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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Submitting to the Good Life

Craig Smith - Submitting to the Good Life


Craig Smith - Submitting to the Good Life
TOPICS: The Good Life

Erin: At the age of 36, I became a vice president at a Fortune 20 company. After 10 months of searching and praying fervently, and 15 years working toward this goal, I secured the position. Six weeks into the new job, my prior company was bought out. God delivered me just in time. And I firmly believed I was aware I would spend at least the next decade of my career. Until eight months later, when things drastically changed. Leadership turned over, and I was suddenly without warning told I would be jobless. For the first time in my career, I was unemployed. I remember making the call to my husband from almost 1000 miles away telling him the news as I was driving away from our headquarters for the last time, still in shock after doing all the right things, contributing value to the company, and consistently being a high performer throughout my career.

I was in a specialized professional, I knew it’d take some time to find another similar job. Fortunately, we were financially prepared, having gone through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University here at the church five years ago, and helping lead it now. We eradicated our debt about a year and a half before this happened. And we were so grateful for God’s providence that gave us peace in the middle of the storm. Two weeks into unemployment, COVID hit. My job search that was barely off the ground came to a standstill as the world shut down. And none of us knew what was next. A long season of waiting started.

Months went by with silence from prospective employers, one strong lead fizzled to nothing when an internal candidate was selected for the position. And I was back to the drawing board with little that looked promising. One of my professional mentors with solid connections who was shepherding me through this process passed away at that time, it felt like hope was lost. I played the same worship songs on repeat, calling to God’s promises, remembered his faithfulness and intentionally chose gratitude and joy during the waiting and I hacked a lot.

There were some particularly bleak days when sorrow overpowered joy. One day I was walking at the top of Chatfield Dam, and with no one around, I prayed out loud “God, do you hear me? I know you’ll come through, but things aren’t looking good. Please just show up. I need you.” Three weeks later, my sister-in-law’s mom’s stuck in the U.S. for months on end having come here from Brazil pre-COVID asked to pray for my situation. We didn’t speak the same language. But through translation, a mere acquaintance uplifted me and gave me hope, praying what I was thinking and naming the shame and loneliness that I felt during this time, but hadn’t ever said out loud to anyone. God saw me and he heard me.

And with faith as small as a mustard seed I left that night with the Scripture she shared with me that, “I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,” Isaiah 43:19, telling me that God will restore everything I had lost even in spite of COVID. When my hope waned, another month later without movement on the job front, God sent an obedient landscaper to my doorstep. A believer who knew I was also a Christian to encourage me. This is a guy who prayed that every landscaping job he takes would be a blessing to others, or that he wouldn’t be taking someone else’s blessing. He told me that God would shut every single door I wasn’t meant to walk through and swing wide the gates on the one opportunity that he would supply.

I prayed for that clarity in my search for months, and so do many other family members and friends. It wasn’t until I was alone on a weekday at the summit of a 13,428 foot peek, now almost a dozen interviews into an opportunity, that I turned over my search and all of my striving to make things happen on my own to the Lord completely. I heard a message the week before about Jehoshaphat, a leader whose odds were stacked against him and his people in battle praying the Scripture. “I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you,” 2 Chronicles. 20:12.

Twenty days later, I received a job offer that exceeded all of my expectations, restoring everything I had lost just as I had been told. My job now is similar and I’m leading transformation on a grand scale at work. The difference this time around is that having gone through this, I know what it’s like to be in need of divine intervention. I might be the only person in someone’s life who can give them hope. God gave me a heart of compassion and generosity, redirecting my purpose and perspective, and preparing me to do more for people through his power and in his name.


Craig: Thank you, Erin. Well, I love Erin’s story. I love how God sent followers of Jesus to speak hope into her life during difficult seasons. And I love that in the process of doing that, she discovered that God was calling her to do the same thing. I love what she said there towards the end, that she might be the only person in someone’s life that can give them hope. That’s what the good life is all about. You know, we’re in a series called “The Good Life Right Now” because we believe that God wants us, he created us for and he intends for us to live the good life, a life that’s filled with good things with love, and joy, and peace, and contentment, and meaning, and significance.

That the problem is that we’re confronted with two radically different strategies for getting to the good life. That the world says that the good life comes from getting good for ourselves but grabbing all the good for ourselves that we can. But God says, “No, no, no the good life comes from giving good to others, from doing good for others, for being a source of good into the lives of others.” And the problem, of course, is that, you know, all of us are caught somewhere between those two extremes, right? Probably nobody is all the way on one side or the other. I mean, if anybody’s willing to admit, is anybody on the side of being like, “No, it’s all about getting as much good for myself as I can. That’s 100% me.” Anybody? No, not a lot, okay.

Anybody on the other hand, if you’re on the other side, you’ll be like, “I 100% like giving good others. Like, I am so selfless. Like, none of it is about me, it’s all about giving good to others.” If anybody is there, you don’t need to raise your hand, you can just leave. That’s how you would signal that too. Because I don’t have anything to say to you. Okay, well, we’re gonna be talking today about everybody else who’s caught somewhere in between those two extremes. And maybe as this series is going on, you’ve kind of wondered about yourself, and you wonder like, “Well, where am I? Like, I don’t wanna be on the whole world side, but I don’t think I’m all the way in God’s side.” Where exactly am I on the spectrum in terms of the way that I’m pursuing the good life as God calls me to?”

And what we’re gonna do today is we’re gonna dig into a teaching from God’s Word that’s gonna give us a kind of a surprising thermometer on how we’re doing and what kind of the good life we’re pursuing. And here’s the surprising thermometer, it’s how we deal with authority in our lives. In fact, how we respond to authority, how we respond to authority tells us a lot about what version of the good life we’re actually pursuing, whether it’s the world’s version or our version. And that might seem like a strange thing to say, but I wanna show you from God’s Word why I say that how we respond to authority can actually tell us a lot about which version of the good life we’re pursuing. So why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, if you’re able and join me, we’re gonna be in the Book of Titus chapter 3.

And as you’re making your way to Titus chapter 3, whether you’re pulling it up on your phone or grabbing a Bible that you brought with you or whatever it is, as you make your way to Titus 3, here’s what you need to know about the Book of Titus. Titus is a letter. It was written by the Apostle Paul to his troubleshooter, a man named Titus. And Paul had sent Titus to the Island of Crete, where some of the Christian churches there had kind of gotten off mission, they weren’t being the church as God intended them to be. And one of the indications of that was because they had gotten off track in the way they were responding to people who had authority in their lives.

And what we’re gonna see today is basically four things, okay. We’re gonna see four things. Number one, we’re gonna see how we’re supposed to respond to authority. Okay, we’re gonna see God’s heart for how you and I are supposed to respond to authority. Number two, we’re gonna see why it matters so much how we respond to authority. God’s gonna show us why it is that we need to pay attention to the way that we’re responding to authority. Number three, we’re gonna discover why it’s so hard to respond to authority the way that God calls us to. Why it is that that’s not an easy thing for us to do. And then number four, we’re gonna understand today how it is that we can respond better to authority in our lives, how we can get better at it.

Titus 3:1, Paul writes to Titus, and he says, “As you’re trying to get these churches back on track, here’s one of things you need to do.” He says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.” He says, “One of the ways you’re gonna get them back on track is reminding them that they are supposed to be subject to and obedient to rulers and authorities.” Now, it’s interesting that he uses two words there. He didn’t really need two words, he could have just said the rulers, he could have said authorities. By using those two words, what he’s doing is he kind of creating a package that encompasses all of the people in our lives who have some authority over us. And so he doesn’t want it to be limited to just this group or that group. He says, basically, “No, no, it’s everything in between those two,” okay.

So here’s the kind of a question we all need to ask ourselves at this point, since he’s talking about all authority, here’s the question we wanna ask, who has authority over me? I want you to think about it for a moment. In fact, it might be very useful if you wrote down a few people who have authority over you. If you’re watching online, you can grab a piece of paper. Or maybe if you’re watching along and you’re using the Mission Hill app, there’s a place to do notes in there. Or if you’re in the Bible app in the Mission Hills event, you can take notes there. But I want you to actually jot a few things down, who has authority in your life?

Now I’m gonna give you the number one person, okay. I’m gonna give you the number one person who has the ability to demand that you act in a particular way because that’s what authority is, right? They can demand that you act in a particular way. Number one person, you’re in church, it’s not gonna be a huge shocker to anybody, God. Okay, so go ahead and just a freebie, right? Okay, put number one now, God, okay, God has authority in my life. But also, I want you to go a little bit further than that, because there’s…all of us have other people that have the ability to demand that we act in certain ways. And so as you go down, you may go on and maybe be some government officials that come to mind, or maybe it’s the police, or maybe you have a teacher, or a coach who has authority in your life, or maybe it’s your parents, if you’re living at home, they have authority over you. Or maybe it’s your boss, or maybe it’s a manager in your job, okay?

We all have people who have authority over us and I want you to sort of think about it for a moment, and maybe jot down a few items, here’s the people who have authority over me. And it doesn’t matter how they got the authority, by the way. It doesn’t matter if you were born into a family that your mom and dad have authority over you, or if you were hired into a company that they have authority over you. Or if you elected somebody or you might be going, “I didn’t elect him, somebody else elected him.” It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a position to demand something of you, then those people have authority. I want you to think about those people, and then we’re gonna ask the question, okay, what exactly does Paul want us to do? How are we supposed to respond to these people? He says, well, let’s go back to verse 1 again. He says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities and to be obedient.” What is he saying we have to do? Well, it’s very simple. He says, “You got to put their demands over your desires.” Right? That’s what it means to submit, it means put their demands over your desires.

Now, let’s be clear. The Bible tells us very clearly that God is the number one authority, He should be at the top of everyone’s list. And our primary allegiance is to God first. And so God tells us that we’re supposed to gather to worship, He tells us we’re supposed to read his Word. He tells us we’re supposed to tell other people about Jesus, okay? Now, if any authority comes along and says you can’t do what God tells you to do, you can’t worship him, you can’t read his Word, you can’t talk to other people about Jesus, we have to listen to God and not the human authorities, okay? That’s very clear. But that’s not the kind of thing Paul’s talking about here. The kind of thing Paul’s talking about here is actually this place where other people’s demands rub up against our personal desires. So here’s the thing, like, if mom tells you to turn off the Xbox and go do your homework, you got to turn off the Xbox and you got to go do homework. If your boss tells you, “I want you to work on this project rather than that project that you’re really much more interested in,” you got to work on the project your boss tells you to work on.

If the speed limit’s 45, hey, listen, I know you’re an above-average driver. I know you are, right? I know you’re perfectly capable of handling all the curves on that road at 65. No problem. But if the speed limit is 45, you got to drive 45. If you’re HOA…by the way, that’s one of the ones on my list. I don’t like that it’s on my list but it’s one of the ones on my list, people who have some ability to demand something of me. If the HOA says to you, like they did to me this year, they send you a letter saying, “You got to get rid of that Christmas wreath because it’s January 15th. That wreath on your front door, you got to get rid of it.” It’s not even a Christmas wreath. It’s a winter wreath. I know that because my wife told me it’s a winter wreath. I tried to pass it on to the HOA, but they weren’t having any of it. You got to take it down.

That’s the kind of thing that Paul’s talking about here he says, “You got to put their demands above your desires.” So that’s how we’re supposed to respond to authorities, put their demands over our desires. People, why? Why does it matter how we respond to authority? Well, he says, let’s go back to verse 1 again, he says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient [so that you can] be ready to do whatever is good or ready to do good.” And then I’ve added some words to the translation. I’m reading the New International Version, but I’ve added some words there, you can see them in brackets. And the reason I’ve added those words is in the original Greek that this was written in, there’s a word that doesn’t really come across well in English and that word is pros. It’s the word that we used to make words like prosecute, which means that you bring an accusation towards someone or a charge towards someone, pros kind of means towards.

And it’s interesting, at the end of that sentence, he throws that word in and what that means is he’s saying, “Be subjective and be obedient, put their demands over your desires towards a purpose, towards an end.” There’s a reason he’s calling us to do this. And that reason is so that you can be ready to do whatever is good. In other words, he’s basically saying, “Hey, listen, you’re a follower of Jesus, right? Okay. I want you to submit to authorities in your life. And I want you to be obedient to authorities so that you can stay focused on the mission that God’s given you.” You see, here’s the thing, as followers of Jesus, we have a mission to advance the Gospel. We have a mission to advance the good news about the good life that God always intended us to have and is made possible through faith in Jesus Christ. We want to advance like us, we want other people to come to know God in the way that we do and experience the life that God has enabled us to have. And so our mission is to advance that Gospel.

And as we saw last week, when we do good for others, we make the Gospel attractive. When we do good and we give good to other people, we make this Gospel that we’re advanced, and we make it look very attractive. And so what Paul basically says is, “Hey, I want you to be able to focus on that. I want you to be able to focus on doing good and therefore accomplishing your mission. So here, submit to authority so you can stay on mission.” That’s the reason he says. He says, “Submit to authority so you can stay on mission.” Because here’s the thing, it’s kind of hard to be on mission with your friends when you’re grounded, because you wouldn’t turn the Xbox off. It’s kind of hard to be on mission at work when you get fired because you didn’t do what your boss told you to do. It’s kind of hard to be on mission in your community when you’re in jail because you went 100 miles an hour through a school zone, and you cussed out at the cop who caught you. And in the Roman Empire, where any kind of resistance to officials typically was met with execution, it’s kind of hard to be on mission when you’re dead, okay?

Let’s see what he’s saying, he’s saying, “I want you to submit to authority so that you can stay on mission advancing the good news of this good life that God has for everyone.” Now, that would be hard enough if that’s all we were called to do. But Paul goes a little bit further. And he really begins to meddle, and he says this, “Remind the people,” verse 2, “to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle towards everyone.” He says it’s is not just about acting in obedience, he’s talking here about attitude stuff, right? Slander, that’s talking trash about them. And being peaceable and considerate is being respectful, being kind and gentle as you talk about people. And again, the people he’s talking about here are the people who have authority over us. He’s continuing that thought. And so he basically says, “Hey, it’s not just the action of obedience I’m calling you to, I’m actually calling you to a particular kind of attitude towards people who have authority over you.” Okay, why? What’s the big deal? What does it matter if I turn the Xbox off if I go in my room and I text my friends about what idiots my parents are? What’s the matter? I turned it off.

Well, what does it matter if I do what my boss told me to do, what does it matter if while I’m doing that I also happen to mention to my friends that my boss is an idiot and a jerk? Well, what does it matter if I obey the speed limit? What does it matter what attitude I have towards the police when I’m going the speed limit, at least when they’re there, right? You know, I’ve got…in my house I’ve got a Golden Retriever and I have a Husky, which are the two most different possible dogs imaginable. The Golden Retriever is like she’s not only obedient, she longs to be obedient. Like, there’s just some there’s a people pleaser in her like I’ve never seen. So, like, you tell the Golden Retriever “Come,” she comes. And then she’s like, “What else you want me to do? I’ll do it. You want to lie down? I’ll lie down. You want me to sit? I don’t care. Just tell me what to do, I’d be happy to do it, I would love to do it. Please give me some demands.”

My Husky is not quite that way. My Husky is the only dog I’ve ever known that will talk back. She’ll do what you tell her to do, but she will let you know she is not happy about it. I see it every night. Every night she’s down there, she’s making sure she sticks close in case the snacks fall off of the couch. And then my youngest daughter, she’s her dog. My youngest daughter will go to bed and she’ll go, “Hey, Suka, time to go to bed. Come on.” And you can see it in the dog’s eyes. But more importantly, you can hear it because she’ll start to walk but she’ll go [vocalization]. And she doesn’t do that when you’re telling her to do something she’s excited about, she does that when you tell her to do something she didn’t want to and wants you to know that she doesn’t wanna do and she wants to let you know she doesn’t wanna do it. But she’s obeying.

And it ticks me off every time. I’m like, “You’re a dog. You don’t get to have that attitude.” But the reality is I do it all the time. We all do, don’t we? Oh, yeah, we’ll comply, we’ll obey, we’ll act in obedience but we’re not happy about it. We’re not happy about the people calling us to do it and we’ll let other people know, right? Listen, I want you to know I took the wreath off, but I called them door Nazis. And that wasn’t okay. I wanna tell you what that was, that was a sin. I disobeyed what God called me to do here. That was slander. I publicly repent of it. I didn’t model to the people around me the attitude that God was calling me to have towards people who have authority over me.

And so here’s the thing, here’s why this matters. See, our attitude towards authority models for others how we want them to respond to God. Does that make sense, church? Our attitude towards people who have authority on us, it actually it models how we want people to respond to God. Because think about this for a moment. Why is the world the way it is? Why is everything so messed up? Why is there so much pain, and suffering, and brokenness, and evil? And the answer is because we rejected God’s authority over us, all the way back to the first human beings. When we said to God, “Hey, thanks for life and everything, but we’ll take it from here. We don’t wanna listen to you, we’re not gonna submit to your authority, we’re gonna call our own shots in life.” And we did that.

And we did that in part because we believed the lie that that’s how you could get the good life. That’s how you could get all the good things that you want. But it’s not where it took us, is it? It took us into the bad life. Rejecting God’s authority took us into a bad life, but the Gospel, the good news is that God keeps loving us. He loves us so much he sent his own Son to pay the price of our rebellion, because a rebellion has a price. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.” Of course, it is. God is the source of life. So when we rebel and walk away from him, we walk away from life. When we walk away from light, we end up in darkness. When we walk away from God who is life, we end up in death. The wages of sin is death.

And that’s what we got by rejecting God, but the Gospel says that God loves us so much, he sent his own Son to pay that price with his own life. Jesus died to pay for our sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead and he offers us forgiveness, and salvation, and reentry into the good life by following him. But understand that to follow Jesus is to submit to Jesus. To follow Jesus is to accept his authority over our lives, to put ourselves in submission to him. So rejecting God led to the bad life, we can come back into the good life by submitting to Jesus. And that’s what we’re doing when we’re advancing the Gospel. We’re helping people understand that if they will give their lives to God, if they’ll give their lives to Jesus, submit to his authority, they could have the good life that’s been lost by our rebellion.

But here’s the thing. If we’re telling people they need to submit to God but what we’re modeling for them is a rebellious attitude, if not action towards authorities in our lives, we are not modeling. As we said last week, we’re not modeling what we want others to mimic. We’re modeling an attitude towards authority that starts setting the stage for them to respond to God’s authority in the way that we long for them to. So here’s a really important question. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you need to ask it, am I modeling an attitude towards earthly authority that sets the stage for people to submit to God’s authority? Am I modeling what I want them to mimic in their lives to submit themselves to God? Is my attitude towards earthly authority setting the stage for other people to respond to God the way that I want them to?

Two things that I’ve personally found helpful when I struggle with this, and I struggle with it all the time, I think most of us do. Number one thing when I go, “Hey, I wanna make sure that I model towards earthly authority something that sets the stage for people to respond to God the way they should.” First thing I’ve learned that I can do is I can just talk about them less. Honestly, the more I talk about people in authority over me, the more likely I’m gonna say something that I probably shouldn’t say, something that’s not the right attitude. And so I can just shut up. You came to church, you want some good godly advice, shut up. Just talk less about the people who have authority over you.

Second thing I’ve actually found helpful, too, kind of a strategy for me is I come up with a but at least statement to use when I mess up. When I don’t shut my mouth, when I keep talking about people in authority, when I begin to slander, I begin to speak about them in a way it’s not everything Paul says it should be, I remember that I have this but at least, but at least they’re this, a good thing, or but at least they’re not this, a bad thing that they could be doing but they’re not, and that’s where I end the conversation. When I find that I’m going down this road of not modeling the right attitude towards authority, I go, “Well, yeah, but at least,” do that thing, and then shut up. You might find that that’s a useful way to begin modeling the kind of attitude that we’re called to.

Okay, so we’ve seen how it is that we’re supposed to deal with people who have authority in our lives, we’re supposed to put their demands over our desires. And we’ve seen why, right? Because it’s so we can stay focused on our mission. And part of the way we do that is we don’t get in trouble with the authorities. And part of the way we do that is so that we’re actually setting the stage for other people to respond to God’s authority in the way they’ve seen us respond to earthly authorities.

Now we’re gonna see why it’s so hard, why it’s so hard to do what Paul’s calling us to do there. Verse 3, he says this, “At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” He says that’s why, and I really wish he hadn’t said that. He didn’t say it the way I wish he had said. Here’s what I really wish he had said. If I were writing this, what I would have said was, “Here’s the problem, they are foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.” All those people who are in authority of me, they’re fools. They’re out of God’s will and they’re just after their own stuff. They’re only in it for themselves. That’s the reason it’s hard to submit to them because they have a problem. That’s what I wish he’d said. It’s not what he said, is it? He didn’t say the problem is that they are this, he said the problem is that we are this.

He says that one time, meaning that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case anymore. We’ll come back to that in a moment. But he says at one time, we were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. And those are personal passions, personal pleasures, these are personal desires he’s talking about, he says the reason this is hard to understand, or at least it’s hard to accept, it’s what the Word of God teaches us. The main reason it’s so hard to submit to authority is because we are selfish. Are you with me, church? That’s the main reason it’s so hard because we’re selfish.

Why don’t we wanna turn the Xbox off? Because we don’t want to turn the Xbox off. Why do we not wanna do what our boss tells us to do? Because we would rather do this thing. Why don’t we drive 45? Because we have a philosophical objection to the imposition of speed limits, or to that particular speed limit on that particular stretch of the road where I’ve personally done the studies and I’ve discovered that 65 would be a perfectly…no. We don’t drive 45 because we don’t wanna drive 45, because it sucks the soul out of us every time the speedometer hits that 40 that’s like way too low, right?

It’s inconvenient for me, it’s unpleasant. I don’t like it. It’s not my favorite thing to do. It’s what we want. That’s the problem. He says the main reason we struggle to do what God says when it comes to earthly authority is that we don’t want to, we are selfish. What does it get us? What does it get us to live that way? He says, “We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” So did pursuing our own selfish desires get us to the good life? No, it did not. It got us to the bad one, it got us to the same kinds of problems that make us look around and go what is wrong with the world? We’re what’s wrong with the world, pursuing our own selfish agendas. That’s what’s wrong with the world.

And what he says here is so important, I don’t like it but we have to recognize that it’s true. He says basically that the more we’re driven by personal desires, the more we experience interpersonal conflict. The more that we’re out to get what we want most, the more that we’re in conflict with other people who are trying to do the same thing. But we can’t fix them, we got to deal with us first. Think about the last conflict you had with somebody, whether it was somebody in authority who knew you were having a conflict with them or didn’t know they’re having a conflict, or maybe it’s just somebody in your life, some relationship that you’re having, that there is a significant conflict going on, and tell me that you can say with 100% honesty that pursuing your own personal agenda had nothing to do with that conflict. I can’t think of a conflict that I’ve ever had that didn’t have at least a little bit of that being part of the problem.

So, we know what we’re supposed to do with authorities. We know why we’re supposed to do it. And now we understand why it’s so hard, but what do we do about it? How do we get better at responding to orders the way that God calls us to? He says this, he says, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” He says, I want you to think about this. What did we deserve from God? We deserve punishment. We deserve condemnation because we rebelled against him. We sinned and he could have just let us go on our own into the darkness and the death that came as a natural consequence from that rebellion. But that’s not what God did. What did he do? He gave us love and kindness. Because of his mercy, not because we deserved it, because of his mercy.

Mercy means you’re withholding what somebody deserves and giving them something better instead. He withheld punishment, condemnation, He put that on his own Son so that we could be saved. He gave us instead kindness and mercy. He says, “Hey, I’m not calling you to be respectful, to be kind, to put their demands above your desires when it comes to earthly authorities, because they deserve it.” But do you really wanna talk about what we deserve? Because I don’t, I absolutely don’t want what I deserve because of my sin.

And if God has that attitude of giving me something much better than I deserve, how can I turn around and give to some other human being, whether it’s an authority, and how can I give them something less than God himself has given to me. He says, “We are saved.” And I think it’s interesting saved here, it’s not just from our sins. He’s just been talking about this natural tendency to do things that are selfish, to do be driven by our selfish desires. And so I think when he says that he saved us, he’s not just saving us from our sin. God didn’t just save us from our sin, he saved us from ourselves. He saved us from the natural consequences of our sin, but he also saved us from this natural consequence of living a life that’s driven by selfish desire. He saved us from our own selfish tendencies. He set us free from that.

Remember, Paul said, “We used to be that way, at one time we were like that.” And he’s implying that there’s a new way that we can be, that we’re not required to be that way, that we can be something else, we can be something better. And he says this look. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, who, he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

And I love that, as much as I hate that he says, “The real problem is me.” I love what he says here because he’s talking about two things that are so important. He’s talking about salvation, but he’s also talking about transformation. He’s talking about what God did for us, saving us. But he’s also talking about what God has done to us, transforming us, turning us into something else. And both of those concepts are represented twice here, just to show you how important this idea is. He says that he saved us, he saved us from our sins, and he justified us. And justification means it’s just as if we had never sinned. That because of faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, they’re washed away, we’re free of the debt. God did that for us, okay?

But he also says, he saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. That when we say yes to following Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into us and begins to change us from the inside out, begins to transform us into the people God always intended us to be, people who are not driven by selfish desires anymore, who are free to begin living the good life as God defines a life of giving good to others. He says he washes, and we have rebirth. We’re born again and we’re renewed, we’re restored back to what God always intended us to be.

And then he goes on, he says, “We’ve been justified by grace,” that’s what he did for us. But then it says, “So that we might become heirs.” An heir is somebody who inherits from their parents what you would expect them to because they’re their parents’ children. What he’s saying is the Holy Spirit is turning us into sons and daughters of God, we’re turning into people who actually show the family likeness. We actually are becoming the people God always designed us to be. We’re not just saved, we’re being transformed.

And the point is, yes, because of sin and because of the old way of doing things, we were driven by selfishness, but that’s not who we are anymore. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you are not that person anymore. Selfishness is no longer the loudest voice in your life, and you do not have to listen to because you’re not a slave to it anymore. You’re not a slave. And he’s asking a very important question here. And the question is this. If you’re no longer a slave to selfishness, why do you still obey it in your attitude towards earthly authority? If you’re no longer a slave to selfishness, then why are you still obeying it in the attitude that you have towards those who have authority in your life?

I think there’s two reasons why. Number one, because we’re surrounded by bad examples, right? All around us, we see the voice of selfishness driving people, including some of those people who have authority over us. And we go, “Well, if they’re gonna be driven by selfishness, then I should be as well, otherwise, I’ll never get the good life.” God says, “No, that’s wrong.” But yeah, we’re surrounded by bad examples. That doesn’t help.

And then the second reason is this, old habits die hard, right? Why do we still listen to the voice of selfishness? Because old habits die hard. You know, I used to drive this beat-up old Isuzu Rodeo. And it was a car and only the loosest sense of the word there towards the end. Like the window, if you let go of the back window, it would go all the way down into the door, you’d never see it again. So there was a pair of pliers stuck in it to keep it from doing that. It had a lot of the problems. Its worst problem, though, was that when I pulled up to stoplights, it would overheat. So I developed this habit for about a year I pulled at a stoplight, turn it off. Wait till the light changed, turn it back on and go. And then it got rear-ended and I had to replace it. I got a much newer nice car. It was great. And for about three months, every time I pulled up a stoplight, turned it off. Because the habit was just so deeply ingrained at that point. And it’s like that with selfishness.

Before we had faith in Jesus, before we were set free from our sin, and before we were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we were so used to listening to that voice of selfishness that it’s hard to recognize now that we don’t have to, we don’t have to listen to the voice. Oh, I hear it. But I don’t have to give that voice the final vote in my life. We just have such a deeply ingrained habit that it’s a little bit of a struggle. So God says, “Hey, lean into this. Lean into the fact that when you look to me, you’re gonna see example of giving someone good that they don’t necessarily deserve, and I want you to follow that in the way that you respond to authority in your life. But also, I want you to lean into the fact that you’re not the same person. You are a new creation in Christ. You are a whole new human being, and you might hear the voice of selfishness, but you do not have to give it the final vote, because it’s not who you are anymore.”

He says, “This is a trustworthy saying.” Everything I’m telling you, he said, “This is trustworthy, this is load-bearing, you can stand on this. And I want you to stress these things, all of them, the whole package of things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.” These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. He’s back to mission again, right? Once again, he’s coming back to the whole purpose. So here’s what we know, right? How are we supposed to respond to authority in our lives? We’re supposed to put their demands over our desires. Why does it matter? Because it’s hard to stay on mission when we’re in conflict with the authorities. And because how we respond to authorities sets the stage for how we’re calling other people to respond to God’s authority, that’s why it matters. Why is it so hard? Because apart from faith in Christ, we’re driven by selfish desires. We’re slaves to that. But that’s no longer true.

So how do we get better at responding with authority in our lives? We look at the example that God has set for us. And we lean into the reality that we are new creations, and we might hear the voice of selfishness, but we do not have to obey it. So these things are excellent. They’re profitable for everyone. Bottom line, everybody, bottom line is this, it’s that how we respond to authorities either helps or hinders our mission as followers of Jesus. How we respond to authority in our lives either helps or hinders our mission as followers of Jesus.

So, a couple of questions for you. Number one, think of that list that you made, take a look at it right now and ask yourself this, what authority in my life is hardest for me to have a good attitude towards? Why don’t you star the one that you struggle with the most? Second question is, what can I do to improve that attitude for the sake of the Gospel? Not because they necessarily deserve a better attitude, but for the sake of Gospel, as God has called us to do, how can you improve that attitude? Is it leaning into the new creation that you are in Christ and remembering I hear the voice of selfishness, but I don’t have to give it that final vote? Or is it just looking to the example of God who was willing to do good for us even though we didn’t deserve it? What specific practices could you implement? Maybe it’s I’m gonna talk less, I’m just gonna shut up. Or maybe it’s that, you know, I’m gonna come up with a but at least they, so that I got that backup for when I do mess up and I don’t show the right attitude. I can try to at least pull it out there at the end. What are you gonna do to improve that attitude?

And then third, and I think this is so important. You know, we said that the more we’re driven by personal desire, the more we listen to that voice of selfishness, the more interpersonal conflict we’re gonna experience. So here’s an important question, what role does my own selfishness play in the conflicts I’m having in my life? Think about places in your life where you’ve got conflict, maybe that’s with someone who’s got authority over you. And maybe they don’t even know that there’s a conflict. Maybe the conflict is one-sided from their perspective, but you know. Or maybe it’s somebody that’s in your life, there’s no authority there, but there’s a definite conflict there. And you’re struggling in that relationship. But I want you to ask the question, what role does my own selfishness play in that conflict? Maybe you need to acknowledge that, maybe you need to ask God for forgiveness and strength through the Holy Spirit to remove that tendency to listen to that voice of selfishness that we’re no longer slaves to. In fact, let’s pray about that right now together, would you join me?

Hey, God, as followers of Jesus, we gather here around the world in this moment. And we confess to you that we’re not great at dealing with authority in our lives. There’s a deep rut and it’s hard to get the wheels of our lives up out of that rut that’s been so so deeply ingrained in us for so long, that rut of selfishness. And, Lord, there’s probably no better example of where that selfishness comes out at than in the way that we deal with people who have authority over us. There’s just something in us that even rejects the very idea that anyone should have the ability to demand. And that does not set us up well for even responding to your authority in our lives. And so we ask for your forgiveness for the ways we fall short. And we ask for power through your Holy Spirit, those of us who have said yes to following Jesus, we know we have your Holy Spirit, and he is renewing us, he is causing us to be reborn as sons and daughters of the King who listen to our God and not our selfishness. I ask you to give us the strength to lean into that new reality and to stay focused on our mission of doing good for others and making the Gospel attractive. The Gospel, which is the good news of your love for them, would help us to live in a way that makes it attractive.


If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you take a moment right now, would you pray with me for the people who are listening to this message who are not followers of Jesus, people who are listening to this that have not said yes to following Jesus or are committing their lives to his authority? And if that’s you, if I can just speak to you for a moment, if you’re listening to this going, “I don’t have that relationship with God that you’re talking about. I don’t have a life that is filled with good things. I’m not being reborn. I’m deeply selfish and I don’t see any way to change it.” Here’s what you need to understand. That’s not what God made you to be. And the life that you’re living is not the life that God made you for. God made you for life filled with love, and joy, and peace, and contentment, and hope, and purpose, and meaning, and significance.

But that life is only possible when we submit to his authority. That life’s only possible by saying yes to following Jesus. And if you’ve never done that, but today you’ve heard the truth of how much God loves you so much that he sent his own Son to die for you, to pay the price of your rebellion. Three days later, he rose from the dead. Those are facts of history. He’s offering you salvation and transformation today. He’s offering you forgiveness of your sins. He’s offering you a relationship with God and he’s offering you the beginning of the good life that begins now, and it goes on for all eternity. And if you’re ready to take those gifts from God, by submitting to following Jesus, here’s how you’re gonna do it. It’s just a conversation you’re gonna have. Here’s what you’re gonna say right now in your heart, say this to God, say:

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve committed sin and I’ve rebelled against your authority in my life. I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your own Son, Jesus to die for me. Jesus, thank you for paying the price of my sin. I believe that you rose from the dead. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, salvation, and transformation into a whole new person. I’m ready to accept those gifts by putting my life in your hands. So, Jesus, I’m ready to put my faith in you, my trust in you. Jesus, I’m choosing to follow you starting now and forever. Amen.

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