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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
Let me give you a taste of both Old and New Testament, in terms of what I think is an accurate theology of pleasure.
In the Old Testament, you know, there are feasts. You know we make these biblical words. You do know what a feast is? At a feast, people do what? They eat. When you eat like really good food and usually a lot of it with a lot of other people, it usually has something to do with fun. I mean, just put that in the back of your mind. There were private feasts, you’ll notice. There were communal feasts. And I just pulled this – anyone can do this. Zondervan Pictorial Life Dictionary says about private feasts. “The social life of ancient Israel provided many joyous occasions that were celebrated with feasts; weddings, the celebrations of which often lasted seven days.
Can you imagine having someone getting married and everyone going, let’s take off and party for a week? I mean, we go three hours. I go to the wedding. I don’t have time to go to the reception. The weaning of a child. Hey, the kid’s weaned. Let’s have a party. The birthday of a king. The arrival of an approaching dignitary. The departure of an approaching dignitary. Is this great? Hey, someone important came. Hey, let’s have a party. He’s leaving. Let’s have another party. Sheep sheering was also a joyous season where they sheered the wool and then they went to the sanctuary and they had a party. Solomon dedicated the temple with a feast. Ancient Hebrews were not Hasidic’s. Often feasts demanded no specific occasion other than gladness.” And it quotes Job. Translation, hey, I feel happy today. How about you? I feel pretty happy. Let’s have a party. These were private feasts.
Now I wish I had time to develop all this but you’ll notice there are communal feasts. There was a feast every Sabbath. Every Sabbath was a joyous occasion. There were monthly feasts. There was a new moon. There were annual feasts. And the word for festival here is the Hebrew word; it means to dance or to turn around. God put that in the Bible. Have you ever seen tiny kids? I’m into this new phase where I’ve got these little granddaughters, you know. And I’ve got one that about 20 months old. And as soon as, kind of, music comes on somewhere. (Laughter)
They don’t know any better. They just have – you don’t have to teach little kids to enjoy life. Do you? You gotta teach old people, like us. God says, you know what? I don’t want you to forget this. So I’ve got these feasts. I mean, these big ones, The Passover, Pentecost, Booths, the Day of Atonement. Now here’s what you need to get. Instead of taking pleasure in pushing it over here, which we end up making amusement, (which means not to think), or entertainment, (I need a break today), which translates into being a couch potato, and getting movies so that I can recover from things that I don’t want to face. Sorry if that was a little too convicting. I’ll get back to the text.
God says, I’m going to take worship and I’m going to have you stop. And I’m going to combine worship and seeing me and honoring me and the reading of my word and Sabbath or rest. And then as that progresses and you see who I am, there’s going to be required food. And we always think of it, oh, they had to kill the blood. And the goat came. And the priest did this. They did. And they gave the first portion to the Lord, right? And then the priest got some. What do you think they did with the rest of that food? They had a party. And the widows would come and the sojourners would come. And people passing through would come. And the Greeks would come.
And, I mean, by the time of Jesus, thousands of people. The Passover was not like, okay. Okay, the big Passover’s coming. Was it sober and holy on the front end and what they remembered? Yeah. And then it was like, wow. We’re delivered. We’re delivered. Woo. Woo. Let’s go. Let’s have fun. And they had these week long parties. If you study the Hebrew calendar, they were like into many vacation days. Many of us who kind of have charge for organizations say, I don’t think we can go here. That’s way too many vacation days. Three or four different times they would take a week off to stop, to sing, to dance, to worship.
In the New Testament, you have Jesus words and works. Remember the beatitudes? Blessed are – the word is makarios. Blessed. Do you know what the word blessed means? Happy are. It’s deeper than superficial. But happy are those who what? Who understand who they are before God and deal rightly with their sin, and respond in certain ways. But, you know, there’s this thing God wants us to enjoy. Where did the first miracle occur? Anybody remember? It was at a wedding. And what was the miracle? Did he heal someone or do something like really spiritual? The people had been partying for a long time. What’s he do?
He goes over to these six jugs. And those jugs, they’re not like this. They stood about this tall and were about this big around. I’ll tell you what; there must have been a lot of people there. That makes a keg look small. So he fills six kegs with wine or more. See, it violates some of our traditions. Even this feel – some of your faces are going. Sounds a little too wild to me, Ethel. Uncle Ned would never go for this kind of – it’s just the Bible. You know in the early church, love is what transformed the world. But do you know what their business card was? Joy. The business card of the early church was joy.
When you met a New Testament believer, you saw someone that despite all the circumstances and the falleness of life, who richly drank in the good things of God and deeply enjoyed and laughed. And they actually greeted one another with a holy kiss. And they embraced and they loved one another. And they had fun. And you know what? They did take great risks. And they did make great sacrifices. And they did pray great prayers. And they dreamed great dreams, for the glory of God. But in a fallen world, you need to stop and enjoy great moments. And the reason we don’t is we have a distorted view of God, number one.
And second is we have a warped theology of pleasure. 1Timothy 6:17 says, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches.” And we usually quote that part of it. In fact, have you ever noticed how in some verses we memorize them, but we only memorize part of them. We sort of leave parts off. Pastors love this one, by the way. You know, instruct those who are rich in this present world – by the way, that’s all of us. Rich in the New Testament was, you already had food for tomorrow and you had a change of clothes. Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or fix their hope on riches. Why? Because they’re uncertain. Why would you stick your hope on something that can’t come through for you? “But fix your hope on God.” We get that part. That last line is, “Who richly supplies us with,” are you ready for this? “all things to enjoy.” You mean God wants me to enjoy? Yeah. He wants me to enjoy life.
The third reason that we fail to deeply enjoy life and enjoy great moments is our unwillingness to face our misbeliefs and, or unhealthy behavior. And I’m not going to walk through these because we struggle with all of them. And as you start looking, I always watch people. They read these. Oh, gosh. I hope he doesn’t go into these. I know I’m a workaholic. I’m a perfectionist. People have told me that. In fact, I’ve been into counseling for that one. I’m an approval seeker. Oh, what I am going to do? Relax.
Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to understand, just like I need to understand, that these are misbeliefs that have been, over time, kind of locked into the back of your mind and mine. And what you need to do, as I read through these, is just say which one of these is the most dominant in my thinking? Which one of these – just put a little checkmark by it. Because if you don’t face your misbelief, then you’ll just keep going down a path to do something that is unhealthy to deliver, in an attempt to find that joy and that happiness.
Five quick misbeliefs. The workaholic, work defines your life. So your best energy is spent there. By the way, it’s not working hard. It’s not even working a lot. It’s working, thinking your identity is your work. That is what kills you. It is a performance mentality. The perfectionist has long hours, required to make every task flawless. Why? Because people only like me, I’m only significant if I do everything right. The approval seeker, work piles up because your fear of saying no to others. I have to say yes. I have to say yes. I have to say yes.
So everyone has a life and everyone likes you, except you don’t have a life. And you don’t have a life, not because you’re so wonderful. Not because you’re so godly. Not because you’re such a servant. Although, I’m sure you are. It’s because the strokes of people and your unwillingness to set some boundaries and say, you know something? I don’t need this external, artificial pat on the back to make me someone. I’m someone in Christ. And what I need to do is figure out His purposes for my life. And you can’t please everybody anyway. So no matter what you do, some people are not going to like you. Just accept that and say, God, what do you want me to do?
The fourth is the escapist. Work provides an escape from painful relationships or problems. Boy, I’ve been there and done that. You feel a little conflict, go downstairs and work. You feel a little conflict, go back to the office. You feel a little conflict, vacuum. Wash those dishes. They don’t need it. Do it one more time. And we escape to places. We escape in these ways. Or the materialist has an insatiable desire for possessions that drive you to increase your workload. I got to have more because the – the lie is that people that are happy on the commercials, they look like this and they have this kind of jewelry. And they have this kind of purse with this kind of design on it. They drive this kind of car.
And have these kinds of areas and these kind communities with these kinds of beach houses. And they have to have this kind of money and these kinds of clothes and these kinds of hair designs and this kind of stuff. And if you ever wonder if any of this stuff is really with you, just walk in your garage. Just walk in your garage. And then when you get done walking in your garage, you’re going what – all this stuff or probably many of you have storage. That’s the new thing. Right? You know? And if that doesn’t work then go into your closet. And I haven’t worn this in six months. I probably will never wear it. I really don’t like it but – there’s just what? You get a little bit of a rush out of buying something new. I’ve met people, they’ve got stuff in their closet, and the tags aren’t even taken off.
Lest you think this is just about you, another lie for me is that thinking, reading, relaxing, enjoying, just doing things for the fun of it, margin, time for me, time with Teresa, trips to visit kids are all luxuries to be fit in, after I get all my work, deadlines and obligations completed. And some of you, again, are thinking. And there’s a lie in there somewhere? See, all those are renewing, refreshing times that really restore my life, my heart, my spirit, my body. And they’re fun. But see, I grew up – and the Protestant work ethic is a very good thing, don’t get me wrong. But the Protestant work ethic with World War II parents, like I had, means when you come home, you can not do what? You cannot play until your homework’s done. Correct? You know, you can’t have any desert until your meal is done. Correct? By the way, I think these are good, very good disciplines. Here’s the problem, if unconsciously it gets so inbred in you, you can’t have fun until all your work is done – that is good for a third grader. But when you’re 42 years old, you can’t have any fun ‘til your work is done and the work is never done. Guess what we have? You never have any fun. And you feel guilty when you do have fun.
The truth is, in reality, these renewing activities are the key to healing and effectiveness in leadership and lifelong impact and health. Therefore, it means I must say no to pressing demands in the eyes of significant others. In fact, life’s value is not measured simply by the extent of one’s accomplishments or impact but by the quality of living in the process. Enjoying God’s richness is commanded. Did you ever think you are disobeying God when you’re not enjoying life? For some of you that are motivated, that’ll help you. Start feeling guilty about not having fun. You know? Enjoy great moments. It’s the serious business of heaven.
Let me give you a little to go package on the solution side. How can you start enjoying great moments? Some of you are going to walk out of here liberated and just go, whoa, I’m going to try some of these. First of all, slow down. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Slow down. Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Speed kills joy. We are multitaskers. And we just feel good when we get seven things done at the same time. I remember Dallas Willard, in one of his books or tapes, I remember him hearing, ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Spiritual development and intimacy with God is impossible in a hurried life. And it was like, whoo, and it was about 10 years ago, maybe 12. And for a solid two years, unless circumstances were completely unavoidable, I started driving in the right hand lane in the freeway. When I went to the grocery store, I got in the longest line. When I went to the bank, I got into the longest line. I started arriving at meetings 10 minutes early. And I decided I would slow. And I realized that underneath this, I’ve got to get in the shortest line to get here, get here, get here. Behind it all was this thought, where I’m going is way more important than where they’re going.
That’s why I need to be at the front of the line. I need to get through the quick line because they just probably don’t understand how important I am with all my demands and how much I have to get done. As though, all those people in all those cars and all those other lines are second-rate citizens. At the core of hurry is arrogancy. And God is against the proud. So slow down and it will take discipline and a plan.
Second, don’t take this as a weight loss plan. But slim down. Slim down. Do less so you can enjoy it more. You’ve got Luke 10 there, the Martha and Mary story that you know well. Slim down. Simplify your schedule. Simplify your meals. Simplify your calendar. Simplify your clothes. Simplify your commitments. Quit getting over extended. Look at some of the stuff you’re doing in your life and just say, do I really need to do it? This may be heresy. I remember, probably, eight years ago, I looked at all the time and all the energy in Christmas cards. And I just thought, you know something? I’m just not doing them anymore. So if you don’t get one from me, it’s not that I don’t love you. I really love you. I just don’t do them. Who said you gotta do them?
And most of them are – we spend all this money, all this time, all these addresses, all this stuff. And the only ones that ever read it are the people that write a little note on it, right? I got one from Bob. I’ll give one to Bob. Do, do, do. And God bless all those card companies making all that money. And I’m not saying they’re wrong but I just thought, do I need to do Christmas cards? What motivates me to do that? Why not call five people you’re really close to? Why not do something that really matters to someone that might need some encouragement over Christmastime? Instead of all the – and you know what? The older you get, it’s crazy. You used to get 50. Now there are 100. Now there are 200. Say no more.
Third, sit down. Stop living for tomorrow or because of yesterday. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always.” Present tense. “Pray without ceasing.” Present tense. “In everything, give thanks for this is the will of God.” Take stock. Thank God. Drink it in. Focus on what you do have. And just realize so much of our activities – I gotta do this, I gotta do this – why? Because if I don’t then this will happen in the future. Or I’ve gotta do this. I’ve gotta do this. I’ve gotta do this. Why? Because someone 32 years ago said, you’ll never amount to anything. And I’m going to prove them wrong. My lands. You’re 50 some years old. You’ve already proved them wrong.
Stop doing things because of the past or for the future and take some time to sit down and live in the now. You know, I could be wrong but right now may be all you have. Three minutes from now Jesus could come. This afternoon, I might get hit by a truck. So what if I spent all my time living for something or because of something? The only thing I miss is life.
Fourth, look around. What blessing from God could you celebrate today? And I don’t mean – I mean everything. I mean little things. Recently, I left in the morning when it was dark, and there was this huge star. And I don’t know anything about starts but it was so bright. It was probably a planet. It was probably Venus but it was awesome. I lived next to the ocean for about 12 ½ years. I went for almost nine months once and I realized, I’m a mile and a half from the ocean and I’ve not seen the ocean. You know what that’s called? Being an idiot. (Laughter)
And when I started learning this – on Sunday mornings, I would drive. And I had my sermon done. I’d park over a cliff and look at the ocean. And just see it come in and just thank God. And just often cry out of joy and just think this whole big planet and all this beauty. You know, it was a couple, three weeks ago and I came home. And I don’t’ know if you’ve ever seen a hawk up close. They got the big yellow eye. I mean, they’re majestic birds. And this one was, I might exaggerate. My wife says I do on these things but his wings – he was about that tall. And I pulled in and they’re supposed to be real high. And in the bush, next to my house, is this hawk.
And I pull in and he doesn’t fly away. So my windshield, from me to this hawk, is like the first row. I mean, like four feet. And I turn off my car. He didn’t fly away. And you know, I got things to do, people to see, calls to make. And I thought, you know what, when is the next time you’re going to get five or six feet from a hawk? And I just sat in my car. And his eye would go, you know. And I just thought the majesty. I mean, that eye – he can be up a couple hundred feet and see a mouse. I mean, I just drank it in. Drink it in.
Final thing is not on your notes. Write in the word, plan. Schedule great moments into your daily, weekly, monthly and annual calendar. It’s the only way I’ve been able to break out of this. Plan it in. I plan in a date with my wife. I plan in – it sounds crazy. I plan in a cup of coffee in the morning. I like coffee, okay. I hope it’s not bad for me. For those of you who are concerned, I go half caf so relax. I get a good cup of coffee every morning. I put on some music that really refreshes my soul. I drive the long way to work. I sing along with the song. Sometimes I do a little worship. Sometimes I pull into the parking lot and I sit in the parking lot for 10 minutes before I go in. And I just lean back and think of all the good things I have. And just start counting and say, you know what? Thank you, God.
Plan in fun. Plan in activities. Plan in – get with people you love. Plan in times away. Daily one-minute vacations. A chat down the hall with someone you like. Vacation with a family. A great clean movie. A walk a couple times a week. Go out and just look at the stars. Can I just tell you something, from God? You have permission. Enjoy great moments. You’ll be glad you did.