Our House Week 3: Intentional Neighbors
When building a house, you start off with a strong foundation. This foundation, this framework, ultimately defines the way the house grows. What about this house? What defines us? Who are we in the body of Christ and to the community? Let’s start off this new year building a framework because this is what God has called us to. This is who we are. This is our house.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called “Our House.” At the beginning of every sermon when I’m in a series, I do a real quick recap just in case this is your first time here. Maybe you missed a week. I just think it’s good for all of us to remember what we’re doing. But, at the beginning of every year — and we’ve been doing this now for several years — I just feel like it’s important to go back through who we are, look at the DNA of our church, look at our vision and where we’re going so that, every year, we can get focused and head out into the year doing the things that God’s called us to do.
So, it’s a great thing, I feel, when we do this at the beginning of every year because, number one, it helps for all of us who consider Grace to be their home church — it just reminds us of what we’re doing. I think that’s important to constantly remember what we’re doing and what this church is about. But I think it’s also a blessing for those of you all, maybe, who joined in the middle of the year last year, or towards the end of the year. It helps you to understand a little bit more about what we are and who our DNA is. Or if you’re someone who decided to go back to church, which a lot of people do at the beginning of the year, it helps you decide very quickly, “Is this the church I really want to plug into and get engaged in, or is it not?”
And I’m a big proponent of making sure that people understand what we’re doing so there’s not a surprise six months down the road. “Oh, I didn’t know they did that.” All of those things.
So, that’s sort of what we’re doing. Last week, we talked about our vision here, which is to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. This weekend, I want to just hone in on one of the phrases in that, which is being an intentional neighbor. I want to try to really explain that in a way, maybe, I’ve never explained before, or maybe so you get a better understanding of what that fully means in every way.
But, to do that, I’ve got a little story here. It’s sort of humorous. It’s not humorous for me. You’ll enjoy it at my expense, but, I mean, sometimes you’re a person in need. This last Friday, Mindy took Gia, which is one of our 37 kids, to a field trip. They went with the school and all that stuff. So, that left me at home with the minivan to get the other ones to school and all that stuff. Mr. Mom.
So, I got up in the morning. I was determined to be on it because I knew the kids were like, “Oh, man. Dad’s getting us ready. It’s going to be not a good thing.”
Anyway, I was doing a good job and my little girl, Parker, looked at me and she goes, “Daddy, you’re good at this.” I’m like, “You bet I am.”
So, I’m getting them together. I got them to school. I texted Mindy. I’m like, “All kids in school. No serious injuries.”
So, they’re in school and all that good stuff. I come back, do my thing and pick them up at 3:20. I get them in the car, all that stuff and go home. Somebody’s at the house to help me out because I’m coming back here to make sure that the message is finally ready to go. The slides are good and all that stuff for Friday, and then I’ll go home. So, on the way out, I was like, “You know, it’s going to warm up the next couple days. It’s sort of cold. I haven’t run my sprinklers system in a while.”
So, I went to the garage on the way out and said, “I’ll turn this thing on.” It clicked on. I got in my car and took off. This is probably around 4:00 or 4:30. Well, at about 5:30-ish, I get a call from Jack, my son. His guitar teacher’s name is Sean. Sean never calls me. I mean, we’re just like, “Hey, man. What’s going on?” It’s just this real quick passing by stuff. He calls me and he says, “Hey, your neighbor came over and said that your sprinklers have been going on for about six hours.”
I’m like, “Yeah. That’s fake news. I just turned them on like an hour and a half ago.”
He’s like, “Well, I want you to know there is some water in between the two houses.”
I’m like, “Yeah. He probably watered today, and I watered. The ground was hard. Whatever.”
So, I do my thing, get done here and start heading home. As I’m pulling into my driveway, there’s water coming down between the two houses. I mean, enough to kayak on. I’m like, “This is pretty serious here.” You know? Let me just up front tell you that I’m not mechanical. So, it’s just going to really go south from here. You’ll love it. I won’t.
Anyway, I pull into my garage. I’m like, “Where’s this water coming from?” I’m thinking, “There’s just no way the sprinkler system is still on. An hour and a half? It’s got to be turned off.” So, I go to the back yard, I look and, I mean, the sprinklers are just going. It’s like this deep in water. I’m like, “I’m going to be a rice farmer.” It’s incredible. So, I go to the garage. When I go to the garage and open up the irrigation system — I think that’s what you call it. It’s CentCom for the irrigation. So, I open it up, I look and it’s not running. I’m like, “Hmm.” I go, “Let me cut this to ‘off’ even though it’s not running.”
I go back to the back yard. There’s just stuff going everywhere. So, I come back to the box and I’m thinking, “How is this happening? How is this off, but these are running?”
Sort of like when you go, “How’s God sovereign and how are we responsible?” It’s like in that moment. I’m like, “How is this thing working?” So, I decide, “I know what I’ll do. I’m going to unplug it.” I unplug it. I’m like, “Yes.” I go back there, sprinklers are just going. This is a crisis at this point because all I’m thinking is the water is flowing. I’m waiting for my neighbor to come out. We’ve got all these kids, dogs that get loose and, I mean, they look at us like, “Oh, it’s the pastor. Stay away from his church.”
I’m thinking to myself, “What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?” I’m like, “Oh, yeah. The guy that did some of the landscaping, he had that box over there one time that he was playing in with the irrigation system.”
Just a rule to self: If all you know about what that box is that someone was playing in it at some time, it’s probably not the time to go in there and start playing in it yourself. So, I go over there, I pull this purple lid off, I look in there and I’m like, “Man, what is all of this stuff?” There are wires going everywhere. I’m looking for a nozzle or a knob or whatever. I’m like, “You’re brilliant, Bennett!” I turn on my iPhone, YouTube, “What do you do when your sprinkler system won’t turn off?”
All of a sudden, I’m a plumber. I mean, I am a bona fide plumber. You can pay me $20/hr now after watching one YouTube video. So, I’m in there and they’re telling me about how the valves might be stuck or whatever. I’m like, “Alright.” So, I turn one of these things. When I do, it pops loose, water comes right up into my face, blows my glasses off — and this is sewage water. I’m like, “Oh, man.” But I’m sanctified. I didn’t say one bad word. I want you to know that. I didn’t. I really didn’t. I should have.
Anyway, I’m like, “Aww, man.” My glasses are off. It’s starting to get dark. I can’t see even with my glasses on. I’m looking around. I’ve got mulch and all this stuff. And then I look up and, all of a sudden, the sprinklers in the front yard come up. I’m like, “Man, this is a crisis.”
I have all this stuff going on, and then I start dialing church people’s numbers. I’m like, “Do you know anything about irrigation?”
“Pastor, are you okay?”
“No. I’m not okay.”
“What’s wrong with our pastor?”
And then I remembered, “Oh, the guy who did my landscaping. Rob. I’ll call him.”
He answers the phone. I’m like, “Rob. You are my new best friend. Me and you are tight.” I’m wearing this. I looked like Mr. Rogers. I’m like, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Anyway, believe it or not, he’s like, “Hey, my kids have got a game tonight, but I can come over to your house.”
I’m like, “Yes. Man, you are awesome. Whatever bill you want to come up with, I will pay it, man.”
Because now I’ve got sprinklers in the front and the back. I’m drenched. I’m running around. There are people walking along the sidewalk with their dogs going, “Don’t pay attention to that. That’s one of those Christians. That’s a pastor. Don’t go to his church.”
I’m looking around. All of a sudden, in the front yard, I’m like, “Oh, yeah. There’s another purple box.” I run to the front and open it up. It’s just wires. I’m like, “Oh. That’s not going to work.” I put it down. I’m like, “Are there any more purple boxes?” I’m looking. And then, all of a sudden — and, man, I’m pelted with sprinklers. I’m soaked, man. I’m the baptism before the baptism next week.
So, I go over and find this purple box with a circle. I lift it up and, literally, I think when I lifted it up, I heard music. It really was like finding the holy grail in there. It was this PVC pipe with a red twisty knob. I’m like, “This has got to be it.” I twisted it and it all shut off. I’m like, “Yes. Yes.”
I’m standing there in my front yard, in water, soaked. All of a sudden, this lady pulls up into our driveway who goes to our church who’s going to pick up my daughter to take them to a birthday party, and here I am, drenched. You have that moment where, okay, I’ve got to be nice. I’m the pastor. But they’re going to wonder, “What does this guy do when he’s not preaching?”
I’m like, “Hey! How’s it going?”
About that time, Grace comes out of the house. When she comes out of the house, we have this dog. His name is Choco. When you open the front door, he thinks it’s freedom. He’s the dog that everybody in the neighborhood knows. When the door opens, we have to go three miles down the road to get him because he doesn’t listen to anything. So, here I am. “Hey! How’s it going?” I’m like, “I hope she doesn’t see me. I hope it’s dark enough.”
Door opens. Here comes Choco through the water. I’m like, “Sit!” And then I’m like, “Hey! How’s it going? Yeah! It’s so good to see you. Praise the Lord. You dumb dog!”
He’s running around and he knows I’m mad at him. He’ll sit for a moment, but as soon as I go to get him, there he goes again. He’s through the water. Finally, he realizes, “Man, dad is mad.”
He runs right through the front door, back into the house. I walk in and I’m like, “Choco!” He totally rolls on his back, like, “Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me.”
I’m like, “I’m not going to kill you.” I go back outside. Rob shows back up. I’m like, “Man, it’s so good to see you. You’re going to be so proud of me. I found the stuff.”
We talked for a little bit. He goes, “I came to church. I need to get back in church. Maybe this was one of those things.”
I’m like, “Man, I didn’t call you to get you in church. I called you because I needed some help.”
I say all that to say, sometimes — and, look, the sprinkler thing, in the overall, eternal scheme, is really insignificant. But sometimes you’re just really in need. You just need help. You need somebody to get involved in your life. I say all of that to say that it’s not the sprinkler thing, it’s just the principle of the deal. There are so many people that are right outside of this church that are desperately in need of a Rob that will just show up and help them in whatever way they need to be helped. That’s what it means to be an intentional neighbor. This idea of being an intentional neighbor flows from the overall ideal of being a Christian; that we’re people who serve, people who get involved in people’s lives. People that serve. It’s a little counterintuitive if we’re honest with ourselves because, when we think of serving, normally, what we’re told all of our life is if you do well, you can have a big house, a gated community, big cars, take trips and all of this stuff. And if you’re really, really, really well-to-do, you have people that serve you, wait on you and whatever. So, we see that, sort of, as like a lower position. But Jesus’ kingdom is flipped upside-down. Jesus says, “The greatest among us are the ones that serve, or the ones that get involved in people’s lives.”
And we believe that. I believe that wholeheartedly. Part and parcel of being a Christian is not how well you get all the credal things right. I mean, James says the demons know that God has won. They get their theology right, but they’re still not going to go to heaven. A lot of times, what it means to really be a Christian is to be a follower of Christ, which means that we get involved in people’s lives. John says it this way: “How can you say that you love God whom you can’t see if you can’t love your brothers whom you can see?”
So, we really believer here at this church, and I believe as the pastor, that one of the fundamental aspects of being a Christian is someone that gets involved in people’s lives; someone that is an intentional neighbor.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. one time was speaking on the parable of the Good Samaritan. As he was preaching, there’s an excerpt from one of his sermons that I just think really is something to think about here to sort of get moving into this message. He says, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’”
Oftentimes, that’s the way it is. When we think about getting involved in someone’s life, we’re only looking at it through our lens. Like, “What’s going to happen? Are they going to do me wrong? Am I going to get taken advantage of and whatever?”
He said, “The first two people, the question they had is, ‘What’s going to happen to me?’ But the Good Samaritan reversed the question. ‘If I don’t stop and help this man, what’s going to happen to him?’”
I look at that and I say that’s the way Jesus is. I mean, Jesus is always looking out for the other. In fact, God, in His essence is a communal being. He’s a trinity of being. In the trinity, each one of them lives in this perfect relationship, but they honor each other. The Son glorifies the Father. The Father glorifies the Son. The Spirit testifies of Jesus. It’s this perfect relationship of others-seeking. So, when we think of God and who He is, He’s always others-thinking. He’s always looking out for the interest of others, not just Himself.
And you see that in the Old Testament over and over again where God’s always pleading the cause for the people that are getting done wrong. He’s always looking out for the ones that are being — in fact, if you want to know what really bothers God, it’s when you treat people in a bad way because those are people that He created. James says you can’t bless God with your tongue and then curse those that have been created in the image of God. And believe it or not — and I say this sincerely — a lot of Christians, maybe not you, don’t really have a great understanding of the Old Testament. We tend to, as Christians, totally focus on the New Testament. It’s like we don’t even know what to do with the Old Testament. In fact, many Christians don’t even read it because it doesn’t have anything to do — but it does. It’s so important to understanding who God is in the Old Testament.
One of the things that we find in the Old Testament is we find these words like “justice,” “righteousness,” “holiness” and all this stuff. And we tend to look at these terms through our own individualistic experiences. When we think of justice, we think of a judge with a robe saying, “You didn’t do this,” or whatever. I don’t know about you all, but I was an honor student in high school. “Yes, your honor. No, your honor.”
Anyway, righteousness. We think of it in terms of just ourselves as an individual, like, “Did I do the right thing or did I not do the right thing? Did I say the right thing or did I not?” So, we get our sense of justice and righteousness based on an individual thing, but God never looks at just the individualistic thing. He’s a communal God. So, what goes on here affects here, and what goes on there affects here. I think of the Jericho story. They march around the city seven times. The walls fall. God gives them this big victory. But then, the next battle that they have is a place called Ai. Well, they lose. You’re like, “How did they lose?”
Well, because Achan went and took some temple treasure and put it under his tent. Because of one guy, they lost the whole battle. One guy affected everybody. God looks at it that way. The sense of God’s justice and the sense of God’s righteousness are always sort of how we treat others. We have this sort of view that it’s how I live when it’s really how I treat others. The justice of God says that I’m going to handle the injustice of those that treat people wrong. When you read the Old Testament prophets, it’s always like, “Hey, God’s going to come and judge this place because you guys are treating the widows bad, you’re treating the poor bad, you’re treating the marginalized bad, you’re taking advantage of them and you’re doing those things. That is an injustice. I am a just God and you are living an unjust life.”
Being just is the way we treat others. Same thing for righteousness. You see it in the New Testament. Mary and Joseph, the Christmas Story. We all know the Christmas Story. It says that Joseph was a righteous man in one translation. Another one says he was a just man. These words are interchangeable in the Old Testament. Why was he a just man? Why was he a righteous man? Because he lived a good life? Because he got everything right? No. Matthew says he was a just man, a righteous man, because he didn’t want to put Mary to open shame. See, the way he treated her showed his justice. The way he treated her showed his righteousness.
So, when we think of these terms, that’s where this idea of being an intentional neighbor, and it’s where this idea of getting involved in other people’s lives comes from. It comes from the justice and righteousness of God. So, what I want to do here for a minute, because we’re going to look at an Old Testament passage, then we’re going to look at a New Testament passage, and then we’re going to ask some questions that are sort of really good points to ponder at the end that are relevant to us, right now, in 2019. But what I want to do here for just a second — and I love when I get to do this. I get to be a little bit of a teacher today. I get to sort of just go through something and work through it. I love when I get to do that because I feel like that’s one of my gifts. So, what I want to do is I want to look at a passage that you may or may not be familiar with, but the words “justice” and “righteousness” will appear in this psalm. What we’re going to see is we’re going to see the struggle of the psalmist, who’s going, “Okay. I know that I’m supposed to do good. I know that I’m supposed to be a neighbor. I know that I’m supposed to reach out to others. But there’s so much evil in the world. There’s so much garbage going on in the world. Why do I even want to do anything? It might not work. Somebody may take advantage of me.”
You see the struggle of someone being so for real about, “Am I really going to live for God? Am I really going to do what God says? If I do it, it doesn’t seem like it really goes anywhere.”
This all falls under what we call the Wisdom Literature of Scripture, which is Psalms, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes. They’re always dealing with two things in the Wisdom Literature. They’re always asking, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” That’s one of the things that they struggle with. The other one is, “Hey, you’d better do it God’s way because your way isn’t going to work.”
It says in Proverbs 14:12, “There’s a way that seems right to you and me, but it leads to death.” If you missed it, it’s again in Proverbs 16:25. “There’s a way that looks right to a man, but the end thereof is death.” Or Proverbs 3:5. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding.”
In other words, we’re always at conflict. God says do this, but everything within us says, “Don’t do that. Don’t do that. People take advantage. People do this. Let me sort of shield myself. Let me do this stuff here. Let me take care of it.”
And God says, “Okay, look. This is the deal. It’s either you’re going to do what I asked you to do, you’re going to have to live by faith, you’re going to have to trust me, or you’re going to sort of figure out how to live your life, call yourself a follower of God and put all the stuff together that doesn’t really look like this. That’s not going to help anybody.”
That’s where the whole idea of taking the Lord’s name in vain comes from. It’s not using a cuss word. What Moses is saying is, “Don’t take on the name of the Lord.” Like Mindy, when she married me, became Mindy Bennett, “Don’t take on my name and then not live up to what that looks like.”
That’s taking the Lord’s name in vain. So, what we want to do is look at Psalm 37. I think we’re going to have a really cool moment here with the text. And then we’ll move to the New Testament with some Jesus stuff. And then we’ll get out of here with some questions. I think we’ll have a really good time today.
So, the psalmist says this: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers;”
Well, let’s just go ahead and stop for a moment. Almost every Christian I know frets about evildoers. It’s on Facebook all the time. “I can’t stand these people.” I’ve been at your house when certain people come on TV and you want to throw a brick at them. I’ve seen this stuff. What does it mean to fret? What it means to fret is to be balled up on the inside, to be consumed, and for it just to be this rage on the inside. Don’t fret because of evildoers. Most Christians go, “Oh, that’s my sense of righteous indignation.”
Well, there’s nowhere in the Bible that it talks about righteous indignation. That’s something that we have created in our own world. The Bible says, “Don’t fret because of evildoers.” Don’t get caught up in that stuff. That’s not your business. Dealing with evildoers is God’s business. “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.”
Don’t fret because of evildoers. The flip side of it is when you get angry enough and you say, “God, why in the world are these people getting away with what they’re getting away with? I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to live for You. I’m trying to do all this stuff. It doesn’t work.”
A lot of times, we get so frustrated that then what we do is we become envious of what they have. It’s almost like, “I’m going to just join them. They’re getting ahead. I’m not getting ahead.”
“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”
This is the truth here. Do you believe that God is a God of righteousness? Do you believe that God is a God of justice? If you do, then you do believe that, at some point — and it may not be in your lifetime, but you do believe at some point God will settle all accounts. That’s called faith. So, my job is to trust God to do what He does. It’s not to try to be God in the world that I live in. He says, “Don’t get all fretting and all that stuff. They’re going to fade away.”
Here’s you and I’s role: “Trust in the Lord, and do good.”
Just trust in the Lord. And this is Hebrew parallelism. Same thing. Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. It’s saying the same thing. Just be there, do the things that you’re called to do, befriend faithfulness, do good things to people and trust the Lord. Don’t get distracted with other stuff. Stay focused in what God’s called you and me to do. Stay focused on doing the good. Stay focused on being an intentional neighbor.
You see that in the Ten Commandments. The first three deal with your relationship with God. Commandment Four is Sabbath; rest. Then the rest of it is how we deal with people. God and people. God and people. God and people. It’s always the same thing all the way through Scripture. It says, “Trust in the Lord, and do good.” Just do good. Be people that do good.
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
This is probably one of the most misused and abused passages of Scripture in all of the Bible. It does not say that if you just trust God, love God, trust God, love God, that the desires of your heart will be the desires of His heart and He’ll make whatever. That’s not it at all. The context here is dealing with evil. What he’s saying is if you will delight yourself in God, if you will trust in the Lord, if you will delight in the Lord — and he’s getting ready to tell you to commit to the Lord. All the same words. If you delight in the Lord, what He’ll do is He’ll eventually bring those desires to pass. What are those desires? To see God act. He will bring those to pass. Just trust God. Delight yourself in God.
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”
He’s going to take care of the evil. He’s going to take care of the stuff. You and I’s task is to be people that do good, and to be people that invade people’s lives to get involved.
He goes on to say, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”
When you’re involved in people’s lives, and you’re living that life, even though, sometimes, it doesn’t work and you wonder why this is going on the way it is, he says, “Hey, this is not a sprint. This is a marathon.”
He’ll bring forth that justice and righteousness because He’s going to act. He’s going to give you the desires of your heart. He’s going to do those things.
He says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!”
Don’t get distracted. Be the neighbors. Do good. Befriend faithfulness.
“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!”
Because, see, what happens is when we get focused on the evil in the world, or what we decide that we think is evil, or the group that we think is evil, or the person that we think is evil, or all the stuff that we just get so wrapped up in, what happens is we get angry, we get wrathful, we start to fret and where does it lead? Well, it leads to evil. It always leads to evil. Because that’s someone that God created. When you’re hating that person — and we do it. We get polarized in this country and we’re throwing all this stuff, mad and whatever, the psalmist says, “Stop that. God is in control of His world. What we’re called to be is people that do good and befriend faithfulness. Just live out those things. Don’t go down this road because it’s going to lead only to evil.”
“For the evildoers will be cut off,” — God will handle His deal — “but those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land.”
This is such a psalm of faith. Do I trust God, even though all the facts that I see sort of lead me to go, “I shouldn’t do this? Maybe I just need to stop.”
And we do that all the time. “I don’t want to get involved. It’s not going to work. People who do bad prosper more than me.”
The psalmist is dealing with that. Well, Jesus deals with the same thing, He just uses different words. Rather than “fret,” He uses “anxious.” Because, see, we have this sermon that we’ve got recorded, Matthew 5-7, which is called the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus, in that sermon, is saying things that are really tough. They’re tough. Like, “Love your enemy.” What? “Turn the other cheek.” What? “Don’t resist the evildoer.” What? Don’t resist them? What? “Yeah. Love your enemy.” Like, “No, man. That doesn’t seem right.”
Again, there’s a way that seems right, but it’s not the ways of Jesus. He says, “Forgive people, even when they’ve done you wrong.”
In fact, when you’re going to the temple, when you’re going to church, for you and me, and you know that somebody has something against you, go make that right and then come. It’s like, “Whoa, that is really, really wild.”
As Jesus is summing this thing up, here’s what He says: “Therefore, don’t be anxious about your life.” You’d be going, “What? Don’t be anxious about my life? That’s all I’ve got is anxiety in my life. That’s all I think about.”
He says, “Don’t do that.”
That’s either true or that’s not true. This is not a debatable issue. He says we shouldn’t be anxious. You go, “Well, I am anxious. I’m anxious all the time.” He says, “Don’t be anxious. What you’re going to eat, what you’re going to drink, what you’re going to put on — any of these things — is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
You’re going to, “Yeah. Well, of course it is. But, God, I’m anxious.”
He goes, “Okay. Well, hold on for a second. Just take a moment and look at the birds. Do the birds work like you? No. Do they store up stuff like you? No. What do they do? They just do bird things. They’re just birds. That’s all they are. They just do bird things. These birds that just do bird things — that’s all they do is bird things. They don’t reap, they don’t gather or do any of that stuff. Does your Heavenly Father feed them? Does He take care of them?”
The answer is, yeah, He does. He does.
He says, “Are you not of more value than they?”
I know some people, in today’s world — this was before PETA — think, “Animals and people are the same thing.” No. According to Jesus, there are people and there are animals. And I love animals. You can have my dog. But He says, “Are you not of more value than they?”
The answer is yes. He takes care of them. Are you of more value than they are? Yes. Well, okay. He takes care of them. “Why are you anxious?” He says. “And which of you, by being anxious, can add a single hour to your span of life? Do you really think that any of that worry, questions, fretting and all of that stuff is really bringing you life or adding one more second to your life? Not at all.”
He says, “So, why are you anxious about clothing?”
You’ve got to understand something. The people He’s talking to here are poor people. These aren’t people that don’t have clothing at times. In fact, the law, in the first century, protected people’s clothing. They had to go to court to get it. They couldn’t just take your clothing from you. They had to go to court. That’s why Jesus said, “If somebody takes you to court and wants your jacket, give them your shirt also,” because they had to take you to court. They couldn’t just come and get your clothes. You were protected for your clothes. That’s the one thing you needed to protect yourself. He goes, “Why are you anxious about that?”
We’d be like, “Whoa. What do you mean why am I not anxious about that? Because I’ve got one set of clothes. Yes, I am anxious.”
But He says, “Don’t be anxious about the clothes. What about the flowers here? Flowers just do flower things, and look at how beautiful they are. They don’t toil. They don’t spin. But they’re even more beautiful than Solomon in all of his glory. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, is He not going to clothe you, oh you of little faith? Is He not going to do that? Don’t be anxious. You just don’t have to be anxious.”
“What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? What are we going to wear?”
He says, “The Gentiles seek after these things.” That’s one of those moments where you go, “Oh, man.” What that really means is that the people that are not followers of God are seeking after those things. You’re going, “Oh, man. But, so many times, I’m seeking after those things. God’s basically calling me a pagan, even though I know I’m not a pagan. I’m a Christian.”
Sometimes it’s like the Bible’s got those “ouch” moments, if we’re being honest. I will tell you this: Sometimes you read the Bible and it’s like, “Yes. Alright. Goosebumps. Yeah. Good.” And then, sometimes, you read it and it’s like, “Ouch. Got me.”
I can assure you this: We’re committed to preaching both sides of that, here at Grace. So, you’re going to get the goosebumps from time to time, and you’re also going to get the ouches from time to time, because we believe that the whole council of God is important to equip saints. Can I at least get an amen on that one? Right?
So, He says, “They seek after these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” So, here we go: “Seek first the Kingdom of God.”
This is the throne of my life or the throne of your life. Who’s here? Because what Jesus says is that the first thing you’ve got to do, period, end of story, is you’ve got to figure out who’s here. Seek first the Kingdom of God. You’ve got to ask God’s reign in your life. And if we’re being honest — and I hope that we are — there are some parts of our life where we’re like, “I’ll let a little bit of God on this chair, and a little bit of me. But some of the areas in my life, I really don’t want God there. If God was there, it would really mess my life up if He were there.”
Jesus says, “Well, you’ve got to figure that out first. That’s the first thing you’ve got to seek first is here.”
And I say it this way: I think American Christians love the fact of Jesus being our Savior, I just don’t think we like the idea of Him being our Lord. We like the forgiveness and all that stuff — miracles. We like the Savior part, just the Lord part is like, “Aww, man. You mean I’ve got to love my wife that way? Aww, man. I’ve got trust God with my finances? That’s the last thing I want to do. Aww, man. I don’t want to do that.”
This is the struggle. Jesus says, “Hey, the first thing we’ve got to get right in our lives is this, because if this isn’t right, then we’re going to be anxious, we’re going to be fretting.”
You’ve got to figure out does God really reign? Does He really reign? Is He there? Seek first the Kingdom of God. His reign. Then He says, “And His righteousness.” Well, we should now know what righteousness because we’ve been talking about that for a while. See? It’s seek God and pour yourself into others. Love God and love others. These are the two things. Seek God and His reign in your life. If you don’t have His reign in your life, you’re surely not going to live righteous lives. It says, “Seek God and His kingdom. Be righteous in His righteousness, what that means in your life.”
And then what He says is this: “And all these things will be added to you.”
That’s why we believe, here at Grace, 100%, that if we’re involved in having a relationship with God, and we’re involved in pouring ourselves into others, it gives us the most opportunity to have the most abundant life that God has for you and me. So, here’s what I want to do now that we’ve looked at all those passages of Scripture and we’ve taken a moment to look at that, I want to do some points to ponder. Before we do that — and those of you watching via the internet and the mobile app, too, I just want to take a second here.
Lord, I pray that, right now, in Your name, that You would really speak to us because these are difficult issues. We all struggle with all of this stuff. Many of us feel guilty and bad when we hear these things, and that’s not what we’re doing here. Lord, we’re just trying to expose us to Your Word to help us to become more like You for Your glory and for Your honor. We thank You for it, Lord.
So, as we look at these points to ponder, I just want you to really allow God to speak to You. I’m surely not trying to put any guilt on anybody. The name of our church is not Guilt Community Church. It is Grace Community Church. But we do want to let God’s Word speak to us. So, the first thing we want to ponder is Jesus is asking His followers to adopt a new standard and horizon for living. I’m talking about a radically different view than what we would just do naturally, like the way we would engage with people. Totally different standard and horizon for living. He’s called us to a relationally different way of being with others as His followers. In other words, we do things differently than anybody else would do. It’s radically different.
You can even see this in Paul. Paul’s writing into a situation to the church at Galatia. He says, “Hey, listen. I know you guys are struggling with the law, grace and all of this stuff. I want you to be free. I don’t want you to be under the law. We’re called to freedom, brothers.”
So many Christians are like, “Yes! I’m so glad that I got free,” but the next thing is we sort of don’t listen to the next time. We just hear the freedom part. But this is what He says. He goes, “Don’t use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. You’ve been freed up to serve. This is who we are. It’s a relationally different way of being.”
He says, “The whole lost will feel this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is what we do. We’re not free to just be free. We’re not just free to be, “Oh, I feel great.” We’re free so that we can engage in a different way. And here’s the real deal: The standard of this new way of being is how Jesus treated you and I. John 15:12. Look at what it says here.
“‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’”
So, we get all bent out of shape about people that we don’t like, or groups that we don’t like, or things on TV, or things on social media. You start to get enraged, mad or whatever. The question is are you loving them like Jesus loved you? No. And Jesus says, “Look, this is a whole different way of being here. This is a whole other standard of living. This is the way I want you to live.”
That’s why, here at Grace, we want to be intentional neighbors. We want to get involved in our community because we believe that’s what it looks like to be Jesus-followers. And everybody else maybe has their idea, and you can go to different places and they’ll tell you what to do. We just passionately believe, and I believe as your pastor, one of the major tenants of being a follower of Jesus is that we get involved in people’s lives. I think I can demonstrate over and over and over again in Scripture that that is true. In fact, I would say it’s one of the most fundamental things about being a Christian.
Well, the second thing is — and this is a point to ponder — in a society full of anxiety and worry, I think the question looms large: Do we really trust God? Again, not trying to put anybody under any guilt trip, but it’s a real question because you’re probably going, “Yeah, man. All that stuff you just read? I’m anxious all the time. I’m worrying all the time. I’ve got all these things going on. I get mad. I get frustrated. You’re right, man. I don’t know. I mean, it’s sort of like I know that I’m a Christian, because I know that I’m not saved by what I do, but I can’t say that, when it comes to what it looks like what Christians do, I can’t say that I look like that all the time. I wish I really knew how to trust God.”
I don’t know how to do sprinklers, but I definitely can read minds. See? How do I trust God? I knew you were thinking that, so I’m going to help you out here on how to trust God. I’m going to give you four quick things here that I believe will revolutionize your life if you’re looking to trust God. If you’re going, “Do you know what? I just saw what you read to me. That’s right. That’s what we should be. But I’m having a hard time trusting God for those things.”
Let me give you some things here in your life that I think will help you to really trust God. The first thing that we have to do is repent. Now, the word “repent” is much maligned in the Church. A lot of people think that to repent you’ve got to come down and pray for three hours, cry and all of this stuff. I’m not saying that that might not happen when you repent, but the Greek word itself, “metanoia,” just means to change your mind. It was used when kings would conquer another king. They would send a letter telling them to repent, which means that rather than serving that king that just got beat, you serve the new king that just took over. That’s the way the word was used.
So, when Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent,” what He’s saying is, “Stop doing it your way and start doing it my way.” Which is why, if you’re going to repent, you need to go home, do it here or wherever. Just have that moment with God. Say, “God, I’ve been doing it my way. I’ve been doing it my way and not Your way. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m going to have a real moment with You. I’m going to get honest here.”
The word “confession” — “homologeo” is the Greek word — means to say the same thing. In other words, whatever it is that you’re doing, say it is what you’re doing. Don’t do the, “Well, God, You know, I might’ve been doing something.” Just say, “God, I ain’t been doing it Your way.”
Just tell Him what it is. “God, I’ve not been doing it Your way. On top of that, I’ve been taking on things that I’m unwilling to trust You for or with. So, we’re going to have a moment here, God, that I’m just not. I’m not trusting You in the way that I should. I’m taking on things that I shouldn’t take on. So, I want to own that. I want to take a moment and own that. I own that.”
That’s something only you can do. That’s something that only you can mean. If you mean it, then you mean it. If you don’t mean it, you just say those words it doesn’t work. It has to be honest. It has to be sincere; to repent.
The second thing is to memorize and speak Scripture. See, you could say, “God, I want to do it Your way, I’m in,” but if you don’t know what God’s way is, you don’t even know where to go. If you don’t know what Scripture says, then you’re probably not going to know what God wants you to do in those particular situations, which is why it’s really important for us to understand the Word of God. Which is why I spend a lot of time up here going through a lot of passages of Scripture every weekend, because I want us to know what Scripture says about certain things. But I think memorizing Scripture and speaking Scripture — Jesus, when He was tempted by the devil, He actually quoted Scripture. So, if He did that, then it’s probably really important. And you see this. Even Joshua says it this way. He says, “The book of the law shall not depart from your mouth.”
Well, how are you speaking something that you don’t know? Obviously, they’ve understood the Scripture and now they’re speaking it. He says, “But you meditate on it so that you may be careful to do according to all that’s written in it, for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
The third thing I would tell you to do — and this is really important — is when you repent, say, “God, I want to do it Your way. I’m not doing it my way. I see what Your Word says. I want to do what Your Word says. I’m honoring Your Word. Sometimes, when I think I’m going in the wrong direction, I say, ‘This is what God’s Word says.’ I trust You.”
The next thing we need to do is change our vocab. What happens is, a lot of times, we say, “God, I want to do it Your way,” and then what we do is we sort of read the Scripture, but then, when something comes up, the words out of our mouth are just negative. “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe whatever.”
Rather than going, “No, no, no. This is what God says. I’m going to be positive about this. I’m going to trust God in the middle of this rather than getting distracted with my won negativity and all this other stuff.”
We just sort of need to change our vocab because death and life are in the power of the tongue. I tell my kids all the time, “Don’t talk to your sister or brother like that. That’s your brother and sister. Either say something positive or go to your room. We’re not going to be negative people around here, at all, except when the irrigation goes bad.”
Fourth, and this is huge, pray for patience. Oftentimes, we go, “Okay. I repented. I read a Scripture. I’m trying to be positive.” Where’s it at? God’s not a microwave. Okay? It doesn’t just always happen like this. Pray for patience and say, “God, I really want to do it Your way. I see what Your Word says. I’m going to be positive about this. I’m going to pray for patience.”
You’ll find yourself, over time, starting to learn to really trust God in areas that maybe you haven’t trusted God in before. And the last point I think that we need to ponder as a church is this: Ask the Lord to accomplish His reign and righteousness in us, and help us to find a place to serve in and outside of our house.
In other words, I want 100% of the people that come to Grace. I don’t want spectators. I want participants. I want people involved. I want you involved in having a place in our house. In other words, you know, “Hey, this is what I do for the Kingdom of God in Grace Community Church.”
And I also want you to know what your place is outside of the house where you can go and get involved. It may be praying for your neighbors. It may be mowing yards. It may be getting involved in something else. But to know, “Hey, these are the two things that I have in my life that I know that I am involved in.”
Serving. Involved in really being an intentional neighbor to the people in the house because we want to be neighborly here to one another, and we also want to be neighborly to those outside of the house. And if you say, “Well, how do I accomplish that? How do I do that?”
I’ll give you three quick, little things. One, don’t overthink it. Just be like Nike and do it. Okay? A lot of the times, we go, “I don’t know. I’m not sure.” No. Sometimes, you’ve just got to just put yourself into a position. If you see something that you think, “That’s sort of interesting,” just do it. It may not be the right thing. The second part is really important here. Give ourselves permission to explore. A lot of times, when you step out and you try to get involved, and you start doing the things that God’s called you to do, that’s not the thing. Sometimes God moves you around and gets you to the place where it is that He wants you to be. But you’ve got to get out and do it. You’ve got to give yourself permission to explore. Decide to wrestle with God until He blesses. “God, I’m in this thing to win it. I’m in this thing to find out what it is that You have for me. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to stop serving people in the house and serving people outside of the house until I find that sweet spot where You are really blessing me in my life in both those areas.”
I’m going to tell you right now that if you and I can find a true, honest relationship with God that is involved in serving in the house and outside of the house, I’m telling you you put yourself in a position to live the greatest life that God can have for you. An abundant life. That’s why we passionately believe in being intentional neighbors here at Grace. It’s not to just run a machine. It’s because we believe that when people are involved in service to others, it really, genuinely is the most impactful thing that we can do as human beings. It allows God an opportunity to move in our lives.
So, if you would, would you bow your heads? Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, for the fact that You are a God who comes to us. Lord, help us to be people that go to others. God, You’re a God that washes feet. Help us to be people that wash others’ feet. Lord, I pray that You would really help us here, at this church, Grace, to be a church where we have participation in all of us wanting to be an intentional neighbor, in and outside of the house, Lord, for Your glory.
Lord, I believe with all of my heart that we are sitting on a powder keg of Your glory. Lord, I believe that revival can happen if we can focus on the things that You’ve asked us to do. Not doing it our way, but doing it Your way.
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would lead, guide and direct us. I pray that You would continue to watch over us and protect us. I pray that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that You would help us to stay focused here at Grace to be what You’ve called us to be: A church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You, and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.