Monthly Archives: September 2016

WORLDLY WISDOM VERSES GODLY GRACE

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Worldly Wisdom vs. Godly Grace

2 Corinthians 1:12-14 (p. 803) September 25, 2016

Introduction:

[During the 1924 US Open Gold Championship at Worcester Country Club in Massachusetts, Bobby Jones was paired with Walter Hagen in the first round…on the 4th hole Jones drove his ball in the rough off the tee. As he addresses his ball to hit it, he quickly backed off…and turned to Hagin and said, “It moved…I’m going to access myself a one stroke penalty…Hagin begged him not to…officials came in and surveyed the crowd. No one had seen the ball move…so it came down to Bobby Jones’ assessment. He said, “I saw it move…and that’s enough.”

Jones fought back over the next 3 days and on the final hole he had a five foot putt to tie Willie Macfarland…Surprisingly he missed the putt and lost the open by one stroke.]

Bobby Jones won multiple majors…dozens of tournaments and important matches…but it was his integrity that propelled him to national prominence.

The word integrity has this meaning at it’s very core…you are honest no matter what.

No matter whose looking…no matter what the circumstances…Truth is more important than consequences.

General Michael Flynn said, “The truth never fears any questions.”

This is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our text…This is what I’m proud of…and my conscience verifies it…We have lived with integrity in the world and in our relationships with people in the church. We haven’t been fake…we’ve been real…sincere.

This isn’t the easiest thing for any of us to do…but the Apostle Paul tells us how…He says we made this choice.

I. WE RELIED ON GOD’S GRACE NOT WORLDLY WISDOM

Worldly wisdom says, “No one else saw it move.” “No one else will know what you’re doing…after all everyone does it.”

Shut the door…cheat a little if you need to…Parse your words…Lie if you get in trouble…look out for yourself.

The world’s philosophy is “the ends justify the means…and it’s only wrong if you get caught.”
Satan the father of lies…speaks this way as his native language…Sin has consequences and he hides this truth…and he hides how hard it is to break away from it.

[While in Baton Rouge we were working at a couple named EJ and Samantha’s house…tearing out drywall, cabinets…sinks and plumbing and flooring…In one of the rooms we were trying to rip out a pergo wood floor that had been put down by gluing it with liquid nails to a concrete floor…for 4 1/2 hours we beat on that floor with sledge hammers and pry bars…removing small sections at a time…most of the time it would splinter and only a portion of the piece would come up…It was hot…humid and hard…EJ said “Man, I wish it was as easy to pry up as it was to put down.”]

Sin is like that…it’s easy to let into our lives…it’s easy, enjoyable to take that first hit, that first drink, to visit that first website..but once its set…once it begins to harden our hearts…ripping out that addiction is harder than that sweaty deconstruction in Louisiana.

James says this…“God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone, but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown gives birth to death.” (James 1:13-15)

Look at the progression…It’s enticing…just curious…interested…to being dragged to a place we don’t want to go…we thought the end would be awesome…but it’s a grave.

Sin destroys our integrity and our sincerity…we now live lie to lie and we try to pretend it’s not destroying us.

But there is hope…there is something that can rip the hold of sin from our lives…Do you know what it is?

GOD’S GRACE

Remember Saul before his conversion…Saul was a murderer…He was a violent man…He hated some people enough he persecuted them…He blasphemed the name of Jesus…His sin was liquid nailed to the concrete floor of his heart…He describes himself the way.

“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…when it comes to sinners…I am the worst.” (1 Timothy 1:13-15)

And then he met Jesus…a real encounter with the son of God. The Messiah…the Savior He met the crucified and risen Lord of all…and everything in his life changed…because of God’s grace…He says “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:14-16)

Please notice that God’s grace is enough to save anyone…even the worst…but if you really receive that grace it’s followed by a life of faith and a life of love. God’s grace isn’t something we just rely on one time to purchase us a ticket to heaven…its something we rely, on every day of our lives until we get there!

It doesn’t mean you won’t ever sin or struggle with sin again…It doesn’t mean that after the death, burial and resurrection of your baptism you won’t be entice…even dragged…but it does mean God’s Spirit of Grace…His Spirit of Holiness will remind you powerfully of who you are and why you’re here.

God’s grace and forgiveness make us his children and a Father’s forgiveness is a powerful thing:

In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace , Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call “dissolute”… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. “Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa.” When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeting his son, he found eight hundred Paco’s waiting to be reunited with their father. Was Paco such a popular name? Or is a father’s forgiveness the salve for every soul?

Yes! A father’s forgiveness is the salve for every human soul…and we are all Paco’s desiring that reunion of grace.

It’s this amazing gift that makes us a family…His family.

II. EVEN WHEN WE ARE ALL NOT AT THE SAME PLACE IN OUR MATURITY

Paul says this in our test:

2 CORINTHIANS 1:13-14 (p. 803)

Paul tries to keep it simple when he writes to the Corinthians. He doesn’t try to impress them with his depth of knowledge he tries to discern where they are at in their spiritual maturity…and he tries to help them grow.

We’ll talk about this next week if God wills, and Jesus doesn’t return, but Paul had planned on making a personal visit to Corinth on his way to Macedonia and he had to change his mind…and change his plans.

And his enemies jumped on this like a dog on a piece of raw meat…They said, “He’s fickle…He’s unreliable.”

There are a couple of things I’d point out in this situation…First, from the beginning of the church, there have been minister attackers…for whatever reason they feel threatened…their power and their preferences are in danger…so they undercut the minister…they prey on our human nature too like a juicy story…they draw in immature believers…and they hurt the health of the church…listen to this description of one of those individuals in John’s 3rd letter:

3 JOHN 2-13 (p. 859)

Similar to what Paul faced at Corinth…John and others face here…Instead of decreasing so Jesus could increase…Diotrephes loved to be first, and to stay first he spread malicious nonsense…He developed a clique…and treated those who weren’t part of his circle as outsiders…and it created a cancer to the churches…and created a cancer to the churches unity and purpose.

Spiritually mature people recognize such individuals and deal honestly with the issue. Paul did at Corinth, and John does and will here. Both call attention to this issue and then…give a better choice.

Paul tells the Corinthians to “stand firm” in what they know about him and his message. John says, “Don’t imitate this evil…imitate what is good…instead of Diotrephes…imitate Demetrius.

How important is it to have people worth imitating in any church? People who get it…people who aren’t just leaders or teachers because they like the power, but love and share their lives with the family of God…it’s the difference between making disciples for Christ and selfishly dividing the body of Christ.

I’m sure “the fickle” accusers didn’t go out without a fight…I’m certain Diotrephes threw malicious grenades when John dealt with the issue…but I’m also sure Gaius and Demetrius had his back! And I’m also sure truth and goodness were easily recognizalbe…As is the case today, 2 options were presented that could be imitated. One was powerful, spiritual and from God…one wasn’t. One gave the church the opportunity to grow up and become like Jesus…and one didn’t…which we choose to follow and imitate determines whether we will become mature disciples or stay babies.

Let me end by saying:

Maturity is recognizing that the choices we make carry consequences. I had a good laugh at a story in the newspapers sometime back about a teacher who found a great way to make students pay for their crimes. Troublemakers at Riverside Brookfield High in Chicago are being forced to serve after school sentences in the Frank Sinatra Detention Club. There, for 30 minutes, they must sit still – not talking, no homework, no snoozing – and listen to Mr. Sinatra croon songs. “The kids hate it. They’re miserable,” reports teacher Bruce Janu, a Sinatra fan who devised the club as a way to make detention more fun for him, and less so for the kids. “It just got to where I couldn’t stand it,” said one senior. “It’s so boring.” Janu isn’t totally heartless, though. He lets students sing along if they want – but nobody does.

Spiritual consequences to our choices aren’t so mundane…spiritual consequences affect our peace and unity…and God’s detention room is a lot less comfortable than listening to Frank’s “I Did It My Way.”

Let’s pray.

IT TAKES PRESSURE TO MAKE A DIAMOND

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
It Takes Pressure to Make a Diamond

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 (p. 803) September 18, 2016

Introduction:

When the Apostle Paul uses the words “We were under great pressure” it gets our attention…because he was stoned and left for dead, beaten with rods three times, whipped with the lash (39 times)…5 times, attacked by angry mobs…ship wrecked 3 times and spent a day and night dodging sharks in the open sea, He had been snake bit, criticized by unbelievers and believers, he’d been arrested and spent 2 years in jail without a trial…He called these things “light and momentary afflictions.”

Here’s the most extraordinary thing about what Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians Chapter One…we have no idea at all about what this terrible experience is…we know it happened in Ephesus but he doesn’t go into any detail…anywhere.

He first believed it was so bad there was no way out…It was far beyond his ability to bear.

You know that statement “God will never let anything happen to you beyond your ability to bear?” Well that is not the truth…The truth is He will not let anything happen to you or me that is beyond His ability to bear.

Paul goes into specifics elsewhere concerning his troubles and hurts…but not here…Why? We might never know for sure…but we do know one thing for sure about it.

I. HIS FOCUS IS ON THE POWER OF GOD NOT THE HORRIBLE CIRCUMSTANCE

William Barclay writes in his commentary “There is a very human tendency to make the most of anything we have to go through.”

It’s the art of one upmanship…“Oh, you think you’ve had it bad? Let me tell you about what I’ve been through!”

Remember the movie Jaws back in the 70’s? One of my favorite scenes it when Brody and Quinn compare scars

SHOW VIDEO (3 minutes)https://youtu.be/dLjNzwEULG8

Notice that Quinn doesn’t volunteer the US Indianapolis scar…Where his friends died…Where it appeared all was lost…He wasn’t going to use the most painful memory he’s ever had in this one upmanship game.

I think Paul’s experience in the province of Asia falls into this category.

You don’t write about this in a letter…You don’t put this in a list of bad things…You try to remove the tattoo…You try to make the memory go away.

My dad never talked about his worst experiences during the war…neither does my son Tyler…There are experiences in my lifeI won’t either…I might share them with my wife and closest friends…but even then it’s because they’ve asked…“What’s that scar from?”

For many, this is the fulcrum where faith tips towards God…or away from Him. Is God big enough for this memory…Is He powerful enough for this pain? Will I rely on my own resources or will I trust His?

[Ernest Hemingway made a 10 dollar bet with a bunch of authors after they’d had lunch…The guys bet him 10 dollars he couldn’t come up with a short story that was only 6 words long. Hemingway took the bet, pulled out a napkin and wrote a 6 word story:

“For Sale, Baby shoes, never worn.”

As Kyle Idleman writes in “The End of Me,” If you’re going to live…you’re going to lose…you will come to the end of your own resources…The End of Me…You might as well wake up to the fact. You too will have your own 6 word story…

“There has been a terrible accident.”
“I’m leaving…The marriage is over.”
“You are not able to conceive.”
“I am sorry He didn’t survive.”
“Here’s a rose off the casket.”
“Hurry, Your son’s been horribly burned.”

And each of us will have to choose whether the history of our 6 word story holds us captive in pain…or whether we set our hope on the one who delivers us and it becomes HIS STORY.]

It will require:

II. LETTING GO OF OUR LIFE AND TRUSTING THE GOD WHO RAISES THE DEAD

[Our souls are eternal…these bodies they lie in are temporary…I told my friend Billy Ferrill the other day that its like a driver and a car in a race trying to win a race…We’re the driver, our bodies are the car….you can’t win if you don’t finish, but you also can’t win unless you take some risks…sure you have to fix things…fill it up with fuel…but if you are too cautious…if your goal is to protect the car from the rubs and dents no matter what, you will not win. I want to power slide through the gates of heaven with the fenders falling off and as the engine explodes…I want to get out, fall on my face and lay the keys at Jesus’ feet praising Him for the ride…I also want it to look like one of those clown cars at the circus because so many people get out of it with me!]

You cannot keep your life and save it…you don’t believe me? Listen to what Jesus said to the crowd as well as His followers:

MARK 8:34-38 (p. 705)

Do you think He meant those words? Do you think He was just kidding?

No!? Me either.

There will be times you despair of life itself…and then you and I have to choose whether eternity is more important than life itself…and whether we will rely on the God who raises the dead.

“He had delivered us from such a deadly peril and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.”

Let me end today with one of the most important and unifying truths I’ve ever discovered.

III. GOD’S GRACE FLOWS FROM BROKEN JARS

Remember that the Corinthians are experiencing some of the pain and difficulties that Paul and His companions are going through. He says:

“And our hope for you is firm because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (v. 7)

Do you pray differently for those who are going through your 6 word short story, just like you did…than for those you barely know?

Sure we do…as we pray we remember the pain of the burn unit, or the divorce, or the inability to conceive, or the baby shoes that were never worn…and we fervently pray for God’s grace, healing and comfort to do for them what it did for us.

When Paul says “As you help us by your prayers” he’s rejoicing that someone who understands his pain is storming the throne of grace for him…He’s finding strength in the knowledge…that he is not alone…He trusts his gracious Father will perfectly answer the prayers of many…and he’s OK whether that answer is to live for Christ…or even better gain death…and home.

The reason a “broken and contrite heart” are the sacrifices God desires is because they are the sacrifices that crucify pride, selfishness, and self reliance.

You cannot lay a proud self sufficient heart on the altar of God…but you can sure lay a broken heart on that altar.

Broken people who have acknowledged the cracks and flaws in their lives are the most effective prayers and servants.

But most of us spend our energies trying to hide the cracks in our lives…we fill them with worldly philosophies and putty instead of being honest and transparent before our God and other…those who live this way spend a lot of time focusing on the flaws of others instead of their own…prayer is replaced with judgment, gossip and criticism…compassion and ministry is replaced with hypocrisy and separation.

No wonder Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

[Pottery merchants in Jesus’ day used to put out their jars and vessels on display and advertise them “Sin Cera.” It means “without wax.” Hypocritical and dishonest merchants would take jars which cracked in the fiery kiln and fill the jars with wax and paint over them…the jars were useless to the people who bought them because as soon as they were filled….the wax would melt and whatever liquid was inside, poured out.

It’s the same word used to describe God’s people in the book of Acts… “They were together with glad and “Sin Cera” sincere hearts…hearts without wax…the flaws are there…the cracks show…but the grace of God leaks out into the lives of others.]

It takes pressure to make a diamond…lots of pressure…and it takes a broken and contrite heart to worship and serve our God and other people.

Let’s pray.

TROUBLE WITH A CAPITAL “T”

comfort-zone

The Comfort Zone…Where We Are Really Uncomfortable
Trouble with a Capital “T”

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (p. 803) September 11, 2016

Introduction:

We started a new study this last Wednesday evening…it’s powerful stuff from Kyle Idleman called, “The End of Me”…It’s theme is “Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins.”

His introduction starts out:

[“I was returning a call to a man named Brian. I read in my notes that his 18 month old son had died a few weeks earlier…I didn’t know the details, but as a father of 4, I can’t imagine such a loss. I said a prayer as I dialed his number. Brian answered with a monotone “Hello.” Having had many conversations like this over the past 20 years, I knew there was not much I could say. So, after expressing my heartbreak for his loss, I allowed silence to settle into our conversation. After a few moments, Brian spoke 4 words that I was not prepared for.

“I backed over him.”

He went on…to explain that they didn’t know their son had walked outside…In fact they didn’t even know he was capable of opening the door to go outside.]

After describing this horrible experience he went on to describe how he’s discovered Jesus in a way he never had before His faith had gone from attending church once in a while as tradition to running into God’s arms in complete desperation.

Brian then said this:

“I feel like I’d reached this point in my life when I had absolutely nothing left, and it turns out that for the first time in my life, Jesus has become real. Do you know what I mean? Is that unusual?”

No, it’s not unusual…when he reached the end of himself he discovered Jesus.

Most of us try to live our lives depending on our own resources…our intellect, our strength, our money, our endurace…but what happens when that resource runs out? What happens when that bank account is empty?

The Apostle Paul writes:

2 CORINTHIANS 1:8-10 (p. 803)

Let me ask you a question: How do you view God in your troubles?

I. CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE AND YOU WILL CHANGE YOUR MINISTRY

In the midst of pain and suffering, grief and confusion, fill our souls…it’s not fun to be laying on the floor filled with such hurt all you can do is moan and cry out. Why did you let this happen God? Why didn’t you intervene? comes from David the Psalmist’s lips and they’ve come from yours and mine! And if they haven’t yet, they will.

It’s that place Paul describes “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired at life itself…we felt like we’d received a death sentence.”

The Apostle Paul then answers the why is this happening question.

“This happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”

This is exactly what Jesus, God’s Son meant, when He said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”

Poor means “bankrupt.” “Without the resources to pay.” As Kyle Idleman puts it…”Blessed are you when you reach the end of me.”

How can we think we’re blessed when we’re at this place? I’d ask Abraham as the knife was raised…Daniel as he stood before the lions den…Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they stood in front of the furnace…I’d look to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a matter of faith for God’s children…Do we believe God is for us or against us? Can we trust He has a plan when we can’t, see beyond the immediate circumstances because of our pain? Can we believe “he has delivered us from such deadly peril and He will deliver us again. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.

Do you know the sacrifices God desires more than any other sacrifice? More than our time, money and talents? Psalm 51:17 tells us… “The sacrifice God desires is a broken Spirit…God will not reject a broken and repentant heart.”

So at our place of brokenness…when our resources are gone we have a choice…lay it on an altar of trust and worship or carry it like victims with bitterness.

If you choose the second, your life will take a downward spiral…If you choose the first, you’ve found your purpose for ministry…It allows you and me as God’s children to say.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

[Its like this…Have you ever noticed that after you buy a car you notice every other car like yours on the road…Before the purchase you wouldn’t have paid that much attention…but now that you own one you notice all the other people who own one…like yours.]

Once you’ve paid the price for divorce, for the death of a child, for the burn unit, or almost any other suffering…and you’ve trusted God through it…you are spiritually sensitive to all the other people who have purchased that car…and you want to love and help them…that’s ministry…and the most powerful words hurting people can hear is “ME TOO.”

Paul said, “If we are comforted it’s for your comfort.”

By the way you cannot experience the amazing comfort of God unless you’re uncomfortable.

There are two kinds of people in this life…Those who focus on themselves…and those who because they’ve been born again and have adopted the attitude of Jesus, focus on serving others. It doesn’t take long to see which one a person has adopted does it? Just listen to their conversation about something they are asked to sacrifice for others.

God’s Church doesn’t primarily exist for those who are already in it…it exists for those who aren’t…many of them are hurting through the same things we go through…looking for answers…and poor in Spirit people have the answer.

II. OUR COMFORT ABOUNDS THROUGH CHRIST

Not through Vicodin, not through Jim Beam or Jack Daniels…not through sexual conquests or an abundance of possessions…our comfort abounds through Christ!

Let me share with you a hard truth that maybe you haven’t considered. God’s people will go through the same sufferings and difficulties as non-believers. Sometimes because we live in a fallen world…and sometimes because we still do sinful things. Listen to what Jesus says:

MATTHEW 5:43-48 (p. 678)

The world has a philosophy to deal with hurtful people and hurtful times…and God’s children are called to not use it…but be like their Dad…the sun shines on both…it rains on both… “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

[I’m not crazy about the word “perfect” there because in English it means “without any flaws or mistakes.” But in the original language it means “To do what you were made to do.”

I love my East-wing hammer…it’s been all over the world with me…it’s rusty, scarred and dirty. (lots of flaws) But this hammer is perfect when it’s driving nails because it’s doing what its made to do.]

Each of us are made to love God with all our hearts, minds, soul and strength and our neighbors as ourselves.

And biblically we are perfect when we are doing it…it’s why we were made.

And the only way the world can see a difference is if “Our comfort abounds through Christ.” Whether the sun’s out or if it’s a hurricane.

[When I was 10 I was burned really badly, 50% of my body…3rd degree burns that were covered in skin grafts from my legs…I was in 4th grade…I won’t go into all the details but I used to be asked by children and adults alike “What happened to your face?” (I recommend that you not do that with a 10 year old). After a while I got tired of it and responded “What happened to yours?” I used to pray…all the time…for God to miraculously take away the scars that made me so different…ugly. He didn’t…and I didn’t know why He didn’t answer my prayers…why wouldn’t God care…Why would He let me keep the scars.

I know why now…my scars made me a better minister…my scars let me see others who are scarred differently. My scars eventually changed my heart. I’ve been through the fire so I’m not afraid of much…but I am afraid of not using my scarred flawed body to gratify a Father who had a plan for me. I’ve learned that when we surrender that which is hardest, for His glory and for others, He proves His power over and over again.]

Let’s pray.