Priscilla Shirer - Remaining in a Leaving Culture
Thank you so much for including me. I am incredibly grateful to be a part, as always, of what Gateway Church is doing. We love and admire and respect your pastors, your leadership team, what God is doing through and in your house is a blessing to us, and we're incredibly grateful. And the fact that God would let me actually partner with you right here at the top of the year, as you dive in deeply to what it means to honor God, that feels like a gift to me to participate. So thank you so much. I'm excited to share God's Word with you. Let's pray together and see what he has to say.
Lord Jesus, I thank you. I honor you Father, because you speak to us through your Word. So I pray Lord that in these next few moments, you would take the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, and make it acceptable to you. In Jesus' mighty name I pray, amen.
It was September 13th of the year 2008, when a category 2 hurricane named Ike caused extensive damage, particularly in Texas. There were one hundred mile per hour winds that seemed to wreak havoc everywhere that the winds blew, devastating everything in its path, particularly in a beachside town called Gilchrist, Texas. In fact, a quick Google search will show you exactly what it is that I'm about to describe. That particular community boasted of about 200 homes, mostly retired couples that had gone there to spend their days in a little bit of peace and a little bit of quiet. And yet all of that was interrupted in 2008, when the storm came. The aftermath was completely devastating.
In fact, people that went to the site in the days after the hurricane only recognized it because of one landmark that remained. Ike had done such damage that of the 200 homes that had existed there previously, only one was left. One hundred and ninety nine of them were decimated. It's actually an odd site, when you do that Google search, to see that one house that is standing up in what now looks like a swamp. It looks like a community didn't even exist there previously because the storm was so devastating. There had been detailed landscaping and green lawns and friendly sidewalks. And now that neighborhood didn't even resemble a neighborhood anymore. One hundred and ninety nine of them gone. Flattened to the ground. Just one house remaining.
When I see that image, when you see that image, you'll realize what a shocking and odd sight it is to just see one house standing in what was a community. And it really will beg a few questions. One of the questions it will beg is what was it about this house that made this house so steady when all the others were flattened by the storm? But honestly, we don't even have to look at a landscape like that to ask that same question. Because when I look at the landscape of my life, and when you look at the landscape of yours, that same question comes up because when we look at the people who were supposed to go the distance with us, when we look at the folks who said that they would have integrity and faithfulness, that they would be steadfast and immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.
And we think of the folks who said they were going to give their all, not just for a year, not just for a decade, not just for a certain season that was convenient to them, but where they were committed to following through on that endeavor or that plan or that commitment and fervor, and their relationship with the Lord. I don't know if you've noticed, but the older and older I get, the more I realize that everybody's house ain't still standing anymore. That it seems like time and time again, I'm seeing people crumble all around me. Marriages fail, people throw in the towel on the dreams that God has given them, folks quitting what they said wasn't a job. They said it was a calling. And yet, the older and older I get, the more I am realizing that everybody's house is not built to last.
I want to encourage you and challenge you about remaining in a leaving culture. When folks are throwing in the towel, when people are giving up, you and I are going to have to make our decision to plant our feet firmly and stay standing. Where are the saints who will remain? Where are the saints who be steadfast, not just when it's easy and convenient, but who will choose to be committed and faithful to God, even when it was difficult, even when the rains open up and the rain, the skies opened up and the rain falls and pelts upon us, when the winds blow at one hundred and ten miles per hour through our marriages, as we're parenting, as we are building businesses that God has put in our hearts to build, as we're moving forward and traversing the terrain of life that he has put in front of us to traverse, as we are faithful to the ministries that he has called us to, when the rain falls will we have houses that are still standing?
I have been more and more impressed by people who were just plain old, flat out faithful. The older I get the less impressed I am with the easily Instagramable, the less impressed I am with the famous or the notable; the more impressed I am with faithfulness and longevity and consistency and integrity, with someone who has traveled a distance, who has weathered some storms and their house is still standing. They may not be famous, but they've remained. They may not be rich, but they've remained. They may not be applauded by the masses, but they've remained. They may not have bestselling books or millions of followers on Facebook, but they ain't concerned with that. They're just trying to be steadfast and immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord.
And right now in a culture where so many people are jumping ship, I'm talking about Christians who have the power of Almighty God living on the inside of them in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, and yet they're continuing to throw in the towel and to give up on following God wholeheartedly when stuff gets tough, when the hurricanes of life come. And by the way, you don't have to go looking for the storms. You just keep on living. The storms, they're going to come and they are going to find you. "In this world, you will have trouble," Jesus said, "but take courage, I've overcome the world," which means your house can still be steady, can still be standing through the course of time. It is to this end that John writes. He wrote to us not only his gospel, but three epistles. First, Second, and Third John. And it's in the first book of John that I want to draw your attention for just a few moments, because he writes all throughout all of his writing actually, he emphasizes this theme of remaining.
The word that he uses most often is abide. To stay, to be steady. That's what the Holy Spirit wants to encourage us about today. Stay. I'm talking to you. The Holy Spirit says remain. In fact, when you are considering throwing in the towel, you're just on the edge, the brink of deciding that you are not going any further if the Holy Spirit doesn't speak to you specifically today and offer you the conviction, the challenge, the encouragement, the supernatural solutions that you need to keep on going, I came to tell you, stay. John, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is going to encourage us in that way. Scholars say the First, Second and Third John really are like a remaining trifecta. They're a staying trio of letters, because over and over and over again, he keeps on emphasizing this principle of being faithful, of having integrity, of being committed, by the Holy Spirit's power, abiding and remaining.
In 1 John 2, I want to read to you verses 12 through 14, and then I'm going to also read to you verse 28. 1 John 2:12 says, "I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake". Verse 13 says, "I'm writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I'm writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father". Verse 14, "I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one". And then verse 28. "Now, little children, abide". There's our word. Remain in him, "...so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming".
John says, when it all boils down to it, the reason why you need to remain, the reason why you need to care about your house and whether or not it is still standing is because Jesus is coming. He says, have no doubt about it, Jesus is coming. And I don't mean in theory, I mean that the sky is going to split and the trump is going to sound and our God is going to descend. We will see him once and for all. And when we see him, he's not going to ask me how many Instagram followers I had. He's not going to ask me how many people bought the book. He's not going to ask me whether or not I was appreciated and applauded by the masses. He is going to ask me first, did I know his Son Jesus? And then he's going to check my life to see if my house is still standing, to see if I was faithful with the time, the talents, and the treasures that he gave me.
John says, be faithful because Jesus is coming, and both of us are going to have to give an account for what it is that we have done with our lives, and the wellbeing of the house, the lives that we have built. John walks us through some details about how we can remain. I love that about John's writing, is that he doesn't just give us an emphasis on a point. Then he takes us through the progression about how that is to happen. He recognizes the fact that there is going to be some stages in our growth and in our development, that remaining over time, over the long haul is going to look different and have different focus and emphasis, trials and struggles in the different stages that we will go through. Some maturity takes place here.
He says in verse 12, that "I'm writing to you, little children". He says, "I'm writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven". He puts us all on the same playing field to begin with. He says, I'm calling you all little children, and here's the reason why, because you all have sins that need to be forgiven. Now here's what you need to know. That phrase "little children" he uses and sprinkles all throughout his writing. He keeps saying it over and over: little children, little children, but in the original language, there are actually two separate words that are rendered the same in English, but they come from two entirely different original words. One, the one he uses in verse 12, has absolutely no connection or no reference at all to age, listen, to maturity level. It is only a term that is used to discuss relationship.
In other words, it doesn't matter whether you're an infant. It doesn't matter whether you're a teenager. It doesn't matter whether you are a seasoned saint. He says, I'm still calling you a little child. And the reason why is because all of us, no matter our success level, no matter our age, no matter how long we've been a part of the family of God, no matter if we're just new to all of this, he says I'm writing to all y'all because all of y'all need a Father. You need your sins to be forgiven. He's pointing out simply a relationship, and he says, I want you to know that we all come to the cross on a level playing field here. We all need the grace of God to be poured out toward us. And we all need to remain connected to a Father if we want any hope of our house being able to stay standing. You're going to need a covering. You're going to need relationship. You're going to need connective ongoing fervent, fervent, connection with the Father if you want any hope of having a house that stands the test of time.
So he says right off the bat, Don't think that this message is for somebody else. This message, he says, is for you. You. We are the little children that he is writing to. He says, you all have sins that need to be forgiven. And he says, now that I've got your attention, I want you to see clearly that no matter what stage of growth you may be in, there is opportunity for you to fully engage and remain and be faithful in that stage. Don't devalue the significance of whatever stage you may be in in your growth, because every one of them carries vital material that is necessary in order for you to have the foundation required to weather the storm in the next season.
So if you abort the process of remaining faithful in the season you are currently in, if you try to get out of it too soon you will not have gleaned everything you need to have some solid concrete, to have some good scaffolding in your house so that it can stand the test of time, and it can stand the weather, the storms that are inevitably going to pelt down upon your life. So he addresses the stages of growth. Did you see them in verses 13 and 14? He says, I'm writing to you, little children. This original word refers to infancy. It's at the bottom of verse 13. In fact, if we, if we backtrack up through verse 13, we'll see all the stages. He says, I'm writing to you in the infancy stage. Then he says, I am writing to you, young men. The word there is adolescents, teenagers. Then he says, I am writing to you, fathers, spiritual parents.
You see, he recognizes the stages of development. He says, if you are an infant, meaning in some area of your life, you are brand new. You just started that job. You just started that business. You just placed faith in Jesus Christ. You're just now figuring out what walking with him looks like. You've just been planted in this new situation in this ministry that God has birthed in your heart, and you've just started putting feet to that dream that God has given you. You just got married. Maybe you just had a child and you've just started this journey of parenting. You have literally just begun. You are in the fledgling stages in some area of your life.
John says, I am writing to you, little children, in that infancy stage of your life. He says, remain there until God releases you. And he says, the reason why I'm writing to you, little children, he's real specific, he says, because you have come to know the Father. He says, here's why I'm writing to you when you're in the infancy stage, because you need to make it your business while you're there to get to know who your daddy is. He says, that's your whole job while you're in the infancy stage. Don't abort this process. Don't try to circumvent it. Don't try to rush through it. Hang there for just a little while, because you got to know, in the infancy stage, who your Father is.
I have three sons. My oldest is 17 now, Six foot two inch giant. And then I have a 15-year-old. He's about the same height, six foot one or so, they both were about size 14 men's shoe. And then my youngest is Jude. He is 11 years old and he's a giant too. He's got, you know, these big feet, size nine or 10 men shoe, and he's standing up almost as tall as me now. I have huge giants in my house. Somebody come help me feed these people. That's my full-time job, is just trying to figure out new ways to cook chicken for dinner all the time to keep these people fed in my house. Several years ago, we took them to South Africa. We knew a year in advance that we were going to have the opportunity to be in ministry in South Africa. And so we planned for it. We prepared for it. We saved up money for it because I wanted to take them. Who knew, you know, if I'll ever have an opportunity ever again, to be able to go to South Africa.
So I thought, man, let's take the boys. At the time, we were homeschooling. So about six weeks before our trip, I planned their education around the fact that they were going to be in Capetown, South Africa. We studied the geography of Capetown. We studied apartheid and Nelson Mandela and the geography of Table Mountain. We looked at books that had animals that were specific and indigenous to that part of the world. And we looked forward, then, to our trip. And I think that when we arrived in South Africa, you know, that they thought they were going to lay around in the hotel and swim in the pool and sleep late every day. I was like mm-mmn. Not today. You're going to get up and we're going to see everything there is to see! Because we didn't just take a short plane ride, we are halfway across the world.
And so don't get it twisted, we're getting ready to milk this for everything that it is worth. And I think they were a little frustrated. Some mornings, they were like, Mom, are you serious? And I was like, Yes, I'm serious. And you're going to like it. You're going to be happy about it. And one day you're going to rise up and call me, Blessed. That's what's going to happen here. You're going to enjoy this. And one morning we did wake up pretty early. It was before the sun even came up because we had to get outside of town to a place where we were going to take a little safari. We got in one of those open Jeeps. There was a learned guide that was in the front and we drove around. He was pointing out animals we'd only seen in books, but then I remember we came upon a herd of zebra.
There was nothing particularly fantastic about the zebra. We've seen zebra before here in the States, so I remember thinking, I hope he moves on really quickly and doesn't spend a lot of time here. But he didn't, he paused and now I'm so glad he did, because he pointed out to us a baby zebra that was in the herd. He said, do you see that little baby right there? This is the first time I have seen that baby zebra back with the herd in quite a while. And he said, the reason why is because the stripes on every single zebra are just as unique as fingerprints of people that are on the planet. He said, you can't really see it with the naked eye, but particularly right here in the middle of the forehead, the configuration of the stripes is completely unique.
So when a baby is first born, for the first week or two, the mom will take that baby aside from all of the other zebras. And for those first few days and weeks of that baby's life, the mother will make sure that she is allowing that baby to zero in on the configuration of stripes that is on her forehead. That way, when she brings that baby back to the fold, the baby will not be confused by all the other stripes that are around him. Never again will he ever doubt the stripes that belong to the one who gave birth to him, who loves him the most. John says, the reason why you need to make sure that you get to know your daddy in the fledgling stage of that area of your life is because there are a whole lot of other imitation stripes out of here. There are a whole lot of other configurations that, if you don't have clarity on the stripes that healed you, cause you know, by his stripes, you are healed.
If you are not clear on the character of who your God is, somebody will play you for the fool. They will take you for a ride. They will try to convince you things about God that are never who he was and never who he says he would become. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is still the same God. And you got to make sure you take time to get to know who your Father is, so that you will never ever be confused, and so that no one will ever, ever deceive you on who your God is. And can I tell you that I am concerned that we have a generation of believers who have grown up too fast. I mean, they just came to know who Jesus was, and now they're already teaching and preaching and doing Bible studies and on Instagram, getting a following and sharing the truths of God, and they don't even know who their daddy is. Don't ignore this part of the process.
In order to have a house that is still standing, you've got to have a firm foundation. You need to know who your Father is. Anybody that has had a child knows that the pediatrician will tell a new mom or dad, listen, be careful not to bounce that baby on his or her legs too quickly because their bones are still soft and still malleable. And if you put too much weight on those bones too soon, then they might be twisted or a little bit shifted or distorted. So that that child walks with an uneven limp for the entirety of his life, simply because there was too much weight put on those legs too soon.
When you're in the fledgling stage of some area of your life, John says, don't grow up too fast. Remain there until God releases you. Just get to know what it is like to hear the voice of your God. Just get to know what it is like to discern the leading of the Holy Spirit through his Word. Get to know what it's like to walk by the rhythms of grace and to heed the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your life. Learn who your Father is, how his character has been displayed throughout the scriptures, so that you will know and recognize the voice of a stranger, and so that you'll have intimate relationship with your God. Because you're going to need it, John says. Because at some point, verse 13, you're going to grow up and become young men.
This is adolescence. This is the teenage phase. He says, you'll know when you're in the teenage phase, verse 13, "I'm writing to you, young men, because," here's why, "you have overcome the evil one". He even reiterate's it in verse 14. He says it again. "I'm writing to you, young men, because you are strong". I mentioned to you those big old boys, I got walking around my house. Well, the thing they do now is walk around with their shirts off. And here's the deal, because they are growing young men, they've got muscles everywhere. I mean, I see all this definition and this tone, their chests are now rounded as they become young men. They've got muscles popping out everywhere.
Now they've been strong for a long time. I mean, it's been several years now that they could pick me up and throw me on the couch and wrestle me and sort of pin me down. I mean, these boys have a lot of strength, but it's just in the past couple of years that I've actually seen all the strength that has been in them begin to take shape on the outside of them. And here's why. Their dad has been real careful about their athletic development. They are athletes, and he's talked to trainers and coaches. He would not let any of those coaches or trainers add resistance to their training when they were younger. They could do pushups. They could do things that just use their body weights, but they couldn't actually use any outside resistance or weight, because he didn't want to put unnecessary weight on them too soon while their bodies were still developing. But when the time was right, in the past two or three years, he allowed the coaches to add resistance. And now that they've added resistance, all of that power that has always been in them, now, I see that power taking shape on the outside of them.
So they're walking around with their shirts off, listen it's just nasty. I tell them, go put a shirt on. Put a shirt on! Because I can just see them becoming young men. I wonder if you're in a season of your life right now, where there is a weight on you that honestly you feel like you can not lift anymore. You feel like it is much more than you are able to handle. Would you know that if the Lord has allowed that weight in your life, don't give up. Don't drop and throw in the towel right now, because that weight that you are lifting by the power of the Holy Spirit, it's putting some muscle on your spiritual bones. It's cementing the scaffolding of your house, so that when the rains fall and the 110 mile per hour winds of life blow, your house can remain standing. The way he does it is by allowing weight in our lives. It puts muscle on us.
Now, all that Holy Spirit power that's on the inside of you. You and I are going to see it taking shape on the outside of us, where other people are going to be able to see the muscle of faith that has been exercised in the gymnasium of difficulty, of trial, of struggle. John says, don't give up. Remain during infancy because infancy is where you will gain intimacy with your Father. But remain through adolescence because adolescence is where you will accrue the power that you need. And he says, the reason why we need you to have some muscle is because verse 13, we need some folks who will graduate to fatherhood, motherhood. He's talking about spiritual parents here. He's saying we need some people who have walked the road with God long enough that they actually have a story to tell.
We need some people who have walked with God long enough that they have a witness, that they can bear witness to who our God is, and about what he can accomplish in the lives of people. He says, we can't come into the house of God and everybody is a millennial. There has to be some people around that actually have a testimony of what their God has done through their life. That they weather the infancy stage, that they walked through the resistance of the adolescent stage. Their house is still standing, and now they can turn around and fling the front doors wide open, and invite somebody younger to come on in and have a seat, so that they can impart to them the wisdom that they have gained through all these years. John says, I'm writing to you fathers. Here's why I'm writing to you, "because you know Him who has been from the beginning".
Now, this is John. The same John from John chapter one verse one that said, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" Y'all, he's talking about Jesus. He says, we need some spiritual parents who can tell us who Jesus is, who can impart to us who Jesus is. In a world that has sought to water down the gospel, and in a culture that is seeking to generalize God, so that he is one of many and not a singular, unmatched entity, without comparison and with no counterparts, we need some spiritual parents who've walked the road long enough, and who have some years underneath their belt, who have tried him, and they've seen for themselves that the one true God still has a specific name, an eternal name, a name they're not afraid to say, a name at which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, his name is Jesus Christ.
They ain't trying to be politically correct. They've walked too long with Jesus for that. They know he is the chief Cornerstone. They know he's the Lily of the Valley. He's the bright morning star. They know he's the one of whom the prophets spoke. He's the one who was born of a virgin. He was the one who laid down his life, who paid the wages for our sin. He's the one who by the power of the Holy Spirit was resurrected from the dead, so that that same power could take up residence on the inside of us. He's the one at whose name demons tremble in heaven and on earth, and he is the one who will return, who will split the sky and come for his beloved. Jesus is coming. John says, we need some people who will tell folks Jesus is coming. John said, we need some spiritual parents.
So I came to encourage you, brothers and sisters, by the mercy of God, Stay here. Remain. Be faithful. We're counting on you. There is a whole generation looking at us, counting on us, being committed and diligent to doing what it is that God has called us to do. Whatever he's called you to do in your marriages, and in your parenting, or in your singleness, in the ministry, in the business that you're building, whatever it is that God has called you to do, do it with all of your might and by his Spirit. Be faithful, have integrity and stay. We need your house still standing. Let me pray for us.
Lord, I thank you that you are coming, and when you come, Lord, we want to have lives that show that our house is still standing. Make us faithful, Father, so that we can hear from you, "Well done". In Jesus' name, amen.