The Walk Week 5: The Rack

Sermon Transcript

[Video]

Sometimes being a Christian in today’s world feels a little bit like warfare. We try to equip ourselves to rise above and to walk forward, but the bullets still come. Sexuality, greed, distractions, prejudice, cultural expectations, politics. And it seems impossible to walk the Christian walk when we’re just trying to survive. And everybody’s watching. What if our strength could be the catalyst for others to rise? How do we shield ourselves against all the temptations? Will the enemy ever cease fire? What does it take to walk the walk?

[End Video]

Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. We’re in a series called “The Walk,” and I always try to do a real quick summary in case maybe this is your first time or if you’ve missed a couple of weeks.

We’re talking about what it means to really walk after the Lord, to look like Jesus in our walk, to be like Jesus and, more specifically, in 2018. And, you know, as I prepared for this series, I knew that this weekend, because of what I was talking about — you know, some things in Scripture are just self-intuitive. You’re just like, “Yeah, man. That makes sense.”

Other things require us to think a little bit because they’re a little counterintuitive to what we would normally do. And whenever a pastor talks about something like that when it’s a counterintuitive thing, sometimes it can be off-putting in some ways to people because they feel like, “Oh, I’m not doing that,” and maybe they leave guilty or whatever. Listen, the name of this church is not Guilt Community Church. It’s Grace Community Church. So, the last thing that we ever want to do is have anybody walking out of here guilty. We want people walking out of here free in Jesus’ name.

So, that being said, there are things that, as a pastor, you have to talk about. Sometimes they’re a little bit — they hit home. This weekend, I knew I was going to be talking about putting others first and loving on others and lifting others up. Sometimes that’s a little counterintuitive because out culture basically says, “I’m going to put me first and I’m going to get what’s mine first,” and it’s hard to think about putting others first. And sometimes we don’t know what to do with that.

So, I want to talk to you about that, and I’m going to elaborate a lot on a passage of Scripture and sort of tell you a history lesson and some stories to get to where we’re at. But I think when we’re done you’re going to go, “Wow. That is really cool.”

So, as I was reminiscing putting this series together — some of you know this and some of you don’t know this, but I spent roughly 18 years in the automotive industry with the luxury SUV Land Rover. During those 18 years, I had been in ministry for 6 years and then I got out of ministry. I don’t know if you know the stats, but the average seminary graduate stays in ministry for five years and they’re out and they never go back in. Well, I had lasted for six, and then I went out and I thought, “I’m never going back in ministry again, ever.”

And so, I got involved and did well. I started in sales, management, general manager and then a part owner of a store. And so, things went really well. And where I thought, “Hey, look at this, I ain’t going to go back in ministry at all. I’ve got it all together. I still love You God. I’m not sure I like You that much, but I’ve sort of got a thing where I’m at.” And not to realize here I thought I was doing what I was doing. God’s sneaky. See, God was just taking those 18 years to set me up for my next ministry assignment. You can’t beat God. Can I just tell you that? You just can’t. You may be watching by computer right now. You can’t win. He’s just — I don’t know. He just wins.

So, if you don’t hear anything else I say today, if you’re in here going, “I’m not sure what to do with God,” just know He wins. He knows what He’s doing. But anyway, in the automotive world, one of the things — a couple things that were important to me is, coming out of the sales side and not the service side, I realized that to keep business going, it wasn’t about how many cars we could sell, it was how well we treated the people that had purchased those cars. And what you wanted was repeat customers. And so, I told everybody at the store — and I believe this with all of my heart — that if we did the right things, if we put others first, if we treated others great, the business would take care of itself.

So, these vehicles that would come in the back of the shop, it was sort of cool because, see, I was a pastor, but my dad was a dentist and my family owned assisted living facilities. So, I was very involved in the medical professional world. Even though I wasn’t a medical professional, I was involved in that. And so, you know, you go into a doctor’s office or dental office and there’d be a file. Open it up. It’s Chip Bennett. Here’s the last time he got his teeth cleaned, or here’s when he came in for his annual checkup or whatever.

Well, in the office, we had the folders too, but these were vehicles. These vehicles were our patients. You could open it up and you could see when it needed some lung issues with its airflow and all that, and when it needed this here and a checkup for this, an oil change and whatever. You know? You could see that. So, you’d pull those files out, you’d look at it and when a car was sick, it would come into the service area. We’d bring it in and put it up on the rack, or the left. We’d put that thing up on the rack. Oftentimes, if it wasn’t that sick, we could sort of diagnose it and put some air in the tire or whatever else. But, sometimes, it was really sick.

So, what you would do when it was really sick is you would lift it up on the rack and you’d get underneath there and look. I didn’t get underneath there and look. I have no mechanical bones in my body. In fact, when Christmas comes around, Mindy just hires people to put the kids’ stuff together because that’s where I sort of — whatever lack of sanctification I have in my life comes out when I’m trying to put something together. So, I don’t know if you’re like me, but I am like that.

Anyway, we’d bring the car in. And I started thinking about putting others first and lifting others up. And I was thinking, “Man, that’s a great analogy.” Because, when we took care of people and we put them first and we really lifted up their stuff and did what needed to be done, everything else sort of took care of itself. And I believe that that’s such a fundamental Christian principle, although it’s hard to understand and hard sometimes to put in our life.

So, I want to talk about that this weekend. But, to do that, I want to tell you a little bit of a story and give you a little bit of a history lesson on some things that I think will help us get to the passage where we’re going to where the passage really makes sense. So, to do that, I’m going to talk out of the epistle to the Philippian church this weekend. But, before I get into the text that I’m going to use, I think we need to have a little bit of a lesson of how it all transpired, how that letter came about, and so on and so forth.

In the book of Acts, Luke records in Acts 16 that Paul and Silas came to a city called Philippi. Now, I’m of the impression that there’s no surplus of words in Scripture. Like if you were to ask me — if you don’t know me well or whatever and you were to say, “Chip, what do you think about Scripture?” Chip Bennett thinks Scripture is absolutely the Word of God. So, therefore, I believe that every word is important. Luke recorded, on the City of Philippi, he says, “It was a Roman colony.”

Now, for you and me, we just probably, if we’re honest, we’re reading the book of Acts and we read “Roman colony” and we just breeze right on through. We’re not even really thinking about what that may mean, what that may imply, but if you’d have lived in the first century and you’d have been the recipients of Acts, you would have definitely known what a Roman colony was. Nobody would’ve been confused. And it’s important to understand what a Roman colony was because we might, together, miss a lot of things in the epistle to the Philippians if we don’t understand some of the culture in which these books were written.

So, the Roman colonies, one of the fundamental aspects of living in a Roman colony is this: You could worship whatever god you wanted to worship. I mean, it was a polytheistic world. They had all kinds of gods and all kinds of stuff. But, once all the gods were sort of done and whatever, there was one god that was sort of above everything else, or one thing that got deference from the other gods, and that was a guy named Caesar. Caesar had become a god by these times. What had happened is that Caesar has realized that when they died — so, whoever followed the Caesar before them, that Caesar would die and they would deify that Caesar and they would become a god. Well, the Caesars that were living were like, “Why am I going to wait till I die? I’ll just go become a god now.”

And so, they started deifying themselves. So, Caesars had a title, and we may not realize this, but it’s important to understand when reading Scripture. Caesar had a title in Greek that was “kurios.” In our translation of “kurios,” that’s “lord.” Caesar was lord. And so, because Caesar was lord, if you lived in a Roman colony, you had to put Caesar above everything else. I mean, you could have other things, but that’s where the line was. You had to have deference to Caesar. So, if you saw his bust somewhere in town, you’d sort of bow or do whatever you did, or maybe offer a little sacrifice.

So, if you didn’t do that, you were on the outskirts of the Roman colony because that’s just sort of what it was. Well, because Caesar was lord and he’s a god, and Rome is this great country — and they felt like they were. They felt like everybody else were sort of barbarians and nobody else was good. So, the Roman world was looking at how they could continue to encroach into the rest of the world to take Caesar being lord. In that encroachment, they had to have some sort of statement that they made about why it would be better to do it like the Romans do than the way you do it.

And that was called the “euangelion.” That’s the Greek word. Euangelion. And we translate that “good news.” So, Caesar had a good news, and the good news was this: Rome is better than everybody else. Rome is exceptional. Rome is great. Rome’s all this stuff. What we want to do is to make sure that everybody understands that Caesar is lord and that there is a good news that needs to go out. And if you want to become Roman, that’s fantastic. But, if not, we’ll just conquer you militarily because we believe that what we’re doing is better. If we let you conquer us, then we lose the way that we lose. And that’s the way it was.

So, if you were going to live in a Roman colony, you had to know all this stuff. And, on top of that, there was a huge patriotism to these Roman colonies, especially Philippi. Philippi had been the place where many battles had been fought and Rome had won. But one of the real big ones was Octavian had defeated Mark Antony there, and Octavian had gone on to become Caesar Augustus. So, there was a real loyalty to the Roman world, to the Caesar is lord, to the good news. And then the way society worked in these Roman colonies was a system that you and I are not too familiar with. It was called a patron client relationship.

Here’s the way it worked. There was a hierarchy in the structure of Roman colonies. So, there were people that had more and people that had a little less. People that had a little less and then less. And so, if you were a patron, what you would do is you would go and do something or give something to a client. Now, the client could not accept the gift, but if they did accept the gift — they didn’t earn the gift, deserve the gift or anything like that. You just gave it to them. If they then took the gift, if they did, then there was an obligation back that they would do a favor or do something in return for the gift that was given.

So, for instance, if I saw somebody — let’s take me for instance. Maybe I didn’t have food and maybe somebody who had more than I did said, “Here is some cornmeal for your family.” If I took that gift, then what I would do is I would be expected to honor that person or do something for that person in return. And it may just be as little as going around town going, “Hey, the guy who gave me cornmeal, he’s a great dude. He’s awesome.” Because it was an honor and shame society. And so, you wanted to be looked on good rather than bad. But this was fundamental to the thing.

And so, everybody was in this social network of a patron client relationship. Everybody was tied in some way, some form throughout the whole Roman colony, and patriotism and the good news of Caesar and all that was so important and fundamental. So, therefore, if you lived back in the time of Paul in Philippi or any of the Roman colonies, your economics and your wellbeing were tied to your religion, your politics and your patriotism. Everything was tied into this for your economics and wellbeing. You could have a religion. You could worship the sun god, the moon god and everything else. You just had to make sure that you understood who Caesar was. You had to understand that Rome was the way, it was the best way and you were patriotic to that.

If you were not, then your economics and your wellbeing were in trouble. All that’s important why? Because of the story that we get in the book of Acts. Paul comes to Philippi, the Roman colony — and now we understand more about a Roman colony. Maybe we didn’t know that before. Maybe some of you all knew that. But if you didn’t know it, maybe you’ve learned something today. So, he comes to the Roman colony and when he goes to the town, he goes out to the riverbank where there are some women that are praying. One of the women that’s there, her name is Lydia. As Paul shares the good news of Jesus — and you should start hearing some words here that you go, “Okay. Well, hold on. This is interesting. These words are very interesting. They’re very chosen. They’re very specific. They’re very subversive.”

So, when he tells her about Jesus, what does she do? She accepts Jesus. And then what does she say? She says, “Come back to my house.”

Now, you and I would look at it as like, “She’s just being nice.” No, no. Because Paul has shared something with her that she doesn’t have, she is expected to respond. And her response is, “Come back to my house.” So, they go back to her house. They’re living there. Paul’s in Philippi. He’s doing his thing. One day, he’s out and about and there’s this little girl, this slave girl, that is demon possessed, we’re told, who’s sort of mocking Paul and Silas. Eventually, Paul gets tired of this person mocking him. He turns around and, in the name of Jesus, casts the demon out.

And then we’re told by Luke — and this is really important. These are really important facts, especially knowing what we just know — that the girl made the owners money. We’re told that. She was a money maker. Okay? And because she was a money maker, that means that they could probably do things for others which got things back for them which means other people were tied in. There was a network. So, when the money goes, the whole patron client relationship goes with that money.

And what do they do? They go to the magistrates and they say, “These people are ruining our customs. They’re messing up the way we do life. They’re messing up everything.”

So, what do the magistrates do? Well, they strip Paul and Silas, beat them and throw them in prison. What a great day for Paul and Silas, right? So, they’re in prison. And I don’t know about you all, but if I got beat, stripped and thrown in prison, I’d probably be going, “Man, God, how come You’re letting this happen to me?”

They didn’t. They were real Christians. They’re signing and praising God in the prison cell. I know that none of you all would be like me. It’s that 11:45 heathen service that would do that. So, they’re praising God and everything. Everybody in the prison cell is freaking out. Well, God shows up and blows open all the doors. And, of course, what you would think is that everybody would run, but they don’t because they’re freaked out. Like, “I’ve never heard anybody singing and praising God after they’ve been beaten.”

And so, the Philippian Jailer runs in. He thinks everybody’s gone, which means he’s going to die because that’s his job. He has to keep everybody there. If he loses anybody, they kill him. So, he gets a sword. He’s ready to kill himself. Paul goes, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Time out, man. Everybody’s here.”

The Philippian Jailer’s like, “What? Everybody’s here? This must be a miracle.”

And so, in the Chip Bennett version, he’s like, “I want to get into whatever it is that you guys got. I’m in. What do I got to do to be saved, man? What do I got to do to get into this thing?”

And Paul’s response is huge. It doesn’t seem to be so huge to you and me if we don’t understand that background of this. It’s huge. He says, “Believe on the kurios, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Well, that’s a big deal for the Philippian Jailer because if his loyalty’s not to Caesar anymore, if his loyalty’s to Jesus, that’s going to create a really big issue for his life in every way. So, these words are important. So, Paul starts the Philippian church with some women, with some prisoners and the Philippian Jailer. Don’t you love the way the Bible’s just so real? I mean, it’s like, “Yes. I could be a part of that church.”

So, all good. Then some years go by. Paul started this church in Philippi and Paul is in probably Rome in prison. The Philippians are undergoing suffering because living the way they’re living is different. Because here’s the reality: They’re now a heavenly colony. See, they’re no longer a Roman colony. That’s why Paul talks about their citizenship is in heaven. This all makes sense when you understand how all of this breaks down. And no longer is Caesar lord, but Christ is Lord. And no longer is there the euangelion of the kurios, Caesar, there’s the good news of Jesus Christ. And no longer is the patriotism for the Roman colony. It’s the loyalty to the Lord and the good news and all that. And the patron client relationship has been redefined. No longer are they trying to figure out how they can get everything they want in society. Now what they’re doing is they’re trying to honor God who has now become their patron by giving them grace and allowing them to be in the heavenly colony that they’re now living out the Gospel and trying to live out the things in honoring the fact that God has done what He’s done for them.

So, as the Philippians are trying to understand, “How do we do this? How do we live in the world but we’re not really of the world even though we’re in the world? And we’re no longer really a Roman colony, we’re a heavenly colony. And that’s going to put us at odds.”

Which is the great fundamental issue of Christianity is trying to put culture and Christ together. They don’t work. They’ll never work ever, ever, ever, ever. We try to, but they won’t. We will compromise the Gospel if we try to put culture and Christianity together. They have to stand alone because His kingdom is not of this world. Period. End of story. It’s not of this world which is why it’s crazy the way we turn love for the enemies and turn the other cheek. We would never do that in this world. But see, we’re not called to be like this. We’re called to be this.

So, the Philippians are undergoing the reality of what that looks like in their life. They’re struggling. Some of them maybe get thrown in jail. Some of them maybe are losing things. They’ve lost their jobs. They’ve lost all kinds of stuff because they’re living, now, the way they’re supposed to live. Well, they’re going, “We don’t like this.”

I mean, does anybody like suffering? They’re like, “Man, we don’t like this.”

So, what they do is they decide that they’re going to take up an offering because they know Paul’s in prison. They’re going to send an offering to Paul which would then start the patron client deal because it was all pervasive. So, if they send the offering, then Paul sort of is obligated in some ways, if he takes the offering, to do whatever. So, they send the offering and Epaphroditus to Rome to Paul in prison. And Epaphroditus gets sick on the way there, but he finally gets there, gives the stuff to Paul and Paul sends Epaphroditus back because what they’re really wanting is they want Timothy. They want Timothy to come to Philippi to help them out.

Paul doesn’t send Timothy. He sends Epaphroditus and he sends the letter that we have to the Philippians. So, he starts off the letter as it comes to them and he says in Philippians 1:5, “Hey, you guys are in a partnership with the Gospel. You’re partners in the Gospel. And because you’re partners in the Gospel and you understand how that works and what God’s done for you and your response to God, I’m confident, because I know you’re in this walk that you’re doing these things, I’m confident that what God has started in you He will bring to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”

He says, “So, this is good. But I know you’re suffering. I know things are going on. So, let me talk to you a little bit about me.”

Paul says, “I’m in prison too.”

Shocker. Everywhere Paul went, he was in prison. So, he says, “I’m in prison. Here’s the deal,” in Philippians 1:12, “believe it or not, even though I’m in prison and I’m chained, the Gospel’s not chained.”

I mean, we would think naturally that if I was chained, that I couldn’t do whatever it is that God wanted me to do. In other words, if I was in affliction or I was in bondage or things weren’t going, we have this mindset that everything sort of has to be free for things to happen. Paul’s going, “Man, it’s not like the world. I’m in prison and I’m in chains, but the Gospel’s not chained. Man, the Gospel is going down the corridors of the Praetorian Guard and people are getting converted and all of this stuff. So, actually, what’s happened to me is really a good thing. It’s furthering the Gospel.”

That would be crazy if you’re looking at it from this world. It wouldn’t make any sense. But if you’re looking at it from the heavenly colony perspective, it makes tons of sense. And so he says to them, “Look, I just want to set this up. Sometimes, the things that are going on God can be using for good things, and so on and so forth. So, here’s the reality: I’m in prison. I could die. It could cost me my life. And, honestly, at this point I’ve been in prison so many times and gone through so many things. I’ve been beaten and shipwrecked and stoned. Not like in California, but with rocks. Not Colorado and all that stuff.”

So, he says, “All these things have happened to me. If I were to live, that’s Christ, but to die is gain. I could just go home and it would be cool. But (Philippians 1:24) for me to stay here is more needful for you.”

So, he started the patron client thing. “I’m doing something for you.” He says, “So, my response, what I want from you is I want your conduct...” — that’s a political term, how people walked as Roman citizens. He goes, “I want your conduct, since you’re heavenly colonists, to be worthy of the Gospel. That’s what I want from you. I want you to walk worthy to the Gospel and not being terrified by your opponents, the people that are going to do you wrong.”

Listen, hear your pastor and just hear his heart here. Whenever we get scared and frightened by the opponents and the things that go on in our world, we need to stop for a minute and take a gut check and realize this world is not all that there is. We don’t have to be frightened and live in fear because nobody can take your life. Nobody can end your life. If you are a Christian, you have eternity with God ahead of you. And it should change your whole perspective.

So, Paul says, “Hey, I know you’re going through some suffering and whatever, but don’t be frightened by your opponents because when they’re actually doing these things to you, that’s a sign that you’re in. That’s a sign of your salvation and it’s a sign of destruction to them. So, you’re engaged in the same thing. We’re all engaged in the same thing.”

So, he said, “After I said all those things and made all that, now here’s what I want to say. So, I’ve told you all these things. I’ve started off the way I started off. The suffering, and God can use it and all of this stuff. And I’m in chains and you’re in chains. God can do this and I’m going to stay for your account. I really want you to live this thing out. I really want you to have a manner worthy of the Gospel. I don’t want you to get frightened by your opponents. I want you to live this thing out. You are a heavenly citizen. You are not an earthly citizen. So, based on all of that — so because I know you’re going through difficulties, and all of us go through difficulties. So, what do we do when we’re going through the difficulties?”

He says, “So, here’s what I’m going to tell you. So, if there’s any encouragement in Christ,” — guys and gals here at Philippi, and now guys and gals here at Grace, or those watching via the internet and mobile app. “If there’s any encouragement in Christ — I’ve told you all these things — if there’s any comfort from love, any participation of the Spirit, any affection or any sympathy, if any of that is true in any way, shape or form, I want you to complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. I want everybody focused here. Everybody focused because we’re going through difficulties. How are we going to get through the difficulties? How are we going to get through the problems? How are we going to get through the sufferings?”

He’s like, “So, everything I’ve said, focus here. If any of the things that we believe about Jesus are true — and I want everybody to be of the same mind and same accord — here’s what I want you to do: I want you to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.”

Which is counterintuitive because when things are going wrong, the first thing that we think of is “me.” The first thing that we think of is, “I want to get what I need to get, and then I can worry about others.”

That’s the way the world works. Paul says, “In light of all this, so — I’ve told you all this stuff. So, if any of this is true, here’s what I want you to do: Do nothing from selfish ambition.”

That is a word that could mean selfishness. That is a word that can mean jealousy. That’s a word that says, “You know what? I’m looking at everything and I’m looking at the circumstances and situations. I’m going to get what I need because I’m not going to continue to live in this life. I’m going to go get it and make it happen.”

Paul says, “Hey, listen, when you’re going through all of this stuff and everything’s going on, listen to me — so, if you’ve heard what I’ve said, this is what I want you to do. Don’t do it the way the world does it. Don’t look at it and go, ‘Well, I should deserve this. I’ve worked hard. I’ve done all these things.’ Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or conceit.”

Listen to what he says: “But in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

You go, “I’m not going to do that. Why would I? I mean, I’ve got to take care of me. Me first. I mean, that just makes sense.”

That’s exactly right. In the world, it is me first. But not to Paul. Not to Paul in the middle of suffering. Not to Paul in the middle of difficulty. Not to Paul. He says, “Don’t do any of that stuff the way the world does it. You’re not like the world anymore. You’re a different place. You’re a different culture. You’re in the Gospel. You’re citizens of heaven. You’re a heavenly colony. Jesus is your Lord. You’ve got good news. You’re loyal to that. God’s your patron and you’re His client. He’s going to take care of you.”

He says, “So, count others...” — he didn’t say they are. He says, “Count others more significant than yourselves.”

And do you see what this does here? This is faith. See, faith isn’t required if I can get everything the way I want it and then I can help others. We convince ourselves that that’s good, godly Christianity. That’s not. That’s the way the world does it. Good, godly Christianity says, “I’m going to count others first before I count myself first.”

He says, “Not only that, let each of you look not only to his own interests,” because he knows all of us are going to be looking to our own interests, “but also to the interests of others.

And then what does he say in Philippians 2:5? He says, “Hey, let the mind among you be the same that was in Jesus.” He says, “Jesus was fully God. He could’ve totally pulled at His Godness. He could’ve grasped at His godness. He could’ve said, “It’s all about me.”

But what does He do? He gave Himself and became a man and He served others. And what did God do? He lifted Him up and gave Him a name that’s above every name. Which means for God, when we serve others and we reach out to others, God will lift us up and God will do the things that we’re looking for. We’ll never have the peace and the joy and the abundance when we try to do it in our own strength. It’s when we trust God by faith in the difficulties of life by pouring ourselves into others that God takes care of us on the other side. I know that’s tough. I know. I know. That’s why it can be a little tough.

But I can give you some examples of how this is absolutely true. I’ve had staff before, they’re tired. I mean, if you’re around here long enough, there’s a lot of things going on. Sometimes staff’s tired. A First Friday will show up. Everybody’s tired. They’ll go out there and serve and love on others. They’ll come back here after First Friday and they’re pumped up with energy. Why? Because it shouldn’t work that way. It shouldn’t work that if I’m tired and I go give to others — what should happen is I should go take a nap. Somebody needs to send me the spa card to the massage place. You know what I’m talking about? I mean, I need to go take care of myself. That’s what we think about.

Jesus says, “Hey, listen, if you’ll...” — that’s why He says, “Love God, love people.”

Everybody’s like, “What about me?”

“Love God, love people.”

“What about me?”

“Love God, love people.”

“I don’t know, Chip. I don’t want to deal with that stuff because people may take advantage of me.”

They will.

“Sometimes I may be a doormat.”

You will.

“Sometimes they’ll do things wrong to me.”

They will. Who are you trusting? Are you trusting yourself or are you trusting God? See, God’s only pleased by one thing, and that’s faith. By loving others, that creates a faith moment for you and me rather than a knowledge moment or an “I’m going to get what I want” moment. And it’s so easy to get wrapped up in culture and miss out the whole beautiful blessings of what faith can do in your life by doing it God’s way rather than our way.

So, let’s do a couple of take-homes here and some diagnostic thinking here. When we lift others up and put others first, we show our allegiance to Christ and are therefore living as authentic citizens of heaven. The Latin term is “sine qua non.” The “not without which.” In other words, you can’t have something without this. Christianity does not really, fundamentally exist without a God that reaches out to others. Not a self-serving God, but a loving God, a gracious God. And if we’ve been touched by that grace, the response for us should be to love others. Even people that we don’t maybe like, even our enemies, even those that have smacked us on the other cheek.

And we go, “Well, that’s not going to work because that’s not the way...”

No. That’s right. That’s not the way the world works, but that’s the way citizens of heaven work. It’s called faith. It’s called, “I trust God.” It’s called, “I believe that I can love my enemy because the world would tell me I can’t love my enemy because the enemy may take me out. But I can love my enemy because two things can happen. One, by loving my enemy, they may become a Christian and become my friends. By loving enemies, even if they do take my life, they can’t because this world is not all that there is.”

So, see, when we lift others up and put others first, we’re really showing our allegiance to Christ and we’re living as authentic citizens of heaven. The second thing I would tell you here — and this is important — is that by lifting others up and putting others first, we’re authenticating that the good work in which God has started in us will be brought to completion. See, everybody’s always worried. You hear it all the time. You know? You talk to people and they’re always worried about their salvation. Because, see, we’ve framed salvation as a “what we do” thing. You know?

“Well, you’re not a Christian because you did this.”

Listen, there’s nothing that you can do to earn your salvation. So, it would only make sense, if we’re looking at this in terms of a meritorious work, if there’s nothing that I can do by works that can gain my salvation, then there’s no works that I’m not going to do that are going to lose my salvation. It doesn’t make any sense the way that works if we’re thinking about it logically.

What we’re looking at for salvation is not how well I get everything right, because none of us are going to get there. What we’re looking at is, “Has our heart had a change somewhere in it where somewhere along the way we realized, whether we do it good or not, whether we’re there or not, that we really should be putting others first and not ourselves first?”

That is the authentication that you have really been touched by the Almighty God, because that’s what’s important to Him. Which means, theoretically, the most important person in the room is the person we’re next to. It’s not me. It’s you. It’s not me. It’s the person next to me. Can you imagine if we loved people the way we were supposed to love people? Can you imagine if we were compassionate to everybody? Not just the ones that we like or the ones that are like us. Can you imagine if we understood people think differently? Shocker on that one, right, that other people might think differently than we do?

Have you ever sat down and talked to somebody who thinks differently than you do? And you walk away going, “Wow. Maybe they’re right.”

I mean, it’s amazing how when we actually sit down and talk how we can learn things about people. Or having a servant’s heart. The reality here is that if there is the desire — and I’m not talking about you get it right all the time. None of us get it right. But there should be a desire in all of us to want to love and serve others. That comes from the Spirit of God that lives within you and me if we’re His children. That’s what He wants. He wants us to be people that love one another. It’s just part and parcel of being a Christian. It’s just who we are. And we can even nuance that and try to redefine it, but that’s not the way it is. It really is a love towards others. Not just the ones we like or the ones that do it the way we do it. It’s a genuine love when you have to get outside of yourself and love someone that is beyond you or someone that you can’t even stand or someone that’s done you wrong. That is uniquely Christian. That is uniquely Jesus.

And the third thing, because it’s the question, “But what about me? I mean, come on, man. What about me? Love God. Love others. What about me? I mean, if I do all this I may put myself in a situation. This doesn’t — what about me?”

Here’s the answer. And it’s a faith answer. And it’s the truth. God’s got our back because He’s the patron and we’re the client. He’s got your back. I could sit here over and over and over again and tell you stories about how people have selflessly given themselves to others and, all of a sudden, everything else that they needed came right along beside it. And what we do — let’s be honest — is we even try to get into that game of going, “Well, maybe if I do a little bit here, maybe I can get some things that I really want.”

You know? No. Jesus says this: “If you will just trust me.”

Just trust. It’s like every area of your life. Our social lives, our financial lives. Everything we look at. It’s a matter of do I trust God? Do I have faith? The only area that we could have faith in our relationship with others is when we put others first and not ourselves first. That is a faith gesture. And so, what about me? The answer is God’s got your back. If you and I will do what God has asked us to do, He has our back every single time. And it’s not a peace and a joy that we can get from just doing good. It’s not a peace and a joy that we can get from having something and giving out of our abundance. It is a peace and a joy that when we’re going through the grinder, rather than putting me first, I put somebody else first, what we experience is a supernatural peace, a supernatural joy and a supernatural abundance. That’s what we’re all looking for, and that takes us having faith and putting others first in our walk with God.

Amen? So, after that, I’m going to just drop the clicker. It’s just a truth. I mean, listen, here’s where my heart’s at. I don’t expect everybody to go out of here and do this perfectly. We all struggle with this. I’m just asking you to say, “God, let me take one step forward here. Let me just take one step forward at maybe getting outside of myself. Just one step forward of maybe getting involved in something that’s beyond me, of loving someone that’s not like me. Just one step forward.”

Let me tell you something: When you take that step you’ll find out — see, 11 people stayed in the boat. They didn’t take the step. Peter took a step and he walked on water. He didn’t walk on water that great, but at least he walked on water. At least, in heaven, he could go, “Ha ha! I was on the only dude that walked on water. None of you all walked on water. I took a step. Ha!”

Everybody else can go, “Well, yeah. But you sunk.”

“Oh, no, no. I walked on water for a little bit, man. I was walking on water.”

Listen. I’m telling you. Trust me here. Take a step and watch the miraculous that God does when you put others first in your life. Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. Lord, You know my heart. The last thing I want to do is make anybody feel bad or guilty about some of this stuff. I know all of us can struggle from time to time with this. Lord, my heart is just to be honest with Scripture that this is what Scripture says. And then, Lord, You’ve got to do what You do.

So, Lord, what I’m asking is that just all of us here would put down our walls, put down our defenses, put down all that stuff and just say, “God, You know what? Help me take a step. Help me just move a little bit more towards where You want me to go in this area of my life.”

Lord, by Your Spirit that lives within us, Lord — not in our strength and our own trying to run the hill. But, Lord, really, honestly submitting ourselves to You and saying, “God, work in me to give me a better heart to really put others first in my life, Lord, and to trust You that You really do have my back.”

Lord, I believe with all of my heart that if any of us will take that just little step, You’ll meet us in such ways, Lord, that will blow us away. And that is my prayer for the church this weekend, Lord, is that You would help us in our walk learn to put others first and to lift others up and to realize that when we do that, You truly will have our back.

So, Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would continue to watch over us, lead and guide us, bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us to be the church that You have called us to be, and that is the church to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”

Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody.

John Flowerree