Matt Hagee - Follow the Leader
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In order for you to understand the difference between child's play and being Child-ish, you have to grasp the separation of two very similar words that mean something totally different. There are individuals who are Child-ish. And Child-ish is something that as you grow, it should go. The older you get, the less Child-ish you should become. How many of you know middle-aged, childish people? Whatever middle aged is these days. Somebody said, "I'm middle age". I said, "How old are you"? He said, "Sixty-five". I said, "Congratulations on getting to 130". But Child-ish behavior is what Paul was talking about when he wrote 1 Corinthians 13:11. He says, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put Child-ish things away". Notice that Paul doesn't say, "Child like". He says, "Child-ish".
There's an important difference. You see Jesus said in the gospels that if anyone was going to receive the kingdom, they had to come like a child. You cannot ever get rid of your childlike heart, the thing that is filled with awesome wonder, as to who God is and what he can do for your life. But as you get older, the Child-ish side of you should go away. God, in his infinite wisdom and grace, he brings children into the earth in an appropriate manner. Everyone who has ever had the privilege of being a parent, thanks God that their children are born at about seven pounds, seven ounces. Amen. I mean could you imagine if a baby showed up weighing 150 pounds and was six-foot tall? You see all the women just went, "Oh". They wouldn't be a blessing: they'd be horrifying. You wouldn't have them. But God brings children in an appropriate way. Not only do they come in an appropriate size, they come with appropriate behaviors.
Children are dependent because they're childish. When newborns come into the world, they're dependent for everything. They need food. They need attention. They need care. They need somebody constantly watching over them. But as they get older, those childish things should go away. If you have a child at home who can shave his face, you probably don't need to give him as much attention as you did when he was seven months old. You need to let them grow up. The taller they get, the more responsible they should become. If they're about age five, they should know how to do things like make their bed and help in the kitchen. You say, "What? I'm calling cps right now".
Listen to me. If it can be fed, it can be trained. People say, "Well, that's mean". No, that's true! For example, Saturday mornings, at my house, I love to cook. I love to cook breakfast. Some Saturday mornings, it's pancakes, and sausage, and eggs, and cream gravy, and biscuits. And other Saturday mornings, it's machacado, y chorizo con huevo, y papa con huevo, y chilaquiles. It just depends on which side of me shows up. But here's what happens at my house on Saturday morning: you may not come to my table where I have prepared the food unless you are dressed and your bed is made. And what I have learned is if it can be fed, it can be trained, because my five year old can make her bed. It doesn't look like the Ritz Carlton did it, but at least all the pillows are back where they were when she woke up. So if you've got a kid at home that's about six-foot tall, he ought to be able to help you do things like take out the trash, and wash the dishes, and do the floors, instead of just watch you work all the time. So where did the idea for this message come from?
The other day, I was in a room with about ten kids. And as far as they knew, they were playing together. There were about five personal digital devices, iPhones, iPads, and what not in the room. And these kids were huddled around these electronic devices as if they were giving them life. And about the only thing that was getting worked out was their thumbs. How many of you've seen this scene unfold? I'm convinced, in about 30 years, the only thing that we're going to watch in the Olympics is thumb wrestling. It's going to be the only muscle that they have developed. And as I was watching them play together, they weren't talking to each other. They weren't conversing: they were just staring. I started to think about the things that we used to play when we were kids. How many of you grew up in a generation where kids belonged outside? I mean it wasn't an option.
We've got a world today that not even the dog goes outside. You tell the dog, "Go outside," and he looks like, what? It's hot, man. When we were kids, it wasn't even a conversation. The door would just fly open, and mom would say, "Outside"! Not, "May you please" or nothing: just, "Outside"! There was no reference as to where we should go, what we should do, what time we should be back. We just needed to get on the other side of the door. Sometimes "Outside" meant you pushed your face against the glass. And sometimes "Outside" meant you went on some wild adventure. Outside is where you learned how to use your imagination. Outside is where you could play all day and do crazy, dangerous things like meet your neighbors. Outside you didn't need toys.
If you found a stick that was big enough, maybe you were up to bat in Yankee stadium. Maybe you were a Jedi, fighting Darth Vader, and he was nothing more than a big tree. If you broke the sword because you hit the tree too hard, you just turned it into a pistol. But all of that happened outside. And as I was thinking about the games we used to play, I felt the Lord start talking to me about some of our childhood games and the principles of those games that have application in our life. And the first one that came to me was follow the leader. How many of you used to play follow the leader? How many of you never played follow the leader? That's because you were always leading. You're not real good at following: okay. But for those who don't know what follow the leader is, all you did was get in a line. And whoever was in the front of the line, whatever they did, you had to do.
Now, one of the things about follow the leader is that the first principle you understand is that the leader determines how far you can go. Don't ever forget that. The leader determines how far you can go. If the youngest child in the backyard was leading, we didn't go very far, we didn't go very fast, we didn't do very much, because the leader was the limitation of the whole group. But if the oldest child got out front, follow the leader could become a horrifying experience. Maybe they walked across the rails of the fence. Maybe they climbed up in a tree. Maybe they went and jumped the rocks in the creek that you couldn't get across. You see the leader determines how far you can go. And what Jesus said in Matthew's gospel is, "Take up your cross and", do what? "Follow me". Do what? "Follow me". Why? Because if he is in the lead, there isn't anything that you can't do. If he's in the lead, there's no place that you can't go. If he's in the lead, he'll take you, according to his word, from glory to glory, to glory, to glory.
Now you might have to walk through some dark and uncomfortable places. He might lead you out into some desert in dry seasons. He might take you to mountaintops that you think are too hard to climb. But if he is in front of you, then all things are possible to those who believe! God wants you to follow the leader. And he made his son, Jesus Christ, the leader. If you don't like those rules, then you need to create your own planet and you need to make yourself God. But until you do that, you're out of options. Ephesians 5, Jesus Christ is the head of the church. Colossians 1:18, it says that he is the head of the body. And one of the reasons that the body of Christ so operates dysfunctionally is because we don't have the ability to follow the leader. God wants us to follow his word, not our experiences. God wants us to follow his word, not our traditions. God wants us to follow his word, not our hurts, nor our failures.
There are a lot of people that follow their feelings more than they follow God's word. They follow their past. And Jesus said, "Old things have passed away". Jesus said to the pharisees: he said, "Why do you transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition"? Now that word "Transgress" literally means "Why do you pull against the commandment of God because of your tradition"? Jesus said, "I want you to follow me". He didn't say, "Would you like to play tug-of-war"? How many of you know some of God's kids hear that are constantly pulling against what God wants them to do? You see, we like to change the rules of the game. I know you never played follow the leader, but could I borrow you for just a moment? Look. If you're not going to agree with me, just keep your hands down. Okay. Dad's going to represent Jesus. That's a good, good call. I'm representing the person who's supposed to be following the leader.
Now Jesus says, "Follow me," and he leads me in a path that I'm uncomfortable with. I said, "Don't go there, Jesus. Don't go there, Jesus. I don't like that church, Jesus. I don't want to worship there. Jesus, I don't want to give in the offering. Jesus, you don't understand: they hurt my feelings, Jesus. They said things about me. They posted it on Facebook. They didn't use my name, but I know it was me, Jesus. They hashtagged it with my birthday, Jesus. Don't make me go there, Jesus". He's still got it. You just can't, I mean that's, he's still got it. Follow the leader is not tug-of-war. And one of the reasons that some of you don't enjoy your walk of faith is because you're constantly doing this. And Jesus just says, follow me. Follow me. "Oh, but you don't know. They've hurt my feelings". Follow me. "But I don't think I can do that". Trust in me. "But I think it's impossible".
You're going to make it. I've already been where you're going. And believe me: there's a blessing on the other side. Some play tug-of-war. Others play 20 questions. Have you ever met somebody that's always questioning God? God, when am I going to have it my way? God, what are you doing in my life? God, why do I feel the way I do? God, where is my miracle? God, when will I get my breakthrough? I know I've been obedient to you, and I've followed your commandments, and I've read your word for about 15 minutes, but when are you going to come on my side, Jesus? Go back to the rules. Proverbs 3:5 and 6, not only is rule one, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart " but rule number two is "Lean not to your own understandings".
You see one of the things that we do is we take our traditions, and we take our experiences, and we take our past hurts, and we decide that that becomes the crutch that we like to lean on. And God says, follow me. And we say, but we've become so comfortable with everything that we've had to cope with. You don't lean where you're not comfortable. If you think what you're leaning on is going to fall, you don't lean on it: you stand up. But you've taken all of those things in your past, and you've become comfortable with them, and then you start to lean on them. You can't expect me to forgive everybody. You don't know how I've been hurt. You can't expect me to contribute to that cause. You don't know the financial storm I'm going through. You can't expect me to volunteer. They didn't let me do what I wanted the last time I showed up. That's the nature of volunteering: you don't do what you want. It's not really volunteering. We should change it. You're being voluntold. But we will say, "Please" and "Thank you," and things like that.
You see when you lean on your own understanding, you're never going to let Jesus lead you someplace that it's uncomfortable to go. And he'll do that. He will take you to some uncomfortable places. People say, "Well, how do I know when he's in front"? When you put yourself behind him. "Well, how do I do that"? First, by reading his word. This is what the Bible says: it says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path". Now in order to understand the power of this verse, you have to understand what it looks like when David says, "A lamp" and "A light". Not only do we have the opportunity to read this word, but we also hear this word. Romans 10:17, it says, "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God". But the problem is that you cannot get enough illumination spiritually in your life on Sunday to get through this dark world the rest of the week. The only time you hear the word is on Sunday.
And the Bible says, you hear it, and by hearing, you build your faith. But that's not enough. It's not the preacher's job to give you enough oil in your lamp to get you through Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday. You've got to do that. How? By making his word a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. You see David was talking about a lamp that was held in his hand. This is a replica of an Old Testament oil lamp, the kind of lamp that David was describing. Now this candle, it's modern, it's fake, but it'll work. If this was how David did it, this would be full of oil, and there would be a wick here, and you would light the wick. And then you would have enough light to see where you're going. Because when David was a boy, if the sun went down, it got dark. Thomas Edison hadn't done his light thing yet. So David says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path".
Now we live in a world of darkness. And the Bible says that this word is a lamp. It's a light. Right here in this sanctuary, this illustration doesn't bear much fruit. But what if we were in a world of darkness? Now, who has the advantage? The guy who has the lamp. The guy who is taking this word, and he says, "Lord, thy word is a lamp unto my feet. It is a light unto my path. I may not be able to see a hundred yards down the road, but I can see far enough in front of me that I know what step I need to take next. I may not be able to see what's coming 12 months from now, but I know what's coming by the end of the day. I may not be able to see what's going to happen in the next decade, but all I need is to see where I need to go next, because you promised that you'd lead me in paths of righteousness. You promised that you wouldn't let my foot stumble. You promised that when the way was steep, you'd hold me steady. You promised, Heavenly Father, that your word was going to be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path".
You see some of God's kids want it to work this way: they'll go home, and today they'll read the Bible. And they'll say, "Okay, Jesus: I read a chapter. Now light me up". You see this follow the leader game is a constant-contact game. You can't get enough light on Sunday to stay lit up all week long. It might get real bright for a little while, but sooner or later, the lights are going to go out. And in you're not daily connecting with your word, you're in darkness. So we have the ability to see the written word, and we have the ability to hear the written word. The Bible says in the book of John that the spirit will lead you into all truth. And this is where I'm going to close. I've got more sermon but we're out of time. There's a civil war right now in Christianity between believers, who have all the facts: and believers, who have all the feelings.
There are fact-filled Christians. Fact-filled Christians are the ones who can quote the scripture. They've memorized the chapters. They know the verses. They don't need those little tabs on their Bible. They just lick their thumb and they go right to the verse. Fact-filled Christians have got all of the right information, but they don't have the feelings that God has for his church and for his children. They don't understand what it means when the Bible says, "God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten son". They can quote it to you but they don't understand it, because they can't feel it. But then on the other hand, there's a bunch of feely Christians.
Feely Christians don't ever pick this up. Feely Christians just want something that's very comfortable to be around. Feely Christians are the ones who use words like, "Well, I believe," and "I feel," and "I am led". They never say, "The Bible says". And whenever they try to quote the Bible, they typically say things that aren't in the Bible. Doesn't the Bible say, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away"? No. The apple industry said that. Doesn't the Bible say, "What goes around, comes around"? No. "Well I heard that at my church". Well that's not in the Bible. And you have these feely Christians that keep about six out of the Ten Commandments, because they don't like the four that they leave out.
Feely Christians talk about the vibe that was at church. But if you bring up a word like "Discipline" or "Devotion" or "Discipleship," a feely Christian says, "You're a legalist". No. I'm just a believer. You see in this tug-of-war of who's right and who's wrong, the fact-filled or the feely ones, the truth is they're both wrong, and they're both right. Because God wants to lead you by his fact-filled word, and he wants to lead you by the feel of his Holy Spirit. He wants you to see his written word, and he wants you to memorize it, and he wants you to speak it so that you can hear it. But he also wants you to listen to his still small voice so that when he tells you what's right for you, you'll follow him. But if all you know is what you feel, when the feelings change, the facts will not be there to pull you through the hard times.
But the most passionate Christians are the ones who, like children, are following the leader, because not only do they have the facts, but they also have the feelings. You need a balance of both. You need to be able to read his word and know his word. And you need to be able to feel what he wants you to feel in the moment that he needs you to feel it. You see I know the facts. I know the facts of who I am without Jesus Christ in my life. I know the facts that he has broken the chains of bondage. I know the facts that his death paid for my redemption.
And today, I can tell you, "Whom the son sets free is free indeed". And in knowing all of these facts and having all of this information, based upon what his word says, suddenly I'm filled with a feeling that can only come from the Holy Spirit that makes me want to shout "Hallelujah" and rejoice in what the lamb has done. It makes me want to declare that I am the head and not the tail, above only and not beneath: that my chains are gone: that I've been set free: that Jesus paid it all!
I feel like telling somebody the joy of my salvation! I feel like singing praises to the King of kings! I feel like raising my hands and clapping for joy! I feel like I have been given a new lease on life, because I know in whom I am believing, and I believe he is able! He's able to heal me! He's able to protect me! He's able to provide for me! He's able to lead me! He's able to conquer my enemies! He's able to move a mountain! He's able to make a way! Church, I know who I am! And I know what he's done! And I feel like giving him a shout of praise!
Can we stand in the presence of the Lord? You see I know the facts. But I can't deny the feelings. And whether or not I follow him is up to me, which means I have to have a childlike heart, I've got to trust in him, I've got to read his word, and just take it one step at a time. I know it sounds simple. But church the truth is it's just child's play. Let him be God and you follow him every day. And everything is going to be all right. Give the Lord a handclap of praise.