June 16 and 17, 2018 Reset
Scripture: Luke 11: 1-4
Last weekend I had the privilege of preaching at my cousin’s wedding. I guess when you become a pastor, you automatically become the family chaplain. But that’s ok with me. I enjoy standing with my loved ones in those important moments and being a small part of what God is doing in their lives. I’ve done a bunch of weddings over the years, but this one was different. And even though this was my cousin’s big day, she and her husband had one request: Preach the Gospel. They didn’t want this wedding to be about them, or at least, not JUST about them. They wanted this wedding, and they want their marriage, to be a beautiful reminder that Jesus is our hope for a better life. And I took them up on that offer.
As I got to know their guest list, some of whom are my own flesh and blood, I understood their request. This was a beautiful crew, but also a motley one. On their guest list last Saturday were people who are living some troubled lives. There were those whose marriages are hanging on by the smallest thread. There were those who have recently been through the pain of divorce and death. There were those who kept on drinking until their dancing becoming meaningless stumbling. There were those with same-sex attractions trying to find a place, a group, to fit in. There were those wearing the tightest of clothes hoping the young college guys would take notice of them. There were those with identity issues, confidence problems and past decisions they hoped no one would bring up. And there were those who simply desired for life to get back on track. And the Gospel is the best way for that to happen.
There are days I wake up and ask, “How in the world did I get here?” You ever ask that question? I’m sure you have. Not in a geographical way, but in an emotional, mental and spiritual kind of way. Strong friendships all of the sudden end and you have no idea why. Your joy gives way to depression and anxiety and then before you know it you’re on medication. You go out to enjoy a drink with your friends and ten years later you’re sitting in a recovery meeting. You give your life to Jesus at church camp, but now you can’t remember the last you actually prayed. You said you would love her through better or worse, but now worse is here and you don’t want to go home. How in the world did I get here?
Now, most of us, if we took the time to think about it, know exactly how we got to where we are. But the real question is how we get back to where we want to be. And the simple answer is Jesus. Sometimes we just have to shut down the system and reset everything to its original intention. A few years ago, my mom lost her wi-fi service, and we tried every trick in the book to get her internet back up and running. But she couldn’t remember her passwords, which meant we were left with one option. We had to push a little button on the back of the box and reset everything to factory default. We had to go back to the beginning and start all over. And I have a feeling that’s what my cousin was hoping to convey.
I think the original disciples of Jesus experienced a bit of a “reset” when they heard Jesus’ call to “follow me.” Up to that point, they had lived their lives a certain way. And we really don’t know if they walked in integrity and wisdom or falsehood and deceit. But what we do know is that they asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Now here’s the thing: they had already learned prayers from their childhood. They had grown up in religious households. But they wanted to pray and to live like Jesus. And what Jesus gave them was a prayerful way to reset their lives in a God-oriented direction. And so if you think it’s time to push the “reset” button on your life and faith, here are five God-oriented suggestions taken from the very lips of Jesus. I believe these can mend broken relationships, heal broken hearts, restore broken identities and get you back on spiritual track. So here they are:
1. Stay connected to the Father through Jesus. I believe this is the single most important action you will ever take in your life. Why? Because when you connect with God the Father, you learn how to love. And I’ve become increasingly convinced that the best way you can love other, and the best way you can learn to love yourself, is to love Jesus more than anything else. It is in Jesus that you find the capacity to love. Ok? Let me say that again: You find the capacity to love in Jesus. There are days I look in the mirror and struggle with self-demeaning thoughts and wonder how anyone could find the capacity to love me. Through a connection with the Father! As you grow in your love of God, your love for others will only grow deeper and stronger every day, and your relationships will soar like on wings of eagles. And when you don’t know how to love the other, take some time to remember how Jesus loves you. God will give you strength and courage that you would not otherwise have.
2. Strive to live out your life “on earth as it is in heaven.” That is to say, seek first the Kingdom of God, because there is no better way to live. It’s the way Jesus chose to live his life and we are invited to make his way of life and his way of relationships our way. What would it look like if we didn’t just wait to get to heaven, but lived right now as if we’re already there? There would be victory! There would be joy! There would be hope! There are a lot of people who have prayed a pray of salvation but don’t experience victory in their life, or joy, or hope. But the promise of Jesus is that we can have those things right here, right now. So why wait? The way of the Kingdom, the way of Jesus, is a way that chooses servant hood over selfishness, confession and repentance over inauthenticity, a way that seeks to give more than you take, a way that seeks to bless instead of harm. Maybe the strongest evidence of a life lived on earth as it is in heaven is self-giving love. There are a lot of people who need love. Love in that way.
3. Give each other daily bread. And by this is mean: Have a clear distinction between your needs and your wants. Bill did such a nice job with this last week. Confusing the two can be downright heartbreaking and damaging. We can live and function without our wants. But there’s something life giving when our needs are known and met. God has promised that He will always meet our needs, but He’s never promised to meet all our wants. And more often than not, God will meet our daily needs through each other. In a very mysterious way, we are vessels of the Holy Spirit. And God will use us to bless one another. Sometimes the bet way to get back on track is to quit thinking so much about yourself and start thinking about the others around you. Instead of asking, “What are you going to do for me” we reset our faith, reorient our lives, when we turn the question upside down and ask, “What can I do for you? “
4. Forgive each other. I preach on forgiveness a few times a year, and there’s a reason for that. There may be no greater love than the love that can look wrongdoing in the face, with all of its accompanying pain and discouragement, and still choose to release others from anger, begrudging attitudes and the desire to get even. The darkness of sin, in all of its forms, only grows darker when we refuse to love, forgive and reconcile. We’re good at building chasms. We’re good at putting up walls that separate. But God is good at building bridges, and that’s whom we are to follow. I was reading the other day about Stephen, an early disciple who became the first martyr of the church. He was bridge-builder, connecting people with the grace of God. As he was being pelted by stones, and with his life quickly slipping away, Stephen found the compassion to cry out, “Oh God, please do not hold this sin against them.” Man, that convicted me to the core. If we want a spiritual reset, we must never grow weary in proclaiming to each other 9 of the most important words we will ever say: I love you. I am sorry. I forgive you. These are words that transform, words that heal and words that bring life. They will save you from making some really bad decisions.
5. Desire the fullness of life for each other. In John 10:10, Jesus states, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the fullest.” That is God’s dream for you. And that is God’s dream for every person you lay eyes on. Anybody know a friend or colleague living a less than full life? God has you in his or her life for a reason. What you get out of this life is secondary to what you give. The overarching aim of your humanity is to bring life to others. That’s a high and special calling. Do nothing that would cause others to stumble. But please do something when the other gives evil even the slightest foothold. In doing so, you will bring glory to God and I believe you will hear those famous words we all hope to one day hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
So what do you say? Is it time to hit the reset button? Is it time to get your faith back on track and your life pointed in a new direction? Is it time to fully surrender your heart to God and build your life on His good and loving foundation? That good life, that Godly life, is waiting for you. I pray you’ll receive it today. Amen.