When I, and I do and you do, falsely believe the lie that pleasure and status and how I look and what I own and what other people think – when I believe the world system will deliver significance and security out of my success, I become a spiritual adulterer and I have betrayed my trust. And God is jealous.
And just like a husband or a wife that would find out that the other one is flirting or having an affair – He is coming and saying, “This is, I don’t tolerate this because I love you. What I know is that will end in disaster,” and look what it is doing to us.
So what does God do? He is opposed to the proud but He gives grace to the humble. So He does, you can jot this in your notes, because I’m not making this up, Hebrews chapter 12, verses 4 through 11.
He disciplines every son or every daughter that is His own. And so when I have fallen in love with the world and I am finding, God is a little section of my life but I am genuinely His son or His daughter, He creates a velvet vice of consequences to get my attention.
And so it might start out in your health. Hm. You might lose your job. Hm. You might be frustrated in your sex life. Hm. It might be you gain a whole lot of things and you thought that it was going to make you happy and now you are empty and depressed. Hm.
It might be your wife or your husband says, “You know something? This lifestyle isn’t working for me. I’m done.” It might be your kids that got in the right schools and you send them to all these places, turn their back on God. He will bring the velvet vice, and it’s out of love, to get your attention to say, Oh! I think I need God!
Because there are two ways you find God. The poor in spirit are the only people who ever connect with God. To be poor in spirit simply means: I am bankrupt. I am in desperate need. You can discover that and voluntarily say, Oh, Jesus, help me! Or you can discover it by this velvet vice. And some of us who are the most hard-headed, guess what, it gets harder and harder and harder and harder.
I won’t bore you with my three-year journey of living as a carnal Christian. And then, so, you lose your girlfriend. And then in the middle of my basketball season, I pull a quad. And then, and then, and then, and then, and then, and then. And, finally, it was like, Okay, God. This wasn’t for me. It was: if you can’t lick Him, join Him.
I surrender my life, not out of nobility. I surrender my life because I am a genuine son and You so love me and You want the best for me, You will not allow me to continue in a lifestyle that dishonors You.
So where are you at? Where are the conflicts in your life? Where is the frustration within? Where is the lack of satisfaction? Where is the if/then thinking? If only I was married. If we could buy a house. If we could finally have children. If we could go public. If only I could lose twenty-two pounds. If only. If, if…
See, when you’re playing the “if only” game, and you can even be asking God, God, if only You would… God, if only You would…
Where is your hope? What are you trusting to deliver? The world or God?
Now, as you trust God, the amazing thing, He may give you a lot of those things and you will hold them with open hands as a stewardship and as a gift and thank Him for the great job or for the house or for the wife, the kids. But it doesn’t hold you up inside. And you are not looking to it to fulfill your heart and meet your needs.
Now, I think we ought to get to the solution side, because many of you look like, Oh. Oh. I never looked at it that way.
As one guy told me recently, who had been coming to church for a while and became that very successful person at the pinnacle. I met him through a series of circumstances just recently and it was obvious he really didn’t get what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. He came to church, he said, “I just thought you came to church and try to be a good person the other six days. And if you make it a couple of times a month, I mean, God ought to be pretty thrilled, right?”
I said, “Well, why don’t you read this book on what a Romans 12 Christian is.” And he read it. And then he read it a second time. And then he said, “Oh my. I had no idea. You mean Jesus wants to be the very focus and center of my life like what my work is now? You mean that I need to be separate from the world’s values? That I need to come to a sober self-assessment and realize that I struggle with being arrogant? That God wants me to actually serve other people?” I said, “Yeah, that’s what it means to be a follower.”
And it has been amazing to watch his life, even in a few weeks, get transformed because what he has done, he is in the process, very imperfectly, like me and like all of you, of practicing God’s solution.
Notice, as we go on, he has told us the cause is our selfish pride. The consequences, we believed a lie, we betrayed a trust, we have become an enemy.
And then, notice, here’s the cure. God’s prescription is: Humble yourself and God will heal your relationships. It’s amazing. Humble yourself. Can you hear something? He doesn’t want to have to humble you. He doesn’t want to have to humble me. He wants you to voluntarily humble yourself. He wants to heal the relationship with a brother or sister, or with an ex-mate, or with a mom or a dad, or in your marriage, or a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or a supervisor at work.
He wants to heal a relationship with someone that you used to be tight with and something happened and you know what? You don’t think about them very much but just now and then, when you are praying, that person comes to mind and those bad feelings come up. He wants to heal those.
Now, I am going to read the passage and here’s what you need to get. As I read this passage, there are actually ten staccato – they are either verbs or participles that all have the force, grammatically, of a command. It’s going to go: bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. And I am going to read it and all I want you to do is underline the verb and then I am going to summarize that and we are going to have a process as we end our time together where I will know and you will know exactly what it looks like to humble yourself. And there are some powerful promises so that we leave here on the upswing and very encouraged rather than, Wow, I think I am a friend of the world. I might be an enemy of God. This is not a great day. Correct? Okay, let’s go.
As I read it, get your pencil out. “Humble yourselves before God,” underline humble. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Underline resist. “Come close to God and God will come close to you.” Underline come close. “Wash your hands, you sinners,” underline wash. “Purify your hearts.” Underline purify. Why? “For your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears,” be tears, “for what you have done. Let there be sorrow,” be sorrow, “and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
The first book of the New Testament, written to a group of people who are baby Christians in the midst of a hostile environment and he says, “If you will humble yourself,” God, He wants to not be down on you, He wants to lift you up. He wants to honor you. He wants to bring peace to your heart. He wants to connect you with the most important relationships. He wants you to be walking in love with Him, first and foremost. And then all these other things, He will add to you.
So let’s look, there are actually four steps that come out of this. Number one, give in to God. You might just write the word surrender. This first word where it says, “Humble yourselves,” literally, the word is: submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Submit. It’s hupotasso. Hupo to mean under; tasso. It’s a military term. It’s a picture of a group of people marching and they are moving in a direction, but you are out of step.
It’s: this is the Christian life, this is the call of God and this is where the Spirit is moving and you’re out of step over here. He says, “Stop! You’re a friend of the world. Get in line, get underneath, obey what you know.” Whatever it is, stop. Surrender. Say to God, I am not going to trust a future mate, someday, someway. Not a perfect family. Not my job. Not my money. Not my looks. Not anything. I want You to know, on this day, I am saying all that I am, all that I have, I surrender. I am all in. And, Lord, I am afraid.
Because if you do that from the heart, you don’t know the outcome, do you? But you do know the outcome if you remain a friend to the world. This is a radical step.
My friend, after he read the book a couple of times, we had a conversation and I said, “Let’s get coffee and I want to hear what you’re thinking.” So I asked him, “So, when did surrender occur in your life?” And he looked at me a little bit sheepishly and he goes, “Well, after I read it the second time I just realized a relationship with God isn’t something you do on the side. It’s the core.”
And he goes, and he looked at me like I didn’t know this. He goes, “Man, this is big, scary stuff.” I said, “It is unless God is good and sovereign and loves you and died for you and rose from the dead and His Spirit dwells in you and He is coming back. And there are only two realities: the false, little reality of temporal now, now, now, get what you can; and the eternal one that, I will give you peace that is indescribable and I want intimacy with you. And I will give you love and joy and peace and the things that all that promise. But I deliver and I want to be with you, not just now, but forever and ever and ever.” I said, “It’s not scary when you see that.”
The second step is a defensive one. After you, on this day, submit, then resist the devil and he will flee from you. Get tough with Satan. You’ve got to get tough. In other words, you have got to fight. That word anti shows up again.
“Resist.” And the promise is he will flee. You have to take a stand. Here’s the issue: You have to cut off the supply lines. Satan is called a liar, a slanderer, an accuser, a condemner, and the deceiver. He is behind the world system. He is the one who puts people on the front of magazines that, “If you look like that…” He is the one who has the list on Forbes that, “If you had that much money…” He is the one who has all the nice cars that, “If you could sit in this one…” He is the one who says, “If you could remodel your kitchen like that, then you would be happy.” And then you remodel it and then what do you realize? You need a bigger kitchen.
He is the one who tells, “You don’t even have to be very smart yet. Two years old. Do you want this one or that one? Do you want this one or that one?” I want both. And he tells you you can have both.
You can have a great family, work ninety hours, have everything work out, be in denial, skim on your spiritual life, skim on your relationships, it will work for a while and everything is going to be okay.
Except it’s not. So you have to cut off the supply lines. Where is that coming from? For some of you, I would encourage you, this is so, so radical. But if you’re in a relationship that is wooing you into that, break it off. If you’re putting something in your mind or hanging around people who keep pulling you away from God, take a break. Do a ten-day media fast.
But do you understand what I’m saying? If the messages are constant, if the people you hang with, if the romance novels, if the reality shows, if The Bachelor, if The Bachelorette – you can’t keep taking all this into your brain and somehow go, Oh, and I really love Jesus. You will either fill your mind with truth and with people who are in step with the Spirit or you are going to fill your mind with trash that promises this and delivers pain and destruction and separation and divorce and depression and kids alienated from you and disappointment.
And God says, I am jealous for you. See, the thing about sin is it’s not like you cross a little line and God has some big thing like this huge refrigerator in the sky. Okay, Chip did this. Two demerit points. No, this is breaking God’s heart. This is a love relationship.
This is, Chip doesn’t believe that I am good so He thinks that “being a great pastor” or working ninety hours or having his kids turn out a certain way – his behavior tells Me he is not really surrendered to Me. He is trying to…
See, it happens in ministry just like in work. And if you would listen to your behavior instead of your words and your self-talk, you would see whose friend you are: a lover of God or a lover of the world. And you have to resist.
The third thing he is going to tell us, after you resist the devil, is, “Draw near to God,” and I love this one, “He will draw near to you.” Get close to God. Remember the story of the prodigal son? I would remind you that the Father did not go find the prodigal son. The prodigal son came to the awareness that he was bankrupt, that he was eating pig slop, and that God had a better plan, his father had a better plan.
And when he turned and came back, the father ran to meet him. He was waiting to meet him. And when he was met, he didn’t get what we would get. If one of my kids did that, it would be a lecture. “Why did you do that? I told you that and you blew your money and what is wrong with you? Get with the program! You can live out in the bunkhouse and you can earn your way back to me and when you have enough money then maybe you can be my son again.” That’s how humans think.
God’s grace is lavish. That boy came back with his tail between his legs. He was humiliated. And he had a speech about how, “Just hire me. I can’t even be a son. I don’t deserve.” Of course you don’t deserve. And the father says, “Kill the fatted calf.” Then he took on a signet ring, which would be like a black credit card for the family estate. Slaves are barefooted, sandals. Then, “Put the greatest robe and the greatest robe,” was the father’s robe. And God wants you to know, there may be consequences, it may be difficult, you may have to apologize to people. You’re going to have to own some stuff about your past. But He will meet you with open arms and love you, hold you, restore you, bring about healing.
I just got a little note. I forgot to bring it. It’s on my desk at home. And it said, “Dear Chip, a year ago, after a service, we prayed together.” And, basically, “I was very much struggling. I didn’t have custody of my kids. I want you to know, after a year, I now have custody of my children and God has restored our marriage.” I have married people who have been divorced for five and seven years who both came back around. I’m not saying that is always going happen.
Here’s what I am saying: There are times I feel so desperate or far from God or I am hurting or I have a bad attitude or I’m being selfish and I become aware of it. And there is a promise: I am going to resist the devil and when I am going to draw near to God, He will draw near to me. And this isn’t just an emotional moment. I don’t feel like reading the Bible. I am going to draw near. I am going to read. I don’t feel like talking to You so I am going to tell you, I don’t feel like talking to You right now! I am upset and angry about this so I am going to be honest because You are my father. I can’t handle this.
A young gal came last night broken, tears. I said, “How can we help?” She began to talk a little bit and then she said, “I know I can’t do this alone.” I said, “There is a young gal right there who really loves God and I will guarantee, you know what? You need to talk to a woman. I have no idea other than I can tell it’s deep and it’s going to be hard. You are not alone. We will go through this with you.” And that’s how you draw near to God.
My friend, I met with him and he said, “So,” he said, “do you read the Bible every day?” He was kind of like…I said, “Yeah.” “Every day?” “Yeah.” And it’s not like I get brownie points for it. I said, “I quickly forget whose son I am. I quickly get enamored and get sucked into the world system. I read it, not because I ought to or I should. I read it so I can hear God’s voice, that I would be reminded that He loves me. Because what I know is I am always going to be a product of my thought life. So whatever I think about, that’s who I am going to become. My current thoughts are the person who will show up two and three years from now. So I have to have the kind of thoughts in my mind, ‘As a man thinks in his heart, so he or she becomes.’”
And he goes, “Oh, so where should I start?” I said, “Start in the book of Mark because it talks about a real follower.” I got a text a day later. One day later. “Okay, I’m done with Mark. Now what do I do?” I said, “Keep going right.” And then he said, “Man, some of this is really hard.” He said, “I read that book about being in community.” He says, “I have never experienced that.”
I gave him the number of one of our pastors, I said, “I think he could probably find a group that you would really connect in. Because you can’t do it.”
Are you guys starting to get it? Do you understand that God loves you? But you have to submit. You have to resist. You have to draw near.
And then, finally, notice what he says. He says you need to get right with others. “Cleanse your hands and purify your heart.” You’ve got to make things right. So you look at your life and you say, So what am I doing with my hands? Is it work? What am I doing with my hands? Is it something immoral? What am I doing with my hands? Is it stealing? What am I doing with my hands? Am I abusive? “Cleanse your hands.”
And it’s not just external behavior. “Purify your heart.” Where are your motives? And then all those phrases about, “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your sadness and tears.” It’s the idea that this is coming out of a deep well of contrition.
Let me give you a picture as we wrap this up. Can you imagine you have a boyfriend, you have a girlfriend, or maybe it’s one of your sons or one of your daughters? And they are, let’s just take it because it is so common, and they are sexually unfaithful. And you catch them, it’s your boyfriend, and you walk in and he is looking at these pictures or you see him with another girl. Or you have hired a detective and find out your wife is having an affair. And then you confront. Okay? Have you got the moment? You confront one of your kids or you confront your wife, confront your husband.
And when you confront them, they look at you and go, “Yeah. Shucks. Sorry. I won’t do it again. We good? No, I promise. I promise. I won’t do it again. It was a weak moment. We’ll be okay.” How would you respond?
All those words, look at your text, look what it says, “Mourn. Let there be tears.” Literally, the word is: be wretched. It is a picture of turning away from luxury. But what if that happened and the moment it happened they burst into tears and they said, “I have been struggling with this guilt. I have tried to stop, I talked with a couple people, I can’t stop. Oh, please give me another chance. Please give me another chance. I am so sorry. I don’t want to lose you.”
And it was for real and it was contrite and it was from the heart. “And you know what? I’m good for, I’ll go to counseling. You know what? I’ll get on a program. I’m glad for us to live apart if we need to for three or four months. I will live the kind of life, whatever it takes, I don’t want to lose you.” What would your response be?
Do you see the difference? That’s how you come to God. This isn’t like, Oh. Eh. I did these two things wrong. Sorry! Gotcha, Jesus, forgiveness. I think there’s a verse on that someplace. Thanks.
Notice the promise. It’s so awesome. God’s promise for the humble is that He will lift you up. Wow. Anybody here need to be lifted up? Anybody need to be deeply loved, deeply rescued? He wants to be your heavenly, good, kind Father.