Core Truth: Once we are reset by Jesus, we get to join Him in his work, which always involves freeing those in bondage, embracing those in isolation, and loving even the unlovely in our midst.
Living Out My Faith
We are on the last week, part four of the series Reset – Jesus Changes Everything. For the past three weeks, we have been talking about the “reset” that is available to us through Jesus Christ. It’s a progression that happens, so first and foremost, we ask Jesus to reset our hearts because that’s where it all starts, changing our faith from within ourselves to faith in Jesus. You can’t skip this step. Because it’s only when you reset your heart to be like Jesus’ heart, to see the way He sees, care about people the way He cares, love like He loves, then and only then are further resets possible.
The second week, we ask Jesus for a reset of our minds, so instead of focusing on lies, we focus on truth by spending time in God’s Word and putting that on our minds instead. And since we can only think one thought at a time, we can do as Paul instructed in 2 Corinthians 10 and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Thinking whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
And then last week, we asked Jesus for a reset of our voices—resetting our voices to speak truth, love, kindness, forgiveness, healing, peace, joy, hope. All the things Jesus said we should say, and all the very same things He Himself said.
And when we do, we find ourselves talking less about subjects of the moment—like weather and sports—and more about things of eternal consequence. We start talking less about the hopeless situations we are facing, and more about the Hope-giver. Less about our stress, and more about Him whose yoke is easy and burden is light.
And most importantly, while resetting our voices, we find courage to speak up for God, as divinely placed opportunities present themselves.
And finally, today we’ll talk about a reset for our hands, the resetting of our work, the motivations for what we do, and how we do it. Basically, the effects Jesus has on our actions, the things we do day after day.
Even in the span of three short weeks, I hope you’re beginning to see the progression in your own life that we’ve been walking through as a church. If our words are self-serving or wounding or insensitive, most likely our thoughts are not based in truth. And if our thoughts are not based in truth, most likely we’re not walking by faith in Christ.
But the reverse is also true: When we are committed to walking with Jesus, we are compelled to meditate on His Word. Then, when we meditate on His Word, the words we speak are wise and timely. Our faith leads our thoughts, and our thoughts lead our words. And then our words then lead our actions.
When we allow God to speak through us—encouraging the people around us with words of peace, words of joy, hope, love—we will engage in more meaningful and spiritual conversations. We’ll ask better questions, which will lead to depths where we will uncover the other person’s needs—needs which, as God directs, we will be prompted to help meet.
So being reset by Jesus actually begins to reset what we do. We all spend our time doing something. So what if we devote what we do to God?
I’d like to read a story to you right from Luke, but first let me set the scene:
This was early in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus had so far only 3 disciples, Peter, James and John.
Word had just started spreading about what Jesus was doing, and it was spreading fast.
Vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of diseases, including the Pharisees and teachers of religious law.
“One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’
“The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
“Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’”
Now I want to turn and look at the friends of this man. Too often, we read stories in the Bible like this one that we’ve heard before and just sort of glaze over it. We read of four men whose passion for seeing their friend restored to health was so great that they literally brought down the house on his behalf, just so they could get him to Jesus. That’s awesome. End of story.
But I think if Jesus were standing here in person, right in front of us, He would grin and say, “Hang on a sec. Did you really hear that? Slow down and listen a little closer so you don’t miss it.”
A man was broken and diseased. He couldn’t make it in life. He desperately needed help. This man thankfully had some friends. They were cool guys—fun to be around, smart, loyal, good friends. But the best thing about these friends? They knew who Jesus was. They knew what He was all about, and best of all, they knew where to find Him. And so they gathered up their broken, diseased friend, and they took him straight to Jesus.
The interesting thing about that day—the day they brought their friend to see Jesus – was that word had been spreading about the signs and wonders Jesus had been doing, in order to give glory to God. People wanted to hear what Jesus had to say, because they knew His message was different from any message they’d heard before.
And so wherever He went, people gathered. Lots of people gathered! In fact, when the four friends and their buddy arrived at the house where Jesus was teaching that day, it was wall-to-wall people inside (violating just a little fire code). But that didn’t stop them.
And so without even blinking an eye, they hoisted their pal up to the roof of the house and started removing tiles from the roof, one after another after another. Now those who were inside must of kept eyeing the ceiling, wondering what kind of bird or varmint could possibly be dismantling the roof wondering if this thing going to caved in on top of them. It had to be pretty distracting as they were trying to listen to Jesus.
And just as the noise of moving tiles stop, they start to see feet, then a body be lowered on a mat down about to land just in front of Jesus right where He stood.
Now the guys who were lowering him, had one of two looks on their faces. Either a look of wonder and nervousness as to how Jesus was going to feel about this, or (let’s be real, these are men, probably young men if they had the strength to do this) so how would a young adult man of this church react after they just did this? First, probably a look of relief that they didn’t drop their friend because they would have been a little embarrassing, then with big, goofy grins and some high-fives as in “how’s that for taking some initiative?”
I got to tell you, I imagine Jesus just loving every minute of that event—the boldness, the inventiveness, the faith these men had. They were Jesus’ hands and feet that day. And as a result, they saw and were a part of a miracle.
The Link to Us Today
I love that story as much as I imagine Jesus did. I love that those guys pushed past all the fear, insecurity, and practicality just to get their friend the help he needed.
I’ve got to tell you, I’ve seen this same determination here in our own body, and it’s just as compelling to me as it must have been to those onlookers in first-century Capernaum.
Now I don’t mean to leave out anyone, but I’m just going to pick on a couple because I know they aren’t going to mind or at least they’ll forgive me easier.
Jane – This beautiful woman of God, if you ask her to do anything she is always on it. And not only on it, but seeing God in every aspect of it. She teaches the elementary Sunday School class, she’s taught VBS many times over the years, she very religiously is at the prayer meetings here at the church, prays for people all throughout the week, she in the offering counting rotation, and on top of all of that she fills in for me almost every time I am out or sick. Even if she has less than one hour to prepare!
Nate – Came to the church just a few short years ago, and has been letting God use him into areas he never thought he would go. He’s been leading an adult bible study for the last year, joined the prayer team and prays for folks all throughout the week, stepped out on limbs to lead children in VBS and at our School’s Out summer event, filled in for me teaching the youth Sunday school class, AND he is the man behind our social media, website and anything tech savvy.
Picnics/Invites – Just think of the church picnics we’ve had this year. There was a small group leading, but the effort that was put in from so many of the church was just outstanding! Let alone all the people who continue to invite new people.
New Hope Mobile Pantry is another one. There are a group of people who faithfully come each month just to serve someone who needs it and to give them a little sunshine in their day.
I could go on. I’ve seen this sort of holy determination to be the hands and feet of Jesus in so many ways around here, and I’m encouraged every single time.
The Rest of the Story
Those of you who choose to live your lives this way—joining Jesus in his work to free those who have been in bondage, to restore those who have been lost, to encourage those who have been down—understand full well what I’m about to say, because you are living proof of what I’m about to say. What you all know, that the rest of us would do well to learn, is that no other solution can address the problems people face but getting those people to Christ.
The four friends in Luke 5 certainly knew this. Nothing was going to help their buddy out of his predicament but the living, loving Lord. This is why our actions in Jesus’ name matter. He alone is the answer to the problems plaguing the people we encounter day by day.
With the time that remains, I’d like to provide a starting point for the type of life you and I are invited into, now that our faith and our thoughts and our words have been—and continue to be—reset. It’s a Jesus-centric life. It’s an others-focused life. It’s a service-motivated life. And it’s a satisfaction-rich life. Ask anyone who has experienced this lifestyle, and the answer will be the same: They will tell you this is the best way to live life.
I’ve arranged my thoughts on this subject according to three key questions you might be asking, as it relates to stepping into a life of service.
- Why would anyone want to sacrifice so much? I mean, think about Jane. Why would anyone what to give up so much? Why would she keep wanting to do all of that?
- Or maybe you’re wondering how to know where to jump in. There’s so much work to be done, there are so many people in need! Which ones are you supposed to help?
- Or what about this one: What is our help supposed to entail? How much are we supposed to give? How much time are we supposed to invest? How will we know when enough is enough?
Before we answer these, let me draw your attention to the book of Galatians. Paul is writing here to the church at Galatia. In the first two chapters of Galatians, Paul explains how he came into a saving relationship with Jesus—namely, that it was by faith and not by works.
Then in chapters 3 through 6, he explains how faith in Jesus works in the daily life of a follower, that is the types of actions and behaviors that naturally flow from one who has been “reset” into faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
This is the subject he is addressing in chapter 5.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.”
So let’s try to answer these questions now. First question: Why would anyone want to go to all the trouble of being a servant? Or to lean into the apostle Paul’s dialect, what is our freedom for, anyway?
This is an understandable question to ask. Especially when we see people making great sacrifices in order to help another person. It’s touching to see these acts of kindness. But it’s also mind-boggling. Most of us have more than we can juggle already, and that’s just in our own lives. Add someone else’s needs, issues, complications, and requests to the mix, and we’ll certainly lose our minds and the balls we are juggling will start hitting the ground. Or so we fear, anyway.
Paul’s reminder though is a useful one: We are “called to be free,” he says. And then very quickly, he adds this disclaimer: “But wait, wait, wait. Before you run off in that newfound freedom, in search of some new way to live it up, hang tight. Cause let me clarify. Your freedom is not for yourself alone. It’s also for those who are not free, who are still tied up.”
We are freed up to love.
We are freed up to serve, to give, and to care.
In other words, he says, “Don’t use your freedom as an excuse for self-indulgence, but instead, use it to humbly serve and love one another.”
Now, how do we know if we’re being self-indulgent—indulgent of the flesh? Paul is glad we asked. Look at verses 16–21 in the same chapter:
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
(Now if you want to know if a nudge is from God or not, if you are walking with the Spirit you will know, because…)
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
There it is, the list of all lists. The list that tells us, “Hey, if you see yourself here in these descriptors, you’ve got some work left to do.” It’s quite a list, don’t you think?
Let me tell you how most people approach this list. They see this litany of awfulness and then start doing the reflexive-no thing.
Sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery—no.
Idolatry and witchcraft—goodness, no.
Hatred and discord (disagreement between people)—no. Well, only if people stir it up first.
Jealousy—no. Except when I’m checking my social media.
Fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, and envy—no. At least, I don’t think so. Not sure what factions even means. (it means conflict within an organization)
Drunkenness – Only a every now and then.
Orgies, and the like—ewe…that’s just gross.
People fly through the list, thinking, “Man, I’m doing pretty good here because I ain’t doing most of that.”
Right? Isn’t this what you did too when I read the verses aloud?
We eye the heavy hitters—witchcraft, fits of rage, hatred—and think that if we can clear those bars, we’re cleared in full. Candidly, I do the very same thing. Or I try to, anyway. Until the still, small whisper of my Heavenly Father says, “Psst. Not so fast….”
You know which item on the list He brings me back to every single time?
I tend to do okay on the fronts of sexual immorality, witchcraft, and hatred. The one that trips me up and I believe trips most of us up is – selfish ambition—the desire to have things our way.
Can I tell you a few of the things that, in my life anyway, get categorized as “selfish ambition” and thus get in the way of me leveraging my spiritual freedom for others’ sake instead of just my own?
Convenience. What if helping that person in need disrupts my schedule? I already have a crazy enough schedule throughout the week. Or makes me have to get off my couch during Sunday-afternoon? Now guarantee I’m not watching football or sports of any kind, I’m sleeping. I like my sleep! Wait, now I have to drive all the way across town?
Here’s a good one: fear of what people will think.
Or how about this one: What if I invest all this time, money, blood, sweat, and tears, and I wind up getting nothing in return? A little recognition, at least, would be nice.
Or this one: I’m not good at _________________ (whatever skill is needed to meet the need).
Here’s one I hear often, I’m an introvert. I’m not really a “people person.”
Plus, people are so . . . messy. And . . . weird.
Or this: I’m sure someone else will help out.
Indulgences of the flesh, each and every one, courtesy of a little selfish ambition, putting self above everyone else….I’m pretty sure the Bible has advice along these lines, something about “valuing others above ourselves.”
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Let’s move on, shall we? Question #2.
The second question is this: So our freedom in Christ enables us to love and serve others, but who exactly are we supposed to love and serve?
You may recall the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10 and the lawyer who asked this very same question to Jesus. Anybody remember how Jesus answered it?
In typical Jesus fashion, he answered it by telling a story—in this case, the parable of the Good Samaritan. The moral of the story? Anyone you find in need is your neighbor. Need dictates neighbor status. When you discover someone in need, if you have the power to meet it, meet it.
Now a clarification. Not everything is yours to do, just as not everything is mine to do. May I make a suggestion as you set about to embrace this others-centered lifestyle? Ask Jesus for guidance. When you encounter a need, ask, “Jesus, is this mine to do?” If you are prompted to do something selfless, then that was a clear “yes” from Him. If not, then move on.
Pay attention to the needs you see. And then pay attention to the divine direction you receive.
Question #3 is this: How are we to love?
The short answer, according to Galatians 5:14 that we read a little bit ago, is this: “as yourself.”
Love your neighbor with the same sense of preservation, protection, and focus that you do for yourself.
When our livelihood is being threatened, we sit up and take notice. We stop everything and work to resolve the issue at hand.
When our safety is being threatened, we react strongly and passionately, don’t we? In some cases, in a heated manner. We rise up and do something about it.
When our rights are being threatened, we speak up.
When our norms are being threatened, we push back.
When our family is being threatened, we are immediately stirred to action.
What is Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, telling us about how we are to love others? It’s this: Do the same for them.
Do the same for them that you would do for yourselves.
Love well. Serve well. Let the fruit of God’s Spirit flow freely in and through you.
Galatians 5:22–26 says,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
“Keep in step with the Spirit,” and we will find a satisfaction that we’ve never known.
Can I leave you with an image of what this service-oriented life is like, the life of one with not only a reset heart and a reset mind and a reset voice, but also with a pair of reset hands, hands eager to help those in need?
I have here a single package of Swedish Fish. Any Swedish Fish lovers in the house? You’re not alone. These things are good. Addictively good.
Now, if you “needed” one of these Swedish Fish that I have here, I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that I’d have to think about that for a minute. There are only a few in here, you know. I’ll give you one or two but other than that, that’s a big commitment for me to make.
Now here is a bit bigger bag of these yummy treats. If you “need” a Swedish Fish from me, and I’m in possession of this particular package, nine times out of ten, I’m going to give you a few.
I have another bag up here, which is a one-pound bag of plain Swedish Fish. Some of you are having to employ a lot of restraint just to stay in your seat. These look good, don’t they? If you needed a Swedish Fish from me, and I had this bag at my disposal, you’d better believe I’d give you one. In fact, I would scoop out a handful of the suckers and hand them over to you, no questions asked. In fact, who in here needs a few Swedish Fish? Anyone?
Friends, listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you. Do you want to know what life with Jesus is like, in terms of having resources adequate to the needs we discover, the needs He hopes we will help meet? Do you want to know what abundance is all about, the quality of life that John 10:10 promises we are meant to have in Jesus Christ?
John 10:10 Jesus said, “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness”
In the context of our little Swedish Fish analogy here, it’s not having a fun-size pack, a grocery-store-aisle pack, a one-pound bag, or even a ten-gallon aquarium full of them. It’s like having the master key to the Swedish Fish production plant. And guess how many Swedish Fish are produced every single day?
Three million of these little guys every day. You need a Swedish Fish from me, and I have 3 million of them in my possession—every single day? Well, now I’m actually searching for people to give them to. I’ll know you need one before you even ask.
And that’s exactly the point.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
All the Swedish fish you could ever need, forever. All the strength. All the creativity. All the stamina. All the money. All the determination. All the resources we ever will need, in order to meet the needs Jesus asks us to meet—that’s what we have in Christ. The gracious giving of “all things,” Paul reminds us—that’s what we have in Christ.
And so: We give.
We show up.
We do these things because, while we may never be able to do the math on the specific blessings that come our way because we’ve served, while we may never fully know the return-on-investment, while we may never see the recognition we think we are warranted, we know that we are really more blessed to give than to receive, and that someday…..the humble get exalted. Someday, we will be told, “well done.”
“You let me reset your heart,” Jesus will say, “and your faith was pleasing to me.
“You let me reset your mind, and your thoughts were pleasing to me.
“You let me reset your voice, and your words were pleasing to me.
“And you let me reset your hands. Your actions brought me honor every day.
“Well done, faithful child, well done. Come take your place right here, beside me.”
As we anticipate that glorious day, the worries that plague us—about being inconvenienced, uncomfortable, taken advantage of, or considered uncool, those things will seem a distant, irrelevant memory as we consider the approval we will find in Christ.
Call to Action and Prayer
Today, I specifically want to pray for those of us who want to help meet others’ needs, but are so heavy-burdened by their own needs today, that we can’t even see straight. If I’m describing you, please listen to me: The reset of your hands, your actions, can only unfold after your heart has been reset toward faith in Jesus Christ. You can receive that reset today. Right here, right now, before you head home.
If you have already allowed Jesus to reset your heart—and perhaps from there, your mind and your voice—then I want to encourage you to take the next step with Him, which is to surrender your actions to Him today. Give Him an all-access pass to your to-do list, and I guarantee you’ll be amazed by the impact He allows you to have in your family, in your circle of friends, in the world.
Those of you wishing to have your heart or your hands reset today, please join me at the cross during the last song.
Let’s pray: “And now, Father, we come to you today, asking you to take our hands and set them apart for your service. Take the sum of our lives God, and use it for your glory, your sake. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.