Friday, February 19, 2016

Alone but Not By Myself, Part 2


Last week, we talked about how Joseph did not fall into the footsteps of his parent’s dysfunction. In spite of being hated by his brothers, Joseph grew up to be a great leader. Like Joseph, many go into life with the odds stacked against them. Unless one commits himself to Jesus Christ in all things, the odds usually win out.

 

Today, Joseph is going to teach us about loyalty. Many wives get an anniversary present each year. The husband comes home and takes the wife out to dinner and brings home flowers. But that’s it. The man doesn’t date her the rest of the year. He doesn’t tell her that he loves her. Any wife would be happy to trade one day of recognition for 364 days of loyal love, even if they only go to a fast food restaurant.[1]

 

Some of us think we are great if we are faithful to God one day a week, Sunday. Or, some are satisfied with one Sunday a year, Easter. “I did something great for God that day.” God wants to know about all of the other days of your life. He wants your faithfulness and loyalty spread out evenly. God isn’t concerned about the occasional biggies you do for him. He wants a loyal follower.

 

Joseph was sold into slavery and became a manager for Potiphar’s home. Potiphar was an official in Pharaoh’s court. God placed Joseph in this setting to test his loyalty.

Genesis 39:1-10 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

Eventually, Potiphar’s wife grabs Joseph’s clothes. Joseph runs out of the house, leaving his garment in her hand. When her husband came home, she showed him Joseph’s clothes and made up a story about how he tried to harass her. Potiphar had Joseph locked away in prison.

When this happened to Joseph, he was probably in his twenties. If anyone had any excuses to get tangled up in a sin and scandal, it was Joseph. He was sold away into slavery by his own brothers. Instead, Joseph built a resume as a dependable manager. He was handsome and articulate. Joseph had the ability to build Potiphar’s empire.

When women made advances toward Joseph, it was no surprise. He was young, strong, smart, and successful. However, the last thing Joseph needed was his boss’s wife hitting on him. Joseph’s character was put to the test.

Joseph had every excuse to fall into temptation. He had been hated, sold out, and left for dead. For goodness sake, his father had four wives. Being a womanizer was in Joseph’s blood. After all, Joseph could only take so much pressure, right? However, Joseph feared God more than his boss’s wife. He had a love of God that was displayed in loyalty. In verse 9, Joseph asked Potiphar’s wife, “How could I do this evil thing against God?”

This week the entire country is focusing on love. It is Valentine’s Day. Love is a virtue that is so complex; it has many attributes. The Bible demonstrates this in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Joseph would add one more quality to the mix. Love is loyal. Back up, take a long look at yourself and think about what it takes to have meaningful relationships. Make a list. I guarantee you that any real list of qualities for significant social, professional, and romantic relationships will include loyalty.

When God Seems Silent, Loyalty Matters

Loyalty matters in your workplace. If your boss sees the inconsistency in your work life, do you think she will promote you? Inconsistent behavior creates insecurity. People cannot depend on you or learn how you operate.

“Suppose a person went to their boss and said, ‘Boss, I know I’ve been doing a sloppy job, but the reason I’ve been doing a sloppy job is because you haven’t given me a promotion. If you promoted me, I wouldn’t do a sloppy job. So I tell you what you do, Mr. Boss—you give me that promotion and then you’ll see how I can really work!’ Not only would that person not receive a promotion, they will be going job hunting. Why? Because that’s not how it works. Christians many times want to give God slop and ask God for blessings. It doesn’t work. God wants faithful people—people he can count on.”[2]

Loyalty matters in your church. Eighty-three percent of persons in the United States do not attend church on a given weekend. This is why 3500 churches close each year. Each time a church closes her doors, an outpost for meeting needs and resourcing families goes dark.

The reason churches are not doing so well is because they are plagued with fake Christians. A fake ID is generally used to give the impression that a young person is older than they really are. Many Christians in the world with a fake ID. They give the impression that they are committed to Jesus Christ, when they are not. However, the baby Christian is easy to spot. They do not see the importance of getting into community with other believers.

The local church is Jesus’s plan to reach the world with the Gospel. It isn’t a fad like a diet that you try for a while and quit. The church isn’t a hobby like golf that you enjoy when you have time. Church isn’t a charity that you support with your leftover money like the Red Cross. Church isn’t a school that you attend until you feel you’ve learned enough. The church isn’t a counselor that you go to until you have your life back together. The church is Jesus Christ at work in this world.

Loyalty matters in your marriage or singleness. One of my mentors told me to make a list of all the lives and relationships sexual immorality would damage or destroy. For me, sexual immorality would damage or destroy my relationships with my wife, three kids, my future grandchildren, my family, my in-laws, every person who has attended a church I have served, my friends and colleagues all over the world, and my community.

Let me ask you about loyalty. Would you intentionally physically harm your spouse or children? Would you intentionally hurt your coworkers? However, if you engage in inappropriate behavior outside of your marriage, you will bring more pain into your circles of family and friendships than a physical assault. Is loyalty worth it? You better believe it.

When I think of the pain and heartache I have observed in those who have been impacted by someone else’s lack of loyalty, I can see feel the hurt myself. Illicit affairs and secrets have brought more depression and grief than murder or assault.

Those who are single, you have a tremendous role model in Joseph. Joseph could have made a mockery of his faith by giving himself away outside of marriage. However, Joseph knew that intimacy was to be enjoyed in the sacred bonds of matrimony. One’s loyalty is to God first.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.

Joseph has a lot to teach society today. Today, people are afraid to make commitments. They get discouraged. They settle for less than God’s standard. Everyone wants someone to love them unconditionally, but no one wishes to be first in line to show this kind of love. Selfish behavior is the norm.

Joseph placed loyalty above lust. He honored his earthly master, Potiphar. Joseph acknowledged his Heavenly Master, God. Joseph, even though she did not see it this way, honored Potiphar’s wife. Joseph honored himself.

Did you notice Joseph’s question in verse nine?

Genesis 39:9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?

The power of God’s grace in our lives allows us to do something simple, but important. Be loyal to God. Even when no one is looking, be loyal. If someone asks you to go to a place that is not good for you or your walk with God, be loyal. If someone asks you to compromise at work or school, be loyal to God. If you are tempted with pornography or an unhealthy relationship, be loyal.

Why do you iron your clothes? You want to get the wrinkles out. A fiery hot trial is applied to your clothes so that you can be wrinkle-free. Sometimes God presses the wrinkles out of our lives because those wrinkles in our character don’t reflect well on him. Are you going through a fiery, hot trial right now?  Are you being tested?

Your loyalty will be tested. Each day is like a pop quiz. Some seasons in your life are like semester exams. These tough times of stress and pain give you an occasion to grow in your endurance.

James 1:3-4  For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

On the fish hook, the worm entices the fish so that the fish can end up on the dinner plate for the fisherman. It is an enticement. The bear does not go looking for a bear trap. The mouse does not search for a mousetrap. What entices the mouse is the cheese. But, the cheese is set on the trap, and because of the strong urge and desire for cheese, the mouse does not realize that it is a trap. Therefore, it is enticed or deceived by something legitimate to create an opportunity for the destruction of the prey.

Many of us get caught up in trouble because our own desires trapped us. We want affirmation, pleasure, relief, or something similar. We climb right onto the trap because we thought we had to have whatever we saw in the trap. However, God offers us everything we need in Jesus Christ. With Jesus, there is no trap. We find freedom in Jesus.

You cannot help your relationship with your spouse by having an affair. Drugs and alcohol will not fix your addiction. More lies cannot solve a lie. Be loyal to God. Life will bring its share of trials and temptations. Shortcuts make things look easy. Do not give in to the temptation. Please God and love him above all else.

Lessons in Loyalty

1. A growing relationship with God is an interstate with a starting point and a destination. Stay on the main road and avoid the exits.

Joshua 24:14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

2. Being loyal to your relationships means recognizing and responding appropriately when you are in danger.

Psalm 37:5-6 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

3. Many older couples say that the secret to a successful marriage is something like this: “We decided God was going to be the center of our marriage and that we were committed to his plan for us no matter what.”

Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

4. The only person you can control is yourself.

Galatians 5:22-23 “The fruit of the Spirit is . . . self-control.”

Loyalties will be broken from time to time. When we fail, we ask for forgiveness.

One of the things I loved to do at T.R. Simmons Elementary School was to write on the blackboard. Whenever Ms. Hubbard or Ms. Lewis requested a volunteer, I was glad to stand up and write on the blackboard. One of the great things about writing on the blackboard was if you misspelled a word or made a mistake on a math problem, there was always an eraser on the chalk rail to get rid of the error.

 

Forgiveness is the eraser on God’s chalk rail. When we make a mistake, we ask God to remove the error and let us try again.



[1]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2009), 100.
[2]Ibid, 100.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Alone but Not By Myself, Part 1


“Parents are a child’s escort through life. We have, in our culture, approximately eighteen years to escort our children safely into their own way, like a police escort that escorts specially designated travelers through traffic. Parents are to escort their children through life, safely, during the time that we have responsibility for them.”[1]

 

Escorting our children through life is a long-term commitment. “Some parents think that by sending a child to college they are getting rid of them. What they don’t realize is that by sending them away what they are really doing is increasing their phone bill, their fuel bill, and the amount of counseling time. Parenting will always be hard work.”[2]

 

Sometimes escorting children through life is hard to do because of the lack of functionality parents had in their own childhood. I find it hard to comprehend why children grow up making the same mistakes as their parents. However, dysfunction brings about dysfunction.

 

A parent’s responsibility is to be the filter on the home. Water filters keep impurities from getting into the home. Air filters keep dirt and dust out of the home. Parents are filters for their families so that the dirt and contaminates stay out of their children’s lives. Being a filter is tough when the dirt is from your own past. However, parents, we have to dust off our dysfunctions through God’s help and a lot of effort.

 

Joseph is a survivor of dysfunction. He is one of the main characters of the book of Genesis. In the stories of the beginning of Creation, life, humankind, and God’s people, God included the incredible struggle and triumph of Joseph. This is God’s way of introducing the truth of his guidance and plan in the lives of individuals who go through suffering. The theme verse for Joseph’s life was written hundreds of years later by Paul.

 

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

Joseph emerged in the pages of the Bible as a teenager with ten older brothers. His family was dysfunctional. Like Jesus, Joseph was betrayed and sold by his closest companions and suffered for the benefit of God’s people. Joseph ended up alone, captive in a pit, and then sold into slavery by his own family.

 

Joseph’s problems began, in part, because of his father’s poor judgment. Jacob, Joseph’s father, unintentionally set Joseph up for an adversarial relationship with his brothers. Jacob’s love for his son Joseph had caused alienation and disgust among the other children.

 

Genesis 37:1-11 Jacob lived in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. 5 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

 

Three Warnings against Family Dysfunction

 

1. Parents must guard against showing favoritism.

 

The temptation to be impartial or show favoritism is often greater when the child is younger. Sometimes, showing partiality is easier with younger children because the parents have more resources than they did when they had the first child. On the other hand, it is important not to penalize the youngest child just because he or she is the “baby” of the family.

 

In a similar way, parents often favor a child who happens to have a more cooperative or cooperative attitude. These behaviors are right and must be rewarded. However, a child may be more affectionate or relational by nature. Rewarding the sweet child without showing favoritism can be a tightrope walk.

 

Jacob’s favoritism was displayed in his gift to Joseph of a richly ornamented robe—a coat of many colors. Many families find themselves at odds when significant gifts are given to one member of the family and not others. The robe Jacob gave to his son was a gift of love, but it drove a wedge in the family.

 

Jacob’s obsession with his son Joseph at the expense of his relationship with his other children did great harm. The father’s inequity set Joseph up for a lot of pain. The Bible says that Joseph’s brother’s “hated him” (vv. 4, 8). The older brothers who were supposed to look out for Joseph would try to destroy him.

 

The unfortunate truth about Joseph’s brother’s hatred is that it bound them together in evil. People are sometimes drawn together by hate, just as others are drawn together by love. When persons who are united in hatred begin to collaborate and work together, fueled by the resentment, they are capable of heinous acts.

 

I find it incredible that a man shared the same father, dinner table, and business with his brothers and their character could be so different. Joseph emerged from his family with an amazing story and impeccable character. This means there is hope for you if you come from a dysfunctional family.

 

 

2. Our past experiences and family environments impact the way we make decisions.

 

“In swimming, there is an event called the medley relay. The medley relay involves each swimmer on the relay team taking different strokes with each person doing fifty yards of each stroke. The strokes in the relay include the backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke, and then the freestyle. In the medley relay, the backstroke leads off. Each stroke has a guideline that must be met. For example, the breaststroke must touch the wall with two hands and the top of the head cannot be submerged underwater after the first stroke. He’s got a guideline. The butterfly has to hit the wall simultaneously with both hands. There has to be a proper turn off the wall if you are doing the backstroke or the freestyle. If you disregard the rule, you do not only hurt yourself, you hurt the three other swimmers who are on your team.”

 

“When parents blow it in the home, they are not only blowing it for themselves, the repercussions are felt down the line. When mother and father get divorced, it’s not just that the mother and father don’t like each other anymore or can’t stand to live together anymore. What they’ve done is torn asunder brother and sister and there are repercussions down the line. For good or for bad, the actions of parents touch somebody else.”[3]

 

Many of our challenges in families are related to the mistakes and patterns of others. This was true in Joseph’s case. When we are young and impressionable, we lack the wisdom and experience to filter out the dysfunction that can take root in our own approach to life. When we grow older, we can make serious mistakes in judgment if we do not think introspectively and gain wisdom from God and others.

 

To become wise, we must learn to think biblically and let God determine our patterns instead of relying mindlessly on our past experiences.

 

Jacob, Joseph’s dad, had made a lot of mistakes. He married a woman he didn’t love, Leah, so that he could marry her sister, Rachel! The first wife had children. The second did not. So, to have more children, Jacob brought other women into the equation and had a total of twelve sons. Jacob’s true love, Rachel, had two children in the arrangement: Joseph and Benjamin. When Joseph’s little brother Benjamin was born, Rachel died to leave Jacob heartbroken.

 

Joseph, probably taking cues from his father Jacob, had no qualms about naively sharing the dream he had of the head of grain rising over the others. His revelation of rising to prominence was something he shared with no explanation, it seems. Certainly, Joseph’s dream became something God would use to give him hope in the days ahead. Nevertheless, the brothers were focused on their seething resentment of Joseph.

 

Max Lucado wrote, “Your family history has some sad chapters. But your past doesn’t have to be your future. The generational garbage can stop here and now. You don’t have to give your kids what your ancestors gave you.”[4]

 

“Talk to God about the scandals and scoundrels [in your family]. Invite him to relive the betrayal with you. Bring it out in the open. . . . Revealing leads to healing. Don’t just pray, ‘Lord, help me forgive my father.’ Unearth the details: ‘God, Daddy never wanted to be a part of my life. He didn’t even come to my birthday parties. I hated him for that. Or: ‘Every day I came home from school to find Mom drunk, lying on the couch. I had to make dinner, take care of baby brother, do homework on my own. It’s not right, God!’”[5]

 

“Difficult for certain. But let God do his work. The process may take a long time. It may take a lifetime. Family pain is the deepest pain because it was inflicted so early and because it involves people who should have been trustworthy. You were too young to process the mistreatment. You didn’t know how to defend yourself. Besides, the perpetrators of your pain were so large. Your dad, mom, uncle, big brother—they towered over you, usually in size, always in rank.”[6]

 

“When they judged you falsely, you believed them. All this time you’ve been operating on faulty data. ‘You’re stupid . . . slow . . . dumb like your daddy . . . fat like your mama . . .’ Decades later these voices of defeat still echo in your subconscious.”[7]

 

But they don’t have to! ‘Let God transform you. You are not who they said you were. You have a God-given destiny.

 

3. We make our worst decisions when we are fearful or insecure.

 

Caution and prayer are in order when we face a crisis or become anxious. Often, when people feel backed into a corner, they make decisions that cause more pain and rejection.

 

Joseph’s brothers—Reuben, Gad, Levi, Zebulun, Judah, and the rest—reacted violently to Joseph’s dream. They did not hug Joseph and promise to kneel gladly before Joseph and obey him. To the contrary, they took Joseph in his royal coat of many colors and committed to doing away with him. After a last minute plea from the oldest brother, Reuben, they decided instead of killing him, they cast him into a pit and sold him to a group of slave traders.

 

Our fears and insecurities can drive us to do things that do not make sense. I hate yellow jackets. They are angry, territorial insects. They are merciless. They travel in swarms. When I was a child, I remember running from a swarm of yellow jackets I had stumbled onto. As I ran from them, I dove through a thorn bush to escape. I was so distracted by yellow jackets, I was pierced, scratched, and bloodied by the painful thorns. When we mindlessly react to our fears and insecurities, we hurt ourselves and others.

 

Joseph’s brothers were reacting to their painful experience of rejection. Their hatred for Joseph was really an expression of their disgust for their own father.

 

Could you imagine how Joseph must have felt in the bottom of the cistern? He was deserted by his family. The brother stripped off his fancy coat. They left him crying for help and mercy. Joseph was regretting that he shared his vision from God. How terrible to hear the merchants negotiating a price for him.

 

Joseph was carried away to Egypt without any money, family, or security. He was surrounded by clean-shaven people who worshiped foreign Gods. They spoke differently. They ate different food. They built pyramids. Joseph was completely alienated and confused. How would the dream from God about his rise to prominence ever become a reality?

 

The good news is that in spite of his family’s complete dysfunction and ruthless behavior, Joseph believed God had a plan for his life. Joseph knew that even though his family abandoned him, God did not. His response reminds us that God has a plan for us too.

 

John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

 

Joseph was probably seventeen when he was sold as a slave. He would have been around thirty when Pharaoh put him in charge of preparing Egypt for the great famine. His time of being a slave and in prison would have spanned thirteen years. For thirteen years, God made Joseph do something significant with his life. Joseph was being fashioned on the anvil of pain for some higher, greater purpose than he could have experienced if he had stayed close to the comforts of home.

 

Joseph could have lived a life of bitterness, playing the victim. Instead, Joseph believed God had a purpose for his life. He would eventually forgive his family for all of the pain they had caused him. Joseph did not allow disappointment to destroy his life. Joseph put all of his trials into God’s hands, and God turned them into an incredible story of triumph.

 

Nevertheless, the goodness Joseph experienced did not excuse the actions of his father and brothers. Joseph did not deserve to be abandoned and left for dead by his brothers. Sure, Joseph was boastful, but he did not deserve to be tossed away like garbage—sold for a small sum.



[1]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 218.
 
[2]Ibid.
[3]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book. . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 218.
[4]Max Lucado, You’ll Get Through This, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013), 105.
 
[5]Ibid.
 
[6]Ibid.
 
[7]Ibid.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Selfishness


Our culture today has been called the “me culture” by scholars and the “me generation” by Time magazine.


 

Our focus on the “individual” in our country impacts our view of human dignity and community. The desire to make our own choices, serve our own interests, and chart our own course takes precedence over everything else. In the “me culture” it is all about benefiting one’s self.

 

“There was a girl named Christy, who had broken up with Jimmy. She told him she simply didn’t want to be with him anymore. But after about a year of being broken up, out of the blue, she wrote Jimmy a letter. She said, “Jimmy, I miss you bad. I think of you all day and all night long. You dominate my mind, and I just don’t want to be apart from you anymore. Jimmy, let’s reconnect. P.S. Congratulations on winning the lottery!” It’s amazing how willing people are to do things when personal benefit is involved.”[1]

 

“Individualism places a higher value on lawsuits over reconciliation, individual rights over community responsibilities, career advancement over company loyalty, cynicism over trust, relative truth over absolute truth. Individualism, where the wants and desires of the individual take precedence over all else, has no place in the Christian Community. . . . We have become, in the words of John Locke, chairperson of the Department of Human Communications Sciences at the University of Sheffield in England, ‘solo sapiens.’”[2]

 

The use of technology and social media may make the problem of “me-ism” worse instead of better. Online relationships and communities lack the permanence of expression of real communities. “If history is any guide to the future, users tend to switch from one online community to another based on personal interest, popularity of the site, and their need at the time—from services like MySpace to Facebook, to Twitter, to whatever is next.”[3]

 



I have a picture of our dog Buddy on the screen. Buddy is a spoiled pet. We feed him on his schedule. Buddy lets us know when he wants outside. He tells us when he wants back in, regardless of the time—day or night. We pamper Buddy. So, Buddy thinks the family revolves around him. Buddy is a “me-dog.”

 

The problem we have in the church today is that we lack community in many ways.  Each Christian feels like he or she should be the “pampered pet.”

 

Churches have a tendency to function as a collection of individuals instead of a “community.” Even joining a community group or Bible study does not guarantee that we set aside our individualistic thinking. Princeton’s Robert Wuthnow mentioned that small groups could “provide occasions for individuals to focus on themselves in the presence of others. The social contract binding members together asserts only the weakest of obligations. Come if you have time. Talk if you feel like it. Respect everyone’s opinion. Never criticize. Leave quietly if you become dissatisfied.”[4]

 

For Christians, Christ is valued over all others, including “self.” The Apostle Paul looked at life from a completely different perspective than that individualist. He wasn’t stuck on himself. When Paul, a proud Jewish Pharisee, met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, in route to persecute Christians, he trusted him and became a true believer. Formerly, Paul was convinced that Jesus was the enemy. However, he was blinded by the light of Jesus and heard the Savior’s voice. Paul’s heart and direction changed in a moment. Instantaneous life change is possible for all who will admit their need for a Savior today.

 

Philippians 3:7-11 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

When Paul met Jesus, he realized just how purposeless and futile his life was before. Paul thought he was a righteous man; he realized his righteous deeds were as filthy rags. Paul saw himself as a champion for what was good; he understood how sinful and lost he was. Paul’s perspective changed when he met Jesus. He realized that it wasn’t about him.

 

Paul said, “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” Paul was a scholar, respected member of the clergy, proud Jew, and a passionate leader. When he looked at all of his credentials, Paul considered those achievements as “rubbish,” or the term could be understood “sewage.” What a radical statement from a successful, self-reliant man!

 

Jesus moved Paul out of “me culture” into a vibrant new perspective.

 

1. Life isn’t about “me,” it is about knowing Jesus Christ.

 

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

 

One of the most common phrases we hear today about direction in life is that we need to “find ourselves.” For some, this is a quest to discover what makes them happy, fulfilled, and successful.

 

The problem with making life a quest to “find ourselves” is that this is not the purpose of our lives. When we look within to find our real meaning and satisfaction, we are looking in the wrong place. When we look within, we discover that we do not actually know how to achieve meaning and purpose. The answer to the question of life’s meaning does not lie within. The answer is not found by looking within. The answer is discovered by looking up to God.

 

To “know” Christ is to have a personal relationship with him through faith. It is the relationship that Jesus talked about in his prayer before going to the cross.

 

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

 

“A guy was watching football on a Saturday afternoon. He had the remote in his hand when the phone rang. He walked over to the phone with the remote in his hand. Even while on the phone, he was interested in keeping up with the game so as not to miss any big plays. He couldn’t see the TV, but he figured that at least he could half listen in. He pointed the remote in the direction of the TV and attempted to turn the volume up. Nothing happened because he was too far. It’s not that the TV didn’t work. He was just too far.

 

“Sometimes Christians will say that God doesn’t work when in reality the problem is that they are simply too far. It’s not that Jesus doesn’t work; it’s not that the Bible doesn’t work, and it’s not that the Holy Spirit doesn’t work. If a person is not in the vicinity, then it will certainly seem that way. Closeness and intimacy with God is what provides the full experience of walking with Him.”[5]

 

Do you feel far away from God? Do you miss that closeness you once experienced with him? I understand what you’re feeling. That feeling reminds me of a quote I have read many times.

 

 

2. Self-righteousness gets me nowhere; Jesus’ righteousness brings forgiveness and peace.

 

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

 

Righteousness before a holy God had been Paul’s goal before he met Jesus personally. Every good Pharisee wanted to attain favor with God by earning God’s approval through obeying the Law. However, it was only when Paul lost his self-righteousness on the road to Damascus that he gained the righteousness of Jesus.

 

I was talking on my cell phone not too long ago, and it started beeping: “beep, beep, beep.” The battery was weak. After a short conversation, I looked at the screen, and the phone was powering down. Earlier in the day, I had not pushed the charger cord into the phone properly. The phone had not been hooked to the charger.

 

A lot of people are coming up empty spiritually because they were never connected to Jesus. They looked connected. They thought everything was okay. However, they are spiritually powerless. Only Jesus’ righteousness is our adequate source of strength.

 

The theological word for getting the righteousness of Jesus Christ in our lives is “imputation.” Paul added up his own works and good deeds and determined that he was spiritually bankrupt. When Paul considered the righteousness of Jesus, he saw riches beyond compare. Jesus Christ’s riches were placed into Paul’s account, and God would never count his sins against him!

 

3. Faith in Jesus isn’t the end of “me,” it is a new beginning.

 

Philippians 3:10-11 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

 

When Paul became a Christian, it was a momentous change. Everything about Paul’s life changed: his belief system, purpose, perspective, and even his circle of friends. Paul had a personal bond with Jesus. He said, “I know him.” “I know his power.” I share his sufferings.” “I am becoming like him in his death.”

 

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

This experience with Jesus was a new beginning with Paul. Paul found out what he had been created to do. Paul died to himself and took up the cross daily and followed Jesus. As a result, Paul gained far more than he lost on the road to Damascus.

 

Not too long ago, I was in a restaurant having dinner with my wife, and it came time to pay the bill. I asked the server to come over bring the check. She came back a few minutes later and said that I did not owe anything. I looked puzzled. She said, “Someone else paid for your dinner.” Now, I would have been crazy to argue with the server. I would have been foolish not to accept the gift. I simply needed to say, “Thank you!” The price had been paid in full.

 

God wants each of us to accept his free gift. He has paid our bill. Some are foolish because they refuse to accept the free gift. The price of salvation has already been paid, and God’s Son has taken care of the check.

 

Christian, maybe it is time for you to exit the “me culture” and to gain life in Jesus Christ. Teresa of Avila was a 16th-century nun who wrote about the visible demonstration of what life in Jesus Christ looks like for all of us in her poem “Christ Has No Body.”

 

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.[6]

 

Our experience with Jesus Christ is not for ourselves. We are to live our lives to glorify God by reaching out to those around us.

 

For many people today, the Bible is like the Queen of England. She is in the top position, but has no real power! I’m not asking you to give lip-service to Jesus today. I am asking you to trust him completely and follow him completely.



[1]Tony Evans, Tony Evans Book . . ., (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 276.
 
[2]Randy Frazee, The Connecting Church,  (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 2013), 36.
 
[3]Ibid, 39.
 
[4]Ibid, 40.
[5]Evans, 168.
[6]Tersa of Avila, “Christ Has No Body,” www.journeywithjesus.net, (Retrieved on January 25, 2016).