The Thing Week 1: Introduction
You know you did not see that coming. Come on, now. You’re like, “What is going on?”
Some of you are really cool, contemporary Christians and you’re thinking, “Man, this church is so cool. They’re getting ready to show the new Star Wars trailer in church.”
Weren’t you? That’s what you were thinking. And then some of you all have got a little bit more religion and you’re thinking, “Dude, don’t bring the force in here with God, because they’re not the same thing. Right?”
And then some people are really, really tough. They’re like, “You know, Yoda died and he might’ve gone somewhere bad. Like, hot, very, it is.”
So, there you go. No. Yoda’s a good dude. Anyway. Then some of you are thinking, “Ice cream. If I could have some ice cream, that would be awesome.”
You’re probably thinking, “Are we going to serve ice cream after service?”
Listen: The reason we did that is because I wanted to do a lesson with everybody in the church in a moment where everybody will go, “Yes. I’ve got it.”
Our mind associates things with things. When you saw the movie “Thing,” you thought of a movie. When you saw the ice cream, you had no idea what that meant. But, you know what ice cream is and you thought about the flavors you like. You saw the “long time ago” and you thought of Star Wars. That’s the way our brain works. Our brain works and associates things with things. That’s just the way it works. Some of you all probably grew up and your mom and dad told you what to do and you did it. I didn’t. I was always the one that did the exact opposite of what mom and dad told me to do.
They said, “Chip, don’t tough the stove. If you touch the stove, your hand’s going to get burnt.”
Most of you all probably listened and never had an issue at all. But, I touched the stove and burned my hand. So, from now on, every time I get around a stove, I stay somewhat away from it because I remember getting burned. My brain associates that with the things that I did as a kid. However, in some areas of our lives, what our brain associates things with might not be the most important thing to be associating it with.
Where that really comes to play is in our practical living-out of our Christian life. What I want to do over the next several weeks is I want to take some big ideas here and work through them with you. Because, here’s what I know for a fact, as a pastor, because I talk to people and I hear people and I talk to the other pastors on staff as they talk to people. What you find is: Most people who come to church have said, “I want to follow Jesus. I want to do the Jesus thing. I’m in for the Jesus thing. All of that stuff’s great. I keep finding these areas in my life that keep tripping me up. There’s just this thing I keep doing.”
Maybe it’s, “I keep getting in a bad relationship after bad relationship after bad relationship.”
Some people say, “I just can’t seem to get things together in my marriage. It just continues to struggle.”
Some people go, “I just continue to struggle with lust,” or, “I continue to struggle with some sort of addiction,” or, “I struggle with getting along with my kids or my mom or my dad,” or whatever it may be.
“There’s just this thing that if I could get this thing out of my life, it would be so much better. Because, I really want to live a Christian life, but there’s just this thing.”
Or it might be multiple things in our lives that just seem to continue to hit us over and over again. We come to church and we’re going, “Surely, there’s got to be victory in my life. Surely, if there’s a God, if He really got up from the grave, surely, there could be a way He could help me deal with this thing.”
So, what I want to do is I want to help you there. I want to help equip you so that the thing that is maybe getting you down, we can get that out of your life in a way where you can live a flourishing, Christian life. But, to do that, there’s two big ideas we’re going to have to discuss over the next several weeks. The first one is this one: The thing that we think is the thing is usually not the thing. You’re thinking, “Okay. What does that mean?”
That’s the one big idea. The second big idea is since the thing that we think is the thing is usually not the thing, it’s the thing behind the thing that’s usually the thing. Now you’re thinking, “Okay. I’m just as confused as that bumper video. I’m not understanding.”
Let me try to make this simple here. We tend to deal with symptoms, not causes, in our spiritual lives. Let me give it another way to you. We tend to deal with fruit and not the root. What happens is the thing that’s going on in our life that we’re constantly saying, “Hey, could you pray about this? Could you help me with this?” — or the thing that we’re offering up to God — it might not be the real thing. There might be something behind that thing that we’ve not looked at or spent time with or really analyzed enough to understand that the thing that we think is the thing is probably not the thing. There’s something behind that thing that’s creating this thing. And if I could find that thing that’s behind this thing, then what I could do is I could deal with the thing that I’m struggling with. And maybe, just maybe, I could start living out this life in a way that I want to do it.
So, over the next several weeks, we’re going to deal with this. And I believe, with all of my heart, that many of you all are going to have moments where you go, “Wow. This is some revolutionary stuff. It’s really going to help me live out this thing in life.”
So, to do that today, here’s what we’re going to do. Sort of like an intro here on this week as we intro this new series. We’re going to look at a biblical passage. It may be a biblical passage that you’re not very familiar with. It’s one that usually isn’t preached on that much. And then what we’re going to do is we’re going to take that passage and look at something that Jesus does in this passage that really sort of makes us think about the thing, more so than maybe we would think.
And then what we’re going to do is we’re going to ask some diagnostic questions to everybody in here. We’re going to have some diagnostic questions that we can walk out, after we’re done here, thinking about to start dealing with this stuff so that when we come back over the next several weeks we can really see God do some major things in my life.
So, I hope you’re ready for this. I hope you’re strapped in. I hope you’re ready. I also want to welcome those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re glad that you watch as well.
So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to flip open our Bibles. You don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. You can look up here. We’re going to look in Luke 18. Just a little bit of background here, because this is important. The Gospel of Luke, as all the Gospels, is written for a purpose. They’re written for a reason. There’s something that the Gospel writers are teaching us. In Luke 9, Jesus goes up on the mountain. We call that the Mount of Transfiguration, where the disciples, three of them, get to see Jesus in His glory. Before that happens, Moses and Elijah show up with Him. They’re like, “Whoa, man.”
They’re thinking about, “Man, this is Moses and Elijah. This is the Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus is talking with them and they’re like, “Dude. This is incredible.”
And then they disappear and a big cloud comes down and they hear the voice: “This is my Son. Listen to Him.”
Basically, what God’s saying is, “Hey. What the Law and the Prophets talked about is all about Jesus. Listen to Him.”
And then what He does, when He comes off the mountain, is He tells them, “Hey. I’m going to go to Jerusalem and I’m going to die.”
And they’re like, “Whoa. That doesn’t make any sense. You’re the Messiah. You’re the guy that’s going to lead us to victory. You’re going to overthrow the Romans, man. This is going to be awesome.”
So, what we get is as Jesus is headed to Jerusalem, which is for a large portion of the Gospel of Luke, the disciples are sort of unaware as to what’s going on. So, as they’re sort of blundering around and trying to figure out what’s going on, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. And here, He’s coming into Jericho in Luke 18:35.
“As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging.”
Now, typically, when we read a passage like this, we just sort of move on, and I understand it. But, reading the Bible theologically, which we should — we should be asking questions. “What is Luke trying to tell me about God? What’s Luke trying to tell me about my relationship with God?”
The first thing that we should be asking is this: Since the disciples aren’t really seeing, very well, who Jesus is, now we have a blind man on the side of the road. Oftentimes, when you’re reading these Scriptures, you should be putting all of this together. Is it possible that the blind man can actually see more than the people that can see?
So, here they are, headed into Jericho, and the disciples aren’t even mentioned in this passage at all, which shows you how sort of irrelevant they’ve become. Because, on the way to Jericho, if you remember, as they’re walking along and you read the Gospels, the disciples will say things to Jesus like, “Hey, what you come in Your glory...” — and they’re thinking about when He overthrows Rome — “...can we sit at Your right hand and Your left? Can we be the power dudes on Your side?”
And Jesus was like, “You guys don’t even know what you’re talking about. The people that are going to be on my left and my right in my glory, the Father has prepared before Him.”
Jesus is talking about when He’s hanging on the cross. The person that will be on His left and His right will be prepared by the Father. He’s saying, “You don’t understand my glory. You don’t understand what’s going on.”
So, here they are going into Jericho on their way to Jerusalem, and we have a blind man sitting by the roadside begging.
It says, “And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant.”
Now, we probably wouldn’t think about this because we’re not 1st Century scholars, as a general rule. But, in the 1st Century, the way it worked was this: When you were in a town, the town had gates. At night, they would close the gates. That was for security purposes. All the decisions that were made in town were made out by the gates. So, if you’re reading the Old Testament and it says they were out at the gates making decisions, that’s the way they did it. They did it out by the gates. So, in the day when the gates were open, if a dignitary was coming to town or somebody important was coming to town, there would be an envoy of people from the town or the city that would go down the road and meet the person that was coming in. And then they would escort them back into the town.
That’s the way it worked. Remember the Parable of Ten Virgins? You can read that in Matthew 25. The Parable of Ten Virgins. There’s ten virgins. There’s a bridegroom coming in, they go out and meet the bridegroom as he’s coming into down and then they escort him back into town. This is the way they did it. They would always meet the dignitary on the outside and bring them back. And that word is a specific word for “meet.” That’s the way it is.
In fact, many of us would probably have a little bit different viewpoint if we just understood 1st Century. Like, when we read passages like 1 Thessalonians 4 where it says, “We’re going to meet the Lord in the air,” and we think we’re going off. In fact, meeting the Lord in the air means that we’re bringing Him back down to the earth. So, there’s so many things, not understanding how this stuff works, that we might not catch exactly what’s going on.
This is important because a crowd’s going by and he knows that if a crowd’s coming by then they’ve gone out to meet somebody important. And for him, that could be a life-changer. When you’re a beggar by the side of the road, if somebody really important like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, maybe they’ll throw a couple hundred bucks in the hat for you. You know? It could be your big day. Like, you win the lotto. He wants to know what’s going on. He hears the crowd going by. He understands that they’re there to meet a dignitary and he wants to know what is up.
They say, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
Now, you’ve got to understand, if you’re reading this through the lens of the 1st Century, which is important that we read through the lens of the 1st Century because that’s who this was written to. It’s written for you and me, but not written to you and me. What’s going on here is this crowd’s gone out to meet Jesus. They haven’t gone out to meet Jesus because they think He’s the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, because they need forgiveness. They’ve gone out to meet Him because everybody’s jockeying for position to get Him to stay in their house that evening. That’s what you did. That’s the way the hospitality worked in the 1st Century.
The disciples? Nowhere to be found. So, the crowd doesn’t understand who Jesus is. The disciples don’t understand, really, who Jesus is. Will the blind man? Does the blind man who can’t see have more sight than everybody on the road? So, we’re prompted the question. Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. He couldn’t said, “I don’t know who He is. I have no idea who He is. Great. No big deal. I was hoping it’d be somebody really important.”
But, look at what he says: “And he cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
This guy understands. He’s calling Jesus the Son of David. He thinks Jesus is in the lineage of David. This guy has more insight that anybody in the crowd. He’s like, “You’re an important figure. You are very well the Messiah that the Bible has prophesied about. Would You please come and have mercy on me?”
So, we’re immediately struck here that the blind man can see more than the people who can see. Everybody else is sort of our jockeying for position. The disciples are nowhere to be found. They’re there, but they’re not talked about because they don’t understand what’s going on. This blind man says, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”
Then it says, “And those who were in front rebuked him.”
Now, these are the power people in Jericho. They’re like, “Dude, we need to get Jesus to our house. We need to have a time of fellowship. We want to talk to Him about the things that are important. You’re just the guy on the side of the road. We tip you every once in a while. What we need you to do is be quiet, because what’s important to us is important to us.”
Because, the thing that’s important to them is really maybe not the thing, but that’s the thing that’s important to them. And they’re like, “Hey, you need to be quiet. Be silent. We don’t want to hear anymore.”
Now, this is important, because if you’re the blind guy begging, guess who the normal people who throw some money in your hat are? The people that are in the front of the line. And he knows that. So, what’s he going to do? Is he going to quiet down? Is he going to say, “Okay. You’re right. You’re right. You’re right. No big deal.”
Oh, no, no. This guy cries out all the more. He’s like, “Forget this, man. Jesus is coming by? Son of David! Have mercy on me. Please have mercy on me.”
“And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him.”
Imagine that. He’s got the crowd around. He’s on His way into Jericho. People are figuring out if He’ll stay with them. He’s not planning on staying. We find that out in Luke 19. But, here He is. They’re trying to jockey for position. He stops. He says, “Hey, go get the blind guy and bring him to me.”
When the blind guy comes to Jesus, Jesus asks Him a question. Now, this question should be perplexing to y’all. It should be like the ice cream cone. Boing! You know? You’re like, “What? Why are you asking that question?”
Here’s what He asks him. Are you ready? Look at what He asked him:
“‘What do you want me to do for you?’”
Like, “Jesus? Dude? Heal him. Give him some sight. Why are you even asking this question? The guy can’t see. Do Your thing. Sometimes You spit in the mud and rub it on the eyes. Sometimes You tell them to go to the pool. Just do whatever You need to do. Why would You ask, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’”
Well, this is important because, oftentimes, once again, we’re not thinking through the passages that we’re reading. And that’s okay. That’s why we come here. We want to learn. We want to be equipped. Here’s what’s going on. Listen to me. This blind man has a life. Here’s the way his life would’ve looked in the 1st Century: He stayed with somebody or multiple people in town. He had a roof. He got fed on a regular basis. Somebody would lead him out at the beginning of the day and put him outside. Hopefully, he’d collect some money which could be used to help the families that were probably helping him at night.
He’s got a life. He’s got security. He’s getting food. People are taking care of him. Do you realize that if this guy can all of a sudden see, his life is completely disrupted? Because, now, he has to get into the workforce. Now, he has to do the things that everybody else would do. Maybe he’s not even skilled. Maybe he’s not even that great. But, giving him eyesight might put him in a worse condition than where he’s at right now.
So, Jesus asks the question: “What do you want me to do for you?”
Because, see, Jesus understands that the things that we ask for might not be the most important things. They might be the things that are important to us, but might not be the thing. This could’ve easily said, “Hey, Jesus. I’ve got a brother that we have a problem with. Could You pray for us?”
He could’ve said, “Hey, Jesus. I’ve got a friend that lives in Jericho that’s sick. Could You go pray for them? Because, that would be awesome.”
He could’ve said, “Hey, Jesus. Could You pull out some money that You’ve got in Your purse and give it to me? Hey, Jesus. Do You think You could help me move to the next town? Maybe I want to go see Jerusalem for a little while. Could You take me in Your group?”
He could’ve asked a lot of questions and answered a lot of questions as to what He wanted. But, Jesus says, “What do you want me to do for you?” which is an important question for all of us, because if we don’t know what it is that we want Jesus to do for us, then we don’t know what the answer is for the thing that we need. Because, if we think the things of the things that are not the things, then even the things that we’re asking for are not going to be the things that matter for you and me. Jesus knew that. Jesus knew that it’s a complex world. He knew that there were complexities and all kinds of stuff.
He says, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Well, this guy stands up and he says, “Jesus, what I want to do is I want to see, man. I’m ready for it all. I’m ready for the life change. I’m ready.”
Honestly, that’s a theological thing for you and me when we truly see who Jesus is. It gets a little uncomfortable. It changes things a little bit for us. It creates a whole different world for us. This guy’s ready to see. He can already see, but he wants to see. He says, “Jesus, help me recover my sight.”
Jesus says, “‘Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.’ And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.”
Great story. Cool stuff going on. You see the layers of complexity. We see some questions. We see some things about Jesus. We see some things about us. But, here’s the reality: What are those things in your life that you think are the things? And they may not be the things, but they’re the things that you really would like to see yourself overcome. These are some questions I think we have to ask. They’re diagnostic questions. They’re questions every single one of us, myself included, have to ask when it comes to Jesus.
“What do you want me to do for you? How do you want me to help you? What do you want me to do in your life?”
Well, the first question that we have to ask, and it’s a very real question, is do we really want to get rid of the problem? I’ve met plenty of people that don’t really want to get rid of the problem. This blind man could’ve said, “I’ll stay blind. Just give me a little extra money. Give me a nice place to stay. I’m going to stay in my blindness. As long as I can be comfortable in my blindness, I’m okay.”
Many, many people are happy with staying in their problem even though they’ll put on a good face and act like that. That’s why Jesus asked the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
It reminds me of a funny story when you talk about “what do you want me to do.” There were these three sisters. One was 96. One was 94. One was 92. They lived together. The 96-year-old had gone upstairs into the house and she’d turned on the bath water. She stepped over the bath to get in and she said, “Hey, can somebody help me out?”
They’re like, “What?”
She goes, “I don’t know if I was getting in or getting out.”
Her sister goes, “Don’t worry. I’ll help you.”
She gets up. She starts going up the stairs. “Hey. Can somebody help me? Was I going up or going down the stairs?”
The 92-year-old sister is sitting down in the chair. She’s like, “These sisters are crazy. They’re losing their mind. I’m so glad that I got my mind. Knock on wood.”
She said, “I’ll be up there to get you all in just a minute. I’ve got to go get the door.”
What do you want me to do for you? There’s a delayed reaction in here. It’s awesome. It’s like the wave. It’s like different pockets at different times. It’s really cool. Some of you all are like, “Hello?”
So, what do you want me to do? We don’t want to be like this. Some people say they want to get better at certain things, but their actions disprove it. So, if we really, genuinely say, “Hey, the thing...” — whatever the thing is. Even if it’s not the thing. If it’s something behind the thing, do you really want to get better? Because, that’s a real question. What do you want me to do for you? Because, if you don’t know the answer to that, you’re not going to get better.
The second thing, and this is a huge one, is are we willing to push through the obstacles that will happen? Listen: When you decide, “Hey, you know what? I’m in for the Jesus thing. I’m in. I really want to do this. I know that I want God to deal with me, even if it’s the thing that’s not the thing. I’m willing to let God prod and pull and whatever else to get to it.”
There’s going to be obstacles. Are you really willing to push through the obstacles that are going to happen? Are you willing to do that? Because, see, Luke says that those who were in front of him rebuked him. See, there was an obstacle. This guy could’ve stopped. He could’ve said, “Ah, I’ll pipe down. I’m not going to say anything.”
But, no, no. He says he cried out all the more. This guy, he pushed through. He’s like, “No, no. I know what I want. I know exactly what it is that I want and I’m not going to let anything get in my way from letting me get to Jesus to get the things that I want.”
When I think of pushing through, do any of you like to drive? My dad used to talk about flooring a car, you know? You push that pedal hard. It’s funny. My dad will be here next service. Me and my brother always joked that my dad felt like the harder he pushed the gas, the faster the car would go. We were like, “Dad, if you just press it, it does the same thing.”
But, there was this guy driving around on the interstate doing 80mph in his brand-new Corvette in a 60mph zone. He looked up in his rear-view mirror and he sees a cop behind him. He looks up and, as a he sees the cop, he has this moment hit him and he just floors that Corvette. He goes from 80 to 130. Well, by this time, the cop’s lights are on. The cop’s trying to catch up with him. The guy has a moment of clarity.
“I’m running away from a cop. What am I thinking?”
So, he hits his brakes. He pulls over. The cop gets out and he’s like, “Dude, do you understand you were doing 80 in a 60? And then you hit your gas and you went from 80 to 130? Dude, what were you thinking? Honestly, it’s 4:45 and I get off at 5:00 and I really don’t want to have to take you to jail. I really, honestly, don’t even want to write you a ticket. Can you give me some reason not to?”
And the guy’s like, “Well, yeah. I can. It overwhelmed me. I had an ex-wife and we didn’t get along very well at all. About a year ago, my ex-wife ran off with a cop. When I looked up, I thought you were bringing her back to me.”
I’m not condoning that. It’s just a joke, okay? It’s just a joke. Sometimes you’ve got to press through. Sometimes you’ve got to say, “I want more in my life.”
Paul talks about that to the church at Ephesus. He says, “We are to grow up in every way into Him who’s the head, Christ.”
This is a growth thing. It’s a moving forward. It’s a commitment. I want to get better and I’m willing to push through whatever I’ve got to push through so that I can grow up.
The third diagnostic question — and this is the real big one — is do we recognize that in our lives, real life-change comes from letting Jesus peel off the layers of our lives until He gets down to the root of the problem? And then that root needs to be grounded in Him. And I want to show you in real, practical ways how that works. So far, in every service, it’s been a real moment here for everybody. And I want to show you how this works.
If you’ve pastored at all, if you’ve been a small group or if you’ve done any ministry at all, somebody, at some point, has walked up to you and said, “Do you know what? I’m lonely.”
What we typically do, as a church, is we say, “Oh, you don’t need to be lonely. The Lord’s with you no matter where you go. He’s always with you. You don’t need to feel like you’re lonely. He’s with you.”
Okay. Well, that’s because we’re treating what we consider to be the thing. But, loneliness might not be the thing. It might be a symptom of the thing. But, honestly, we don’t have a whole lot of time as Christians — have you ever noticed that? We’re like, “Man, I don’t have time to be spending a lot of time with you doing the Jesus thing. You need to get healed now or I’m off doing my next thing.”
Which is bad, because we’re a microwave generation. We want everything quick. Some of you all are younger than me, and you won’t remember this at all. Honestly, probably it’s best that you don’t remember this. But, some of you all that are my age — 47 and older — are going to remember this.
Do you remember when you had to go to the grocery store and you bought the Stouffer’s Chicken Pot Pie? Come on. Y’all remember those, right? You’d pull them out of the freeze and you had to get a fork and you had to stick it in the top of that pie. Then you had to put it in the oven and it was 45 minutes until the glory of God came into your house. Remember that? That’s the way it was.
Mindy has found pot pies that I can make in 5 minutes. It’s awesome. It’s like 5 minutes and God’s there. I don’t have to wait 45 minutes. It’s 5 minutes and the Lord shows up. We’ve done that in our Christianity. We’re like, “Come on, now. We’ve got to get this thing going. If you can’t get better, you can’t get better.”
Not realize that, hey, if we really want to deal with the thing, it’s probably not the thing. There’s probably many things behind the thing. We’re going to have to let God really work through us and pull away some things. So, you start talking to somebody who’s lonely. You say, “Let’s talk about that. Let’s pray about that. Let’s seek God about that together. Let’s read some scriptures about that.”
What do you think’s really creating some of the loneliness that you have? And they say, “Well, I only have a few friends.”
And then, typically, when we go there, we’re like, “Ah, that’s the thing. Okay. Now we’ve got the thing. We’ll deal with the thing. Here’s what you need: Get involved in a small group. Here’s a couple of people’s number. Go in Jesus’ name. See you later. I’ve got things to do.”
Right? But, see, that’s not the thing anymore than loneliness was the thing. It’s a thing, but it’s not the thing. Until we deal with the thing, we’re not going to be able to deal with the symptoms that are going on. So, we start probing, we start talking, we start praying, we start reading and we start doing all the things that we need to do. We find out the reason they have few friends is because they have been burned by people in their life.
And now we start doing the, “Don’t worry. Jesus can heal you. He paid it all.”
You know? Whatever we do.
“You don’t have to feel burned. Since you know Jesus, you’re never going to be fully burned, because you’re not going to go there. You’re going to go here.”
All of that good stuff that we do. And we’re dealing with the thing, but it’s not the thing. It’s a thing, but it’s not the thing. So, we’re up here doing all of this stuff, praying for this and we feel like we’re doing all of this work and whatever. And nobody’s getting better. Because, when you pray a little bit more and everything else, you realize the reason they’re getting burned and the reason they’re having all of these issues finding few friends and the reason that they’re lonely is because, deep down inside, the more you talk to them and the more you share with them, you realize that they have some serious unrealistic expectations about what friendship’s supposed to be.
All of a sudden, you start talking to them and you’re going, “Yeah. Dude, a friendship’s going to entail some compromise. A friendship’s going to entail some things that don’t go your way.”
So, what you realize is now this loneliness that you’ve drilled down to few friends, being burned and to now we’re really starting to peel away to the real deal here, which is they’ve got some unrealistic expectations, and now we get to the root of the issue. And it’s like, “Ooo, it’s the root.”
All of a sudden, we realize you’re just selfish. That’s your problem. You’re selfish. And, because you’re selfish, you want everything to be the way you want it to be. Because you want it to be that way, when people don’t do it that way you feel burned even though you shouldn’t feel burned because it’s not them burning you, it’s your unrealistic expectations. And then you can’t make friends and you walk around saying, “I’m lonely. I don’t feel like anybody listens to me.”
But, the real root of the problem would be selfishness. The only thing that can treat this is Jesus. Jesus has to get ahold of this root. And then, all of a sudden, these symptoms start to go away because we’re dealing with the cause and not the symptoms. And that’s tough for all of us, because we want an answer now.
I’ll give you another example of this. Everybody knows Dr. Charles Stanley. If you don’t know Dr. Charles Stanley, you probably have never flipped on TV before. This is a guy that pastors a church. He’s been pastoring for 30-40 years. He’s got 10-12 thousand members. First Baptist. Everybody who loves good Bible teaching listens to Charles Stanley. This guy’s so awesome that he had a son named Andy Stanley. Charles has 12 thousand. Andy’s only got like 40 thousand people that go to his church. It’s like, “Seriously, God? Did the Stanley’s have to have that much favor? Could you pass it around to a few others?”
No. But, they’re great. Great people. Dr. Stanley tells a story and it’s an incredible story. He says, “I was in my office and some of the staff came in. They said to me, ‘Dr. Stanley, you’re angry, dude. On a regular basis, we’re seeing some anger in you.’”
And, of course, what do we do at that point? We do what everybody does: “Dr. Stanley, look here in Ephesians 4. Be angry and sin not. We want to pray for you.”
No, no, no. That’s a thing, but it might not be the thing. So, Dr. Stanley says, “You know, I said, ‘God, search me. I’ve got these bits of anger that people are seeing in me.’ I started praying and I started seeking God and I started asking some questions and I started spending some time with other people. I realized that my anger was coming from my impatience. When I was impatient, I got angry.”
And we would say, and we get this here, “Don’t worry. The Lord is patient. You can be patient. Cast all your cares on Him.”
Again, we’re dealing with symptoms. The reason people aren’t getting well is because we’re dealing with symptoms. We’re not dealing with the real causes that are creating. We’re dealing with things, not the thing. So, he started praying, “Why am I so impatient? What’s creating this impatience in me? Are there things that are triggering this impatience?”
And he found out, “Yes. When I have to wait, I get impatient and I get angry.”
Anybody else in here a Type-A personality? You know what I’m talking about? You’re waiting around. The green light’s on. Nobody’s moving. All of a sudden, you’re impatient. Next thing you know, you’re hanging out the window and you’re not telling them about Jesus. And you’ve got the Grace Community Church bumper sticker on the back, the sign of the fish, “Honk if you love Jesus,” and, “In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned.”
It’s like, “God’s my copilot.”
And they’re thinking, “Yeah. I want what you’ve got.”
Right? So, he says, “I’m waiting and I’m realizing that waiting is creating this big issue in me for the impatience. God, why do I have such a problem with waiting?”
And he started praying. One day, it was like God really spoke to him. And he remembered back when he was a kid, a young kid, he was the youngest kid in his family. Every Sunday, his mom and dad would give every kid a bath and dress them in their Sunday best. But, he was the first kid in the bath and the first kid dressed. His mom and dad would put him in a chair and say to him, “Charles, you sit in this chair until we’re done. If you get up, we will absolutely spank you with a spanking that you absolutely will not forget.”
He realized that that bath situation and having to wait had created all kinds of things in him that when he had to wait led to impatience and led him to anger. From there, it wasn’t very long until he realized what the real issue is and what the real thing is. He had been holding a grudge against his mom and dad for many, many, many years, and he needed to forgive them. When he forgave them, because only Jesus can deal with this, all of the other things started to evaporate in his life. Because, he was dealing with the root and not the fruit. He was dealing with the cause and not the symptom.
That’s why I said at the very beginning — and I’m going to tell you this again. Please hear me here. If we think we can solve these problems without Jesus — in other words, if our mind leads us here and we think, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that, and this and whatever,” and we’re not accomplishing that in our lives, we really have no discovered the thing. And we live in a society where this is what goes on: Our minds associate with a certain thing. We go read a book. We go get this. We go do that. We tell ourselves, “If I say this in my head enough times, if I do this enough times, then I’ll get better.”
If you think you can solve the problem without Jesus, you’re not really dealing with the thing. The only thing that can really deal with the thing is Jesus. We’re all looking for a substitute rather than Jesus in our lives to deal with these things. Even Christians will do that. We’ll read a book and think, “If I say this five times and I do this thing here and I do this...”
What we find is it’s temporary. It doesn’t ever give us the lasting remedy that we’re looking for. And we’re there. I mean, so many people are like, “Dude, I’m there. I’m there. I’ve got a thing. You’re right. It may not be the thing. There might be other things. And, you know, in fact, when you said that today, I started thinking that that thing there, there might be there. I’m dealing with that. I’m understanding what you’re saying.”
Listen: I’m telling you that you cannot solve your problems without Jesus. And let me tell you why. In John 15, Jesus says, “I’m the vine. You’re the fruit. If you’re not abiding in the vine, then you can’t bear the fruit that needs to be borne by the vine. Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Now, I don’t know if you like words. But, that’s a word that means “no thing.” No thing. No thing apart from me. Paul says, “If we are in Jesus, we can do everything.”
Every thing. No thing or every thing. And what we do is we spend our lives, because we were created to serve God. You and I were created to have a relationship with God. That’s just the way we were whether we think we were or not. Maybe you’re here today and you’re like, “I don’t know why I showed up here, but maybe he’s speaking to me a little bit. I feel something different about what’s going on.”
Let me tell you something: You were created to have a relationship with God. You will continue to try to find things to fill those holes in your heart that only God can fill. The things that you want to try to deal with and the things that beat you down and the things — even as Christians, we will try to find other things rather than God to fill those voids. I want you to know the only person that can fill that void is Jesus. Period. End of story. What we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to figure out, “What is that cause? What is that root that’s in my life that’s creating these symptoms?”
Because, when we can find that, we can give those things to Jesus and we can let Him deal with those things and we can see the symptoms start to go way as we deal with the real serious issues of our lives. So, what I want to ask you to do is this. A couple of things. One, we’re going to say a prayer and we’re going to do an honest prayer of; “God, search me.” Secondly, I’m going to ask you to make a commitment. You don’t have to raise your hand or do anything like that. I’m just going to ask you to make a commitment in your mind, that, “Hey, you know what? I need to be here for the next few weeks. If he’s going to be dealing with some of these causes that might be causes that are in my life and showing me the symptoms of these things and the way that they work and I can get some help, why in the world would I want to miss this? Because, man, this is going to make a difference in my life.”
I want you to commit to that, because I really believe many of you are going to have some life-changing things. And let me tell you why I believe in this so much. I believe in this so much because I believe that God wants to give you — not me. You. He wants to give me too, but I’m talking to you right now. He wants to give you a testimony. He wants to give you an area of your life where you go, “I used to be this way, but now I am this way. God moved me from here to here. I used to trip up here. I used to have this problem here and God got ahold of me and moved me to here.”
Because then, at that point, we can start living out that Matthew 5:16 lifestyle.
“Let your light so shine before others, that they see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
God wants to do that in your life. He wants to give you a testimony of His victory in your life. What I want you to do is I want you to commit to, “Do I really want to get rid of the thing? Am I really willing to deal with the obstacles?”
Because, there are going to be some obstacles that come up.
“Am I willing to let God peel off in my journey these areas to get down to the real root cause so that I can see some real life-change in my life?”
And I think everybody in here — I’m a positive guy. I believe that’s what you want. So, let’s bow our heads. Let’s ask the Lord to help us. And then let’s make a commitment, silently, to being here.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You and thank You so much for the wonderful people here at Grace. Lord, I feel like I’m the most fortunate person in the world to get to be the pastor here. Lord, what I pray right now, in Jesus’ name, for Your glory and for Your honor, is that every single person in this room would say, “I’m ready. I’m ready to deal with the thing. Lord, I’m willing to push through the obstacles and I’m willing, Lord, to sort of let You uncover things. It may be painful, Lord. It may be a reorientation. It may be like the blind guy who has to go and reorient his whole life, because the thing that really needed to be healed has been healed.”
So, Lord, I’m asking You, in Jesus’ name, that You would help us as a church to get ready to deal with some real serious issues, some real causes in our lives that create all these symptoms so that we can become the people that You want us to be. Not because of anything that we’ve done, but because of Your power that works within us mightily.
And Lord, help us to genuinely make a commitment to being here so that we can get better. And Lord, if we can’t be here, then watch it online. Do whatever we’ve got to do, Lord, so that we can become those people that truly, truly, truly start looking like Your Son.
So, Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, I pray that You would lead and guide us. Lord, I pray that if anybody in here today doesn’t know You as Lord and Savior, I pray, Lord, that they would make that commitment and find somebody after church with a Grace tag on or a shirt on and say, “Hey, I want to find out what my next steps are.”
And Lord, if there’s anybody in here today that’s had that moment where they’re like, “You know what? I am. I’m trying to do all of this in my own strength. I need Jesus to help me out.”
Lord, I pray this would be the moment where they decide to take that next step forward, Lord, to see You do some victory in their life. So, Lord, we love You, we praise You and we honor You. In Jesus’ name we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.