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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
There is a phrase that you hear a lot, and I think it’s true. And the phrase is, “More is caught than taught.” In other words, you can go to a class, and you can hear this or that, but you really catch more than actually is taught. And I’d like to suggest that that’s true. It’s true when you’re young, and it’s true when you’re old.
And I’ve got to share a story. My sister was dating a star basketball player. He was about four years older than me. So, he was, I think, a junior, and I was in eighth grade. His name was Rex. And I’ve got to be careful here, because Rex had the purest, most beautiful jump shot I’ve ever seen. And I played him, one on one, for hours, and I could never beat him.
And he was 6’2” and a really big kind of guy, and he just became my hero. He was sort of stocky, and didn’t look like a basketball player, except, when he got on the floor, no one could stop him. But Rex had this unusual sort of posture, about like this, and when he walked, it looked like he was going to fall over. And it was like that. And when he was really trying to be cool with his leather jacket, he would have that, and he’d put a little dance into it. [shows dance moves] It was cool back in the 70s, okay?
And, so, it’s not like I said to myself, I think I’d like to walk like Rex Gregg. I just hung with him. I tried to shoot like him. I wanted to be around him, and he was at the house, and eating meals. And one day – I’ll never forget – imagine, if you would, this is a stage, where there’s a basketball court. They’re old time. And there’s an auditorium, and there are seats where you could cut through that door, in front of the stage, to the auditorium, to get to class.
And I was coming through that door, walking across, and it was absolutely empty, all those theater-type seats they had in the old junior highs. And I didn’t know it, but, apparently, I had picked something up. I had caught it. I never asked for walking lessons, but being the cool eighth grader, I was… And I didn’t think anybody was up there, and I hear, from the balcony – it’s dark and you can’t see – “Hey, Ingram, you idiot! Who taught you how to walk?” And I promptly went, and walked off. And I thought to myself, it was only in the moment when I heard, “Hey, Ingram, you idiot,” did I realize that I, unconsciously, had picked up walking like Rex. You just pick up whatever the people around you are.
Now, you would think that you only do that when you’re young, and when you’re naïve, and when you’re impressionable, and when you get older you outgrow that. Except I went to a Dallas Seminary, and a professor named Howard Hendricks had a big impact. In fact, I heard him preach once, and said, That’s where I want to go to school. I want to preach like him. And God so used him in my life.
So, every class he taught, I took. Every time he opened his home, we went. Every retreat, we went to. For three years, it took me time, and, finally, I got to go on a trip with him.
And the first couple years as a pastor – I was twenty-eight years old, at a little country church. And I remember coming home one day, and my wife lovingly – sweet woman that she is – says, “Honey, you’ve got to knock it off.” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” “You just sound exactly like Howard Hendricks.” I said, “What do you mean, I sound like Howard Hendricks?”
And she goes, “Well, when you preach, it’s like you just go into – you’re using his phrases, and his mannerisms.” And, “Oh, no, I don’t! I don’t know whether I should wind my watch or lose my ball in the weeds!” And I had him down. I didn’t even know it.
The principle I want you to get is this timeless axiom: We become most like those we admire, and those with whom we interact most frequently. Take it to the bank. You will be like whoever you admire, and whoever you hang with.
The practice number three, if you want to move from good to great in God’s eyes: You long for your heart to be more tender. You want to be more godly. You want to pray the way that we talked about. You want your motives to be what God wants them to be. You long to become, in God’s eyes, the kind of person, with the kind of courage and boldness, who would say, Lord, I’d like to sit at Your right hand. I want to be a great Christian.
Number three: Pursue great people. Pursue. I didn’t say “hang around.” Go after them. Find a great Christian, and pursue them. Hang out with them. The key text for this one is Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” He who walks with a wise man will be wise, but the companion of a fool will suffer harm.
“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” It’s true, isn’t it? “Show me your friends.” That’s why, as parents, it’s critical you know who your kids hang out with, and what their attitudes are, and where they are, because they’re going to become, they’re going to become just like the people they hang with. Now, here’s what I’d like to ask: Why pursue great people? We’ve got the basics here, but why? I want to give you a biblical foundation for pursuing great people.
The first reason is: God’s Word is emphatic about the company that we keep. This isn’t just about wanting to be good. The key word, here: God’s Word is emphatic about the company we keep. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” You put one rotten apple – right? – in a basket with good apples, and the rotting apple will do – what? It’ll rot the others.
Notice what it says in Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you.” First, “Remember.” Then, “Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Literally, we get our word mimic. Mimic their faith. We want to find leaders. We want to remember who they are. We want to consider, ponder, think about their life, and, just as I was unconsciously imitating how Rex would walk, and how Prof. would preach, the Bible says, get your eye on a godly leader, and imitate, or mimic, not their mannerisms, not their externals – imitate their faith.
Notice what it says in 1 Corinthians 4:15 and 16 – the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church. He says to them, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ” – a lot of people that’ll help you, and tell you what to do in your Christian life – “you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father” – how? – “through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you” – same word – “imitate me.”
The apostle Paul knew the most powerful means of discipleship is modeling. Beyond teaching, beyond classes – it’s modeling. When you hang around a person, if you pray with them, you will end up praying like they pray. You will learn to give like they give. You’ll learn to make decisions the way they make decisions. You’ll learn to treat your wife the way they treat their wife. You’ll learn to raise your kids the way they raise their kids. You’ll learn to care about people the way they care about people. You’ll catch it. And the apostle Paul says – and this is strong – “Imitate me. Follow me, as I follow Christ.”
Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Now, I want to make one vital observation, before I go on and talk about: how do you pursue great people? Because I’ve made a point, and some of you are thinking – you’re pretty quick, and you’re going to go, Let’s see, I’m going to be a lot like the people I’m around. All right. Mm-hm. That’s really true. There are a lot of verses. That makes sense. Yeah, okay.
And then, you’re thinking about, Well, wait a second! The people that I’ve been around the most were my parents. The people that I was around the most were some brothers and sisters. And in a group this size, some of you had some parents that weren’t believers. And some of you had some parents that were, and didn’t act like it. And some of you had some parents that walked out on you. And some of you had some parents that were abusive in their speech, and others abusive physically, and others abusively sexually.
And before I go on, you’re thinking to yourself, Wow. I’m going to be a lot like the people I hang around with. But, God? I don’t know about you, I didn’t get a lottery ticket, like, Okay, I would like a family in Ohio, Columbus – schoolteachers. That’s for me, Lord. I just got born there.
And, so, I want to make some observations, because if you don’t think this through, you can really get stuck. The observations I’ve put on your teaching handout, it’s that our baggage and our backgrounds demand that we pursue great people. Our baggage and our backgrounds demand that we pursue great people. And we all have baggage, and we all have backgrounds. No one had a perfect parent. Anybody have a perfect parent?
Your parent may have given it their best shot. My dad gave it his best shot. But how do you be a dad, when you didn’t have one after you were thirteen? How do you be a dad, when you’ve killed thousands of people, and you have all kinds of hang-ups, and you don’t know how to deal with your own life, let alone communicate it to your son?
See, there are some wounds and deficits that came from your dad, your mom, my dad, my mom, because they weren’t perfect. But guess what, that’s normal. It’s normal. Unfortunately, some of us focus on that the rest of our lives.
The third observation with this is, we must choose to deal with the damage constructively. And we could spend a lot of time here, and I’m not. All I want to tell you is, there are some people that have been through some very difficult times, and the focus of your heart and your life is always about what was done to you, and what you’re working through. And there’s unresolved shame, and unresolved blame, and unresolved issues.
But you know something? At some point in time, you have to say, Lord, I want to thank You that in Your sovereignty I was in this family, and these good things came out of it. And, Lord, I want to tell You that there are wounds, and deficits, and pains, and I need You to be my Father. I need You to heal me. I need You to restore me. It’s a fallen world.
And you know what? The best thing that’s happened to me, probably, in the last decade, has been to walk a few miles in my parents’ moccasins. To think about, when you hit certain ages, all of a sudden you think, Let’s see, when my dad was about forty, this is how old I was, and this is what I went through and, wow. I think he did a lot better than I thought ten years ago. And, let’s see, now. When I was this age, my dad was forty-eight or fifty, and here are the issues I’m dealing with, and… And you know what? Boy, we had meals together, and they cared about me. And you know something? You know the confidence that I have, the drive that I have, the positive self-image I have? A lot of things were really, really positive, and they all go back to my dad.
My dad and I started a little lawn business when I was eight. My dad helped me deliver papers. And I had a hundred and thirty, a hundred and fifty-paper-route stacked up to the rim in the car when I was about eleven years old. It’s so easy to look at the minuses, and the hurts, and the pains, instead of saying, “I had an imperfect parent, and they gave me these good things. Thank You, Lord, and…
Only the Healer, the Restorer of my soul, God, can ever complete my life. But you know how He does it? Now, sometimes you just read the Word, and the Spirit of God does some deep things in your heart, but you know how God normally heals you? He brings the dad in your life that you didn’t have. He brings the cheerleader into your life that you didn’t have. He brings the sponsor into your life that you really needed. He brings the confidant, or the counselor.
God brings someone into your life that’s been through something, and He takes the Word of God, through the Spirit of God, through the heart of another person, and this person rubs up next to you. And He makes you whole, and me whole, little by little by little, through another person.
And, so, what I’m going to tell you is, you need to pursue great people, first of all, because the Bible is emphatic that the company we keep will determine the kind of people we become, and, second, because we all came from dysfunctional backgrounds. We all have baggage. We all have wounds. It’s normal.
You can either choose to be a victim, or choose to say, “I’m going to grow through it.” And, God, there are people, in the body of Christ. You are going to love me, in this new family called “the Church.” And I need to pursue the people that You want to use to heal my life, and I want to be, in turn, a healer in the life of other people. Have you got it?
Every time I hit this part, I wish I had a camera, and could see the wheels going on inside your heads. It really raises stuff up, doesn’t it? It’s okay. It’s okay. Because, see, if you never bring it up, and if you never deal with it, what a lot of us do is push it down.
And when it comes up, we go to the refrigerator. And when it comes up, other people open something, and they start drinking a little bit of it. And when it comes up, some people take some pills, or when it comes up, some people just go to work, and work more and more and more.
Because you just keep pushing down stuff that bothers you, that’s not dealt with, that are wounds, and you just have to say, “You know something?”
I love Henri Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer. It’s when we begin to get forgiveness and healing from God, in our imperfection, that He allows us to pass it on to other people.
Well, let’s get on the really positive side, then. How in the world do we go about developing these kinds of relationships? How do you pursue great people? I don’t know about you, but they just didn’t line up on my door, seven deep, ringing the doorbell: “Hi, I’m a great person, Chip. I’d like to be a sponsor in your life. Oh, okay; you already have one?” “Hi, Chip. I’d like to be a father figure. I know you went through some rough times.” That didn’t happen to me. You’ve got to pursue them. And I’m going to give you a couple ways that I think will be very helpful.
The first is, I think you need to start in the rearview mirror. You ready for that? I think, to pursue great people, start in the rearview mirror, and mentally build what I’m going to call your own personal Mt. Rushmore, of the four or five people who have most positively impacted or influenced your life.
And, so, I’m going to challenge you to build your own Mt. Rushmore. When you do, you’ll recognize the value of people in your life. You’ll see the strategic needs that you have. And then, it will help you determine what kinds of people you ought to pursue.
My first one, over here on the left, etched in stone in my heart and soul, is a guy named Neil Lance, my junior high coach, P.E. teacher. I’ll never forget the first time I met Neil Lance. I was a cocky, insecure, mouthy kid who desperately wanted attention, because he couldn’t figure out what was going on inside.
The second person on my Mt. Rushmore is a girl named Punky. It’s her almost real name. Her real name’s Harriet, but I shouldn’t say that publicly. And she was my sister, and she’s only about a year and three months older than me. And I had never heard of Campus Crusade for Christ. And we were a religious family, and I went to a church that did not teach the Bible, and no one, as far as I knew, were Christians. But we were religious, went through motions, very hypocritical, and I got turned off by the Church.
I want to skip from number one, number two – I want to go right over here to number three in my Mt. Rushmore. And this is the third person in my rearview mirror, a guy named Dave Marshall. And I prayed to receive Christ at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. And I was eighteen years old, had never opened the Bible, and landed on a campus.
And there was a bricklayer, trained by the Navigators. He was what I would call “not cool.” But he would lay bricks all day, and open his home at night, and do Bible study with a few students.
Who are the people in your Mt. Rushmore?