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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Mark Batterson » Mark Batterson - The Art of Living Unoffended

Mark Batterson - The Art of Living Unoffended

Mark Batterson - The Art of Living Unoffended
TOPICS: Offense

On August 22nd, 1851, the New York Yacht Club won the inaugural America's Cup. It was a 53-mile regatta around the Isle of Wright. That New York Yacht club successfully defended their title 26 times. They held the title for 132 years. It was the longest winning streak in international sports history until 1983, when the Australia two finally broke that streak. How did they do it? Well, a wing keel designed by Dutch engineers did not hurt. But when you haven't won a race in 132 years, the first thing you need to do is overwrite the negative narrative. And that's exactly what the Australian coach did. Three years before that record-breaking race, he made a recording of the Australian team winning that race.

I know next to nothing about sailing, but he narrated every jib, every tact. He included the sound of the sailboat, cutting through the wind and the waves, and a copy of that soundtrack was given to every member of the crew. And every member of the crew was required to listen to it every day, twice a day for three years. They won that race 2,190 times before they even set sale. That is mind over matter, that is the power of words. For better or for worse, our words function as self-fulfilling prophecies. Linguists call it the constructive conception of language.

Our words do not represent the world objectively. Our words create the world subjectively. If you wanna change the world, you need to change your words. Words create worlds. Isn't it interesting that 2,000 years ago, James likened our words to the rudder of a ship? Just as ships are steered by rudders, our destiny is dictated by our diction. Our words are the difference between winning and losing. Our words can create worlds of hurt, worlds of healing. Our words have the power to bless and the power to curse. James said it this way, with the tongue, we bless our Lord and Father.

Now, here's what I find fascinating about this verse, James 3:9 is the mere image of Genesis 1:28. What do you mean? Well, in Genesis 1:28, first recorded words of God to us and they're words of blessing. Before original sin, there was original blessing in that sequence is significant. Blessing is God's most ancient instinct. And blessing is our deepest longing. And I would argue because language is part of what sets us apart from the rest of creation, that God gave us the capacity to communicate for the express purpose of using our words to bless. That's what's happening here with our tongue.

We bless our Lord and Father, that is our original intent. Baruch Atah Adonai. When we worship, we are blessing God. When we worship, we are mirroring what is happening in heaven. Or if you prefer, we are harmonizing with heaven. We are joining this choir of angels and elders and living creatures who never stopped singing, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come".

With our tongue, we bless our Lord and Father... If only the verse ended there. But it doesn't. We speak with forked tongue. With the tongue, we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who have been made in the image of God. In politics, two ways to rally the troops. Common enemy, common humanity. And I'll delineate the difference. If the goal is getting people to the polls, common enemy is incredibly effective. It simply demonizes anyone who dares disagree with us. And it will win some votes, but it will be divisive because it is fueled by negative partisanship. Common enemy is a zero cut sum game. It's win lose, and it turns into me versus you.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks calls it pathological dualism that prejudges people. It's unimpeachably good or irredeemably bad. It demonizes anyone who doesn't look like us, think like us, vote like us, and what you end up with is mud slinging. You end up with baiting and shaming and trolling. What you end up with is cancel culture. Now, there is another option, and it's called common humanity. It appeals to ideals, it appeals to our better angels. Instead of demonizing those we disagree with, it humanizes them. How? By treating people with dignity. By finding common ground, by finding common grace. Common humanity turns me into we. In, in Zulu, there is a greeting, swabono. Translated, I see you.

Turn to the person next to you and say it. I see you. The image of God in me greets the image of God in you. Now, I like sharing some of my rules of life here and there and everywhere. When in doubt, when all else fails, my rules of life are rules of thumb, and they are default settings in my life. Here are two of them. Everyone is my superior in some way and that I learn of them. And number two, everyone's fighting a battle I know nothing about, in that, I empathize with them. Now, I better give a disclaimer. As soon as I'm completely sanctified, I'll let you know, but I would not hold your breath. I am a work in progress. These rules of life are aspirational. I don't always get 'em right. In fact, this week I got one really wrong. Newsflash, it's much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one.

Can I make a confession? And I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I lost my temper this week. Y'all, I'm pretty low key. I'm pretty easy going, but I gotta, I got just a little trigger happy this week and I'm not the only one, some other... Okay, all right. I'm in the right room. I love it. I love it. So, you know, coming off of Easter, I'm a little tired, and when I'm a little tired, I tend to... be a little bit more on edge. And so there, there's this old acronym, HALT. If you are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, you better guard yourself. You better chickety check yourself before you rickety wreck yourself.

Now, I did not do that. So Laura and I were on a flight and there was a flight attendant who was not nice, and gave me a little lecture. I'm telling you it was two, it wasn't even two inches. She gave me a little lecture about my backpack sticking out from under the seat. Okay, I see how this is going to be. Now, I usually try to jujitsu, and I tried to out nice angry owls. That's really what I try to do. I tried to tap my Minnesota nice, I couldn't find the switch. And so Laura got up to go to the restroom and it was occupied, but you have no way of knowing if it's occupied. And so my beautiful, wonderful, precious, sweet, amazing wife just waiting for the restroom, and this same flight attendant in a not nice voice, "Ma'am, sit down". Oh no, you didn't.

You can mess with me, we're okay. I can take it, I can deal it. You mess with my wife and kids, and it is on like Donkey Kong. It brings out the Michael Buffer in me. Let's get ready to rumble. And so I'm... It's not a great flight, I'm distracted. And finally they announce, you know, we're getting ready to land, let's prepare the cabin, and so the same flight attendant is collecting garbage and... I handed her the box that I brought on board, not a large box, I just handed her the box, and she said, "It won't fit in the garbage". I've never really had that happen. Like in the words of Jerry McGuire, "Help me help you, help me help you". This is so embarrassing. You are not gonna believe what I did. I dropped the box. And she one upped me. "Sir, it can't go there".

And I kick it. Like a two year old throwing a tantrum. That's when my wife, Laura, leans over and says something about the image of God in everyone. Seriously, if it weren't for the Holy Spirit in my wife, I would be in so much trouble. This is your first week at NCC, welcome. Follow me as I follow Christ. If you are a flight attendant, I am so sorry. I felt so convicted that actually, the next few days, I upped the ante. By the way, do you wanna know where we were going? This is even more embarrassing. Flying to the cove to speak at the Billy Graham Retreat Center. Oh Lord, help me. Help me, Lord.

James 5:16 says, "Confess your false one to another". We confess our sins to God for forgiveness. That's vertical. We confess our sins to each other for healing, it is horizontal. I think part of what I'm trying to say is that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. It was almost 30 years ago that I read Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Stephen Covey tells a story about riding the New York subway one morning, and it's so peaceful, unlike a weekday. And that's when a man gets on with his two children and they start wreaking havoc. And the dad is just sitting there absolutely oblivious to everything that's happening. And you can just feel the irritation in the train car. And finally, Stephen Covey, you know, says to the man, "Sir, your children are creating quite the commotion". It was almost like the man kinda woke up, recognized what was happened, and apologized profusely. He said, "We just came from the hospital, where my wife and their mother died an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't either".

In a moment, in an instant, all irritation evaporated. And it was replaced by pure empathy. When I say everyone is fighting battle we know nothing about, this is what I'm talking about. If we could read the secret history of our enemies, said Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "We should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility". Hurt people hurt people. We've heard it a hundred times. Let me kind of push that envelope. Forgiven people forgive people. Unforgiven people do not. Why not? Because you cannot do for others what you have not allowed God to do for you. The great commandment is three-dimensional. We totally get love God, love people. But there's also this dimension of as you love yourself, in my experience, the less I like myself, the harder it is for me to love the people around me.

And so what do we do? How do we love ourselves? We let God love us, we let God forgive us. We let God save and heal and deliver us. We let God do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In psychology, there are presenting problems and there are root causes. I'm more and more convinced that unforgiveness is the root cause of 101 problems. So much of what's wrong with us is bitterness, is unforgiveness, is offense that we've taken, and when you take offense, you stop playing offense with your life and you start protecting your ego at all cost. And your world gets smaller and smaller and smaller. And what happens is you let people live in your head, in your heart, rent free, and you let them begin to narrate your story. And what I'm saying today is don't do it.

Give the author and perfector of your faith complete editorial control, and he will begin writing his story history with a hyphen in and through your life. But it happens when we surrender our lies to His lordship. Can I share a verse that'll change your life? Romans 12:19, "Leave room for God's wrath". That is easier said than done 'cause I wanna even the score. Our natural instinct is to do unto others what they have done to us. Yes? But Jesus had a rule of life called the golden rule. Do unto others, wait, wait, what you would have them do unto you. And that's where these six antitheses, I call 'em counter habits and the sermon on the mount come from. Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give the shirt off of your back. There a moment in the gospels where Peter asked Jesus a question, "How often should I forgive my brother and sister who sins against me"?

Now Judaism answer 3. 3 strikes and and you're out. So I know for a fact Peter's feeling really good. How do I know that? 'Cause he even answers his own question like up to seven times, like... Peter got some swagger going on 'cause I'm gonna... He thinks he's going the extra mile. He thinks he's gonna get extra credit. And Jesus says, "I tell you, not 70 times, but 70 times seven," that would look good on a hoodie. Now I wanna be careful right here. I'm not suggesting that by forgiving others, you expose yourself to abuse, you need healthy and holy boundaries. Turning the other cheek does not mean codependence, letting people use you or abuse you does not glorify God. And so Jesus said, forgive 70 times 7. He also said, don't throw your pearls to pigs.

I want you to jot this down. The most important decisions are pre decisions. And when Laura and I got married, we made a pre-decision that we would never not tithe, that the first 10% of our income would go right back to God. And then we want to grow in generosity, and the dream is someday to reverse tithe, live off of 10%, give 90%. And so we don't make that decision every time we get a paycheck or a royalty or an honorarium. We made that decision 30 years ago, and that's a gift that keeps on giving. And so I'm really convinced that if you want to get in shape, for example, or anything else, you're going after a goal, you gotta make a pre-decision to kinda lock it and load it. And so it was about 10 years ago that I made a pre-decision. My verse of the year going into 2011 was Proverbs 19:11. "It is to the glory of a man to overlook an offense".

Word of the wise, be careful when you're choosing a verse of the year because God will give you an opportunity to put it into practice. My goal is to be unoffendedable. Now as evidenced by a recent flight, I'm not batting a thousand, okay? There's some swings and misses in there. But I am gonna do my level best to live my life unoffended. I cannot derive my opinion of me from your opinion of me. I just can't, I can't. Can't do it. By the way, even if it's a good opinion, ah, if you live off a compliments, you'll die by criticism. My advice, just live for the applause of nail scarred hands. Why don't we do that? I derive my identity from Jesus Christ. I am in Christ. Christ is in me. And that is the hope of glory. I love this pre-decision.

A few years ago, I was speaking at a conference with Bob Goff. We were on a panel together on parenting, and I don't know what question prompted the story, but he shared a story that predates the birth of his daughter, before his daughter was born. This is unbelievable to me. Bob Goff wrote a note saying that he forgave her. Past tense, for getting into an accident and crashing their car. He put that note in a jar, sealed the jar, buried it, noted the latitude and longitude. And the day came 17 years later that his daughter crashed their car, and so Bob just handed her a shovel, gave her the coordinates, she dug up the jar, read the note, and discovered that her father had forgiven her before she was even born.

By the way, if that panel was a competition, Bob won. Can I share some good news? God forgave you before you were even born. 2,000 years ago he wrote a note, it's called the Bible. The latitude in longitude is just outside Jerusalem. Your sin was paid in full at Calvary's cross and it was signed, sealed, and delivered at an empty tomb. But this verse is important. First John 1:9 and 10. "If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us".

In other words, all have sinned. And that word it has so much baggage, okay? In Greek it's, it's an archery term. It just means to miss the bullseye. I think what it's saying is, and I've really never met anybody who would disagree with this. I don't hit the moral bullseye every time. Am I in the right room? So it's this idea that, you know what we do? We try to meet legitimate needs in illegitimate ways and we get out of bounds and we get outside God's good pleasing and perfect will. Why? 'Cause we know better than God. And then we discover at the end of it, mm, might need to confess that and repent and get it right and get it taken care of. The word confession is a compound in the Greek. And it means to speak the same, it means to agree with God. It means to come to the same conclusion. And it's doing so fully and freely and publicly. It's saying guilty as charged. And that's key.

Many, many years ago, went to court with a family member who got a moving violation. I will not mention his initials, but his name is Joel Schmidgall. And he was in college. He was in college. But I just want to tell you he drives a lot worse now. There is not a defensive bone in his body. And so he asked me to go to court with him as a character witness. I don't even know if this is a thing any lawyers, you know, just let me know afterwards. But let's just say I don't think the judge was impressed when he called me a character. And so I knew it was not gonna go well when we're sitting there with dozens of people who are also innocent, and they call Joel Schmidgall and he gets up and there's this loud ripping splitting sound and sure enough, like mm, the seam of his pants rips in two. He has to untuck his shirt, if I remember right, untuck his shirt before approaching the judge.

And we both learned a valuable lesson that day. Or I learned a lesson at his expense, let's be honest. The judge said, "Now if you'd pleaded guilty, it wouldn't have to go on your record. But you pleaded not guilty, fool". You pleaded not guilty, so I'm so sorry my hands are tied. It's gotta go on your record. That is First John 1:9 and 10. If you claim to be without sin, listen, the only person you're fooling is yourself and you're not really fooling yourself at a subconscious level. There is so much, can I just say it? There's just so much freedom in forgiveness. But there's a precursor to it. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. And that word is only as effective as it is authentic. And we don't have to have time to talk about the specificity test 'cause you can pray, "Lord, forgive me for everything I've ever done wrong," and God can do it, but we didn't let our kids get by with that, because you're gonna keep doing the same thing all over again.

So it's gotta pass that specificity test. When Jesus was on the cross, he said it is finished. What a moment. We're talking about the power of words, right? It's three words in English, but it's one word in Greek. And I would suggest that that one word of forgiveness could create a world of freedom in your life that you would be a totally different person. So much joy, so much peace in experiencing that kind of forgiveness. It's an accounting term that referred to the final installment on a debt. Archeologists have actually found this word written across ancient receipts. I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt he did not owe. Colossians 2 says, "God forgave us all our sins having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us, he has taken away". How? Nailing it to the cross.

We need to quit living like Jesus is still nailed to the cross. The only thing nailed to the cross is our sin. Can I paint a little picture? When Jesus was arrested, I'm just gonna do this just for kind of a visual. I love that sound. It's the sound of forgiveness. It's the sound of my sin being nailed to a cross. On the night Jesus was arrested, you remember this, Peter didn't just make one mistake, he made two. He denied Jesus three times, but he also committed a crime. He grabs a sword and he cuts off the ear of the high priest, right ear of the high priest, Malchus. Okay, this is the end of the road for Peter. You do not cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest and get by with it. You get charged with assault and battery with a deadly weapon and you end up on a cross next to Jesus, but he doesn't. How is that possible? Because Jesus healed the man who came to arrest him. Wow. Heals the amputated ear.

And so I can see the case going to court. The judge is a little confused 'cause the charge brought is an amputated ear. Judge says, "Hey, would you approach the bench for a minute? Which ear"? Malchus says, "My right ear, my right ear". Judge says, "It looks fine to me," and the case gets thrown outta court for lack of evidence. Dick Fo summarizes that story this way. Jesus destroys the evidence that was against us. Hallelujah. It is finished. It is forgiven. We are right with God grace, God's righteousness at Christ expense. God made him who had no sin to become sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of Christ. It's almost like God says, "Here's what we're gonna do. You take all of your sin, everything you've done wrong, transfer it to my account, I'll pay it in full. But wait, there's more. Why don't we take everything Jesus did right, His righteousness? We'll transfer that over to your account and then we'll just call it even".

What? Religion is spelled do. It's all about what you can do for God. Christianity is spelled done. It's all about what Christ has done for us. Grace is undeserved, Grace is the unmerited favor of God. Their hearts, where as callous as their hands. How could they not be? You can't drive nine inch spikes through people's hands and feet every single day and not lose your soul. This isn't what they dreamed of doing, but it was a job assigned to them by the Roman Empire. It was their job to torture people to death and it was up close and personal. They could smell their breath as they drove those nails. The blood of their victims always ended up on their clothes and those victims would curse and spit. But not this one. Not this one. They mocked him, they flogged him with a cat of nine tails. They nailed him to an old rugged cross. And he said, "Father, forgive them for they know about what they do".

Who does that? How is that even possible? Of all the miracles in the gospel, this is the moment. How do you forgive someone who nails you to a cross? As I see it, I don't have a leg to stand on. I don't have a leg to stand on. A few years ago, my counselor gave me an assignment. Is there anyone or anything that you have not forgiven? I thought it would take a few minutes. What I discovered several hours later is that I'm a lot better at complaining than confessing. I'm a lot better at projecting than professing. Oh God, help us. This is the hope of the world. What I'm talking about is the only thing that's gonna heal the divides, is the only thing that's gonna bring us back together. It's the common humanity that all of us sinners in need of a savior, but a savior whose forgiveness is big enough for all of us. His grace is sufficient. Close with two questions. One, what do you need to stop saying? Two, what do you need to start saying? We'll start with stop. "With the tongue, we bless our Lord and Father and with it, we curse human beings who have been made in the image of God. My brothers, This should not be".

In Hebrew, there's a concept called... A literal translation is evil tongue. Refers to derogatory or defamatory speech. In rabbinic tradition, words were arrows, and if you draw the bow and shoot the arrow, you can never get it back. You can delete the tweet, but someone will screenshot it. There's a story in the Talmid about a woman who visits a rabbi confesses to spreading falsehoods, and the rabbi gives her two tasks. He says, "I want you to take the feathers of a pillow, and I want you to place one at every door in the village". She completed the task, which took quite some time. Came back to the rabbi and said, what is the second task? Go back and gather up all the feathers from all of the houses. The woman said, "That's impossible. The wind has spread them far and wide," and the rabbi said, "So it is with your words".

To gather those feathers is as impossible as taking back harsh words you have spoken, you would do well to remember that before you speak in the future. Francis Schaeffer, the great apologist, said that if we were all forced to wear a voice recorder, like Flavor Flav, and it captured every conversation we've ever had, and the and the transcription was made available to everyone, which, and I did have a thought, Siri, Alexa, Google. It might already be captured, but Francis Schaeffer said, "All of us would go into hiding for the rest of our life". You know my heart, the goal at NCC is never to send anybody on a guilt trip. We just go right back to the foot of the cross. We get our sin dealt with. We confess it. God forgives it, and we get on with the Father's business. There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Our words are nailed to that cross. Our deeds are nailed to that cross. In Jesus name. Amen.
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