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!)


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



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.


[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.


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



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.


[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.


CRAIG SMITH | read his bio



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.





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.