Matt Hagee - What's Hanging in Your Tree?
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The reality of a power struggle is everywhere. It doesn't matter if you deny it, or you ignore it, or you are a part of it: it's something that is inescapable. Everywhere you look, we see power struggle. Turn on the news, and all they're going to really be talking about in principle is the power struggle. "The power struggle between right and left," some will call it. "The power struggle between conservative and liberals," others will say. "The power struggle between progressive and traditional".
Regardless of what title you give it, it's a struggle for control. People who do not have control, want control. And people, who have control, want to keep control. I think one of the things that American people need to always remember, and I pray they never forget, is that control doesn't belong to a political party, nor to a person: control belongs to you. Not only is there political power struggles, but you can look in the newspapers, and every article you read, you're going to read about global power struggles. You'll read about one nation's agenda for the world versus another nation's agenda for the world.
Whenever you read about the United Nations, or G8, or G20, or Gee Whiz: they're all up there talking about power. It's a power struggle. We shouldn't be surprised by it. Jesus said, "Nation will rise against nation. Kingdom will rise against kingdom". He told us it was going to happen, and we're seeing it each and every day. You're going to go home today and you're going to engage the power struggle. It's going to look like a commercial in which they are advertising their brand and they're denouncing every other brand. Why? Because they're competing for control of what's in your wallet. They want your money and it's a power struggle to get it.
Today, I'm not talking about a political power struggle. I'm not talking about a global power struggle. I'm not talking about an economic power struggle. Today I'm talking about the power struggle that controls all of those, and that's the personal power struggle that is in you. In each and every one of us, there is a struggle between right and wrong, between flesh and faith, between what I know I should do and what I really want to do. And some people have trouble admitting that. Some people want to come to church and smile real big and pretty, and pretend like everything is just perfect. Liar! Some people want to pretend like they've never struggled with sin a day in their life. How dare I even fame the thought. Liar!
In order for this message to really have the impact that I believe it's supposed to have, I've grappled with this text and this topic. There are times when a preacher goes before the throne, and he goes "Lord, what should I say"? And he says, "Say this," and you go, "Lord, pick another topic". But the only way that this is going to change your life is if you do something for me today. If you allow this conversation to be a very personal one, for some of you, this will be very easy. For others of you, it will be unlike anything you've ever done before. For some of you, it's second nature. For others of you, it's going to take some time to absorb. But what I want you to do for the rest of this message is only think about yourself.
Some of you are going to be like, no problem: I do that all the time anyway. Because I'm not asking you, "What hangs in someone else's tree"? I'm asking you, "What hangs in your tree"? We have a graphic behind us that shows a tree that kind of symbolizes the forbidden fruit that we read about in Genesis 2. And in our mind, we've created this story somewhat symbolic: that there's just a cute, little apple that hangs in that tree, and all they really did was just pull down that apple and take one bite, and then we all wound up in this mess. But that's not true. The truth is they knew what they were supposed to do and they didn't do it. And each and every one of us are plagued with this same truth.
So rather than put little, cute apples up there, I put some things up there that I think might be tempting to some of your flesh. Greed, oh no, pastor: I don't have any trouble with greed. But what about gossip? No, pastor: I don't gossip, I just have a big prayer ministry. Lust, addiction, lying, idolatry. You say, well I've never worshiped a false God. But have you put God first in everything you've done this week? Because the only way that this is going to work, the only way that you're going to walk out of here really rejoicing in the joy of your salvation is if just for a little while, you are willing to make this your personal conversation with the Holy Spirit. This can't be like just another Sunday where you hear something good and you elbow your spouse. Did you hear that? Did you hear that?
This can't be one of those Sundays where the Holy Spirit has a message for you, and you try to apply it to everyone else you know. This has to be one Sunday where you're willing to take all of that and set it aside, and say, "Lord, if this is a conversation between you and i, my ears are open, my heart is ready: speak to me". There are many people in this room today, who are thinking about doing things this week that will cost you dearly. I know that while I'm speaking to thousands in this sanctuary and multiple times that over television, there are people here that are thinking about throwing their marriage away. There are people here that maybe you've got a financial problem. And you're thinking, maybe if you just take a little bit of money from the company, they won't miss it, and then your problems will be solved.
I don't know who you are. I don't know exactly the circumstance. But one thing I'm certain of, God knows. And the reason that he sent me here today is not to entertain the outside of you but to give his hands the opportunity to change the inside of you. Because he wants to do something for you today that you cannot do for yourself. Today, he wants to stop sin before sin stops you. You see God created you. He made you lower than the angels. No matter what the scientist at the school told you, don't believe their lies.
The Bible says, "Let God be true and every man a liar". You are not created in the image of an animal. You are created in the image of Almighty God. He wants you to understand what it means to be born again. He wants you to recognize that when he sent his son to die that we might be set free, he didn't send him here so that you could be a better version of your old self. He sent him here that you might be a new creature in Christ Jesus. And that is why the Bible says that for a good man, would a righteous man die. But God demonstrates his own love towards us: that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
There isn't anything that I can do about my inherited nature. So someone with a brand new nature unlike mine, someone with a nature that was perfect before God the Father, came from heaven all the way down to earth. And he took on my form, and he became someone like me, and he lived a perfect and sinless life so that when he went to another tree where temptation and sin had taken over, he took my temptation, he took my sin, he took your sin, he took all of that! And he went to a place called Calvary. And there, he hung that I might go free! And there he died that I might live! And there he wore crowns that I might become royalty! And when he said, "It is finished," the inherited old me died! And thank God: I was born again!
Did you hear that? I am born again. That means that whenever I came to Christ, the inherited nature that came from Adam and Eve, it was dead! "I am crucified with Christ". Therefore, I no longer live but the way that Adam used to live in me. When I come to Christ, now he lives in me. And now this life that I live in the flesh, the one that's standing here before you breathing, in faith, say that with me, "In faith". I have to announce that it is Christ in me and not Adam in me. "To him who knows to do right and does it not, to him, it is sin". Now how many of you recognize that that's a pretty broad definition for sin? How does that happen? James 1:14 through 16 gives us a very powerful progression. It tells us that each one is tempted when they're drawn into their own desire. Said another way, temptation is a tailor-made suit. What tempts you is created by your desire and it only fits you.
One of the problems that we have in church is that we are often willing to point out what we find to be the flaws in other people's temptations. I can't believe they'd do that. Well that's not your tailor-made suit they're wearing. That's their they're tailor-made temptation. What tailor-made temptation have you got on? Each one is drawn by their own desire. And then the Bible says this. It says, "And when desire has conceived". Say that with me. "And when desire has conceived". That's a very important thing that you have to take into consideration. James is absolutely telling us very clearly that your temptation is not your sin. It's the conception of temptation that is a sin. And then it says, "And sin brings forth death". You can't stop it unless you get to it before it gets you.
Let's talk about how God wants us to stop sin. I've written out a quick acronym, S-T-O-P. How many of you understand this word? Sometimes we're so heavenly minded: we're no earthly good. Oh Lord, help me stop sinning. And he goes, stop it. Oh, but I can't. Yes, you can: you just won't. How do you stop, really? There are challenges that are present there, because the Bible says, "I'm crucified with Christ". Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, "I die daily". Now professing that you're dead doesn't make it any easier.
The first thing that you have to do in order to stop is you have to, first, confess sinful thoughts. "S" is SINFUL thoughts confessed. Say that with me, sinful thoughts confessed. It's not sinful actions confessed. It's sinful what? Thoughts. Why? Because whenever temptation is conceived, it gives birth to sin. So we've got to kill it before there's conception. You're not sinning when you're thinking. But you are thinking about sinning. That sounds a little confusing, but I assure you there's a lot of you who get it. And the thing that you have to do with sinful thoughts is confess them.
Now the thing that's important for you to understand is where to confess them. In 1 John 1:8, John says, "We deceive ourselves if we say we have no sin". And he said this because in the 1st century, there were a bunch of people going to churches, and saying, "Well if you sin, you don't have a relationship with Jesus, because those who have relationship with Jesus never, never, never, ever, ever, ever, never, never: no, never ever sin". Liars! What John was saying is the only hope that you have to get away from sin is to confess it. Don't hide it. It'll kill you. Bring it out and show it to God, because 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, then he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
Now there's some very important nuances to this verse. But the one thing I really want you to understand is that when you confess sinful thoughts, the Bible says, "Confess them to Jesus". Why? Because if you confess them to people you know, they'll put them on Facebook. The reason you confess sinful thoughts to Jesus is truly this: he's the only one who can do anything about them anyway. He's the one who gave you the new nature that you accept by faith. So when you think that thought, don't feel guilty and say, "Oh, I shouldn't think that way". When you think that thought, say, "Jesus, you know what I'm thinking. Please take this one away".
The second thing you have to do is THINK on these things. If sin is conceived in your thoughts, then whenever you have sinful thoughts, after you confess them, you've got to change the channel. One of the problems that we have is we say, "Lord, forgive me for thinking these sinful thoughts". And then we pick up the same thing that caused us to think it, and go, "Oh wow: look at that. Oh God, forgive me for thinking these sinful thoughts. I don't want to be this way anymore". You're kidding: really? "Lord Jesus, help me overcome this challenge that I've got. I don't ever want to do this again". You're kidding. Like, share, post. Wow. It's pretty simple, folks.
When you're thinking sinful thoughts, whatever caused you to think that thought, change the channel! Paul said it this way in Philippians 4:8, "Whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are holy, whatever things are of good report: think on these things". When the temptation to complain comes over you, don't take that temptation and allow it to give birth to sin. When the temptation of complain comes over you, start thinking about all of the things that God has done good for you, and give him praise for those. When the temptation to destroy your marriage comes over you, don't think about the things that give you reason to feel that way.
Think about the blessing that this relationship has been in your life. Give God thanks for that relationship and see if he won't bring his peace back in and restore it. When the temptation to throw your business away or throw your relationships away comes over you, whatever it is that's taking you down that road, there is an opposite direction that you can go. And you need to make the conscious decision that you're going to repent: that you are going to change your path from thinking this way to walking and talking and believing this way, so that you can change the channel and take control of your thought life.
After you think good thoughts, you have to ORDER your thoughts. That's "O". If you're going to stop sin, you've got to order your thoughts. Neuro scientists and neurologists, and psychologists, they'll tell you that human beings think over one hundred thousand thoughts a day. Now I know for some of you wives, you'll find it hard to believe that a husband can actually do that, but it's true. But regardless of whether you can communicate your thoughts or they're all inside of you, you have got to take your thoughts captive.
This is why the Bible tells us very clearly in 2 Corinthians 10:5: it says, "Cast down every vain imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God". It doesn't take a theologian to know what is and what is not God's knowledge. But when those things come into your mind, the first thing you have to do is put them under house arrest. You have no authority in my life, not because I'm so good that I don't get tempted by that, but because the guy that you used to come around here and tempt, he's dead and gone. I've been born again. I'm over here with a new nature inherited from Jesus Christ. And rather than look to the thing I want to do, I'm going to look to the thing that he did for me. And I'm going to say that I don't have to be that guy anymore.
And the final thing that you have to do and it's what I want to encourage you to do each and every day that's really the whole purpose of this message right here, "P" pursue Christ with all that you have. Pursue Christ with all that you have. Why? Because that's the power struggle. That's what started in eden. In eden, man had fellowship with God and we lost it. And then God sent Jesus and made a way where there seemed to be no way where we could get it back. And now rather than looking at a tree that is filled with our temptations, look to a tree where the one, who knew our temptation and never sinned, died that we might live. Pursue Christ with all you have. Why? Because this is not the only life you're ever going to live. This life will end. It'll end in days. It'll end in decades. It'll end in years. But sooner or later, you're going to breathe your last. And then you're going to see Jesus face to face.
And the Bible says that that nailed-pierced hand that hung on a cross on your behalf is going to wipe the tears away from your eyes. And he's going to say, your struggle, your trial, your temptation: it's over. And that's going to be in an eternity where there is no end, where there is no parting, where there is no sorrow, where there is no sickness, where there is no struggle. Some day, Matthew Hagee's going to look at the one who died for him. And I don't want to have to explain why I picked from the wrong tree. I want to say, thank you for going to that tree, and dying for me, and setting me free, so that I don't have to struggle with the shackles, and the chains, and the sorrows of my sin. Some day he's going to look at me. And when he wipes the tears from my eyes, all I want to hear him say is, "Well done, good and faithful servant".
Which is why, today, you have to make up your mind. Stop looking in a tree filled with temptation and look at a tree filled with salvation where Jesus Christ died that you might live. "Looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father". I say this in closing: do you know what God and Jesus are talking about today? You! The Bible says that Jesus is interceding on your behalf. He's up there whispering in God's ear, I know what he's dealing with. I know how she's struggling. I know what they need. I've been there. I've felt it. And what I believe God wants to hear from you today is not what his son has to say about you, but what you have to say to his son. "Lord Jesus, forgive me. Heal me. Cleanse me. Take this temptation from me that I might be pleasing in your sight".
Can we stand in this place? With every head bowed and every eye closed, you're here today, and you've been honest enough to allow this conversation to have occurred between you and the Holy Spirit. And right now, the Holy Spirit is telling you there are sinful thoughts in your life you've got to confess. There are things that if you don't let me take care of them, they will destroy you. And right here, right now, with one hand raised to heaven, you want to admit that you need the help of the hand of the Son of God to get you delivered from what is causing you temptation, struggle, and trial today. I'm not going to ask you to this altar. I just want you to be honest enough to confess before God, "I need you right now". And now if you believe that Jesus can hear your prayer and do something about it, I want you to raise your other hand next to it. And I want everyone in this room to repeat this prayer with me.
Lord Jesus Christ, today I thank you for the free gift of salvation. I didn't earn it. I didn't deserve it. But I rejoice that you did it and you set me free. Father, I am free from the temptation that used to control me. I am free from the behavior that used to hold me back. I am free from the things that brought me shame, because you have cleansed me with your word. You have washed me in your blood. And I have been made righteous by your hand. Father, today I thank you that when I confess my sin, you are faithful and you are just to forgive me of sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Now today, in Jesus' name, I declare, I am born again. I declare, the old me is gone. I declare that I am a child of God that has victory. Over the world, the flesh, and the devil, in Jesus' name. Amen.