in for God, or not?
- Can you see what is right and change or adapt to it, or do you fight to keep everything the same as what you learned first?
- Can you see past your circumstances to what God is doing in your life or not?
- Can you love, forgive, and share grace…or not?
If you don’t like your answers to these four question, it’s ok. All it takes is a shift in focus. It’s time to fix your eyes on God again, and you will soon be praising again. It’s in this shift in focus that we dismantle our spiritual kryptonite.