Our House Week 4: Intentionality
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 that I do, especially when we’re in a series, I try to make sure that I go back and recap what’s going on because I know that there are people that show up, it’s their first time at Grace, and if you’re in a series, they may feel like ,”Man, do I know what’s going on? Am I going to learn anything?”
I want to put you at ease because I sort of do a summary so that you feel comfortable. I also do it for those that maybe missed a week or two. It’s always good to just sort of be reminded of what we’re doing. Then, for those that haven’t missed a week, I find that just getting us all on the same sheet and reminding everybody what we’re doing in this particular series is important.
So, here’s what we’ve been doing. Over the last several years at the beginning of each year, I’ve just felt like it’s important, as a pastor, to go back and to talk about who we are as a church, what our DNA is, what our vision is. I just find that to be so important because it keeps us on track. Because at the beginning of every year, everybody’s sort of focused and thinking about, usually by February or March, we just sort of get in those ruts and we’re done. But, at the beginning of the year, to be able to talk about who we are, to share our vision and all of those things, and then, maybe to address a few little things that we think are important for us going into 2019. That’s what we’ve been doing.
So, the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about our vision that we want to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. This weekend, what I want to do is I want to talk to you about something that’s on my heart that I really feel is important for us here at Grace. Not only as individuals, but also as a church. It’s living a life of intentionality. Being intentional in everything that we do. And let’s be honest. It’s easy in the day and age that we live to just sort of fall into routines. I mean, we’re all busy. We’re all doing stuff. Sometimes, if you’re honest, it’s like a week goes by and you don’t even know where the week went because it’s just sort of the same old same thing over and over again.
Maybe you can relate to this. If you can, don’t tell anybody, but I’ll be the one who shares it. I’ll be the vulnerable one. When I used to travel from college, from Lee, which was in Cleveland, Tennessee, back to where my mom and lived at the time, when I was in college, it was in Tampa. It was a long drive. Eight- or nine-hour drive. It seems like, oftentimes, on a Friday afternoon after class was out, I’d get in my car — and I had a really awesome car. It was a Ford Escort. It was pretty cool, though. This was the cool part: When you open the door, the seatbelt was automatic. It would go down. I tried to act like that was the cool part, but they’re like, “Chip, it’s a Ford Escort.”
Anyway, that being said, I’d get in the car and I’d drive home. What would happen, invariably, almost every time I drove home, is I would look up and I’d be like, “Man, I’ve been driving for an hour and I don’t even remember that I’ve been driving for an hour.”
I just zoned out. I don’t know if that’s ever happened to you. I’m sure that it has. Don’t tell anybody. But you’re just driving along the interstate and you’re thinking about something, or listening to a song, and then you realize, “Man, how did I get from here to there?”
You know? Sometimes in our lives, that’s just the way we live. We just live like, “Man, how did I get here? I don’t even remember what I did to get here. I’m just sort of in a routine and in a rut.”
I would like to suggest to you that that is not the way that God wants His people to live. He wants us to live with intention and purpose in our lives. So, what I’d like to do is talk a little bit about living an intentional life here in 2019, not only as individuals, but also as Grace Community Church. To do that, I want to look at an epistle. We’ve look at this before in some ways. I think we’ve talked about this letter. Some of this may sound familiar. You may remember some of these verses because we’ve talked about some of these verses, but we’re going to look at them a little differently this weekend. But it’s in the letter to the church at Ephesus that Paul has written.
You know, Paul didn’t start this church. He didn’t know people in this church. But this church had started, it had been founded, and he’s writing to them to remind them, “Hey, this is a pretty serious deal what’s going on here. God didn’t just save you just to make you feel good and to put you in the Lamb’s book of life and just to get your sins atoned for. He saved you for His purposes. He saved you to do something for the Kingdom of God. He wants to use you to influence the people that you’re around.”
So, he writes this epistle. The way he writes is very indicative of the way Paul writes all of his epistles. He usually starts them off and tells you who you are in Jesus from the very beginning. Normally, for us in life — and it’s why we have such a hard time understanding Christianity. If we want to become something in life, we have to do things to become something. So, if you want to be a great swimmer, you have to get in the pool and you swim and you swim to become a great swimmer. If you want to be a great basketball player, you have to practice. You have to dribble. You have to do all of that stuff. And all of the good ones go to Kentucky.
But, you know, you do your stuff. But to become good, you have to do something. Okay. Well, the reality is that in Christianity it’s the exact opposite. There’s nothing that you and I can do to become a Christian. There’s nothing. We couldn’t earn enough. We couldn’t give enough. We couldn’t pray enough. We couldn’t love enough to become a Christian. That’s why Christianity always starts off with what Jesus has done for you and me. It doesn’t start off with what we do. It starts off with what He’s done. That’s why Paul, in his epistles, will start off saying, “You’re chosen. You’re holy. You’ve been filled with the Spirit. You’ve been sealed with the Spirit. You’re part of the Church. You’re going to do all these great things.”
He’s telling everybody who they are. Well, as typical, in Ephesians 4:1, he says, “Okay. Now what I you to do is I want you to walk worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called.” In other words, walk out what you already are. So, the best way is to put it this way. When you and I decide that we believe that Jesus is risen from the dead, we believe He died on the cross for our sins, we believe He rose again on the third day, when we say, “I am in. I am a follower of Jesus,” at that moment, because of what Jesus has done for you and me, you will never be any more holy, you will never be any more righteous, you’ll never be any more right with God than you were at that particular moment because Christianity doesn’t start off with “do.” It starts off with what God has done for you and me.
So then, what he does is he starts telling everybody, “Okay. Now do this, do this and do this.” We get in those sections and we start going, “Oh, okay. This is what a Christian is supposed to do.” True to some degree, but Paul is not writing to non-believers. He’s not saying, “Do this, do this, do this so that you can be okay with God.” He’s writing to believers. He’s writing to Christians. He’s saying, “Hey, live up to who you are. This is who you are. Do these things not so that you can become a Christian. Do these things because this is who you already are.”
So, as he works through Ephesians 4 and 5 where he’s doing these ethical admonitions, which are flowing from who we are. In Ephesians 5:15, what he does is he sort of takes just everything that he said in just a few short verses, scrunches everything in about this purposeful life of what it looks like to really live for God here, and what it looks like to live for God here, in anticipation of the fact that if we’re not living on purpose and living on point, then where he goes next is talking about how we love our spouses, how we treat our kids, how we engage in spiritual warfare. If we’re not living on purpose, none of those things are probably going to be happening in our life. So, listen to what he says. We’re going to look at a few verses. We’re going to go through them fairly in-depth, and then we’ll do some practical take-homes.
What he says in Ephesians 5:15 is, “Look carefully then how you walk,”
Now, that’s interesting because this is written to Christians. It’s not written to non-Christians. It seems like a lot of times, as Christians, we go out and go, “Man, you better pay attention how you walk. God’s going to get you. Look carefully at how you walk.”
No. He’s writing this to people that are already going to heaven, that are already loved by God, that have already said, “Jesus is my Lord and Savior.”
Paul’s like, “Hey, I need to have a moment with you. I just need to have a real serious, pastoral moment. You need to pay attention to how you walk because it’s real easy to get tripped up. It’s real easy to just fall into a routine and forget that Jesus didn’t just save you so that He could save you. He saved you with a purpose. There is an intention for every single one of us in the body of Christ.”
“Look carefully then how you walk,”
And we do. We should pay attention. I don’t know if you have had kids in your life. If you have, you understand this. If you have young kids, you understand it more so. If you’ve never had children, you can at least understand the concept. A lot of times, kids leave stuff out on the floor. My kids have these scooters that they ride. I don’t know. You put a foot on one and you do this thing here. I should’ve brought one up here and showed it to you. Well, they leave these things out everywhere. I mean, you walk out of the garage, and the scooter’s laying there. You trip over it and into the Honda Odyssey you fall. It’s like, “Come on.”
But you learn when you have children that you pay attention to where you walk. We have a brand new puppy around the house. He’s a cockapoo. He’s more on the poo side at this point. So, we’ve got two of those jokers around the house. The Devil and Lucifer. Anyway, it’s Choco and Rusty. Rusty has not learned that the outside is where you go to deposit those things, but he’s working on that process. So, we have to be careful walking around our house because you don’t pay attention and Rusty has struck again.
But the thing is he says, “Look carefully then how you walk.” And then what he does — and this is really, really, really important. What he does is he doesn’t assume that everybody knows what that looks like. He doesn’t assume that everybody knows, “Hey, this is how I’d walk this thing out. I’ve got this. I understand it. I got the whole download.”
What he does is he says, “Not this way, but this way.” Okay? And he does it three times. He says, “Not, but.” So, be careful how you walk. Pay attention. Not this way. Unwise. Don’t do it that way. Do it being wise. And we’ll talk about this as we go through the passages of Scripture. But what I want you to do, a lot of times when we’re reading Scripture, we’re not underlining words, we’re sort of just reading through it. It’s like a transaction. In fact, so many times I feel like Bible reading to Christians is just something that you can say that you did. That is a performance, hamster wheel. Don’t do it for those reasons. Do it because you’re trying to learn more about who your Savior is. You’re trying to learn more about what God wants for your life because you’re trying to have a relationship with God.
So, Paul doesn’t assume that anybody knows anything, but what I’m trying to do here is help you, when you’re reading Scripture, to go, “Hey, I didn’t really realize that. There’s a ‘not’ there. There’s a ‘but.’ Oh, here’s another ‘not.’ Paul’s teaching me something.”
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,”
Not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And not drunk, but be filled with the Spirit of God. He says this because he’s trying to help Christians who are struggling living it out in the culture that they’re living out there in Ephesus. He’s saying, “Listen, I want you to be careful how you walk, and I don’t want you to do it this way. It’s possible that some of you all are doing it this way. You’re going to heaven, you love God, and God loves you, but you’re doing it this way. Don’t do it this way. Do it this way. Not this way, but this way.”
So, here’s what he says: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,”
What does that mean? What does it mean to live a life of wisdom? I mean, if you ask most people, they’ll say, “I guess ‘wise’ is like knowing a lot of things.”
No. That’s not the way the Bible uses the term “wisdom.” What we have to do is we have to go back, and this is why it’s really important to understand the Old Testament, because the Old Testament sets the tone for almost all of these New Testament concepts. So, when we talk about wisdom, the Bible and the Old Testament are filled with this idea and understanding of wisdom. So, I can’t spend a whole lot of time on it, but I’ll just show you a passage on how wisdom is used a lot in the Old Testament.
It says, in Exodus 31:1, “The Lord said to Charlton Heston...”
I mean, “The Lord said to Moses, ’See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,’” — and this is important here. Look at this. This is important.
“‘And I have filled him with the Spirit of God,’”
In other words, “He’s one of mine. He’s been filled with the Spirit of God.” People are like, “Oh, man. People weren’t filled with the Spirit of God in the Old Testament.”
“‘And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship,’”
The word “ability” is translated, in most translations, “wisdom,” which is a fine translation. Ability is fine, but this idea, what this word means, it’s not just a word. It has concept. It has meaning. It has contour. It has contextualization. He says, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God. I’ve given this guy ability, Bezalel. He’s got ability. He’s got wisdom. Not only that, but he’s got intelligence, knowledge and craftsmanship.
“To devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.”
The idea of wisdom in the Old Testament is that you and I, if you have wisdom, are able to take all of the things that God has given to you and you’re able to use them in a creative way to do certain things. In this particular context here, this is someone who’s cutting stuff, shaping stuff and all of that stuff. But this is the way Paul uses it in Ephesians.
Understanding the word “wisdom” is taking all of those things and using it for purposes, here’s what he says: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,”
What does it mean to be wise? We just talked about wisdom. Look at what he says because this is important.
He says, “Making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”
Paul is saying this: “Hey, everybody needs to live a life of intention because every single moment of your life is an opportunity, if you’re using the wisdom that God has given to you, to make the best use of that time.”
That word “best use” is a word that means to buy back or to redeem. Imagine this. Imagine that if we lived our lives every moment, not falling asleep at the wheel, not getting into a rut where we just live through the week and go, “Oh, I’m here at the weekend. I don’t know how I got here,” but if every moment of the day we were thinking, “Hey, there is an opportunity in every situation of my life to buy back out of the evil world for God’s kingdom and for God’s purposes,” and God wants to use me and He wants to use you to live a life that way.
So, here’s what he says after that. Since we’re going to pay attention, we’re not going to be unwise but wise, and we’re going to make the best use of every time.
He says, since that’s true, “Therefore do not...” — there’s that word “not” — “...be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Well, what’s the will of the Lord? People struggle with the will of the Lord. Nowhere in the Bible — nowhere — are we told to find the will of God. You can go back. We did a series — I don’t know if was a year ago or whatever. Time sort of escapes me in terms of exactly when it was. But it was called The Blueprint Myth. You can find it on the website. You can also find it in the mobile app. We talked about God’s will. The most important thing to understand is God’s will is not told to be found in Scripture. We’re told to do it. The psalmist doesn’t say, “Teach me to find it.” He says, “Teach me to do it.”
So, the will of God is not some dot thing. Like, “I go here today. I brush my teeth at this time. I say this to this person.” And then, if you messed up along the way, you’re out or whatever. No. The will of God is simply this: God says, “Marriage: Here’s the way I want it to be. Your finances: Here’s the way I want it to be. Forgives: Here’s the way I want it to be. Friendships: Here’s the way I want it to be. The way you do Church: Here’s the way I want it to be.”
But then the creativity of you and I is in doing those things. For instance, in marriages, some people really, in their marriage, go, “The Bible is clear. I’m supposed to love my spouse. I’m supposed to serve my spouse. I’m supposed to do those things. But how I do that is flexible. I’m flexible in that.”
So, some people — I mean, I talk to people all the time that’ll be like, “Man, the greatest thing we do is we go to the movies. We love the movies. It’s just what we love. It’s so great. We just like to talk about that stuff.”
That’s fine. No big deal. God’s not going, “That’s not my will.” No. If you’re working together on your marriage, and going to a movie is what you want to do — some people are like, “We go kayaking,” or whatever. If you’re godly, you just watch Kentucky basketball together. But the deal is — and I’ve got to talk about it because we beat Kansas. Anyway, that being said, the will of the Lord, what he’s saying is, “Hey, listen, walk with intention. Pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t be unwise. Be wise. Don’t be foolish.”
Foolish is doing it our way, not God’s way. “I’m going to do it my way in this area. I’m going to do it this way in mine.”
He says, “Don’t do that. Stay on point.”
He says, “And do not...” — there’s this word again, “not” — “...get drink with wine,”
We have to talk about that. We’re like, “Where in the world did drunkenness come from?” A lot of people are like, “What’s he talking about?” We need to understand this.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”
Let’s talk about this for a second. First of all, it says, “Don’t get drunk.” The Greek word for “drunk” is “hammered.” Anyway, don’t get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery. Can I ask you a question? Has anybody in here, in the last 10 years, ever used the word “debauchery” in your vocabulary? Probably not. So, what it means is to just sort of live an unshackled life. Just whatever you want to do and however you want to do it. Why does Paul say that? Why does he say, “Don’t get drunk?”
You know? I mean, let me just be clear in case we have some people with some real big — Jesus did not turn the water into grape juice. It was wine. Okay? And they drank wine. It was wine. Okay? They drank wine. Everybody’s going to be like, “Pastor Chip said go out and drink now.”
That’s not what I said. What I said was we don’t need to be legalistic about it. But what I can tell you is most Americans, when they drink, they don’t drink one drink. Okay? The reason they drink is for a purpose. It’s the same reason these people were drinking. Here’s what happens: When you and me are living a life where we don’t have intention and purpose, what happens is we start to just become people that are just sort of floundering. Because you were created for purpose and you were created for intention, when you’re floundering, you’re not happy. You’re miserable because God’s created you for purpose. And when you get miserable, and you get frustrated, do you know what you want to do? You want to escape life. You want to escape. So, what happens is you get drunk because you just want to escape.
For us, today, it’s more than that. We have all kinds of things at our disposal to get away from life, to sedate ourselves, to medicate ourselves and to pull away. What that is — if you find yourself there today, there’s no condemnation here. Nobody’s throwing stones at you. I’m not here to give you a hard time. I mean, you can belong here before you believe. This is a great place to be if you’re here. What I am trying to say to you though, in love, is if you find yourself there, what that is a symptom of is that you don’t have intention and purpose in the way God has intended you to do. You’ve got to find those things.
That’s why I’m spending so much time in this series talking about getting involved in the house of God, and getting involved outside of the house of God, because I believe you can do great jobs, you can have success, you can have big cards, big houses, all of those things and you’ll still be miserable because God has designed you and I to live a life for His purposes, for His intentions. And unless we find those things, we’re not going to be happy in life.
He says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”
The reason he uses the word “drunk” and the word “filling” is not because people go, “Oh, if you’re drunk, you don’t have any control. If you’re filled with the Spirit, you ought to be rolling around on the floor.”
Paul would be like, “No. That is not what I said.” What he’s saying is that the alcohol is an outside influence. It influences you and I in a certain way. The Spirit of God that fills you and I influences us in a certain way. This one to a bad way, this one to a positive way.
So, here’s the cool thing. He says that if you and I are living these lives, not this but that, three things, then there’s going to be three things that happen here. In our lives, I’m living a life where I’m being wise, I’m understanding the will of the Lord and I’m being filled with the Spirit. When this is going on in my life, it spills over into here. What that looks like is this:
“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”
Paul has an expectation that when we gather, if we’re living a purposeful life, and we’re on point, and we’re not being fools, and we’re not being unwise, and we’re not self-medicating and trying to get away — then we’re living on point, we’re going to come in here and we’re going to sing. A lot of people are like, “I don’t want to sing.”
Paul has an expectation that that’s what we would do. Not only that, but he has an expectation that we would be giving thanks always and for everything. Always. For everything. Have you ever noticed that if you come into church and you’re sort of in a funky mood — you know, you’ve got the funk and the junk going. Everybody’s had it at some point. Some of you may have it today. You come in, you show up about two or three songs in because you don’t really want to sing. You show up, arms folded, and you’re like, “Yeah, okay. Okay.”
Then I preach. I usually say something that probably aggravates you or irritates you. You know? “The pastor’s getting on me today.” You walk out. Well, there’s no giving thanks always and for everything to God. But I can tell you this: When you come in here and you start to sing songs, and you get your mind off your funk and your junk, and you get our mind on God and you get your eyes on Him, all of a sudden, you start realizing there are a lot of things for me to be thankful for in the life that I have.
And that’s what Paul is saying here. He’s like, “If you’re being filled, you’re doing the will of God and you’re walking in wisdom, we’re going to be singing, addressing one another in songs, hymns and spiritual songs, and giving thanks to God for everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, and we’re going to be submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
“I ain’t going to do that. I’m going to do my own thing.”
Yeah. See, when you’re doing in God’s way, you understand that you can’t do it all on your own. Who do you have in your life that can get in your face and say, “Hey, what you’re doing right now is not the right thing.”
Paul says, “This is what it looks like to live an on-point life.” What he’s saying is, “We’re not doing this here.”
The next thing he goes onto is talking about family relationships in the rest of the book. “If you’re not on point here, you’re surely not going to be loving your wife the way you’re supposed to love your wife. And she ain’t going to be loving you the way she’s supposed to love you. Your kids aren’t going to be right. You’re surely not going to be ready to fight a warfare battle that’s not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and poets and the evil and the wickedness of this present age.”
He’s like, “This is important.”
So, this is why I say I believe, for 2019, everybody in here taking just a moment and saying, “Hey, I need to live an intentional life. I need to be focused. I need to be on point. I need to get out of the routine. I need to be where God wants me to be. I need to be on intention.”
So, let’s look at some take-homes here of what it would look like being intentional in here and outside. Some things that we can think about and really help. So, when we talk about being intentional in, we’re talking about here in the church. What we need to say here is let’s embrace a biblical corporate attitude when we gather. In other words, I’m going to be intentional in here. Every time I come in here, I’m going to be intentional for 2019. I’m asking you, as your pastor, to be intentional about what we do here.
To do that, we need to embrace a biblical — we’ve got to ask what Scripture says — and a corporate — “I need people in my life” attitude — when we gather together. And what does that look like for Paul? What that looks like for Paul is that we’ll be singing, we’ll be giving thanks and we’ll be submitting one to another.
“So, how does that work in 2019? I understand these words, but give me some real meat here, Chip, so that I can understand what that means.”
The first one means that we’re really worshiping. Listen, I’m not getting on anybody. I know, sometimes, moms have difficulties. You’ve got babies and stuff. You can’t. I understand that stuff. But, listen, many of us just choose to slide in on the second or third song when we come in here to Grace. Can I tell you something? You are robbing yourself of the Lord’s presence, and you’re robbing other people of the Lord’s presence by doing that. Paul expects that when we come in here, we really will worship God. And we’re so consumeristic, we’re like, “Oh, I don’t like that. Jordan’s got shiny shoes on, red stuff and whatever else. I don’t like that hole-y jeans somebody’s wearing.”
Can I just tell you something? There’s a song that everybody in here knows. When it came out, everybody, basically, in the church hated it. They hated the song because it was too contemporary for the time and the music was from the bar. Do you know what that song was? Amazing Grace. See? This is the thing. God is not a God that gets you in a routine or in a rut. He’s not a God of nostalgia. He is a God that does new things. He’s always doing new things. But I can tell you what. When we don’t come in here and really worship, we don’t set our attitudes in the right place of understanding where things are at, and we’re never going to get to the place of being positive and grateful. When I talk to Christians, all I hear is, “I can’t believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Everything’s terrible.”
Can I tell you something? The world’s been going to hell in a hand basket since Adam and Eve ate of the tree. Goodness gracious. My goodness. All we get is more information. Some of you all remember it took four days back in the thirties to get information from overseas. Somebody does something in 20 seconds and it’s on your phone, your watch, your TV, your car radio, your screen. I mean, we are inundated with information. But here’s the reality: If we’re not setting our eyes in the right spot, if we’re not seeing — the world understands this. I can find people that are like, “Man, my life is terrible. No good. Everything is terrible in my life.”
But man, Friday night comes, and they’re at Amalie Arena, their person is singing their songs and they’re like, “Yeah, man! Alright.”
Let me tell you something: Psychologists understand something. When we start singing, stuff starts happening. And when we start singing, giving praise to God, honoring God and getting our eyes on Him, all of a sudden, we start becoming really positive and grateful for the things that we have because we have it good here in the country that we live in. We need to be thankful.
And then, because we’re so thankful and grateful, we realize the need for people in our lives. That’s why we do groups around here. That’s why we say get involved, be accountable. Find somebody in your life that could talk to you, that can share with you, that can hold you accountable. If you don’t have that in your life, “I’m going to do it my own way,” you can’t. The Lone Ranger had Tonto, folks. You know? I mean, you just can’t. “I’m going to be intentional for 2019. I’m going to be in here. I’m going to be here early. I’m going to have my praise on. I’m going to be listening to The Joy FM on the way to church so when I show up, I’m already fired up for Jesus. You know? And then, when I get in that, I’m going to be grateful, praising and I’m going to live this thing out.”
Now, the next question is how do I live an intentional life on the outside? What does that look like? Well, an intentional life on the outside — and there’s a lot of stuff here, so let’s take a minute here. Let’s live life embracing — that means we embrace. We’re in — the truth that every moment — think about this.
Every moment of our life is an opportunity for us to be intentional in redemptive efforts. Every moment. When your coworker is saying something negative to you, opportunity to be redemptive; to make the best use of the time. When your kid is doing something that they shouldn’t be doing, rather than just yelling at them, maybe take a moment, get on a knee, look at them in the eye and say, “Hey, listen, this is the reality. Here’s what’s going on.”
And it’s difficult. It’s difficult for us because we just fall into routines and ruts, but Paul is saying, “Hey, listen, we need to be careful how we walk. We need to pay attention so that we can make the best use of our time.”
So, when you talk about that, the question that you have is, “Hey, could you give me some practical ways to do that? How do I do that?”
Well, I want to help you. That’s why I’ve got three things here I want to share with you. I’m hoping that they’ll help you. If you don’t take notes, this is a good time to learn to take notes. God loves note-takers. That’s in the book of Hezekiah. Also, I think it’s in 1 Opinions. Some of you are like, “Is there really a book...?”
There’s not a book called Hezekiah. I want to make sure. Those of you watching on the internet, they’re Googling “the book of Hezekiah.” It doesn’t exist. Okay? So, how do I do that? Well, the first thing — and this is just something that we’ve got to get right in our own lives or we’re never going to reach people out there on the outside of the church. We have to learn this: We have to learn the guardrails of Grace rather than the legalism of the law. Let me explain what I mean here. I’ve got a bunch of kids, as you know that. It’s growing every day because the neighborhood that we live in, for whatever reason, all the kids in the neighborhood have decided that we’re their second house. Okay? So, I stand in the hallway and they come through the front door, out the back door. As they run by, they’re like, “Hey, Mr. Bennett.”
I’m like, “Alright. There we go.” And then here come the dogs. They don’t go outside. They just stop and then I have to clean it up. Anyway, when I take my kids bowling — and I know some people get into bowling. God bless you if you’re into bowling. That’s cool. But my kids, there’s a problem. When they bowl, it doesn’t go that way. It goes that way. And then there are those people that really take bowling seriously. They’re like two pitchers in of the beer. So, what we do is we go up and we say, “Hey, listen, can you do us a favor? Can you put those things up? Those guardrails? Can you put those up for us?”
They’re like, “Yeah.” So, our kids think they’re pros. They roll the ball. It’s terrible, but they think they’re doing something great. They’re professional bowlers, baby. It goes down, knocks it down and they’re like, “Daddy, I can bowl.”
I’m like, “You fool.”
Anyway, Grace is like guardrails. See, God isn’t trying to get you to everything you do, step this way. He wants you to be creative. He wants you to use the mind that He’s given you. He wants you to do something great for the Kingdom of God. Grace is about guardrails. It’s about saying, “This is what a marriage should look like,” and how you work that out in your life is up to you. You can do different things and whatever. Here’s your finances. You can just decide to be a fool and not do it God’s way, but this is the way it’s supposed to be. And then, how you do that, you can give. Here’s the way. Here’s what God says. Here’s what you do. You give. You’re a giver. Okay. So, you’re a giver. Great. Well, we can give to things. Maybe I give to that missionary, but not that missionary. He’s like, “Be creative.” But what you cannot be is not a giver. You can’t be a not-forgiver. “I’m not going to forgive. I’m not going to do it.”
No. You can forgive, but maybe you write a letter when you forgive to somebody. Maybe you want to talk to them over dinner. Maybe you wash their feet. How you do those things is up to you. God just puts the guardrails there. But what happens is we get real legalistic. See, what we need to understand is what the will of the Lord is. The will of the Lord are these great, great principles that God has given to you and me in helping us out. But here’s the problem: By reducing Scripture to a manageable and memorable list of do’s and don’ts, we develop systems that serve us and ostracize others. Because what we do is we get on the hamster wheel. “I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to do it. I’ve got to do it. Oh, my gosh.”
And all you’re thinking about is yourself. All you’re thinking about is you. And when you’re on the hamster wheel trying to get God to love you, the last person you’re going to be thinking about reaching is the person out there. And when you’re on the hamster wheel, and you’re just going on the hamster wheel and doing this thing performing, what happens is you start looking at other people in bad ways and you start pointing fingers at them because you can’t get your own life right. That doesn’t help anybody on the outside understand who God is. So, we have to. At the very beginning, if we can’t get that right, we’re probably not going to get anything else right. Live within the guardrails of grace in your life.
That doesn’t mean you go do anything that you want. “Pastor Chip said we just go do it.” That’s not what I said. Paul doesn’t say that. Nowhere in Scripture. God forbid that you would continue in sin that grace may abound, Paul says in Romans 6:1. That’s not the point. The point is to understand that God does want us to live a life that’s pleasing to Him, but we have some flexibility in the way that we do that in the lives that we live. If we don’t get that right, we’re never going to reach anybody on the outside because all we’re going to be concerned about is our relationship with God.
Second thing is learn to thrive in adversity. See, the problem with American Christianity is this: We’re circumstantial. When things are going good, job’s good, money’s good, car’s good, “Man, I love God. I might even show up early for church, like Chip said, and sing some songs. I’m in.”
Things go bad: “That church is terrible. It’s raining outside. He doesn’t wear skinny jeans.”
Whatever it may be, all the stuff that we do, we’re complaining because we haven’t learned that adversity is just another opportunity for us to show our witness on the outside world. See, James says, “Count it all joy.” We’re like, “Joy?”
“Yeah. Count it all joy when your life is falling apart.”
You go, “What?” Because here’s the reality: The way we handle adversity speaks volumes to others about our trust in God. People at your job are looking at you if you say you’re a Christian. They want to know. They don’t want to know what you do when life’s good. They know what to do when life’s good. They’re fine. What they’re looking at is when your life is falling apart, are you any different than them? Because they’re looking. Could God really make a difference in your adversity?
See, if we can’t learn to thrive in adversity, what’s going to happen is we’re not going to have much of a witness. That’s what’s happened in America. We have become circumstantial Christians. Everything rises and falls based on how we feel, what we think and how well life’s going for us, which is just absolutely not the truth.
Let me tell you this story because this is important. In the early Church, the Romans would arrest Christians. Many of those Christians, they would take to the Colosseum. They’d put those Christians out in the Colosseum, they’d fill the Colosseum up with people that were non-believers, and they would put the Christians out and they would feed them to the lions. Do you know what those early Christians did, a lot of them? When they got out in the Colosseum, do you know what they did? They ran towards the lions. They took off running like it was a race to see how fast they could get to the lions. Do you know why? Because they were like, “Man, that lion’s going to eat me no matter what. The quicker I get there and the quicker I get eaten, the faster I’m going to be with Jesus.”
Do you know what happened? People in the stands saw that and they said, “Man, they must know something that I don’t know. There must be something beyond this life that I don’t have.” And do you know what was happening in the Colosseums? People were getting down on their knees and becoming Christians watching these Christians thrive in adversity where the Romans would then say, “Don’t feed them to the lions anymore because everybody’s becoming Christians that are watching these people thrive in adversity.”
If we can’t learn to thrive in adversity, church, let me tell you something: Your God is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. There’s not a sparrow that falls to the ground apart from the Father’s will, which means nothing in your life is it impossible for God to redeem and do something great. I assure you when you stand before God in eternity, you’re going to realize that even the bad things God was working for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, which means no matter what life throws me, I can say, “God, bring it on because I know You’re at work in my life. I want my life to be that clay that You just form in the way that You want to form it. I’m in, God. If it’s through good, if it’s through bad, if it’s through this, if it’s through that, if it’s through sickness or through disease. Whatever it may be, I am here to serve You, just like Job. He says, ‘The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, but blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
I know it’s cold and rainy outside, but that’s way better preaching than you all are letting on. Anyway, the third thing here, and this is important, is let’s learn to just go, “How am I intentional out there?” Learn to discover the supernatural in the natural. People ask me, “What’s your favorite verse?”
This is probably one of my favorite verses. If you’re like, “Really?” Yeah. I’ll show you why. This is the next thing I’m going to show you here. Learn to discover the supernatural and the natural. Let me just read this to you.
It says, “The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, ‘I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.’”
So, natural bush burning, but he says, “Man, there’s something going on over here. I need to stop for a moment and pay attention.”
He said, “I’m going to turn aside here and look at that bush.” Look at what Scripture says.
“When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see,”
When the Lord saw that. Not before. When.
“When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him...”
Why is this a favorite for me? Why do I like this verse? I’ll tell you why I like this verse. I like this verse because what it shows me is that there are so many things going on in life that we don’t take the time to look at, and we miss God speaking to us because we’re not looking for the supernatural in the natural. So, in your families, with your coworkers, with strangers — Christians in America, we need to understand something here with strangers. Let me just tell you something. The Bible says in Hebrews 13 — you can go home and read it — when you’ve taken in strangers, many of you have entertained angels unaware.
See? Because we’re looking at the natural rather than going, “Man, every single moment might be an opportunity for my family, my neighbors, my coworkers. It might be an opportunity for me to put something together and to buy back out of the evil world something for God’s redemptive purposes.”
See? If we, as Christians, will adopt that and will say, “I’m in. I’m going to be intentional,” and, as a church, we’re in, and we’re intentional — we’re intentional in here and we’re intentional out there, I believe that what that does is that opens your life up. Everybody’s looking for meaning. Everybody’s looking for purpose. I’m telling you that’s the answer that you’re looking for. It’s not the big check. It’s not the car. It’s not the house. It’s not the spouse or the husband. It’s living a life on point for Jesus and accomplishing the things that He has for you. I am telling you that is where abundant life is found.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the truth of Your Word. I thank You, Lord, for speaking to us today. I pray, God, that in Jesus’ name, right now, You would, in our church and in our lives as individuals, impress the importance of really paying attention and being awake in every moment of our life. Whether it’s when we gather as Your people or whether we go out from here. I pray that You would really create a culture of intentionality in everything that we do here at Grace, and in every individual’s life as well, for Your glory and for Your honor. For 2019, that we would walk in a different purpose and meaning, and anointing for You and for You alone.
So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us, and I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again, and I pray, Lord, that You would help us to stay focused and on point as a church to do what You’ve called us to do, which is to be a church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
We love You, we praise You and we honor 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.