Greg Laurie - Upside-Down Living
Alright everybody let's grab our Bibles. We're in our happiness series, and we're in Philippians chapter two, again that's Philippians Chapter Two. And the title of my message is Upside-Down Living. Let me start with a question. When someone has a photo that they shot, a group shot, and you happen to be in the photo, and they show it to you, who do you look for first? Now be honest, don't lie, you're in church. Who do you look for first? Well in most cases you look for yourself, right? That's just the way we're sort of wired. I mean, what is the most popular kind of photography today? Well of course it's the selfie. Everybody's taking selfies everywhere.
I have people come up to me on occasion and they'll say can I take a selfie with you? And I'll usually say yes. These are usually complete strangers. And they come up to me and then they like, 'cause I have to be in the shot with them, they grab me and put their face in next to my face, they're holding, you know, their phone up like this. Okay wait, wait I almost have it, and I'm like pressed up against a complete stranger saying, make this end quickly. But selfies are so popular right now. In fact some people, you probably heard about this, are literally dying to take selfies. Did you know that in the last few months of 2016, I don't know what it is for this year yet. But in the last months of last year, 73 deaths were directly linked to people taking selfies in dangerous places like on the train track. Why do people take selfies on a train track? And also in very high places. Like here's a couple of photos. You don't wanna do this, see this guy? He's got his little selfie stick. This is not a good idea. You don't wanna be this other guy either. He's like, I'm jumping, taking a selfie with his selfie stick. Finally, you don't wanna be like this guy , this is crazy stuff. But really this sort of sums up something.
And what is it? Well we're living in one might call a selfie culture. Or to put it another way, we're living in a selfish culture. I read an interesting article about a book that's been written by two people, Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, both of them psychologists, and the title of the book is The Narcissism Epidemic. And here's a few quotes from their book. A popular song declares with nno apparent sarcasm, I believe the world should revolve around me. They go on to say you can hire fake paparazzi to follow you around, snapping your photo when you go out. Then they pointed out that babies wear bibs embroidered with supermodel or chick magnet on them, and they suck on bling pacifiers while parents read modernized nursery rhymes like this little piggy went to Prada. They continue on, people try to create a person brand, that's also known as self-branding, packing themselves like a product to be sold.
And a good example of this, what I have to say, would be the Kardashians. And Kim Kardashian liked to post photographs of her bling on her Instagram account, and as you all know, she was robbed at gunpoint. And one of the robbers said he wanted that ring worth $4 million. And so this is the culture we're living in right now and these folks who wrote this book, The Narcissism Epidemic, came to this conclusion, quote, all of these things are rooted in a single underlying shift in the American psychology, the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture, end quote.
So why do I bring all of this up? Well we're looking at the Book of Philippians together. And as I pointed out earlier, the theme of this book is happiness. Now if you're gonna go to the culture and say how can I be a happy person? The answer would in so many words be be a selfish person. Focus on yourself, love yourself. Think about yourself, esteem yourself. It's all about self, and the Bible gives a different answer. The Bible, in effect, to loosely paraphrase, tells us if we wanna be happy we should not be selfish. But rather it tells us if we wanna be happy, we need to be selfless. That certainly bubbles up here in Philippians Chapter Two. Jesus said, it is more blessed, or happy, to give than it is to receive. But we think no, it's more happy to get stuff than it is to give stuff. No, the opposite is the case according to Jesus and the rest of the Bible. True fulfillment does not come by putting our needs first, but it comes by putting the needs of others first. That's why I've called this message Upside-Down Living. Because that flies in the face of conventional wisdom today.
The Bible teaches the way to happiness is sadness. Does that seem strange? Well that's actually what Jesus said. He said, blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Another way you could translate it, because remember, whenever you see the word blessed in the Bible, it could be interchanged with the word happy. So in effect Jesus was saying happy are the unhappy. How could that be? Well you see, when I come before God, and I see myself as I really am and I'm thus unhappy, I mourn over my sinful condition. And then I turn from my sins and put my trust in Christ, I will find the true happiness that comes from the forgiveness of sins, because the Bible says, happy is the man or the woman whose sins are forgiven. And this is so different than what culture tells us, but a lot of people are figuring this out.
You've probably heard of Stephen King. Very successful author. I don't know if you're aware of this, but he had a serious automobile accident a number of years ago. So he wrote an article about it. The title of the article was You Can't Take it With You. Excuse me, the name of the, title of the article is, What You Can Pass On. And this is what he says in the article, and I'm quoting. This is Stephen King speaking about his experience. A couple of years ago I found out what you can't take it with you means. I found out why I was lying in a ditch at the side of a country road covered in mud and blood with the tibia of my right leg pointing out the side of my jeans like a branch of a tree taken down in a thunderstorm. I had a MasterCard in my wallet, but when you're lying in the ditch with broken glass in your hair, no one accepts MasterCard.
King continues, I got a painful but extremely valuable look at life's backstage truths. We come in naked and broke, we may be dressed when we go out, but we're just as broke. Warren Buffett, he's gonna go out broke. Bill Gates, going out broke. Tom Hanks, King continues to write, going out broke. Steve King, broke, not a crying dime. All of the money you earn, all of the stocks you buy, all the mutual funds you trade, all of this is mostly smoke and mirrors. It's still gonna be quarter past getting late whether you tell the time on a Timex or a Rolex. No matter how large your bank account, no matter how many credit cards you have, sooner or later things will begin to go wrong. But the only things you have that you can really call your own, your body, your spirit, and your mind.
So I want you to consider making your life one lifelong gift to others, King writes, and why not? All you have is on loan anyway. All that lasts is what you pass on. Then he concludes, so I ask you to begin giving and continue as you begin. I think you'll find in the end you got far more than you ever had, and did more good than you would ever dream, end quote. Wow, that's amazing conclusions. I don't know that Stephen King believes in Jesus Christ. But I'll say this, he has certainly landed on some important Biblical principles that tell us that it's not about us. The world does not revolve around us. And if we try to make it revolve around us, we will be very unhappy people. So it's about others. Putting others first, but this isn't so easy, is it? Because, well, there are people that just irritate us. Or we don't like to be around them. And sometimes that's our husband. Or our wife, or our parents, or our kids. Or coworkers or people who are around a lot.
And we say these people are so irritating. Newsflash, did it ever occur to you that you are an irritating person to someone else? I guarantee it's true, I'm sure I'm an irritating person to quite a few people. And so that's something we need to understand. That you know, there are people that we're not gonna necessarily be drawn to, but at the same time we are to love them, especially if they're in the church, because we are all part of the family of God. So here's what the apostle Paul is saying here in Philippians. He's saying you need a new paradigm. You need a new way of thinking, and here it is. Let's read about it, Philippians chapter two. Starting in verse one. Paul writes, therefore if there's any consolation in Christ, of any comfort of love, of any fellowship of the spirit, of any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy that should be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves, let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but for the interests of others, stop there.
Here are the words of Paul from a modern translation, same verses. Don't push your way to the front, don't sweet talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Are you kidding me? If you live this life it'll change everything about your life. You see, 'cause the culture does not say this. And if we go back historically, this is not what we learn from even civilizations. I mean, if you look at all the great kingdoms of the world that have come and gone, everything is always about self. Greece effectively said, be wise, know yourself. Rome said, be strong, discipline yourself. Epicureanism, which is the pursuit of pleasure, says be sensuous, enjoy yourself. Education says be resourceful, educate yourself. Psychology says, be confident, assert yourself. Materialism says, be possessive, please yourself. Humanism says, be capable, believe in yourself. Pride says, be superior, promote yourself. But Jesus Christ says, be unselfish, humble yourself.
Humble myself? That seems like a recipe for disaster in the world today. In fact when we think of humility and meekness, we don't think of those as virtues, we think of those as deficiencies. But yet did not Jesus say, blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Earth? And Christ said of himself, I am meek and lowly in heart, so come unto me. But you need to understand, there's a big difference between weakness and meekness. Let's say that somebody hit you in the face and you don't hit them back. And the reason you don't hit them back is because you're weak and you're afraid. But let's say that you're trained in mixed martial arts. And you're quite a street fighter and someone hits you in the face and you don't hit them back, that's not weakness, that's meekness.
See, meekness is power under constraint. When someone gets on the back of a stallion and rides in at full speed and then pulls back on the reins and the horse stops, that horse is being meek, it's submitting itself to the will of the rider. It has the strength to go on, but it submits. So when I'm being meek, it doesn't mean I'm weak. It means that I'm submitting myself to God, and that is how I am to live as a believer. God is saying, you want real happiness and genuine success, then put Jesus first and others second. In fact there's a simple acronym you can use to sum it up. J O Y.
J - is for Jesus
O - is for others
Y - is for yourself.
You wanna live a happy life, you wanna live a joyful life? Jesus, others, yourself, here it is simplified. Following Jesus, loving others. Following Jesus and loving others. What did Jesus say? He said if you love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and your mind and you love your neighbor as yourself, you've fulfilled all of the commandments. See, it's just so simple if we would focus on that. But a lot of times we're not focusing on that. We're not putting Jesus first, we're putting ourself first. And as a result we find ourselves depressed. Listen, if you find yourself down in the doldrums as a Christian, if you find yourself depressed, I have a 10 step solution to depression.
So if you're taking notes, write this down. 10 steps to get rid of your depression, are you ready? Step number one, do something for someone who has greater needs than you. Do something for someone who has greater needs than you. Go to a convalescent home and visit someone who's staying there. Go to Skid Row on one of our missions and reach out to people that are literally living on the street. Go to someone with a need. Go to someone who has a greater need than you. That's step number one, okay, here's step number two. Repeat step number one nine more times. Now listen, I'm not dismissing clinical depression. I know that can be very real. But I'm just talking about that general kind of depression we can find ourselves in, and frankly it's sometimes a result of just being selfish. And instead of being selfish, try being selfless. In other words, stop thinking so much about yourself.
Proverbs 11:25 says those that refresh others will be refreshed themselves. As you give out, God will give back to you. Even actress Angelina Jolie figured this out. She made this statements in an interview, and I quote. I went through a depression when I was first famous because, she says, what was I famous for? I didn't do anything great, and I didn't discover anything wonderful. But then she writes, well when I'm in a refugee camp, my spirit feels better there than anywhere else in the world because I'm surrounded by such truth and family and I feel connected to just being a human being because I'm willing to spend a day in the dirt. Maybe it was important for me to know that. And that's better than having an Oscar, end quote. Wow, very insightful, very true. Alright, so let's identify some key points here from Philippians chapter two.
If you're taking notes, write this down. Never let selfishness or conceit be your motive. Again, never let selfishness or conceit be your motive. Look in verse three, let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. As the New Living Translation puts it, don't be selfish, don't live to make a good impression on others. So first I start with self, and it's interesting, before anything else is said, Paul sort of drills down on this because the love of self is probably at the root of maybe all of my problems. But if not all, certainly most of them. Because we want our own way. James puts it this way in James four, one to two. Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again, they come about because you want your own way. And you fight for it deep inside yourself. You want your own way. And by the way, this goes way way back to earliest days as a kid.
My granddaughter Stella was a very little girl. I remember I took her to a toy store once, and they had a little dollhouse set up on a small table. Low to the ground, the kids could access it. You know, the house had little bits of furniture and dolls and such, and she went over and started organizing it and putting the little figures in the chairs. I thought it's so cute, girls are so, you know, they like to do things like that. And I'm just watching in amazement. And I'm thinking this thought to myself, girls are so good, they're just so good, look at her. Look at the little dollhouse, and suddenly a man comes walking in with a little boy about the age of Stella. And I'm not making this up, this boy was on a leash. He had something of a harness around the boy. Some kind of a thing he was wearing, and a leash attached to him.
The boy went moving, he'd pull the boy back, and I looked and I thought, that's so cruel, poor little boy. But suddenly, here's Stella, who has just set up this little dollhouse so perfectly and so meticulous in details. And this boy is lunging at the dollhouse, he wants to destroy it. And the man is pulling on the leash, and I'm thinking pull that leash harder. And I just thought to myself, you know what? Boys are bad and girls are good. Well, a couple days later we were with Stella and parents. And some folks came over and they had their little child with them, actually it was more of a little toddler baby. So a little younger than Stella. And the little baby reached up on a little table to grab some toy, and Stella took the baby's hand and pushed it away. I thought, oh no. Girls are bad too. Yeah, we're all bad. We're bad to the bone, we're sinners and we're selfish.
I mean, think of all the problems we have in our culture today. Think of immorality as an example. Why do people have sex before marriage? Selfishness. Why do they commit adultery? Again, selfishness. Why do most marriages fall apart? If I had to pick one word to sum it up, selfishness. Oh yeah, we could talk about communication breakdown and we could talk about financial disagreements. But really if you get to the bottom line, it's selfishness. I want that person to do what I want them to do. We won't put that person first, we wanna put ourself first. Talking about immorality, look at all the unwanted pregnancies today. And what do so many do? They go and get an abortion. What's more selfish than that? Since the passing of Roe v. Wade in the early '70s, listen to this. 58 million babies have been aborted. Let me put it more clearly. 58 million unborn children have been murdered in the womb. And to me, this is a travesty.
Why, well the baby's a burden or an inconvenience to the mother. They say, what about when the mother's life is in danger? Yeah, but now they've become so liberal in the interpretation of that, if the mother even says, well I just felt a lot of stress from the baby, oh well then you're in some kind of danger so we'll just go ahead and abort it. By the way, more than 40% of women admit to having an abortion before. So a lot of these women that are getting these abortions have done it before. And the sad thing is not only is this permitted in our culture today, but it's even encouraged. I don't know why, but I had an issue of Teen Vogue sent to my house the other day. It's probably because I stopped paying my subscription. No really, I never have signed up for Teen Vogue. But it shows up at our house.
So I'm flipping through this little magazine designed for teenagers and one headline caught my eye, and the headline said What to Get a Friend Post-Abortion. I'm thinking, what? What kind of a magazine is this? And so this is basically an article about what to do if one of your teenage friends have gotten an abortion. They suggest that you watch the comedy, All I Wanna Do. Get the person a girl power hat to deal with the post-abortion physical discomfort and emotional woes. The Teen Vogue offered this council, she should not have to feel ashamed because she made the right choice for her situation. And if she's not ready to carry a pregnancy to term, and that's okay, Teen Vogue councils. And then the article argues, she will need a ride and she will need a hug and she will need you, not because the act itself is so terrible, but because the world can be, end quote.
Man. To quote the British, that's just rubbish. Are you kidding me? You know what, here's the reality, going back to a verse I quoted, James four. Let your tears for the wrong things you've done be shed. Let there be sorrow and deep grief, let there be sadness instead of laughter. You should feel bad and if you've ever committed this sin, ask God to forgive you. If you know a girl who is pregnant, by all means encourage her to carry the baby to term. If she does not want to raise the baby as her own, there are many families standing in line, more than willing to adopt that child. But it's selfishness, selfishness, that is at the root of so many problems where it's all about me, point number two. Always regard others as more important than yourself. Again look at verse three, in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves. Always regard others as more important than yourself.
Now by the way, this is important because it speaks of thinking. Thinking of others as better than yourself, and the word that Paul uses here for thinking is from a verb that means more than just having an opinion. It refers to a carefully thought out conclusion based on the truth. So here's what it's saying. Don't just pretend others are more important than you. Actually believe they're more important than you because they are more important than you. I mean where do we get off thinking we're better than somebody else? Think about the thoughts that go through our minds. The evil thoughts, the horrible things. You know, if you wanna know how to best consider someone above yourself, just take a hard look at yourself. Consider your own sins. I mean really, knowing this about ourselves, how can we be so hard on others? Jeremiah 17:9 asks the question, or makes the statement, the human heart is so desperate, and it's so deceitful and wicked, who really knows how bad it is?
The great evangelist D.L. Moody once said quote, I have more trouble with D.L. Moody than any other man I know, end quote. That's true, I have more trouble with Greg Laurie than any man I know. And you probably have more trouble with yourself as well. I like this statement of Andrew Murray, a great writer, who said and I quote, the humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself, he simply does not think of himself at all, end quote. That's real humility, you just honestly are thinking about others all of the time, but here's the super cool thing about that. The fringe benefit is happiness. It seems like no, think about yourself, make the world revolve around yourself, only indulge yourself. That leads to unhappiness and misery and depression. But when you put others first and you think about them as above you because you realize they are above you, suddenly you find yourself a happy person as a result, isn't that interesting? It's upside-down living, the way to happiness is sadness. The way to up is down.
Point number three, don't limit your attention to your own personal interests. Again, don't limit your attention to your own personal interests. Look at verse four, it says look out not only for your own interests, but for the interests of others. Notice it says, look out not only for your ow interests. You know, you do need to look out for some of your own interests. Hey, we want you to look out for your own interests. We want you to take a shower. We want you to pay your bills. We want you to be a respectable member of society. But for some people that's so hard because they're so self absorbed, all they wanna do is think about themself and talk about themself. As Benjamin Disraeli once said, quote, talk to a man about himself and he'll listen for hours, end quote. So this is a tall order, admittedly. And it's not easy for me and it's not easy for anyone. So how do we do this? Well we need an example. And we need more than an example, we need help.
Who is the greatest example of selflessness and sacrifice? Well I am. And, no, I'm, that's a joke. You know that's not true. Alright, so who is the greatest example? Well I think you know, it's Jesus Christ. Let's read about that, now go to Philippians two, look at verse five. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation. Underline that phrase, if you would. Taking the form of a bond servant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross, verse nine. Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those in heaven and those on Earth and those under the Earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord for the glory of God the Father.
So here's the example now, how am I to live a selfless life? Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. By the way, this is like theology 101. Paul is describing the mystery of the incarnation. What does that mean? The incarnation is the Biblical truth that God was supernaturally conceived in the womb of Mary, who was a virgin. And so when he was born, and that little baby was among us, and then the little boy and then the young man, this baby, this young man, was God. He was fully God, 100% God, yet at the same time he was fully man. He was not a man becoming a god, that's impossible. He was God becoming a man. Verse six says, he was equal with God. That's very important, you see there was not a moment when Jesus became God. Nor was there a moment when Jesus ceased to be God, his deity was prehuman, pre-Earthly, pre-Bethlehem, pre-Mary. And he certainly gave a glimpse of his deity on the mound of transfiguration, remember that? He stood up there with Moses on one side and Elijah on the other.
And remember Peter was sleeping and he woke up and Jesus was shining as brightly as the sun. Have you ever tried to look straight at the sun? Don't do that, okay? But if you ever have, it's blinding, right? So there was Jesus, it's almost as though he was saying, this is who I am, here's quick glimpse. But most of the time when he walked among us he did not shine like the sun. Otherwise, when Judas came to betray him in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas could have just said look for the guy that glows in the dark, he's not hard to spot. No, Jesus shrouded the glory, he veiled the glory. He was God, but as the old hymn says, veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail incarnate deity. But make no mistake about it, Jesus claimed to be God and he accepted worship as God.
You know, when Satan came to Jesus Christ in the temptation in the wilderness, and said why don't you worship me and all these kingdoms will be yours, Jesus said you shall worship the Lord God, and him only shall you serve. So Jesus was making it very clear that worship should only be given to God. On one occasion when the apostle John was worshiping an angel that delivered a message from heaven, the angel said don't worship me, no. Only God is to be worshiped, yet Jesus accepted worship on many occasions in the Bible. Remember the story of that crippled man who was lowered through the roof before Christ? And he said, your sins are forgiven you. And then the Pharisees said who can forgive sins but God alone? And Jesus went on to say, just so you know that the son of man has power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins, I say to this man, get up, take your bed, and walk, and he did.
You see, he was God, he claimed to be God. In fact John 5:17 says, the Pharisees sought to kill him because he said God was his father, continually making himself equal with God. You say well why are you bringing this up? Because some people would say Jesus never claimed to be God. But he did, you see. Now, having established the fact that he was God, he also was a man, verse seven. He made himself of no reputation, taking on himself the form of a bond servant. This word no reputation is from the term kenosis, and it means an emptying of himself. He did not empty himself of his divine attributes, but he emptied himself of privilege, meaning he walked among us as a man.
When Jesus walked this Earth he was tired like any man. Remember when he fell asleep? The lower part of the boat. He was hungry like any man, like in the temptation in the wilderness when we read that after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, afterwards he hungered. He was thirsty like any man, remember he was there with the woman of the well. And he said, can you give me a drink? Listen, he felt sorrow like any man. At the tomb of Lazarus we read that Jesus wept. He also wept over the city of Jerusalem. And I bring this up because sometimes we might say, well God doesn't know what it's like to live in this Earth. He's up there in heaven, surrounded by angels, he doesn't know what it's like to be tempted and go through hardship and trials. Nothing could be further from the truth. He knows exactly what it's like and then some.
Hebrews 2:17 says, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so he could be our merciful and faithful high priest before God. He could offer us sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he's able to help us when we're tempted. Are you being tempted right now? Are you going through hardship right now? Maybe you've been abandoned by friends or even family. And you say, God doesn't know what it's like. He knows exactly what it's like. Jesus was the loneliest man who ever lived. Because when he hung there on the cross and the sin of the world was placed upon him, who had never sinned in any way, shape, or form, and Jesus cried out, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? There's never been a lonelier man, when even the Father momentarily turned his face away from the Son.
So you have a friend in high places. You have someone that understands what you're going through right now. But yet Jesus was a servant. In John chapter 13, there's this remarkable story about the servanthood of Jesus. The disciples come together with him and he gets down and washes their feet. Now in our culture today, we don't really do this anymore. But back in those days, this was done. You know, with all that dust and dirt out on the streets of Jerusalem and Galilee and elsewhere, their feet would be dirty. So the role of a servant was to wash the feet of people when they came in. Again, the role of a servant, not the role of the host. They hired the servant to do that. But the disciples walked in and Jesus gets down on his hands and his knees and he washes their feet. By the way, this included Judas Iscariot. And Jesus knew Judas would betray him. If I knew Judas was gonna betray me, I would not wash his feet, I would break his feet. But Jesus washed them, showing us what a servant looks like.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Look, as I said earlier, this is a tall order. We can't do this on our own, we need God's help. We don't need imitation, we need impartation. And by that I mean, we don't need you to say, well I'll try to do it like Jesus did it, and I just hope I can do it, no no. Lord, you need to impart to me the power to love unlovable people. You need to help me to put the needs of others above myself. I need your help, so you could pray a prayer along the lines of Lord, I'm not happy with my selfish me first attitude. I wanna live your way, not the world's way. I wanna esteem others better than myself. I want this mind to be in me which was also in you. Impart to me your power that I might live the way that you want me to live, why don't we just pray about that right now? Let's all pray:
Father we can't do this on our own. We need divine help so even at this moment, we would pray you would give us love for the unlovable. That you would help us to not be so self absorbed, but to put the needs of others above our needs and see them as you see them. We want this mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus. We ask for this in Jesus' name, amen.