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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Fit For Doing Good

Craig Smith - Fit For Doing Good

Craig Smith - Fit For Doing Good
TOPICS: The Good Life

Kelly: Morning. Twelve years ago, I began a journey that deepened my faith in God through my son’s struggle with mental illness. My husband and I could tell you the ins and outs of nearly everything that has to do with mental illness from therapy to 72 hour holds, hospitalizations, medications, cutting police protocol, and eventually a suicide attempt. I used to wonder how many times my heart could break, but today my focus is on how God has carried me through these last 12 years of heartbreaking sadness. I’ve always believed in God and knew he was nearby. However, my turning point as to where that knowledge of God moved from my head into my heart was shortly after Alex had tried to commit suicide at age 15. After that suicide attempt, he was moved to a mental health facility for seven months. We all hugged him that day and said goodbye and left broken and empty.

At that point, though, I recognized what it meant to really give it up to God. The funny thing is that I thought I always had done that because I prayed every day. It becomes very real, though, when that control and choice are taken away from you. And I had no other choice but to give my fears and anxiety to God in order not just to save Alex’s life, but to save my life as well. I had a strong belief, but at that point, I had no faith in God. I wish I could say that we all lived happily ever after, but as I pulled closer to God, evil pulled a little bit closer too, for the next five years presented attacks from all sides. Everything and everyone I cared about was falling apart around me, and I was left to pick up those pieces.

But throughout those really awful years, my faith grew, and I knew that God was right there living it with me. God presented me with a peace in my heart that I cannot explain. It’s the only kind of peace that God can give. I’ve never spent one day angry at God, and I’ve never even asked him why. I began to see the blessings that came out of my struggles, that life was so much larger than the little world I had created in order to form safety for myself. The gift that God gave me was that strength to continue moving forward and not backward. Having that faith and trust in your heart instead of your head helps you to let go, and the blessings have been profound.

Craig: Thank you, Kelly. Can we thank Kelly? So, I think one of the things that I find so inspiring and challenging at the same time in Kelly’s testimony is that her dramatic change and her experience of life wasn’t based on a dramatic change in her circumstances in life, right? It was based on a dramatic change in her focus on life. And I think that’s an incredible way to lean into what we’re going to talk about today, which is this simple truth that our lives follow our focus. Do you know that church? Our lives follow our focus as inevitably as our bodies follow our eye focus.

One of my favorite videos right now, you can look it up, do it after the service, but just go on YouTube and look up “Lion Fails,” and you’re going to see my favorite video right now. I just watch it over and over. It’s a video of a lion and he’s like he’s the quintessential male lion. He’s like he’s ripped, right? And he’s got this huge mane and he’s got the walk down. Like, he walks like you think a lion should walk, right? And in this video, this lion is walk…I’m not even sure walking is the right word. Honestly, he’s strutting, and he’s strutting along this kind of ledge and drops off into a pool, but it’s interesting. He’s headed along to the ledge but his focus is on something on the other side of the pool. And I don’t know what it was, but he’s, like, trying to walk this way but he’s looking this way, and inevitably, he’s gradually getting closer and closer to the ledge until there’s a moment when he steps and there’s just nowhere to step. He’s off the ledge, and suddenly, this ferocious majestic king of the beast is transformed into a total spaz. He flips out and he’s like he’s going all over and he hits the water and he goes under and he comes up and he looks like a drowned kitten, honestly.

And I love that thing, but that’s what we’re talking about. See, our lives follow our focus. What we’re focusing on is where we’re going to end up. We might say, “I’m headed here,” but if what we’re focused on is over there, what’s going to happen is our lives are going to follow that focus. It’s almost inevitable. And so, as we begin our time together today, I want to ask you to ask yourself this question, what’s my focus right now? What are you focused on right now? What do you find yourself thinking the most about right now? What do you find yourself fixed at and what occupies your mind, and your attention, and your thoughts? What are you focused on right now?

Maybe even jot something down if you’re watching online, maybe even share it in the chat window right now. Because here’s the reality is that whatever it is that we’re focused on is going to have a huge impact on the kinds of lives that we experience. Now, we’re in a series right now called “The Good Life,” and what we’re doing in this series is we’re leaning into what God has to say about how to experience the life that he always intended us to have. God intended us to live the good life, right? Jesus himself said, “I came that they may have life and have it to the full,” okay? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about a mediocre life that we have in abundance, okay? And I know for a fact, he wasn’t talking about a bad life that we have in abundance. He’s talking about the good life.

He said, “I came that they may have life,” and to the max, to the complete, fill it up to the brim and spill over. That’s the kind of life God intends for us. The problem is that we face two very different definitions of what the good life is, okay? On the one hand, we know that the world has a definition, and the world’s definition says the good life is all about getting good for ourselves. That’s the world’s definition of the good life. It’s about getting good for ourselves. It’s about getting the bank account that allows us to buy the latest tech or the latest fashions. It’s about getting the degree that allows us to get the job, which allows us to get the promotion, which allows us to get the house and the vacation home, or the good car. It’s about getting the boyfriend or the girlfriend. It’s about getting the husband or the wife. It’s about getting the kids. It’s about getting the grandkids. Whatever it is, it’s about getting good for ourselves.

But God has a very different definition of the good life. God says the good life is all about giving good to others. And we have these two radically different definitions, and the problem really has to do with which one we’re focused on because whatever one we’re focused on is going to have a huge impact on the kinds of lives we end up experience. Now, God says the good life is all about giving good to others. And I realize that that has a little bit of a tendency to sound super-spiritual, right? Like, where’s the fun in that? But the reality is this is a practical truth as well.

I remember several years ago, my youngest daughter got into this phase where she just really wanted a Husky, and I was like, “No, we’re a Golden Retriever family. It’s just who we are. I’m sorry. We just…Husky is not really an option. Very energetic, da da da…” And honestly, I thought she’ll grow out of it. Well, she did not grow out of it. She kept wanting a Husky. I thought, “Well, she’ll forget about it.” She did not forget about it. And finally, after several years, honestly, of asking if she’d get a Husky, my wife and I said, “Well, you know what? She’s a very responsible kid. I’m confident she’ll take care of it.” And we’re in a house with a little bit more room than we were in before, and so I think we have room for it.”

So, we decided for Christmas morning, we got a piece of paper and we just wrote the word “yes” on it. We wrapped it up and we gave it to her, and it was awesome because she unwrapped it and she had that moment where she’s like, “Yeah.” And I made a strategic error, I just want to tell you. I was not close enough to her. I wish I had been closer to her. I was on the camera, honestly. My wife was closer, and so my wife got tackled, and they both went down and we thought it was just…She was just overcome with excitement. I was like, “I should have been there. That should have been me.” All right. At least I got it on a film, right?

But here’s the interesting thing. Like, I have never received a gift that made me as happy as that moment of giving her that gift. I’ve never felt as much happiness in getting a gift, and I’ve gotten some great gifts over the years. Let me be really clear. My family is amazing gift-givers, all of them, and I’ve gotten some fantastic gifts, but no gift that I’ve ever gotten made me as happy, filled me with as much joy as giving that gift to her. And we all kind of know, that’s why we have a saying, right? We say to give is better than to receive. Because here’s the thing that giving good to others unleashes a joy in us, okay? Giving good to others unleashes joy at us. And it is a joy that can’t be taken away by the circumstances. And that’s really what we’re talking about when we’re talking about this good life that God has intended us to experience.

So, the question is, what do we need to focus on that will lead us to the experience of the good life as God defines that he always intended us to live? That’s what we’re going to lean into today. So, why don’t you go and grab a Bible? We’re going to be in the Book of Titus today, Titus chapter 1 starting in verse 10. Now, while you’re making your way to Titus 1:10, let me just say this. Titus is the Apostle Paul’s troubleshooter. So, the Apostle Paul would send Titus to churches that were having some problems, and he’s sending him now to the Island of Crete. And the reason he sent him to Crete as we’re going to see today is that because the problem with the churches on Crete was they had lost their focus as a church, and it was having a huge impact on how they were living and what it is they were doing.

And so, Titus 1:10 says this. Now, “For there are many rebellious people full of meaningless talk and deception.” And what’s going on here, if you were with us last week, Reza taught that one of the things Paul told Titus he had to do was he had to go and he had to appoint elders in all of the churches. And he said, “They need to be people who love what is good. They need to love what God says is good. They need to be about and focused on what God says is good.” And now we find out why. He says because there are some teachers in some of these other churches that are focused on something else entirely and then they’re leading the churches astray. He says they’re rebellious, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they were full of terrible sin, but it means that they’re rebelling against the focus that God has for us. They’re rebelling against the path that God has for his church and they’re taking it somewhere else. He says, “And they’re focused on meaningless talk,” literally empty talk. Talk that means nothing, it accomplishes nothing. And he says, “Deception,” or literally misleading.

So, the church is being led astray from God’s purposes for it because it’s focused on some things that don’t really matter, he says. Now, he doesn’t say immediately exactly what that is, but he does say this. He says, “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group.”

Now, if you don’t know what circumcision is, google it. Don’t do a Google image search, okay? Here’s all you really need to know for now. It was a minor surgical procedure for men, and in the first century, it was only done to Jewish men, okay? And so, what he’s meaning here is essentially that these people full of meaningless talk and deception, misleading the church, taking it off their mission, they’re either Jewish themselves or they were focused on Jewish things, Jewish rules, regulations, and rituals. Now, my guess would be that what was happening was these people were kind of coming in churches going, “Hey, Jesus is great. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus is awesome. Faith in Jesus is so important, but if you really want to be right with God, you’re going to have to get circumcised. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus is so, so important. You got to have faith in Jesus, absolutely. You got to follow Jesus, but if you really want to be pure before God, you got to eat kosher, you got to avoid pork and shellfish and eat only the ceremonially clean foods or…you know. Look, look, following Jesus, obviously, is so, so, so important, but if you really want to be good with God, you got to go through these Jewish rituals.”

So, they were doing something like that, and what Paul says is they must be silenced. He says, “You got to shut them down because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach. They focus on things they shouldn’t be focusing. They’re talking about stuff they shouldn’t be talking about.” And he says, “And they’re disrupting whole households.” Now, two things you want to know. First, when he talks about households, he’s talking about churches, okay? It’s easier to read that in the modern world and think he’s talking about families, but he’s not. He’s talking about churches. Because in the 1st century, churches didn’t have their own buildings. They always met in somebody’s house, and so when he’s talking here about households, he’s talking about the churches that met in those households.

And he says, “These people are disrupting whole churches.” He says, “They’re disrupting whole churches.” And he uses a very interesting word when he talks about disrupting. It’s a very powerful word. It’s an unusual word. It only shows up a few times in the entire Bible. One of them, my favorite use of this particular word for disrupting is in the use of the story where Jesus came into the temple in Jerusalem, and he went into a place called the Court of the Gentiles, which is a part of the temple that had been set aside for the non-Jewish people to worship God. And he came in and he found that they had set up tables and they were selling things and they were disrupting worship. They were disrupting church. It was basically church for the Gentiles, but they were disrupting it by doing all the selling.

And Jesus said a couple of things. One of them he said was, “Hey, you’ve turned the house of worship into a den of robbers,” and then he started flipping tables over, which I love. It’s one of my favorite images of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s easy sometimes to get this picture that Jesus is just…and he’s just so calm, and serene, and everything, you know. He probably almost hovers everywhere he goes. And then you get that image that’s so easy sometimes and then you see Jesus in multiple gospels describe that he goes into the temple, he starts flipping tables over. John actually says he made a whip and chased people out, and you’re like, “Is it a soft whip? Is it a gentle whip? I don’t know how to deal with that.

But it’s interesting. When the Gospel said that he flipped the tables over, he’s using the same Greek word that Paul is using here when he says that he’s disrupting churches. It literally means to flip over. And so, basically, what Paul says here is you got to shut these people down because they’re flipping churches, meaning they’re turning them into something other than churches. They’re flipping churches the same way we might flip a witness that somebody who was going to testify on your behalf in court suddenly gets convinced to testify against you in court. They flipped the witness. Or somebody who is spying for us as a country gets flipped and now they’re spying against us. They’re working against us as a country. He says, “Hey, you got to shut these people down because they’re flipping churches. They’re turning churches into something that has nothing to do with being a church. They’re turning churches into something else entirely, and so you got to shut them down.”

And it reminds me a little bit, several years ago, because of the generosity of my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, my family had the chance to go to Australia. And we spent a little time in a place called Noosa, Australia. And while we were there, we had an opportunity to visit the Noosa Heads Life Saving Club, the Noosa Heads Life Saving Club. And I read the placard out front, and apparently, this was a group of people who had come together years and years ago, decades before, and their whole purpose, their mission was to rescue people from shipwrecks when they’d been caught in the rough seas off the coast of Australia here. They were all about rescuing shipwreck victims, so that’s why they were the life-saving club. But what’s interesting was we didn’t visit the club to see their life-saving operations. We visited the club to have brunch. They had actually become a restaurant. They didn’t do any life-saving operations anymore apparently.

And so, I thought that was just so interesting. The life-saving club had become the brunch-having club, you know. A rescue operation had turned into a restaurant operation. And I remember thinking, “How does that happen?” But honestly, it’s not that hard to understand, right? They’d lost sight of their mission. They began to focus on things that had nothing to do with the reason for which they existed. And that’s what’s happening here when Paul says, “You got to shut these people down because they’re flipping churches. They’re getting churches to focus on something other than their mission. They’re getting churches to focus on and be obsessed about and drift towards something that has nothing to do with what it means to be a church. Okay. So, what is the mission of the church? Well, the mission of the church is to advance the Gospel in the world. Do you hear me?

This is so important to understand. The mission of the church is to advance the Gospel in the world. It’s to make sure that other people have the opportunity to respond to the good news that God loves us. God loves us so much that he sent his own Son to die for our sins, to pay for every wrong that we’ve ever done that separates us from God. And he raised him from the dead so that he offers us forgiveness and new life that begins now and goes on forever, and it’s a good life. It’s filled with joy, and peace, and contentment, and meaning, and all that’s available to us just by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross.

That’s our mission is to advance the Gospel in the world, which means, follow me on this, it means that a real church, a church that’s actually being a church is Gospel-focused and it’s mission-minded. Does that make sense? It’s really what defines a church. It’s a group of people who are Gospel-focused and mission- minded. They’re focused on the Gospel and they put their resources towards accomplishing the mission that God has brought them into existence to do. And what Paul is saying here is these people are full of empty talk and meaningless deception, and they’ve gotten the church focused on something else, and they’ve led them into a place where the church is no longer a church because it’s not Gospel-focused and it’s not mission-minded.

And he says, “And that, for the sake of dishonest gain.” He says, “They’re doing this not because they have a better theological understanding over the purpose of the church.” Not because they’ve been reading the Bible and they have become convinced, now we really need to focus on this. No, it’s not any of that reason. He says, “They’re doing all this because they want to get something for themselves,” which is ironic because remember the good life as God defines it is giving good to others. It’s the world that says the good life is about getting good for ourselves.

They were bringing the world’s definition of the good life into the church. They were misleading the church for that very purpose of getting good things for themselves, dishonest gain. Now, I don’t know exactly what that means. It might be financial. It might mean that they were charging people to do certain of these things they were saying you had to do. I don’t know how that works with circumcision. I would not think that would be a good business model to convince adult men to pay you to circumcise them. I don’t see that happening a lot.

But maybe it was, or maybe they were…Maybe they were writing books like the “Jewish Way to Perfect Purity” or something like that. Maybe they were selling books, or maybe it wasn’t even about money. Maybe it was about influence. Maybe they were focusing on things that people found interesting and would lock in on and they were teaching whatever they needed to teach to get people to listen to them and they were trying to gain influence, and power, and prestige for themselves. I don’t know exactly what it was, but Paul says, “They’re taking the church off mission and it’s not because they have a different mission in mind. It’s all because of their own personal motivations,” which raises an important question I think all of us should probably ask. What’s my motivation right now? What’s your motivation in life right now? What motivates you? Because here’s an important truth we need to recognize. Our lives follow our focus, but our motivation sets our focus, okay?

Our motivation sets our focus. It’s what we’re motivated by that causes us to fixate on certain things, and then whatever we’re fixated on ends up directing the course of our lives. So, what are you motivated most by right now? What are you longing for the most? Chances are it’s having a huge impact on your focus, which ultimately will have a tremendous impact on whether or not you experience the good life as God always intended it to be. Paul says, “One of Crete’s own prophets has said Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” This saying is true. And can we just say, “Ouch?” Like, that’s harsh, right?

He says, “The people on this island, they had this reputation for being liars, lazy animals, evil brutes.” In fact, there was a saying in the Greek Empire that said, “Hey, Crete,” which wasn’t known for having a lot of wild animals, they said, “Crete doesn’t need any wild animals because the people are wild animals.” And it sounds really harsh, but what Paul is basically doing is he’s dealing with an important thing we all need to recognize, which is just that the culture in which a church sits, every culture has its own weaknesses, okay? I love being an American, but can I just be honest with you? We’re not perfect people.

There are certain weaknesses that Americans are prone to. I would argue that one of the things that Americans tend to be prone towards is individualism and a little bit of self-centeredness. I love being an American, but I recognize that’s a weakness in our culture. Europeans have a different set of weaknesses. South American cultures have different sets of weakness. Every culture has its own weakness, but every church in a culture always has to deal with the temptation to allow the weakness from the culture to enter into the church. And what Paul is saying is, “Hey, you know, even the Cretan prophets, they’re good thinkers out there and they’re religious leaders recognize these are weaknesses in the culture of Crete, and he says what’s happening is those same weaknesses are coming into the church. And that’s why it is that these leaders are able to take them off mission.

And so, he says, “Therefore, rebuke them sharply so that they will be sound in the faith and they will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth.” He says, “You’re going to have to rebuke them. You’re going to have to deal with this weakness coming into the church and try to get them to stop focusing on, stop paying attention to Jewish myths and the commands that come from human beings who reject the truth.” Now, understand, he is not saying that all Jewish teaching comes from human beings. The Old Testament, the Bible in which the Jewish faith is based, that’s inspired by God, okay? Everything about Judaism is not a myth. Everything about Judaism is not a human teaching, but what Paul is doing there is the same thing that the Prophet Isaiah does. It’s the same thing that Jesus himself said. He talks about these merely human commands, meaning things that have been added on to the Jewish faith or things from the Jewish faith that had been twisted into something that God never intended them to be.

He says, “You got to get people to stop paying attention to these things.” Stop focusing because our lives follow our focus. As long as they keep focusing, that’s where they’re going to end up, and so something else has to be done. He says, “These people, they reject the truth.” Okay, well, what is the truth? Well, Jesus is the truth, right? Jesus is the truth he is saying these people reject. The simple Gospel is the truth that he’s saying these people reject. Faith in Jesus is the truth. What did Jesus say? He said, “I am the way,” and everybody say it with me, “The truth.” Online, I want you to say this with me as well, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, the good life.” He says, “No one comes to Father except through me.”

That’s the Gospel. This is the simple Gospel that everything good that God intended us to have comes by being Gospel-focused and mission-minded and focused on this simple truth of faith in Jesus. He says, “They reject that,” and because they reject that, they’re causing incredible damage. He says, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe,” not believe what? The simple truth of the Gospel, “Nothing is pure.” In fact, he says both their minds and their consciousness are corrupted.

He says, “To the pure, all things are pure.” And understand that what he means by the pure here is the pure are those who have said yes to faith in Jesus, okay? That’s what the pure is. Those who have said yes to faith in Jesus because the Gospel says that by saying yes to faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, our shame is gone, our guilt is eradicated, and we are pure before God. And I don’t know if anybody here like me sometimes feels like, “That sounds great, but have you seen me? I don’t think my life is completely pure. I’m kind of a mess still.” And yeah, we all are. We’re all in progress, but what the Gospel says is that when we say yes to faith in Jesus, our sins are paid off, our debt is forgiven.

And God looks at us and he sees us as righteous, he sees us as pure because of the sacrifice of his Son. And he gives us the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit begins to work in us, transforming us from the inside out, making us into the people that he designed us to be. And yet, there’s a gap between where we are and where we’re going to be, but God says, “As long as you have faith in Jesus, hey, as far as I’m concerned, you’re on the other side of that gap. You’re in process, I know, but you’re pure.”

And so, pure is those who have said yes following Jesus, yes to the pure all things pure. So, He says, “If you’re trusting in Jesus, if you’re trusting in the simple Gospel itself, all things are pure.” If you want to get circumcised, go for it. I don’t know why you would, but it’s okay. If you’re pure because of your faith in Jesus and then you want to eat kosher, that’s fine. No problem. If you’re pure because you have faith in Jesus and you want to go through some of these Jewish rituals, it’s totally fine. It’s not a problem.

But he says, “Nothing is pure to those who do not believe. To those who don’t trust in the simple Gospel, faith in Jesus, he says, “Nothing is pure.” If you’re not trusting in Jesus himself, you know, getting circumcised isn’t going to help you. If you don’t trust in Jesus alone, you know, eating kosher isn’t going to make any difference in your life. If you don’t have your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus and his resurrection, going through those rituals isn’t going to help you in any way. In fact, he says, “You’re being corrupted by that” because it’s taking you further away. Your focus is causing you to drift, taking you further away from the only thing that can actually purify you before God, which is this simple Gospel.

He says, “They claim to know God, but by their actions, they deny him. They’re telling people, “Hey, no, we know what it’s like to be right with God. We know what you really have to have in your life in order to be good before God, to be pure before God, to be truly righteous.” He says, “But by their actions, they deny him.” By what they’re actually telling people and where they’re actually leading people and where, in fact, they’re taking the church, they’re proving they don’t know squat about God.

They’re denying, by their actions, the very thing they’re claiming to have a higher, almost exclusive knowledge of. He says, “They’re detestable,” which is a strong word. It has an implication of it makes us feel a little bit sick inside. He says, “I think about those people and they make me nauseous because they’re disobedient. They’re unfit for doing anything good.” They’re unfit for doing anything good. That’s a powerful statement because as we’ve already seen, God says the good life is all about giving good to others. God says the good life is all about doing good for others, but he says, “These people are unfit for doing anything good,” which means their focus has made them unfit for the good life.

Their focus has made them unfit for the good life. They can’t experience the good life and they absolutely can’t help anybody else experience the good life because what they’re doing is actually taking people away from the only thing that can give them the good life for now and forever. And it’s one of the saddest testaments of history that the church has always faced this challenge, that throughout history, churches have always faced this struggle, this temptation to become something that they were never intended to be because they focused on something that wasn’t supposed to be their focus.

One of God’s great kindness to me over the years is that he’s given me the privilege because of my time as a seminary professor, as well as a leader in the church, that I have a number of younger men who lead churches that look to me as a mentor and as a coach. I have people that I look up to, mentors and coaches in my life, and I’m privileged by God to be able to try to help other pastors a little bit younger than me. And it’s interesting how often I get calls from these guys who basically say, “Hey, my church has lost its focus. My church seems to be…either we’re focused and, oh, we get this, this, and this, and this, and that. We’re working on trying to do that and we’re kind of…We’re just like all over the place, right? We’re all over the place. We’ve lost our focus. Or they say, “My church has gotten hyper-focused on something that I don’t think we should be hyper-focused on.” Like, “We’re hyper-focused on end times.” Churches love to get hyper-focused on the end times, and they get hyper-focused on, you know, are you pre, or mid, or post-tribulation rapture?

And some of you are like, “What does that mean?” And that’s okay if you don’t know. I’m not saying it’s a bad discussion, but they say, “My church has become hyper-focused on this,” or, “My church has become hyper-focused on the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism, free will and predestination, and all that kind of stuff,” or, “My church is hyper-focused on the gifts of the Spirit or the one particular gift of the Spirit, like speaking in tongues, and we’re so focused on something that I feel like it’s taken us off mission. What do I do?” I get this question a lot. And one of the things that I’ve learned over the years is there’s two questions I need to ask anybody who calls and asks that about their church.

Question number one is this, I say, “How often do you talk about the Gospel? How often do you talk about the Gospel?” See, if you’ve been coming to Mission Hills for any length of time, you probably know that I talk about the Gospel every message. And there’s several reasons for that. One of them is because I really believe the entire Bible from page one to page…I don’t know what mine is, 1,872, that every single page of the Bible is pointing towards and getting people ready for the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, which is the only basis for the good life. I believe that all the Bible does, and so I make sure that I make those connections. I also talk about the Gospel every single week because I know that we have people listening. Some of you are on mission and you’re bringing friends and inviting them to listen to this service online or come to our campus that don’t know Jesus yet, and I want to give them the opportunity to say yes to following Jesus to the good life that God always intended them to have.

So, I talk about the Gospel every week for those reasons. But there’s another reason that I talk about the Gospel every week, and that’s that I’m not just the lead pastor. I’m the CRO of Mission Hills. You know what the CRO is? It’s the chief reminding officer. I honestly believe that one of my highest callings as a pastor is to keep the church focused on what makes the church the church, the mission of the church advancing the Gospel. And so, I talk about the Gospel to remind us that that’s why we’re here. And sometimes people go, “Well, wait a minute. Isn’t the church all about discipleship?” I’m going to say something that shocks you. No, it’s not.

Now, is discipleship important? Absolutely, it is. Discipleship for us means helping people take their next step forward in becoming like Jesus, and everybody say it with me, joining him on mission. They’re inseparable. They’re part of the same thing. Jesus said, “Come follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” That’s mission. And yes, we have to help people do that. A hundred percent of what I do on a weekend is focused on discipleship, but discipleship can’t be separate from mission. If it is, you’ve got something wrong in the church. That will be like saying that the purpose of the army is physical fitness. It’s not. The purpose of the physical fitness stuff that the army does is to enable all the people in the army to accomplish their mission. And discipleship is all about that. I’m all about discipleship, but it can’t be separate from mission. The church is about mission, advancing the Gospel in the world. There’s a reason God hasn’t taken us out of the world. It’s because we’re supposed to be making a difference in it.

And so, I ask them, “How often do you talk about the Gospel?” Don’t expect then to be focused on something that you’re not focused on. And then the second question I ask is this, “How is your mission as a church? How is your mission as a church?” And it’s interesting how often the answer I get back is, “Oh, we have a great mission’s program, like we give X amount of money and we do this many mission trips every year. We have a great mission’s program,” and I always have to go, “No, I didn’t ask about your missions, but I said how is your mission as a church?” So, here, it is shocking to some people sometimes, but I don’t think you’re supposed to have a mission’s program as a church. See, the church doesn’t have a mission’s program. We are a mission program. Are you with me, church?

If we have, well, that thing over there, that’s the mission of the church, no, no, no, no, no. You’re losing sight of the central purpose for which the church exists. Missions is not one of the things we do. It is the central purpose for which we exist. We are a mission program. We are a mission organization. And I say we because the church isn’t a building we come to. It’s not a program that we tune into. It’s not a broadcast that we load up on a podcast. No, no. The church is the people of God engaged in the mission of God. It’s a mission we choose to be part of. We are a mission program.

Followers of Jesus, this is going to be shocking too, but listen to me for a second, followers of Jesus don’t go on mission trips. They lead mission-minded lives. Now, I’m all for short-term trips. We call them global outreach trips. I love them. I can’t wait to get back to them because what happens in those trips is we do good for others, which is part of being on mission, but it also causes us to refocus on this mission that we’re all called to have all the time. So, I’m not talking about getting rid of anything. I’m talking about refocusing on the central purpose of the church. And understand, church, it’s not just the church.

Staying focused on what we should be focused on is actually…It’s so good for each of us. It transforms the way we experience life. It leads us into the good life. This is the bottom line of what Paul is saying here. Staying Gospel-focused and mission-minded is the only way to live the good life, do you hear me? If you’re facing something in life right now and you’re going, “I don’t feel like this is the good life God intended,” the most reliable way to transform your experience of your circumstances is to reorient your focus to stay Gospel- focused and mission-minded, and it will change the way you experience everything in life.

Here’s a question for you. Besides the Gospel itself, what do I feel gives me a better standing than others with God? I think we need to ask this because we all have this temptation to fall into this, yeah, the Gospel, but I’m doing a little better with God than she is. I’m a little more holy than he is because I do this, or I’ve done this, or I’ve been part of this, or whatever it is. I think we need to identify those things because they can distract our focus and our lives follow our focus. So, wrestle with that question this week.

Another question you want to wrestle with is this, on a scale of 1 to 10, how mission-minded am I? One being I don’t think about the mission God has given me at all, 10 being I think about nothing else. I’m an 11. I’m not. I’m not at all. This is something I constantly struggle with, and I find myself sometimes in the middle somewhere, but on a scale of 1 to 10, how missions-minded am I, and what can I do to move the needle up a notch? What can I do to take a step forward in becoming more mission-minded? Maybe you would say, “Is there a motivation that’s distracting me from living on mission with Jesus? Is there a motivation, something in my heart that’s ultimately setting my focus, which is ultimately directing my life? Is there a motivation that’s distracting me from living on mission with Jesus?” Something your heart wants more than it probably should.

How about this? Is there a focus that’s distracting me from living on mission with Jesus? Is there a focus? Something that I’m fixed. I’m saying, “I’m going here,” but I’m looking over there and I am finding myself going through this curve without even realizing it. It’s inevitable, but sometimes it’s imperceptible because it happens such a little bit all the time. How about this? Do I have the right community? Do I have the right community to challenge me to live on mission with God? We can’t do it on our own. So, are you with a group of Christians on a regular basis who challenge you to live on mission with Jesus?

And then maybe ask yourself this too, what part of my life doesn’t feel like the good life right now? I think we all have those. Anybody feel like 2020 has just been the best year ever? No? It’s not going to be a hard question. Which part of your life right now doesn’t feel like the good life that you feel like God promised you? And then you’re going to ask this transformative question. Is there an opportunity there in that place that feels the least like the good life? Is there an opportunity there for mission that I’m missing? Would you pray with me?

God, I just want to say for myself and I think for a lot of my brothers and sisters listening right now that, man, my focus can get really off. It’s really easy for that to happen, and then I see it. I see it in my own life. We see it in our lives that our lives do follow our focus. And so, we ask for your forgiveness that we have not been as Gospel-focused and as mission-minded as your individual people and as your church as we should have been. We ask for your forgiveness and we ask for strength and power through your Holy Spirit to change our focus, to put it back on what it’s supposed to be on. Lord, make us Gospel, focused and mission-minded, and in that way, Lord, allow us to experience even in the midst of hard circumstances the good life that you always intended for us.

Speaking of keeping our mission first, if you’re a follower of Jesus right now would you just begin praying for those people listening to this message who don’t have that relationship? They’ve been trusting in something other than the Gospel for the good life. And if that’s you, let me just speak to you for a moment. I believe that the reason you’re listening to this right now is because God wants you to wake up to the reality of his love for you. That’s why you’re here right now. It’s why you’re tuned in right now. God wants you to experience the good life starting now and going on forever. And this is how you do it, by choosing to follow Jesus, by saying yes to putting your trust in Jesus and nothing else. And if you’ve never done that, today is the day. Here’s how you do it. You’re just going to have this conversation with God in your heart right now. Say:

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. I’m done trusting other things to give me the good life. Jesus, thank you for dying to pay for my sins. I believe you rose from the dead so that you could offer me new life, and so I’m saying yes to following you, Jesus. I’m deciding today I’m going to put my trust in you, and I receive from you right now forgiveness, a new life, eternal life, a relationship with my God. Jesus, I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

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