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About this series
Doing Less, Loving More
Most of us live very complex lives that move too fast, deliver too little, and demand too much. We often succumb to the push and pull of all the demands. We lack time for God, relationships, or ourselves. We know we need to change our pattern of life, but we either put it off or just don't know how to get started. In the end, there's a key question we need to ask and answer: What do we want to be known for? It is possible to break free from the high speed, high pressure, high demand, guilt-producing disease of our lives. The answer is counter-intuitive and it's found in 1 Corinthians 13. Discover what is needed to enjoy Spiritual Simplicity in today's fast paced lifestyles.More from this series
Well, we’re in a series, if you’re new, called Spiritual Simplicity. And has anyone noticed that each of the titles of the messages has been the title of a song? Have you picked that up? Right? You know? We had Tina Turner, What’s Love Got To Do With It? All You Need is Love.
Well I’m kind of on a roll. So, this is going to be the title of a song. What I love is that some of the songs I had to preface it with, like, if you were born…you know, maybe you’ve heard this on an oldies station.
The title of the song is actually the most sung song by U2 in any of their concerts. It was one of their early hits. It got to number three in the UK charts and number five on the Dutch charts.
And then it grew in its popularity. It’s been on three different albums, according to Rolling Stone, which is the authority on rock and roll, of all time best rock and roll songs, it’s three eighty-eight out of five hundred and according to VH1, out of the top hundred songs ever, it’s number thirty-eight. You just didn’t know I would know that kind of stuff, did you?
What’s interesting about this song is, apparently, the melody and things, they were in a jam session while they were in a studio in Hawaii and later the lyrics came out. And the lyrics are about a famous person and if you read the lyrics, I actually read the lyrics, and if you try to figure out what this song is about, it’s almost impossible.
In fact, I’ve got a quote here from Bono who says, “When we started to put it on an album, the lyrics are really sketchy and when I read them,” he says, “what in the heck is this talking about? This is just a bunch of vowels thrown together that don’t make a lot of sense.”
Now this is his own comment on the lyrics. “But the producers of the song said, ‘You know what? That’s really true. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. But for non-English speakers, the different words that it has, it’ll be like an impressionistic painting.’”
And, so, it’s interesting. So, here we have a song, In the Name of Love, that at the core of the lyrics, if you read the lyrics, they don’t make a lot of sense.
And you’re thinking, Okay Chip, you really need to make the connection here soon about what this has to do with living simply.
Here’s what hit me. All of us, in the name of love, do things that don’t make sense. I mean, in the name of love, sometimes we do very, very good things, but they just don’t make sense.
And so, I came across, here’s a little poem, if you’ll get your notes out. On the very front, here’s some things that, in the name of love, and, by the way, there’s no criticism here. This is, like, genuine, sincere, in the name of love I really want to do what’s best, I really want to care for people, I want to be a good person.
But, “In the name of love, we give and give and give some more yet still feel guilty for not giving more. In the name of love, we get up early and come home late, leaving little time or energy to relate. In the name of love, we’re always on the go, but love requires the gear of slow. In the name of love, we start them early so they’ll be a star and then we spend our weekends in the car.
“In the name of love, we buy them computers and fancy phones only to discover they feel all alone. In the name of love, we celebrate their role on the traveling team and wonder later why at church they’re rarely seen. “And in the name of love, we make success what we reward, but show little passion for God’s Word.
Now, if you went through that, what I can tell you is, there’s a lot of, you know, look at the first one. Isn’t it good to be giving and generous? Well, yeah. And the second, isn’t it good to work hard, get up early, and if you have to stay late? Yeah. Well isn’t it good to be on the go and be active? Don’t be a couch potato, right? That’s a good thing.
Isn’t it good that you start them, I guess, early and you want to develop their skills and the motive is great there.
Heck, I mean, don’t you want your kids to have a computer and it’s the age and they need to learn it and a phone to keep them safe and…?
See, there’s a lot of really good things with a lot of really good motives that if the means becomes the end or if there’s a little shift over time, in the name of love, in our minds and hearts and motives, we often think we’re doing some really good things that produce some really bad results.
And that’s the question I want to address this morning here in part four. Why do so many good things so often result in so many bad lives? And what we’re going to learn, we’re going to discuss today, in each of this, the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 he’s addressing a very high capacity, very gifted, very cosmopolitan, metropolitan church that is very immature, that is very selfish, that has lots of conflict, and is very unloving.
And so, all of chapter 13 isn’t some beautiful poem about love. He addresses how they hurt one another, he addresses how they deal with differences. He addresses this whole idea of what happens when you fail. And now he’s going to talk to us about how love responds to misplaced priorities.
I want to do a quick review before we talk about how love responds to misplaced priorities because the whole issue, I mean, I’m getting emails from people that are so encouraging. I got an email from a lady who said, “I just want you to know, I had a number of opportunities this week to absorb a blow, when people hurt me, and respond with a hug.”
I got an email from someone who said, “You know something? I had a situation this week where all the circumstances kind of looked like, wow, really bad stuff happening. And I chose to believe the best about this person’s motives.”
And so, let’s do a quick review because the issue isn’t someday, someway that we try to be more loving. These are the kind of things we have to practice in real time.
Situation number one is: how does love respond to hurts? The truth is, love is patient and kind. The practice we learned is when you’re hurt, wounded, rejected, or ignored. Love – remember the pillow? absorbs the blow. It’s not fair, it hurts. You’re rejected. But then by God’s grace, returns a hug.
Situation number two was how love responds to differences. The text says, “Love doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, it’s not rude, it’s not self-seeking, it’s not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
The practice is: love celebrates differences. And remember the principle about loving? Love refuses to compare. Anytime you compare yourself with another person in any area, it always leads to carnality. You are who you are, in the station you are, in the season you’re living, by the grace of God.
If I compare upwardly, I’m prone to envy. If I compare downwardly, I’m prone to arrogance. Love chooses to do neither, but celebrates. That’s where they’re at, that’s what they have, that’s how they’re made, that’s their gifts, that’s their season.
Third situation is: how does love respond to failure? The truth was verses 6 through 8. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, it always hopes, it always perseveres. Love never fails.”
The practice is: love responds to failure – remember? with both truth and grace. When people fail you, when your mate fails you. When your best friend fails you, when people don’t show up, when you fail other people, when you fail God. Love, this is how it responds, it doesn’t put it under the rug. It doesn’t act like it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t stuff it down. It doesn’t pay them back later.
Love responds with truth. This is the truth about that failure. It’s very real, it was very painful, and it was wrong, and it also responds with grace. And I still care about you. And I want to forgive you. And this can be made whole.
And so we learned that the practice of giving truth and grace was about bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things.
Now the apostle Paul is going to address these Corinthians because they are self-centered. They’re more concerned about who does what and who has what. And their priorities in the church are absolutely out of whack.
They are so into, in some cases, “my needs,” that they’re suing one another. They’re so interested in being first and being out front that they’re doing some spiritual practices and literally just dissing other people.
They’re in this deal where their priorities, they’re exalting some of the gifts and exalting some of what is supposed to be in the church that God talks about, but they put it up here and the things that really matter? They’re totally neglecting.
And so, the apostle Paul is going to write to them, situation number four: how does love respond to misplaced priorities? You can jot that in your notes if you would. And he answers. Here’s the truth, “Love never fails. Where there are prophecies, they’ll cease, where there’s tongues, they will be stilled. Where there’s knowledge, it’ll pass away.”
Then he gives us the reason, “For we know, in part, and we prophecy in part, but when the perfection comes,” and put a circle around “perfection,” will you? We’ll come back and address that. “When the perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
And now he gives us an illustration. He’s going to give us some help about how to get your priorities in order. He says, “When I was a child, I talked like child, I thought like a child, and I reasoned like child. When I became a man, I put away childish things.”
In your notes, will you underline the word talked, underline the word think, and underline the word reasoned? They’re three key, key verbs.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I’m fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Now, it is poetic. It is beautiful. It is on plaques everywhere in the world. It is said at weddings. It’s said in, kind of, romantic settings. But you need to understand what he’s addressing here is not, sort of a, foo-foo, ooey-gooey, how to feel about one another.
He’s correcting misplaced priorities in a church and he’s giving them very clear guidelines about what’s really important and how to get some of those things. Even, I’m just going to assume the best of the Corinthians. I’m going to assume they really wanted to do the right thing. But just like in the name of love we do things that are kind of silly and stupid and don’t get us there, so did they.
And so, the practice here is love ruthlessly refuses to allow temporal good things to crowd out the eternal best things. And will you put a box around, I mean, I chose these words very carefully. Ruthlessly refuses. Put a box around that phrase.
And I want to give you a little warning. What we’re going to talk about is where a lot of the rubber really meets the road. If you want to simplify your life, if you want to find yourself three months, three years, five years, ten years down from here and say to yourself, You know something? I love God now like I never dreamed I could experience. I have relationships like I never dreamed. There are issues in my family that have come together that I never thought I would ever experience.
A lot of it is going to come down to you hearing today what God says to you and then you taking some very specific and they will be radical steps. We will not talk about how to tweak your schedule and get five or seven percent more time to do a few more important things.
We’re going to talk about priorities that, if you get serious about what God wants, you’re going to have to say to certain whole sections of your life, You know something? That’s been way up here. You know what? For a season, I just need to stop doing that. I’ve got to get refocused at a new level about what really, really matters.
Love ruthlessly, ruthlessly, that means, that means, Aw, I don’t want, if I do that she’ll get mad at me. If I do that, I want to do that, well I get a lot of strokes out of that. Well, that’s one of my hobbies and I really, you know, ah, em, em, ah, ah.
And so you keep trying to tweak and what happens? Seven days later, you’re as overscheduled, over-demand, overwhelmed as you were two weeks before.
You’re a really smart people. If tweaking a little bit here or there was the solution, you would have solved this a long time ago.
So let’s look at, okay, God help us. How do we ruthlessly refuse to allow, notice it’s not bad things. The things that eat you up, they’re not bad things. They’re temporal. They’re really good things, but the good is always the enemy of the best.
His thesis here is that love is supreme. Love is our number one priority. That phrase: love never fails. It’s kind of a hinge.
And then it kind of opens the door to how love responds to misplaced priorities. The word “fails,” seventy different times in the New Testament, it’s translated, “love never falls.” It means, love will never be corrupted, love will never cease, love is permanent, love lasts. He’s saying: loving God and loving people is the number one priority in your life.
And see, what we’ve got to do is step back and say, Okay, if someone picked up my schedule, if someone picked up where all my money went, if someone could pick up and read my mind about where my thoughts are when I didn’t have something to do, would my thoughts and my time and my money and my energy and my actions tell the story that, wow, this person really loves God and really loves people?
Or would it, would they listen to my words and say, This person says and thinks and actually is deluded into believing they really love God and really love people. But when you look at their time, their money, their dreams, their schedule, and their energy it looks like they really love themselves a lot. And they really have believed a few lies.
That’s what he’s dealing with that church then. And that’s what he’s talking to us about today.
The contrast, he says, love is supreme. Love’s the number one priority. The best of temporal things. The good. Even spiritually beneficial, powerful gifts, are far less important than love.
I mean, isn’t that exactly what he says? Look at verse, the second half of verse 8. There’s a big word. “Love never fails, but.” “But where’s there’s prophecies, they’ll cease. Where there’s tongues, in and of themselves, they’re going to go away. Where there’s knowledge,” I mean, even the great mysteries of God.
So, the apostle Paul, if you study this book carefully. Remember he told them in chapter 12? Prophecy is the most important of all the gifts. And now he comes back and says even that one’s going away.
The Corinthians believed that tongues was the most important gift. He goes, “Well yours is going away.” And then he said, “We would both agree that knowledge, the very mystery and knowledge of life and God…
He says, “That’s going to go away.” And those are the things, those are about ministry. Those are about the kingdom of God. I mean, prophecy and tongues and knowledge. And he says, “Wait a second. Compared to love, they’re not the number one priority.”
The reason he gives us is in verse 9 and 10. The reason is because they don’t last. They’re temporal. Could you put a line under they don’t last? Because this is what he’s trying to get into their mind and into their heart.
He says, “For we know in part, we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, when the perfect comes.” A lot of debate on this, but the clearest explanation, things are going to be completed when Jesus comes back. I mean, I don’t mean the rapture. I don’t mean when He comes back. I mean, when the Second Coming of Christ, when the absolute completion and perfection of all things gets sealed, there won’t be any need for prophesy, won’t be any need for tongues. The knowledge won’t be in part, it’ll be face to face.
We’re going to know Him fully just as we’ve been already fully known. And what he’s saying is: Look, you guys are so into, and arguing about and stressed and pulled in all these directions about some very good things but what prophesy and knowledge, all they have in common is they’re temporal.
It’s not that they don’t matter at all. It’s like helping your kids learn sports at an early age or wanting them to get into a good college or wanting to be upwardly mobile or getting some extra training or wanting to do well in your job or, you know, are those – those aren’t bad things, are they?
I mean, if you would walk through carefully later today, the list of things that I put on the front page of your notes, every single one of those is really good – isn’t it good to be giving? Yeah, it’s good to be giving. But if you give, give, give, give, give, give and don’t honor God and take some time to get renewed, then guess what, you just feel guilty and burned out.
I mean, it’s good to help your kids grow but if your whole world is traveling around in minivans and SUVs and all your weekends are taken up helping your kids hit balls and kick balls and chase balls to where you’re never together and connected from the heart…
See, some good means, some very good things. But it’s sort of a wash. Sort of, we’re living in this world where, you know, you’re not a good dad if you don’t do this, you’re not a good mom if you don’t do that.
You’re never going to make it as a single person unless you go here, go here, go here, do this, do this. I mean, you’re not successful and significant unless you have a bag that looks like this, a watch that looks like this, and a car that drives like that.
You want to make it or not?
And you’ve got to start asking: make what? So yeah, that’s right, so what do you want to make? You want to make it big and go through a couple marriages? You want to make it big and have kids that don’t know your name and don’t care about you?
You want to make it big and be successful and some people, you know, it’s not…they do it in ministry. Every time the church doors are open they’re here and doing this and doing that.
I was talking on the phone with a guy from another country last night that I’m going to do some ministry with in the future. And we just off the phone and I just said, “Could I just,” the guy, he’s a Harvard grad, he’s got theology, he teaches in the seminaries and is in charge of this humongous, the administrative side of a church of about seventy-five thousand in another country.
And I said, just, “Is there one thing I could pray for you?” And he said, “Yeah, there is one thing.”
And I said, “What is it?” He goes, “You know, I have three almost full-time jobs and there’s all this demand and my wife’s very understanding. But my daughter is eight and she just doesn’t understand very much.”
I said, “Well, what do you mean she doesn’t understand?” He goes, “Well, I just don’t see her very often.” I said, “What do you mean you don’t see her very often?” “I don’t see her. I work twelve to fourteen-hour days and I’m gone early and I come home late so I just don’t get to see her very much.”
And this is a pastor. “And I know that’s not right,” and it’s always followed by this, “but…” And I said, “I’m going to be in your country in the near future, and why don’t you and I get some time? I’ve kind of lived where I was tempted and struggled with some of those things. I have four kids. And let’s make that part of our little time together.”
Now I didn’t, I didn’t tell him, “Buddy, I’m going to build a little trust with you and I’m going to spiritually kick your rear end as hard and as long as I can. And I’m going to look you in the eye and say: Do you understand how good things, very good things, in the name of love, produce some really bad lives?
I’ll tell you, he’s going to have a little girl that doesn’t like God, let alone love God. And will wonder why the church or God took her daddy away from her.
And some of you are going to have kids that wonder why the name of your company did that. Or your drive did that. Or golf did that. Or your hobby did that. Or the speed of your life did that. Or how, just because your kids say, “I want, I want, please, please, yeah, yeah, yeah,” and you cave into them.
Guess what, you can give people what they want but if you don’t give them what they need, they like you for giving them what they want now, then they hate you later for not giving them what they need. That’s the difference between parents and kids.
A picture that helped me with this was a guy named Jim Dethmer, he gave a message that really helped me. And he had an illustration that I’d like to just steal.
Because there’s part of this, theologically, and you say: what do you mean, they’ll fade away, they don’t matter? It’s not like those good things you’re doing don’t matter. It’s not like ministry doesn’t matter.
So what’s it mean, what’s the picture? And I love the illustration he gave. He said, “Imagine that we were having a big party, everyone in the church, big party. All the services coming together and, you know, we rent a park and, I mean, we’re going to have ice cream and we’re going to have food and a barbeque and we’re going to celebrate and there’s going to be great music. And so we get, like, four or five of our best artists and we want you to create a sculpture that, I mean, gives glory to God that, just, magnifies the artistic talent and ability that you have.
And here’s this big room, it’s about, you know, thirty feet by forty feet. And this big block of ice. And, you know, they’re in there with chain saw. Errr, errrr, errr, chhh, chh.
And so they work for weeks and then they put it on these rollers and there are thousands of us and we’re having music and here it is, this beautiful fountain. And it’s out in one hundred degrees and who knows, maybe we could have chocolate coming out of it or something. But, you know, there’s swans and I mean, I mean, it’s just an amazing deal, right?
And we stop and all of us are going, “Wow. Wow, can you believe? Man, unbelievable. Do you see, I mean, that is the most amazing. How did they do that with ice,” right? You know, we’re all just like this.
Three hours later, party is over. What they did was wonderful. Their energy was wonderful. We appreciated it. But three to four hours later, some of us are volunteering, cleaning up the chairs.
We’re picking up the paper. The swan only has one arm. The thing’s melting. By dusk a handful of us are just cleaning up. And where that beautiful ice sculpture used to be, there’s just puddles of water.
See, it’s not that what you were doing or what I’m doing doesn’t have any value. It’s that it doesn’t have any value that lasts. And there’s some of us that’ll stand before the judgment seat of Christ and I just say this from God’s loving heart to you as a warning.
And you will spend your time and your energy doing very good things that you think, with all your heart, are in the name of love, in your relationships, in your families, and in your work.
And you’ll get near the end of your life or worse, by the time, if you have a family, where your kids are grown, and what you’ll look back on is just pools of water that have no significance that are going nowhere and you wish you could turn back the clock.
What would happen if sometime, you started a brand new journey and the new journey went something like this: I’m not sure what I’ll do with the entire rest of my life, but until I take my last breath, I’m going to start thinking and planning and praying and structuring my life, my activities, and my energy, and my money around two things, loving God and loving people.
And I’m going to stop cheating by saying one thing and pretending it’s true and I’m going to ask: do my finances and my time and my closest relationships reflect that I really love God and love people? And here’s the promise. Love never fails.
You’ll never have a regret. You’ll never say no to one youth sport activity or a few more hours at work or one more deal that you can do. Where you say, no, this vacation’s planned and we’re going to go away.
You’ll never look back and go, Oh, I wish you would have done one more deal. But you will look back with regret if love’s not the number one priority.
And so, he tells us how to do it. Are you ready for this? He says: grow up. So how does love respond to misplaced priorities? You grow up. I mean, look at what he says! Verse 11. He says, “When I was a child, I talked, I thought, and I reasoned as a child but when I became a man,” and this word means, a man who has responsibility who’s at the point in his life that he’s old enough to reproduce.
So, I did a little thinking about how kids think or children think. And the word for child here is a small child. So, let me tell you how children think and then we’ll talk about how adults think and then you can ask yourself, How am I talking and thinking and reasoning like a child?
The word talk here just means what comes out of your mouth. It’s no technical term to it. But what comes out of our mouth always reveals what’s in our heart.
The word think here is that same word that’s used in, same root word that’s in, remember Romans 12:2? “Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think but think as to have sober,” in fact, same word, “judgment as God has allotted to each.” It’s about processing and evaluating what’s going on and why.
And then the word reasoning here, is one of my favorite words, it’s logizomai. It’s found in Romans 12:1. Do you hear it? “Logic-omai.” It means to reason. It’s a very clear, it’s a reckoning, it’s an accounting term, it’s weighing things; here’s all the positive, here’s all the negatives, here’s the P&L, here’s what we’ll deliver here, here’s what won’t.
It’s a reasoning, matter of fact, thinking. And in Romans 12:1 at the very end, it says, “For this is your spiritual service of worship. The word spiritual or reasonable is this word.
Now, here’s how kids think. Here’s how they – when I hear kids talk, little kids, they say, “I want it.” I mean, I did an experiment, a sociological experiment Friday night. I had two kids stay overnight in my house. One was three. And one just turned six. And I heard, “Papa, I want that. I want that. I want that. Can we do this? Can, please, please, yes, yes, can, want, want, want, want, want.” That’s how kids think. Or how they talk.
And then, how they think is – what? About them. I mean, there’s fifty toys on our living room floor. There’s two kids. One kid’s playing. “I want that! I want that! Nah, nah, I want, I want!”
Kids, by nature, they don’t wake up in the morning thinking, I wonder how I can encourage mom and dad today.
Or they don’t walk into a room with other seven-year-olds and say, “Hey, anybody feeling kind of down? Need a little time to talk? Did everybody, hey, did everyone get their milk? I want to make sure. I’ve got two here.” You can have seven milks and three kids and they fight over who has two or three! That’s childish.
Paul says when he was a child, he talked like a child. Want, want, want. He thought like a child, about me, me, me. And he reasoned as a child. And the way kids reason are called, “now.” Immediate gratification.
If you tell them, “You can have five candy bars a week from now or you can have one now,” the wrapper’s off of it. They can’t even think about five candy bars later.
It’s immediate, it’s now, I’ve got to have it. That’s how kids think. How do adults think? Talk and reason. Well a kid says, “I want.” An adult says, “What’s needed? What’s needed here?” Not what I want. Not what you want. What’s needed? What’s best?
Kids say, “It’s all about me.” When you’re an adult, what you realize is, anything that works, it’s about others. Maturity is thinking about others.
Especially for you moms, I don’t think there’s probably hardly a mom in the whole world that gets up thinking, Oh, I wonder how I’m going to spend this day on me today.
When you’re an adult, when you walk into an office, it’s about: what do these people need? I’m responsible. You think about others.
An adult’s reasoning goes something like this. Two words: delayed gratification. It’s not what this is going to deliver today, it’s what is it going to deliver over the long haul? What will this behavior produce next week, next year, five years from now?
Adults ask the question, not: what can I have now? Adults ask: what is needed and what is best for the longest haul for the most people? What’s wise? What has value? What will deliver?
Now, he goes on to talk about: cloudy vision leads to complexity. And I want to give you, you and me, a little grace because if you think these messages are hard to listen to, you should have to come up with them. I’m serious.
I’ve got to apply this stuff. If I don’t apply it to me first, I’ve got nothing to say. And the principle is, notice what he says, “For now, we see in a mirror dimly.” And by the way, a mirror in the ancient world was not like your mirror where everything was clear. It was a piece of steel that was brushed. And so, you could see yourself and you could make yourself out, but it was cloudy.
You knew who it was and it was helpful, but it wasn’t crystal clear. He says now, temporal, in this life, the way we’re living, we see in a mirror but it’s kind of cloudy. So it’s complex. And so it’s hard to know.
And some people say this and some people say this and then you get busy and you feel a pull here and a pull here. And there’s competing demands. And there’s a demand for this and a demand for this. The demand for family, demand for work.
When do you do what? How can you ever know? And so, most of us try and do it all. And not do any of it very well. And neglect their own soul.
He says, “Now we see in a mirror dimly but then,” he’s talking about when Christ comes back, “then we’ll see fully. Now we know and see in part but then it’s going to be face to face.”
Jot in your notes 1 John 3:2. We do not know what we will be like, but this is what we know. When we see Him, we will be like Him.
When you meet Christ face to face, we will be transformed and we will be like Him. Not God, but as created beings, these glorified bodies, I mean, everything gets clear.
And when it’s clear, notice what happens. When things are absolutely clear, he says, “Now abide faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love.” Why? One, because it lasts. Faith is trusting or believing in what I can’t see, the promises and the character of God, but someday, faith becomes sight.
Hope is this anchor of your soul, this certainty that God says, “I am coming back. I have forgiven you. I am in control.” And it’s not a wish. It’s an absolute hope. But at one point in time your hope turns from hope to possession. You will walk with God if you’re a Christ follower, if you’ve received His forgiveness.
But love will continue on because when you see Him face to face, what’s 1 John say? “God is love.” We will love one another perfectly. That’s why it’s never ruined. It never falls.
When you have a cloudy vision about your purpose and your priorities, it produces complexity. When you have a clear vision about where you’re going, why you’re going there, what’s important, and how to get there, it produces love.
Now, if I was sitting there like I’ve been with this text and I really wanted my priorities – and some of these are big issues, right?
I mean, this isn’t like, “Oh hey, why don’t you pray a couple extra little prayers?” I mean, this is some of you saying, “You know what? I’m not sure I’m in the right job.” This is some of you saying, “Well, if this isn’t the right job, I don’t know if I can continue living in this community.”
For some of you, it’s like, “Well, you know, we’re both working and we never see our kids. Maybe one of us needs to stop.” For some it’s like, “My schedule is nuts. I intend and want and I don’t read the Bible, I don’t talk with God much, and I can’t figure why it’s not working.” Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. “I know that I could get help from people but I’d love to get in one of those small groups, I hear it’s really great. I don’t have time.”
To make time to love God, to create margin, to nourish your own soul. Some of you haven’t taken a day off in ages and haven’t had what’s a real vacation in years. And you know what? You reap and then you’re going to sow. But what you need to hear is, this isn’t a message: you have misplaced priorities and God is mad at you. What you need to hear is you’re living in a world that’s complex, in a place that’s fast, with a lot of smart people.
And this is your heavenly Father saying, Let’s call a time out. I don’t want your life to end up a super-duper temporal ice sculpture that impresses people and then you get near the end of your life or maybe even five or ten years from now and the most important relationships and issues in your life be puddles of water.
And you say, “Wow, I was successful. My kids got in this school.” Or, “I was upwardly mobile,” or, “I worked all these hours and they promoted me,” or, “I did this and I did that.” And then you just think, and it profited you nothing. And then you became nothing.
And so you’ve got to grow up. You’ve got to learn to talk like an adult. You’ve got to start asking questions like, “What’s really needed?” You need to begin to think like an adult.
What do the people in my sphere that I’m responsible for – what do they need? Not what do they want? Not what makes them happy, not, if I say this will they reject me?
Do they need a cell phone at this age? Do they need to be watching this or that? Are these the right friends for them to be with? For some of us, do I need to keep hanging around this group of people that I find myself making progress and pulled back away? Do I need to keep burning two to three hours a night because I’m exhausted? Do I need to keep that second glass of wine every night or do I basically have an addiction?
See, this is hard stuff. Unless we grow up, unless we ask, you know what? What’s wise? What’s best? Who do I really want to become? What kind of relationships do I really want to have?
What do you want to be known for? What do you really want to be known for? I can’t think of a greater goal than – and I’m praying and I’ve got so far to go. But I would love – I don’t want my kids, adult kids now, to say, “Wow, my dad was a busy pastor.” I’d like my adult kids to say, “My dad had a lot on his plate but, man, I heard from him every week. He had time for my kids. He really cared about me.”
I want my wife, I figure at the pace that I go I’ll probably go before she does. I hope so. Because I need her a lot more than she needs me. But, man, I hope after I die, I hope my wife will say, “You know something? He did have a lot on his plate but, man, we had a rich, deep…he loved me. He loved me and he loved God.”
And what I can tell you is, I’ve had various seasons of my life, like you have in your life, where I just had to say, “You know something? I’m going to have to uncloud my vision and I may see in part but if you want, this is a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.”
If you want to get clear vision, you have to be in God’s Word. No legalism, no ought or got to. It is a love relationship. If you want to know if you’re doing the right thing you need to talk and talk to God out loud. And when you’re confused, ask Him a question and sit quietly and see if He doesn’t give you direction.
If you want to make it in this life and stay clear and stay on course it’s not hard to do it alone, it’s impossible to do it alone. You will have to create margin in your life to be with a group of people to say, “I can’t love God and love others by myself. Will you help me?”
If you want the kind of family that is in the back of your mind that you hope someday, someway you’re going to have, you will have to structure in times around the table and times for vacation and times to really talk. Because you’re going to get the outcomes of what you’ve structured.
The way you’re presently living is going to produce the continued outcomes of what you’re presently receiving. It really is about just loving God and loving one another.
If you’ll turn to the last page, I put our Romans 12 application as being separate from the world’s values, because, in essence, what I’ve really talked about is how to be holy. Holy is not, that word conjures up for some of us, black robes and candles and people with really big black Bibles and sometimes weird and mystical. The word “holy,” you know what it means? It just means different. The word literally means something that’s set apart. That it’s special. It just means different. God wants a different life for you. A better life. A holy life. Is moral purity a part of it? Absolutely. But He wants something different for you. I mean, look at the families in America and the single people in America and all the pain and all the junk and all the stuff. He’s just saying, I don’t want that for you. So stop being conformed to this world’s values and start, not trying hard, but renew your mind.
Say no to some of the movies and some of the stuff and some of time and some of the novels and some of the relationships that keep telling you you’ve got to look like this and act like this and earn this much and do this stuff and live at this pace. And shut out some of that and start renewing your mind with God’s truth. And then notice, look in your notes. What’s the second half of that verse say? What’s His heart? His heart isn’t that you become religious and weird. His heart is that you might approve or taste or test or experience His will for you, which is good, acceptable, and perfect.
I jotted down, when we have misplaced priorities, even when it’s out of ignorance, we end up buying what we don’t need to impress people that don’t care. We listen to what the world says instead of what God’s Word says. We assume that the goal in our parenting is to make our kids successful and happy, instead of holy. We don’t live differently, and therefore the great majority of all people who sincerely love God miss God’s best.
And the point of simplifying your life is not to become some weird, religious, fanatical Christian in the negative sense. It’s that you could be holy as God is holy. So that you could experience the very best and that when people would rub up against your life and your lifestyle and your values as a single person, as a married person, as people with kids, they would see a refreshing, peaceful, deep, connected relationship that flows out of your time with God, your time with others, and they would just say something like, “You know something? This world’s nuts. How could you say no to that opportunity?”
Or, “How do you balance your life with all your responsibility?” And you will have an answer that will say, “You know something?
I was going really strong and I really loved God but I came out of denial. And I decided that I would actually make loving God and loving people my number one priority and trust that the hard decisions and the people that I disappoint, that God was big enough to take care of that.” And that’s my prayer for you.