About sarhodes

I serve as the Pastor at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, Ohio. I am married to Meagan and we have been married since 2003. We have two children, Mercedes Grace and Abigail Elizabeth. Mercedes was born on September 1, 2011 and Abigail was born on December 4, 2013. I graduated in 2000 from Northmont High School in Clayton, Ohio (just northwest of Dayton). I graduated with a BA in pastoral studies from Cedarville University in 2006 and the an M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2010. I enjoy movies, especially action moves like Braveheart, the Patriot and Gladiator. I especially enjoy historical movies. I also enjoy documentaries. I enjoy reading: I love historical books, especially Revolutionary War biographies. I enjoy reading theological books as well. I enjoy spending time with Meagan, Mercedes and Abigail. I also enjoy fishing and watching football.

Maintaining Momentum-Spiritual Disciplines (Mark 1:35)

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices
Subtitle: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord. (Mark 1:35)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, July 14, 2019

We have been on this sermon series about Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-up and their Healing Choices. Today, we talk about Maintaining Momentum. In other words: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.

Let’s review the principles:

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles
The Road to Recovery Based on the Beatitudes

1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1 of the 12 step method)

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2 of the 12 step method)

3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3 of the 12 step method)

4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 step method)

5. Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)

6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)

7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)

8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12 of the 12 step method)
We are now on step 7:
Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)

My theme today is: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.

Focus on your relationship with the Lord, Swindoll shares:
I love the story of the man who had fretted for fifteen years over his work. He had built his business from nothing into a rather sizable operation. In fact, he had a large plant that covered several acres. With growth and success, however, came ever-increasing demands. Each new day brought a whole new list of responsibilities. Weary of the worry, the stress, and the fear, he finally decided to give it all over to God. With a smile of quiet contentment, he prayed, “Lord God, the business is Yours. All the worry, the stress, and the fears I release to You and Your sovereign will. From this day forward, Lord, You own this business.” That night he went to bed earlier than he had since he started the business. Finally . . . peace.

In the middle of the night the shrill ring of the phone awoke the man. The caller, in a panicked voice, yelled, “Fire! The entire place is going up in smoke!” The man calmly dressed, got into his car and drove to the plant. With his hands in his pockets he stood there and watched, smiling slightly. One of his employees hurried to his side and said, “What in the world are you smiling about? How can you be so calm? Everything’s on fire!” The man answered, “Yesterday afternoon I gave this business to God. I told Him it was His. If He wants to burn it up, that’s His business.”

Some of you read that and think, That’s insane! No, that is one of the greatest pieces of sound theology you can embrace. Firm confidence in God means that it is in His hands.

Let’s read Mark 1:35:

In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.

This sermon is about maintaining momentum. I am going to get into spiritual disciplines in a moment, but first let’s talk about why we lose momentum in battling our hurts, habits and hang-ups. Maybe you are doing very well battling your anxiety, depression, anger, pornography, chemical addiction, eating disorder or something else and then you backslide. Let’s talk about that. This first point and its sub-points comes from the book: “Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits” as noted in the footnote. I have made minor changes or additions.

  1. I. Many times, what I might call a “backslide” is called “Relapse.”
    1. The pattern is as follows: Complacency- Confusion-Compromise-Catastrophe.
    2. We get complacent in our spiritual disciplines and complacent in taking our hurt, habit or hang-up seriously and this is the first step to our downfall.
    3. We get confused thinking we are okay and our hurt, habit or hang-up was not that severe.
    4. We compromise our values.
    5. We relapse, we backslide.
    6. The causes of relapse.
    7. We revert to our own willpower. We think we can live the Christian life on our own strength. Romans 7 and Gal. 3:3 are written about that.
    8. The Bible speaks to our foolish tendencies of trying to make it on our own: We got off to a good start:
      1. In Choice 1, we admitted that we are powerless to change on our own.
      2. In Choice 2, we agreed that only God has the power to help us change.
      3. In Choice 3, we made a commitment to turn our life and will over to Christ’s care and control.
      4. In the fourth choice, we examined ourselves openly and honestly and confessed our faults.
      5. In the fifth, we voluntarily submitted to the changes God wants to make in our lives.
      6. Then in the last choice, our sixth choice, we focused on repairing our relationships—offering forgiveness and making amends.
    9. We’ve submitted, trusted, and committed. We’ve made room for God to make major changes in our life. But now, if we’re not careful, we may start to think, “It’s me doing this; I’m making the changes. It’s my power.” We revert to relying on our own willpower; but the problem is, it didn’t work in the first place, and it’s not going to work now! We have a few successes, and suddenly we think we are all-powerful and all-knowing, and can handle everything on our own.
    10. Other reasons we backslide or relapse: We ignore one of the choices.
    11. We try to recover without support (Ecc. 4:9-10; Heb 10:25). We need community.
    12. We become prideful (Prov. 16:18; 1 Cor. 10:12).
    13. I repeat my theme: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.
    14. Jesus wants to give us peace, but this only happens through our relationship with Him. Swindoll shares in his book, “Laugh Again”: I came across a story in one of Tim Hansel’s books that points this out in an unforgettable way. It’s the true account of an eighty-two-year-old man who had served as a pastor for over fifty of those years. In his later years he struggled with skin cancer. It was so bad that he had already had fifteen skin operations. Tim writes:

Besides suffering from the pain, he was so embarrassed about how the cancer had scarred his appearance, that he wouldn’t go out. Then one day he was given You Gotta Keep Dancin’ in which I tell of my long struggle with the chronic, intense pain from a near-fatal climbing accident. In that book, I told of the day when I realized that the pain would be with me forever. At that moment, I made a pivotal decision. I knew that it was up to me to choose how I responded to it. So I chose joy. . . . After reading awhile, the elderly pastor said he put the book down, thinking, “He’s crazy. I can’t choose joy.”
So he gave up on the idea. Then later he read in John 15:11 that joy is a gift. Jesus says, “I want to give you my joy so that your joy may be complete.”

A gift! he thought. He didn’t know what to do, so he got down on his knees. Then he didn’t know what to say, so he said, “Well, then, Lord, give it to me. ”

And suddenly, as he described it, this incredible hunk of joy came from heaven and landed on him.

“I was overwhelmed,” he wrote. “It was like the joy talked about in Peter, a ‘ joy unspeakable and full of glory.’ I didn’t know what to say, so I said, ‘ Turn it on, Lord, turn it on!’” And before he knew it, he was dancing around the house. He felt so joyful that he actually felt born again—again. And this astonishing change happened at the age of 82.

He just had to get out. So much joy couldn’t stay cooped up.

So he went out to the local fast food restaurant and got a burger.

A lady saw how happy he was, and asked, “How are you doing?” He said, “Oh, I’m wonderful!” “Is it your birthday?” she asked. “No, honey, it’s better than that!” “Your anniversary?” “Better than that!” “Well, what is it?” she asked excitedly. “It’s the joy of Jesus. Do you know what I’m talking about?” The lady shrugged and answered, “No, I have to work on Sundays.”
II. Spiritual Disciplines are the way to maintain momentum
a. John Baker writes: Developing new habits is not easy. New healthy habits are about making daily choices that put us in a place where God can begin His transformation work in us. Someone has accurately said that the most difficult thing about the Christian life is that it is so daily. Jesus knew about daily temptation, and He knew how to fight it: “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
b. Prayer and meditation are reverse worry. I like that, let me repeat, prayer and meditation are reverse worry. If you know how to worry then you know how to pray and meditate on the Scriptures. This is part of your spiritual disciplines. So, let’s talk about daily quiet time. Let’s talk about spiritual disciplines.
III. Quiet time is most important. We had read Mark 1:35, let’s come back to that: In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
a. Jesus could have had many other things to do, but He started with prayer.
b. In that same chapter Jesus was preaching, casting out demons and healing people.
c. Many people could have said that Jesus should be doing more preaching, not retreating to a quiet place with God.
d. Many people could have said Jesus should be casting out more demons, not retreating to a quiet place with God.
e. Many people could have said Jesus should be healing people, not retreating to a quiet place with God.
f. Preaching, casting out demons and healing were all important, but not the MOST important thing for Jesus.
g. It was most important to have a quiet time with God the Father.
h. I repeat my theme: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.
IV. Why do we have a daily quiet time?
a. Remember Mark 1:35, this is what Jesus did. If Jesus spent time with God, so should we.
b. We discover God’s will and receive power to deal with life’s trials through spending time with God. Let’s look at a few other passages.
c. Romans 12:1-2: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
d. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. How do we renew our mind? We let the Holy Spirit renew our mind through spending time with Him in prayer and Scripture reading.
e. This happens through our quiet time with God. Ephesians 3:16: that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man…
f. How can we be strengthened with power through the Spirit?
g. This happens through spending time with Him in prayers and Scripture reading.
h. In John 6:63 Jesus said: It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.
i. So, in our quiet time we receive encouragement and life from our maker.
j. In John 10:27 Jesus said: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…
k. How do we know His voice?
l. By spending time with Him in prayer and Scripture reading.
m. I repeat my theme: We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.
n. I encourage you to have a daily appointment with God.
o. This could be every morning first thing, or it could be in the evening.
p. Try to find a quiet place.
q. Try to limit distractions.
r. How long?
i. Start short.
ii. 5 minutes to read a chapter of the Bible and pray. I would pray in the beginning and the end.
s. What:
t. Bible reading (full chapters). Begin in John.
u. Scripture applications.
v. Prayer; talk to Him as a best friend, He is.
w. Reflect:
i. Reflect on how you are doing. The Bible tells us to do this. See 2 Cor. 13:5 and Psalm 66:18. Repent of sins.
ii. Meet with your prayer/accountability partner regularly. We have individual spiritual disciplines, which this has mainly been about, and community spiritual disciplines. They are both critical.

To explain how Scripture meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying, and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word, author Donald Whitney provides the analogy of a cup of tea:
In this analogy your mind is the cup of hot water and the tea bag represents your intake of Scripture. Hearing God’s Word is like one dip of the tea bag into the cup. Some of the tea’s flavor is absorbed by the water, but not as much as would occur with a more thorough soaking of the bag. Reading, studying, and memorizing God’s Word are like additional plunges of the tea bag into the cup. The more frequently the tea enters the water, the more permeating its effect. Meditation, however, is like immersing the bag completely and letting it steep until all the rich tea flavor has been extracted and the hot water is thoroughly tinctured reddish brown. Meditation on Scripture is letting the Bible brew in the brain. Thus we might say that as the tea colors the water, meditation likewise “colors” our thinking. When we meditate on Scripture it colors our thinking about God, about God’s ways and his world, and about ourselves.
We maintain momentum by maintaining our relationship with the Lord.
Prayer

download a PDF here:

maintaining momentum^JMark 1.35docx

Making Amends

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices

Subtitle: Repairing Relationships (Matt. 5:23-26; 6:12; 18:15-17; Acts 15:36-41)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on July 7

We are on the sixth message about Life’s Healing Choices: let’s go over the 8 principles:

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles

The Road to Recovery Based on the Beatitudes

  1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3a TEV.
  2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 TEV, NIV
  3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are the meek.” Matthew 5:5a TEV
  4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are the pure in heart.” Matthew 5:8a TEV
  5. Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires” Matthew 5:6a TEV
  6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are the merciful.” Matthew 5:7a TEV; “Happy are the peacemakers” Matthew 5:9 TEV
  7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)
  8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12 of the 12 step method)
    “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.” Matthew 5:10 TEV[1]

 

Think about the divisions within the church. Actually, let’s be interactive. I remember sitting with my uncle at a family picnic when he said, “He had been hurt more by Christians than by non-Christians.” Now, why would he say that? Could it be true? Do Christians hurt each other? Why does the devil attack from within?

Raise your hand if…

If you have ever been hurt by something someone who claimed to be a Christian said– raise your hand.

Okay, I do not want to have you raise your hand for anymore of these because we hopefully have visitors:

Just think: Do not raise your hand:

Have you ever hurt someone with your words being a Christian yourself?

Have you ever left church in tears because of gossip or rumors?

Have you ever been angered at church because of something wrongfully said about you?

Have you wrongfully said something about someone else at church?

Have you spread the gossip or the rumor?

Have you been unloving?

Have others been unloving to you? I know this is broad.

The church is a place for sinners. The church is a place for people who do wrong things and I am one of them. But the church is also a place where once we commit to Christ we commit to grow and change and not get worse but get better.

Several years ago, actually five years ago, I was with my then three year old, Mercedes, she wanted to build a sand castle with gravel on the driveway. She did not know that that little bit of gravel on the driveway would not build a sand castle. She did not know how much better the sand on the beach will be. Likewise, we come to know Jesus and we are sinners, we are sinners our whole life, but as we grow in Christ we grow out of certain sins. This means that we realize that life is different. Before we were playing trying to build sandcastles with gravel on a driveway, but Jesus wants us to grow into Christ followers who are not wrestling daily with the same old stuff. Jesus wants us to have a renewed perspective and then we are building sandcastles on the beach by the ocean. Then we will still offend people and still sin, but hopefully not the same old stuff and not as much. Hopefully then we make things right. So, let’s talk about that.

I hope we can talk about that now. Let’s look at a passage where the Apostle Paul had a difference with Barnabas. They part ways, but I want to make the case that though they part ways, they do so agreeably. I want to talk about Biblical restoration. I want to challenge you to Biblical restoration.

My theme today:

Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)

Read Acts 15:36-41 with me:

36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

  1. Let’s start with Paul and Barnabas, they are an example of forgiveness and reconciliation. Notice that Paul and Barnabas have a disagreement.
    1. This disagreement is in verse 37. Barnabas was an encourager, he wants to give John Mark a second chance. Now, what happened with John Mark? In Acts 13:13 Paul and Barnabas were on their first missionary journey and John Mark went home to Jerusalem. There may have been several reasons for this: NIV text note of Acts 13:13: “homesicknesss to get back to Jerusalem, an illness of Paul necessitating a change in plans and a trip to Galatia, and a change in leadership from Barnabas to Paul have all been suggested as reasons for John Mark’s return.” (to Jerusalem). Either way, now Barnabas is saying, “Let’s give him a second chance.” Paul says, “No way.”
    2. Verse 39 says that they had a “Sharp” disagreement.”
    3. Have you ever had a “Sharp” disagreement? What do you do? How do you handle it?
    4. I was once listening to a counseling program and a couple had little snicker bars all over the house and someone asked, “Why are there snicker bars all over the house?” The couple said that was to give them a timeout. You see when they are in the heat of an argument and they are in a sharp disagreement and they need a timeout, but you know we don’t want to take a timeout, do we? So, what they do is grab a little snickers bar, the little ones. Then they think and resume.
    5. It is recommended that people need timeouts, but they are hard to take.
    6. I think Paul, the Apostle needed a timeout.
    7. Paul is a “Driven” personality. We all “fight” or “flight,” Paul fights.”
    8. They had a sharp disagreement. Paul and Barnabas were partners and sometimes we like to take this passage and say even the best of Christians have massive arguments. I read one source that said that sometimes we take this passage too far. We take it and make it look like they had a “knockdown, drag out, fight.” We don’t know that. We know they disagreed, we know they disagreed strongly, sharply, we know they needed a “timeout” or a snickers bar and there were none around. But you know what else we know; it appears there were no hurt feelings. Look at these verses: 2 Tim. 4:11: Only Luke is with me. Get [John] Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.Also: Col. 4:10: My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) Philemon 24: And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. 1 Cor. 9:6: Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living?
    9. So, it does appear that Paul and John Mark were okay later on, and even with each other later on. It appears that Paul and Barnabas were okay later on.
    10. What else happens in this passage? Sometimes we are stuck making sandcastles in a driveway with a little bit of gravel. Step back.
    11. In verses 39-41 two missionary journeys happened instead of one. Barnabas took John Mark and Paul took Silas. God spread the Great Commission more this way. Isn’t that awesome!
    12. Secondly, Paul chose Silas and Silas was a Roman citizen and we will hear more about that in chapter 16:37.
  2. Point of application: who do you have to reconcile with?
    1. Matthew 5:23-26: Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
    2. This passage is telling us that restoration is more important than an offering.
    3. Relationships are important.
    4. Let’s look at one other passage of Scripture: Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
    5. Conflict resolution begins with a small circle.
    6. You go and talk to the person who has offended you. Then, if there is no resolution you bring another person in. Then two people in and then the church leadership.
    7. Remember: What did Jesus say? You leave your offering and go and bring restoration and then come back to worship. Restoration is more important than giving! Those commands come from God’s Word.
  • Forgiveness is critical, let go
    1. We must confess sin.
    2. Matthew 6:12: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
    3. I want to say a few words about the passage itself:
    4. This is the Lord’s prayer and notice that this request implies that we have forgiven others. Richard Foster says that we always must give in order to be able to receive. He says, “It is simply that by the very nature of the created order we must give in order to receive. I cannot, for instance, receive love if I do not give love. People may try to offer me love, but if resentment and vindictiveness fill my heart, their offers will roll off me like water off a duck’s back. If my fists are clenched and my arms folded tightly around myself, I cannot hold anything.”[2]
    5. So, we forgive others and we receive God’s forgiveness.
    6. Forgive others: Okay, but the second part of this petition is that we forgive others, why and how?
    7. Jesus said to forgive repeatedly (Matthew 18:21-25).
    8. Withholding forgiveness leads to actual hate and that builds up inside. I was in a pastoral counseling class where I heard a process which helped me understand forgiveness better:

Below from Dr. Stratton, Asbury Theological Seminary

  1. Remember the hurt: you don’t have to forget

“When we are hurt, we often try to protect ourselves by denying it.  But if unforgiveness keeps intruding into your thoughts and feelings, consider forgiving. Recall the hurt as objectivelyas possible. Don’t rail against the person who hurt you, waste time wishing for an apology that will never be offered, or dwell on your victimization. Instead, admit that a wrong was done to you and set your sights on its repair.” (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Empathize

Empathy involves seeing things from another person’s point of view and identifying with the pressures that made the person hurt you.

How would he or she explain the harmful acts? Forgiveness is facilitated when we can look at the transgression from multiple perspectives. The harmful act is seen more objectively when we can step outside of the victim role.  We have a chance to view what happened from a bigger perspective – one that includes the human and the divine.  (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Altruistic gift: selfless gift

Empathy can prepare you for forgiving, but to give that gift of forgiveness, consider yourself. Have you ever harmed or offended a friend, a parent, or a partner who later forgave you? Think about your guilt. Then consider the way you felt when you were forgiven. Most people say, “I felt free. The chains were broken.” By recalling your own guilt and the gratitudeover being forgiven, you can develop the desire to give that gift of freedom to the person who hurt you. (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Commitment: you will have to stay committed

When you forgive, you can eventually doubt that you have forgiven. When people remember a previous injury or offense, they often interpret it as evidence that they must not have forgiven. If you make your forgiveness tangible, you are less likely to doubt it later. Tell a friend, partner, or counselor that you have forgiven the person who hurt you. Write a “certificate of forgiveness,” stating that you have, as of today, forgiven. (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

  1. Hold on

When you doubt that you’ve forgiven, remind yourself of the Pyramid, refer to your certificate of forgiveness, and tell yourself that a painful memory does not disqualify the hard work of forgiving that you have done. Instead of trying to stop unforgiving thoughts, think realistically about the forgiveness you have experienced. If you continue to doubt your forgiveness, work back through these steps to REACH forgiveness. (from class notes powerpoint: PC510 Asbury)

Conclusion:

So, have you been offended? Have you offended someone else? Maybe it is time to make things right. Maybe it is time to apologize. Ask for forgiveness. Yes, we are all sinners. We are all sinners, we are all making sand castles on a driveway not on a beach, but as we grow in Christ God wants us to be more like Him and less like the world and that means that God wants us to be more loving. God wants us to be reconciled. God wants us to step back and see the beach some day. God wants us to realize that you cannot make a sand castle on a driveway, but you can on a beach. Likewise, we really cannot have a holistic body until we are reconciled and we deal with those things that entangle us. Please, I urge you, in love, approach each other this week. Just one on one. Pray first. We see that the Apostle Paul, Barnabas and John Mark’s disagreement did not separate them.

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

 

[1]https://www.celebraterecovery.com/resources/cr-tools/8principles

[2]Richard Foster’s book on Prayer page 186-187

Making Changes, transformation (Romans 12:1-2)

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices
Subtitle: Making Changes, transformation (Romans 12:1-2)
Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, June 30, 2019

We are going to be looking at Romans 12:1-2 in a few minutes. Please turn there.

We have been walking through the 8 steps to healing from the book, “Life’s Healing Choices.” These are the steps outlined by number. These are 8 principles and each principle is a Christian version of the 12 steps of the 12 step method of recovery. These 8 principles/steps are an acronym that spell “recovery.” If you are a Christian, then you are in recovery. We are all in recovery from our sin problem. In addition to that we all have hurts, habits and hangups from the world. We are on number 5 today.

Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles

1. Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1 of the 12 step method)

2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2 of the 12 step method)

3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3 of the 12 step method)

4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5 of the 12 step method)

5. Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)

6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 step method)

7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11 of the 12 step method)
8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12 of the 12 step method)

We are now on step 5:
Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7 of the 12 step method)

Read with me:
Romans 12:1-2 tells us:
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

We will come back to that passage in a little bit.

So, my theme is taken from step 5:
Be transformed!

I. What is wrong?
a. We have defects and these defects come from three sources.
1. Biological
2. Sociological
3. Theological.
b. In the book, “Life’s Healing Choices” these are called: Chromosomes, circumstances and choices.”
c. Each of our parents contributes 2300 chromosomes to our birth. However, this is not excuse for our hurts, habits or hangups. This just shows there are certain habits that are part of our DNA.
d. Socially, we have a legitimate need for love, respect and security. But as we grow up the social circumstances we face develop who we are. Even as adults, we are still changing based on our social circumstances. Some, even many, of these are good things. But there are some negative hurts, habits and hangups which we develop as well. Sometimes we develop hurts, habits and hangups as a way to protect ourselves from certain people or situations. Or, maybe we excuse them that way. Sometimes our hurts, habits and hangups are a response to a situation, or situations.
e. Theologically, we have a nature and this goes back to Adam and Eve. We are also in a fallen world.
i. Creation: everything was created good (Gen 1-2).
ii. Fall: humanity fell from grace, we have a sin problem. We also have diseases mental, physical, etc (Gen 3).
iii. Redemption: (Jesus saved us, but we are not in Heaven yet (Romans 3:23 and 6:23).
iv. Restoration: someday God will make all things new (Rev. 21-22).
a. So, we have these hurts, habits and hangups and sometimes they become comfortable, like an old pair of shoes. They may be comfortable like an old pair of shoes. Even though they have holes in them.
f. Why is it so hard to change?
i. We confuse the defects with our identity.
ii. We often confuse our identity with our character defects. We say, “That’s just the way I am.” We identify ourselves by our defects when we say, “It’s just like me to be a workaholic or overweight or anxious or passive. It’s just like me to be fearful or lose my temper or to lust.” Our words and thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you say, “I’m always nervous when I get on planes,” what’s going to happen the next time you get on a plane? You’re going to be nervous.
iii. Every defect has a payoff. A mom who is struggling with her anger might politely say to her children, “Kids, come to dinner.” When they don’t come, she asks them again. When they still don’t come, she yells, “Kids, come down to dinner, or you are going to get me mad, and you know what happens then!” Then they come. Unconsciously, the kids have set up their mother to yell and get mad, and Mom has figured out that yelling works. There’s the payoff.
iv. Satan discourages our efforts to change. John 8:44: You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
II. What does the Bible say?
a. Let’s go back to Romans 12:1-2.
b. Black is the opposite of white, wet is the opposite of dry, left is the opposite of right, winter is the opposite of summer. There are many opposites in our life. The world is the opposite of God. The world opposes God. James 4:4 says that friendship with the world is enmity (hostility, ill will) with God. In John 17 Jesus prayed about the world hating the disciples and Him. In Gal 1:4 Paul talked about this “present evil age” or “world.” There is a dichotomy between Christians and the world. There is a difference between the things of God and the things of this world.
c. Let’s focus on verse 2. In verse 2 Paul calls us to avoid worldly contamination and have spiritual transformation:
d. We can present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, by not being conformed to this age, but by being transformed.
e. These words: “Conformed” and “transformed” are both commands.
i. Transformed is the word for metamorphosis. This is the same word used to describe a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. We must have a gradual change to be more and more like Christ.
ii. I think of Clark Kent changing into Superman
f. The New American Commentary: The verb occurs in two other settings in the New Testament. First is Mark 9:2 (Matt 17:2), where Jesus is said to have been “transfigured” before his three disciples. Next is 2 Cor 3:18, where Paul taught that believers, as they behold the glory of the Lord, are being “transformed” into his likeness. The transformation of which Paul spoke in Rom 12:2 is not a change effected from without but a radical reorientation that begins deep within the human heart.
g. This happens by renewing our mind
i. Paul doesn’t tell us what to renew our mind in, but I can take some guesses
ii. I think of walking according to the Spirit in Romans 8, which sets one’s mind on things above.
iii. I also can’t help but think of Jesus’ command “to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (Mark 8:34; Matt 16:24; Luke 9:23)
iv. Don’t be conformed, but be transformed to discern God’s will. We should renew our mind in God’s word.
v. This, “don’t be conformed” passage is quite memorable: I like it. This is a rhetorical nice and memorable verse.
h. When we are transformed we can test God’s well
i. 1 Thess. 5:21 says to “test everything”
ii. We must test things to make sure they fall under God’s will. We can’t do this when we are of the world, but only when we are of God. God’s will is good and acceptable.
iii. We cannot test these things when we are still in the world.
i. Come out of the world, be Christ like. There is a difference between the world and Christianity.
III. What is the treatment from this step (Most of this comes from the book, Life’s Healing Choices)?
a. How do we cooperate with God’s change plans? All of us have picked up worldly habits. We all have hurts, habits or hangups.
b. We can only change by God’s power.
c. Focus on changing 1 defect at a time Proverbs 17:24: Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding,
But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
d. Focus on one specific change at a time: anger, anxiety, worry.
e. Focus on 1 victory at a time.
f. We live in a world of instant everything: mashed potatoes, coffee, microwave popcorn, even information. And we want instant spiritual maturity. One day we are a total mess, and we want to be Billy Graham the next. It doesn’t happen that way. There’s another old saying: “Life by the yard is hard, but by the inch, it’s a cinch.”
g. Don’t set a deadline, some things you will be working on for your life.
h. Ask God to help you just for today: “Lord, just for this day, I want to be patient and not get angry. Just for today, protect me from going to those Internet sites. Just for today, help me think pure thoughts instead of lustful ones.
i. Focus on the day.
j. Thank Him at the end of the day.
k. Focus on God’s power, not your will power.
l. Try to imagine God literally taking away your character defect. Let’s say you are working on your temper. Imagine taking your temper out and opening up the garbage can. Imagine putting your temper into the garbage can, sealing the lid, and taking the garbage can out to the curb. Then imagine the garbage truck pulling up by the side of the road. See the sign on the side that says, “God & Son, Doing Business with People Like You for 2000 Years.” Watch them pick up the garbage, dump it in the truck, and smash it down. Then watch as the truck turns around and speeds off, taking your defect with it. Some days you will need your garbage picked up about every hour. Talk to God about it: “God, it’s going into the garbage.” Then let God take it away. Willpower doesn’t work. You have to trust God’s power, not your own. He can help you change your character defects if you submit to Him and pray, “Lord, I know I can’t change on my own power, but I’m trusting You to change me.”
m. Focus on the good things, not the bad (Phil 4:8).
n. Did you know that every time you think a thought—positive or negative—it sends an electrical impulse across your brain, and that impulse creates a path? Every time you think the same thought, the path gets deeper and reinforces that brain pattern. Some of us have negative ruts in our minds because we’ve thought the same negative things over and over. But we can also create positive pathways in our mind. Every time we think about a scriptural truth, we reinforce that positive brain pattern. The only way to replace the negative ruts is to think God’s Word over and over.
o. Focus on good, not feeling. Fake it until you make it is good in this case.
p. Focus on people who help, not hinder.
q. Focus on progress, not perfection
IV. Action (Most of this comes from the book, Life’s Healing Choices):
a. Pray
b. Write: In addition to writing in your journal, this action step will provide you with some Bible promises to help you focus on the good things, not the bad.
i. On one side of each card write scripture,
ii. On the other side write a practical application of the verse in the form of a personal affirmation.
b. Share with a prayer partner.
i. Share the one defect God has guided you to focus on changing first. Be honest about the character defect, how it has hurt you and how it has hurt others.
ii. Share the progress God is making in your life in changing this defect. Be honest about your level of cooperation.
iii. Share about your efforts to act yourself into a better way of feeling. Share the negative feelings you’re trying to replace, and share the positive actions you’re taking even though you don’t yet have the feelings to match.

Robert Bellah, a sociologist who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley, is very interested in the influence of religion on the community. In an interview in Psychology Today he said, “We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a new vision of a just and gentle world. The quality of a culture may be changed when 2 percent of its people have a new vision.”

There are many more than 2 percent Christians in your country and mine. Then why aren’t we having more effect? Why aren’t we having more influence? I pray that God will call you to permeate non-Christian society for Christ, to take your stand there uncompromisingly with the value system and moral standards of Jesus.
Eugene Peterson shares:
Everybody treats us so nicely. No one seems to think that we mean what we say. When we say “kingdom of God,” no one gets apprehensive, as if we had just announced (which we thought we had) that a powerful army is poised on the border, ready to invade. When we say radical things like “Christ,” “love,” “believe,” “peace,” and “sin” — words that in other times and cultures excited martyrdoms–the sounds enter the stream of conversation with no more splash than baseball scores and grocery prices.
Pray

Confession

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices

Subtitle: Confession (Psalm 32:1-5; Romans 3:23-24; James 5:16)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, June 16, 2019

Today is Father’s Day. I am going to talk about the best thing a father can do and that is to man-up. Man-up and be mature in the faith. Man-up and repent of sins. Man-up and take your sins seriously. Man-up and take your hurts, habits and hang-ups seriously.

A trend continues to take place in the online world of anonymity. Several websites offer the opportunity to air one’s darkest confessions. Visitors put into words the very thing they have spent a lifetime wanting no one to know about themselves. While visiting, they can also read the long-hidden confessions of others, and recognize a part of humanity that is often as obscured as their own secrets—namely, I am not the only one with a mask, a conflicted heart, a hidden skeleton. “Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart,” one site reads. “If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world.” Elsewhere, one of these sites made news when one of its anonymous users posted a cryptic message seemingly confessing to murder, catching the attention of Chicago Police.  Jill Carattini adds: “The invitation to emerge from our darkest failings, lies, and secrets is not an invitation to dwell in our own impoverishment but rather a summons to light, reconciliation, community, and true humanity. The unique message of Jesus is that there is no reason to hide. Before we came up with plans to improve our images or learned to pretend with masks and swap for better identities, he saw who we were and was determined to approach regardless. Before we found a way to conceal our many failings or even weighed the possibilities of unlocking our darkest secrets, God came near and called us out of obscurity by name.” [1]

Why do we hide?

Why do we hang on to guilt?

How can we recognize we are forgiven and move on?

How do we move on?

Some, correction, all of us are dealing with hurts, habits and hang-ups. Let’s talk about the next step in working through them. Today, we talk about confession. Today, we talk about reflection. Today, we talk about forgiveness.

Today, my theme is:

Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, God and someone I trust.

You are completely forgiven, confess, reflect and move forward.

Let’s read Romans 3:23-24:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus… 

Let’s read Psalm 32:1-5:

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!

When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

  1. God forgives and it is good to be forgiven.
    1. Look at Psalm 32:1-5.
    2. This Psalm is usually looked at as a thanksgiving psalm. David is giving thanks for forgiveness. We do not know exactly what the occasion was. It could have to do with the sin with Bathsheba or something else.
    3. Either way, isn’t it nice to be forgiven?
    4. Verse 1: how blessed is it to be forgiven?
    5. Swindoll helps us think this through:
    6. Do you remember Edgar Allan Poe’s haunting short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”? The main character has committed murder. Unable to escape the lingering guilt of his deed, he begins to hear the heartbeat of the victim he has buried under his floorboards. A cold sweat covers him as the beat-beat-beatgoes on . . . relentlessly. It refuses to go away. Ultimately, it becomes clear that the pounding that drove the man mad was not in the grave down below but the pounding within his own chest. So it is with an unforgiven conscience.
    7. The ancient songwriter David was no stranger to this maddening malady. As we shall soon discover, the longer he refused to come to terms with the enormity of his grinding guilt, the more he became physically ill and emotionally distraught. Only forgiveness can take away that grind.[2]
    8. Swindoll believes this Psalm was written after he was forgiven for his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11-12).
    9. Notice how in verse 1 David says we are blessed when our transgression is forgiven.
    10. In verse 2, David says we are blessed when God does not impute iniquity.
    11. Iniquity would mean that we have committed a gross sin. A transgression means to cross a moral or Divine law.
    12. David uses both terms. Additionally, David uses the generic term for sin.
    13. David is talking about sin being forgiven, sin being covered and sin not being imputed, or counted, against us.
    14. David knows what it is like to be forgiven.
    15. In verse 3, David talks about keeping silent about sin.
    16. How many of you have lived with unconfessed sin? How was the guilt? Was it like the beating heart in “The Tell-Tale Heart?
    17. If this was David reflecting on his sin with Bathsheba, he must have known what it was like to have that weight on his shoulders. Do you know what it is like? I bet you do.
    18. David says, when I kept silent about “my sin.” David says, “my sin.” He owns up to it.
    19. He says, “his body wasted away.” What an image! It is true though. We all know what stress does to the body. Some eat more, some eat less, some lose sleep, some are anxious.
    20. Verse 5: David acknowledged his sin. He acknowledged it to God. He says, God forgave him.
    21. God forgives and He forgives completely. We have talked about that before. We read the passage early, Romans 6:23, justified, freely. That means that we are forgiven completely.
    22. David repented, David confessed, do you need to confess?
  2. Confession
    1. We need to confess our sin first to God and to others.
    2. A woman came in to see her pastor and said, “I’m depressed. I’ve been in bed for weeks, and I no longer have the energy to get out of bed and live.” Sensing her deep pain, the pastor asked her, “Is there something in your life you really regret?” She began to pour it out. “Yes. My husband travels. I had an affair and got pregnant and had an abortion. I have never told my husband about it.” The pastor shared God’s promise that no matter how deep the stain of our sins, God can take it out and forgive us. Distressed, she replied, “It just doesn’t seem fair. Somebody’s got to pay for my sin!” “Somebody already has,” the pastor assured her. “His name is Jesus Christ. That’s why He died on the cross. He died for that sin and every other one you’ve committed and confessed and ones you’re going to commit.” She cried and asked, “How do I ask God for His forgiveness?” You may be asking the same question.
    3. Let’s look at James 5:16: Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
    4. James shows that communal confession goes along with prayer.
    5. In Psalm 66:18 the Psalmist writes that if he had cherished sin in his heart the Lord would not hear his prayer.
    6. I don’t think you must always be concerned about some unconfessed sin that you don’t know about.
    7. What you must be careful of is repetitive sin. This is sin that you are going through and you cannot conquer. This is sin which you have given into time and time again. We should always confess our sins to God, but we must also confess them to each other.
      1. This doesn’t mean giving your dirty laundry to the whole church. Who wants to be first we can have an open mic right now. No!
      2. This does mean having a prayer partner or a group of Christian friends that you can share your struggles with at a specific time and place. There is a time for public confession as well. Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that is what James is writing about.
    8. We need to confess because in confession we clear our minds and hearts.
    9. We need to confess because in confession we can hear the person we confess to say that we are forgiven, or God forgives you. We need to hear that.
    10. We need to confess to everyone we have offended in our sin (as far as possible). In some cases that may be a large group of people.
    11. We need to confess so that we can be held accountable not to continue in that sin.
      1. This means the person we confess to, or at least one of the people, should say, “You are forgiven, now how do we prevent you from falling into this sin again?”
      2. We are not meant to live the Christian life alone. Unchecked sin corrupts absolutely. Our sin is contagious, always. It is not secret. If you don’t believe me look how divorce affects children. Be sure your sin will find you out and it does hurt other people (Numbers 32:23).
  • I know that some of you need to confess and I urge you to do that. Make it a point to confess the sin today.
  1. You may have to confess to your spouse that you have looked at pornography.
  2. You may have to confess to your children that you have treated them badly.
  3. You may have to confess to your boss that you did something wrong.
  • You may have to confess to someone else.
  • Don’t ignore the Spirit’s nudging about this. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus told the people that if they are about to worship God and they realize they have an unresolved issue with someone else, they must resolve that and then come back to worship. In confessing our sin we can truly be spiritually healed and fulfilled.
  • Reflection:
    1. Now, this sermon series is about healing from hurts, habits and hang-ups. How do you get that? You only receive healing when you seek help.
    2. The Bible calls us to confess to God. That is what David did.
    3. The Bible calls us to confess to each other. That is what James said. That is in the Bible. We cannot ignore it.
    4. Some of you are dealing with guilt, or anxiety, or fear, or anger or many other things in addition to other hurts, habits and hang-ups. I believe, part of the reason things are so bad is because you are dealing with things on your own. You cannot do that. We are not meant to live the Christian life alone. Let others in.
    5. Here is a start: take a moral inventory: This is something where you sit down and think about the person, persons, or institutions who have hurt you. Write it down. Then you think of the cause, then the effects, then the damage, and then your part. This is not about blaming. This is about considering and reflecting to know how you got to where you are today.
    6. Why is it important to do this inventory in writing? Because writing forces you to be specific. Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips to the fingertips. If you don’t put it down in writing, it will remain vague. Just saying, “God, I’ve blown it in life,” is not specific enough. We’ve all blown it. We need to get specific, and we need to write it down.
    7. When doing this you must:
      1. Do be radically honest
      2. Don’t rationalize
  • Don’t blame others
  1. Don’t deceive yourself
  2. SPECIAL NOTE: If you have been physically or sexually abused as a child or adult, I want you to know that I am sorry that you suffered through that abuse. There is no way I can know the pain it caused you, but I want you to know that I empathize with your hurt. When you start writing down your list of wrongs, simply put the words “NOT GUILTY” for the abuse that was done to you. No part of that sin committed against you was your fault. Renounce the lie that the abuse was your fault. Do take responsibility for how you may have hurt others because of your reactions to your past abuse.
  1. Think of this like journaling. But that is not all: meet with a prayer partner or Christian mentor, advisor, counselor and go over it. Again, we need to support each other.
  2. Why can’t we just admit our faults to God?
  3. Why must another person be involved?
  4. Because the root of our problems is relational. We lie to each other, deceive each other, and are dishonest with each other. We wear masks and pretend we have it together. We deny our true feelings and play games largely because we believe, “If they really knew the truth about me, they wouldn’t love me.” We become more isolated than ever. We keep all of the junk of our past inside, and we get sick.
  5. There’s a saying: We are only as sick as our secrets.
  6. The hurts, hang-ups, and habits that we try to hide end up making us sick, but “revealing your feelings is the beginning of healing.”
  7. Whom Do You Tell?
    1. Ask someone you trust
    2. Ask someone who understands the value of what you’re doing—
  • Ask someone who is mature enough not to be shocked—
  1. Ask someone who knows the Lord well enough to reflect His forgiveness to you.
  2. Before you say anything, find a place to meet without interruptions
  3. Be up-front in saying that you need to share your moral inventory

Close:

We all need this. One of the greatest things I have done is confessed sin. The Bible tells us to do this. Some of you think confessing to God is enough, but that is not what the Bible teaches. This is Father’s Day, father’s be willing to repent. First to God, then to others who you have hurt. But also to a trusted Christian friend. Be willing to get help to conquer your hurts, habits and hang-ups. You cannot do it alone.

I am here and I want to help all of you. If you want me to help you with a moral inventory, talk with me.

I was in college and my dad and I were in his workshop and he apologized to me for his angry outburst when he was raising us. Praise God for dads who repent.

A long time ago, I faced a pornography problem, was it an addiction? Maybe. Was it a sin, definitely. Did I repent to God? Right away. Did I repent to Meagan? Eventually, but not soon enough. I only got free from that hurt, habit and hang-up when I invited Meagan in and confessed. Do you know how much that weighed on me? It was a heavy weight, but I did not get free until I stopped trying to take care of it by myself.

Seek help. Many of you are dealing with a lot and thinking it is normal Christian living, but it does not have to be.

 Let Go video:

https://www.ignitermedia.com/products/7951-let-go

pray

 

[1] Jill Carattini, “Out of Obscurity,” A Slice of Infinity blog/RZIM Ministries (7-26-17)

[2] https://insight.org/resources/daily-devotional/individual/living-under-the-cloud-of-guilt

Letting Go (Luke 15:11-32)

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices

Subtitle: Letting Go (Luke 15:11-32)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, June 9, 2019

Grant and his battles with alcohol:

I have begun reading a new biography. The book is about General Grant from the Civil War. There are many books or movies that could tell the evils of drug or alcohol abuse and this could be one of them. Certainly, Grant remained a great general and fascinating human being despite his alcohol abuse. It is hard to tell exactly how much Grant drank. In the very beginning of the book the author, Ron Chernow, writes that Grant was likely a functioning alcoholic. Further, Chernow shares that today we recognize being an alcoholic as a disease which they did not recognize back then. It seems that General Grant would go months, maybe even years, without drinking and then drink in excess after a major battle. However, even those reports we cannot be too sure of because other generals and politicians would spread rumors about Grant for their own gain. This is how it came about. Let’s backup a little in Grant’s military career. U.S. Grant, actually Hiram, Ulysses Grant, was sent to West Point, though he did not wish to go there. He did not drink alcohol at that point. Later on, he started drinking and drinking in excess in his early military career. In 1854 he was a captain in the army. He had not seen his wife and children in over two years. He was serving in California under an over-scrupulous leader. The leader knew that this young man drank too much and caught him drunk. He warned him to resign or face court martial. Grant’s friends told him to fight it and he would win, but Grant wanted to be with his family and resigned.

Following that Grant could not succeed in civilian life, but then the Civil War breaks out and he had a cause. He tries and tries and tries to get an appointment as an officer. He finally gets his break and he excels in the military to be the man who eventually led the north to win the war. But, you know what? Those tales of his drinking followed him. Anytime someone wanted to hurt him in public relations they brought up how he had to leave the army because of alcohol abuse.

So, today let’s think for a moment about those people trapped in sin. They are just living in it. Now, it is one thing for us to focus on that as Christians. Once we are believers we have identified with the Savior. Once we are believers we have committed to the Savior. However, why are we so very often ignoring the sin in the church and complaining about the world? Why don’t we clean up our house? So, I was reading an article about a pastor’s kid who left the church. This young man, who is now a pastor himself, grew up in the church and was turned off by the church. He was turned off when his mom would take him to the church during the middle of the day to surprise his father and only find his dad being yelled at by a member because he changed the carpet. He was turned off by the church when they would make such a big deal about the drums in the sanctuary. He was turned off by the utter hypocrisy. Then he heard Frederick Buechner speak. Buechner is a well known Bible scholar. Buechner said the Holy Spirit is not in every church. That is very true. Anyways, this pastor’s kid leaves the church, then his neighbor was going to strip clubs at night, getting drunk, etc. This pastor’s kid tells the neighbor he should try Jesus. The neighbor said, I would not try Jesus because many of the people at the strip clubs are preparing to be pastors during the day! Wow! What hypocrisy! We have to take care of that inside the church. Outside the church we must expect the world to be the world. So, as we do this we realize that Jesus came for everyone. The person living in unrepentant sin needs to know about Jesus, that is what they need first and foremost. The biggest thing that harms our credibility is when the supposed Jesus followers are doing the same things. So, let’s clean up our act because we are committed to Jesus. Let’s clean up our act because we are crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), at the same time, let’s recognize the Gospel is for everyone and let’s take the Gospel to everyone.

The story today is about two brothers. One brother is the older brother. Think of him as the religious person. The younger brother is the worldly person. He is not religious. He is anti religious. Then there is a father. The father represents God.

Let’s read the story and I wish to show you that God is loving and He desires a relationship with everyone. God desires a relationship with unrepentant sinners. God desires a relationship with worldly people.

Today, I want to impress on all of us the high importance of letting go.”

Theme:

My theme let go and surrender to Jesus.

Let’s read Luke 15:11-32:

11 And He said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. 29 But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; 30 but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

  • First, let’s say that God desires a relationship with the unrepentant. God desires a relationship with the worldly person, who is living for the world.
    • At this point, Jesus is in Samaria. At this time, He is telling all these parables in an area that is hostile to the Jews in Jerusalem. The Jews in Jerusalem were hostile to them as well. I want to emphasize that Jerusalem Jews did what it took to avoid them. They would travel extra just so they did not come in contact with them. But Jesus goes right through the heart of Samaria and He tells parables. He tells parables that are not in the other Gospels.
    • To the Jerusalem Jews the Samaritans would be unrepentant worldly people. Unrepentant people are in the world, living for the world and they do not care. They live for themselves and God wants a relationship with them.
    • So, here is Jesus in this worldly area, in this area forsaken by most Jews, but not by God. He tells a parable.
    • We call this the parable of the prodigal son. Prodigal means extravagant or wasteful. As you heard in the parable, the son wastes his father’s money.
    • There are two sons in this parable and the younger tells his father that he wants his share of the estate. Now, you must know that there are a couple problems with this. The first problem is that asking for an inheritance early is like saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead!”
      • Regardless of the insult the father divides the inheritance between his two sons. This is the second problem. According to the Old Testament (DT 21:7), the elder son was supposed to receive a double portion.
      • Now, what you need to know is that this is a parable; it is a story with a purpose. It may or may not have really happened. Jesus is setting this parable up in order to show God’s great grace.
  • Jesus is showing that regardless of what we do, God is our Father and as our Father He welcomes us into His loving arms. This younger son is blasphemous to his father, by asking for the inheritance, but the Father represents God. The Father still wants a relationship with him.
  • Verses 13-14 show that the son takes his father’s money and he leaves. Jesus says that he wasted his wealth with wild living. Jesus doesn’t tell us what the son was involved in but we can take a guess. We can take a guess because some of you have been in situations like this.
    • I also think that some of you have had children leave home and disgrace your name. Still some of you have had situations where you were prepared to welcome a child back home. You have been where this father is. Some of you are the father and you have had your heart broken by what your child has done. For you it may not be that your child has wasted your money. You don’t care about the money, it is that your child has made poor decisions and consequently ended up in a very bad situation. It may make you nauseas to think about the situation your child is in.
    • Some of you have done this yourself. Some of you are the younger son and have experienced drastic forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • Now, let’s pause for a moment.
  • This sermon’s point is letting go. We are in a sermon series about life’s hurts, habits and hang-ups and their healing choices. The third choice is letting go. We must let go and surrender to Jesus. Maybe you have done that, have you really? This prodigal son is about to get to the lowest point and he surrenders.
  • The Gospel is in this parable. The prodigal is living apart from the world. We all must come to a point in which we surrender to Jesus. I mean, really surrender. Often times it takes a crisis to make us surrender.
  • Oftentimes, Pride, guilt and fear keep us from surrendering to Jesus. We may have too much pride.
  • Or we have Guilt: Do we feel ashamed? Are we afraid to ask God for help?
  • John Baker writes it this way: Maybe you’ve tried to make deals with God: “God, if You just get me out of this mess, I will never do it again!” You may be embarrassed to ask Him for help. Or you may think God doesn’t know all the things you’ve done wrong and won’t ever forgive you. You’re wrong; He knows. Even though He knows it all, there is no sin that God cannot or will not forgive. He wants to forgive all your guilt. That’s why Christ went to the cross![1]
  • Then there is fear: Are you afraid of what you might have to give up if you surrender the care and control of your life to Christ? Fear takes many forms:
    • We may be afraid to trust God. There’s a story about a guy who falls off a cliff. Halfway down he grabs on to a branch, and he’s hanging on for dear life—he can see five hundred feet down and five hundred feet up. He cries out, “Somebody help!” Suddenly, he hears the voice of God, “This is the Lord, trust Me, let go, and I’ll catch you.” The guy looks back down at the five hundred feet below and back up again. Then he calls out, “Is there anybody else up there?”[2] Sometimes we turn to God only as our last resort. We are afraid to let go and trust Him.
    • Maybe we are afraid of losing control. But we are not in control to begin with. We may be controlled by our anger. We may be controlled by our anxiety. We may be controlled by our chemical addiction. We may be controlled by our own need to control everything. We may be controlled by life. Surrender and let Jesus control you.
  • We also may have worry which keeps us from letting go and surrendering to Jesus. We are worried about what this looks like. Some of us have lived with our hurt, habit or hang-up our whole life and so letting go of it is unimaginable. You may think, I don’t have a major addiction, I just have anger issues, but it is under control. But even a little bit of anger hurts yourself and others and Jesus wants to help you. Let go. You may think, I don’t have major sin or addiction, I just have worry and anxiety. Still, don’t you think the Holy Spirit wants to give you peace (John 14:27)? You don’t have to live with that. But, I wonder, if we like our anger, we like our anxiety, we like our worry, we like our fear, we like our addiction, maybe too much to let go and let Jesus take over.
  • John Baker writes: Worry causes us to confuse the decision-making phase with the problem-solving phase. Consider the process of buying a house. First, you make the initial decision to buy the house. That’s only the beginning. There are several more problem-solving steps that must be taken before you can actually move in. You need to go to the bank and apply for the loan. You need to get an appraisal and complete the escrow. Then you have to contact the moving company and set up the utilities. All of this has to be done before you spend the first night in your new home! If you focus on the “problems”—the individual tasks involved in making your dream a reality—you may never make the decision to buy the house. Make the decision; let God worry about the problem solving.[3]
  • God does have the ability to get us where he wants us. John Baker, in his book, Life’s Healing Choices compares it to America in World War 2. Before we would take a Japanese island we would soften it by bombing it. Then we would take the beachhead. In the history of World War II, once the Marines landed and established a beachhead, they never lost an island. It was just a matter of time until the entire island would be set free.[4] The beach head is like our conversion, or if we have been converted but we have not surrendered all to Jesus, the beachhead is when we turn our hurt, habit or hang-up over to Jesus.
  • BUT, before the beachhead we need softened, we face the consequence of our hurt, habit or hang up. God is letting us go our own way so that we realize we need Him.
  • This brings us back to the parable. The prodigal is facing the consequence of his sin.
  • Verses 15-16 show that now, this son is feeding pigs. Pigs were an unclean animal in Judaism, so for Jesus’ audience this is a big deal. This son has sunk to a very low station in life. But Jesus is setting this up to show the great, great love of God, our Heavenly Father.
  • To have a relationship with God we must repent. However, whether we repent or not, God wants a relationship with us.
    • Verses 17-19 show that the son is repentant. He realizes what has happened to his station in life. He is ready to confess this to his father.
    • Verses 20-24 show us that as he comes back to his father, his father sees him from a distance and runs to him. We also see that his father wants to throw a party to welcome his son home.
      • In that day it was considered a breach of an adult male’s dignity to run, but this Father is so excited to see his son come home that he runs to him and embraces him.
      • A man was commissioned to paint a picture of the Prodigal Son. He went into his work fervently, laboring to produce a picture worthy of telling the story. Finally, the day came when the picture was complete, and he unveiled the finished painting. The scene was set outside the father’s house, and showed the open arms of each as they were just about to meet and embrace. The man who commissioned the work was well pleased, and was prepared to pay the painter for his work, when he suddenly noticed a detail that he had missed. Standing out in the painting above everything else in the scene, was the starkly apparent fact that the father was wearing one red shoe and one blue shoe. He was incredulous. How could this be, that the painter could make such an error? He asked the painter, and the man simply smiled and nodded, assuring the man, “Yes, this is a beautiful representation of the love of God for His children.” “What do you mean?” he asked, puzzled. “The father in this picture was not interested in being color-coordinated or fashion-conscious when he went out to meet his son. In fact, he was in such a hurry to show his love to his son, he simply reached and grabbed the nearest two shoes that he could find. “He is the God of the Unmatched Shoes.”[5]
  • Some of us can hear this story and think like the eldest son. We see his reaction in verses 25-32
  • The eldest son’s thinking is on the side of TRUTH—all TRUTH and no grace. His thinking is that the younger brother made his decisions and he should live with him.
  • But I think that no matter what that elder son cannot see things the way a parent would. That elder son just can’t think about watching the boy learn to walk, rocking him to sleep at night, teaching him to fish, taking him to Chipotle for the first time, school programs and all those other things. A parent thinks with their emotions.
    • I believe that God made us emotional because I think God has emotions. The Father in this parable is clearly God and when we are in the filth of life; when we are in bad situations, I think that God hurts. Some of you know what it is like to hurt and ache and lose sleep because your child is in a bad situation. Then I think you have a small element of how God feels when we are in a bad situation. God grieves and God hurts. Then when we choose to come back to God, He runs to us and throws a party in Heaven.
    • God desires a relationship with all so He sent Jesus for everyone.

God desires a relationship with unrepentant sinners.  God desires a relationship with the neighbor who goes to strip clubs. God desires a relationship with the person out late at night drinking because they are depressed. God desires a relationship with the man who has burned every bridge they have formed because he was never taught how to work with people. God desires a relationship with the person who cannot hold a job because he never had a father to mentor and teach him to work. God desires a relationship with the person who even cannot parent because he was never modeled or taught how to parent. You know what? God desires a relationship with the guy blaspheming Him on the news. God desires a relationship with the Muslim terrorist. God desires a relationship with the Nazi solder. God desires a relationship with every unrepentant person and God desires a relationship with us.

The question is: who do you most identify with? Are you the older brother? If you are a believer, are your interests, God’s interests? Do you desire to introduce those unrepentant people to Jesus?

Are you unrepentant? Are you harboring a hurt, habit or hang-up? Know that coming to Christ does mean repentance. The third step in life’s healing choices is letting go and surrendering that to God. I encourage you, do that today. Tell God in a simple prayer, “God, I wish to surrender my addiction to pornography to You.” Or, “God, I am surrendering my anxiety to You.” Or, God, I am surrendering my anger to You.” Or, God, I am surrendering my alcohol abuse to You.” Or, maybe you do not know Jesus. In that case surrender to Him today for the first time. Tell God: Lord, today, I confess that I have sinned and missed Your perfect standard. I believe in You. Jesus, I believe that You died on the cross for my sins and rose again. I am committing my life to You and trusting in You for my salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do you know Jesus?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

 

 

 

[1] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 87-88). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[2] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (p. 88). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[3] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (p. 90). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[4] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 92-93). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[5] Contributed by: Wayne Major found at SermonCentral

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices Subtitle: Getting Help (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Life’s Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups and Their Healing Choices

Subtitle: Getting Help (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

It doesn’t rain much in Southern California. And it rarely rains enough to cause any flooding. But several years ago it rained so hard that a portion of Lake Forest actually flooded! Glen lives in a low area. The flooding was so bad that the Orange County Register sent a reporter, in a boat, out to Glen’s neighborhood. The reporter found Glen’s wife, Jo Ann, sitting on their roof watching large objects floating by, so he climbed up on the roof to interview her.

As the reporter questioned Jo Ann, he saw a Weber barbecue float by, and then he saw a large golden retriever pass by on top of his doghouse, and finally, a sport utility vehicle! A few minutes later, he saw a hat float by; but after it floated about twenty feet past the house, it started floating back upstream. When it got about twenty feet on the other side of the house, it started floating back down again. The reporter watched the hat go by seven or eight times, and finally he asked Jo Ann, “Do you have any idea how that hat is floating up and down stream?”

 “Oh, that’s just my crazy husband, Glen. He said he was going to mow the lawn today, come hell or high water.” The problem with many of us is that we are still focusing on the lawn while our home is floating away. We have the crazy notion that we are in control.[1]

Last week we talked about admitting our need. When we admit that we need help we may have another struggle. The next struggle is dealing with our grief and pain and denial and turning it over to God. You may wonder, what does that mean turning it over to God? Well, that is what this whole series is about. Turning something over to God does not mean you will receive instant help. Sometimes you must go through a process. God also wants to use His people to help His people. So, you may think, “I told God about it, now what?” Well, now you must confess it to a Christian friend (James 5:16) and maybe a counselor or a pastor or accountability partner for help. God uses His people. You also must learn spiritual habits and God will help you that way.

Today let’s talk about getting help.

Let’s read: 1 Timothy 4:7-8:

 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

The Christian life is discipline and training as we grow. As we grow and deal with our hurts, habits and hang-ups we will have grief, pain and denial.

  1. We will have grief: This is God’s pathway to comfort.
    1. We mourn our past mistakes.
    2. We mourn our loss of control.
    3. We discover God’s pathway to comfort.
    4. We must let God meet our need.
  2. We will have pain: God’s antidote for denial
    1. It is difficult getting rid of our hurts, habits and hang-ups and turning them to God. It is difficult getting rid of that addiction. It is difficult fighting anger. It is difficult not worrying or gossiping or being anxious. We will have pain. Depending on the severity of our hurt, habit or hang-up we will have more pain. We may need a treatment center or to see our doctor for a medication to help. But that goes along with admitting the need.
    2. S. Lewis helps us understand: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain. Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”[2]
    3. One writes: Pain is God’s way of letting us know something is seriously wrong and needs our attention. If your appendix bursts, and you felt no pain, you wouldn’t know your body needed help. The toxins from your appendix would infect your abdominal cavity and could eventually kill you. Pain alerts us to our need for help.[3]
    4. Pain is also God’s fire alarm. If a fire alarm went off in your house, I don’t think you’d say, “Oh, there goes that stupid fire alarm again! Somebody throw a rock at it and make it stop.” Hopefully, you would do something about it. You would call the fire department and get some help. But when our “pain alarm” goes off, instead of dealing with the source of the pain, we often try to cover up the sound. We try to mute the noise with people, work, food, alcohol, sex, and many, many different things. If you ignore the alarm, your house could burn down. An important point needs to be made here. Just because God allows pain to enter your life does not mean that He causes the pain, and it certainly doesn’t mean that He enjoys seeing you in pain. Pain is often a consequence of our poor choices or the poor choices of others. God allows the natural consequences of these poor choices to play out. This is not the same thing as Him causing our pain. God loves us and wants to lead us out of our pain and into His healing. The miracle is that He brings good out of our pain by using it to lead us to His comfort and away from our denial.
    5. With that said, take a look at yourself: How’s your pain level? Is God using your pain to get your attention?[4]
  • We will experience denial, refusing God’s Power to Help
    1. Blame: we will blame another person rather than get help. You may blame your parents for their anger. You may blame your circumstances for your anxiety. You may blame your genetics. You may blame your parents because they abused alcohol so did you, or so do you. But this denies the problem.
    2. Other forms of denial are just as strange. When someone asks us how we’re doing, we often say “I’m fine” or “So far, so good.” Who are we kidding? We could say the same thing if we’d just jumped off a building and were halfway down. We haven’t hit bottom yet, so we say we’re “fine . . . so far, so good.”
    3. Instead of denying your pain, allow it to motivate you to get help, to start making healing choices, to face the issue that you’ve been ignoring for ten, twenty, maybe thirty years. Don’t refuse God’s power to help.[5]
  1. However, God has Denial Busters
    1. We rarely change when life is cool and comfortable. We change when we feel the heat. We start to change after our marriage falls apart or after our kids go off in the wrong direction. One man said, “The acid of my pain finally ate through the wall of my denial.” Unfortunately, we usually don’t change until our fear of change is exceeded by our pain. Most people never choose to move toward healing until there is no other option.
    2. God uses three denial busters to get our attention, to force us to move into recovery and away from the choices and circumstances that have messed up our lives:[6]
      1. Crisis: God uses the pain of an unexpected crisis to shatter our denial: illness caused by years of substance abuse, stress brought on by workaholism, job loss due to inappropriate actions, or a divorce due to infidelity.[7]
      2. Confrontation: Losing your job, or your family is another denial buster.
  • Catastrophe: there may be a catastrophe, and this will cause us to recognize the hurt, habit or hang-up.
  1. God wants to get our attention Because He has a better way.
  1. Accept help:
    1. God exists (Rom. 1:20; Heb 11:6)
      1. Romans 1:20: For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
      2. Heb 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and thatHe is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
    2. You matter to Him.
      1. There are misconceptions like we may think that God does not care.
      2. Understand the truth of a loving God who cares.
  • God knows your situation.
    1. Ps 31:7: I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness,
      Because You have seen my affliction;
      You have known the troubles of my soul
    2. Ps 34:18: O taste and see that the Lord is good;
      How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him
      !
    3. Ps 56:8: You have taken account of my wanderings;
      Put my tears in Your bottle.
      Are theynot in Your book
      ?
  1. God cares about your situation. The situation you are in right now may seem hopeless. But it’s not.
  1. He has the power to help us.
    1. Plug into God’s power: believe and receive.
    2. Phil. 2:12-13: So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
  2. Apply
    1. Pray to God about what He is convicting you of.
    2. Write about it in a prayer journal.
    3. Share: Prov. 27:17: Iron sharpens iron,
      So one man sharpens another.

Close:

Once again, is God convicting you of something, pray and turn it over to Him. We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups. All of us have something that God wants to work in. The trouble is we think we can handle it on our own, but we cannot.

Being a Christian does not mean we have to continue on with the same problems. Let God help you.

Some of us think our sin is small and so we would rather sit and judge someone else, beware. That is what the Pharisees did and that is what the Sadducees did.

In his book What Good Is God?, Philip Yancey writes about being invited to speak at a conference on ministry to women in prostitution. After some discussion with his wife, Yancey agreed to accept the invitation as long as he could have the opportunity to question the women and hear their stories.

At the end of the conference Yancey had the following conversation with the women:

I had time for one more question. “Did you know that Jesus referred to your profession? Let me read you what he said: ‘I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’ He was speaking to the religious authorities of his day. What do you think Jesus meant? Why did he single out prostitutes?”

After several minutes of silence a young woman from Eastern Europe spoke up in her broken English. “Everyone, she has someone to look down on. Not us. We are at the low. Our families, they feel shame for us. No mother nowhere looks at her little girl and says, ‘Honey, when you grow up I want you be good prostitute.’ Most places, we are breaking the law. Believe me, we know how people feel about us. People call us names: whore, slut, hooker, harlot. We feel it too. We are the bottom. And sometimes when you are at the low, you cry for help. So when Jesus comes, we respond. Maybe Jesus meant that.”[8]

Maybe, just maybe it was because the tax collectors and prostitutes knew they were sinners in need of a Savior and they admitted the need and accepted help. They came to Jesus. Are you going to Jesus with your needs? Come to Jesus with your addition to spending money. Come to Jesus with your fear. Come to Jesus with your anger. Come to Jesus with your pornography addiction. Come to Jesus with your lust. Come to Jesus with your drug addiction. Come to Jesus with your alcohol addiction. Come to Jesus with your anxiety. Come to Jesus.

Come to Jesus and have life.

John 10:10:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

Prayer

 

[1] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 47-48). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1944).

 

[3] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 49-50). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[4] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 49-50). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[5] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (p. 51). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[6] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 51-52). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[7] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (p. 52). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

[8] From What Good Is God?, by Philip Yancey, p. 75; reprinted by permission of FaithWords, a division of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Life’s Healing Choices, Admitting the Need (Gen. 3:1-10; 2 Cor. 5:17)

Life’s Healing Choices, Admitting the Need (Gen. 3:1-10; 2 Cor. 5:17)

Video from Igniter media

Here’s some good news: if you’re like most people, you’re way above average—at almost everything. Psychologists call this the state of “illusory superiority.” (It’s also called “The Lake Wobegone Effect,” from Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town where “all the children are above average.”) It simply means that we tend to inflate our positive qualities and abilities, especially in comparison to other people.

Numerous research studies have revealed this tendency to overestimate ourselves. For instance, when researchers asked a million high school students how well they got along with their peers, none of the students rated themselves below average. As a matter of fact, 60 percent of students believed they were in the top 10 percent; 25 percent rated themselves in the top one percent. You’d think college professors might have more self-insight, but they were just as biased about their abilities. Two percent rated themselves below average; 10 percent were average and 63 were above average; while 25 percent rated themselves as truly exceptional.

Of course this is statistically impossible. One researcher summarized the data this way: “It’s the great contradiction: the average person believes he is a better person than the average person.” Christian psychologist Mark McMinn contends that the “Lake Wobegone Effect” reveals our pride. He writes, “One of the clearest conclusions of social science research is that we are proud. We think better of ourselves than we really are, we see our faults in faint black and white rather than in vivid color, and we assume the worst in others while assuming the best in ourselves.”[1]

Today, I begin a new sermon series Life’s Healing Choices, Freedom from Your Hurts, Habits and Hang-ups. I will be taking the sermon titles and chapter titles from the book by that name. We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups, don’t we?

Have you ever eaten too much?

Have you ever lost your temper?

Have you been anxious?

Have you dealt with greed?

Are you secure in anyone or anything other than Christ?

Are you addicted to a substance?

Do you drive faster than the speed limit?

Jesus said if people thought they were okay keeping the law, you can sin in your thought life (see Matthew 5:22 and 28). What about your thought life? Are you depressed? Please note, some of these hurts, habits and hang-ups are sin issues, others, such as depression, are not sinful at all. Most all of us have hurts, habits and hang-ups and God wants us to turn them over to him. But, how do you do that? That is what this series will be about.

I want to encourage you to turn your hurts, habits and hang-ups over to Christ. First you must recognize them. Some of you think that your hurt, habit or hang-up is just part of being human. That is NOT true. Listen, your hurt, habit or hang-up is part of your sin nature and if you are unwilling to turn it over to Christ then it is pride, which is another sin.

So, today, my theme is.

We are NOT God, we need help.

Some sermons are expository, walking through a passage. Today, and through most of this series, will be making a case from Scripture.

  1. Genesis 3:1-10 teaches us about our nature from the beginning.
    1. We have a nature that has fallen from grace, but this is not originally what it means to be human.
    2. Let’s read Genesis 3:1-7: Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make onewise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
    3. Notice from this passage, God had already created man and woman. That was in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. God created. We did not create, God did. Now they are in paradise and the serpent is there. The serpent is possessed by the devil.
    4. In verse 1, the devil makes Eve question what God had said. The serpent questioned the Word of God. Take note: The devil has been asking us to question God’s Word since the beginning of time.
    5. In verses 3-4 Eve answers the serpent/devil. Notice in Eve’s answer she stretches the truth, but not in a bad way. Eve says they cannot eat from the tree in the middle of the garden (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), or touch it or they will die. God never said they could not touch it.
    6. The serpent/devil tells her a lie: The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 
    7. Eve eats and then gives to her husband.
    8. From this account we get the idea of a sin nature.
    9. If you look at the next few verses we see they begin to blame one another and so sin entered the world.
    10. Now, many people will say, “I am only human” as they excuse sin. However, Adam and Eve were fully human before sin entered. We were not created to sin.
    11. In Genesis 9:6 it shows even after the fall we are still in God’s image.
    12. In Romans 3:9-23 we see that no one is good. Let’s read Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
    13. Let’s read Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
    14. Because of this nature we see it still affects us today. Romans 7:14-25 shows that even for the Christian we have a battle between the flesh and the Holy Spirit. We will come back to that passage another Sunday.
    15. Pastor Timothy Keller paraphrases an analogy originally used by C.S. Lewis (in his bookMere Christianity) to demonstrate the nature of sin in our hearts.
    16. Now if you want to know if there are rats in your basement, you don’t walk to your basement door, clear your throat, and say, “I think I’ll go down and see if there are rats in my basement,” then jiggle the knob, open the door and in a very leisurely way turn on the light, clear your throat, and walk down the steps loudly and slowly. When you get to the bottom you look around and say, “Well, what do you know: I have no rats in my basement.”
    17. If you want to know if you have rats in your basement, you sneak up to the door, silently open the door, flick on the switch, jump to the bottom of the steps, and look around and they’ll all be scurrying away. And then you’ll know if you have rats.
    18. Based on this analogy, Lewis wrote:
    19. The excuse [for most of my sinful moments] that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard [like a rat who didn’t get enough warning] … Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth?[2]
    20. The Times once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question, “What’s wrong with the world today?” and Chesterton responded simply, “Dear Sir, I am. Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”
  1. We play God and we must not do this.
    1. We see in the passage listed above that we have a war going on within us. This war comes from our very nature. It is called the sin-nature. It started in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve sinned and then they felt shame. They immediately blamed for the sin. Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve. Some 4000 years later Jesus came, lived, was crucified for our sin and then was resurrected. He then sent us the Holy Spirit. Since we have the Holy Spirit we do not have to sin. But our sin nature still makes us play God.
    2. We try to control our image to make us look better. This is thinking we are God.
    3. We try to control other people to cover up our sin and make us look better.
    4. We try to control our problems.
    5. We try to control our pain. We are playing God.
  • There are consequences of playing God
    1. Fear (Gen 3:10). Are you living in fear? You are always afraid someone will find out about your hurt, habit or hang-up.
    2. Frustration:
      1. John Baker Jr. writes: Trying to run the universe is frustrating: Have you ever been to Chuck E. Cheese’s? They have this game called Whac-A-Mole. You use a big mallet to beat down these little moles that keep popping up. But when you whack one, three more pop up. You whack those, and five more pop up. That machine is a parable of life. We whack down one relational conflict and another pops up. We whack down one addiction or compulsion and another one pops up. It’s frustrating because we can’t get them all knocked down at the same time. We walk around pretending we’re God: “I’m powerful; I can handle it.” But if we’re really in control, why don’t we just unplug the machine?[3]
      2. We cannot handle it. We need to admit we need help.
    3. There are at least two other consequences: Fatigue and failure.
  1. There is a cure, the cure.
    1. We need to admit weakness and accept God’s help. In 2 Cor. 12:1-10 Paul talks about a thorn in his side and God says that in weakness he is stronger because he is forced to depend upon the Lord.
    2. Admit that you need help.
    3. What does that mean? Right now it just means admitting there is a problem. Your anxiety is something God wants to help you with. Your anger is something God wants to help you with. Your fear is something God wants to help you with. Your abuse of alcohol is something God wants to help you with. Your abuse of drugs is something God wants to help you with. Your addiction to food, or tv, or video games or whatever it may be is something God wants to help you with.
    4. God does not want you to have to live in fear, or worry, or defeat. He wants to help you. But you have to admit it. You have to admit it and you must recognize it is not part of being human. It is not the way God wants you to live.
  2. Apply
    1. We are new creations in Christ. What does it mean to be new? 2 Cor. 5:17: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he isa new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
    2. John 10:10: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have itabundantly.
    3. Jesus wants to give you life.
    4. We are new in Christ. Let God transform you.
    5. The first step is to pray about it. Admit you need God’s help and pray to Him about it.
    6. Write: Next write about it in a prayer journal.
    7. Share: Next share with a close friend about it. Ecc. 3:12 tells us we need each other.

There is help.

I know that some of you are dealing with major addictions and you are to the point of admitting the need. Awesome, let’s get you help.

I know that some of you do not consider your anger, or anxiety, or worry a problem, but you don’t need to live this way. In John 14:27 Jesus says He gives us peace. In Phil 4:6-8 we are told when we pray about something we can have the peace of God. Over the next several weeks I am going to preach about how to turn something over to God, but the first step is to admit you need help.

A while back I was on vacation and attended another church. The pastor shared about hearing the news of his wife’s cancer and he said he had peace through the whole process. How did he have peace? It came from his spiritual walk.

Maybe you don’t want to wait through this 8 week series to hear the other step. Then call me, email me or talk to me and we will get you help now. You can talk with me in total confidentiality, unless you are going to hurt yourself or someone else.

Pray

 

[1] Matt Woodley, managing editor, PreachingToday.com; sources: “Study: Self-Images Often Erroneously Inflate,” ABC News (11-9-05); Mark McMinn, Why Sin Matters (Tyndale, 2004), pp. 69-71

[2] Timothy Keller, Sermon, “The Two Great Tests” (1-23-2005); Submitted by Van Morris, Mt. Washington, Kentucky

[3] Baker Jr., John F.. Life’s Healing Choices Revised and Updated: Freedom from Your Hurts, Hang-ups, and Habits (pp. 18-19). Howard Books. Kindle Edition.