Your past doesn’t disqualify you from God’s love or His plans. The Bible is filled with stories of very messy lives re-purposed for incredible good. Unfortunately, we often edit out the more explicit parts of these stories…but not in this series. We’re going to tell it like the Bible tells it, because the more real we are about the mess, the more hope we have that God loves us and can use us. (Don’t worry…we know kids will be present and we’ll keep it tasteful!)

FATHER ABRAHAM

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

MAY

30/31

Genesis 12-20

We open this new series on unfiltered grace with the focus on Abraham and how he lived in fear. Abraham seemed to be trying to prove how God couldn’t possibly use him for God’s good purposes even as Abraham continually second-guessed and meddled in God’s instructions for him. But God knew Abraham to be a believer and was able to use him for great things.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

[Reading from Children’s Bible]
The life of Abraham, A New Home. Abraham loved God, so did his wife, Sarah. One day God told Abraham to move to a new land. So, along with their helpers, Abraham and Sarah packed up and went. Abraham’s nephew was Lot. Lot and all his helpers went with him too. The helpers began to fight. There was not enough grass for all the animals. So Abraham said to Lot, “You pick your own land to live on.” So, Lot chose the best land. It had the most green grass and the most water for his animals. Lot moved to his new home. Then God gave Abraham a blessing. God said, “All the land you see here will be yours forever. Also, you and Sarah will be blessed with many children.” God led Abraham and Sarah to a place called Hebron. It was beautiful. One hot day, Abraham was resting near his tent. He heard footsteps. Three men were standing nearby. Abraham went out to greet them. “Would you like to rest in the shade? We have plenty of cool water to drink. Can I get you something to eat?” Abraham told Sarah about the visitors. He asked her to make a tasty meal. While they were eating, the three visitors shared some exciting news, they said, “Your wife is going to have a son.” Sarah heard what they said and she laughed thinking, “I am too old.” God asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Anything is possible with the Lord.” Sure enough, the next year, Sarah had a baby boy, and they named him, Isaac.
[End reading]

Craig: Oh, hey, welcome to Mission Hills, wherever you are in the world. We’re so glad that you’re with us today. Super excited, we’re launching a new series this weekend called “Explicit”, unfiltered stories of God’s grace.” Just a little assurance for all the parents out there, we know that because of our current circumstances, there’s a good chance you got small children in the room with you, you might be freaking out a little bit about hearing that the title of this series is called “Explicit,” don’t worry, I promise we will not use a lot of explicit language or a lot of lurid details. We’re gonna keep it tasteful, but what we’re not gonna do is we’re not gonna edit out all the uncomfortable parts of some really powerful stories in the Bible, because honestly, I believe it’s from those uncomfortable parts that many of us find real encouragement. Okay? Listen, I don’t know about you, but the story of Abraham that I just heard, by the way, that came from a very popular kid’s Bible, and it is a very cleaned up and I would say watered-down version. And I’m not knocking and my understanding why they did that, given that their audience was small children but listen, that version of Abraham’s life is a little hard to relate to. I feel that way, maybe you feel that way, right? Maybe your life, like mine, isn’t quite that perfect. You read that story and you’re like, “Man, God called, he answered, right, you know, God made promises, he believed. He was kind-hearted, he was generous. I mean, he just seems like he had it all together.”

And maybe, that you listen to story like that and you go, “If that’s what it takes to be part of God’s story, then I don’t think I got a chance because my life’s a little more messed up than that.” Well, good news, so was Abraham’s. The truth of matter is, that version of the story has taken out the real explicit parts, which actually, when we understand, provide incredible encouragement, and I’m super excited to be able to dig into that. Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Genesis 12, where we’re gonna look at the unedited or at least less edited life of Abraham as God speaks it to us. Now, if you’re new to the Bible, three things you might wanna know about the Book of Genesis, number one, it’s the first book in the Bible, so, super easy to find. Number two, it was written by a man named Moses. You might know that name, right? Moses is the guy that parted the Red Sea, he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Third thing you might know about the Book of Genesis is Genesis was written so that the people of God could learn how to be the people of God, how to live as people who wanna follow God and honor him. Okay? That’s what the stories are all about. Now, the stories are historical, meaning they’re all true, but the point of all the stories is to learn principles that help us to follow God faithfully. Okay? Now, sometimes the way we learn those lessons is by being given examples that we should imitate, and sometimes the way we learn how to follow God is by being given examples that we should not imitate. And honestly, most of Abraham’s life falls into that second category. Let me show you what I mean.

We’re gonna be in Genesis 12, starting in verse 1, check this out, it says, “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land that I will show you.” Okay? So God shows up and he tells Abraham three things. He says, “Go from your place, which is your country, leave your place,” and then he says, “Go from your people and your father’s household.” And both of those terms basically boil down to relatives. Okay? So, he basically says, “Leave your place and leave your relatives.” And it’s interesting that he says it twice, twice he says, “Leave your relatives.” It’s almost like, he’s like, “Hey, I’m not sure you heard me the first time, really need to pay attention to this Abram, “Leave all your relatives behind, okay?” Now, we don’t know why he was told to do that. Okay? And there’s nothing in this particular story that tells us why he was told to do this hard thing, to leave his place and his people. If I had to guess, I would guess that what’s happening here is a principle that we see throughout the Bible, we see it throughout God’s Word. And the principle is basically this, sometimes we have to leave behind what will keep us from moving forward, sometimes we have to leave behind what will keep us from moving forward. And as some of you are listening this and maybe you’re pretty new to following Jesus and, you know, you’ve got big dreams of honoring God with your life, and following Jesus, and being on mission with him, but you keep stumbling, you keep falling, and it just feels like you can’t seem to make any progress.

And for some people, the reason is because you’re still holding on to something or someone that’s actually holding you back, you’re holding on to someone or something that’s actually having more of a negative impact on you than you’re having on them. And so sometimes we actually have to kind of make a clean break, right? Sometimes we have to leave behind the things that are keeping us from moving forward. I’m not saying we have to leave behind every non-Christian friend. In fact, you know, Mission Hills, we’re all about helping people become like Jesus and join in my mission. It’s pretty hard to be on mission extending God’s influence into the lives of people if we don’t know any people that don’t know God, right? So having non-Christian friends is great, but when those friendships become things that keep us from becoming like Jesus and following him, sometimes we have to leave them behind so that we can continue to move forward. Okay? So, I think that’s probably what’s happening here. God says, “You gotta do this.” And then verse 2 says this, he says, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you. And I’ll make your name great, and you will be a blessing. And I’ll bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you, I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Now, I love that. We talk about this pretty frequently here at Mission Hill, so I won’t spend a lot of time on but I wanna make sure that we understand the twice in that statement that God made to Abram, he said the same thing. He basically said, “I’m gonna bless you so that you can be a blessing.”

This is such an important principle, church. Our blessings are never just for our benefit, our blessings are never just for our benefit, God blesses us partly because he loves us, but largely because he expects us to pass those blessings on into the lives of others. Okay? Now, I just gotta say this, Mission Hills, you have been putting this principle into practice in an incredible way recently. In a season where so many churches are having to cut staff or cut hours for staff or cut programs, you have been so on mission with your finances, the blessing of your finances, that we haven’t had to do that. And not only have we not had to lay off staff or cut hours, we’ve been able to call local businesses around our Littleton campus and say, “Hey, do you have employees that have been particularly hard hit by this crisis?” And we’ve been able to help them out when they’re in a desperate situation. We’ve actually been able to help other churches that are struggling financially. We’ve been able to actually send money and food to some of our partners around the world who are using that to take care of people who are in truly desperate circumstances. And if it weren’t for your generosity, some of them would be starving right now, but they’re not because you looked at your blessings and used your finances, and you said, “It’s a blessing, and I’m gonna use it to bless others.” Okay? That’s what blessings are for and you’ve done an incredible job. Listen, it’s not just finances, here’s what we have to do. Don’t just count your blessings, that’s always a good thing to do, but don’t just count your blessings, invest them, use them to bless others.

That’s what God says he’s gonna do for Abram. He says this, now, so Abram went, as the Lord have told him, and Lot went with him. Pay attention to that, it’s kinda interesting. Abram was 75 years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew, Lot, twice, as mentioned, right, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan and they arrived there. It’s so interesting. You remember, God told Abram twice, “Leave your relatives”. And now twice we’re told that Abraham took his nephew Lot with him. Now, I don’t know about you, the last time I checked, a nephew is a relative, am I right? I’m pretty sure I am. Right? So, what’s going on here? Well, what’s going on here is a compromise. Abram is compromising, he did most of what God said, right? He did leave the place and he left most of his people, he left most of his relatives, he left all of his friends, but he compromised just a little bit and then he took Lot. And he probably didn’t think it was a big deal. We never do think that our compromises are big deals, right? We think they’re small. What could it possibly hurt? Right? Maybe he went, you know, “It’s not like, you know, he’s a super close relative, he’s a nephew right?” Or maybe, you know, Lot’s dad, Abram’s brother had died at this point. So maybe Abram thought, “Well, he’s really more like a son to me, so he probably counts really, as part of my household.” Or maybe, you know, it’s interesting, we’re told that Abram was 75 years old when God called him to do this, and he hasn’t had any kids yet, he and his wife Sarai are barren. Okay?

And so maybe he’s like, “Hey, that’s a great promise God, but there’s no way that it’s gonna happen, right? We’re not gonna be having kids. That ship has sailed,” right? And so maybe he’s thinking, “Well, you know, maybe I should just kind of adopt Lot as a son base. He can be like a surrogate son, and maybe that’s what God will use to really fulfill this promise.” I don’t know exactly what his thinking was. Honestly, maybe he just didn’t know God all that well yet. Maybe he didn’t know God well enough to know that our circumstances are not a problem for his promises, he doesn’t need our help. Okay? For whatever reason, though, he makes a small compromise. And here’s the thing about compromises. Small compromises create big problems. Small compromises create big problems. Those little compromises we make end up creating huge problems down the road. We’ve all seen it, we’ve all experienced it, right? We know it’s not good to buy things on credit, so we should avoid that whenever possible, right? We know how to stay out of debt as much as we possibly can. But, you know, Amazon’s got some really cool stuff, and they got a great credit card with a great rate and promotional deal going on, so maybe I’ll just buy that thing I’ve been eyeing on Amazon during COVID and buy it on credit. And hey, you know, it turns out Amazon has all of the stuff and they can get it to your house tomorrow, right? And then there’s a lot of room on that credit card they gave me, so I’ll just buy some more of that stuff.” And then bam, what happens, right, you’ve got a monthly payment that you don’t have the financial margin to be making right?

Or, you know, and how about this. I struggle this one all the time. We know that we’re supposed to obey government officials, right, as long as they’re not telling us to do something that goes against God, we’re supposed to obey government officials. But you know what? The speed limit on that road is stupid low. It’s stupid low. I don’t know why they set it there. And I’m in a hurry, right? So what’s the big deal? I’ll just go over the speed limit a little bit, and then bam, you know, there’s the lights in the mirror, and there’s the sinking feeling in the chest, and then there’s an expensive ticket, and then your insurance rates go up. And it’s a much bigger problem than you thought would happen because of that really small compromise. We know we’re not supposed to have anything to do with porn, right? Porn is poison. We gotta stay away from it. But the show isn’t porn. It’s not, right? It’s not porn. It’s racy. Let’s just call it that. It’s just a little bit racy, right? But then you watch that, and then Amazon and Netflix are like, “Well, if you like that, you might like this.” And you’re like, “Well, maybe I would.” And before you know it, right, you’re down a rabbit hole and you’re in a place where you’re addicted to something, and it’s destroying your relationships, and it’s killing your ability to give and receive love because of a small compromise, but now you got a big problem. You know, you’re not supposed to get married to someone who doesn’t share your relationship with Jesus. It’s a bad thing to do.

It’s a terrible idea. It’s wrong. But it’s just one date. It’s just one date, right? And then it’s just two dates, and then we’re in love, and then we’re married. And now we got kids, and you wanna teach your kids to follow Jesus, but the other most important person in their life has no interest in following Jesus and things are a mess. Listen to me, small compromises, create big problems. As followers of Jesus, it may very well be that the small compromises we make today are the things that take us off our mission with Jesus tomorrow, and so we gotta identify them, we gotta reject them. We gotta identify those small compromises we’re tempted to make, and we’ve got to refuse to make them because we know that they have a much bigger price than they appear. Okay? Abram makes a small compromise, we’re gonna see it creates all kinds of problems for him. Check this out. This is verse 6, chapter 12 verse 6. Abram traveled through the land as far as the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. Okay, so he’s in the land that God’s called him to. This is ultimately gonna be the Nation of Israel. Now at that time, the Canaanites and other tribe were living in the land. And the Lord appeared to Abram and he said this, “To your offspring, “ I love this, “To your offspring, I will give this land.” And so he built an altar there to the Lord who appeared to him. I love that. But there’s that word offspring. What God has basically said is, “Hey, Abram, I’m gonna give this place to your kids, okay? Hey, your circumstances are not a problem for me, okay? I don’t need you to come up with another plan to work things out. Okay?

Here’s what he’s trying to make sure Abram and we understand. Our circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises. No matter what circumstances you might find yourself in, and as hard as it might be to believe that in those circumstances that you’re in right now, that God’s promises to you will still come true, our circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises. They’re not. That’s what God’s trying to tell him. Okay? Now check this out. This is chapter 12 verse 10, now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. It’s so interesting, right? So God led Abram to a place and he gave him a tremendous promise, and then a problem arose, right, some difficult circumstances arose and what did Abram do? He packed up and he left. I don’t think that’s what he was supposed to do. Okay? That’s not what the people of God do. When we have experienced God’s provision, listen, we don’t abandon God’s provision just because things get difficult, right? That’s what we do. As the people of God, we refuse, we refuse to abandon their provision. You don’t abandon the provision just because things have got difficult. That’s the moment as the people of God when we lean in to trusting the One who is provided. We trust the One who’s provided can take care of the problems that might arise. But that’s not what Abram does. He packs it up and he leaves, right? And here’s the interesting thing. Well, check this out. Sometimes when we abandon God’s provision, we also leave the safety of his protection.

And Abram seems to feel that almost immediately, check this out. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife, Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they’ll say, “This is his wife,” and then they’ll kill me, but they’ll let you live.” So, he’s afraid. He’s afraid. He realizes he’s in a dangerous place now. So, he says, “Say that you’re my sister.” That’s interesting, right? “Just say you’re my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake, and my life will be spared because of you.” Right? Can we just acknowledge that Abram is a man with a plan? This man’s got a plan for every problem that he sees for God’s promises, doesn’t he? Right? He says, you know, “Oh, you’re gonna make me a great nation guy, that sounds great, but I don’t have any kids, and I don’t see that happening, so I’ll just pull Lot along with me, right, and… Hey, you gave me this land here, and you made a great promise, that’s awesome but, you know, there’s some difficult circumstances here, so I know a better place, I’ll just head down there, right, until this problem passes over, right? Oh, now that I’m down here, I’m a little afraid that I may not have your protection and people might attack me, they might kill me, my wife’s pretty hot, right? I could definitely see that this could be an issue. Here’s what we’re gonna do. Hey girl, you’re gonna say that you’re just my sister, right?” And here’s the interesting thing. He’s got a plan for every problem, but what we’re gonna see is that his plans are the problem. The plans he keeps making, they are the problem, they create things that are so much worse than the circumstances he was facing to start with. Right?

So that’s what he does. Let me summarize. Okay? So, he says to everybody, you know, “Oh, yeah, yeah, she’s good looking but she’s my sister. Okay, so some of the Pharaoh’s official see that she’s hot, they take her back to Pharaoh’s palace. Now, there’s no details given what happens here. But I think we can probably fill in the blanks about what happened there. Now, they don’t leave Abram empty-handed, they actually pay him a bunch of stuff for his sister, right? They give them a bunch of animals and products, things like that. And I’m sorry, this is probably the most explicit thing that I’m gonna say here, so if you need to beat this out for your kids, right now, go ahead and do it. It kind of sounds like Abram pimped out his wife, am I right? It kind of sounds like it. Somehow or other, they figure out in Egypt, they figure out in the Pharaoh’s house they made a mistake. What we’re told is that some diseases begin to come on them and they go looking for the source of the problem and we’re not told exactly how they figured it out, but they eventually figured out that this woman in Pharaoh’s house, maybe also in his bed, not that man’s sister, it’s his wife. And so they send her back, they kick both of them out. Right? And here’s what’s interesting. They do let him keep his stuff, okay? But now there’s bad blood between Abram and his family, and the Egyptians. And if you know anything about Israelite history, there’s still bad blood. That bad blood continues to be an issue throughout the Bible, and really throughout the rest of history, okay? It all started right here. There are long-term consequences for the decisions that we make.

Speaking of that, remember, the first bad decision he made? He took Lot with him when he probably wasn’t supposed to do that. Check this out. This is Genesis chapter 13, verse 5, “Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, but the land could not support them while they stayed together because their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarrelling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. Okay? So Lot, who wasn’t supposed to be along for the ride anyways, there and now, you know what’s happened is there’s bad blood between Abram and this kid that he brought along with him right? His herders and his people, they’re arguing with each other and it’s become all this drama, all this conflict, and so finally Abram just goes, “Oh my gosh, okay hey, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re not gonna do that, okay? We’re not gonna do that.” So he says, “Lot, hey, what you do, just look around you, you pick whatever part of the land you want and you head there. Okay? Lot, of course, looks around, he finds the best part of the land, and that’s where he goes. Great. Okay? Abram has been selfless. That’s awesome. The problem is, Lot picked the best part of the land and other people know that’s the best part of the land and there’s, like, constant battling going on for possession of that territory, and some kings are kind of fighting over it. Lot ends up getting kidnapped in the midst of this, and so Abram has to go to war against that king to get back his nephew who shouldn’t have been here in the first place. Right?

That’s what has to happen. And he does that. And it’s interesting that it’s immediately after that battle as they’re probably licking their wounds and tending to their wounded and burying their dead, God shows up. And he has another conversation with Abram. And what he says to him basically amounts to what I think is an “I told you so.” Check this out. This is Genesis 15:1, “After this, the Word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward. Do not be afraid. You may know, you may not.” That is the most common repeated command in the whole Bible. God actually says, some form of do not be afraid, literally hundreds of times and that’s the very first one. The very first time God said to his people, “Do not be afraid,” it was to this man Abram. And why did he say it? Because Abram is consistently a man who is driven by fear. He’s constantly looking at his circumstances and going, “These are a problem.” And he’s coming up with his plans and his plans are the problem. Things just go from bad to worse when he does it, but he’s driven by fear. We’ve already seen it, God has seen it. And so, he comes to Abram and he says, “Do not be afraid.” Listen to me, church. Our circumstances aren’t a problem for God’s promises, but our fear is, our fear is because our fear drives us to sin. Our fear drives us away from God’s provision. Our fear leads us into much bigger messes than the ones that we ran from because of it. Our circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises. Your circumstances, whatever they are, no matter how hard they may seem to you, your circumstances are not a problem for God’s promises for you. But your fear is, we gotta get a handle on it.

God comes and he says, “Do not be afraid. But Abram said, “Sovereign Lord, well, what can you give me since I remain childless, and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus. Abram’s said, “You have given me no children, and so a servant in my household will be my heir.” It’s so interesting, right? That’s another plan. He’s still the man with the plan. He’s like, “Well, I’m not getting kids and this thing would Lot didn’t work out, so I guess I’m gonna have to designate one of my servants to do this thing.” He’s still got all these plans for all these problems that he sees. Check this out. And then the Word of the Lord came to him. “This man, your servant, will not be your heir but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” God says, “Come on, Abram. Your circumstances is not a problem for me. Your fear is a problem but your circumstances are not. I got this, I got you. You got to start trusting me.” But it’s hard, right? It’s hard to trust. Abram struggles with it, so does his wife. Check this out. This is Genesis 16:1, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had born him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar. And so she said to Abram, the Lord has kept me from having children. Go sleep with my slave. Perhaps I can build a family through her.” And Abram agreed to what Sarai said. I just bet he did. Right? Can you imagine what that conversation would have been like? “So let me get this straight, honey, you want me to sleep with your hot young maid? You think this is a good idea? Huh? Yeah, honestly, I don’t know that I could say I’ve ever noticed her but yeah, I could see… This might be what God meant. Yeah. Okay. Hey, you know what? Anything for you sweetheart. Anything for you.”

So, he sleeps with her. She gets pregnant. When she gets pregnant, she begins to look down on Sarai who can’t get pregnant. That was a big deal on those days. And so now there’s drama between these two women. Okay? It gets pretty bad and eventually 16:5 is what Sarai says, “Then Sarai said to Abram, you are responsible for the wrongs that I’m suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now she knows that she’s pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me,” which is kind of a code for, “You better do something about this dude. Yeah, I know. Yeah, yes, yes, yes, yes, it might have been my idea, but you’re the one who did it. Okay? You’re not the one having to deal with the problem that I’m having to deal with, so you better do something about it, buster.” And what he ends up having to do is such a mess. He sends Hagar away, and she has a child, his name is Ishmael. Ishmael ultimately becomes the father of tribes that are still fighting with Abraham’s descendants today. The father of the faith, of Islam, the father of Islam, man named Mohammed, you may have heard the name, he claims that he’s a direct descendant of Ishmael. Okay? And we know how the Muslims and the Jews get along today, right? Listen, trying to solve God’s problems for him, just creates problems for us. You hear me, church. Sometimes we take matters into our own hands because we think our circumstances, they’re too difficult or we don’t think God’s moving fast enough. And so we go, “I’ll take care of this for you, God.” Listen, trying to solve God’s problems just creates problems for us, bigger problems than we could even imagine.

And, you know, Abraham or Abram is about to be Abraham, is ninety-nine years old. God comes to him and he speaks, Genesis chapter 7, verse 5, says this, “No longer will you be called Abram. Your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.” Abram means something like his father is exalted. Abraham means father of nations. So God says, “I’ve got a new name for you. If you’ll just trust me, I’m gonna do something you would never think possible. I will make you very fruitful. I will make nations of you and kings will come from you. And it’s not just Abram, who’s now Abraham, it’s also his wife. Verse 15 says, “God also said to Abraham, as for Sarai, your wife, you will no longer to call her Sarai, her name will be Sarah. That was a little bit trickier. Sarai and Sarah both mean princess. Best guess is that Sarah, it adds a letter into the name and it’s a letter that’s part of the name for God in Hebrew, which is Yahweh. It adds in a letter from Yahweh into her name, so maybe something like princess of God. Okay? But the point is that for both of these people, God says, “If you just trust me, if you just let me fight the battles that need to be fought, if you just let me deal with the problems that need to be solved, I’m gonna do things for you that you could never even imagine. I’m gonna make you father of great nations. You’re not just a princess anymore, you’re the princess of God.” And I wonder sometimes if God doesn’t have a name for each one of us, that if he whispered it to us right now in the midst of our fear and our struggling, we would go, “How can that possibly be true?” And he would say, “By trusting me. By trusting me.”

He said, “I will bless her your wife, I’ll bless her, and I will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations, kings of people will come from her.” And Abraham fell facedown, and he laughed, and he said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And I love that. He says, “He fell down and he laughed.” Now normally to fall down is an act of worship, but when you fall down and laugh, that’s not worship. In fact, I actually wonder if maybe what Moses is saying here is literally, he fell down laughing. This was so hilarious. This was so hard for him to imagine his fear, and maybe even his bitterness at this point was so great that he laughed in the face of God. I just can’t buy it. I can’t. A little while later, some angels came to Abram. They came as men, but they came bearing a message from God and they said, “Hey, by this time next year, it’s all gonna be true. Okay? By this time next year, it’s all gonna be in motion. By this time next year, Sarah will have born you a child. And it’s interesting. Sarah was listening. Chapter 18, verse 12 records her response, “And so Sarah laughter herself as she thought, “After I’m worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” And then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I have a child? Will I really have a child now that I’m old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son. Now Sarah was afraid, see Abram’s not the only one, Sarah was also afraid. And I think sometimes our fear is infectious.

Sarah was afraid and so she lied. See, fear leads to sin, it leads to mistakes, it leads to bad decisions. And she said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh. Yes, you did. And then the angels tell Abram that they’re going down. There’s a couple of cities nearby called Sodom and Gomorrah, and they’re terribly wicked places, and God is gonna wipe them off the face of the earth. The problem is that Lot, you remember Lot, the person that we’re told twice, Abram brought along even though he was twice told, “Don’t bring your relatives?” He’s already rescued him once and now he’s gotta rescue him twice because Lot is living in Sodom. And so, Abram begs for mercy to have Lot be saved and there’s kind of a deal struck, and the angels go in, and when they get into the town, things don’t go well. Okay? Let me keep this super PG. All right? The men of the city see the angels thinking that they’re men and they want to get, let’s call it overly friendly with them. Lot refuses and he says, “Here, take my daughters instead.” And that is messed up. That is so messed up I don’t even know where to start with it. Okay? That’s what he tries to do. That doesn’t work. And so the angels basically say, “You guys gotta run. Okay?” God begins to destroy the city but as Lot and his family run, they were told not to look back, but Lot’s wife looks back, she turns into a pillar of salt. It’s a crazy story, you can read it. Lot ends up living in a cave. And in that cave, his daughters get him drunk and they do unspeakable things. It’s messed up. And then you’re not even gonna believe this.

You’re not gonna believe this, then Abraham does it again. He gets afraid that somebody is going to kill him to get to his wife, and so he does it again. He says, “No, no, no, just say that you’re my sister.” And this man doesn’t do things with Abraham’s wife. But the Lord somehow communicates to him that he’s got another man’s wife in his home. And so he confronts Abraham, and this is Abraham’s response, this is chapter 20, verse 11, “Abraham replied, “I said to myself, there’s surely no fear of God in this place and they’ll kill me because of my wife, but besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father, though not of my mother and she became my wife.” Okay, first, eww. And second, I’m not even sure it’s true. We’re given a pretty detailed genealogy of Abraham’s family and there’s nothing about this mention, so I have a pretty strong suspicion, he made it up, he flat out lied. And here’s the thing. Five other times in the Bible, God explicitly says, “Do not do that kind of thing with your half-sister. It’s wrong. Don’t do it.” So even if it’s true, it’s still wrong. And, like, this is a messed up a man. Am I right? This is a crazy story. It’s got everything. It feels like a cheesy soap opera, almost. Maybe you listen to the story and you ask what I naturally asked, which is, “Why is he in here? Why is he in this story? Why is he in the Bible? Why is he the father of the Jewish people?” I mean, you might go, “Well, that’s why he’s in the Bible because he is the father of the Jewish people,” right? He is the man through whom ultimately, God did give him a son, his name is Isaac. And through Isaac, there were more children.

Eventually, through the family line of Abraham, we got Jesus, the Lamb of God who died on the cross to take away our sins, who rose from the dead to offer us salvation by faith. I mean, that’s why he’s in the Bible. My question is, why him? Right? Why him? Why this messed up man? Why this jacked-up Jew? In the midst of all the mess that he created; God came to him. He came to him one night, this is back in chapter 15, we skipped over before we have to see it now. God came home one night, and he woke him up, and he took him out of his tent under the sky and he said, “Look, you see all those stars, he said, count them if you can.” And he said, “Abraham, I’m gonna give you more descendants than the stars that you can’t even count.” Then we have this. “Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. Abraham believed the Lord and he credited it to him as righteousness.” That’s why Abraham’s in the Bible. It’s not because of how he behaved. He behaved pretty terribly, it’s because of who he believed. See, if it was a question of how he behaved, he’s not a righteous man. None of us are, we’ve all sinned, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. We’ve all done it. And Abraham, no different than the rest of us, although his sins might be different, if it was about Abraham’s behavior, he couldn’t be righteous. But God wasn’t counting his behavior, he’s paying attention to his belief, his trust, his faith. Listen, God counted him righteous because of who he believed not how he behaved. That’s the foundation of this thing we call the Gospel, that we don’t earn our way into God’s good grace.

If we could do that, we wouldn’t need his good grace. We need his good grace because we’re not good. But there’s a famous verse. And, you know, even if you’re new to church, you might know this one. And I want you to understand that this famous verse spoken by and about Jesus Christ, it’s rooted in Abraham’s belief right here. This is the famous verse I’m talking about, “For God’s so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that,” say it with me church, “whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Not to the one who behaves good enough because none of us are good enough, but to the one who believes that Jesus lived the perfect life, that he died on the cross, that he rose from the dead, and that he offers us forgiveness by faith. That’s why Abraham’s in the story because he believed God and God counted him as righteous, not his behavior, but his belief. And that may seem hard to imagine, but think about this way, right? You left home, it was a perfect home, but you struck out on your own. You built yourself a boat and you set out, and you got 1,000 miles away from home, and you realized you’d made a terrible mistake. You had no business being out here and the wind and the waves have destroyed the boat, and you’re about to drown, and you’re 1,000 miles from shore, and there’s no way you can swim home. Someone followed you. A boat comes up and the captain of the boat says, “Get on board, I’ll take you home.” You gotta decide, do you trust him or not? You can say, “No, I don’t trust him,” and you can keep trying to get back to shore on your efforts, but you’re not gonna make it.

There’s no chance, or you can trust him and he’ll take you to the home you never should have left. That’s the Gospel God sent his only Son, that whoever believes, trust, has faith, will not perish but have eternal life. Listen to me, I’m not saying that our behavior doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter for our salvation, right? This is the truth, we gotta understand this. Salvation for Abraham, for all of us, salvation depends on who we believe, not how we behave. Okay? I’m not saying our behavior is utterly irrelevant, because listen, if you’re a follower of Jesus, we have to hold on this truth is that how we behave reflects on who we believe. We’re the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We’re on mission with him, extending God’s influence, and how we behave, reflects on who we believe. What people think about the God that we believe in, depends in large measure on how we behave. And listen, I know this crisis has been hard on all of us, our tempers are hot. We’re frustrated and we’re stressed, and it’s coming out in the way we talk to each other. It’s coming out on the way we talk to our families, it’s coming out on social media, it’s coming out in the way that we talk about other people. It’s coming out in racism and prejudice. It’s coming out in the riots and the violence that’s erupting all around us. And the followers of Jesus have to speak against it. We have to decry, we have to denounce racism and prejudice, and we also have to treat one another with love, and grace, and mercy, and kindness because how we behave reflects on who we believe.

But at the end of the day, salvation depends on who we believe, not how we behave. And that’s very good news. Would you pray with me? God as the followers of Jesus and behalf of the followers of Jesus, we come to you and we confess, our behavior is not good enough, we know it. And even in just recent days or weeks, we’ve behaved poorly. We know it hasn’t reflected well on you and whom we believe, and so we confess our sin, and we ask for your forgiveness. But for some of us, the sin is not even a sin of commission, it’s one of omission. We haven’t spoken up against wrong things that are being done. And in that way, Lord, maybe we fail to hold back the dam, the flood of hatred and violence. And Lord, give us the courage to pave well, so that it reflects well on who we believe. But Lord, we’re so grateful that it doesn’t depend on how we behave, it depends on who we believe. Hey, listen, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something? Would you start praying right now for the people around the world listening to this, who thought that they had to behave their way into God’s love? And if that’s you, I just wanna speak to you for a moment. Please hear the truth. You don’t. That’s not the Gospel. That’s not Christianity. It is who you believe, not how you behave. Jesus died for your sins, he rose from the dead. Those are facts of history. And if you will put your trust in him, you will be forgiven, and you’ll be a part of his family forever. And if you’ve never done that, now’s the time. Wherever you are, this is the conversation you’re gonna have with God, right?

Right now just say this God, say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I know that I can’t behave well enough to earn salvation. Jesus thank you for dying because of your love for me. Thank you for paying the price of my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead. I do. So, Lord, I put my faith in you right now. I put my trust in you. I’m investing my belief in you. Come into my life, I’m yours. Amen. If you made that decision for the first time, so excited about that, I cannot tell you how excited, I wanna celebrate with you, we wanna celebrate with you as Mission Hills Church so hey, listen, please click that button right below, that “I said yes” button or text the word Jesus to 888111, either way, you’re gonna get a link back to some things. We want you to know about this God that you put your trust in. We want you to know what it looks like to follow him. And we love, love, love being able to celebrate with the people who tell us, “Hey, I said yes today.” Hopefully, we’re gonna be opening our physical campuses soon. But we know we have people all over the world who can’t join us in a physical campus, so you know what? Whether we open our campuses soon or not, church still goes on. And we’re so glad you’ve been with us today, wherever you are. Please join us again next week. And in the meantime, please know, you’re deeply and profoundly loved. God bless you.

JOSEPH: THE TYRANNY OF INSECURITY

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JUNE

6/7

Genesis 37

We take a look at the story of Joseph (of the multicolored cloak) and how he was ruled by his obsession with himself. Self obsession, or living in selfie mode, is fueled by either pride or insecurity. God may need you to get rid of that trait before you can be blessed by his plans for you.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

[Reading from Children’s Bible]
Joseph’s Colorful Robe. Joseph was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Jacob loved him more than all of his other sons. Jacob made Joseph a colorful robe. His brothers were jealous. They wanted a nice robe too. And they wanted to be loved as much as Joseph was loved. Joseph had a dream. He told his family, we were bundles of grain from the field. Your bundles have been bowed down to mine. Then Joseph had another dream. He said this time, the sun and the moon and 11 stars were bowing down to me. His father asked, “Does this mean our family will bow down to you someday?” The brothers were even angry. They threw Joseph into a dry well. Along came some traders, the brothers sold Joseph to them as a slave. They lied to their father and said Joseph has been killed by a wild animal. But God was with Joseph.
[End reading]

Craig: Oh, so close, right? And yet so far that is the cleaned up and watered-down version of Joseph’s life. The reality is there was a little bit more messiness going on there. Hey, welcome to Mission Hills, wherever you are in the world. We’re so glad to have you with us this weekend for the second part of our Explicit Series, where we’re digging in to some of this kind of messy stories from the Bible that we have a tendency to clean up and water down, sometimes getting rid of the parts that actually allow us to find our place in the story. And the life of Joseph is definitely one of those stories. Okay? Now, if you’re only familiar with the kid’s version of Joseph’s life, you might be tempted to think that the story of Joseph is a story of sibling rivalry, or maybe the story of jealousy and its dangers.

And certainly, that’s part of it. But the reality is that the story of Joseph, or at least the story that we’re going to look at today, the part of the story we’re going to look at today is actually the story of a young man who is obsessed with himself. He’s self-obsessed, or in modern terms, we might say this, this the story of a man who spent way too much time looking at the world through the selfie-lens on his phone. You know the selfie-lens, right? It’s that lens that it kind of shows us the world around us, but what it mostly shows us is us, actually, right? You know, and here’s the thing, like you can actually see a little bit of the world through the selfie-lens, but you can’t see a lot of it. Mostly what I see is me. And trying to get around that way can be kind of dangerous.

I found this out last week, if you saw the social posts that we put on last week, you might’ve noticed that I was doing a post where I was kind of talking about our reopening plan that we’re moving towards. And it had some stuff that’s on the ground, in the lobby of the Littleton campus. And I was trying to show people that, right? But I was also trying to keep myself in the frame, so I was kind of do in this. And what you didn’t see was what I posted there was take number five. Because the first few of the way it ended, I was trying to show me, show that, and I was like, I’m down. And so I deleted those things right away, but that’s the reality, right? The reality is that trying to get around using the selfie-lens makes for a pretty bumpy ride.

And that’s certainly true in life. Trying to look at the world through a lens that’s mostly showing us ourselves creates all kinds of problems. I really experienced that this week, church, it was a tough week, I’ll just be honest with you. You know, we all know all the stuff that’s going on. And I found myself in a really difficult place this week. I really wanted to speak into issues, but I found myself looking at everything through the lens of me and how anything I said or did how it would come back to me or come back on me. I wanted to speak against racism, but I was also a little bit afraid that that would bring criticism towards me, that people might think, well, then you’re condoning the riots by speaking against racism.

And by the way that happened, spoke against racism, I got some criticism that I was condoning the riots by speaking against racism. I also had a little bit of a fear that if I spoke against the riots, people would accuse me of, you know, condoning the racism that led to it, or that they perceived that led to it, right? By the way, that happened. I did speak against the riots and the violence and I had people going, “So you’re okay with the racism.” Not what I was trying to say, but I knew that was going to come, you know. And I was afraid that if I tried to walk the middle line and speak about both, which it did, I’d actually get criticism from both sides, which I did. Okay? I was afraid that if I said nothing, if I was just silent, that would come across as either being cowardly or condoning one or the other, whichever people wanted to pick, and I had people say, “Well, you might’ve spoken, but you didn’t speak loud enough. Does that mean you’re okay with the racism? Does it mean you’re okay with the riots?

It was a rough week. And I don’t tell you this to ask you to pity me. This is not a woe is me kind of a thing, right? The reason I tell you this is because I want you to know that because of all that…I got to the middle of this week and I found myself just in a really dark place, I did. I was stressed out. I was frustrated. And quite honestly, I was depressed. And it wasn’t because, it took me a while to realize this. But I finally did. It wasn’t because I was in a no-win situation. Sometimes in leadership, you just find yourself in a no-win situation and you just have to move forward in the way that God calls you to.

It wasn’t because I was in a no-win situation that I found myself in a dark place. It was because I was looking at everything and trying to make decisions through the lens of me. I was looking at the world. I was trying to see the world around me through the selfie-lens. And here’s what I’ve discovered, trying to get around using the selfie-lens makes for a very rough road. Okay? Trying to get around using the selfie-lens makes for a pretty rough ride in life. We’re going to see that. And we’re going to see how important it is that we figure out how to hit that little flip button on our lives and start looking through the other lens. I want you go ahead and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Genesis chapter 37. We’re going to take a look at the first part of the life of Joseph today.

We’re going to look at the rest of the life of Joseph next week. But the first part of the life of Joseph is really about a man who’s looking at everything through the selfie-lens. Check this out. Joseph, a young man of seventeen was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives. And he brought their father a bad report about them. He brought the father a bad report about them. Now, in English, bad reports sounds kind of neutral. Like, you know, it’s just sort of like some negative information,but in the original Hebrew that this was written in, the phrase there isn’t about bad information, it’s actually about bad intention. Okay? Not about bad information, it’s about bad intention. The phrase there literally translates to a bad whisper. Okay?

The kind of thing that you do when you want to make sure the person you’re talking about is not hearing you, right? And you’re going to say something negative about them. And the reason you do that is to cause them harm and maybe to make yourself look better by making them look worse, right? That’s the kind of thing you’re talking about. What he’s really saying is this, he’s saying that Joseph was engaging in toxic talk, which is a sure sign of self-obsession. He was engaging in toxic talk, a sure sign of self-obsession. Why do I say that? Why is toxic talk a pretty good indicator that we’re self-obsessed, we’re looking at everything through the selfie-lens? Because the number one reason for toxic talk is to make us look better by making others look worse, right? That’s the number one reason. There may be a few others, but there’s no close second. Okay? The number one reason we engage in toxic talk is to make someone else look bad, which makes us look better in comparison.

Okay? Listen to me, church. There’s two ways to look better. Do you know that? There’s two ways to look better. We can look better by getting better or making others look worse, right? Two very different approaches to looking better. We can actually get better. We can make others look worse. See, we can get better, right? We can work hard so that our accomplishments stand out and we get recognized for the effort that we’ve put in, right? We can identify weaknesses in our lives and we can work on them. We can bring people into our lives to mentor us and to coach us and to disciple us, to help us become more like Jesus and join him on mission better. We can do that. We can identify flaws in our character and ask other people to hold us accountable on those. And we can work on them.

We can say, we’re sorry when we’re wrong, when we mess up and then we can, you know, we’re going to work better at it. We’re going to commit ourselves to continuing down that road of getting better, we can do that. But that’s hard, right? That’s exhausting. That’s a lot of hard work. Listen, getting older is automatic. Getting better takes hard work. And so, Satan kind of slides in and he goes, “Man, that looks exhausting. Can I suggest an alternative? Hey, instead of standing out by working out, how about you stand out by cutting everybody else down?” So much easier, right?

It is easier. And it works. You know, it works. You’ve experienced, either you’ve had some success because you’ve done it to somebody else or you’ve seen somebody else get ahead at your expense because they were engaging in toxic talk about you. We know that it works. Okay? It does work for a while. It works for a while, but it’s costly. Getting ahead that way costs us something. Because, here’s the thing. Toxic talk divides people and poisons relationships. It always does. Toxic talk always divides people and poisons relationships, people in relationships that we’re going to need later on down the line. Okay? So yeah, it works, but there’s also a cost to it. Check this out.

It says, Now, Israel, that was Joseph’s father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons because he had been born to him in his old age. It’s a really interesting statement. He loved Joseph more than any other sons because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. That’s sort of the reason given us why he favored Joseph. And I’m sure that was part of it. But what’s interesting is Joseph was not the youngest son. Joseph had a younger brother named Benjamin who was technically born in Israel’s older age. So, if that’s the only reason that he loved Joseph most, because, you know, Joseph had been born in his old age and then he should have loved Benjamin even more because he had been born in his older age, right?

And so, I think the reason that Moses tells us that is to kind of go, yeah, that’s part of the reason, maybe that’s the reason that gets talked about a lot, but it’s the kind of thing that’s supposed to make us go, “But is that all that’s going on here?” It’s supposed to make us wonder if there might not be another reason. And if I had to guess, I wonder if the other reason is because of Joseph’s toxic talk was working. I wonder if he cut his brothers down enough that his father had begun to think of him much better than he actually was. Kind of feels like maybe that’s part of what’s going on here, right? It says Israel loved him more. And then it says this, “And he made an ornate robe for him.” And he made an ornate robe for him. Now, if you know anything about the story of Joseph, even if you’re brand new to the Bible, you have heard a little bit about this robe, right? We often talk about it as being a mini-colored robe or a coat of many colors. There was even a hit Broadway musical featuring Donny Osmond back in the day, right? Back in the day.

And it was called “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Well, what’s interesting though, is that the original Hebrew here doesn’t actually say anything about colors. There’s just kind of an interesting way that that’s been translated through the ages. What it literally says is nothing about colors. What it literally just says, it was an ornate robe. The New International Version I’m reading is very literal there. It was a fancy robe. Think Gucci, not the Gap. Okay? And by the way, that’s not toxic talk against the Gap. I’m not saying anything bad about the Gap. I’m just saying you wouldn’t have gotten this robe to buy at the Gap. You would’ve had to go to Gucci to get this. It was a really fancy robe. Okay? It was a really ornate robe. It’s an obvious sign of their father’s affection for Joseph, maybe affection that Joseph has managed to grab for himself by the way he’s been talking about his brothers.

Now check this out. Now, when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him. They hated Joseph and they could not speak a kind word to him. It’s really interesting. I think there’s a little bit of play on words, there a little bit of humor going on, right? He says that when they saw that their father loved Joseph more, well, how did they see it? Because Joseph was wearing the coat around. Joseph was making it obvious. He was showing off, right? Which is another sign of self-obsession, right? Self-obsessed people can’t help showing off signs of their success. They can’t help showing off their signs of success. You know people like that, right? People that can’t help but make sure you use their titles, they can’t help them make sure that you see their diplomas, they can’t help, but make sure that you see the cars they’re driving or the houses they’re living in. It’s in their Facebook posts. It’s on their Instagram feeds. It’s all over the place because self-obsessed people, they can’t help but showing off because, you know, it’s proof, right? It’s the proof they’re worth paying attention to, right? That’s what Joseph’s doing. He’s showing off.

Joseph just keeps making it worse. Check this out. Joseph had a dream. And when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had, we were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.” Isn’t that interesting? Wonder what that could mean, right? Now in Joseph’s defense, he didn’t make the dream up. Okay. God gave him the dream. We know that because later on in the story of Joseph, we’ll see it next week, the dream basically came true. Okay? So, this is a dream that God gave to him. So, Joseph didn’t make it up, but Joseph didn’t have to talk about it either. Did he? He didn’t have to say anything about it.

And what did he say? It says that they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said, right? The fact that he talked about it is a bigger deal than the fact that he had the dream in the first place. He’s bragging, right? He’s bragging, which is another sign of self-obsession. Bragging is another sure sign of self-obsession. Okay? Maybe you know somebody in your life that just constantly seems to be blowing their own horn. They’re constantly bragging. And you might look at those people and go, “Oh, there’s just so prideful.” And that may be true. It’s possible. But often bragging is a sign of insecurity actually, it’s a sign that they’re blowing their own horn because they’re afraid if they don’t, no one will notice them, and they’ll just be forgotten. Okay? But again, they’re still thinking through the lens of it’s all about me, right?

Whether they got there through pride or through insecurity, they’re still looking at the world through a lens that mostly has them in it. Okay? And so bragging is just another sign of this self-obsession. And the problem is that people who are struggling with self-obsession often don’t know that they’re struggling with it. They often don’t know how they come across and how they impact others. Check this out. And then he had another dream and he told it to his brothers, right? Like that’s crazy. After he saw how the first one was received, you’d think he would have shut up about the second one, Right? But listen, self-obsession blinds us to how we come across to others. Okay? You hear me, church? Self-obsession blinds us to how we come across to others. The reality is the most self-obsessed people have the least idea that they’re self-obsessed.

They’ve been looking at the world through the selfie-lens so long that they really can’t even see how much they are blocking their view of the rest of reality. Okay? Self-obsessed people are blind. Their self-obsession blinds them, the kind of impact they’re having on others, how they’re coming across to others. So he had another dream and he told them, and check it, it’s worse than that. Check this up. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream. And this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” Now, Joseph had eleven brothers. So nobody’s missing that the eleven stars represent the eleven brothers bowing down to him. But then he adds in the sun and moon business. And in the ancient near East sun and moon were often, they were often symbols for fathers and mothers. And so, the implication is that the father and mother and the family are going to be bowing down as well.

And check this up. I don’t know about you, but if I had a dream where I thought my father might be bowing down to me, I absolutely would not be telling my dad about that. But check this out. Now, when he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him. And he said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him. That absolutely is part of the story, but why were they jealous of him? And what part did Joseph play in arousing the jealousy? His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

And what’s about to happen it’s bad. And I don’t think it’s justified by what Joseph has done. I want to be really clear about that. What his brothers ended up doing to him can’t be explained away just because Joseph was kind of a jerk, just because Joseph was self-obsessed. Okay? But I also think it’s important we recognize that Joseph’s not innocent in this. The way that Joseph has been acting, his insistence on looking at everything through the selfie-lens has provoked some of what happens here. It doesn’t justify it, but he’s not an innocent party. Now, his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks at Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem.” It’s interesting the word Shechem is mentioned twice there. It doesn’t need to be and so that kind of draws our attention to it. And here’s what you need to know about Shechem.

It was about 50 miles away from where Joseph and his family lived. Now, 50 miles is a really long way to go to pasture your sheep. It’s a really long way. It’s a long way today. It’s an almost inconceivably long way to go in those days. And I think what we’re supposed to understand is his brothers are putting as much distance between themselves and Joseph as possible, right? Because toxic talk, and self-obsession too, it divides people. Okay? They’re putting as much of a barrier between themselves and their younger brother as they possibly can. His father wants to know what’s going on. He can’t easily find out because they’re so far away. And so, he’s going to send Joseph. He says this, he says, “Come, I am going to send you to them.” “Very well,” he replied. And so, he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks and bring word back to me.” And then he sent them off. He sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. Now, when Joseph arrived at Shechem, a man found him wandering around in the fields and he asked him, what are you looking for?” He replied, “Well, I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they’re grazing their flocks?” “Oh, they moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, let’s go to Dothan.” Oh, interesting.

So, Joseph went after his brothers. He went after his brothers, and he found them near Dothan. Interesting. Again, twice you had the place mentioned, why? Well, Dothan’s another 13 miles further away from home. So now they’re almost 65 miles away from home. So, not only did they try to get as far away as possible, but they’re looking for more opportunities to get even farther away because toxic talk, self-obsession, bragging, all that stuff. It divides people, poisons relationships, right? So, they’re going as far away as they possibly can. Finally, Joseph finds them. But they saw him in the distance. And before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. “Here comes that dreamer,” they said to each other, “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns,” that’s a well, “And say that a ferocious animal devoured him. And then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” You know, standard sibling rivalry stuff, right? Yeah. I mean, if you had siblings, you probably did this kind of stuff to each other all the time, right? No? Okay. It’s pretty bad. I’ll admit that. But not all of his brothers were on board. Check this out. Now when Reuben heard this, one of his brothers, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said, “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.”

Reuben said this to rescue him from them and to take him back to their father. So, when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of this robe, the ornate robe he was wearing. You notice that? The ornate robe he was wearing. The interesting thing is like, you don’t wear Gucci out into the fields, right? You don’t wear this kind of robe for this kind of trip. Why is Joseph doing it? He’s still lording it over them. And he’s still flaunting the signs of success. He’s still bragging. He’s still looking through a lens that mostly is about him.

And they took him. They throw him into the cistern. Cistern was empty and there was no water in it. And as they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh. And they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. Now, Judah said to his brothers, “Yeah, what will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” He’s a really good brother. Right? Can we all agree? Right? He’s opted to take murder off the table and just make, you know, slavery the option. And his brothers agreed. Now, when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and they sold him for 20 shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt.

And when Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes, a sign of grief. He went back to his brothers and he said, “The boy isn’t there. Where can I turn now?” And then they got Joseph’s robe. They slaughtered a goat and they dipped the robe in the blood. They took the ornate robe back to their father. And they said, “We found this, examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.” And notice that phrasing, not to see if it’s our brother, but your son’s robe. You can hear the bitterness there. You can see the poisoned relationship that Joseph’s self-obsession has created not only between him and his brothers but between them and their father as well. He recognized and he said, “It is my son’s robe. Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”

And then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days, all his sons and daughters came to comfort him. But he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I’ll continue to mourn until I joined my son in the grave.” And so his father wept for him. Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard. It’s a pretty radical reversal, right? I mean, Joseph goes from favored son to slave. He’s a prisoner in a foreign land.

Instead of being kind of the one who’s managed to stand out by making everybody else look bad, by cutting them down. Now he’s kind of lowest of low. It’s a pretty radical reversal. That’s what self-obsession does. That’s the kind of life that self-obsession leads to it. It constantly not only divides people and poisons relationships, but it causes us to constantly trip and fall down and scrape ourselves up and try to get back up. And then, you know, like I was trying to do when I was trying to look at that thing, it’s tough to keep ourselves always in the view and still get through life in a way that’s even vaguely like healthy. That’s what self-obsession does.

And here’s the interesting thing about self-obsession. Some people are self-obsessed without even realizing it. It’s easy to spot in others, right? You know, oh, they’re bragging. They’re engaging in toxic talk. They are constantly, you know, making sure that we see their signs of success, right? We see it in others. But sometimes we don’t see it in ourselves. And then part of the reason we don’t see it in ourselves is we don’t always recognize what exactly in us leads to it. See I think there’s a temptation to think that the only road that takes you to self-obsession is pride, right? People who think they’re all that and a bag of chips. Of course, that’s why they’re self-obsessed because they’re so prideful. But here’s an interesting thing that I’ve discovered over the years in my own life. Okay?

Self-obsession can come from either pride or insecurity. And I mentioned this a little bit earlier, but I think we need to lean into it right now because the reality is a lot of us are actually self-obsessed, but we’re not prideful. And when that happens, sometimes we don’t see the self-obsession. Because you’re like, “Well, I don’t think I’m all that,” but insecurity can lead us to self-obsession every bit as much as pride. Listen. You know, there’s two reasons why you look at everything through the selfie-lens, right? I mean, one lens is because you know, you just think you look so good, right? Boy, that’s a flattering angle, honestly. That’s great. That’s one reason.

The other reason we look at everything through the selfie-lens is because we’re afraid that we look stupid, right? You can be self-obsessed because you think you’re so good or you can be self-obsessed because you know you’re not and you’re so afraid that other people are going to find out, right? You’re always looking through the selfie-lens to make sure you don’t have lettuce stuck in your teeth or your hair doesn’t look stupid, or your makeup hasn’t smudged. And you haven’t managed to let out into the world all the ways that we know, that you know, you’re not as good as you hope people will think you are. Problem is that’s an exhausting way to live, right? Always worried about what other people think. Always having to keep ourselves in the frame and trying to maneuver around looking at the world that way, because we’re so afraid that the world will find out that we’re not all that. Listen, self-obsession can come from both pride and insecurity. And I know for me, insecurity is the big driver for self-obsession in my life. It is.

I’ll just be honest with you about that. I’m insecure. I’ll say it. I am. I actually think a lot of people that are self-obsessed, and a lot of people assume that they’re prideful. I actually think a lot of those people are actually insecure. In fact, almost every person that I’ve ever met or worked with that other said, “Man, they’re so full of themselves,” the more I’ve gotten to know those people, the more I’ve realized, no, actually what they’re full of is self-doubt, what they’re full of is insecurity. Okay? Self-obsession can come from either pride or insecurity. And it’s important that we recognize that both of those things can take us to the same place where we’re looking at everything through the selfie-lens. It’s important that we recognize it because depending on how you get there, you have to sort of deal with it in different ways, but we have to deal with it.

Okay? Because here’s another thing you need to know about self-obsession. Self-obsession takes us off mission with God. Okay? Self-obsession takes us off mission with God. You cannot be on mission with Jesus. Okay? You cannot be extending God’s influence into the world and obsessed self. It just doesn’t work. You can’t get through life like that and be extending God’s influence. Can’t be done. Okay? Self-obsession takes us off mission. We gotta see what has to be dealt with. Okay. How do we deal with it? Well, it depends in part on how you got there. Okay? If it’s pride, here’s what you do. If you struggle with self-obsession because of pride, try opening your eyes a little bit wider. All right. That’s a pretty good piece of advice. Because a lot of times what happens is prideful people are only prideful because they’re limiting their view, right?

They’re only looking at a certain few people that allow them to go “I’m better than that person,” right? But if you open your eyes a little bit wider, if you take in a wider field of view, you begin to realize, yeah, I might be better than that person, but I’m not better than that person. I’m not more spiritual than that person. I’m not kinder than that person. I’m not better at my job than that person. I’m not as good at this as that person over there. And when we begin to realize that, the pride begins to be ratcheted down, okay? I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. Bible talks a lot about pride. The reality is you need to understand, God will humble pride if we don’t humble ourselves. Okay? So, if you struggle with self-obsession because of pride, figure out what it takes like to realize that you’re not all that. You’re not. Okay?

But I’ll spend a little more time on the insecurity business. Because actually as I read the story of Joseph, he reminds me of myself and he reminds me of so many other people that I’ve seen who are consumed by themselves. They’re obsessed with themselves. They’re looking at life through the selfie-lens, but it’s not because they’re prideful. It’s because they’re insecure. They’re full of doubt and insecurity. And if that’s you, if that kind of hits close to home, let me tell you a few things that I’ve learned in my life that have helped. Okay? The first one is this. We have to recognize its voice. We have to learn to recognize the voice of insecurity. Okay?

We have to learn to recognize that when we are tempted to brag, when we’re attempted to make sure people see our signs of success, when we’re tempted to cut somebody else down so that we end up looking better, when we’re tempted to do that, we have to begin to go, oh, that’s insecurity right there. Insecurity is causing me to do that. Gotta call it out, right? That’s the first thing we have to do. Second thing we do is we refuse to give it the final vote. Okay? I don’t know how to stop feeling insecure. I don’t know how to stop it when somebody praises another pastor. Oh, he gave the great.. it was the best message ever, Craig, you got to listen to this. I don’t know how to stop myself from going. “Oh, but what do you think about me?” I don’t know how to stop that. But what I’ve learned is that I can recognize the voice of insecurity and then I can choose not to give it the final vote. I can choose not to do or to say or whatever the thing is that I would do or say if I were listening to the voice of insecurity. Okay?

I’ll give you an example. Just recently, a friend of mine, who’s not living anywhere near us, living pretty far away, mentioned that his wife has been watching our messages throughout the Coronavirus. He said, “Yeah, she really likes the way you teach. Yeah. She really likes the way you handle the Bible.” And like, I should have been like, “Oh, I’m really glad God used me.” But you know what I actually felt inside? I felt inside, “Well, what about you? You keep talking about what she thinks, but what about you? What do you think, right? I want to know what you.” And I went, “Oh, voice of insecurity.” Now, if I had given insecurity the final vote, I would have asked, but I chose not to do that. I recognized its voice, but I refused to give it the final vote.

Then the third thing you got to do is this, you got to transfer your trust, okay? You got to transfer your trust. You got to somehow initiate a transfer of trust so that you’re not trusting in what everybody else thinks to feel secure. You’re not trusting what everybody else thinks to feel solid, right? You’re not trusting what other people think to navigate your way through life. You gotta transfer your trust. And what you got to transfer to is not what other people think about you but it’s what God says about you. I love this. This is the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” That’s a powerful verse. You will keep in perfect peace. See, insecurity and self-obsession, that they don’t lead to peace.

Okay? Insecurity that leads to self-obsession doesn’t lead to peace, but honestly, pride that leads to self-obsession doesn’t lead to peace. Self-obsession doesn’t lead to peace. Whatever is driving us to that point where we’re looking at everything through the selfie-lens, we got to recognize it’s not going to give us peace. It’s only going to give us exhaustion and weariness and frustration and stress and depression. He says, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you.” We got to transfer our trust. One of my favorite proverbs. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, a trap. But whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe,” right? Whoever trust in the Lord is kept safe.

This tendency, this temptation, this dangerous desire to look to other people for our sense of significance. What that leads us to is we’re constantly thinking about ourselves. We’re constantly looking at the world through the lens of ourselves and we’re at the mercy of everybody else. And so, it’s just all that much worse, right? So, that’s how we begin to deal with self-obsession that comes from insecurity, right? First thing, what do we do? We learn to recognize its voice. Second thing is we refuse to give it the final vote. And then the third thing is we begin to transfer our trust. We begin to read Scripture. We begin to pray and ask God for a transformation into what we’re looking for and what we’re looking at.

Listen, what happened to Joseph is tragic. It’s terrible. No question about it. And I’m not saying that everything his brothers did to him was justified. It wasn’t, but it wasn’t unprovoked either, right? He wasn’t a completely innocent party. And I believe that the reason God allowed this to happen was because he was in the process of doing something in Joseph’s life that had to be done. Okay? Here’s the process of taking care of that self-obsession, because he had plans for him. He wanted to bless him, but he also needed to make sure that Joseph was in the place that those blessings were used in the way they were intended. Listen to me, church, listen, sometimes God has to break us of our self-obsession before he can bless us. Do you hear me? Sometimes God has to break us of our self-obsession before he can bless us. Because as we saw last week, the reason God blesses us is never just for our benefit, it’s always so that it flows out of us into other people, and self-obsession will keep that from happening. Okay? So sometimes God has to break us of our self-obsession before he can bless us. We’re going to see next week that God has incredible things that he wants to do in and through Joseph. But he’s got to deal with this self-obsession thing first. Otherwise, he’s just going to hoard those blessings. And that’s not the purpose of them. Okay?

A couple of questions for you as you wrestle with this truth this week, first one, just this. How do I make myself look better by cutting others down? I think we all do it. Okay? And we all have particular areas in our lives where we’re really prone to do it. Maybe it’s Facebook, maybe it’s Twitter. You know, maybe it’s face to face. Maybe it’s behind somebody’s back, right? I remember Joseph gave the bad whisper only when his brothers weren’t there, right? Where in your life are you tempted to do it? How in your life are you tempted to, how do I make myself look better, try to, by cutting others down? Okay? Second question is on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being never, 10 being every chance I get, how tempted am I to brag? Okay? It’s another sign of self-obsession. How tempted am I to brag? And maybe more importantly, what drives that? What drives you to brag? Is it pride or is it insecurity?

Third question. What needs to be broken off of me so I don’t hoard God’s blessing? What work does God need to do in my life so that I’m ready to receive the blessings that God wants to pour into me and through me into the lives of others? Okay? Sometimes, sometimes God has to break something off of us before he can truly begin blessing us. Would you pray with me?

God, as your people, we confess to you that probably all of us spend a whole lot more time than we should looking at life through the selfie-lens. We constantly maneuvering to keep ourselves in the frame and Lord, we stumble and we trip and we fall and we hurt. We divide and we poison and we seek your forgiveness. Lord would you give us the gift of setting us free from the need to see ourselves in everything, the gift of the freedom to move forward on mission with you, living lives that are about you and not all about us. Thank you for the life of Joseph. The example that we find, Lord, may we learn from the example before we have to learn from the hard lessons like he faced. Lord, we invite you to break off of us anything that will keep the blessings bottled up, break it off, and bless us so that we might be a blessing.

Hey, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do this for me? Would you just begin praying right now? Pray for those that are watching all over the world, that don’t have a relationship with God. They’ve never experienced the love of God, what it means to be in a relationship. And if that’s you, I just want to speak to you very briefly for a moment. Here’s what you need to understand today. Maybe as you listen to this message, something began to stir in your heart and you realized, “Hey, I’m looking at life through the selfie-lens. I’m pretty self-obsessed.” Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s insecurity, but you’re realizing that that’s you. And I want you to know you’re not alone. We’re all in that same place. It’s the basis of this thing we call sin.

Sin, it’s the wrong that we do, but it’s all driven by a self-obsession, it’s all driven by a desire to turn away from God and to live life on our own terms. That’s what sin is. It’s insisting on doing things our way and not God’s way. It’s inherently self-obsessed and it’s costly. Because when we turn away from the God of life, we end up in death. Bible says the wages of sin is death. That’s the eternal, endless consequence of sin, death. But our God is so selfless. He is so obsessed with us as his children that are separated from him because of our sin. He sent his own Son, Jesus who lived a perfect life. And then he died on the cross and he did it willingly in order to pay for our sin. Jesus died on the cross to pay you for your sin. For all of the outworkings of your self-obsession, of my self-obsession.

He paid the price. He paid the wages of sin with his own death in his own blood. Three days later, he rose from the dead, and now he offers each of us forgiveness, salvation for all eternity, a place in heaven, and ultimately freedom from this self-obsession that just grinds us down and wears us out. He offers all of that by faith, by simply putting our trust in what he did. And if you’ve never done that before, today’s the day. There’s no reason for you to move forward in life from this moment without putting your faith in the God who is obsessed about you. Here’s how you do it. Wherever you are, you’re just going to have a conversation with God. Here’s what it sounds like. You’re going to say, “God, I have done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I get it. I am self-obsessed. Jesus, thank you for dying for me and my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead and I understand you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, place in heaven, and freedom from myself. Jesus, come into my life. I put my faith in you. I’m going to trust in you and not me anymore. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”

If you prayed that for the first time, we’re so excited. It’s so awesome. We would love to know about it and celebrate with you. A couple of ways you can do that. If you’re watching our online campus, you can just click the button right below me. The “I said yes” button, let us know you said yes to Jesus today. If you don’t see that button around you, you can text the word Jesus to 888-111. Either way you do it, you’re going to get back a link and it’s going to tell you some things are true about you now, that you have that relationship with the God who loves you so much, he’s obsessed with you, because you’re his child. We want to get those truths in your hand. So, please click the “I said yes” button or text Jesus to 888111. Hey, have a great week. Be the hands and the feet of Jesus this week. Get your eyes off yourself and on to others on how you can be an agent of God’s goodness to them this week. God bless. We’ll see you soon.

TRANSFORMATION + TEMPTATION

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

JUNE

13/14

Genesis 39

Last week we saw how Joseph was living his self-centered life with himself as the only priority; this week we see his transformation to God-centered. Others in Joseph’s life see this change in priority and God remains with Joseph through his trials and blesses him with opportunities to be on mission in the world. Check out this week’s message and learn how you can also be an agent for God and be a blessing to others.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

[Reading from Children’s Bible]
Woman: They lied to their father and said Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. But God was with Joseph.

Pharaoh’s Dreams. The traders took Joseph to Egypt. He was thrown into jail. But he did nothing wrong. Joseph trusted God to help him. He made friends with some of the prisoners.

Child: But why did he go to jail?

Woman: That’s a good question, buddy.
[End reading]

Craig: It is a good question. Last time we saw Joseph it was last week. The last time we saw Joseph, he’d been sold into slavery by his brothers in Egypt. But how he ended up in jail? Well, that kind of came out of nowhere, right? Or at least it does in the kids’ versions. And the reason is very simple. The reason is what landed Joseph in jail is not the kind of story that makes for an appropriate bedtime tale for small children. It’s an explicit story and one that we tend to kind of leave out. But the reality is that in the story of how Joseph landed in jail, we find a tremendous story of God’s grace and of hope for ourselves. And so let’s rejoin the story of Joseph, why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Book of Genesis. We’re gonna be in Genesis chapter 39 today.

Now, here’s the thing. If you’re with us last week, you may remember that as we began the story of the life of Joseph, I’ll be honest, I was pretty hard on Joseph, okay? And the reason for that is I believe that in Genesis 37, as we’re told about the early days of Joseph’s life, as a young man, I believe the Bible very intentionally points us to some evidence that he was an incredibly self-centered man, that he looked at life through the selfie-lens. And that well, what happened to him being sold into slavery and then packed off to Egypt and then having his father convinced that he’d been murdered by wild animals. Well, that certainly wasn’t right. And it wasn’t justified by his self-absorption and the way that he interacted with his family. He wasn’t entirely innocent in it. And we’re supposed to see in that story the dangers of self-obsession so that we can kind of steer ourselves free from that particular trap.

But what’s interesting is that when we get to Genesis 39, and by the way, you’ll notice we’re skipping over Genesis 38. And the reason for that is Genesis 38, it’s not about Joseph, it’s about one of his brothers, a man named Judah. And Genesis 38 is definitely a story that could fit into the explicit series. In fact, I was originally planning on teaching the story in Genesis 38. But when I realized that we’re in this pandemic and we have lots of people watching with small children in the room, I decided I am not gonna do that. Because there is no way that I can sort of like, you know, clean up the story of Genesis 38 enough to make it appropriate for small children to be in the room. Feel free to read it and you’ll see exactly what I’m saying about it.

But the interesting thing, of course, is that Genesis 37, is a picture of Joseph as kind of a self-centered man. But Genesis 39 gives us a very different Joseph. It gives us a man who has learned a lesson, he has begun to experience the transformation of God’s grace on his life. And so we move from a man that is probably an example to be avoided, to a man who is an example to be imitated, and I find that incredibly encouraging. And so hopefully you do as well that our past does not necessarily define our future, that who we have been in the past does not dictate who we have to be in the future. And so, I love stories of transformation.

And in Genesis 39, we found a transformed Joseph. Genesis 39 says this. “Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. Now the Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.” I love that the Lord was with Joseph. Again, what’s happened to him is not justified by what he’s done. But he is responsible for setting the stage for what was done to him. His self-absorption, his willingness to brag and to flaunt his signs of success and to talk bad about his brothers to his dad. He’s created some of that. His failures and we saw several of those last week, they did set the stage for some of what’s happened, and yet notice that God is with him. Okay? And I love that because what it says to me is that with God, our failures aren’t fatal. With God, our failures aren’t fatal, and I need to hear that almost every single day. I don’t know about you, but the reality is that throughout this pandemic, I have had to rely on that truth way more times than I like to admit, and maybe you’ve experienced that too.

Maybe, honestly, maybe this whole pandemic thing, this whole quarantine thing has felt like one long string of failures. And maybe, honestly, all you need to hear today, maybe the only reason you’re tuned in is to hear this truth, is that with God our failures aren’t fatal. Maybe you have snapped at your kids over, and over, and over, again. And every time you’re like, “I’m not gonna do that again.” But then it happens, right? Or maybe you’ve taken out your stress on your husband or your wife. I have definitely done that. And I’ve had to tell my wife, “I’m sorry, I’m grumpy. I’m stressed and I’m taking it out on you. Please forgive me.” I’ve had to say that way more times than I care to admit.

Maybe you’re really struggling to stay engaged as a student or as an employee, right? Or maybe you’re trying to navigate this as an employer and you just feel like you’ve made wrong call after a wrong call. Maybe this whole thing feels like a long string of failures. You need to hear this truth. Joseph failed too and yet the Lord was with him. With God, our failures are not fatal. That is great news. And you need to grab a hold of it today. God was with him in spite of his failures.

Now, when his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything that he owned. I love that. I love the fact that it says, “His master saw that the Lord is with him.” Which is actually kind of an interesting thing, if you think about it, because Potiphar was an Egyptian, which meant he didn’t know anything about the Lord. He didn’t know anything about the God of Israel. I mean, the gods, little g gods, that he knew about, they were gods like Re and Osiris, or Seth and Anubis. He wouldn’t have known anything about the God of Israel. He wouldn’t have known anything about the Lord. And yet it says that, “He saw that the Lord was with Joseph.” It didn’t say that he saw that he was a hard worker. It didn’t say that he saw that he had a great work ethic. It didn’t say that he saw he was a smart guy. No, no, it says, “He saw that the Lord is with him.”

How did an Egyptian who knew nothing about the Lord see that the Lord is with Joseph? The only possible answer is that Joseph made it clear that his success was a blessing from God. Joseph made it clear that his success was a blessing from God. That his success was not because of his skill, it was not because of his talent, it was not because of his ability. It was not because of his hard work; he probably did all those things. He put his skill to work, he worked hard, he brought his best work effort to every single day, he probably did all that. But at the end of the day, he pointed out that his success was a sign of God’s blessing. It’s the only way that Potiphar would have known this.

And I love that because it begins to show us a transformation in Joseph. He’s moved from a man who looks at everything through the selfie-lens that he can’t quite get himself out of the frame. And now he’s like taking every bit of attention that comes to him and he’s pointing it back to God. He’s getting himself out of the frame, and he’s pointing people to the Lord. That’s so powerful. Okay? I love that. I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know if he was wearing a WWTLD bracelet. You know, “What Would The Lord Do?” Maybe he had a bumper sticker on his donkey’s backside that said, you know, “In him,” or “He’s greater than I,” or “God is my coupon.” I don’t know.

But somehow, he made it clear. And it says this, it says, “From the time that he,” that would be Potiphar. “From the time that Potiphar put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. The blessing of the Lord was on everything that Potiphar had. I love that.

The blessing of the Lord wasn’t just on Joseph, the blessing of the Lord was on this Egyptian, it was on his entire household and everything that he had in the house and out in the field. And I love that because that’s the whole purpose of blessing. It’s a great picture of why God blesses us. Listen, God blesses us so we can be a blessing. That’s the whole point. God blesses us so we can be a blessing. The blessing is supposed to pour into us and then out of us onto others, even onto non-believers. Often that’s how they end up seeing the Lord is through the blessings that pour out of us onto them.

The blessings that we can point back to God is the ultimate source of. You know, I’ve said several times, because I think it’s important that what happens to Joseph, what his brothers did to him was not justified even though he had provoked on some level. But as I said last week, I think it’s also important that we recognize that I believe one of the reasons that God allowed him to go through that, one of the reasons that God allowed him to be in this mess was because God needed to break him so that he could bless him. God needed to break off of Joseph that part that was gonna hold on to the blessings and keep them for himself and for his glory and his benefit. That’s never been the purpose of blessings. Blessings are always supposed to go out, always supposed to go out. And so sometimes God has to break us of the part that would bottle up those blessings. And I believe that that’s what’s happened to Joseph, that arrogance, that insecurity that self-obsession, that me-centeredness. It’s been broken. And now the blessings are flowing into Joseph and they’re flowing out of him as they’re supposed to.

I love that picture. I love it. I love that picture. Joseph is kind of like God’s inside man in Potiphar’s operation. And I think that’s actually a great way for the followers of Jesus to think about themselves out in the world, whether that’s in a neighborhood, or in school, or on a team, or on a work situation, I think we should actually say to ourselves. We should say, “Hey, as long as I’m here, God’s got a man or a woman on the inside of this operation.” I love that, right. That’s how we should think. We should say, “Wherever I am, you know, as long as I’m here, God’s got a man or a woman on the inside of this operation, an agent of blessing.” I think that’s fantastic. But listen, it’s not enough that we think of ourselves as agents of God’s blessing. It’s not enough that we think of ourselves as being God’s man or woman on the inside of the operation. Other people need to know that that’s who we are too. We got to be outspoken. We got to be bold enough about whose we are that people don’t mistake what we do for a sign of our competence or our skill. We’ve gotta be able to point them back to who God is, to who Jesus is, right? I love that.

How do we do it? I don’t know exactly how Joseph did it, but I can make a pretty educated guess, I think. I don’t think he did it by slacking off. I don’t think he did it by screwing up. I don’t think that if Joseph had been a slacker if he’d been a big screw up, I don’t think people would have seen God blessing them through Joseph. And so, I think as followers of Jesus, we could probably pay attention to that concept. The concept that how we work reflects on the God that we serve, and how we serve those around us reflects on the God who wants to bless them through us. I’ve said it before, but I think this is so important.

The followers of Jesus need to be so good at our jobs, we need to be such great neighbors, we need such great teachers, we need to be so good on our team and in our school and about, we need to be so good and focused and have such a great work ethic that people look at us and go, “I don’t know what I think about Jesus, but his people are amazing. I don’t know what I think about this Jesus guy, but I know that she’s a huge blessing.” And it’s in that that they begin to see through us to the God who blesses. Listen to me, the quality of our work, the quality of our work can draw attention to the greatness of our God. You wanna be on mission with Jesus? That’s one simple way to do it. Just grab hold of that truth and understand that the quality of our work can draw attention to the greatness of our God. That when we work hard, when we work well, we bless those around us, and people begin to see through us to the one who is pouring out that blessing not only into us but through us onto them.

And so, Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care. And with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food that he ate. Now Joseph was well built and handsome. He’s a good looking dude. And after a while, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me.” After a while, Potiphar’s wife saw that he is a good looking dude. She found herself attracted, she entertained attraction. That’s the dangerous next step. She thought about it. And then she took that next step, and she said, “Come to bed with me.” Here’s what you need to understand. Temptation always follows transformation. Temptation always follows transformation. We are seeing a transformed Joseph, we are seeing a man who’s pointing people to God, we’re seeing a man who’s willing to take himself out of the frame so that God gets the glory. We’re seeing a man who works hard to draw attention to the greatness of his God. Okay, that is a transformed man. But temptation always follows transformation because we have an enemy.

We have an enemy who hates that transformation. We have an enemy who wants to take us off track. And so as soon as he sees spiritual breakthroughs in our lives, as soon as he sees us beginning to move forward in becoming like Jesus and joining him on mission, and as soon as he begins to see us having success in that, he brings temptation our way to try to take us off track. I wish I didn’t have to tell you that, but I’ve seen it in my own life. You’ve probably seen in yours if you’ve been walking with Jesus for a while, it seems like every time there’s a spiritual breakthrough, temptation is right on its heels. Or maybe you haven’t seen that because you’re new to following Jesus, in which case, sorry to give you the bad news, but if you’ve just recently said yes to following Jesus, you need to know that you have an enemy out there who’s gonna do everything he can to take you off track.

And one of the ways he’s gonna do it, he’s gonna bring temptation into your life, to tangle you up, to trip you up, to knock you down and to take you off track. Temptation always follows transformation. Joseph has been transformed. And here this woman comes trying to take him off track, but he refused, but he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “My master does not concern himself with anything in the house. Everything he owns, he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld help nothing from me except you because you are his wife. How then, can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” I love that. So he recognizes that he might be able to get away with it. Nobody else is necessarily around other or that necessarily anybody seeing what’s gonna happen. But even if nobody else on earth saw, he knows he has a God in heaven who sees that, and he can’t do that. He says, “How can I do such a wicked thing and sinned against God?”

And though she spoke to Joseph day after day…right, she kept after him, she kept after him. He refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. And in the original Hebrew that that’s written in, it literally says that, “He refused to lay with her or even to be near her.” In other words, he was going out of his way to make sure that he wasn’t in the same places that she was, that he was trying to put some distance between him and her. And I think that’s an incredibly important principle. We need to put as much distance between ourselves and sin as possible. It’s great to have the strength of resolve in that moment to go, “No,” to refuse to give in to temptation. But the thing is, temptation can wear us down over time, it can wear us down. And so, one the things we have to do is we have to put as much distance as possible between ourselves and sin so that we’re not constantly being worn down. And we don’t have to constantly put our resolve to the test, right?

Maybe you struggle with addiction in the past, and maybe you already know this. But if you’ve struggled with addiction in the past, some times you have to change your life, sometimes you have to start taking a different route to work, and a different route home so you don’t go past the same places that were once part of your struggle with that addiction. Or maybe you’ve got a different group of friends now, because that other group of friends, they were part of the problem and as long as you continue to spend time with them, you’re gonna find yourself dragged down by them and so you’ve had to make changes in your relationships.

Maybe you struggle because you’re looking at some stuff on the internet that you know you’ve got no business looking at. Maybe what you need to do, you need to put some filters in place. And then you need to have somebody that you trust put the passwords in for those filters so that you don’t have access to them. You need to put the distance between yourself and sin that’s necessary. Maybe if you’re finding your eye drawn to a guy or a girl, at the gym, or at work or somewhere, and maybe you find yourself tempted to go from the moment of attraction to entertaining that attraction in your mind. And so you realize, “I got to do something, I gotta change my schedule, am I gonna work out at a different time. Or maybe even get a transfer in the company or maybe even have to change my job because I’m not gonna go down that road.” And you’ve got to do what’s necessary to stay away from sin. And sometimes what’s necessary is to put as much distance as possible.

That’s what Joseph’s doing. He didn’t just refuse to lay with her. He refused even to be near her, which is probably kind of tricky. But he had to do it. He had to do it in order to honor God with his life. Kind of reminds me of something that I find in the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews is writing to the followers of Jesus. And he says this, he says, “In your struggle against sin, you’ve not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” You’ve not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. Sometimes, we got a struggle, and we got to struggle hard.

That’s what Joseph is doing. He’s doing whatever is necessary. Unfortunately, here’s the reality. Sometimes we do that, and sin just keeps knocking. Check this out. This is verse 11. “One day, he went into the house to attend his duties, and none of the household’s servants were inside. And she caught him by his cloak, and she said, ‘Come to bed with me.’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” He came in that one day, right? He came in and he’s been trying to stay away from her but this day he came in and looked around and he was like, “Well, where is everybody?” And maybe had one of those slow-motion, “Oh, no.” And right about then he turns around and she grabs a hold of his cloak. Now understand this is basically his clothes. It’s not like a coat that you could take off when you came into the house and still be perfectly well dressed. No, no, this is basically his clothes and she grabs ahold and she’s pulling him and he’s resisting. And he’s realizing, “I’m not gonna able to get out of this in any clean way.” And so what does he do? He shrugged himself out of his robes and he takes off, which basically means that he ran out of the house nearly naked. Okay, let’s not miss this. He ran out of the house, nearly… and he ran into the streets, and it was humiliating. But sometimes, that’s what you got to do if you really wanna honor God with your life and stay out of the clutches of the enemy. Stay out of the quicksand of sin.

Sometimes you got to pay a price. Listen, sometimes resisting sin is costly. Sometimes it is costly. Is there sin in your life that you find yourself trapped in again, and again, and again. And are you trapped there because honestly, when you consider what it would cost to get yourself away from the temptation or to say a final definitive “No, I won’t go down that road anymore.” Honestly, the cost is so great that you just haven’t been willing to pay it. God, may be speaking to you right now and saying, “It is time to pay the price.” Sometimes resisting sin is costly. And I’d love to tell you that as long as you’re willing to fight sin to the death, you’ll always win. As long as you’re willing to resist no matter what the cost is, it’ll always work out really well for you. But that’s not the world that we live in, right? That’s not the world that we live in.

He runs away and she’s they’re left holding his clothes and says this, “That when she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “This Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us. He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed, and when he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and he ran out of the house.” Doesn’t that just make your blood boil? Right? The injustice of that. He’s done everything right and he’s getting a raw deal. She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. And then she told him the story, “That Hebrew slave that you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house. And when his master heard the story his wife told him saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger. And Joseph master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.”

That’s hard, right? Sometimes you do everything right, and you still get a raw deal. Sometimes you pay the price of doing what is righteous, and injustice is your reward. It’s the way it works in the world sometimes. But listen to me, this is so important to understand. As the followers of Jesus, we do what is right because it’s right not because it’s rewarded. It would have been great if somehow because Joseph did what was right, his master saw through his wife’s lie. It would have been great if somehow his master recognized that Joseph was innocent. But that’s not what happened. Joseph didn’t get the reward of his good behavior in that moment. And actually, he didn’t get the reward of that good behavior ever, honestly. Not at the hands of any human being.

But, listen to me, no right thing has ever gone unrewarded by God. I can’t promise you that every right thing that you do because it’s right and not just because it’s gonna be rewarded, every right thing that you do I can’t promise it’s gonna be rewarded in the here and now. I can’t promise it’s gonna be rewarded by human beings. But I promise that you have a Father in heaven who watches and no right thing you’ve ever done has ever been missed. It has been filed away and there is a reward waiting for you. There’s a day you’re gonna stand in front of him and every right thing you’ve ever done because it was right will be rewarded. Joseph didn’t get the reward of his good behavior in this moment, but it’s waiting for him in heaven, I promise you.

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him. And he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” So interesting, once again, we’re told that Joseph is in a mess, but the Lord was with him. And I’m gonna be honest, I don’t like that. See, for me, the evidence that the Lord is with me should lead to not being in the mess, right? If God’s really with me, then I shouldn’t be treated unjustly. If God is really with me, then I shouldn’t be suffering because of false accusations. And I’ve experienced that, many of you have as well. You know what it’s like to be treated unjustly. You know what it’s like to have your motives twisted and everything you say twisted into something that it was never intended to be. You know exactly what that’s like, you know how hard it is, how frustrating it is. And when I’m in that moment, honestly, I don’t want the Lord to be with me in the mess. I want him to get me out of it, right? That’s the proof that the Lord is with me is that he’s fixing the mess that I’m in through no fault of my own. That’s, to me, the best evidence of God’s presence being with me, that he gets me out of the mess. And this is challenging for me because it doesn’t say that he was released from jail. It doesn’t say that his innocence was discovered. It says that he stayed in jail. But the Lord was with him. That’s a hard truth for me.

When the devil is coming against me with all the tricks in his arsenal, and honestly, it feels like it’s working, and I’m suffering and I’m hurting. I tend to feel like I’m off God’s radar. But I read this, and I know the truth. I know it. It’s just hard to hold on to sometimes. Here’s the truth. Just because you’re in the devil’s sights doesn’t mean you’re off God’s radar, okay? Just because the devil is coming at you with everything he’s got doesn’t mean that God is not with you. It does not mean that you’re off God’s radar. The Lord was with him in the midst of his mess. And so, the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison. And he was made responsible for all that was done there. And the warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. Here’s what I want to know. I wanna know how long it took Joseph to realize that the Lord was with him in giving him success in everything he did. Because I’ll be honest, if it was me, it probably would have taken me a while. I would have had my eyes fixed on the injustice. I would have had my heart set on the frustration of being treated so poorly and unfairly.

And I don’t know if Joseph struggled with that or not, but at some point, he managed to look around and realized that even though he was still in the mess, God was with him and God was blessing him. And that’s challenging to me. It’s challenging to me because what it says to me is, that until I start to look around for God in the midst of the mess, I’m gonna be blind to a lot of blessings. That until I start looking to see the signs that God is with me in the mess, I am gonna be blind to a lot of things that God is doing for me. I’m gonna be blind to a lot of the signs that he is present with me and I’m gonna be completely oblivious to the opportunity to be a blessing and to be on mission with them.

Here’s the truth. Every mess has an opportunity for a mission. Every mess that we find ourselves in no matter how unjustly provides an opportunity for a mission. And Joseph began to see the signs of God’s presence, he began to see the opportunities and he began to be a blessing to those around him. And ultimately, if you know the story as it goes on, he not only eventually does get released from prison, it doesn’t happen soon, but it does eventually happen. And he rises to the point that he’s actually the number two man in all of Egypt, he becomes a blessing to all of Egypt, he ends up becoming a blessing to the family that sold him into slavery. And he’s reunited with his father ultimately, and he says this incredible thing. He says to his brothers who sold him into slavery he says, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good, for the saving of many people.”

At some point, maybe quickly, maybe he’s better than me. Maybe it took just as long as a day, but he looked around and he realized, “Huh, God is with me in the midst of the mess.” The mess is not a sign that God has abandoned me. And in every mess, there’s an opportunity for mission. How do you grab ahold of those? Maybe you’re listening to this and your life feels like a mess right now. Maybe there’s a really difficult situation you’re facing. And all you wanna do is get God to get you out of there. I get that. I totally understand that.

But here’s what I’m trying to do that I’m challenged to do by the story of Joseph, three things really. The first one is this. It’s to accept that God might have more to do where I am than where I want to be. That’s the first step. I have to accept that if I’m God’s man, and I wanna be on mission with him, that that mission might be in the mess. And I have to accept that, that’s the first part. That’s tough. My youngest daughter challenged me on this. Some of you heard me tell the story, but it’s just it’s so good. I can’t help but tell it again. She was in the midst of chronic pain that she experienced for a couple years, serious, serious, debilitating pain. And I remember somewhere in the midst of that, she said, “Yeah, I’m still praying for God to heal me. I’m still praying for God to release me. But I also understand that he may have some stuff that he wants to do in me and maybe even through me in the midst of this, and I don’t wanna miss that.” She accepted that. Now it is hard when your child surpasses you spiritually in some area. It’s humbling. But it’s powerful. She accepted it. And I’m trying to do the same thing to accept that God may have more to do in my circumstances than he would in the circumstances I’m hoping for, okay, that’s the first step.

Second thing is, we’re gonna change the way we pray. So we’re gonna pray for God to use me in the mess not just to get me out of it. Okay, that’s the second thing. Pray for God to use me in the mess not just to get me out of it. It’s okay to pray for God to get you out of it, that’s okay. That’s what’s on your heart. God loves to hear what’s on your heart. Pray that too. But don’t forget to also pray. “In the meantime, Lord, use me.” Because the reality is sometimes there is a mission that we can be on in the mess that won’t be there, the opportunity will not be there when we’re out of the mess. So, change the way we pray.

Third thing I’m trying to do, and I’m gonna challenge you to do, is to start looking for opportunities rather than an exit strategy, right? I have to accept that God may have more to do in the situation than the one I wanna be in, then I’m gonna pray that God would use me and not just set me free. And then third, I’m gonna start actively looking around because we often see what we look for, and we don’t see what we’re not looking for. So I’m gonna start looking for opportunities to be on mission rather than an exit strategy. I love the story of Joseph. I love the story of a self-obsessed young man who’s transformed. But the transformation doesn’t change all of his circumstances. But he is a different man in those circumstances, he is God’s man on the inside. And I want that to be true of me. And I think you want that to be true of you. I know, I want that to be true of you. Whatever difficult circumstance you find yourself in, I want you to be God’s man or woman on the inside. Being a blessing, being on mission with him.

Here’s a few questions to help kind of wrestle with these truths. The first one is just this. What criteria am I using to determine whether or not God’s with me? What signs am I looking for to see that I believe God is actually with me? And when I begin to realize that my criteria aren’t necessarily the right ones, that my circumstances aren’t the best indicator of whether or not God is with me, then I need to start looking for some other signs. And so what signs do I see that he is with me? I had to do that this past week. And as I began to lift with my eyes off of the circumstances, I began to be able to go, “Well, God’s done that and, oh, God’s gonna move there and oh, this is happening, and this was happening.” And it was actually a really humbling experience. I was sharing with the staff this past week, that when I actually got my eyes up, I was a little ashamed of how deeply discouraged I was by the circumstances and realized that there are so many signs that God’s with me. And you’ll find the same thing too. So set aside those unhelpful criteria and start looking for the real signs that God is with you maybe even in the midst of your circumstances.

Second question is, where do I need to put more distance between myself and temptation? What’s that one sin that you keep struggling, with the one sin that you keep falling back into? Is it possible that the reason you keep falling back into it because you keep skirting the edge of that pit? You keep walking on the edge of that cliff and so yeah, keep slipping off. And so you need to put more distance and what cost do you have to pay to put that kind of distance between you and that sin that the enemy is bringing your way to take you off mission with Jesus? And then lastly, what’s the biggest mess in my life? What’s the biggest mess in your life? And what opportunity for mission does it offer? I promise you. Every mess has an opportunity for mission. There’s no question about that. The only question is whether or not we will seize those opportunities. Would pray with me?

God, as the followers of Jesus, we come before you and we confess that our eyes are easily taken off you by our difficult circumstances, by the injustices we face, by the bad ways that were treated, or simply, Lord, by circumstances that are not what we would have preferred. We fix our eyes on those rather than you and we ask for your forgiveness. We thank you for the example of Joseph, who was able somehow to recognize that you were with him in spite of the fact that his circumstances didn’t just get better overnight. But he was on mission with you. He was your man on the inside of that operation being a blessing. As you blessed him, he poured that out on to others. And Lord we wanna do the same thing. We ask for the strength through the power of your Holy Spirit to do exactly that.

Speaking about being on mission, easy way to do that, if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you begin praying right now for those people watching around the world who don’t have a relationship with our God? And if that’s you, if you’d be honest, and you say, “I don’t trust Jesus, I’ve never put my faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t have a relationship with this God that you’re talking about.” But somehow God brought you to this moment listening to this message and that’s not an accident. God is at work in your life, drawing you to himself. And maybe more than anything else this is all you need to understand. It’s that thing that we said right back at the very beginning, that your failures aren’t fatal. Maybe honestly, you’re listening to this and you have a hard time believing that God would want anything to do with you because of all the ways that you’ve fallen short, all the ways that you have failed. And you need to hear the truth, your failure is not fatal, not to his love for you, and not to his desire to bless you or to be in a relationship with you. You know how I know that? It’s because the Bible says, “That while we were yet sinners, while we were yet failing to live up to the standards that God’s set for us, while we were yet sinners, Christ, Jesus Christ died for us.” He died for us in the midst of the failures. He didn’t expect us to get it all right before he was willing to come to us. He came to us to rescue us in the midst of the failures, in the midst of our sin.

God loves you. No matter how badly you’ve messed up, it is not fatal for his love for you or for his desire to be in a relationship. Jesus came, he lived a perfect life, and then he died on the cross to pay for your sin, to pay for my sin. He paid it all off. He purchased forgiveness in his blood. Three days later, he rose from the dead. It’s a fact of history. And he offers us salvation by faith, that if we will simply trust in what he did on the cross, our sins will be forgiven. The debt wiped clean, and we will begin a relationship with God that begins now and goes on forever. And if you’ve never said yes to what he did for you, if you’ve never received his gift, you can have it right now. Here’s how you do it.

Wherever you are, just have this conversation with God. You’re just gonna say to him, “Hey, God, I have failed. I’ve sinned. I’ve done wrong. And I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my failures, my sins. I believe you rose from the dead and I’m putting my faith in you. I’m putting my trust in you. Jesus, I’ll follow you. Thank you for forgiveness, for freedom from sin and darkness and a relationship with God Almighty himself. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

If you’ve made that decision for the first time, that’s so awesome. So excited for you. We would love to know about it. Would you just do me a favor? Would you just let us know that you said yes to Jesus today, you can click the button right below me. Or you can text the word Jesus to 888111. And what’s gonna happen is you’re just gonna get back a link, it’s gonna tell you some things that are true about you now that you have this relationship with God, that you’ve been set free from every failure, from every sin. We wanna put those truths into your hands. So please let us know so we can get those things to you and so we can celebrate your new life in Christ.

Things are still kind of a mess out there, Mission Hills. That’s okay. We are God’s men and women on the inside. And we have a mission. So let’s be on the mission with Jesus this week. Hopefully, we’ll see you all in person real soon. God bless.

SUFFOCATING YOUR SUFFICIENCY

REZA ZADEH

JUNE

27/28

Numbers 20:7-12

An unwillingness to surrender your self-sufficiency to God creates a barrier to his ability, power and plans for you. You do not have to to have all the skills when setting out in reliance on God; God will equip you with what you need.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

[Reading from Children’s Bible]
Child: Food from Heaven. The Israelites traveled for many days. They were tired and hungry. They complained to Moses, ”There is nothing to eat in the desert. At least we had food in Egypt. Now, we’re starving.” God heard them. That evening, God sent birds called quail for the Israelites to eat. The next morning, God sent bread from heaven. It was called manna, tasted like honey. The Israelites found manna on the ground, but they complained again, ”We’re thirsty.” Moses asked God what to do. ”Hit the rock with your staff.” Then when Moses hit it, cool fresh water gushed out front for everyone to drink. While, they were in the desert, the Israelites would not go hungry or thirsty again.
[End reading]

Reza: It would be really nice if that’s how cut and clean the story of Moses was. But I gotta tell you, it wasn’t that clean. You know, the story of Moses is one that many people are familiar with. You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the story of Moses. I grew up in a Muslim household being from the Middle East, and I knew the story of Moses, but yet it wasn’t just like it was depicted in that children’s Bible. Although again, it would be really nice if it was, but yet the story of Moses is it’s almost the original rags to riches story. This little Hebrew boy that was born in a world of chaos, where there was actually babies being killed because the Egyptians who were in power of the Hebrews, which is the nationality that Moses was from, they had enslaved the Hebrews and the Egyptians were nervous about the Hebrews uprising and overthrowing them because the Hebrews were slaves to the Egyptians.

And so all the little baby boys were to be killed. And yet the story goes, and many of us are familiar with because we’ve watched “The Prince of Egypt,” that cartoon that came out 20 years ago or Charlton Heston in the classic Ten Commandments story that Moses this little baby was put in the Nile River by his mother and then adopted into Pharaoh’s household. Pharaoh was the king of Egypt, the ruler of all of Egypt. And so here’s this little poor Hebrew boy that was brought up as a prince of Egypt, that was brought up as royalty. And it’s this really wonderful story that many of us know. We know Moses as the one that God called in the wilderness, that stood before God in a burning bush. And God said, ”Moses, you will free my people.” And Moses goes confidently before Pharaoh and says, ”Let my people go.” And Pharaoh relinquishes and Moses leads the Hebrews out of Egypt and into the desert, into the Red Sea, parts the Red Sea, and then through the wilderness and then ultimately into the Promised Land.

But we’re gonna take a look today. And the story was not that clean, that Moses, there was a dark side to his life. There was a dark side to the leadership of Moses. And it’s a dark side that you and I have to be aware of because I think as we uncover a little bit of the character of Moses through the interactions that we see between him and God, we’re gonna see a little bit of ourselves in the midst of these interactions. We might see a little bit of ourselves in Moses and some of the warnings that Moses was given by God, I think are true for you and me.

So these dark sides, we’re gonna uncover again today. And so we’re gonna take a look at an instance in Scripture, this is towards the end of Moses’ time, leading the Hebrews through the wilderness. They were just on the cusp of the Promised Land, the land that God had promised their forefather, Abraham, that he was gonna give to all of his people, the Hebrews. And so Moses had been leading the Hebrews through the wilderness on this journey of 40 years. And just before they were gonna enter into this Promised Land, Moses has this interaction with God. You see, the people were frustrated and oftentimes people were frustrated with Moses. You see, when you’re the leader, when you’re the one that everyone is looking to, that everyone’s frustrations and expectations end up on your shoulders. And this is where Moses found himself.

The people were hungry. The people were tired of walking around. They had thought to themselves, “Why didn’t we just stay in Egypt? Would have been much easier to stay in slavery because we were fed, and we were never thirsty.” And isn’t it interesting that the Hebrews that had tasted freedom, had a propensity to desire going back to slavery because their needs were met? And Moses takes all of this frustration out and he finds himself incredibly angry with the people and once again, they are hungry, and they are thirsty. And through the wilderness, God had provided food as we just heard. Manna came from heaven in the form of flakes, bread, quail would come. And there was an instance in the wilderness where Moses was asking God to help give these people drink because the land was parched. And God told Moses to take his staff and strike a rock. And when he struck that rock, water flowed from that rock.

So that was then. That was the history of Moses and the Israelites. But now they find themselves that they’re about to walk into the Promised Land. And once again, the people are thirsty. Pick it up with me in Numbers chapter 20 verse 7. It says, The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff and you and your brother, Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock, before their eyes it will pour out its water.” So once again, God’s gonna do a miracle. He’s gonna provide water from a rock. The first time, Moses was supposed to strike the rock with the staff. Now, God tells Moses to simply speak to the rock before their eyes and you will see the water come out. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink. So Moses took the staff from the Lord’s presence just as he commanded him. He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock. And Moses said to them, Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock. Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land that I will give them.”

You see, Moses this time wasn’t supposed to strike the rock, but simply speak to the rock. And his disobedience caused him to pay a steep price that that thing that he longed for, for most of his adult life, if not all of his adult life was to see the Promised Land that God had promised he was not able to go to because he acted in disobedience. It seems kind of harsh. Why would God have such a harsh punishment? Didn’t Moses just make a mistake? Didn’t he just lash out in anger and just. Are we punished when we simply lash out in anger? I think as we take a look at the layers of Moses’ life and some of the patterns, we’re not only gonna see why this punishment was necessary, but some warnings for you and I, as we might see ourselves in the story of Moses.

You see, anger and disobedience sort of followed Moses along throughout the course of his life. You see, at some point in his young life, when he was… by the time he was 40 years old, he realized he was not an Egyptian, yet he was a Hebrew. He had known. He had understood that he was born a Hebrew, but yet he was brought up in the palace that he was within Pharaoh’s army, within Pharaoh’s family. And he was brought up and then he finds himself looking back. And he’s realizing that I’m actually a part of the family that enslaves my own people. I’m a part of the social and the economic structure that enslaves my own people. And it didn’t sit well with Moses. And he saw the injustice of his people and he ends up snapping.

And we’re gonna take a look in Exodus that lays out the story of the early years of Moses in leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. Meet me in Exodus chapter 2 as Moses realizes that he’s not an Egyptian, but yet he is Hebrew. And in chapter 2, verse 11, it says, ”One day after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and he watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Looking this way in that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.”

You see, not only did Moses out of anger, snap and kill the Egyptian, whether he choked him or struck him, we don’t know. He killed the Egyptian. He looked around, realized nobody was around, so he took the Egyptians body and he buried it in the sand. You see, not only did he lash out in anger, he also tried to hide his sin. You see, there’s this person in the New Testament by the name of Stephen. Stephen is what we call the first martyr of the Christian faith. A martyr is simply someone that dies because they proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah.

And at Stephen’s stoning, when he was executed for being a follower of Jesus, he actually lays out the sermon and he gives us a little bit of insight into the story of Moses. And in Acts chapter 7, as we take a look at this, he also speaks about this time when Moses killed the Egyptian. What Stephen says is that Moses actually wanted to start the rebellion of the Hebrews himself. You see, he was trying to take things into his own hands. That he himself realizing he was a Hebrew, wanted to start the rebellion in his own hands, in his own strength. And then later on, Stephen goes on in Acts chapter 7, as he lays out what Moses did with the Egyptian, he then gives us a picture of what happened next. He says, ”The next day, Moses actually comes upon two Hebrews, two of his own people and they’re fighting with one another.” Now word may have spread about Moses, actually being a Hebrew and enslaving his own people. But these two Hebrews are fighting, and Moses stands between them and separates them. He actually believes that he is called to police his own people. He says, “Hey, why are you two fighting?”

And an Acts 7, verse 27, Stephen, as he’s preaching about Moses, he says, ”The response of the men who were fighting” that Moses stepped in the middle of in verse 27, chapter 7 of Acts, But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?” Then it goes on to say, When Moses heard this, he fled into the wilderness and into the desert. You see Moses thought that his sin was covered up. He had thought that him killing the Egyptian and buried him in the sand, he actually thought the Hebrews would appreciate that for him. But he saw that his reputation had taken a hit. That actually he tried to step in and police his own people, taking things into his own hands. And not only did he bury his sin by burying the Egyptian, he runs away when he finds out that his sin has actually been exposed.

So he runs away to the desert. He lives another 40 years in the desert. So he had 40 years in Egypt. And then he flees at about 40 years old. For another 40 years he goes into the desert. He ends up getting married, raising a family. He’s a shepherd living that sheep life, hanging out with sheep, shepherding sheep, going up and down mountains going after sheep. And one day a sheep goes up on a mountain, presumably, and he goes, and he follows. And he has this interaction with God and in the burning bush. And God calls him and says, “You’re the one that I choose to rescue my people out of slavery in Egypt. And I’m calling you to go back.” And Moses probably thought to himself, “That was 40 years ago. That’s just a distant memory to me. I’m an old man. I’m 80 years old.”

And so he comes and he says, “God, I’m not your guy. I’m not gonna do this.” You see, Moses thought it was supposed to be in his own power and his own strength. And he may have thought back to the previous four decades, thinking about what he had done in Egypt and thinking I have too bad of a reputation to even step foot in Egypt, let alone go stand before the Pharaoh. You see, Moses tried to take things in his own hands thinking it was about his power and his strength. And then God gives him the Commandments. Moses eventually goes back to Egypt, and he helps free the Hebrews out of slavery. And he brings them into the wilderness up against the Red Sea, God parts the Red Sea, Moses walks through with all of the people. And they come to Mount Sinai.

And in Mount Sinai, Moses goes up and the people were to wait for him. And Moses goes up and he’s gone for a long time. And so the people think to themselves, Moses probably isn’t even coming back. And so they find themselves lost in the wilderness. So they do what they saw the Egyptians do. And they built a golden calf for an image of an animal and they worship that animal, yet, the whole time Moses is up at Mount Sinai, talking with God and God is literally giving him his Commandments, giving him his statues, giving him his precepts letting Moses know this is how the people are to live holy. And so Moses carries these Commandments and he is to bring them down and present them to the people. And out of anger because he sees them worshiping a golden calf, he takes those Commandments that God had given him and he shatters them on the ground.

You see, Moses thought that he was to enforce judgment on people. God had never told Moses to enforce the law, just to simply present God’s laws to the people. Moses tried to take things into his own hands. And then we find ourselves in what we just read, for the second time the people are thirsty, and God tells Moses, “I’m gonna do something miraculous that I’m gonna show the people my power simply speak to the rock and water will flow.” And Moses out of disobedience takes the staff and he hits the rock with the staff.

Scripture tells us that Moses was angry, that he was fed up. And because of the grumbling of the people, he just couldn’t hold it in any longer. He took the staff and he hits the rock two times. And yet God’s water comes out to feed the people, but yet Moses faced a stiff penalty because he tried to take things into his own hands. See, there’s a pattern with Moses, isn’t there? There’s a pattern of anger, of disobedience and trying to take matters into his own hands.

You see, you might have an anger problem. You might identify with Moses saying, “Yeah, I lash out when things don’t go the way that I think they should.” Or you might be saying, “Hey, I don’t have an anger problem, but I too have tried to hide my sin or run away from it without reconciliation.” But yet I don’t think the greatest offense of Moses wasn’t anger. I don’t think it was covering up sin or running away from sin. I think Moses’s greatest offense towards God was his propensity towards self-sufficiency. Not anger, not sin, not running away, not burying, but being self-sufficient. You see, when you’re self-sufficient you have no room to be God-sufficient. You see when you’re self-sufficient, there’s only one person, there’s only room for one person to call the shots in your life. You’re either calling the shots or you’re allowing God to call the shots. You’ve got two options.

Being self-sufficient means there’s no room for being God-sufficient. And God’s desire for us is to grow in our God-sufficiency and to suffocate our self-sufficiency. You see, being God-sufficient allows us to relinquish control of our lives over to the one who created us for a purpose. And yet, sometimes because we don’t trust or because we don’t know what the outcome’s gonna be, or just because it feels scary, we take the reins of our life back and we become self-sufficient. See this is exactly what Moses did. You see, when you lose your God-sufficiency, you lose something incredibly valuable. You lose the ability to walk in faith. Because without faith, if you don’t have faith and your self-sufficient, if you don’t have faith then you’re not able to see God at work or able to see God’s work.

Scripture literally tells us that without faith, it’s impossible to even please God. But the majority of the miracles and the teachings of Jesus himself that we see in the gospels were not to give a theological knowledge about God. But Jesus himself says that the reason these miracles happen as John, the apostle, he wrote down all the miracles in his Gospel says, ”I wrote all these down so that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Jesus is wanting to build the faith of his disciples, not simply give theological knowledge. And when we’re self-sufficient, we’re not able to have the faith that allows us to see God at work.

So let’s expose a little bit of Moses’ self-sufficiency. You see, we know that he killed the Egyptian and he tried to start the rebellion injustice and take it into his own hands. That he stepped in between the two Hebrews that are fighting, and he tried to police his own people and take justice into his own hands. That he’s broke the tablets because he was angry at the people’s sin and them worshiping like the Egyptians worship. And he took things in his own hands, figuring that he was the one to execute God’s judgment on people.

But see, I wanna take a look at the interaction that Moses had specifically with God at the burning bush. Because we’re gonna take a look, we’re gonna see a little bit of Moses’ insecurity and some objections he has towards God. And so as many of us know the story, and we touched on it briefly a little bit earlier, Moses is up on the mountainside, doing what he normally does. He’s shepherding sheep and going after sheep that wander. And so on one of these wandering days, he follows a sheep on a mountainside, and here’s this bush that is burning, but does not burn up. And he realizes it is holy ground. And the Lord is speaking to Moses and calling Moses to go back. And we pick up in Exodus chapter 3, verse 11 is Moses hears God saying, “You are the one that I wanna send.” And in verse 11, it says, “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

Again, maybe he thought it was his reputation that kept him from being able to go back. Maybe he thought he was eliminated because of what he’d done in the past. But here’s the greatest thing, your reputation or what’s happened in the past, our reputation is no match for God’s restoration. In verse 12, God responds. “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you. When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” You see, God would be the one who would be the deliverer. Moses was gonna be the instrument. God is the one who would be the deliverer and Moses was gonna be the instrument. You see, knowing God is with you is much more important than knowing exactly what you’re supposed to do or what you’re supposed to say.

And so after this, God gives him some instructions and tells Moses exactly how it’s gonna work out and how he’s gonna free his people. But Moses still didn’t trust God. And it goes on in Exodus chapter 4, verse 1. And Moses answered. “What if,” “What if they don’t believe me or listen to me and say, “The Lord did not appear to you?” And here’s where God is trying to tell Moses, it’s not important if they don’t believe you, what’s important is you doing what I say? And so God tells Moses, “What is that in your hand?” And he says, “I’ve got a staff in my hand. I’m a shepherd.” Shepherds use staffs. God tells Moses to throw that staff down on the ground. He throws the staff on the ground. It turns into a snake. Moses being someone who has been in the desert for 40 years, shepherding sheep knows if you see a snake, you run away. So Moses runs away and God says, “No, no, no, come on back. I want you to grab that snake.” And so out of fear and trembling, Moses picks up that snake and it becomes a staff once again.

You see, that staff or rod that Moses used, that God had given him, that God was showing Moses, that he is Lord over all creation that can take a staff and turn it into a snake and take a snake and turn it into a staff. God wasn’t just doing some magic tricks. He was actually showing that, he is Lord over all miracles. He is Lord over all creation. He’s able to use anything that we possess, that if we surrender to him and we use it for his glory and his purposes. You know that staff of Moses was used in incredible ways to not only help the Hebrews be out from under the rule of the Egyptians, but even the Red Sea was parted when that staff was used.

That water came from the rock in a previous encounter in the wilderness because that staff was used. That staff of God was powerful because it was handed over to the Lord and used by him to do his works. And it’s the same staff that God gave Moses. And it gave him courage to go. But yet Moses comes up with another excuse in verse 10, “Moses said, “Pardon your servant Lord. I’ve never been eloquent. Neither in the past or since you’ve spoken to me, I’m slow of speech or tongue. Look, I can’t do this in my own strength. I can’t do this. I don’t speak very well.” And God’s response says, “Who gave human beings their mouth? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, I will help you speak. And I will teach you what to say.”

You see, God turned the focus from Moses’ self to God. You see, God takes Moses’s attention… he says, “Hey, it’s not about what you can do or what you can’t do. It’s about who I am and what I’m able to accomplish through you.” You see, his skills were not important. It’s his skills that were important. It was his availability that was important. When God calls us somewhere, it doesn’t matter if we have the skills to accomplish it. What matters is we put ourselves in a place that we’ll be available for God to use. You see, God doesn’t call qualified people. He qualifies people as they discover their calling and begin the journey of their lives. Then we don’t have to have our life figured out. God doesn’t call people who are fully qualified, yet he qualifies us as we go on the journey that he calls us to.

And finally, in verse 13, Moses draws a line in the sand and literally says, “I’m not going.” Verse 13, “Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord, please send someone else.” Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses.” You see, Moses had objections. Moses had questions. Moses had doubts. The Lord’s anger never burned against Moses when he asked questions or had doubts or objectives. You see, the only time, this interaction where the Lord’s anger burned towards Moses is when Moses, flat out said, “No.” You see, Moses did not trust God. Moses didn’t think that God could do things. Moses thought everything would have to happen in his own strength, minimizing God’s ability. And eventually, Moses relinquishes, goes to Egypt and through miraculous works, the Lord releases his people, the Hebrews, from under the rule of the Egyptians. And they find themselves in the wilderness.

We find ourselves right here at the story that we started with in Numbers chapter 20 on the cusp of the promised land, about to cross over to the Jordan to go into that land flowing with milk and honey. And yet Moses strikes the rock. Why was it such a big deal? Because Moses, the leader of the Hebrews could not be self-sufficient if he was gonna lead God’s people into the Promised Land. Because going into the Promised Land was a gift that God was giving to his people. And when we’re self-sufficient, we have no room to receive the gifts that God gives us. There was no room for Moses to be able to walk in because he has a propensity, not just towards anger and not towards sin, we all wrestle with that, but in his unwillingness to surrender to the will of God and to allow him to be God-sufficient rather than self-sufficient. It’s almost as if Moses told the people, “Must I give you water out of this rock?” taking credit for what only God, himself can do.

The problem wasn’t that God didn’t want to provide water for the people. God wanted to provide water for the people in a specific way that he wanted to show them that through faith, Moses just had to speak to the rock, that it wasn’t gonna be how it was before. God was doing a new thing, doing it in a new way. But Moses had put God in a box. And Moses and Aaron weren’t able to go into the Promised Land because God’s people could not be led by someone who puts God in a box. Moses took situations in his own hand and struck the rock. He found himself in a situation where it was almost like the wind was against him. That it was so hard because of the people grumbling. You know, in the gospels, we read many times where Jesus and his disciples, Jesus very specifically calls his disciples to go places and to do things, knowing that there’ll be trials and wind against them.

You see, right after Jesus had multiplied the bread and the fish Jesus tells his disciples to get in a boat and go on the other side of the waters. And he himself, was going to go spend time with his Father on a mountainside. If you go to Israel and where they show you where that mountainside is, where Jesus went up after he multiplied the fish and the loaves, and he sent his disciples on the boat. When Jesus went up on the mountainside, he could probably see his disciples. That Matthew, his account of the story actually tells that Jesus watched his disciples straining against the wind and the waves. Why would Jesus send his disciples on a journey knowing that the winds and the waves would be against them?

You see, I believe that Jesus will send his disciples and God will send us on a journey for his glory and his purposes knowing that the wind and the waves will be against us so that we will not be tempted to think it was our strength that got us from point A to point B. Because if the wind and the waves are always with us, it’s gonna be really easy to be self-sufficient. But God’s desire for us is to be God-sufficient because what he can accomplish is greater than what we can accomplish in our strength. So God will lead us to places and circumstances where our self-sufficiency is tested. And we must be in a place where we surrender. We finally get to a place where God-sufficient. So we’re not tempted to think that it was our own strength or our own intellect or our own power or our own skills that got us to one place. They were going into a Promised Land where his people cannot be self-sufficient. You see, God loves us too much to allow us to rely on ourselves.

Consider Moses. He wasn’t perfect. Moses wasn’t completely mature. He wasn’t the most qualified leader. He stumbled quite a bit. He wasn’t free from sin, but God used him anyway. He had moments of God-sufficiency. He had moments of surrender. He had moments where God, where he fully surrendered, and he allowed God to do miraculous things through him. But yet this addiction to himself, being in charge, cost him dearly.

I want you to consider your life. Where does God wanna send you? What is God asking you to do? Maybe what journey has God sent you on where the wind and waves are against you, and you actually thought that God disliked you, or you were doing something wrong why the winds and waves were against you. But can I tell you that the winds and waves being against you might actually mean you’re exactly where God wants you to be?

I want you to go back to Exodus chapter 3. I want you to hear specifically what God says to Moses. We may have missed it, but what God said to Moses before this discourse and Moses’ objections towards God, come back, Exodus 3:11. “But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said this, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you. When you have brought these people out of Egypt,” Now don’t miss this. “You will worship God on this mountain.”

Worship. Why does God say that the sign that God is with them is that Moses will lead them to that mountain and they’ll worship? There’s a couple of themes exposed in the story in the life of Moses that I believe you and I can learn from. The first one is this thing called worship. Worship is not simply singing although it’s a part of it. That worship, this Hebrew word used here is the word ebed. And this word literally means to be a bondservant. That when God tells Moses “You’re gonna lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, that I’m gonna be their leader. I will be their master. They’re gonna be my bondservants. They’re going to worship me.” You know what God was telling Moses? That the people are no longer a slave of Pharaoh, they are no longer a slave of Satan. They have moved from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. And when they come to this mountain, they’re gonna worship, not golden calves, not how the Egyptians or the rest of the world did it, but they’re gonna worship in a new way because they’re new creations going to a new land.

The second theme is surrender. You see, surrender doesn’t mean what I think we all, a lot of us think it means. And I wonder if we’ve gotten the definition of surrender wrong that prevents us from fully doing it. You see, the word surrender typically we think of armies that are fighting. And when one army beats another army, this army is gonna surrender to this army. We think that means this army just gives up. We’re never gonna fight again. Actually, what this army is saying when they’ve been defeated, when they surrender, the statement that they’re making is “We no longer serve our king. We’re actually bringing, we’re relinquishing authority from this king and we’re bringing ourselves under your king’s authority.” Surrender doesn’t mean giving up, but surrender does mean relinquishing authority and coming over under a new authority.

You see, the Hebrews had to learn what it meant to surrender. Moses had to learn what it meant to surrender. Maybe one of the reasons Moses felt so incredibly inept was because he grew up in Egypt. Not only did he grow up in Egypt, the most powerful empire that had been on the planet at that time, he grew up in Pharaoh’s household. That whatever he wanted; he would get. And if you wanted someone, it didn’t matter who you stepped over or who you stepped on, you got what you wanted. All he had ever known is a way of the Egyptians. All he ever knew was to depend on his own intellect, to depend on his own strength. That if he was more powerful than somebody else then it was okay for him to act out unjustly.

It might be where we find ourselves, because all we’ve ever been conditioned to is this world that celebrates self-sufficiency. You see, maybe Moses had just heard about this desert God who seemingly abandoned his people and his people were enslaved in Egypt. Maybe he really didn’t know this desert God. Maybe that’s why he objected. Friends, I wonder if that’s where you’re at. Maybe you’ve been resistant to surrendering to God or surrendering your life to Jesus. Maybe you’ve been resistant because you don’t even know if you can trust this God.

Can I tell you there is another way of living? And the life of surrender being surrendered to the cross of Jesus gives us that true life that every one of us seek after. You see, friends, when we encounter what we’re facing in our society right now, politically, racially, economically, physically, emotionally, it’s overwhelming. And it’s caused a lot of us to rely on our own intellect. It’s caused a lot of us to make decisions based on how we feel and our anger rages.

Y’all, can I encourage us to find ourselves in a place where we relinquish authority on an everyday basis, that when you try to be self-sufficient, your Facebook posts or your tweets will not be very godly. But when you find yourself surrender to the cross, every moment of the day, you find yourself living and acting in a way that God has created you to act and live. Living in a place that is surrendered to the cross. Refusing self-sufficiency, suffocating self-sufficiency and allowing God-sufficiency to grow inside each and every one of us.

You see, God uses God-sufficient nobodies, who are yielded to him more than self-sufficient somebodies that are yielded to pride. Friends, don’t let your ego and your self-sufficiency… Ego simply means edging God out. Resist it and come to a place of surrender, bowing our hearts and the posture of our hearts.

Would you join me in prayer? Lord, thank you for today. Thank you for your word. Thank you for this opportunity to dive into the story and the life of Moses and to see what it means for us to live surrendered to you, bound to you, living a life of worship, knowing we don’t have to have it all figured out, but Lord, recognizing that for many of us, this is a moment right here, right now, where we recognize, I’ve been self-sufficient and I’m gonna take that step that Moses took. I wanna be God-sufficient because it is for your glory and your purposes that we live and were created. We wanna discover those. In your name we pray, Jesus. Amen.

OUR WEAKNESS, GOD’S STRENGTH

CRAIG SMITH

JULY

4/5

Judges 3:12-30

Our weaknesses can be a strength when they cause us to look to God for endurance in tough times. See how an unlikely hero was powerful beyond his own doubt with God’s aid.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Well, hey, welcome to this year’s Grassroots Weekend. It looks a little bit different, but it’s been really fun to be out here in God’s creation worshiping God. I’m so glad you’re able to join us. You know, this is the 4th of July weekend. 4th of July obviously in America we celebrate our independence. We also celebrate our strength, which we love to do, right? It’s not just Americans. I think all people love to celebrate their strength and minimize their weaknesses. The danger of that though, the danger of celebrating our strengths always and never really paying attention to the fact that we have our weaknesses or always trying to sort of kind of sweep those under the carpet. The danger of that is that it can create in us a false sense of self-sufficiency. And as Reza taught us last week, self-sufficiency is a dangerous lie that we cannot afford to believe. And so I thought it might be kind of fun this weekend to take a look at a story from the Bible where God gave his people freedom. He gave his people independence but not through a strength. In fact, it was through a weakness. If you wanna follow along, we’re gonna be in the book of Judges this weekend, Judges chapter 3, kind of an interesting story. You may be familiar with it. If you’re kind of new to the Bible, pretty good chance you’ve never heard this story. You might even be shocked to find out that it’s in here. This story begins. This is Judges chapter 3, verse 12.

“Now, again, the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and because they did this evil, the Lord gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel.” Now, in this passage, we’re not told exactly what the evil was, but notice that it says, “Again, the Israelites did evil.” In other words, this was a repeat offense. This wasn’t just something they did one time. This was a sin. This was an evil they kept falling into time and time again. And if we go back a little bit in the Book of Judges to Judges chapter 2, I actually think we get a pretty clear description of what this repeat offense was. Judges chapter 2, verse 11 says this, “And then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and they served the Baals.” That’s a name in sort of the region’s dialect for false gods or false lords. And so they forsook the Lord, the true Lord, the true God, the God of their ancestors who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and they worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.

So basically, what’s happened is pretty straightforward. The people of God had stopped following God, and they’ve started following false gods, false lords. Now, this is some really complicated theology, but we gotta go down this rabbit trail. Okay? And I know this is probably gonna hurt your brain, but just try to stick with me. I’ll make it as simple as I can. Here’s the thing. The Lord, the true Lord God is the source of all blessing and protection. Okay? So God is the source of all blessing and protection, which means that if you follow God, you get to experience blessing and protection. Here’s where it’s gonna get really tricky. But if you stop following God, you stop experiencing his blessing and his protection, right? If you stop following God, you stop experiencing the blessing and the protection that come from him, right? So that’s what’s happened. That’s the reason that God has allowed them to be conquered by a foreign king. It’s because they’ve stopped following him, and so they’ve stopped experiencing his blessing and his protection.

Now, I just wanna be really clear. Just because you are following the Lord doesn’t mean you’re not gonna have some hardships in life. Just because you are sticking close to Jesus doesn’t mean you’re just gonna live on easy street. Okay? Jesus himself said that in this life you will have trouble. Okay? So sticking close to God, sticking close to Jesus isn’t an automatic path to get you out of all kinds of difficulty, but here’s the thing. There’s a huge difference between experiencing difficulty in this life with the blessing and the protection of God versus experiencing the difficulty in this life without the blessing and protection of God. That’s why we have to stick close to God, but the Israelites aren’t doing that. They have peeled off, and so they’ve lost the blessing and the protection of God. And for that reason, they have experienced a conquering by a foreign king named Eglon.

Now, verse 13 says this, “Getting the Ammonites and the Amalekites to join him, Eglon came and he attacked Israel, and they took possession of the City of Palms.” It’s kind of an interesting statement there. The City of Palms was a, it was a phrase that was sometimes used to describe the City of Jericho, which is a city in the Nation of Israel. And they called it the City of Palms a little bit like we sometimes called New York the Big Apple. Okay? But the City of Palms basically meant the City of Peace, because the palm tree was a symbol of peace, and so the City of Palms was the City of Peace. And so now because they peeled off from God, they’re not following God anymore, they’re not experiencing his blessing and protection, they’ve lost peace, right? They’ve lost the City of Peace. They’ve lost all peace because that’s what happens. In the presence of God, we have peace. When we’re living our lives apart from the presence of God, we don’t have peace. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. Okay? You might be in great circumstances. You can have peace. But if you’re with God, you can be in really difficult circumstances and still have peace, but without God, there’s no peace. Okay?

Here’s the thing. It reminds me a little bit, and this is a little bit cheesy, I know, but it reminds me a little bit of a bumper sticker I’ve seen. I’ve even seen it on the t-shirts. It says, you know, “Know God, know peace. No God, no peace.” Okay? We’ll put that there on the lower third so you’ll see it. But Know God, meaning, if you know God, if you’re close to God, then you will know and experience peace, but if you have no God in your life, then you will have no peace in your life. That’s what’s happening. They’ve lost the City of Peace because when we’re not with God, we lose the peace that is only from God. Okay? The Bible actually says that with God, we can experience something called a peace that passes understanding, meaning it doesn’t make sense given our circumstances. Our circumstances are not peaceful, but we experience peace because we’re with God from whom all peace flows. It says this, verse 14, “The Israelites were subject to Eglon, King of Moab for 18 years. And then, again, the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer.” I love that. Again, the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer. Some of you, honestly, some of us, maybe even me today, we’re here today because we need to hear that more than anything else. Okay? Remember we saw, again, they did evil, but then we see is, again, they cried out to the Lord. Again, they came to their senses. They realized they were sinning. They fixed their eyes on God, and they repented of their sin, and they cried out to him. And what God did in response to that was he sent them a deliverer. And that’s so, so important. This is so important that we all understand this.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself in a place where I just feel like I keep falling into the same old sins time and time again, that I keep falling short, that I just keep coming up short in being the man God’s called me to be, being the husband, the father, the leader, the pastor. And sometimes there’s just…you know what? Sometimes I’m grumpy and sometimes…especially during this pandemic, I’ve been short-tempered with my family, with other people, and I keep, you know, realizing that it’s happening. Then I’m like, “Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” and I apologize to people that I’ve done that to. And then I’m like, “I’m not gonna do that again,” and then honestly, the next day, I feel like I’m back in that same place. And maybe you understand exactly what that’s like. You just feel like you’re caught in this loop where you keep coming back to the same sins time and time again, and maybe you’re wondering if God’s grace is ever gonna run out. If you’re gonna do it one more time and God’s gonna go, “That’s it. I’m done, no more forgiveness for you.” And what that verse says is that’s never gonna happen. Again the Israelites did evil, but again the moment they turn their eyes to God, he gave them forgiveness. And he sent them a deliverer, and you just need to hear that. Okay?

I love one of the followers of Jesus, a man named John said, he said, “If we confess our sins…” this is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he’s faithful and just, and he will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” And he’ll do that every single time. I need you to hear. No matter how many times you feel like you’ve messed up, God’s grace is never gonna run out. If you will repent, if you will turn back to him and ask for forgiveness, you will receive it. Every time we repent, God hits the reset button in our lives, and I need to know that, and my guess is some of you out there need desperately to know that. There’s no end to God’s grace. You repent, God hits reset. Okay?

So, they came to their senses, they realized what was happening, they turned back, and God sent them a man named Ehud. That’s what it says. It says, “Again, the Israelites cried out to the Lord, and he gave them a deliverer, Ehud, a left-handed man, the son of Gera, the Benjamite.” And that’s kind of an interesting description, right? A left-handed man. Why would we be given that particular detail? Well, actually, in the original Hebrew that that was written, it doesn’t actually say a left-handed man. What it actually says is a man bound or restricted as to his right hand. Okay? And some people have read that and thought, “Oh, that means that his right hand was somehow deformed or something like that,” and I don’t think that’s true because this seems to be the way throughout the Bible that left-handed people are described, somebody who can’t use their right hand well. Okay? In other words, it kind of defaults to the understanding that it’s a right-handed world, and if you’re a left-handed, you know exactly what I’m talking about, right? My actually my youngest daughter is left-handed, and I’ve realized it’s a right-handed world. If you can’t use your right hand as effectively, you actually have some struggles in life. And I’ve watched my daughter struggle to learn how to write and use a cursor and even scissors, right? Crazy stuff like that. Okay? Because it’s a right-handed world.

Well, it was definitely a right-handed world back then, and so if you were better with your left hand, if you were left-handed, then you were kind of considered to be at a disadvantage. You actually had a little weakness and especially that was true if you were a warrior. Okay? Right-handed swordsmen really worked the thing, and here’s the reason, right? Okay. So you got your army, and they’re about to go out into battle, you know. And so the general gets out in front, and he does the big braveheart speech, and he gets him all riled up. And he’s like, “Are you ready?” And they’re like, “Yeah, we’re ready.” He’s like, “Charge.” And so everybody reaches down, and they go like this, right, with their swords and they’re out. And that’s great if everybody does that, but if there’s a couple people on the lines that are like, “Yeah, like, oh, sorry about that. Oh, medic, medic. We need a medic over here.” It just doesn’t work. Okay? And so there really there just weren’t left-handed swordsmen. They were allowed to fight in battles if they were left-handed but as usually as they used slings. Okay? They weren’t in the lineup. Okay? So there’s no really left-handed swordsmen. In other words, this is a weakness at least from the world’s perspective, maybe even a disability from the world’s perspective. Not the kind of person you would expect God to raise up to deliver his people because he’s got this apparent weakness, so interesting. He raised up this left-handed man.

And we’re told this, “Now, the Israelite sent him with tribute,” in other words with money, “to Eglon the King of Moab. Now, Ehud had made a double-edged sword about a cubit long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing.” Now, a cubit is a unit of measurement in the ancient world, it was basically from the tip of your elbow to the tip of your fingers. Most people, it’s about 18 inches. Okay? So he made a basically an 18-inch sword. And it says this, “He strapped it to his right thigh.” My guess is probably to the inside of his right thigh. And the point is he was putting it in a place that a right-handed person wouldn’t be able to really make quick use of it, meaning probably that people wouldn’t be looking to that part of his body if they were searching and when he came into the presence of the king. So he probably strapped this sword under his right thigh, but as a left-handed person, he could get to it pretty easily. But they wouldn’t be looking for that because he’s a left-hander, and they probably don’t even think of him as a warrior anyway since they’re gonna recognize that he’s left-handed real quick. Okay? So that’s what he does. He straps it under there, you can kind of see what’s coming, right? Now, we’re told this, “They presented, or he presented the tribute to Eglon King of Moab, who was a very fat man,” which is another interesting physical description, right? He was a very fat man and actually really kind of funny. In the original Hebrew, the word they used for fat isn’t a word that you normally use to talk about human beings. Okay? It’s actually a word that you would use to talk about cattle, and there maybe even a little kind of a joke going on here in the original Hebrew.

Eglon wasn’t Hebrew, he was a Moabite, and I don’t know what the name Eglon meant in Moabite language whatever the Moabite language is. But in Hebrew, Eglon sounds a lot like the Hebrew word for calf for cattle like for a young cattle. So what they’re basically being told is he’s a fat calf, and I think there’s a little bit of a joke there. And there’s something else going on, and that is that Eglon isn’t a warrior at this point, but he was previously, right? He didn’t send people to conquer Israel 18 years ago. He led the charge himself. He was a warrior, but since then, he’s grown complacent and he’s grown fat. His success has gone to his head, and it’s become a weakness in him. This is kind of a little bit of a bonus truth, but I find myself often thinking about this thing that I’ve come to realize and we see it illustrated there that sometimes our greatest sort of obstacle to future success is our past success. It’s the things that we’ve done really well at in the past so much so that we just kind of get complacent, and it sets us up for a fall later on. You know, maybe you’ve had a struggle with a sin, but then you’ve experienced tremendous just freedom in that victory over. The Holy Spirit’s giving you the ability to kind of break out of that cycle of sin, and because of your victory, you’re like, “I’m not in danger of that sin again,” and yet if you get complacent you could find yourself going back into a place where you allow that temptation to get a lot closer than it should because you don’t think that you’re weak in that area anymore, but you might be. Okay?

Sometimes our past success becomes our greatest obstacle to future success, and I think we see that in him. His past success has made him complacent. He can’t imagine for a moment that anybody is gonna be able to challenge him this great king, right? But he’s resting on his past success, and he’s not taking the precautions he needs to to continue to have present and future success. Okay. He presented the tribute to Eglon King of Moab. He was a very fat man. “And after Ehud had presented the tribute, he sent on their way those who had carried it,” which is kind of a strange scene, right? What’s happening is that, you know, Ehud has gotten there, and they’ve given all this money. And I don’t know exactly what the original plan was, but my suspicion is the plan was, when he was in the presence of the king to take him out, right? It’s interesting to me that, you know, the tribute has been presented, and now Ehud has told the rest of his team, “Hey, you guys can head on home.” And Ehud is actually on his way, but he’s not traveling with them. And it’s kind of a strange thing. Why wouldn’t he be traveling with them? Here’s what I wonder what was happening. I wonder if he kind of sent the team off, and he trailed along behind him because he was ashamed, and he was feeling pretty low and pretty bad because he’s like, “I didn’t do it. I had my chance. I was there. I got the sword, and they didn’t even search. They didn’t think I was a danger, right? I had it there. I had everything I needed to do, and I chickened out. Maybe there were just too many people around, and I got scared. I just didn’t feel like the right moment. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t.”

And so now he sent his team home, and he’s kind of walking along after them, and he’s thinking, “Man, what made me think that God could use me? I’m not strong. I’m not a warrior. I’m weak. Those guys are right. They’re right not to fear me. I’m too weak to be feared.” So he’s got this kind of sad walk going on. He’s easing his way home sad, maybe down. And then we’re told this. This is verse 19, “But on reaching the stone images near Gilgal, he himself went back to Eglon.” On reaching the stone images near Gilgal, he himself went back to Eglon. In other words, he’s going along, he’s trailing behind after his team, but he’s headed home. Maybe he’s down in the dumps. He’s thinking of how weak he is. And at some point, he kind of looks up and he realized he’s come near something called the stone images of Gilgal. You know, well, what is that? We have to go back to the Book of Joshua to understand what those were.

Joshua was the leader of the Israelite people after Israel was set free by God from their slavery in Egypt. Maybe you know some of the stories, right? God came with power, and he brought plagues on Egypt, and eventually, they got out. And they got to the edge of the Red Sea and got part of the Red Sea while Moses was leading. They got to the other side of the Red Sea. He led them through the desert. He led them to the Promised Land. And now Joshua is the new leader of the Jewish people, and as he leads them into the Promised Land, they cross over the River Jordan. And this is what Joshua chapter 4, verse 21 says, “Joshua said to the Israelites…” I’m sorry, I’m gonna back up. This is Joshua 4:20, “And Joshua set up at Gilgal twelve stones that they had taken out of the Jordan.”

So as they were crossing the Jordan, they took twelve stones out of the river, and they brought them over. And they set them down on the side that they had crossed to. “And he said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground for the Lord your God dried up the Jordan until you had crossed over and the Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.'” And he did this, this is so important. Listen to this, “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” So on their way across this river, right? On their way across this river, they picked up some of these rocks. I think they’re probably big rocks. Part of my team grabbed a few. So, they picked up. They’re probably bigger than these. There’s probably a bigger mound than this, maybe even bigger stones.

But when they got to the other side, they piled them up. They built this thing these stones of Gilgal. They were stones of remembrance, and the idea was that every time people looked at these stones, they’re like, “Why are there stones?” “Oh, yeah, that’s to remember, is to remind us that the hand of the Lord is powerful,” so they would never forget that. So here comes Ehud, right? And he’s feeling weak, and he’s walking back up towards his home. And he’s feeling down, and he looks up, and he sees these stones. And suddenly a light will go. He remembers the hand of the Lord is powerful. And what I imagined happened the moment he went, “You know what? Maybe I am weak, but who cares. It doesn’t matter if I am weak. I have a God who’s not, right? I don’t have to be strong when I trust in a God who is.” And so he went back. He turned back, and he went back by himself, right? He didn’t have his team, which is interesting because, you know, if he carried out the assassination or the attack when he had his whole team, pretty unlikely he’s gonna get out of there. But at least with the team, there was a chance. Without a team, no chance.

But do you understand what he’s doing? He’s going, “I don’t need the team. I just need the Lord. It doesn’t matter how weak I am or how few resources I have as long as I have a trust in a God who was great and powerful.” And so he went back by himself. “When reaching the stone images near Gilgal, he himself went back to Eglon, and he said, ‘Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you.” Check this out. This is crazy, right? He said, “I have a secret message for you. And the king said to his attendants, ‘Leave us,’ and they all left,'” which is crazy, right? I mean, that makes absolutely no sense at all. Why would he do that? I mean, this is a little bit like somebody from al-Qaeda visiting our president and saying, “Hey, I wanna talk to you privately,” and so the President is like, “Hey, Secret Service, you guys just get out of here. Leave me alone with this guy.” Like that’s just not done. It makes absolutely no sense. You can’t do that, right? Why would he do that? And I think the only way to understand it is that Eglon doesn’t see this man as a threat. He’s probably recognized. So he’s, oh, left-handed, right? He’s not gonna be a warrior. He’s not worried. He sees in this man a weakness, so he fears nothing about him. “And Ehud then approached him while he was sitting alone at the upper throne of his palace, and he said, ‘I have a message from God for you.’ And as the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh, and plunged it into the king’s belly.” Remember this is the explicit series. “Even the handle sank in after the blade, and his bowels discharged.” Now, that’s gross. Okay? It’s actually gonna be really important in a second.

“Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it.” So he’s a pretty big man, right? This 18-inch blade goes in, fat closes over. His bowels release. He dies. “And then Ehud went out to the porch. He shut the doors of the upper room behind him, and he locked them. And after he’d gone, the servants came and they found the doors of the upper room locked, and they said, ‘Well, he must be relieving himself in the inner room of the palace,'” right? This is explicit stuff, right? You might be surprised to find this in the Bible, right? They go they find the doors locked and they’re like, “I don’t wanna go in there. He’s clearly going to the bathroom, right?” Here’s a bonus question for you, right? Why do you think they thought he was going to the bathroom? Why do you think that was where they went in their assumption? If you’re with somebody, make your best guess. Tell the person next to you why you think that they thought that he was probably going to the bathroom in there. Did you get it? It’s because they could smell it. Remember his bowels discharged. The smell is coming out. It’s gross. But that’s the reason they thought he was relieving himself, and because that was happening, check this out, “They waited to the point of embarrassment, but when he did not open the doors of the room, they took a key, and they unlocked them. And there they saw their lord fallen to the floor dead. And while they waited, Ehud had got away. He passed by the stone images and escaped to Seirah.” Second mention of those stones, right?

I’m trying to imagine Ehud. And Ehud is like he’s running, he’s like, “I can’t believe I got away with that. I cannot believe that happened. And I can’t believe that nobody’s come after me, but they’re gonna be here after me any second,” right? He’s probably looking back over his shoulder constantly waiting for the army, waiting for the cavalry to run him down. He didn’t have a weapon at this point, right? It’s still back in the king’s belly, right? He’s got nothing to defend himself. He’s just running, “I can’t believe nobody’s come,” and eventually, he kind of slows down. He’s like, “Man, nobody’s coming after me.” And I think right about that moment he looks up. And what does he see? He sees the stone images of Gilgal, the stones that were set there to remind them that the hand of the Lord is powerful, he went, “Yes, it is. Yes, it is.”

And he thought, “I didn’t win because I was strong. I didn’t win because of my cleverness, or my great strategy, or my boldness. No, I won because the hand of the Lord is powerful.” He’s reminder that when he saw those stones. And when he arrived there back at Seirah where he went, he blew a trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went down with him from the hills with him leading them. “Follow me,” he ordered, “for the Lord has given Moab your enemy into your hands.” And so they followed him down and they took possession of the fords of the Jordan that led to Moab, and they allowed no one to cross over. And at that time, they struck down about 10,000 Moabites, all vigorous and strong, not one escaped.” Because they were good? No, because the hand of the Lord is powerful. “And that day Moab was made subject to Israel, and the land had peace for 80 years.” Why? Because how clever they were? Because how powerful they were? Because how bold they were? Because of the strength of their armies and their men? No, no, no, no, because the hand of the Lord is powerful. He defeated their enemies, not with their strength ultimately, because really the deathblow had already been dealt. With the king gone, they were demoralized, and the decisive victory was won not by any of their strength, but honestly, by what everybody else would have considered a weakness. But see, that’s God, right? That’s God. He is powerful, which means we don’t have to be, and that’s really good news, right?

Listen, it’s a weird story, but it’s an incredibly, incredibly important truth. We don’t have to be strong when we trust in a God who is. I just got a question for you on this 4th of July weekend as we celebrate independence, as we celebrate strength, can I ask you this question, church? Where do you feel weakest right now? I think it’s important to recognize our weakness because unless we recognize our weakness, we won’t remember to put it in God’s hands. And even our weaknesses in the hands of a powerful God can become a strength like we could never imagine, but if we don’t recognize our weaknesses, we’ll never remember to put them in God’s hands. So where do you feel weakest right now? I’ll be honest with you. For me, it’s in my leadership. I’m a kind of guy. I’ve got a plan and a strategy and a vision for just about everything but navigating this pandemic has made me feel incredibly weak as a leader. I’m gonna be honest with you and hope this doesn’t cause you to lose respect for me, but I just wanna say this because I think a lot of you probably feel the same way. And I want you to know that, you know, we’re all in this together. I find myself constantly saying, “I don’t know what to do.” If you find yourself saying that as a husband, as a wife, as a father or a mother, leading in your company or just working in a company or trying to figure out how you’re gonna provide for your family or take care of yourself when you’ve lost your job or how you’re gonna make the decision to lay off people as the economy is sort of not doing great or do you hold on to people and burn through your ca…

Like, I know all those questions. I’m wrestling through all of those things too, and I often find myself going, “I just don’t know what to do. I don’t.” I mean, let’s just talk something really simple right now, right? I’m trying to figure out, when will we reopen? When will we reopen our physical campuses? It’s not just me. I’ve got a great executive team. I have a great staff, an amazing elder team. We’re just wrestling with, you know, “When do we do it?” I mean, does it make sense? See right now the government restrictions in Colorado allow us to do up to 175 people on a campus. That sounds great, but here’s the thing, we’ve done our study. We did a survey, and we got some information. We’ve talked to a lot other churches around the country who are reopening right now. What we found out honestly is that you need to be ready for about 50% of your pre-COVID attendance to be ready to come back as soon you reopen, 50%. Well, for us, that’s over 2,000 people. Okay? We usually have more than 4,000 on our physical campus on a weekend. So 50% is 2,000. So we wanna be ready to bring in 2,000 people, but with 175-person cap, that’s like 13 services. I can’t do 13 services. Our serve teams can’t do guest services for 13. We just can’t do that. Okay? So what do we do? Do we keep waiting until we get a higher number, knowing that it could be weeks or months before we get that right, or do we go ahead and reopen at 175 and do a reasonable number of services knowing that for a lot of people who wanna come back that means they’re not gonna get their reservation made because we’re gonna have to use a reservation to make sure we’re not overcrowding, so we’re not ignoring the social distance requirements?

So a lot of people, if we only do five or six services or even seven or eight, they’re not gonna be able to get in, right? So what’s better? Is it better to, you know, wait till we get, you know, a big enough number we can do enough services? Is it better to go ahead and open up so at least some people can come back even though some people won’t be able to get in? Like there’s advantages and disadvantages, and I just find myself going, “I just don’t know. I just don’t know.” We’re working through it. We’re coming up with plans. We’re not just giving up, but, man, I just feel weak right now as a leader. And if you know what that’s like, if you know what it’s like to feel weak for whatever reason, you need to understand, you don’t have to be strong when you trust in a God who is. And for me, that’s an incredibly important message. I gotta grab hold of that. I keep letting it slip through my fingers every day, but I’m gonna hold onto it tighter. Okay? So where are you feeling weakest right now? You need to recognize it so that you can remember to put even that weakness in his hands and trust in a God who’s strong. And then I’m gonna ask you this question because I think it’s so important. What are your stones of Gilgal, right? What are those reminders that you’ve put in your life to cause you to remember that you don’t have to be strong when your trust is in a God who is?

I’ve got a few in my life, and maybe you wanna do one of these in your life if you don’t have. And we actually had some actual stones, some rocks. If you go to my house, and I live in the suburbs, so this might be a little bit strange, but in the corner of my property, I actually have kind of pile of rocks there. My family has put those rocks up there, and we’ve talked about what each one symbolizes, the signs of God’s power in our lives so that we can remember that our God’s powerful, so we don’t have to be, right? They’re there. You can see them if you come by my house. At the church, you may have heard us up with this. There’s an opportunity to do that at the Littleton campus, there’s a pile of rocks and another pile of rocks. You can go and get a pile from sort of the messy pile, and you can write on it some sign that God has been powerful in your life. And you can put it on the neater pile, the Stones of Remembrance pile, the Stones of Gilgal pile, so to speak. And if you wanna do that, we’d love to have you come and do that, but maybe you need something like that in your life, or maybe, honestly, all you need to do is you just need to get a piece of paper, and you just need to write down 10 things from your past where you’ve seen the powerful hand of God at work.

Actually, you know what? This would be fun. Do this. Get a piece of paper. Maybe do this as a family. And you’re gonna write down those 10 things, but you’re not gonna write them with your strong hand. Okay? If you’re right-handed, you’re gonna write them down with your left hand. Okay? And if you’re left-handed, you’re gonna write them down with your right hand. Okay? You’re gonna write them with your non-dominant hand, and it’s gonna be messy, right? It’s gonna be a disaster. Like, my handwriting is awful when I’m using my right hand. When I use my left hand, like it’s completely illegible. Okay? But use your non-dominant hand. And even the messiness of it, every time you look at it, you’re gonna remember it’s okay to be weak. You don’t have to be strong when your trust is in a God who is. Hey, church, we got some plans in motion. We think we’re gonna be able to open fairly soon. We’re trying to work through all those details as I told you. So, my hope and my prayer is we’re gonna be able to see you in person real, real soon, but in the meantime, please hold on to this truth. No matter how weak you feel for whatever reasons you feel weak, you don’t have to be strong when your trust is in a God who is.

Would you pray with me? That God we just thank you so much that you are strong. You’re strong when we’re weak. You’re strong when we’re strong. And our strength pales in comparison to yours, and so we just need to trust your strength, Lord. On behalf of your people everywhere, we pray for the remembrance, the ability to keep calling to mind that it’s okay to be weak. We don’t have to just celebrate our strength. We can celebrate a God who is strong, so strong in fact, that he can bring victory out of our weakness. But, Lord, we so often forget that, and so we’re ashamed of our weakness. We’re afraid to acknowledge it and to admit it. And when we don’t do that, Lord, we can’t put it in your hands, and so, Lord, at this moment, all of us we just acknowledge the weaknesses that we feel, and the ones that we don’t or we’re not even aware of, we put them in your hands, and we put our trust in you. We grab a hold of this truth that we don’t have to be strong when we trust in a God who is. If you’re a follower of Jesus right now, if you’ve trusted in his strength for your salvation, would you do something for me? Would you begin praying right now for the people around the world watching who don’t have that relationship? And I wanna speak to you right now if that’s you. If you’re tuned in to this, but you would say, “I’m not a follower of Jesus. I don’t have a relationship with this God that you’re talking about.” I wanna tell you real quickly about this amazing thing called the Gospel. The Gospel is a demonstration of God’s strength, again, through weakness.

God’s own Son came. He lived a perfect life. He didn’t have any sin that had to be paid for. He didn’t have any wrongdoing that had to be kind of taken care of between him and God. And because he was the perfect person with no sin to pay for, he was able to take our sin, my sin, your sin, put it on his shoulders, and then you know what he did? He died. That’s as weak as you get, right? He went to the cross willingly as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He died. They buried him, and they thought it was over. Three days later, he rose from the dead. The power of God lifted him out of the grave, and with him, we receive salvation. When we put our trust in Jesus, we receive salvation, not because we try harder, not because we get better, but because we trust in the only one who can rescue us, Jesus Christ through his death and his resurrection. And if you’ve never put yourself in his hands into his strong hands, but you’re ready to do that right now, here’s how you do it. You’re just gonna have a conversation with him. It goes like this. Just say this in your heart to God. Say, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’m not strong enough to be good enough for you. I see that. I’m so sorry. Sorry for all the wrong I’ve done. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. Thank you for demonstrating your strength in that moment of weakness for my sake. I believe you rose from the dead, and I understand that you’re offering me salvation just by putting my trust in you, Jesus. So, Jesus, I’m saying yes to following you. I put my faith in you. I’m yours for now and forever. In Jesus name, Amen.”

If you made that decision for the first time today, I’m so excited for you. You have experienced an independence like no other. You are free from sin, you’re free from darkness, and ultimately, you’re free from death because you will, even though you might die in this life, you will live forever in the presence of God in perfect joy and peace. If you made that decision today, we would love to know about it. We’d love to celebrate with you. Just do a favor. Do me a favor. Just click the button right below me that says I said yes, or if you don’t see that button in whatever format you’re watching right now or listening, all you have to do is just text the word Jesus to 888-111. We’re gonna send you back a link that’s gonna get some truth into your hands about who you are because you put yourself into Jesus’ hands now, and you’re following him. We wanna get those resources to you so that you can begin experiencing his strength in your life. Hey, God bless. Happy 4th of July weekend. We love you. We hope to see you again very, very soon.