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About this series
Relationships Under Pressure
Keeping it Together When the World's Falling Apart
In this series, Chip takes a biblical look at some of the many reasons why even our best and closest relationships suffer hard times. He addresses topics like why we fight with those we love, why we all struggle with anger, how to resolve inevitable conflict, that the only person I can genuinely control is me, and finally, that the art of speaking the truth in love is a gift - and goes a long way toward building great relationships that last. This series will help you understand the beauty of grace in the context of a world full of selfish, broken, petty people - including you! So, join Chip and get on the solution side of keeping it together when the world is falling apart.More from this series
Let’s go back and play out what the lie is, then. He says, “We believed a lie.” The lie, basically, is hedonism. And hedonism is a worldview that promises that I will be fulfilled by pleasure. How I feel is the value of what’s right, and what’s wrong. I know I’m married, I know I’m supposed to do this, but I don’t feel loved anymore, therefore…I know it’s wrong, and I know God says only to put pure things in my mind, but when I log on to the Internet, and I see all those naked pictures, it makes me feel alive. I know we don’t have the money, I know I shouldn’t spend it, but when I go through, and I buy one, two, three, four more pairs of shoes, and two more dresses, and I come home, I get a little rush, and I feel alive and good again, until the MasterCard bill comes, and I have yet another fight in our home with my husband.
See, the lie is, fulfilling your sensual pleasure will deliver significance, security, joy, and fulfillment. That’s hedonism. And we have three prominent passions in hedonism. Number one is the desire to have - possessions. Number two is the desire to feel - pleasure. And number three is the desire to be - power.
Possessions, pleasure, and power. And that is why all the marriage experts say: what do couples argue about? Money, sex, kids, and in-laws. Did I miss anybody, here? And if you think through those four things, what you find is, in your heart, you have selfish gratification about how we should spend our money. And she thinks you need to remodel the kitchen, and those new Ping golf clubs are not that much. Or you could join the country club, or get a new motor for the boat. She thinks, he thinks, she thinks, he thinks, kids think – and it plays out.
We buy the lie that, “Sensual pleasure will meet my inner-longings for fulfillment.” And that lie leads us to betray a trust. And we become spiritual adulteresses.
I came across an interesting article by a scholar who does most of his research in the backgrounds of books of the New Testament. I’m in Jeremiah, and just finished Isaiah. And God, over and over and over, as His people go and worship idols, He calls them – what? “Adulterers.”
He says He is to be their true love, and they’re going out under trees and worshipping Baal, or, in some instances, there was a big fire, and a god, with his arms out, and they would build a huge fire, and they would literally take their children and toss them up into the fire to appease the god of Baal. And He talks about, “Under every tree, My people are worshipping idols that they have made with their own hands.”
And this scholar writes this. He goes on to say, “This form of expression may offend the modern ears, but the picture of Israel as the bride of God, and God as the husband of Israel, has something very precious in it. It means that to disobey God is like breaking a marriage vow. It means that all sin is a sin against love. It means that our relationship to God is not like the distant relationship of a king and subject, or master and a slave, but like the intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. It means that when we sin, we break God’s heart. And as the heart of one partner in marriage may be broken by the desertion of another, so when we sin, we become spiritual adulterers, and break our vow with God.” And that’s what James is saying.
I don’t know anything that is happening in our day that breaks God’s heart more than a church that has fallen in love with the world. And we are living in this day. I don’t cry over a whole lot of stuff, but I cry over this. I am so, so deeply disturbed. And this is the reason why the divorce rate among Christians is the same, or worse, than the divorce rate among unbelievers.
And, see, we’ve bought the same line. We watch the same shows. We put the same garbage into our mind. And we’re expecting different results.
And then, we refashion the Jesus message to make Him our cosmic vending machine, where what we want Him to do is deliver the great marriage, and the wonderful families, and the gated community, and the upward mobility, and make our kids turn out right and marry people even smarter than them, and have more letters behind their names than we had, and make more money than we do, and we all come together in thanksgiving, and sing “Kumbaya,” and love Jesus.
And at the heart and the center, we have bought a lie that says, “You know what? I have to have personal power. And I have to have money, and I have to have pleasure.” And if you look at the broad scope of evangelical, born-again believers in the United States, about two point five percent of all the believers in America even tithe ten percent. Two point five percent. Not even proportional giving.
If you walk into the living rooms of most Christians in America, if you put on a little recorder, and you recorded everything they watch from six o’clock until twelve o’clock at night, and then you played it back, and then you did that with every unbelieving household, you wouldn’t see a nickel’s worth of difference.
We have a generation of believers that have become hooked on sensual pornography, soaps, romance novels. I watch dads, in unbelief, who let their daughters dress like prostitutes, and send them off to high school, and can’t figure out why they get pregnant, or why they become promiscuous.
It’s because they don’t have the courage to say, “Honey, you can’t wear something that comes up this high, and down this low, and is this tight, because I’m your dad, and, guess what, you are made in the image of God, and I love you, and I don’t care what all the other kids think.”
We have a Church that has embraced the world to such a degree, I don’t think we’re in the salt-and-light business anymore, where we’re impacting the world culture. I think it appears that we’re trying to hold off a bit of the darkness, and it is transforming the Church.
But this problem isn’t new. This was in the first century. The first century Church was struggling with falling in love with the world.
But when they fell in love with the world, they didn’t blink and say, “Well, every other Christian is doing, and it must not be that bad.” You know how we develop our convictions? We develop our convictions by finding someone who’s doing a little worse than us and saying, “Well, they’re doing this. At least I’m doing this.”
And then, we find someone that – down deep in our heart, it doesn’t feel quite right – and since we have a generation of people that don’t know the Bible anymore, don’t read it very often, and don’t study it hardly at all, you don’t have a standard. And so, pretty soon, you find someone you admire and say, “Well, they do that. I always thought that was wrong, but if they do it, I guess it’s okay.” And pretty soon, we have sheep following sheep.
And, see, I didn’t grow up as a Christian, so you need to hear what those unbelievers out there think. I didn’t grow up as a Christian. You know what guys like me grew up thinking? What are you telling me this Jesus stuff for? It’s not working for you.
I’m sorry, that’s just what I thought. What are you telling me about this love stuff? Your marriage doesn’t hold together. You guys scream at each other. Your daughter is sleeping around like everybody else. Man, you’re headlong into materialism. So, what are you talking to me about this difference Jesus makes in your life?
And it’s not doom and gloom, but I would suggest that maybe some of our most difficult problems that we’re facing, individually, and in the Church today, is that we have believed a lie, we’ve betrayed a trust, and that we are like a wayward wife to our husband, who is the Bridegroom, Jesus. And so, we have become an enemy when we buy that lie.
And notice what it says: “He yearns jealously for the Spirit He made, but He gives more grace.” Well, how does He give more grace? It says here we make ourselves an enemy, so He gives more grace. How does He give more grace? He’s opposed to the proud. What did He say in the beginning was the core of interpersonal problems? Pride; selfishness. What is God opposed to? It means He is against. It doesn’t mean He tolerates it, it doesn’t mean that He winks at it, it doesn’t mean that, Well, you know, I’m not really happy with this, and I wish you could clean it up.
It means He’s against it. When He’s against it, that means He brings consequences, not because He’s down on you, but because He loves you.
When you mismanage your money, you mismanage your time, you mismanage your priorities, when you put stuff in your mind that will pollute your mind, when you think that vicarious gratification, by reading romance novels, or checking out pornography, is going to meet the deepest needs, God, out of His great love, is going to go, Okay, let’s see, let’s see, we’ll work on their health. See if – no, that didn’t – okay, we can shut down that business. We’ll have one of their kids go through a difficult…cancer? Maybe…”
He will do whatever it takes, people, because He loves you. And we’re going to be a pure bride. We’re going to be a pure bride, one way or another, because His reputation is at stake, His reputation. This is not about you, and your life, and what people think. It is about His reputation.
Jesus said, “They will know that the Father sent Me because” – what? – “how you love one another. This is how My Father is exclaimed” – or “exalted” – the word is glorified, when His reputation is made great – “when you bear much fruit.” What’s fruit? What’s fruit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. It’s being like Christ. Bear much fruit.
It’s not only exhibiting from the inside out the very character and the nature of Christ, but it’s also bearing much fruit in terms of fulfilling God’s agenda, reaching out to others: Lost people come to Christ through your life, found people growing to maturity through your life, mature people reproducing their lives, developing leaders through your life. That’s the agenda.
The agenda is not, How can I be happy? How can I be fulfilled? I don’t care what Maslow says. It’s not about self-actualization. It’s about Christ-actualization. It’s about abiding in Christ. And you know what? We’re all smart enough.
Here’s the thing about us believers. On the one hand, we’re really smart, and on the other, it’s like, I look at us, and I think, Are we dumb?
Who is the group of people that has most successfully fulfilled the world’s agenda? Right? All you have to do – it’s easy; this is not a trick question. Go to the grocery store, or, like I did, go to Barnes & Noble, and start at the magazine racks. Just look through the magazine racks – sports, entertainment, over here, over here, over here, over here.
Okay, here are all the faces, all the people, all the names who have zillions of dollars, play on these teams, have had multiple surgeries, are pretty, pretty, pretty, and are married, divorced, married, divorced, married, divorced, living with, not happy.
The people that have the greatest looks, the greatest money, fulfill the world system – help me – are they not the most miserable of all people on the earth? And so, what do we do? We have the Lord, so we try and be like them.
So, what do we do? See, this isn’t theoretical, and the seduction of the world is not something that you get hit in the face and go, Wow, I’m a worldly friend of the world Christian, and I may be – maybe some of these difficult areas in my life really have to do with, you know, I’m God’s enemy, and I never thought about that!
No. It’s so seductive. It’s like when you go out to the beach, and you’re playing, and you know when you were a kid, and you looked back on the beach, and your parents were right there? And you’re playing in the water, and having a ball. And, pretty soon, you look up, and you go, Man, my parents are gone! Where did they go?
They didn’t go anywhere! You were here, and as the currents went, you can be a mile away, and you never know it.
I don’t think the average, born-again, genuine believer in Jesus Christ, in America, is waking up one day and saying, “I know I really love God, but I think I’m going to embrace the world. I think I’m going to try and live just like they are, because I want all the negative consequences, and I want to be a terrible witness. And my marriage – who wants it to last more than eight or ten years, anyway? And the conflict with kids and alimony, it’s really kind of fun. And all these sexual addictions, and food addictions, bulimia. These counselors need money so if I…” No one does that. But that’s where we’re landing, people.
So, what is the solution? He gives us the solution where He gives us a prescription. And we’re going to get the prescription in verses 7 through 10. It is very direct.
God’s prescription is: humble yourself, and God will heal your relationships. Humble yourself, and God will heal your relationships. Write those two words: humble yourself, and God will. He’ll restore.
I’m going to read this passage and there are seven – actually, ten staccato verbs that are commands. And by staccato, I mean it’s, Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! He’s going to give us seven to ten specific things that we need to do, that will be a picture of how to humble yourself.
You can circle the words, but, number one, “Submit” – circle – “yourselves therefore to God.” Two: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Three: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Four: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners.” And five: “Purify your hearts, you men of double mind.” Six: “Be wretched and mourn.” Seven: “Weep.” Eight: “Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection.” Circle laughter. Ten: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
“Submit,” “resist,” “draw near,” “cleanse,” “purify,” “be miserable,” “mourn,” “weep,” “let your laughter be turned” – or, literally, “have your laughter turned around.” This isn’t just, “Don’t laugh.” This is the haughty kind of laughter where people are rejoicing and reveling in sin. That’s the picture of this word. And as you study those things, what you see is it is developed in four clear steps toward humility, or to diffuse conflict.
Number one: Give in to God. Write that in the line above there. “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” The word submit, here, is in a tense of the verb that has a sense of urgency.
It’s a compound word: hupo – “to be under” – and tasso – “to be under the rank.” It’s like falling into line, or rank, in the military. It’s to take God as your Commander, as your Captain. It’s a picture of a group of military people all walking like this,
What he is saying is, “You’re out of step with the Spirit.”
Well, how do you get in step with the Spirit? Very, very clearly, it is: obey the known will of God revealed in Scripture. Give in to God. Voluntarily, from the heart – that’s the idea. You might write one word after that. Give in to God – put an arrow, and write the word surrender, and put a box around it. That’s really what it is: surrender. Submit your will. Submit your future. Submit your relationships. Submit your agenda. Submit your desires.
And you say, God, here is what I’m going to do. I have unconsciously – I didn’t mean to; I didn’t realize it. You’ve brought me to this place, at this time, to help reveal it. The light bulbs are going off in my mind. My spirit is so convicted. I want You to know, right now, I surrender. I submit to You. I want You to know that as I begin to think about Your Word – and I know it’s going to be a journey – but I’m going to submit my finances to You. I’m going to submit my schedule to You. I’m going to submit my relationships, my job, my ministry – I submit to You. You are the General; You’re the Commanding Officer. You’re the King. You’re the CEO, and I’m coming for orders. You tell me what to do. That’s what I want to do. That’s the first step in humbling yourself. It’s obeying what you know.
The second step is: Get tough with Satan. Notice the words, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resist has the prefix anti-. It means to be against him, and to take a stand. It’s to take a stand against the enemy.
There is no middle ground. You can’t play with him. And the word devil – who is this? He’s the slanderer, the liar, the deceiver. He’s the seducer.
It’s different strokes for different folks. It’s the lust of the flesh, for some. For others, it’s that magazine you look at, and you see all those beautiful houses, and all that beautiful furniture, and all this – or that dream vacation. You could go to Scotland, do this, and you go to this, go to this, go to this. And it always goes from one thing to another.
Who is behind that? Who’s selling you the bill of goods? If you had, if you could, if you possessed, if you looked like that, if you just had enough money to have some of those surgeries like they have on TV, then you could walk down the staircase, and all your friends would go, “Ahhhh! Who is that!?”
That’s a woman, or a man, who they’ve shaved off thirty-five pounds with surgery, another twenty pounds with exercise, and they have poked, jabbed, pushed. I won’t go any further than that. Made-up, dyed, broken jaws, put in new teeth, rearranged noses. And under special lighting, for one moment, “Ooooh!” And here’s my theory: Visit that woman, or that man, in three years, and they’ll look exactly like they did three years before.
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Get tough with Satan – put an arrow – and write the word fight, and put a box around it. You have to fight. You have to fight. Ephesians 6 tells us how to put on the full armor of God. This is a promise. If you resist, he will flee! But you have to get angry with it!
You have to say, “I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to think of that.” You have to say, “No more Internet for me. I’m not going to watch that stuff.” You have to cut off the supply lines. You have to fight. You have to say, “There’s a world system – it is purposefully seeking to seduce me.” And you have to put up the guard, and the armor. And you have to say to yourself, You know what? I can’t let that in our home.
I have a good friend that had a pornography problem. He just doesn’t have the Internet. He just doesn’t have it. You say, “Well, that’s drastic.” Yeah, that’s drastic. He’s just saving his marriage, saving his life, walking with God, changing his life. He just happens to know he’s weak. Where are you weak? Where are you weak? In the area of media – I would dare you to do something. You probably won’t do this, but I’ll dare you anyway – double, double dare. I dare you to go on a media fast for ten days – no TV, and no videos, no DVDs. Not even the news. Ten days.
The first two days you’ll want to kill each other, because you will be so irritable. And then, you’ll recognize, We actually spend hours that we didn’t know in front of this thing. Then, pretty soon, you’ll start getting creative, and you’ll have all kinds of time to start doing some things you always wanted to do. About days number six through eight, you’ll start actually having some fun. Day number nine, you won’t miss it very much. Day number ten or eleven, you’ll realize, Oh, hey! And you’ll start watching something, and you’ll watch a commercial, and you’ll go, Oh, man, that is gross.
Because what will happen is, you won’t be dumbed down. Your spiritual sensitivities will come back alive. And you’ll realize, Man, there is a hook in that commercial. And did you notice how the camera panned and went to that guy’s body part, or that woman’s body part? Did you see? And all of a sudden, all of those subliminal messages, your spirit will pick them up, and you’ll fight, and you’ll say, “Man, I’m not buying that stuff.” But I’ll tell you what, the passive, I want to try harder, be a better person someday, someway, will not make it.
Third, he says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” Write in there, “Get close to God.” “Get close to God” – and then draw an arrow, and in the box, write return. Return to God. What He wants you to know: He loves you. He’s for you. He cares about you.
Anything you think the world, and power, or sex, or pleasure, or a boat, or a better golf score, or what plastic surgery could ever provide, Jesus says, “It’s all a lie! It’s all temporary. I love you just for you. I have joy that circumstances can’t change. I want to give you something in your heart that’s called “peace,” not pseudo-peace. I want you to be able to sit in a room where you don’t have to turn on the TV, or the stereo, or run over to the refrigerator every time you have a little bit of unrest in your soul. I want to give you joy that even when bad news happens, it wells up in you. I want to love you. I want to care for you. I want to tie you in to Me, and let you understand where real life comes, abundant life, to the full.
Isn’t that what He promised? “I came that you might have life, and you could have it to the max!”
This isn’t like getting second-rate stuff. This is like seeing the junk for what it is, and then, negatively, you have to fight, but then you draw near to God. You return. And what does the promise say? He will draw near to you. Isn’t that awesome?
This is the picture of the prodigal and the father. He didn’t run after the prodigal, did he? He allowed the consequences to get in the prodigal’s life. By the time the kid is eating the pig slop, he finally has an “ah-ha” moment. This ain’t good! The slaves have it better.
But the moment he returned, the word – right? – and began to come back to the father, what did the father do? Study that passage carefully. He does a number of things that break culture. He runs to meet – that means he had to pick up his robe. That means he embarrassed himself in the city. He ran to meet his son.
God wants to run to meet some of you. And some of you are so overwhelmed with guilt, and have so much baggage, and so much junk, and feel like you’re so unworthy, and you’ve been through so much. He is a God of grace.
If you’ve fallen into a fifteen-foot hole, He will lower a sixteen-foot rope. And if you’ve fallen into a three hundred-foot hole, and you can say, “I had two abortions. I’ve had four marriages. I’m a perpetual liar. I’m stealing from the company right now.
My whole life is a mess. I am in three hundred feet of just dirt, and I feel like a terrible person.” God said, I brought you here because I have a three hundred and one-foot rope. Just grab it, babe. I love you. I love you. I died for you. I have a plan for you. I want to restore you.
Well, how do you draw near to God? It’s not just an emotional experience. How do you draw near to God? Well, since many of you are on that media fast because I double, double dared you, and some of you can’t resist that, with all this time you know what you will find? Just start reading through the New Testament. Just start taking walks, instead of watching TV, and talk to God.
And when you’re hurt, tell Him you’re hurt. When you’re angry, just express it, and tell Him you’re angry. And the things and the needs that you don’t have, ask Him for, Lord, and say whatever you want!
Get in the Scriptures, begin to pray, and then, you know what? Every New Testament command I can find is in the second person plural. There might be an exception or two. That means I am never expected to live this radical, New Testament, revolutionary life alone. I have to do it with people.
And you get in the Scriptures, and you begin to pray, and you get with some people who are making progress with the Lord, and you find some music, and a Bible-teaching church that teaches the Word, and lives authentic lives. And you know what? You’re drawing near to God. He’s going to draw near to you.
And all the things you thought that were going to be delivered through your hedonism, that you’re being brainwashed, like I’m being brainwashed, day after day after day, God says, I’m going to give you better, and lasting, both now and forever.
The final thing he says is: Get right with others. Notice the phrase here: “Cleanse your hands; purify your hearts.” You know what? That’s the outward. What are you doing with your hands that is wrong? Cleanse them. Then, not just externally, but internally: “Purify your hearts.” Where are your motives? Let there be tears for the wrong that you’ve done.
And so, there’s a private purification where you cleanse your hands. And you know what it is? You don’t hear this much anymore. Are you ready for this? Some of you, a number of things have come up in your mind. I’ve thrown a few little bombs out, have you noticed? The soaps over here, romance novels over here, pornography over here, materialism…
Just in case you missed the bombs, this is a review, all right? A little bitterness in your heart; unforgiveness toward an ex, toward a mom, a dad, one of your kids, right?
You know what “cleanse your hands; purify your hearts” is? Stop sinning. Stop it. Okay, are you ready? I’m going to do this again. It’s very complicated. Stop sinning. We get this, Yeah, I will. I’m going to have to process this, maybe see my counselor. You know what? Is it wrong? Stop it. Repent! That’s the word: right. “Get right with others.” Arrow, in a box, then write repent.
Now, do you need help? Yeah. Do you need to see a pastor or a friend? But if you have wronged someone, make it right. Cleanse your hands. If you have bitterness in your heart, if you have resentment, if you have anger fantasies, purify your heart. Purge it. Tell God you’re sorry. If you need to apologize to someone, go apologize to them! But just say, “I’m going to get right with God. I’m going to get right with others.”
Then, notice the final thing he says, in verse 10. He says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, unto the mighty hand of God” – why? – “that He may exalt you.”