Read this message transcript from the "The First 5" message series
Matt Sturdevant: Good morning. I'm Matt Sturdevant, I'm the executive pastor here at Hope. And today we're continuing our series, The First Five, where we've been taking a look at these five big components or aspects of walking with Jesus. Last week, we started the journey taking a look at an orientation of what does this new life in Jesus look like? What does it look like when we actually yield our lives to him, we begin walking with him and learning and growing? Today we're going to continue. We're going to take a look at the next component and that is learning.
For us, we live in 2019 and one of the really great things is that if there's something you don't know how to do, what do you do? You can pull out your phone or go to your computer, and you at just a click away can learn just about anything that you want to learn. In fact, take a look at something that I learned this week. How helpful was that? We all know how to make toast now, and it really does make a difference with the butter if you take it out a little before you want to use it, it spreads much easier. You can go to the internet and find just about anything that you want to find. Now granted, some things are more helpful and life changing than others, but there's a lot of information out there.
Another thing, many of you are probably familiar with life hacks. I love this description of it. Life hacks, as they're known, are all about eliminating life's manifold frustrations in simple and deliciously clever ways. The best involved tricks that are free, efficient and stunningly obvious in retrospect, deploying household items for purposes beyond their wildest aspiration. Life hacks can make life simpler, and I want to share just a couple of them that I've found that might be interesting and helpful to you as you begin this new year. So, for those of you who travel, you know the woes when you can't find your bag on the baggage claim. So find something, a big bow, and put it on your bag so you can easily identify it.
Or this next one is particularly helpful for us living here in Texas. It's hot in the summertime, and you get in the car and it's ... what is it? It gets up to 120 something degrees? You can cover the shifter with this simple item here, and then it's not too hot when you get in your car. Another one, this is one of my favorites here. Have you ever tried to put something in the sink that doesn't fit? It says, use a clean dust pan to fill a container that won't fit in the sink. It's like a ready-made faucet extender there with the dust pan turned upside down. And then this last one here, you can use a muffin tin to serve condiments at a barbecue. So there you go. You can make muffins with it, or you can use it as a condiment dispenser later.
Depending on your situation and your goals, life hacks can make life easier. But here's the thing with life hacks, you have to know about them in order to be able to use them. And if you don't know, you can't use. And this is pretty much true about everything in life. If you don't know about it, then you can't do it. You can't benefit from it. You see, one of the realities that we live is that we operate. We are always going to operate out of what we know. That's just the way life works. We try to be successful, we try to live life, we try to solve problems, we try to do it all out of what we know.
In fact, there was a time period where people thought the world was flat. They were operating out of what they know. See, for us the real challenge that we face is we're going to live on this life or on this planet for a certain number of years. We're going to live, we're going to face challenges, we're going to face opportunities, we're going to face problems, and it would really help if we had a better way, if we had the best way possible to face life. And the challenge for us as Christ's followers are to not be flat earth Christians. And what do I mean by that? I mean that we come to Jesus, we're coming out of an old life. There's patterns, there's things that we know how to do. It's just the way we operate. And our challenge is don't be a flat life Christian. Don't go into this new life with all the ways of the old life.
When you become a follower of Jesus Christ, you have new life. Therefore, you've got to learn a new way. The new life requires new ways. Learning is just part of life. You can learn how to make the perfect piece of toast, you can learn how to easily identify your bags at baggage claim, and you can also learn how to live life in the best way possible. One of the most fascinating verses in the Bible to me is Luke 2:52. Luke chapter two begins with the birth of Jesus, and it ends with Jesus 12 years old at the temple. Verse 52 says, "And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in the favor of God and man."
Here we have this picture, this snapshot of this 12 year old young man, Jesus, and we're told that he's growing. He's growing in three ways. He's growing in wisdom, stature and favor. Now, through regular food and water, the stature growth happens pretty naturally for most of us, but the wisdom and the favor part, it takes a little more and it takes some intentionality over time. As we think about learning, I want to give you some big categories to think in as we approach learning. The first one is there's different types of learning. Different types of learning we need to do. We need to learn information. There's some information, some things we got to know. It's the stuff you got to know. It's helpful to know that one plus one equals two. There's lots of helpful information out there. We just need to learn.
But then there's also skills. This is the how do you do? How do you make a piece of toast? How do you do the laundry? How do you ... fill in the blank. Also, a skill is relating with people. Some people have better people skills than others. You ever heard that said? That's a skill we need to learn. Then the third type of learning is character. And character really has to do with the person that we are and the person that we're becoming. We've got information, skills and character. These are things to know, do and become. These are types of learning. Also, there's three primary ways that we tend to learn. Think about it, if you're going to learn something, usually you learn it in one of these three ways.
First is the precept. That is that someone teaches you, or you read and you learn and you load principles. Learning is not all we do on a Sunday, but this is part of what we do on Sundays here at Hope is we learn. The next one is people. People. Having people in our lives, being able to have them as an example. For me personally, some of the most powerful lessons that I have learned is as I have watched people. I've watched them walk through difficult circumstances and do the right thing, and I have learned a ton. This is one of the benefits that we have of being in community and having others around us is we can learn from one another, we can challenge each other in our learning.
And then the third one is pain. We don't like this one so much. We'd like to learn from the first two and not from this last one, but this is one of the ways that we learn. We're going through our own pain, and we learn through the pain of others. If you have ever done something and you said, "I don't ever want to do that again ..." You know what I'm talking about. You learn through some pain. And the degree of the pain will determine ... I really don't want to learn that again. Or Ah, I'd rather not learn that again. So this is why being teachable is so important. If we can watch someone else, we can learn from their life, we can learn from their mistakes, we can learn a lot without having to experience the pain ourselves. So we learn by precept, people and pain.
Now because of sin, we are broken people living in a broken world. There's no such thing as a problem-free, pain-free life. That's just part of what this experience of life is on this planet. However, if we choose to learn and if we choose to grow, we can experience things differently. We can do better than worse. So you have a listening guide there in your program if you want to follow along. Life will go better over time as I learn. First thing, how the living relationship with the Lord works. This is so important. We actually have a living relationship with our Lord, and we've got to learn, how does this work? How does it work moment by moment? How does it work daily, weekly? How does it work throughout the year? How does it work throughout the course of our lifetime?
When we become a follower of Jesus, our life changes in an instant. We become this new creation. But we also begin an unending journey of learning and growing and developing, and we've got to learn how this new life and this new relationship works. Life flows from God to us and as we're learning how this relationship works, there's three big areas that we learn in. We learn about God, who he is, how he thinks, what's important to him, what he does. We learn his ways, his goals, his priorities. We learn about God, but we also, through this process, we learn about people. There's just a basic human nature, and it's important to learn about that. What makes sense to people? Why do people do what they do?
It's important to learn that what we see on the outside is driven by what's going on in the inside. There's things going on in our heart that affect what happens on the outside. And then we've just got to learn about life. There are realistic expectations and unrealistic expectations. And if you go on in life with having unrealistic expectations, you're going to have a very disappointing life. So what can be expected in life? And if there's a better way, maybe even an easier way to do something like a life hack, do it. We want to choose the better way over time because better doesn't always mean easy, but better can mean less pain. And I don't know about you, but I'd like to experience the least amount of pain possible in life.
So over time, we've got to learn how the living relationship with the Lord works. We've also got to learn what's important to God. What's actually important to God. And we talked about know, do and become, and this is one of the big knows. And I mean know with a K. This is a big thing we got to know, what is important to God? Big question out there that everybody wants is, how do I get the good life? And you can watch TV, movies, media and get many different interpretations of this, and what you tend to find are a couple of different streams. One stream on this end says, is that you decide what you want and you go after it and you make it happen. I'm a fan of the Terminator series. Most of the movies, a couple of them, not so much, but the Terminator. And Sarah Connor has this quote is, "Our fate is what we make it." So you go after it and you take it, you make this thing. That's one stream.
The other stream is this familiar theme where you have the Morons, the idiots, the doofuses, and they're feeding off of each other and they're being careless and lazy and just plain stupid. And somehow by this magical, mystical, whatever force, everything turns out great, wonderful, better than they could've ever imagined. You know what I'm talking about? Pick your generation. We see it in the movies. You had The Three Stooges, you've got Bill and Ted, you've got Dumb and Dumber, you got Zoolander, you got Dumb and Dumberer. We see that in the movies, these two ways of how to you get the good life?
Did you actually know though? God thinks very different. God has a very different angle on things. Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." God doesn't think like we think. He doesn't think like an American. He doesn't even think like a Christian. He thinks like God, and we are going to do better over time if we learn more of his thoughts and we learn more of his ways. Over time, we need to be learning what are his thoughts on how marriage works, how family and parenting works? How should I be approaching my job? How should I be approaching decision making and the problems that I'm trying to solve in life?
We've got to learn what God thinks is important. And fortunately for us, we're not just left wandering and saying, "Oh, what does God think is important? If only I knew then I could do it, but I have no idea." No, he's told us. He's given us his word in the Bible. We get to know what's important to God. Micah 68 gives us this 60,000 foot view of what is important and how should we live. It says this, "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" He's given us the Bible, his word, and this is a manual for living. Out of his great kindness and his mercy to us, he's told us what's important. He's told us what to expect. He's told us what to do. God is for us. He loves us, and he's the one who has given us principles and he's given us guidelines. He has shown us how to live this life that he has given us in the world that he has created. He's told us.
This is like how the manufacturers give you the operator manual. I know if I was to go out to all of your cars right now, right there in the glove box, you've got your operator manual for your car. And you're driving along and all of a sudden this funny looking light pops up on the dashboard and you're like, "What does that mean? I wonder what?" So what do you do? You go over, reach the glove box, you find the page and you're like, "Okay, that's the light. Yeah. Oh, I now have insight on what's going wrong and I have a way to start solving it." Some of the things tell you do this. Others may say, "Get to the shop now. The car is going to blow up." God's given us an operator's manual, or another way of that same thing. And this is going to hit home for some of us, especially those of us with children is it's the instruction manual on how to put stuff together.
Well, we just had Christmas a few weeks ago. How many of you put stuff together? How many of you used the instruction manual? One of the things that I have learned over time through pain, just humble myself, just pull out the manual, just read it when it comes to building furniture and toys. One of my life lessons. But when it comes to learning what's important to God, this is one of the roles that Sunday mornings play in the lives of Christ's followers. Our approach to the messages here at Hope, what we're trying to do is we're trying to help you use the Bible for everyday life. We want to help you understand the truth of God's word, the truth that we find in the Bible, but not just the truth to know it. We want to help you know, how do you actually apply it? How do you take that truth, take it into the situation that you're living at home on the job, at school, wherever you are.
How do you translate God's word and God's truth into action, action that helps you live life better? Because we're not just learning to increase our knowledge fund. We're learning so that we can change the way that we live. Again, we all operate out of what we know. So that means we're going to operate of what we know about God, who he is and his ways. And over time as we learn more about him, his thoughts, his ways, we can make better decisions. We can make different decisions. We can move away from being the flat earth Christian stuck in the old ways with the old thoughts. So over time, we need to learn what's important to God.
We need to learn how to solve problems from God's view. Those of us who take God's view, take God's angle and we work to - and it really is work - but we work to using it to solve problems, life will go better over time. Life is always going to have problems. That's just part of living in the world that we live in. But if you can understand the real problem, not the presenting problem, not this thing that's stuck in front of your face and you can't see past it. But if you could understand the real problem, and you're able to deal with the real problem, then you have a better chance of getting through that problem in a more helpful and a more successful way and with hopefully less pain.
And as we turn to God's word, there's two common things that we find from his word. They are understanding and direction. Look at this. "Through your precepts", through the principles, "I get understanding. Therefore, I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." You ever been woken up in the middle of the night and you stumble out of bed and you run into something because the lights are out? You can stumble around in the darkness and run into furniture or anything in your path because you can't see it. But if you turn on the light and you could see, "Oh, there's a chair there. Maybe I should go this way and I won't hurt myself."
God's word is a light to our path. It can illuminate the things in front of us and we can avoid the dangers, we can avoid the problems ahead if we spend time in God's word. A couple of more verses. "The law of the Lord is perfect. It gives new strength." Anybody needs strength? "The commands of the Lord are trustworthy, giving wisdom to those who lack it. The laws of the Lord are right, and those who obey them are happy." Who wants to be happy? "The commands of the Lord are just and give understanding to the mind. Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord." Question for you. How do you solve problems from God's view? You do it a little bit at a time.
You see, problem solving really is a skill. Now, I don't know how you're at at problem solving right now, but it's actually a skill that can be learned and developed over time. And we were talking before about information, skills and character. Problem solving is a skill. We can all learn it. We can get better at it. There are things you learn them, and then you do them, and then you evaluate them, and then you make the adjustments and then you learn more. And you do, and you evaluate, and you adjust and you just repeat. That's part of how life works. The purpose of learning is not just to acquire all of this great information and knowledge and say, "Look at me." The real purpose that we have in learning it so that it can be translated into doing. We learn so that we can do life better.
Pastor Harold came up with a great quote as we were planning this series. I want to give him credit for it. He says, "It's not the amount of information you possess, but it's the information you process." You know some people who know a whole lot of stuff, but they don't do anything with it? And then you know some people you've seen them, they just know a little bit, but man, you spoon out a little bit and they do it? And you spoon out a little bit more and they do it? They're the ones that are actually growing and developing. So, the purpose why we learn, we learn so that we can know better, so that we can live life better, we can follow God more exactly, and then we can help other people do the same. That's why we learn.
A while back, we did a message series called The Dominoes, and we took a look at these big areas of life that when you stack them up, they all fall like dominoes because they have an impact on one another. And you could go to hopechurch.com/dominoes if you want to check out this series. And I point out that page because on that page, there's a chart. And the chart looks like this. I don't expect anybody to be able to read that from where you're sitting. I just want you to see that it exists. And that chart gives you the domino, the area of life. It gives you the guideline in just a few words or a phrase. And then it gives you some key scriptures. And this chart that you'll find on that page, this chart is the big picture view of how do you solve problems from God's angle?
I'm going to give you an example. Let's take relationships, alright? We all have relationships. Some of us have too many, some of us don't have enough. It doesn't matter though how old you are, it doesn't matter if you're a man or a woman, what type of job you have, it doesn't matter your marital status, we all have to deal with people. We all have relationships. I'll tell you what the big problem in all of your relationships is and how to begin to fix it. Are you ready? You are the common denominator in all of your relationships and you're selfish just like I'm selfish and just like the other person in your other relationship is selfish. We're all selfish. This is part of our fallen, sinful nature. But you know what, you can't change the other person, I can't change the other person. The only person we can change is ourselves. We can take responsibility to grow and change for ourselves.
In fact, Jesus tells us how to deal with that selfish problem. In Matthew 7:12 he says, "Do for others what you want them to do for you." This is real simple. It's not easy, but it's simple. Just do for others what you would have them do for you. We commonly refer to this as the golden rule. Later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul takes this further and he says, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interest, but also to the interests of others." In our relationships, if we would take the focus off of ourselves, if we would take the focus off of what we're not getting, that we deserve in that moment and we would put the focus on the other person, that would pretty much solve about the majority of all of our relational conflict.
Think about conflict you've had in your marriage, conflict you've had with your kids, conflict you've had on the job is you got one person who wants something and the other person wants something. How about this, do for others what you want them to do for you. Have you ever wanted somebody just to cut you a break? "I'm tired. You don't know what my home life has been like. I'm tired. I'm exhausted. Just cut me a little break." Well, would you like to be cut a break? That's what we're talking about here. This would solve a lot of the problems if we just solve it from God's angle. It's simple. Not easy, but simple. So, life will go better over time as we learn how the living relationship with the Lord works, as we learn what's important to God and how to solve problems from God's view.
These first couple of points, we've been up here at the atmospheric level, looking at how can we learn and what implication does that have for our lives? What I want to do right now as we wrap up, we're going to take the plane, we're going to land it on the runway, we're going to get out and we're going to say, "How does this practically happen moment by moment, day by day?" Here it is. The only one who can learn for me is me. I'm the only one that can learn for me. And what I've found throughout my life, is it's never convenient. It's always inconvenient. What we would like is to just, "I'm so rested and refreshed. Everything on my life's plate is in perfect order, and I'm now ready to learn and take on a new challenge." That's not how it is. It always comes at an inconvenient time.
What I want to challenge you to do is to take advantage of opportunities to learn this next year. The flat earth Christian problem comes at us in two approaches. The first one is when we're new in our faith, when we yield our lives to Jesus, he becomes our boss. What happens is we fail to really learn what it means to walk with him. We fail to learn what is involved in this new life, and we just never get off to the start that we need to. So we keep thinking the old ways. We keep living the old ways. That's one way that this flat earth Christian comes at us. The second way that that approach comes to us is through a phrase like this, and this is for those that have been maybe walking with Jesus for a while and that phrase is, I got this. I got this.
My three year old daughter, she's learning a lot. She's really curious. You know how kids ask questions about all kinds of things like, why is this and why is that and how does that? It's really cute and it's fun as she asks these questions. What I've noticed is sometimes we'll get about five words into the answer, and then she's like, "Okay, I got it." She don't got it. She wasn't even listening. It's cute and it's funny and it's endearing when my three year old daughter does this. It's not cute or funny when we do this as adults in our approach to learning and our approach to growing with God because at best, we're going to miss something that God has for us. At worst or worser, we're going to damage ourselves or maybe damage some other people.
And sometimes it shows up like, we love to learn. Learning is one of my top five strengths on StrengthFinder. I love to learn, but the danger that I know that I feel in my own life is I fail to prioritize learning the ways of God. That's another way that this thinking shows up. Or we just flat out don't apply what we've learned. We're just acquiring all this knowledge and we know this stuff. And the Bible tells us that knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. So here at Hope throughout this year of 2019, you're going to have a lot of different opportunities to learn. Sunday mornings, that's part of a learning opportunity for you. Groups. We've got our group sign ups happening right now. This is an opportunity to both learn and connect with others while you're learning. We have classes, we have seminars, we talk about the Hope Preview.
If you're here at Hope Church and you have never been to the Hope Preview, I want to invite you to go to the next Hope Preview that's going to happen on the first Sunday in February because there you're going to be able to learn what Hope Church is all about. How you can plug in and be a part of what we're doing. It's an opportunity to learn. Then we're going to have all kinds of other learning opportunities throughout the year. As they come up, take advantage of them. The only one who can learn for me is me. The only one who can learn for you is you. And I'm not talking about that you take and you learn everything perfectly and then you perfectly work it into your life and you're just this perfect person. What I'm talking about is you take what the Lord has shown you and you put it into practice, and you work it, and he'll show you a little bit more.
Again, we learn, we do, we evaluate, we adjust, we repeat. That's what we're talking about. The only one who can learn for me is me. As one of your pastors here at Hope, if I could sit down with each one of you and have coffee and just talk about life and learning and growing with Jesus, here's what I would say to you, "God has given us an incredible resource and an incredible tool. He's given us this gift. The author of life, the creator of the universe has given us the operating manual for life. And he loves you more than you will ever understand and know on this side of eternity, and he wants to have a relationship with you." And one of the primary ways that we can have a relationship with God is through reading our Bible. We read our Bible and we pray and we learn about God. He reveals himself to us. We learn his thoughts, we learn his ways. That's just the way that it works.
And there are two things that have fueled my personal spiritual growth the most in all the years that I've been walking with Jesus. And those two things are, one, is actually reading God's word for myself. I grew up going to church, and I would sit there on Sunday mornings, and I would hear great things that the pastor was saying and then I would go home and I would put the Bible on the shelf, and I wouldn't look at it again until the next Sunday when I'd take it out and I listen to what the pastor was saying and it would go right back on the shelf. I did that for a number of years, but it wasn't until I actually started reading the Bible for myself saying, "What does it say?", And using this as the mirror for my life and saying, "This is what God is saying about who I should be. These are his thoughts, his ways. How are they different from mine?"
Some of that's painful. It's hard. There's change that has to happen. But use God's word to grow you, to change you. So that's the first thing is actually getting in God's word. But the next thing is getting around other people that I can talk with and learn from. And this happens with talking with my leaders, people that are further ahead of me and they can help me understand things that I don't understand. But a lot of it is just sitting around with other people who are at the same place in the journey as me, and we're saying, "Man, I'm married and I got these many kids and I'm dealing with these problems at work right now", and they're like, "Hey, I am too." How do we do what Jesus says to do at our job and in our home? So getting together with other followers of Christ and learning and discussing.
Here's the thing though, is if you're going to read the Bible, if you're actually going to do it, you've got to have a plan. You've got to have a plan to do it. If you've never read the Bible before, I hope I've peaked your interest enough to give it a small chance. I want to encourage you, read three books in the New Testament. You've got some resources listed down there, John, Acts, Romans. Or maybe you want to read James, First Peter and First Thessalonians. Find a really easy, accessible translation to read. Maybe the NIV or the Good News Bible or the Living Bible and just start reading and discovering.
But maybe you've been walking with Jesus for a while and you've read the Bible, but you haven't really established a pattern of it. You've got to have a plan. You can go right now and download the YouVersion Bible App, and here's a picture. This is a screenshot I took from my phone. There are Bible reading plans of just about any kind that you could find. Anything that you would be interested in. They are topical, on marriage, dating, new to faith, working through the Bible. You can find a plan that fits you and works from you. I also found The Navigators have this five by five by five reading plan. You read five minutes a day, five days a week, and you can get through the entire New Testament. Point is find a plan that works for you. Encouragement, wisdom, insight, comfort, understanding. It's all right here. God has given us his word, and I want to invite you to discover it in 2019. Would you join me in prayer?
Father, thank you that you love us. You love us enough that you accept us just as we are. And it's as we yield our lives to you and as we follow you, you give us the help and the power to change. Thank you that you have not left us with the mystery of what's important to you or what you expect from us, but you've given us your word. Thank you that we have it as a light to our feet, a light to guide us. Please father, help us to use this incredible resource, this life giving light that you have given us as your word. In Jesus' name. Amen.