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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - God's Mission vs. Our Agenda

Craig Smith - God's Mission vs. Our Agenda

Craig Smith - God's Mission vs. Our Agenda
TOPICS: Wait... What?, God's will

Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So, good to have you with us today. As we launch our new series, “Wait. What?” Really kind of part two of our summer theme of digging into those parts of the Bible that we often overlook for a variety of reasons. Our last series was called “Explicit” and we looked at some stories that we sometimes overlook because they’ve just got some elements and then they make us really uncomfortable. Elements that if you actually dramatize… Like if you dramatize the whole Bible, really everything that’s in there, it would not get a G rating, would not get a PG rating, probably not a PG 13 rating. If you dramatize everything that’s in the Bible, I’m pretty sure it would have to have an R rating. And so, sometimes we skip some stories because they just make us really uncomfortable.

In the “Wait. What?” series, what we’re going to do is we’re going to take a look at some of those stories that not necessarily that we find uncomfortable, but that we just find confusing that we find ourselves reading them and going, “Wait, what just happened there, right?” To get ready for this series, I took to social media this week and I asked people to share with me their favorite “Wait, what?” moments from the Bible. And it was really an interesting online conversation.

One guy wrote and he said, “Hey, I do not understand why there’s a talking donkey in the Bible.” I was reading through and I was like, “A donkey talk? Whoa. What what’s going on there?” Right. Somebody else wrote it and said, “Hey, Genesis chapter 6, it says the sons of God went into the daughters of men. I’m pretty sure that’s a euphemism for something explicit, right? They went into the daughters of men and they had the Nephilim, like these giants, like what’s going on there? Are those like angel-human hybrids? What is that, right?”

Somebody else said, “Hey, my ‘Wait, what?’ moment was there’s a place in 2 Kings where the great prophet Elijah does the amazing miracle of making an ax head float up to the top of the water, because it would be embarrassing to lose a borrowed ax head. Like how did that make it into the Bible? What’s the point of that?”

Somebody else wrote, and they said, “Hey, since as we’re talking about Elijah, my mind is there’s a story in 2 Kings where Elijah is dead. He’s been buried. His bones are there in some tomb. And so, there’s some guys out and one of their friends dies and they’re going to carry the body, I guess, back to bury it or something. But then some raiders come and they’re afraid they’re not going to get away, they got the body. So, they throw the body into the tomb, happens to be Elijah’s tomb. And as soon as that dude touched the bones of Elijah, that dude got up, the dead guy, the friend, not Elijah, his bone, Elijah’s bones brought this guy back to life.” And it’s just like a couple sentences. Like wait, what’s that all about, right?

And there’s a lot of these kinds of stories in the Bible that make us go, I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t know what that’s… Therefore, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get out of that. And in this series, we’re going to look into some of the stories. And the reason we are is because the reality is I believe and this church is driven by the belief that all of scripture matters.

In fact, I love what the Apostle Paul said to his protege, a young pastor named Timothy. This is 2 Timothy 3:16. He said, “All scripture, all of the Bible, all of it. Okay? Is God-breathed. And it is useful.” It’s not just there to be entertaining. It’s not just because it’s interesting. Oh, that happened. No, it’s useful. For what? For teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Everything is in the Bible because it’s useful because God has a purpose for it in your life to help you live on mission with him. That’s what we’re all about at Mission Hills, helping people become like Jesus and join him on mission. The moment you say yes to following Jesus, you actually say yes to ministry. You say yes to being on mission with Jesus, extending God’s influence in the world.

That’s not just for pastors and church staff. Every follower of Jesus is following Jesus on mission. And every part of the Bible is there because it’s useful for helping you do that, to be equipping you for every good work, which is to say for living on mission. And so, we’re going to dig into some of these stories. And there’s three things really that I’ve been praying God would do with this short series this summer. Number one is that he would just give us truth, right? That we would get out of all of these stories that we look at exactly what God put them in the Bible for us to get out of them. Okay? So we can live on mission with him.

Second, my prayer is that he would give us courage. Because I think sometimes, we see some of these parts of the Bible, that the moments that we go, “Wait, what?” And we’re a little afraid to dig into them. Because we’re afraid it might change our view of God or it might undermine our faith in some way, or it might raise more questions than we have answers for, or that it might actually just in some way kind of set us off course. And so, we’re a little bit afraid to dig into these hard parts of the Bible sometimes. And I pray that as we go through this, we’ll find courage that we can tackle every single part of Scripture and get out of it everything God intended.

And then the third thing I’ve been praying that God would use this series to do is to give us some practical principles. And one of things I hope to do as we go along, it’s kind of drop what I’m going to call Bible hacks along the way that you can use in your own life, simple principles that you can use in your own life when you come across those parts of the Bible that make you go, “Wait, what?” These practical principles, these Bible hacks will help you learn from those parts of the Bible exactly what God put them there for you to learn.

So, we’re going to go ahead and dive in today with a story from the Book of Acts chapter 4, Acts in the New Testament, right after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the Gospels. So, if you want to turn to Acts 4, I’ll set the stage real briefly while you’re making your way there. Acts is the story of the early life of the church. Okay? So, Jesus, the Son of God came, he lived a perfect life. He died on the cross to pay for our sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And then after a while, he ascended into heaven and he left the mission of sharing the good news of his life, death, and resurrection with his followers. Okay? And his followers together form what we call the Church.

Okay? They’re people of God engaged in the mission of God. Now, what the Book of Acts does is it describes the early life of this group of followers of Jesus, this early life of the church. And in Acts chapter 4, we have a very interesting story. A very “wait, what?” moment from the early life of the church. This is a Chapter 4, verse 32, “Now, all the believers, all the followers of Jesus, they were one, in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Now, just let me be real clear here. Some people ask me occasionally. So, I just want to make sure we don’t want to get off track here. This is not describing communism or socialism. Okay? Communism and socialism, they’re both sort of systems of economics. This is not describing a system of economics. This is describing a spirit of community. This is describing a group of people that were focused on the mission and they were focused on helping each other to stay on mission with Jesus, advancing the Gospel, extending God’s influence in the world. Okay?

So, it’s not a system of economics here. It’s just a spirit of community. And it may be a real practical way to think about this is to say that they thought more about “we” then “me.” Okay? They thought more about “we” than “me.” They thought more about “we” together as the people of God engaged in the mission of God than they did about “me” or about “my stuff,” “my property,” “my possession,” my whatever it was. They thought more about “we” than “me.” And that’s actually really important because that really sets the stage for understanding what goes on in the rest of this story.

Okay? Verse 33 says this, “Now, with great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” The apostles, that was the leaders of the early church, the people who had been with Jesus from the beginning. Okay? They continued to testify about the resurrection of Jesus. That’s the Gospel. Jesus died and he rose. Okay? So, they were staying on mission. They were focused on advancing the mission of the church, sharing the Gospel. Okay?

Now, it says they were doing that with power. And then it says this, “And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” Okay? So, the Gospel was advancing powerfully and the power of God was working in such a way in the early church that there were no needy persons among them. And understand, that doesn’t mean that nobody had, you know, more than anybody else. This is not saying that they were all kind of at the same level economically. As we see throughout the Book of Acts, some people in the church had a lot and some people still had a little. But what we’re being told here is that nobody was in abject need. Okay? Nobody was going, “I can’t feed my family because I can’t afford to buy groceries.” Nobody was going, “You know, I’m living out on the streets because I can’t afford to pay my rent,” that wasn’t happening. Okay?

Even though there were different levels of sort of affluence, there was nobody who was in abject need at this point. They were taking care of each other. Okay? And I think the reason they were doing that was because they knew that if we’re going to be on mission together, we have to make sure that these needs are being met. That nobody’s kind of being left behind. It’s really hard to focus on advancing the Gospel extending God’s influence in the world if you’re trying to figure out how am I going to eat my next meal or where am I going to lay my head tonight. Okay? So, they helped each other stay on mission by making sure that everybody had their basic needs met.

Now, it says this, “From time to time, those who owned land or houses sold them, they brought the money from the sales, they put it at the apostle’s feet and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” Okay? So, from time to time… By the way, you might be reading a version of the Bible. I’m reading the New International Version. You might be reading a version that doesn’t have from time to time. But I actually love the way the NIV has translated this because from time to time picks up a nuance of the original Greek.

This was originally written in Greek. There’s a nuance of the Greek verb about selling here that basically suggests that this wasn’t something that happened once. Okay? It happened sort of on a periodic basis. In other words, it’s not that they all kind of looked at all their land and their houses and then in one moment they all sold them all and put it all on the apostle’s feet. And they’re like, “Okay, what do we do now?” No. What it’s saying is that, from time to time, it’s a Greek translation. As they saw a need, they made extra generous gifts. This is not just describing kind of like the regular offering that might be taken up in order to advance the mission of the church. This was occasionally what, oh, there’s especially great needs in the season. And so, they would sell some extra that they had in order to allow it to meet a lot of those needs.

Okay? In other words, as we say a fair amount of time here at this church, they knew what their more was for. They knew what their more was for. They realized we have excess and the excess is not just for me to hoard, it’s for me to help. Okay? They knew what their more was for, and so they would sell some of their excess to help out those people who had those great needs in that moment. Okay? So, that happened from time to time. And then, kind of interesting example, verse 36 says, “Now Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas [which means son of encouragement] sold a field that he owned and he brought the money and he put it at the apostles’ feet,” kind of an interesting statement. I want you to notice that there’s several details given to us about Barnabas there.

And if I can just pause for a moment and I’m going to give you your first Bible hack. Okay? Your first way to kind of maybe get a handle on what some of these stories that might otherwise be confusing are actually there to teach us. And here’s the first Bible hack, the details matter. Okay? The details matter. You might even say, “God is in the details,” which is kind of the opposite of what we often, right? Sometimes we say that the devil’s in the details, meaning you can have a great plan, but it’s actually in the details of how that plan is executed that determines whether or not the plan actually comes to pass. Well, we’re kind of getting that same principle here, but we’re not going to say the devil’s in the details. We’re going to say, “God is in the details.” We’re going to say the details of God’s word matter.

So, here here’s what I do. Okay? When I’m studying a passage of Scripture, when I read through the Scripture, that passage, I believe that every passage of Scripture has one main point, one main idea that it’s intended to communicate. Okay? So, when I get to the end of a passage, I’ll write down. Here’s what I think that main idea is. Here’s what I think that big point is. The next thing I do is I go back and look at all the details in that passage. And I make sure that all those details actually line up with or are aligned with that big idea. And if the main idea, if the main point that I thought that passage was about doesn’t align with all of the details, that’s a pretty good indicator that I’ve probably got the point wrong. Okay?

So, we’ve got to pay attention to those details. So, the next time you run across a passage, you’re like, “Wait, what?” One of the things you might think about doing is like jot down all the specific details that you see in the passage. And it may be that as you see all the specific details that you begin to find yourself pointed towards the point of the story. Okay.

So, we’re told several details about Joseph, three in particular. They’re very interesting. Joseph is a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas [which means son of encouragement]. Okay? So, he was a Levite. That’s the first detail. That means that he was from the tribe of the Levites. In the Nation of Israel, there are 12 tribes. Okay? Levites was one of the tribes. The interesting thing about the Levites was that was the tribe that the priests came from. Okay? So he came from a priestly tribe. In other words, Joseph’s family had a long history of ministry. Joseph’s family had a long history of being on a mission with God.

Okay? Second thing it says that he’s from Cyprus, and Cyprus is a little Island off the coast of Syria. Okay? Now, for the people who are getting the Book of Acts in the first century, okay? The first ones to read this, they would have been aware of the fact that the Apostle Paul, big, big, important figure in the early church, who’s described later in the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul, he went on a mission to share the Gospel around the world. And guess where the first place he went was on his mission? It was Cyprus. Cyprus was the first stop on his mission. Okay?

So again, we had this idea that, you know, there’s a place, there’s a detail mentioned that’s kind of focusing in on being on mission with Jesus. Right? And then we’re told that the apostles had a nickname for him. They called him Barnabas. And what’s interesting about Barnabas is it means son of encouragement. It doesn’t mean Mr. Moneybags. It doesn’t mean Mr. Generous. It means son of encouragement because Barnabas had a reputation, and we see this throughout the Bible actually, he had a reputation for encouraging people to stay on mission with Jesus. When they were feeling like God wasn’t, you know, going to be using them anymore, or they were just too tired to go on or whatever it was, Barnabas was the guy who came along and said, “You can do it. God has plans for you. God’s still going to use you.” He encouraged them to stay on mission.

We got three details here that have a lot to do with mission, I think that’s really, really important. We’re told obviously that he sold a field and he brought the money. But the key here is not that he was generous. Okay? The key isn’t just his generosity. The key is his generosity was motivated by concern for the mission of the church. Okay? That’s what those three details kind of focuses in on. His generosity wasn’t just because he was a nice guy, his generosity was motivated by a concern for the mission of the church.

Now, that sets the stage for talking about another individual, two individuals actually, who also gave to the church. But I’ll go ahead and kind of give this way a little bit as we read it, maybe you can look at it through this lens, but I think they were motivated by something different. Let’s see. Chapter 5, verse 1, “Now, a man named Ananias together with his wife Sapphira also sold a piece of property. Now with his wife’s full knowledge,” she knew what he was doing. “He kept back part of the money for himself but brought the rest and put it at the apostle’s feet.” Okay?

So, he didn’t give all the money. He gave some of the money. We don’t know how much of it, but he gave some of it. And he put the rest on the apostles’ feet. And then Peter, one of the apostles, one of the leaders of the early church, Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you had lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing?” And the original Greek there for such a thing is a word that’s only used for like big deal stuff. Okay?

In other words, he says, “You know, what made you think of doing such a terrible thing. It’s such a big deal, bad thing.” He says, “You have not lied just to human beings, but to God.” I want you to notice that the word lied, showed up twice in pretty short order there. And the reason I say that is because I actually think it’s a very important thing to pay attention to. In fact, it’s probably another Bible hack. Let me give you a Bible hack number two, pay attention to repetition. Okay? Pay attention to repetition.

So, here’s the thing. In the modern world, we don’t quite understand that because in the modern world, you know, like it doesn’t matter how much we repeat something because it doesn’t cost us anything to repeat it. I mean, if you’re typing a paper and you repeat something that makes it go on to another page. Yeah. Just, you know, grab some more paper out of the drawer. You probably got some, if not, you can go down to a grocery store, honestly, and you can get more paper. Okay?

That wasn’t true in the ancient world. Paper was incredibly valuable. And oftentimes, even today, we don’t write on paper. So, we’re writing online in which case it doesn’t matter how long it goes. It didn’t cost more to go to two pages online or two screens versus one or whatever. Okay? But sometimes, even today, we do actually kind of recognize the importance of kind of being straight and to the point. When I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation, I had an 80,000-word limit. That might sound like a lot of words, but I was doing the very complex subject. And one of the things my advisor would do was say, “Hey, here, you’re kind of saying again, something you’ve already said earlier, don’t do that. You need to save the word count so that you can focus on some other important things.”

And so I kind of began to understand in that moment, you know, why it was sometimes that you needed to not repeat things. But generally speaking, like we feel free to repeat as much as possible. But remember in the ancient world, paper wasn’t common. They weren’t writing online. In fact, paper was so rare in the ancient world that sometimes they conserve space on paper by actually not putting spaces between the words, all the words. If you read ancient Greek manuscripts, copies of the New Testament, they’re all run together. The words literally, there’s no spaces in between them. That’s how valuable paper was.

And in a culture like that, repetition is important. If somebody is taking up that valuable real estate on the page to repeat something, it’s probably a clue. Okay? It’s probably something we need to pay attention to. It’s also true, by the way that, you know, in the modern world, we have lots of different ways of kind of highlighting something, emphasizing, right? We could take a word, we could bold it. We could italicize it. We could underline it. You know, we could put it all in caps. We could put it in a slightly larger font and all those words kind of would draw our attention. Hey, this is important.

That wasn’t true in the ancient world. They didn’t have that ability. Okay? So, what they would do to emphasize important things is they would repeat them. And that’s why I say, pay attention to repetition. It will often kind of focus in on key ideas. So, as you’re reading through the Bible, if you’re finding yourself going, I just don’t know what this is about. Look and see if there’s any key terms that have been repeated.

Now, in this case, the key term is lied. It’s really important because it tells us that the problem wasn’t that they didn’t give all the money, the problem wasn’t with their level of generosity. The problem was with the fact that they lied about something. Now, what did they lie about? Well, we don’t know exactly, but it’s not hard to read between the lines of figure it out, right? They lied about how much they were giving. They were claiming to give all the money that came from the sale of the land. But, in fact, they weren’t giving all the money. They were keeping some back for themselves.

But by the way, as we see Peter say, there’s no problem with them not giving all the money, right? He said, “The land was yours. You didn’t have to sell it. That was your choice. And then the money that you got from the sale of the land that was at your disposal, it was in your hands. You got to decide how it was split. You didn’t have to give it to the church.” Okay? So, not giving all the money, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that they were lying about how much they were giving. And apparently, that was kind of a big deal.

Let’s check this out. Now, when Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. Wait, what? Yeah. He fell down and died and great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Well, wait, there’s more. And then some young men came forward, they wrapped up his body and they carried him out and they buried him.

Now, about three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened, and Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price that you and Ananias got for the land?” In other words, is this all the money that came in from the sale of the land? “Yes,” she said, “That’s the price. That’s the whole thing. It’s whole kit and caboodle.” And Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen, the feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door and they will carry you out also.”

And at that moment, she fell down at his feet and died. And then the young men came in and finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events, which probably is easiest part of this to understand, right? Like, I’d be a little concerned, wouldn’t you? Honestly, like chances are pretty good, some of you like hear that, right? Okay. They got killed for lying about how generous they’re being. And you’re immediately thinking back to the last time you filed taxes and you’re going, “Did I exaggerate on my charitable giving? Am I going to be struck dead for that?” Probably not. You’re probably okay. I’m not saying you should do it. Don’t lie about your charitable giving, but I don’t think God’s going to strike you dead.

Okay. But then why were they struck dead? Why was this such a big deal? Well, there’s a couple of things I think we need to keep in mind. The first is we need to understand that this was early in the life of the church. Okay? The church was just getting started. It was sort of charting its course, what kind of a group of people it was going to be. And there’s an important principle we talk about here at Mission Hills, a fair amount. I call it the Law of Firsts. Law of Firsts says that our first choices direct those that follow. Okay? That in any new enterprise, in any new circumstance, whether it’s, you know, the church getting started or a church getting started or, you know, or starting a new job or launching a new company or getting married or beginning a new dating relationship or are having kids or whatever it is. Okay?

The first choices we make direct those that follow. The things that we do at the beginning of anything, kind of, they sort of determine the course that we’re going to go on in a very substantial way. I mean, think about it like this. You know, when you’re just getting married, if you and your spouse decide at the very beginning, we’re going to make God the center of our marriage. And so, we’re going to pray together and we’re going to make sure we’re being on mission together. And if you do that at the very first part of your marriage, chances are 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 years later, you’re still going to be doing that together. On the other hand, if God is a distant part of your relationship, almost a forgotten back burner kind of relationship, chances are that’s going to be hard to turn around later in your marriage. Okay?

When you’re first married, right? If you let your mother-in-law boss you guys around, that’s going to be hard to turn around later on. Okay? When you first have kids, if the first time your kids disobey you, if you let it happen, it’s going to be much harder to discipline later on. Okay? So, the point is that the first things that we do, or the first things that we allow, first things that we do or the first thing that we allow have a huge impact in the way things go in the future. And so, what’s going on here is that the church is just getting started and God knows that what Ananias and Sapphira are doing has the potential to derail the church. It has the potential to hijack the mission that the church exists to be about. Okay? But why? What exactly is it that has this dangerous potential?

We already know it’s not that they weren’t being generous enough. That wasn’t the issue. The issue is that they were lying, but what was the big deal about the lie? Because the reality is, God doesn’t usually strike us dead when we lie, right? Chances are, we’ve all told a lie or two in our lives, but we’re still here. We haven’t been stuck dead. So, what was wrong with this lie? And in my opinion, having studied this, what I would argue is the issue isn’t that they lied. The issue was why they lied. The issue was their motivation. Remember, their stories being compared against the story of Joseph AKA Barnabas, okay? Who gave, but as we saw back then, his generosity, his actions were motivated by concern for the mission of the church. And what we’re meant to understand is that they’re giving and ultimately, they’re lying are motivated by something else entirely, not the mission of the church.

Their mission is motivated by something personal, something selfish. Best guess, I mean, this makes a lot of sense to me, it’s that, you know, they saw what happened when Joseph kind of practiced generosity. They saw the attention that he got when he sold that field. They saw the respect he had. They saw how much he was admired that. They saw how tight he was with the leaders of the church. They saw the kind of opportunities he was given. They saw the influence he had. And they said, “I want that. I want that respect. I want that admiration. I want that position. I want that power. I want that influence.” And that was the problem, ultimately, what they were doing was motivated by a selfish agenda.

And here’s what we need to understand, especially early in the life of the church. But I still believe today as well. The mission of the church is too important to allow selfish agendas to hijack it. The mission of the church to advance the Gospel, to extend the influence of God by speaking the truth about the resurrection of Jesus and the hope that we have in Christ, the mission of the church is too important to allow a selfish agenda to hijack it.

Just recently, I was talking to a friend of mine and he told me a story from early on in his ministry that I found myself immediately thinking of this story and how a church can be hijacked by selfish agendas. Basically, he and his wife had moved into a small town. He had taken the position, he was the lead pastor. And as they moved in town, you know, they were a young couple. They didn’t really have any money. They’re driving a beat-up pickup truck. They didn’t have a lot of stuff, but they kind of limped into town and set up. And they hadn’t been there very long. They’d been in the house for merely a couple of weeks, and a member of the church, pretty well-to-do rancher came by his office one day and said, “Hey, pastor, I noticed when you moved in, man, like your truck’s probably not long for this world. You know, it’s really beat up. I don’t think it’s going to last very long. You can’t trust it. And so, you know, I want to do something for you.” And he reached for his pocket. And he handed my friend a set of keys.

My friend said, “What is this?” And he took him outside, and in the driveway, there was a brand-new Ford pickup. My friend was…he was ecstatic. He’d never had a new car. Couldn’t believe this man’s generosity. He’s so grateful. And he ran and found his wife and he told her about it. And then she asked him a super annoying question. She said, “What’s the catch?” She said, “Are there any strings attached to this?” And he’s like, “No, the guy’s just super generous.” She’s like, “Are you sure?” He’s like, “Yes.”

But he wasn’t. And that question haunted him. And he eventually had to go and he found that man, he said, “I’m so sorry to ask this question. I feel terrible asking this question, but I just feel like I got to clear this up. Are there any strings attached to this gift?” And the man said, “Nah, no strings, but you know what pastor? This fall, we’re going to be electing new elders, there’s a couple seats that are coming up. And I would just think that you’d support me for that position when the time comes.”

My friend went, “Ah,” reached in his pocket, got the keys and he handed them back to the man. So, he recognized that there was a selfish agenda. It wasn’t just generosity. And it certainly wasn’t a generosity driven by, motivated by the church’s mission. There was a selfish agenda. There was a personal agenda. And my friend, I’m so proud of it. I hope that I would react as admirably in the same situation. I hope that I will, but I was so proud of him. Because he understood that the mission of the church is too important to let it get hijacked by personal agendas, and this something we all have to wrestle with. We have to ask ourselves this question, I believe. I think that’s the point of this story is that we each would ask ourselves this question, “Am I doing that? Am I putting God’s mission first? Am I allowing any personal agenda to get in front of God’s mission either for the church or for my life?”

So, this is the principle that we have to grab a hold of. I have to put God’s mission ahead of my agenda. That’s the principle. I have to put God’s mission ahead of my agenda. We have to do that in the church. We have to do it in our individual lives as well. In the church, think about this. Maybe you’ve heard the announcement, super excited August 1st and 2nd, we’re reopening the Littleton campus. Super excited about that. But you know what? In order to keep people safe, we’re going to have to do a few things that some of you are not going to like. One of the things is we’re going to use an RSVP system. We need to be able to control the number of people who show up to a service so we can stay within the government restriction and keep people safe. That’s our purpose for doing it.

Some of you hate that. And you might be thinking about showing up without using your RSVP system. And I’m going to ask you to wrestle with the question, why? Why would I think about not using the RSVP system? Is it possible that the reason that you are tempted to do that is because you have a personal agenda that’s getting ahead of God’s mission. You’re thinking more in terms of “me” than in terms of “we.”

Or how about this? We’re going to ask everyone to wear masks this first few weeks after we come back. And I know some of you were like masks don’t do anything. They’re uncomfortable. Listen, the leaders of this church has decided we’re all going to wear a mask to comply with the government requests. But also because we believe that it does probably limit some of the transmission, especially when we’re singing. And, you know, you may have even noticed in the lights. I spit occasionally when I’m talking, well, let alone, when we sing, it happens, and we want to keep people safe. And we want people to feel safe as they’re beginning to venture out into this new realm of regathering. Okay? And so, we’re going to ask everybody to wear masks.

And if you’re tempted to say, “Well, heck with that,” then I want to ask you to wrestle with the question, why am I tempted to think that? Is it because I’m putting a personal agenda preference or whatever of my own ahead of God’s mission? Am I thinking more in terms of “me” than “we?” But it also works out in our own private lives, right?

Sometimes I struggle. I struggle to put God’s mission first because I’m a people-pleaser. I want people to like me. I want people to be happy with me. And sometimes I find myself either doing things to make people happy or not doing things that will make people unhappy rather than just listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit and the conviction of the Holy Spirit and doing what I’m called to do as a leader. I’m tempted to do that. I struggle with it. But in that moment, what I’m doing is I’m putting one of my agendas to be liked ahead of God’s mission. And I have to wrestle with it. I have to put God’s mission ahead of any of my personal agendas.

Same thing can happen with the pursuit of money. People can pursue money over God’s mission for their life. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you have a mission, you’re called the ministry, okay? Not necessarily vocational ministry, but ministry, advancing the Gospel, extending God’s influence in the world. And sometimes we get in this place where we’re more focused on pursuing money than the mission, that’s conflict of agendas. Or maybe marriage, some people are so focused on getting married that they’re not focused on the mission. Some are people so focused on having kids then they’re not focused on their mission, or possessions or fame. There’s just so many different ways that we do it.

So, let me ask you this question, which of my personal agendas am I most likely to put ahead of God’s mission? I’d love for you to wrestle with that question, which of your personal agendas? Some of them might be bad. Some of it might not be bad agendas, but which one of them are you likely to put ahead of God’s mission? And then you can ask that question sort of in general, but you can also ask that question in this season, in the season in the world, in this season in my marriage, in the season with my kids, in this season with my relationship, whatever it is, in the season, what are those agendas that I’m most likely to put ahead of God’s mission?

And then the second question is just this, what’s one change I need to make? So, one change I need to make to put God’s mission ahead of my agenda. I believe if we asked that question of God, he will speak the answer because as we’ve seen here, this is a big deal to God, keeping his mission first ahead of our personal agendas. That is a big deal to God. So, we need to ask, what do I need to do, Lord? Show me those agendas that I’m likely to kind of get out of sequence and show me one change that I need to make to kind of get it in sequence. Let’s pray about that together right now. Would you join me?

Hey, God, I just want to speak on my behalf, but also in behalf of all the followers of Jesus listening to this, as we confess to you that we have often violated this principle. We have often put our personal agendas ahead of your mission. Maybe that’s in the church, but also maybe it’s just in our own individual lives, Lord. And so, we have not been engaged in your mission to the degree that we should have been because we had a personal agenda, we put out front.

We confess that to you. And we asked for your forgiveness. We ask beyond your forgiveness, and we’re so grateful that we have it, Lord, that we’re not being written out of your plans because we’ve failed in this way, in the past, beyond your forgiveness, which we receive, Lord. We also pray for insight from your Holy Spirit about those specific agendas that we’re most likely to put in front of you in your mission. We ask for insight for your Holy Spirit and what changes we need to put into place in our lives so that we stop falling into that rut. We stop falling into that temptation and we always put your mission first. Because we realize, Lord, your mission is what matters most.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, we do just begin praying right now for all those people who are listening to this around the world who have not come into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. And if that’s you, just real quickly, I want to speak to you. And I want you to know that the inability to put God’s mission first is actually the result of all the bad stuff we see in the world. Okay? It’s the result of…or the coronavirus as a result of putting our agendas in front of God’s mission. Racism is the result, honestly, of putting our agendas in front of God’s mission. Every bad thing in the world is a result of putting our agendas in front of God’s mission. It’s a result of what we call sin.

And the essence of sin is saying to God, “I’m going to do it my way. I’ll live life on my terms. I’ll plot my own course, my own destiny. It doesn’t matter what you say, Lord, I’ve got it.” That’s our agenda. And that’s why the world is a mess as it is. And the chances are that’s why you’re experiencing life in a way that you know in your heart of hearts is not supposed to be this way. It’s supposed to be better than this, but it can only be better than this when we stop putting our agendas in front of his mission.

This is the mission of God. In spite of our sin, in spite of your sin, God loves you so much. He sent his Son, Jesus, who lived the perfect life. Then he died on the cross to pay for your sins. For all those wrong ways that you’ve lived, for every sin you’ve ever committed, for every way that you put your agenda ahead of God’s commandments, ahead of his truth, ahead of his mission. For every one of those, Jesus died.

He died so that you could be free, that you could be forgiven, that you could be completely without sin and its consequences. And so that you could come into a relationship with God. Three days later after he died, he rose from the dead, and he offers all that. He offers forgiveness. He offers salvation. He offers heaven and he offers a relationship with God and a chance to be part of his mission. He offers all of that simply by trusting in him, choosing to follow Jesus. If you’ve never done that, you can do it today. You can make that decision today. Here’s how you do it wherever you are, you’re just going to have this conversation with God. Just repeat after me in your heart:

God, I have done wrong. I have sinned. I’ve put my agenda ahead of yours in so many areas of my life. I admit it. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for all the wrong that I’ve done. I believe that you rose from the dead and you’re offering me forgiveness. So, Jesus, I’m choosing to follow you. Jesus, I’m saying yes to a relationship with you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

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