March 17, 2019
Series: The Other Hours
We're in our series The Other Hours. You can grab a Bible and turn to Matthew 22. I was going to read an article from the Irish Times, fittingly, and it just basically is talking about how important relationships are in our lives. Basically, all of our joy, all of our pain is all based on how we're doing relationally.
Jesus sort of teaches the same thing here in Matthew chapter 22 verse 34 says:
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees…
Which is basically the pastors. it's like the “me” of that time—the people who think they know what the Bible says, what the Bible teaches. Jesus had silenced them.
Who are the other group of people who think they know about God and are teaching other
people about God.
…one of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with a question: “Rabbi (or teacher)…”
Probably in a sarcastic tone.
”…which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
“What’s the most important thing to God?” is what he said, which is actually a very common question that would be asked to rabbis. Rabbis would answer this question and then create their whole kind of school of ministry, school of discipleship. And the people that would follow them as rabbis were the ones that their answer to this question just resonated in their soul and they said, “We want to learn more.” So this is the question they asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?”
And Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment; however there is a second commandment that is just as great: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself all of the law and all of the prophets hang on these two Commandments.’”
So this is basically Jesus saying to these people, who are testing him (they don't really care what he says, they're just trying to find something wrong with him), but what Jesus is teaching to the disciples that are around him, the people who are listening, he's saying all that really matters in life 100% is loving God and loving people. Loving God and loving people.
You could spend all of your time trying to figure out all of the law and all of the intricacies of all of the commandments—and some people say there are up to ten thousand commandments— some people say there are 300 commandments in the law—they kind of depend on, you know, what your enneagram type is, probably—but they're just studying everything. “If I can get it all just right, if I could just, you know, position myself quite right, I'll be able to experience the life that God has for me.”
And they get so caught up in all the details, and all that they can do, and all the commandments—which, the commandments aren't bad things, but they get so caught up in those that they forget that the most important thing is just to love God. That if you just will love God with your heart, with your mind, with your soul, that kind of speaks to the different aspects.
We talked last week about body, soul and spirit. It's the same kind of thing. Learning to love God, not just in word, but also in deed. Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally, also spiritually connecting with God. Those who worship God will worship in spirit and in truth.
So there are these multi layers that we need to grow in our relationship with God. That's the first and the greatest.
If you are loving God, basically, Jesus said that everything else will kind of fall into place in time. Yet Jesus doesn't stop there, which we would think that Jesus would stop there. If you knew Jesus at the time, or if you read it right about Jesus, it seems like, yeah, that’s the end-all. That's the be-all. That's all that matters. And a lot of us Christians would say that's all we care about, that's all that matters. I wish Jesus would have stopped there, because these people, they're crazy. But Jesus doesn’t. He says loving God is the greatest, but then he says—and you have to be a little careful with the wording here—but he says the second is like it. Like it in greatness. Like it in importance. “Must love your neighbor as yourself.” Now he's talking to Pharisees who were good at loving God (supposedly). Right? They are good at church. Right? But our whole message in the Other Hours is that God doesn't want to make you good at church. He wants to make you good at the other hours.
Some of you go to church once, one hour a week, or something. It's like, “Wow. Good for you.” Some of you go, like, two hours a week. “Oh, check you out. You’re amazing.”
But even if you go to church ten hours a week, it's still nothing compared to the rest of your
So God doesn't want to make you like the Sadducees and the Pharisees, who are good at church. He wants to make you good at life. Ad we've kind of broken that up for our study into relationships. That's a huge part of your life. And we’ve got work. It's a huge part of your
life. For some of you, it should be a little more part of your life. Maybe for some of you, it needs to be less part of your life. That's what we got. Rest is the other thing. Rest is a big part of our life. And we’ve got finances, a huge part of our life. Number one cause of divorce. And sexuality. It's a huge part of our life and it's being challenged and confused more than it ever has before.
So we're going to talk about these subjects. We’re going to dive into these subjects. This is our Other Hours thing, and we’re starting with relationships. That's our first one. And, by the way, we launched an online curriculum to follow along with this whole series, and basically this
whole year. Proverbs 24 verse 3 says that wisdom builds the house, understanding establishes it and knowledge fills its rooms with rare and beautiful treasures.
So we've created livingstreams.online, which basically has in these five areas of life a curriculum or a book that we're trying to get into your home, get into your heart, get into your mind, so that you can have the wisdom, the knowledge and the understanding that God's Word brings, so that your house can be filled with rare and precious things— the rare and precious things that only God could bring; so that, not only when people come over to your house and they walk in and they go, “What is that thing?” and you can say, “Well, let me tell you the story of what God did in my life,” but you're at work and you keep saying these words. They say, “What you keep saying—that word—what do you mean by that?”
Ready for an Irish story? St. Patrick's Day. Well, I lived in Ireland for three months with my Irish citizenship. Got my teeth cleaned for free one time—that was kind of cool—socialism, you know. That's the only thing I've ever gotten from Irish citizenship. But I was working in the Guinness brewery (another long story) and I was just talking with these guys all the time and one of the guys eventually says to me, “You keep saying that word.”
I said, “What word?”
He goes, “Saved. You keep saying the word ‘saved.’ What do you mean by that?”
And so, you know, it was noisy, so we kind of went to the side, and I just started explaining to him what I meant by the word ‘saved.’ I got to share the gospel with him, and I got to have this guy who's kind of rough around the edges, but he his heart was just so longing to be saved. I would never have guessed it, but just in my own language, it was like, “What’s that
rare and precious thing you keep mentioning?”
It's like,”Well, let me tell you the wisdom of God, the knowledge of God, the understanding of God has brought about this rare and precious thing in my life.”
And he was like,”Man, I want that. I want that. How do I get that?”
I was like, “I don't know, man.”
No. I didn't say that. I talked to him about it. I let him know and I told him it wasn’t Guinness, you know. Or Guinness wasn't the secret to all of that. And it was hard for him.
Anyway, we want we want to see this thing, so we've put out this curriculum. Check it out online. We want everyone to go through all of the different modules by the end of the year.
I know that sounds crazy, because you have other stuff to do in life, but we’re really hoping this thing will help. It's kind of like legal, healthy steroids for life. It's not supposed to be more work. It’s supposed to make the rest of those areas of work easier, smoother and better. So check that out.
Anyway, it's back to this. Relationships is the first topic we're talking about. We'll talk about it for the next few weeks. Jesus, on relationships, is basically saying that just as important as our relationship with God is our relationship with others. The reason that he said that is, basically, because the only way you can really know if you're in right relationship with God, the only way that you can really know that the love of God is is actually coming into your life is that you will begin to love other people.
That was a huge deal for me when I first started following Christ. God saved me from being extremely self-centered. I didn't know how self-centered I was, because nobody else existed. There were no other worlds—there was just mine. So I wasn’t self-centered in my own world. I mean, sad to say, that's really how it was. When I came to Christ, one of the things God saved me from was being a total self-centered person. All of a sudden, I began to see that the world was his world. I began to see and notice people that I'd never noticed or even cared for before.
I'm sure Bobby could say a similar thing, where, as he got closer to God, all of a sudden these refugees or these people who are from another country started to come on his radar. If he never would have been in a relationship with God, he probably never would have noticed these people.
That's the way it works. The love of God comes into our life and, all of a sudden, he starts highlighting people who need his love, who need us to share his love. And so the two work hand in hand.
In Galatians chapter five, Paul is working this out in a church context. In the church that's in Galatia, believe it or not, there was a church that was like fighting within themselves over some issues. You believe it? Church people? Arguing and fighting over churchy issues? It's crazy, but it's true. They were having a struggle in the relationship. There was division.
There was one group of the people, now what they were divided on is kind of weird, but one of the groups of people really thought circumcision was very important. If you want to be right with God, if you want to love God, you get circumcised. And the other group was saying, “Whoa! Whoa!” There were probably two groups in this camp—one they were just saying “Whoa,” because they weren't circumcised—the other group was probably saying, “No, man. That's not what matters to God. What matters to God is that we're loving each other. That's more important than whether you're circumcised or not.” And that’s what Paul was trying to teach them.
So I'm going to give you a little bit of Paul's NIV, New International Version translation. Then I'm going to give you a little bit of the DAV translation, the D-A-V-I-D translation. Okay, so hopefully you'll see the connection. What would be fun is, I would love it if you guys would actually in turn to Galatians chapter 5, and as we read through the NIV, it's going to be easy; because it'll be the same. But then, when we read the the DAV translation, I want your mind to compare it a little bit. Just see if it resonates at all. If it doesn’t, then you're wrong, you know. But no, just kidding, you’re not wrong.
Galatians chapter 5. Paul says to these people who are struggling with their interpersonal relationships, he's saying:
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ. You have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness [or the satisfaction] for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Do you hear what he's saying? He’s basically echoing what Jesus said. “You people are trying to make the different aspects of the law more important than just loving people, but the only thing that matters,” Paul says, “is when our faith expresses itself through love—first to God, but then also to others.” That is what's more important. That is what God's trying to do in your life.
Here's the DAV translation:
You who are trying to find satisfaction by religious efforts are completely missing the point of Jesus’ message. You are missing out on the satisfaction that God's grace brings into a person's life. A meaningful relationship with Christ’s Spirit is what brings the satisfaction our souls long for. In our relationship with Christ’s Spirit, our religious effort, or lack of religious effort, doesn't really matter. The only thing that matters is when our faith causes us to love God, others and ourselves well.
Basically that's a summation. That’s what I feel like is unpacking it for our day and age, in our time. What God is trying to do in your life is teach you about him and help you receive his love and be in relationship with him; but also in relationship with others. Your relationships matter greatly to God. If you're someone that says, “Hey man, I have such a great relationship with God but not everybody who doesn't like me.”
There are Christians like that, no doubt about it. God really does care how you relate to the people around you. Sometimes Christians get caught in this thing where they're drawing lines and they’re saying, “I need everyone to know what I stand against. That's how I'm gonna be a good Christian.”
Well, what Jesus is saying, what Paul is saying, is Christians stop being known for what you stand against and start being known for who you stand with, who you're willing to stand with. That's what God's trying to do in our lives. It’s hard and it's confusing when people are trying to blur all the lines between what the Bible says is good and what the world says is good. I know it's difficult right now, but you can trust God to be bigger than that. You can trust God that, if you begin to link arms with someone who is a sinner, God's not gonna label you a sinner. If you link arms with someone who's a sinner in order to help them out of their sin, their sin’s stink is not going to get on you.
Now, if you’re an alcoholic, don't go help alcoholics. That's a dumb idea. But there's a whole world out there that’s stuck. They’re actually caught in sin, and we who have the strength of Christ, the Spirit living in us, we can link arms with them and lead them to solid ground. But if we’re so busy trying to make sure they know they're wrong and we're right, we’ll never get the chance. The only thing that matters is when our faith begins to stir up love within us and we begin to run to people who need God's love.
So then you go on to the end of Galations 5. So this is the beginning, it’s kind of an intro the idea. We'll skip down to the end, the conclusion on this matter. NIV
So I say walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh won't be selfish for the the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit and the spirit what is contrary to the flesh they're in conflict with each other so that you are not to do whatever you want to do but if you're led by the spirit you're not under the law…
Again, the law is not the big deal.
The acts of the flesh are obvious…
And watch how every single one of these things basically refers to relationship.
… sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness…
Happy st. Patrick's Day!
…orgies and the like. I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
That’s a heavy phrase
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Or, in other words, these are the stuff that makes relationships work.
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit…
and all of that confusing talk basically says,
let's not become conceited provoking and envying each other.
In our relationships, Paul is saying, “I know you Galatians. I care about you Galatians. I pray for you Galatians. What I'm asking you to do in light of this conflict, this relational conflict you're having, is don't be conceited and stop provoking one another. Don't be conceited. Stop provoking one another.
And some of you need to hear that in your marriage, with your children, with your parents, at work. Don't be conceited, Christian. And stop provoking one another. Even if they provoke you, don't provoke them back. this isn't junior high anymore. It could be that simple. Just that could be so powerful.
Let's read the DAV version:
Remember to be led by God’s Spirit and not by your selfish desires.
Whew—still working on that. It's taken me 20 years now.
Our selfish desires produce the opposite of what God's Spirit produces. Our selfish desires produce sexual pain and confusion, wickedness, deceit, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, strife, jealousy, fights, selfishness, dissensions, division and envy, drunkenness, out-of-control sexuality and things like that. If you do this, you will miss out on the satisfying relationship you are meant to have with God, now and forever.
Please don't miss it.
God's Spirit, however, produces the opposite, God's Spirit produces in us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. No one can say that these are not good things. So when you're in a relationship with Christ you fight against the selfish desires inside you and listen carefully for the leading of God’s Spirit inside you. This will keep you from thinking you're better than anyone else and will the satisfaction in your relationships.
Because, ultimately, we want to win at relationships. We are so relational, as humanity. All the joys in our life we can always usually look around and say it's because of this relationship, or because relationships are good right now. All the pain in our lives usually comes back to because there's a bad relationship, or the relationships are all strained in my life.
When when I was a young man and I had friends—this is really horrible intro to the story—we used to joke about our friends that would come hang out with us and they just got done talking to their girlfriend or or being with their girlfriend. They would come in and they'd be like, “Hey, everybody!” and we’d be like, “Ah, he's got the girl glow!”—because he was feeling so good about life because he just spent time with the girl that he liked. And he’s all, “What are you talking about?” He’d be talking fast and bouncing a little. We're just like, “Whatever, man. You’re all messed up!”
And even if the guy's life was in shambles or things weren't good, he could go spend time with this girl that he liked and he would come back just feeling like, “Yeah, everything’s great, man.” And it was so funny. Then the opposite, you know, everything could be great in the guy's life and then if the girl broke up with him or whatever, he’d just be like, “Ahhhhh….”
I mean we’re just so wired relationally. And the world would tell us lots of different reasons that is, but the Bible says that it's because we're made in the image of a relational God. As we’ve tried to unpack over history who this God is of the Bible we’ve, got this word called Trinity. It’s kind of a confusing concept but basically it’s that our God, the God of the Bible, is actually three in one. He is not just in relationship—he is relationship. We have come from him. He is the one that has created us in His image, and so we are so relational.
So you can't ever get to a point where you're like, “Oh, relationships don't matter to me." You know the whole, “I am an island.” No man is an island. It's just foolish to fight against it. Your whole life and existence is basically the sum of all your relationships—good ones and bad ones.
It's so important that we take stock, that we look into these relationships, that we figure out how we can be good at relationships because that’s what makes up most of the hours of our lives.
Here, what Paul is saying, what Jesus is saying, is that there's kind of this connection between loving God and loving people. In some ways you will never find satisfaction in any of your relationships with people until you find your satisfaction in a relationship with God. You can make it work, and lots of people do. But you'll always be missing out on the fullness of what God has for you if you don't start with a relationship with him because he's the supply.
What do you need for successful relationships? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, meekness, gentleness, self-control. You need these things.
And we always are like, “Love, joy, peace…what are those other ones?” The other ones are the big ones: love, joy, peace is usually a little bit easy, but patience, kindness, gentleness, meekness, self-control—that’s how relationships work. Because you're messed up, and the person you're in relationship with is messed up, no doubt about it. They're beautiful, made in the image of God, but they're also broken and battered by sin. So we need the flow of the Spirit. We need the Spirit of God to come and bring that into our lives so that we can then impart that in our relationships.
Many of us have had that moment where God knocked on the door of our hearts, so to speak. And we have opened the door and invited God in. We've been trying to figure out what it means to to deny those desires that we have that are we know are us and not of God. Then we figure out, “Okay, well now I feel like the Spirit’s kind of prompting me this way and I'm going to go.” It's a interesting dialogue that happens inside us. Even today—and I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I still sometimes wonder, Is that me or is that you, Lord?” Sometimes it's a little hard to figure out. But I always try at this point, to say, “Okay, Lord, I want to lean into what you're saying, what's your leading.” And sometimes it’s just a matter of, I'll go this way and then, “Ah, that doesn't feel right!” Or I'll go this way and then, “Oh, that's nice," you know. And sometimes I'll get clear pictures from the Lord, or words from the Lord, or someone that I'll ask for advice they'll give me something and BAM. Or I’ll read the scripture and, “That’s what I needed to hear!” It confirms the direction. It's a whole process we're working out.
What I want to talk about to kind of close this is, as we get into a relationship with God, that's real simple and easy. Any of you who are not in a satisfying relationship with God, you can come forward at the end of this service. Someone will pray for you and BAM it's done. It's that easy because of what Jesus did on the cross.
But then walking in the Spirit, continuing to walk in the Spirit, led by the Spirit, continuing to know the difference between my selfish desires and the desires that God is writing on my heart—that’s what we're talking about now. How do we get to a place where we're doing that in our relationships?
There's a picture in second Samuel Chapter six that I want to just leave in our minds as we go. King David, what he was doing is, he was trying to bring the Ark of God (which represented to the people the presence of God) from this border town between Israel and a Philistine country. He was trying to bring it into the heart of Israeli life in Jerusalem, where he had built his palace. He was wanting to take the presence of God from the outskirts and bring it into the middle, so that he could experience what the the presence of God would bring.
So, if you follow in 2nd Samuel chapter 6, first of all he goes there and he just shows off. He gets a super fancy cart, he's got these big old horses, and he gets all of the beautiful people, you know, this guy named Uzzah, whose name means strong. He’s up there kind of riding in the cart and they basically do this big parade through town. There’s lots of pomp and circumstance and they’re on their way to town. They're just kind of showing everybody, “Look how awesome we are carrying the presence of God.”
All of a sudden, the cart kind of hits a bump and the Ark of God starts to slide. Uzzah puts his hand out to save the ark and as soon as he touches the ark he dies. David falls on the ground, heartbroken. This is a disaster. How could this happen? And he's mad at God. For three months, the ark stays right there in the little town of Obed-Edom. David was wrestling with God. “Why does this happen? What’s going on? I just wanted to do what was right. How come this is happening?”
Somehow, in that time, whether it was the priests that came and taught him the way that God’s presence is supposed to be carried, or whether David had a realization—I don't know what happened. They went back to that place and they did it very differently. They still got a cart, but it wasn't fancy. They still had a horse, but it wasn't fancy. The priests were there, leading the way and taking care of the presence of God. It says that what they did was, every six steps they would stop. They would fall on their knees. They would make sacrifices. They would praise and worship God. Then they would get up and they would take another six steps, and do the same thing.
What I see in that is gentleness, kindness, meekness, self-control. If you want to walk in the Spirit, if you want the Spirit of God to increase in your life—the satisfying relationship you have with God—so that you can then impart that into all of your relationships, you’ve got to learn to walk with that humility.
We're going to talk about it. We have a couple more weeks on this relationship topic. We're going to get some more practical understanding. But there's a picture I want us to have in our minds. As we're going into all of these relationships, you're gonna leave this and you're going to go relate. You're gonna relate to people. You'll wake up tomorrow morning, drive your car and relate to people, drive home and relate to people. For me, there are going to be people staring at me, hungry. I’ve got to relate to them.
As you go, I just want you to have that picture in your mind. If you want to succeed at relationships, it’s not a matter of more strength, more fight, more self-help, more strategy. The way of the kingdom of heaven, the way of God is, maybe every six steps you need to just stop and go slow, and say, “Sorry.”
For me, the way that this works out in my life, is I just seem to be going about my business and, every once in a while, someone comes to me and says, “You’re being condescending. You're being arrogant. You're being conceited." They don't really say those words. They say something, but that's what I hear it as now, and I go, “You're probably right.” I used to just say “Pssh. Yeah, right. You're probably that.” You know? And we would provoke each other. And again, don’t think of me as, like, good at this, but I really have now, when people are saying that, I go, "You’re probably right.” Because it's been about six steps since the last time I had God check my heart, and I'm so prone to wander. And you’ve just got to walk that way if you want to succeed it relationships. All the counselors in this room could probably say, “Yeah. People need to just slow down, settle in, and learn the absolute beauty and value of patience, kindness, meekness and self-control. Against such there is no law.
I just want to finish with what we all know is a very famous, very powerful scripture on love. First Corinthians 13. See if this doesn't resound with the very same things that we've been talking about.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it’s not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs.
It doesn't keep score.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
This is the word of the Lord. Let's pray:
Jesus, we want to love you; and it's easy sometimes, because you're so lovable. You’ve got no problems. You're not a mess like we are. I pray that we would love you first and foremost, we would never forget our first love, we would never forget that you are the source and supply of all love; that what we just read about love being patient—that is you. And Lord, we would always come to you first because we need you to fill our gaps. But Lord, I pray that we would not stop there but that we really would love others well, and we’d do it as unto you. Lord, I know you need to grow in our church family—in me—and probably in all the churches in Phoenix, our brothers and sisters. Lord, you need to grow patience and kindness and meekness and self-control. We thank you that we get the love, joy and peace, but Lord, we know that we really want to start longing for and hungering for and fighting for the others, as well. Let patience and kindness and gentleness and meekness and self-control grow in our fellowship, grow in our households, in our relationships. Holy Spirit, please do that miraculous work. Let that be a sign and wonder that we get to see.
Thank you, Lord.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® NIV®,
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture marked NLT is taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.