Craig Smith - What Matters Most
Hey, welcome to Mission Hill. So glad to have you here this weekend. Before we get into our content for today, I want to do a little bit of a celebration from something that happened last weekend. Last weekend was Compassion Weekend. We have a long-term partnership with Compassion International who are releasing kids from poverty in Jesus’ name through a child sponsorship program. We gave you the opportunity to be on mission with Jesus by sponsoring a child. And now last weekend you guys stepped it up. We ended up sponsoring 444 kids last weekend. That’s so awesome.
Compassion works through…Compassion Centers are always attached to a local church, and a typical Compassion Center can handle 200 kids, which basically means we sponsored more than two full Compassion Centers, which is just an unbelievable thing. And honestly, even if you’re not in a position to be on mission with Jesus by sponsoring a child, I want to thank you for being on mission with Jesus and your finances in general, because we said last weekend we’re actually going to be taking our partnership with Compassion up a notch. We’re going to be working with Compassion to sponsor a whole new church plant with the Compassion Center in Peru, and we were able to do that without taking a special offering because you have been so generous with your finances. We had the money available to do that without doing any additional fundraising. And so whether you’re sponsoring a child or just being on mission with your money, thank you for being on mission with Jesus in this way. It’s just an incredible, incredible thing. Yeah, celebrate that. Awesome.
Here’s the really incredible thing is that so many people at Mission Hill, I’m so proud of our church, are taking steps to live on mission, whether that’s through sponsoring a child or through the way that they handle their finances or maybe the decisions you’re making to advance the Gospel at your workplace or in your marriage to extend God’s influence in your community around the world. The incredible thing is that you’re not just doing good for others, you’re also doing good for yourself. Because what we discovered last week is we began our series in the Book of Philippians is this really important truth that we experience our greatest good on mission for God’s glory. And so when we’re living on mission with Jesus, we’re also setting ourselves up to experience the best life that God has for us. And that’s a really foundational truth to understanding the Book of Philippians in general, especially this one big secret that Paul is ultimately going to give us.
In the Book of Philippians, we started talking about it last week, in Philippians 4:12, Paul says, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” And we said that’s probably a secret we all need to know because we face situations and circumstances that don’t seem like they’re conducive to contentment, but he says, “I know the secret to make content in any and every situation.” And honestly, what we learned last week is the beginning of our journey towards that. It’s that we experience our greatest good in mission for God’s glory, but we’re going to learn today another important lesson that leads us towards understanding that secret, and we might talk about this lesson this way. We would say that contentment depends a lot on priorities. Contentment depends a lot on priorities.
Think about it. If your priority is climbing the corporate ladder, the moment you don’t get that promotion, there goes your contentment, right? On the other hand, if your priority is honoring God by doing the best job possible, whatever job that happens to be and being on mission with God in that way, then the lack of a particular promotion doesn’t destroy your contentment. That’s not a contentment killer. It’s about priorities. If your priority is to get married and have kids, being single is a contentment killer, struggling with infertility is a contentment killer. On the other hand, if your priority is to extend God’s influence and to honor God by making the most of all the free time that you happen to have at any given stage in your life, well, then you might look at being single, not necessarily as an obstacle to contentment, but as an opportunity to honor God with some free time you wouldn’t have otherwise. Spouses take a lot of time. They do. And we’re not even talking about kids, I am a father of two girls, I can tell you they are time-suckers, right? And energy-suckers and it’s wonderful and there’s no reason why you can’t still want to be married as a single person. There’s no reason why you can’t still long to have kids if you’re struggling with infertility. But if your priority is being married and having kids, then not having those things is going to be a contentment killer.
But if your priority is something else, it may be that you can find redemptive moments even in the midst of those circumstances that aren’t ideal for you. It’s about priorities. If your priority is making straight A’s, when you finally encounter that one class or that one teacher that you just can’t seem to connect with or whatever, then that first B or maybe the first C you’ve ever gotten or the first D, that’s a contentment killer. But if your priority is to honor God by doing the best that you can and to prepare as best as you’re able for whatever career God leads you into, then the difficult class or the difficult teacher doesn’t have to be a contentment killer. It has a lot to do with priorities. Contentment has a lot to do with priorities. The problem is that the world tells us a lot of things that are supposed to be our priorities, right? And so does the Church.
Let’s be honest, it’s not just the world, the churches, this is important. The world says that’s important. Sometimes they’re in opposition each other, but sometimes they line up, but it’s just an overwhelming variety of things that we’re being told. This is important. This is a priority. You’ve got to focus on this and this and this. And so, so how do we ultimately choose the priorities that allow us to live in contentment in any and every situation? What’s the lens that we use for determining what priorities really are in fact priorities? Well, that’s what we’re going to look into today.
Let’s go ahead and grab a Bible. Start making your way to the Book of Philippians chapter 1. And we’ll pick up where we left off last week in verse 12 where Paul says this, he says, “Now I want you to know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the Gospel.” He says, “I want you to know that what has happened to me.” Well, what has happened to him? He’s in prison. He’s in prison in Rome at this point. As we said last week, Paul had a dream to go to Rome. He wanted to go to Rome as a preacher and spread the Gospel and then use Rome as a base of operations to take the Gospel even further out into the world, and he wanted that. And now he’s actually in Rome, but he’s not in Rome as a preacher, he’s in Rome as a prisoner. He had been arrested for his preaching. He’s been put on house arrest. He’s being guarded 24/7. He’s under lock and key. That’s what’s happened to him. And that could easily create discontentment. If his priority was his plan, then that circumstance that was getting in the way of his plan and his priority could have easily destroyed his contentment. But you notice what he says?
He says, “I want you to know brothers and sisters,” followers of Jesus, “that what has happened to me has actually…” By the way, have you ever known anybody who used the word actually too much? It’s kind of annoying, right? You’re like, “Well, I’m going to go to the gym because I want to be healthier.” “Well, actually there’s a lot of germs at the gym and there’s studies that showed that a lot of people working out at the gym actually get more colds and flus and things like that.” So I don’t know if it was all that healthy, actually.” Jeez, come on man. I’m going to eat more apples because they’re healthy, well, actually. You know, the seeds of apples, they have cyanide in them. I did not need to know that, right? And we hear these people, they’re actually… And it’s a little bit annoying. And it’s especially annoying when somebody is finding a good thing in the midst of something that you really want to complain about. Like those people are the worst, aren’t they? You’re like, “Look what happened. Isn’t this awful?” Like commiserate with me. And they’re like, “Well, actually there’s an opportunity there.” You just sit down and shut up. Right?
Paul might be that guy, right? He’s got all kinds of reason to complain. What’s happened to me is a bad thing and then he says, “But actually, actually it’s served to advance the Gospel.” And what he’s modeling for us here is such an important principle. What he’s modeling for us is that when our mission is the priority, it changes our perspective on our circumstances. When our mission is our priority, it changes our perspective on our circumstances. When we’re living on mission with Jesus, we’re looking at our circumstances very differently. And the perspective that we’re looking for reveals opportunities where there might have previously been obstacles. Right?
When our mission is our priority, it changes our perspective and our circumstances. Look what he says. He says, “As a result of my imprisonment, as a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” That’s what’s happened and that’s a good thing. See, the Roman guard that was keeping Paul under lock and key that they were holding you captive, they didn’t necessarily know why he was being held captive. He was there under house arrest awaiting a trial, but they didn’t know what the trial was for. I mean, for all they knew he could have been a murderer. For all they knew he could have been a traitor in some way. And so they didn’t necessarily know. They only knew that their job was to make sure he was still there when the trial came. Right?
But Paul has made mission his priority not his plan, but his mission, that’s his priority. And so he’s looking at his circumstances a little bit differently, and at some point something occurs to him. He goes, “Huh, you know what’s interesting? For them to hold me captive, that means they’re giving me a captive audience. Because the same guards that are making sure I can’t leave, can’t leave either. They are not allowed. Like I’m literally being given a captive audience. I’m going to preach.” And so he started telling a story. He started explaining who Jesus was and about the death and the resurrection of Jesus and about what God was doing around the world. And the fact that it is his preaching that had brought him ultimately to Rome because Rome wanted to know more about this Gospel business and what it meant, he had a captive audience.
By the way, this is why I love to share the Gospel on airplanes. I always make sure I get the aisle seat, because where are they going to go, right? Well, Paul’s taken that to a totally another level. He’s like, “You’re here for eight hours, let’s talk.” And when the shift changed and a new set of guards came in he’s like, “Fresh meat.” I’m going to tell you my story. You’re going to…” And so what he says is, what’s happened is the whole palace guard now knows exactly why I’m here. There’s no confusion. There’s no mistaking it. Right? They understand that it’s here because of his faith in Jesus and he says it’s going beyond that. He says everyone else, probably meaning the entire palace itself, they all now know. The Gospel hasn’t been stopped by Paul’s imprisonment. It’s actually been advanced. That’s an amazing, amazing thing.
And it really challenges me because that’s not how I typically think about my difficult circumstances. When I look at difficult circumstances, you know what my main thought is? How fast can I get out of them? Anybody else? We’ll be honest with each other. Yeah. When I pray and I’m in the midst of difficult circumstances, my default prayer’s, “God, would you bring them to an end? Would you figure out how I can leave this?” And I find what Paul says through this new perspective and a circumstance to be very challenging, and I find myself asking a another question. And maybe it’s a question you could ask yourself, which is this. What could happen if I started asking how to leverage my circumstances instead of how to leave them?
That’s what Paul’s done, right? What could God do, if instead of asking how to leave my circumstances, I started asking how to leverage them? It’s not what we naturally do, but how much power’s there in that. And I’ve shared with my daughter’s permission over the last year or so that my youngest daughter, Lynae, she’s got some chronic pain in her abdomen and we’ve gone down all kinds of routes and we can’t really figure it out and it’s a little bit better, but she still has periods and we’re keeping on it, you know, and I’m praying every day and we were talking to her the other day about another possible like route to maybe get a diagnosis. And she said the most amazing thing to me, she goes, “Here’s the thing, like God’s teaching me some stuff in the midst of this that I think I might need to know later in life.
And so yeah, I’d like to be healed, but I’m not anxious to end this because I can see what God’s doing and I want to make sure that I’ve learned it all first.” And I was like, “Shut up.” Oh, like what an incredibly humbling thing to have your 16-year old daughter say. And again, it’s not that she doesn’t want to be set free from that pain, but she wants to make sure that she leverages it and everything that God’s doing in it to its maximum before she leaves it. And that, boy, that’s a powerful statement. And it’s ultimately what Paul models here.
So maybe you think about your difficult circumstance and you ask yourself, what could happen here if I started asking how to leverage my circumstance instead of how to leave it? But that’s hard. It’s hard to trust God to do good through the circumstance instead of just getting out of. But this might be an encouragement. Check out what happened beyond even the palace guard and the rest of the palace understanding. He says this, verse 14, “And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and they dare all the more to proclaim the Gospel without fear.” He says, “Because of my imprisonment, the other followers of Jesus in Rome are now proclaiming the Gospel. They’re advancing the Gospel. They’re extending God’s influence more frequently and more fearlessly, because of my chains.” That’s what God has done. That’s an incredible statement. Now you might go, how does that work? Right? Because that’s kind of a weird deal, right? If a really prominent preacher suddenly gets thrown in jail for his faith, I’m not sure that that would make me more bold.
How does that work? Well, a couple of years ago I was speaking at a men’s conference in Michigan. It was hands down the most difficult speaking engagement of my life. Not because the audience was difficult or because it wasn’t organized well or anything. It was the most difficult speaking experience because I had to follow two other speakers who had these ridiculous stories of following Jesus in difficult circumstances. The first guy, the first guy got up there and the immediate thing that you notice when he walked out on stage was he was missing his legs below his knees. He had prosthetic legs below his knees. And he told this ridiculous story about how it happened.
Like it was a tractor trailer and some other, like a side of a building or something and it slid in. He was 16 and it cut off his legs below the knees and he talked about the rehabilitation process. It was a grueling story. But here’s the interesting thing. This guy earned, not was gifted but earned a qualifying spot in the Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. He swam two miles without legs. If I had to swim two miles, I would not be here anymore. He biked a hundred miles. He ran a marathon all without legs and he used all of that. And the pain of it and all of it. He uses a platform to speak about his faith in Jesus and that he can do all things through Christ who gives him strength.
And I remember thinking, I am so glad I don’t have to follow that guy. And then the second guy got up. He was in the mob. He got caught. He went to jail. He started following Jesus in jail. He started preaching the Gospel to his fellow mobsters in jail, which really irritated his mob bosses out of jail. So they sent news through some interesting characters. “Hey, knock it off.” He did not knock it off. He eventually was released from prison and he continued to tell his story and point people to Jesus and they continued to send him death threats. He traveled with these two massive bodyguards. And I remember thinking, I am so glad that I don’t have to follow that guy. Oh no, I have to follow that guy.
And so I had to get up after these stories and be like, okay, let’s turn to Philippians 1. But the interesting thing the happened is listening to their stories really changed my perspective on my circumstances. Because I was facing some things that I thought were kind of difficult. They made it a little more challenging to follow Jesus and then I heard their stories and I was like, “I do not have a lot of big obstacles. They have obstacles.” And it changed the way that I thought about my obstacles and my circumstances, right? And honestly, it made me a little bit bolder. That’s what’s happening in Rome. Followers of Jesus are going, “Well if Paul can continue following Jesus and proclaiming the Gospel and extending God’s influence in the world when he’s in jail for his faith, what is stopping me?” And so he…they became more bold. They became more frequent and more fearless in their proclamation of the Gospel.
Just understand that that’s not really all that surprising to me because here’s what God does. Can I tell you what I’ve seen God do over and over again? Here’s what God does. God multiplies the results of our faithfulness. He multiplies the results of our faithfulness. He takes the little steps of faithfulness that we have and He multiplies the results of them. So Paul decided, I’m going to see what God can do in my circumstances instead of bemoaning my circumstances. And not only did that change the way the palace guard was thinking, but it changed the way the whole palace was thinking. What they knew about the Gospel. And beyond that, it spilled out into all the followers of Jesus speaking the Gospel more frequently and more fearlessly. God multiplied the results of his faithfulness. That’s what he always does.
You know, when my kids were little, one of my favorite things to do was to walk with them. You know, I’d have one of their right hands and the other one have…and Coletta would have one of their left hands and they would take little steps and we’d do this big swing thing. Now, we wanted them to take a step because it would have been weird if we were dragging them along, right? But they would take this little step and then they would go so much farther than they ever could on their own. That’s what God does. He multiplies the results of our faithfulness like a father with small children between his arms. And so here’s a question that I want to challenge you to ask yourself. Think about a difficult circumstance you’re in and then ask yourself this, what is one small step of faithfulness that I can take and I can ask God to multiply?
What’s one thing that…Paul did one thing. He said, “I can’t go anywhere but I’ve got these people here. At least I can let them know why I’m here. I can speak the truth to them.” And God took that step of faithless and he multiplied the results of it and he can and will do the same thing in and through you. So what’s the one small step of faithfulness that you can take and ask God to multiply? The amazing thing about God is he multiplies it in ways we would never anticipate. Check this out, verse 15, he says, “It’s true…” And you guys might’ve heard this, and it’s true, I’m confirming it. “It’s true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. Now, the latter do so out of love knowing that I am put here for the defense of the Gospel, the former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I’m in chains.”
Here’s what’s happening here. He says there’re two different groups that are proclaiming the Gospel more frequently and more fearlessly. Two very different groups. Now, I think they’re both believers, but they have two very different motives for being more bold in their advancing of the Gospel. And to understand it, you need to understand that Jesus was Jewish. Anybody shocked? Okay. Sometimes we forget that. It’s interesting. Jesus was Jewish. The earliest followers of Jesus were also Jewish, which meant that for lot of the early followers of Jesus, they put their faith in Jesus. They understood that that’s what saved them. It’s what eliminated their sin and brought them into relationship with God, but because they were Jewish, they also continue to observe certain key Jewish practices.
Now, when the Gospel spilled out of the Jewish community into the Gentile or the non-Jewish community, that created kind of an interesting dynamic because you had Gentiles who were not Jewish, but they were coming to faith in a Jewish Messiah, a Jewish Savior. And so some of the followers of Jesus said, “That’s great. Your faith saves you, but since you’re following a Jewish Messiah, you now need to observe certain Jewish practices.” Three of them in particular. The first one was eating kosher, so they were to avoid unclean food like shellfish or pork. Second one was Sabbath observance. Observance, that’s the word I want. Sabbath observance. And for the Jews, the Saturday was Sabbath and they were supposed to not work. And there were all kinds of laws that had grown up around how to make sure that you weren’t dishonoring God by working.
And so, that was Sabbath observance. And they said, yeah, you need to eat kosher. You need to observe the Sabbath. And third one was circumcision. I’m not going to describe circumcision. If you’re really confused, look it up online. I’m going to strongly encourage you do not do an image search. Okay? But those were the three things. They said, “Yeah, follow Jesus. That’s what saves you. But since you’re following a Jewish Messiah, you should eat kosher, you should observe the Sabbath, and you should be circumcised.” That was one group of followers of Jesus. There was another group of followers of Jesus, and Paul was among them who said, “No, they’re not Jewish. They’re Gentiles. So we don’t need to impose these other practices on them.” And that’s probably the two different groups that Paul’s describing here. And there was a certain amount of conflict between those groups.
In certain other parts of his ministry Paul really goes after those people who are imposing those additional practices. And what’s going on in Rome seems to be, you got both of these groups. Now, the group that were, you know, Jesus only and they saw Paul’s imprisonment as an encouragement to them. It changed their ways, thinking about their circumstance. They were bolder, they were more frequent and more fearless in their proclamation of the Gospel. The other group, the Jesus plus the Jewish practices, they were encouraged to be bold as well, but it was maybe for slightly mixed motives, or maybe even for some messed up motives. Paul says they’re preaching out of envy and selfish ambition. Maybe what was happening is they saw Paul’s in prison as the proof that they were better, that God liked them more. That God was more pleased with them and their theology than he was. Maybe that was sort of the way they saw Paul’s imprisonment. Or maybe they’re just relieved because here’s the thing, when Christianity first began, the Roman empire protected it because they thought it was a part of Judaism. I mean, they were following a Jewish Messiah.
Originally they were practicing all these other Jewish practices, and Judaism, the Jewish faith was a religio licita. It was a protected religion. It was a legal religion under Roman law. And so for the early followers of Jesus who were following a Jewish Messiah, following Jewish practices, Rome kind of went, yeah, whatever. But now, you’ve got all these Gentiles who are following Jesus. They’re not Jewish, and they’re not following the Jewish practices. And Rome was beginning to take a much closer look at the followers of Jesus. And so, maybe the Jesus plus the Jewish practices group were going, “It’s good that he’s in jail and shut down. Because he could cause us some problems. So we’ll do the other way around. We’ll show everybody know this is what real Christianity looks like, and then Rome will leave us alone.”
So maybe that was it. We don’t know exactly what it was, but Paul says they really clearly had some messed up motives. But check this out. How much do those motives matter? How much do those differences and practice matter? Here’s what he says, verse 18. “But what does it matter? But what does it matter? The important thing, important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or truth, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice.” Yeah, their motives are messed up. I care a lot more about the fact that the Gospel is advancing. They’re preaching the Gospel. Yeah. I wish they weren’t adding that other stuff onto it, but they’re preaching Christ crucified, risen from the dead three days later and faith in him forgives us. The Gospel is advancing and that matters more to me than their motives. The Gospel is advancing and that matters more to me than which group is growing faster. That matters more to me than the differences in our theology and in our practices.
The Gospel is advancing. That matters more to me than my circumstances. Do you understand what’s happening? Paul says, the Gospel is advancing and that’s the priority. That’s what matters most. That’s the mission. And what Paul’s demonstrating for us is simply this, that the mission determines how much other things matter. The mission determines how much the other things matter. He’s not saying that none of that matters at all because Paul goes after it at certain points. They debate, they have conflict over it, they try to wrestle through. They try to search Scriptures and come to a right understanding. He’s not saying it doesn’t matter at all. He’s saying it doesn’t matter as much as the mission. And if they’re going to preach the Gospel, I’m going to rejoice. Because the mission determines how much the other stuff matters.
Let me tell you what, if we could get a handle on that as the people of God, it would change everything because the Church in the 21st century doesn’t have a handle on that. We don’t. The Church in the 21st century is struggling. The Church in the 21st century is in trouble in many ways and we often want to go, well, it’s because our culture, it’s because of what the government’s doing. It’s of this and that. And my honest belief is that where the Church is struggling in the world today, it’s not because of what’s been done to us, it’s because of what we’ve done to ourselves. We have not kept the mission front and center. And without that, we no longer know how much the other things matter. And so we elevate other things above and beyond the mission and it’s destroying us from the inside out. It’s like a decay that’s eating us from the inside out.
I was back east several years ago and I drove through a town. And I saw a church and I kind of paid attention to the name of the church just because that was kind of interesting. And the name of the church was the First Baptist Church. I didn’t think a lot about it. I mean, I thought it was weird. But I was like, I get it. I mean, if you’re the First Baptist Church to come to town and you have no creativity whatsoever, you name it the First Baptist Church, whatever. Okay. And then I drove a little bit further and I saw the Second Baptist Church. Now, I really hope that there’s a Second Baptist Church because the First Baptist Church got full. And they were like, “We don’t have room for all the people that are coming to Jesus, so we’re going to be on mission with Jesus. We got to build a second.” But I really hope that’s what happened. But I’m a little too cynical to believe that’s what happened, because I’ve seen way too many churches start because some people at the First Baptist Church got mad at some other people at the First Baptist Church, a conflict grew and it grew to the point of division and it might’ve been over something as simple as the color of the carpet. I’ve seen churches split over the color of the carpet and what colors should go in or what color you’re going to… I’ve seen it happen. Why does that happen? Because they don’t have mission first.
I drove a little bit further in the town and I came across the Third Baptist Church. And at that point I was like, that’s not good. And right about then I saw the Fourth Baptist Church, Portsmouth, Virginia. I would love to think that the First Baptist Church got full, so they had to build the Second Baptist Church and that one got full, so they had to build the third and that one got full they had to build the fourth, but I don’t think that’s what happened.
The reality is the Church in America far too often has lost its mission. It’s not made the mission the main thing, and without that lens, without that grid, we no longer know how much the other things matter. Okay? Can I just say one of things I love about Mission Hills is I don’t think that’s us. And that has nothing to do with me. I’ve only been here three years. This is something I saw immediately when I got here. Mission Hills has a tremendous amount of diversity, not necessarily ethnically. That is something I would love to see grow. I would do my heart good. But there’s a lot of other diversity that is not quite so obvious. I’m going to drop a bomb on some of you. Mission Hills is a Baptist Church. You may not know that. Like that was not on the website. Yeah, because we belong to Converge Worldwide, which our movement. But Converge Worldwide was the denomination formerly known as the Baptist General Conference, which was formerly known as the Swedish Baptist Conference.
You have a long history of a Baptist affiliation. And yet there are people who call this home that are on mission with us here who grew up Presbyterian. There are people who grew up Methodist. There are people who grew up Catholic. There are people that grew up with no faith at all and no church involvement at all and they all call Mission Hills home. How does that happen? You know, we have people at Mission Hills who believe in the pre-tribulation rapture. We have people at Mission Hills who believe in the post tribulation rapture. And we have a whole lot of people who have no idea what I’m talking about. And that’s okay. We have people who believe in Calvinism. We have people who believe in Arminianism and a whole lot of people who have no idea what I’m talking about, and it’s okay.
We have people who are Republican followers of Jesus. We have people who are Democrat followers of Jesus. And we people who are Independent followers of Jesus and they all call Mission Hills their Church home. We have people who love the fact that we use drums and electric guitars in worship and we have people who hate the fact that we use drums and electric guitars in our worship but they still call this home. We have people who love the fact that we use lights in our worship and we have people who hate the fact that we use lights in our worship, but they all call Mission Hills home. We have people who feel like it honors God to dress up to come to church and that’s awesome. And we have people who feel like it honors God to dress casual and come to church because it doesn’t separate church from the rest of the week.
And that’s awesome. I get notes. I get the occasional note that challenges the fact that I wear jeans, and I get the occasional note that thanks me for wearing jeans because I brought a non-believer friend and they felt comfortable with you partly because of the way you dressed. And both of those are great. How do we have so much diversity in one church and I think the answers because Mission Hills has a legacy of keeping the mission first. And what does Paul teach us here? What does he model for us? The mission determines how much other things matter.
Please hear me. I’m not saying the other stuff’s irrelevant. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. Theology matters. How we relate to the culture matters. And we can have conversations about it. We can have debates about it, we can have arguments about it. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter at all. But I’m saying is the mission matters more and we have to look at all these other things through the lens of mission first. And understand, I’m not talking about sin. Please hear me. Okay? What the Bible says is wrong is wrong. What the Bible says is right is right. We’re not going to waffle on that. Okay?
I’m not talking about sin stuff. But the mission determines how much the other things matter. And the moment we start letting these other things matter more than the mission, that’s the end of the Church being the Church, and we’re not going to let that happen. We’ve gone 77 years without letting happening. We’re not going to move forward and allow it to happen. We’re going to stay on mission. And that’s going to change the way we think about all the other things. That’s what I love about Mission Hills, and that’s what we need to model for other believers.
But here’s the thing, for the Church to do that we each have to do that. For the Church to live that way, we each have to live that way because the Church isn’t the building would come through. It’s not the organization. The Church is the people of God. It’s you. It’s me. It’s each one of us. The Church isn’t a building we come to. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. And so the Church can only keep the mission front and center when each of us is keeping the mission front and center. And let’s just recognize that that’s not an easy thing to do. So, how do we do that? Let me give you two prayers today. If you want the mission to be first and if you want the mission to determine how much the other things matter, then let me give you two prayers to pray. The first one is just this.
“Father, what am I allowing to matter more than the mission?” If you want to be part of the Church that God has called the Church to be, that’s a prayer you need to pray, on a pretty regular basis. I do. God, what am I allowing to sneak into the forefront that’s not quite as important as the mission itself? Doesn’t mean it’s not important at all, but it’s not as important as the mission. God, show me the things in my life that I’m making more important than the mission of extending your influence in the world. If you want to be part of the Church that God’s called the Church to be, that’s a prayer you need to pray. And then the second prayer would be this. “Father, would you give me a clearer picture of our mission and my part in it? Give me a clearer picture what it looks like to extend your influence in the world, to advance the Gospel in every sphere and then show me what my part is. Show me how I am called to extend your influence in every sphere of influence that you’ve given to me.”
Two very powerful prayers. And because ultimately the priorities we act on become the priorities that we live out, the priorities that we actually do something with, become the priorities that really matter. I’m going to give you this last question to wrestle with today. What’s one small step, we’ve already asked it, let’s ask it again. What’s one small step of faithfulness I can take and ask God to multiply? It’s one small step. Maybe the small stuff we mentioned last week. You text the word boundless to 888111, you’re going to get part of a mailing list where you get a challenge every week of this series with some very specific ideas about how to be on mission related to the content from that weekend’s message.
If you haven’t done that yet, really encourage you, that might be your small step to get that weekly challenge. Text boundless to 888111. Maybe the small step is you go out of the Worship Center or you join us online where you…and look up Live on Mission. There’s a booth at the Littleton lobby, but you can also do this online. Good to Live on Mission and sign up for one of our service projects. That’s going to be coming up here on a weekend where we spread out to be on mission in South Denver and bless a whole lot of people. Maybe that’s your small step. Or maybe it’s something entirely different. Maybe it’s something that’s unique to your circumstances, but ask God, “What’s the small step you want me to take? And then God would you multiply that?” Let’s pray.
God, as followers of Jesus, we come before you and we want to ask for your forgiveness. Because all of us in some way or another at different times in our lives may be even right now we have elevated something above our mission, above the purpose for which we were made, redeemed and destined. We ask for your forgiveness for making other things more important than the mission. Lord, would you restore a missional focus to us? Would you make our mission our priority? And through that lens, give us a much clearer understanding of how much these other things really matter. We ask for your forgiveness and for your strength to do better.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you begin praying for the people around you, people watching online who don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus? And if that’s you, I just want to speak to you very briefly for a moment because I recognize that sometimes people, they find themselves drawn to Jesus, they’re attracted to the Christian faith. And what’s kept them from saying yes to a relationship with Jesus is honestly the Church. And maybe that’s you. And maybe you’ve had some experiences with churches that have made something other than the Gospel, more important than the Gospel. And maybe that was a very difficult thing for you. And I want to apologize on behalf of Christians everywhere for the ways that we have allowed the mission to not be front and center and made these other things more important than they really are.
I wanna ask for your forgiveness, but I’ll ask you to set that aside. And I want you to hear the most important thing. The Gospel. God loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you. Jesus died on the cross voluntarily to pay the price of your sin of every wrong you’ve ever done. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that he had accomplished it. And he’s offering you forgiveness, adoption into the family of God and a relationship with your Creator that begins now and goes on forever. That’s the most important thing. That’s the Gospel and that is our mission to proclaim. And if you don’t have a relationship with God through faith in what Jesus did, you can right here, right now. And I’d like to give you that opportunity. Wherever you are, all you need to do is have this conversation with God. Just say to God:
God, I have done wrong and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness in a relationship with my Creator. I’m ready to say yes to that. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you, my faith in you, Jesus come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.