Fairest Of Ten Thousand #386
Why are we in such a hurry to be ‘fixed’ and to have all our issues sorted out? I think a lot of folks treat their own heart like it’s a messy apartment - in other words, it’s not great right now, but give me a couple of good hours in there and I’ll have it spic and span. We like to project the idea that whatever is going on in our lives, we can get it under control. We want to think that we are basically okay and whatever small thing needs work is something we can handle on our own, but why is that? Why are we so uncomfortable with the idea that we don’t have what it takes to fix ourselves? Why are we so afraid to need help? When Jesus first called His disciples to follow Him, one was a tax collector named Matthew. This was a man who had lived a shady life full of shady friends and the first thing he did after leaving his old life to follow Jesus was to throw a huge party in Jesus’ honor with a guest list of all the biggest sinners in town. Jesus, of course went to the party because He loved sinners and wanted to reach them, but the religious teachers had a fit over this. They questioned the rest of the disciples saying, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered the question Himself, saying, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” If you are basically okay, you don’t really need Jesus; but if you have problems you can’t solve, He came for you. Are you okay with needing help?
What is it going to take for you to become the person you could be? What do you have to do in order to live your life the way it was always meant to be lived? Some folks would say it just takes time. Their thought is that you just need to keep on living and one day you’ll get the hang of it. Some folks would say you need to get out there and make mistakes, then learn from them. They say that’s how wisdom works. The thing is, you and I are a bigger mess than that. We don’t just need maturity or experience. We need more. The truth is, we will never get there on our own because we are broken, way down deep inside. It’s as though life is a puzzle and we simply can’t work it out on our own because we don’t have all the pieces. We need a teacher. We need a coach. We need a mentor, but we need even more.
Let’s pretend for a minute that your greatest desire and goal in life is to be a world-famous pop star. (I’m not that far off, right?) And while we’re pretending, let’s say that one day, Beyonce shows up at your house. Seriously, Queen B rolls up in your neighborhood amid news cameras and reporters, rings your doorbell and announces that she is taking you on to be her apprentice in pop stardom. She is going to take you under her wing, teach you how to dance, sing, dress and everything else you need to know in order to rule the world of the international stage. How would you feel? How would you react? What would be the top 50 awesome things about that relationship and life? Wouldn’t you start by absolutely freaking out? I mean, out of all of the people in the whole world, she picked you to be the next her. She’s going to teach you all of her secrets and show you how to get to where you want to be - in the style of B. Whoa.
Way back in Luke chapter 5, Jesus walked up to the tax collecting booth of a man named Levi and said, “Follow me.” In an instant, without hesitation, Levi left everything for this opportunity. In that moment, Jesus and Levi became Rabbi and Disciple. That didn’t just mean Jesus was Levi’s teacher, either. Jesus was hand-picking this dude to walk through life with Him, watch Him, learn from Him and become like Him. This was a huge honor. It was like Obi Wan Kenobi taking on Luke Skywalker as his padawan to learn the ways of the Jedi. The thing was, Jesus didn’t choose Levi because ‘the force was strong with this one’ or anything like that. If anything, Levi was a disaster. His life was no where near what it needed to be, but Jesus wanted him anyway.
That’s what Jesus wants with us. We are all broken down. We are mere shadows of the people we ought to be, but Jesus has picked us. He wanted you. He wants you to walk through your life with Him - watching Him, learning from Him and changing into a person like He is. There is an amazing life out there for you, but you can’t get there on your own. The Author of life Himself has chosen you - picked you to be his very own. Do you want the life He has for you? Are you ready to give your life to Him? Are you ready to submit to Him, follow Him and become more like Him day to day? There is nothing in the world that compares to the richness, joy and adventure of being Jesus’ disciple and He’s calling you to follow.
If the way you look really didn’t matter at all anymore, where would you get your worth? I know that’s a weird question. In fact, you might want ease on back and read that through one more time, but a bit more slowly. If nobody cared how anyone looks, how would you measure your value? That sounds impossible, right? How could a world like that ever be? We live in the age of the selfie, where everyone constantly posts their face everywhere hoping for tons of likes and comments telling them they are beautiful and hot. We rely on our looks to find out who we are and how we compare to everyone else, but what if we didn’t? What If you woke up one morning and every single person was blind?
What if the thing that matters most to almost everyone you know suddenly wasn’t a factor anymore? What if we literally couldn’t see each other? How would we measure ourselves? Would people still count calories and work out with the kind of obsessive zeal they do right now? Would people still spend thousands of dollars on clothes, shoes, cosmetics and haircuts? Would people still size everyone up without ever talking to them?
God made you the way you are. He gave you the body type you have. He decided your hair color and texture. He made your face and your feet and He did all of that on purpose. He likes you the way you are. You look the way you do because God invented you to look this way and that is the single most important thing you can say about the way any person looks. Our problem is that we try to pull so much more out of our look than that. We look in the mirror and try to find out who we are. We take selfies to get a score on our worth. We dress the way we do to find out how we compare. Girls do this and so do guys.
Three thousand years ago, God was picking a king for His people and he rejected all the guys everyone else would have chosen. People wanted the tallest, the strongest and the best looking man to be their king because we actually do think good-looking people are better people than the rest of us. We think they are better leaders. But God rejected those guys and hand-picked someone that everyone else overlooked. God chose David, who was not physically impressive. God picked the forgotten, the ignored, the neglected one to be the king. God said, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Who are you, really? Who are you to God? Did you know your value is limitless? Do you remind yourself of this critical truth? You are a beloved child of the Almighty King of the Universe and Jesus gave His life and His blood for you. God has a beautiful plan for your life and He doesn’t measure you the way other folks do. What would it take for to see yourself with God’s eyes?
The reason most of us are hung up and stuck in our spiritual lives is that we see God in the wrong way. We see Him grumpier and more disappointed than He is. We see Him angrier and more frustrated than He is. We think we’re in trouble and that causes us to hold back from Him. We think we need to pretend to have it all together because somehow we think He wants something other than the truth about where we are. If you want to see where you are on this, think about this question as honestly as possible:
What if life was your job and God was your boss?
Now, answer these questions in your mind without thinking and just let it be a gut reaction. What kind of boss would God be? How would you relate to Him as your boss? How do you think He treats His workers? How’s the pay? The funny thing about our picture of God is that we naturally think He’s disappointed in us and we’re also a little disappointed in Him. On one level, we know we don’t meet His standard, and yet, on another level, we see God as most people see their normal bosses. That is, we think we are underpaid and undervalued.
Jesus told a story once about a boss who hired people to work His vineyard in the morning and promised to pay them a day’s wage. All day long, this boss would go out in the market hiring new workers and bringing them into the vineyard to work. He even hired some guys to work one hour before quitting time. When they got in line to get paid, the guys hired last got a full day’s wage, so the guys hired first thought they would get more, but they didn’t. They got the same amount, which is what they agreed to work for.
Jesus said the boss told them, “Why are you upset about me being generous? I can do what I want with my own money.” Now, that’s interesting because if he was paying wages, it wouldn’t be his money anymore, but the boss called it ‘his’ money the whole time. He said he was being generous, but bosses aren’t generous when paying wages, they are fair.
We see God as a boss - a grumpy, dissatisfied boss who’s also a little unfair, but Jesus is saying that’s not the case. He’s not the boss. He’s the one who owns everything and out of the generosity of His heart, He gives us gifts even though we haven’t earned anything. He’s not grumpy, He’s kind. He’s not disappointed, He’s full of second chances, always having hope in us. If life was my job, I would have been fired a long time ago, but God has given me a place. He’s not paying wages, He’s lavishing grace on me. He has given me something to do and He is sharing His riches with me out of the goodness of His heart. He’s filled with charity and love, even though I earned death. If I saw God that way, I’d never leave His side.
Fairest Of Ten Thousand #385
What are you supposed to do when it feels like everything is crashing in and Jesus is nowhere to be seen? How are you supposed to react when it feels like your life is falling apart and He simply doesn’t care enough to help - or even show up? Well, this may sound weird, but you’re supposed to squint, but squint with your emotions. Let me try and make sense out of this. You know how you squint your eyes to focus your vision and see something more clearly that’s far off or unclear because there’s too much light or too much else going on? Squinting is like focussing your vision - blocking out the stuff you don’t need because you know there’s something out there you actually do want to see. Faith is like that. Having faith is like squinting your emotions - focussing your feelings and getting rid of all the stuff you don’t need so that you can feel what you are looking for. One time Jesus and His friends were in a boat on a lake when a huge storm raged out of nowhere. Jesus was tired and was asleep in the front of the boat. His friends thought they were going to die and that Jesus didn’t care, so they woke Him up. He asked them where their faith was. They weren’t going to die and Jesus totally cared about them, but those fearful emotions were brighter and closer than anything else. It takes faith to squint through the immediate emotions of the moment and see what the Lord is really up to. Whatever you’re going through right now, Jesus is there, doing something amazing. He’s deeper than the feelings. Can you squint and see Him?
What kind of person does God want to use? Do you have to be straight-edge enough? Do you have to be one of those people who’s just naturally a nice person? What kind of heart is God looking for? Does He only want the folks who are always looking out for others and standing up for the right types of values? Does God essentially just want the types of people who are already really awesome on their own? Is that what He’s looking for?
I hope not, because if that’s the kind of heart He’s after, God will have to skip right over me.
Thing is, He would have to skip over basically everyone else I know as well. Even the folks I thought were on that list turned out to be a much bigger mess the more I got to know the real them. None of us are all that good on our own. Our natural heart isn’t selfless or nice and honest folks know that to be true.
A long time ago, there was a kid who spent most of his time outside in fields, looking after the animals his family owned. He was one of those curious and thoughtful kids who looked out at the world around him and asked really cool questions. He also wrote songs - maybe it was a way to pass the long hours of watching animals graze and then again, maybe he just had music in his heart, but either way, his songs are still being sung around the world after 3,000 years. His name was David, from Bethlehem - a son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah in Israel.
When David was a young man, he looked out at the night sky giving way to the sunrise and wrote a song about how those stars and the sun were speaking to him. He wasn’t being flaky. He didn’t hear any audible voice, but he said they had a message, just the same. “God is real,” they said. “God is powerful. God wants to be known. God wants to hang out with me - with us.” David said there was no one like God and that His ways are amazing - perfect. His way brings life and light and satisfaction, but there is a problem. David said the problem was him. He was a mess. He had willful sins and hidden sins. He wanted to please God, but the sickness was deep - deeper than he could root out on his own.
The cool thing is, God looked at David and called him, “a man after my own heart.” Wow. It wasn’t a flawless heart. It wasn’t even a naturally good heart. In fact, the more you get to know David, the more you find out he was a complicated, deeply flawed man. David didn’t have the kind of heart that is admirable or awesome on its own, but he had the kind of heart God wanted. It was the kind of heart that says, “I think God wants me, and even though I’m a mess, I want Him as well.” That’s what God is looking for.
We come together to worship Jesus because not only do we have something to offer, but first and foremost, we have something to receive.
Worship is about making an offering. We are giving something to the Lord. We come to give Him our praise and thanks. He deserves it and He has earned it. We come to give Him our devotion and to commit ourselves to following Him. He has proven Himself worthy to follow. We have come to worship in order to give Him our very hearts - our whole selves because He has bought our lives with the precious blood of Jesus. Whatever we come to give, He deserves to have it. Whether we come to give our money, our time or even our very selves, it’s all appropriate; but giving to the Lord isn’t the only thing this time is about. We’re not just here to make an offering. We’re also here to receive a gift from Him.
As we come to the Lord, there is something that comes before any of the gifts we would bring to Him. There is an offer on the table that comes before any offering we would make. That is, He is giving you His love and acceptance. The first and most critical thing we are here to do is to simply receive the love of God that He is giving away. He is making an unbelievable offer - that is, He gives Himself to us for free. We don’t have to deserve or earn or pay for any of it and He promises to love and accept us as a pure gift. It isn’t about what’s fair or appropriate. This is all about charity. Your job this morning is to receive the free grace that Jesus gives. This grace is truly something to sing about.