Sunday, April 13, 2008

No Sermons

Over the next five weeks, due to the fact that I'll be using Bill Hybels' "Just Walk Across the Room" to craft my sermons, I will not be publishing sermons to my blog. You'll have to show up to take part!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Playing a Comparison Game

Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”

Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” So the rumor spread among the community of believers that this disciple wouldn’t die. But that isn’t what Jesus said at all. He only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

John 21:20-23

“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Some of you may have noticed that I’m a competitive guy. If you haven’t noticed that yet, I’ll invite you to come with me to play some pick-up soccer with my friends. Then you won’t be able to miss how competitive I am. It’s not just that I hate to lose, which I do, but I hate to not be the best. That competitive spirit has always driven me to do my best – I can remember in practices when the coach would tell us all to “line up!” and everyone would grumble about running sprints… everyone except for me. We had this rule that the first two to finish would be done, but everyone else would have to continue running until there was nobody left. Though I’d be the first one done, I’d ask the coach, “Can I keep running? Just don’t count me as one of the first two.” I’m competitive.

It can be easy to be competitive as a Christian, too. There’s something in us that wants to compete, and it makes us use “us versus them” language.

  • At least I’m not like…
  • At least I’ve never…
  • I know people who… but I’ve never…

Jesus said something to people who fall into this category. In Luke 18:9-14, we read this:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Hey, it’s easy to fall into this trap. You look around and realize that you’re doing better than someone else is. Your marriage is still together. You never had any children out of wedlock. You never did drugs, you don’t smoke, and you’ve never been drunk. You sing passably well, and you pray before most, if not every, meal.

Does that make you any better than anyone else? To you, Jesus says, “If I want to forgive and reach out to the person who has failed in those areas, what is it to you? Follow me.”

On the other hand, at some point in their lives, many ultra-competitive people find themselves not the best at something. Have you ever seen a game where one team is way outclassed and by the fourth quarter, the team that is losing has just stopped trying? They know they can’t win, so they stop trying?

I’ve seen that in Christianity as well. Who here knows how much time John Wesley spent in prayer? He would get something like 4-5 hours of sleep a night and begin the day early, like 4 am, with multiple hours of prayer. How many of us do that? It can be encouraging to hear the stories of heroes of the faith, but it can also be discouraging. It can be paralyzingly discouraging.
In fact, I believe this is one of the reasons why it’s hard to share Jesus with others – we come with the attitude that there’s always someone who could do it better. Someone else has the gift of evangelism. Someone else knows the Bible better. Someone else would know how to answer objections…

If that's where you are, Jesus says to you, “If I want to use a Billy Graham to do marvelous things for My Kingdom, or if your pastor tells people about Jesus, what is it to you? Follow me!”

Lots of people wonder about God’s will for their life. That’s not the hard part. If you read the scriptures, it’s easy to come up with God’s will for your life. Jesus told Peter, “Follow me.” That’s God’s will for your life – that you follow Jesus.

Who shared Jesus Christ with you? Was it Billy Graham? Was it Mother Teresa? Was it one of the great heroes of the faith? Or was it an ordinary person who loved the Lord and shared Him with you?

Christian comparison doesn’t help us. In fact, it often distracts us from the task we’re called to. Jesus had just barely finished reinstating Peter and already he’s distracted. “What’s going to happen with John?” Jesus responded by basically telling Peter, “It’s none of your business. I’ll do with him what I’ll do with him, and I’ll do with you what I’ll do with you.”

That leads me to my last point. One of the characteristics of a small town and a small church is that people know each other's business. The little sign that hangs by the door of Main Street that says, “Nothing much happens in a small town, but what you hear makes up for it” - that's unfortunately true.

Though I will continue to call you to accountability, that's a whole different beast than talking about one another. Gossip and spreading rumors are two of the big sins of a small town.

Everyone wants to know what's happening, and that can be a problem. In this scripture, a rumor started that John would never die, because of what Jesus said. Truth is, all He was saying was “it's none of your business. Your business is following me.”

That's what He's saying to each of us today. Whatever else is going on... your business is following me. Don't compare yourself or your gifts or abilities to other people's. I created you to be you. Follow me.