Ben McSpadden: We, like you said, we’ve been looking at a reboot...looking at a reboot in January because this is the time of year where you’re thinking, “How am I going to tackle this year?” and maybe I need to re-look at what I’ve been doing. I may need to re-do some things, and so, we looked foundationally at…on the first week, we looked at how our relationships, no matter what our goals are...our relationships are going to impact them. And so, we looked at that foundational relationship, our relationship with God. We wanted to understand, “Where do we need to approach that? How do we need to refresh that in this new year?” Then last week, we looked at those relationships closest to us--our family and our church family--because our relationships will impact whatever goals we have. And the thing about goals, whatever goals you have for 2020, if they’re worth doing or even if they’re just small goals but they’re important, there’s probably going to be challenges.
Every goal has a challenge to it, or it probably wouldn’t be a goal, like you didn’t set out today to breathe. That wasn’t a goal, unless you have trouble breathing, and you’re like, “It’d be a good day if I could just get a couple of breaths in.” Really when we set goals, we set things that are going to be hard, and there are challenges with them. Think about a goal that you recently set. Have you already faced a challenge with it in January? Maybe you’ve set out a New Year’s resolution, and it’s not February yet folks, so don’t give up! Don’t give up if you’ve already hit a challenge. I looked at...there’s different things that pop up as challenges. Sometimes it’s just...ran out of time...lack of time…or ran out of money...lack of money. Sometimes, one of the things I looked at recently that people were talking about why we often give up on our New Year’s resolutions was lack of motivation. We thought it was a nice idea, but we weren’t motivated enough to actually tackle it.
There’s all kinds of challenges that come up, and we set all kinds of goals. Even as a church, we have an initiative this year, the 4+2+6 Initiative. We want 250 people to commit to inviting at least four people to church and then share the Gospel with at least two people, and then that six is for those of us on staff creating some things to help you be able to invite your friends to. That’s going to be met with challenges. We’re only in January, and you might have already faced some challenges with that. The interesting thing about the Church, though, not just Hope Church, but the church at large and the church historically, is that when we’ve been invited into the things of God, we’ve also been invited into some challenges. When we decide to follow God and we become His adopted children, we begin to adopt His values, His priorities, His ways of life, and we also get pulled into and face-to-face with a challenge.
The interesting thing about the church is our goal is also our challenge. What we’re going to look at today is that embedded in the church’s task is the challenge of global interface. Global Interface--that is both our goal, and it is our challenge. That sounds kind of cool and “techy.” Interface--it’s where two, often independent, unrelated systems come together and communicate and meet each other. I love this picture of global interface. There’s two different people from across the world. There’s all kinds of ways you can connect with people, and you can see all the different ways you can make an impact, a greater impact right where you’re at across the world. I just in this past year have had Google hangouts with people from Thailand, from Germany. I’ve Google hangout with people from Canada and California; there’s all kinds of interfacing and interaction.
We have this tremendous opportunity in our day and age to make an impact and communicate with people across the world and even across the street. You have all these interconnections and this potential to reach, and God calls us to reach out to the world around us. We started this series talking about there’s two operating systems that life offers us. There’s the world’s operating system, which leads to death and disappointment and doesn’t really give us the things we’re longing for. Then, there’s God’s operating system that offers us new, full, meaningful life, and those are the two systems that we have to choose from. God is actually calling us, one, to have His operating system, but then to interface and interact with a very different system, the world’s operating system. That is both our goal, to reach out to the lost world around us, to reach out to people who operate very differently from us.
They have a very different set of priorities; they have a different set of values, a different view on life. They just do life differently, and He’s called us to engage and reach out because we once were part of that operating system. We once were the people who were rebellious against God. We once had a very different view on life, but as we have come to follow Christ, if you’re a Christ-follower, then you know that this is both a goal and a challenge. You can interact with a world that doesn’t share the same values you’ve come to love or the same priorities you’ve come to love. As a follower of Christ this is our goal, yet it is our challenge. Christ wasn’t naive about that, and when He called us to it, He actually warned us that this is going to be a challenge. He says, “Behold, I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
He’s not just this overbearing Master/King who wants to set us up for failure, but He wants us to recognize that man, He’s calling us to something, but there’s going to be a challenge to it. He’s sending us out to help rescue people who are in darkness, to help rescue people who their way of life, their way of living is really self-destructive. We were there once, too, and He’s calling us to help bring other people in. He doesn’t want us to be ignorant of the fact that not everyone that we share this Good News with is going to want to accept it. In fact, sometimes you can use some of the kindest words and be the kindest person and share really good things lovingly towards people, and this might be the reaction you’re met with...something like this...yeah. You were having a great day, and you tried to offer something good. Man! What happened? They’re ready to tear you apart.
We’re not responsible for the results of some of those conversations, but we are responsible for our responses and how we interact with that, how we respond when the world doesn’t want to hear the Good News or when the world reacts in such a way. Even if we face mistreatment, we don’t want to give up. There’s a challenge that we face when we go out into this world, but we don’t want to give up, and we don’t want to repay evil with evil, bite back. The world’s operating system would say that we would be justified if someone started chewing us out that we could chew back. But, Jesus again calls us to a different approach when He calls us to engage the world. He says, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
So, how do you relate and invite others to experience and discover God’s ways without being naive of the troubles that you might face in this very goal, the challenges that are there? Even Paul, an early church leader who went out...he interfaced with all kinds of people, and he had a wide reach for his time. He was met with challenge after challenge and people who did not want to hear the Gospel, and he was mistreated. He’s writing this letter to his protege, the guy he’s training up in the ministry, Timothy. He writes this letter to Timothy, and he’s telling Timothy to come to meet him, but along the way he wants to give him some very practical warnings. He says this; he says, “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message.”
Paul, this great missionary, this great man who went out and interacted with the world and interfaced and wanted to make an impact to go after that mission God had called him to... he was not naive that there was a challenge to be faced. This global interface, this communicating with people who have a very different set of values, is both our goal, and it’s our challenge. So how do we approach this world around us? When you face those situations, that’s when you have to pause and you have to reboot. You don’t want to respond the way that you’ve been responded to, but you want to implement some things. God’s operating system uses this interface process called humility. It uses humility.
Now there is a level of confidence that when we come and realize the Truth that has set us free there’s confidence there. We are grateful, and as followers of Christ, we know this Good News is life-changing. We know that we were once far from God; we, ourselves, were rebellious. We deserved eternal punishment; we call that Hell. We knew we were destined for Hell; we knew we deserved it. We didn’t deserve God’s kindness, and yet, God sent His Only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world and died on the cross, faced the punishment that we deserved that we could be forgiven, that we could be made right with God. This is Good News! This is the Gospel; this is the Good News of Jesus Christ, and we are so grateful for it. We know, those of us who have chosen to follow personally have experienced. One, we’ve personally known our own sin and our own rebellion, but we’ve personally experienced God’s forgiveness and the life change that He offers. We want to share this with the world around us out of gratitude.
So there is this confidence in the Truth, but we also don’t want to get that and develop that into arrogance towards those who haven’t heard or who haven’t chosen yet, who don’t get it yet, because we were once there. We have confidence in the Truth that we’ve been given, but there is a humility in the fact that we don’t deserve it. There’s humility in the fact that we, too, were once apart from God, yet confident that our destination has changed. Our outcome will be different; it will be a true, meaningful life. This is why the Bible says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” There’s this sense of humility, and humility is consideration for others before it’s concern for yourself.
Humility...the people who would have heard this passage would have been in the Greek world, and in the Greek mindset, humility was not a thing to be valued or upheld. These guys really valued being free, and they thought humility was something that had to do with slavery and servitude. No free man should submit to anyone. They’d get along really great with Americans, right? We love our freedoms, right? But it’s not just a Greek thing or American thing, it’s a human heart condition. Because Satan, the great enemy of God who rebelled against God, was very arrogant, and he tempted us early on. With Adam and Eve, he tempted them and said, “You can be like God if you’ll eat of this fruit.” Arrogance began to get into our hearts, and we rebelled against God. We thought that we knew better than God. God knew that was a dangerous game to play because we’re not on equal footing with Him, yet He values us and He loves us.
Arrogance is very close to the human heart no matter what culture we come from or what time in history we are. Arrogance is close to our heart, which makes humility really something hard to swallow. Humility is not where we’re just doormats or where we’re “Woe is me! I’m not that great. I’m not that valuable.” It’s not that at all. You’re very valuable; you’re created by God. You’re very valuable, but there is this restraint in humility that considers others even in the midst of our capabilities. Here’s a picture of humility. This massive dog could take this kid on a wild ride. You can even see he has some interest off the path, but he’s a gentle giant. Right? He’s being careful with the child attached to the leash. Even though it seems the child should be walking the dog, that dog could take him anywhere he wants to. But, there’s this sense of he’s restraining himself.
Take a look at this picture of a dad with a daughter--great picture of humility. That daughter really couldn’t overpower that dad. I don’t think I could overpower that dad, but he’s deferring to her. Not out of lack of ability or resource, but there’s something going on, something else going on. There’s a relationship there. Humility is not a lack of strength or giving in because there’s no way you could conquer. Humility is a consideration for others, putting others first. When it comes to this idea of global interface and interacting with the world around us we have to be considerate of how we approach the world. Not because maybe we’re wrong or because God couldn’t rescue us from the clutches of evil or that we have to give in to the world’s ways because that’s just how life is… No, there’s a consideration as we approach the world in humility that while we were still enemies of God He did for us what we couldn’t do. While we were still enemies of God, He was still patient with us, helping us to understand His Truth.
Sometimes we get into arrogance because we have this truth, we realize it, and there’s other people around us who haven’t got it yet. Or, we still have questions, and it gets frustrating. We can grow arrogant, but God is calling us to reboot, to have a different approach to the world around us. I was encouraged this week by a quote from Hudson Taylor. He was a missionary to China, and he says this: “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” God’s work is this idea that we are to engage the world and proclaim His Good News to the world around us but in God’s way, in humility. When Jesus came, He was...He’s part...He was God, and He came down, and He became a man. Fully God and then He became fully man. He took on the form of a servant, and He died on a cross. He set the pace for us in humility, and He did that to engage the world around Him. We’re to do the same, and God supplies us with opportunities. He supplies us with relationships, so as we do God’s work in God’s ways, He will supply. We don’t need to worry about the results. We leave that up to God; He supplies.
As we get into this endeavor, we have to trust God’s provision, but there’s also this soberness that we have to recognize. The Bible says, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” We all have different roles in this endeavor of engaging the world around us. We all have different roles in the task that God has called the church to do. Yet, we have to approach it in faith that God supplies. We can’t get into arrogance, comparing ourselves to other followers of Christ or comparing ourselves to the lost world.
Jesus warned some people early on in the story about this very thing of being humble, and we call it a parable. This is what the Bible says; it says, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: ‘Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
If we’re not careful, we’ll get into praying about people and not praying for people. God’s called us to pray for people. The Pharisee got into praying about “I’m glad I’m not like that other guy. I’m glad I’m good. Thank you, Lord, for making me good. I’m glad I’m not like those other people.” We love to talk about politics, but we rarely pray for our politicians who need it. We love to talk about the woes of the world, and we don’t pray for those who are in hurting, desperate situations that are in darkness that need to know the Truth. The humility helps us have a reboot and rethink what are we doing here and what are we talking about when we should be praying for. We go after this global interface, and you might meet people with a different operating system. You will, and they won’t have adopted this idea of humility. That means you’re going to go into situations where there’s arrogant people, and we don’t need to respond with arrogance. We don’t need to get into that ourselves. We need to do it in God’s ways. We must recognize before God that we, too...we’ve failed; we’ve been a part of that rebellious bunch who didn’t want to follow God. We need to have compassion on them and in humility approach them.
This week, or actually it was last week, we do the whole “order your groceries online and then you drive up to the store and somebody comes out of the building and puts it in the back of your trunk.” It’s great because you’re not taking all of these kids into the store and the “I want this!” and the “I want that!” Just do it all online, but you still get to engage the person at the pickup window. We’ve done this several times, so I’ve gotten to know one of the guys. We get each other; we’re about the same age. We have this understanding, and over a few conversations, two minutes at a time because he’s got to get back to work… Just through those conversations, he’s known he’s not a follower of Christ. I’ve thrown out some spiritual potato chips just to see how hungry he is. This last time he said something about the “Good Ol’ Days.” I said, “Oh, the Good Ol’ Days, they’re not behind us; they’re ahead of us if we know where we’re going after we die.” I wanted to see how he would respond to that, and it was a positive thing. There’s this back and forth, and you’re trying to figure it out.
We have that 4+2+6 thing, so here’s an opportunity. I didn’t quite get to a full presentation of the Gospel. I got to a 0.5, but the point was I was trying to engage him and see “Is he hungry for Truth?” It seemed like he’s considering it. We’re having this conversation, and it kind of goes all over the place with a quick little conversation. Near the end we’re wrapping up and he goes, “If this country…” He got into politics; he said, “If this country ever goes down, I’m moving to Europe because they’re more liberal.” I thought, “Well, that’s kind of interesting.” I’ve been to Europe, and I think we have more freedoms here. And that’s what he meant, right? Liberal means “freedoms or free.” Liberty is this idea of free. So I’m driving home and I’m talking to God about this, and God is like, “You know, Ben, he is looking for freedom. He is hurting; he just doesn’t know where it is.” I was praying to God, “God, help him come to know You.” It doesn’t matter what country we live in, our true freedom will be found in Jesus Christ. I’m praying this for him; I’m praying for him and not about him. We’re having this… And I’m praying, “God, would You help me have another opportunity to share a little bit more Truth the next time I run into this guy.”
There was this moment where we had different ideas about all kinds of stuff, but there’s a humility; there’s this good-naturedness in the conversation, and when I walk away, I need to pray for because I, too, was rebellious. I realized I want freedoms. I want liberties. We all want that; it’s our human nature. We want to not be restricted, and this is what this guy wanted but I also knew he was hurting. So as we get into this global interface and we have these conversations with people along the way, we need to make sure we still stay anchored in Truth but we also stay anchored in love. Those are intentions. Here’s a troubleshoot tip for you as you’re interfacing with different operating systems, with a world that really has a different view on things. Troubleshooting tip: Treat others with justice and mercy. Treat others with justice and mercy.
Justice and mercy go hand in hand; they’re not opposed. Thomas Aquinas was an 11th century priest and scholar, very influential on philosophy and theology. He had this to say; he said, “Mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.” Another influential thinker, C.S. Lewis, throughout the first half of the 20th century, taught at Oxford and Cambridge; he said, “Mercy detached from justice grows unmerciful.” If everything was permitted and there were no boundaries, we would walk all over each other. When justice and mercy are together and they are for us, we’re for them. But when they’re not for us and they work for our disadvantage, we’re not really crazy about one of the concepts. Just think about traffic violations. When that guy flies past you and almost runs you off the side of the road, you’re so grateful when they get pulled over by the police, and they get a ticket. Justice served; you appreciate that. But you love it when you’re a little bit late for something and you’re going a little too fast, you get pulled over, and they just give you a warning. Mercy--you appreciate that. You flip those, and you get the ticket while the other guy gets off the hook, and you don’t like them so much. Right? Justice and mercy--we like them; we don’t like them. It just depends on if they work in our favor.
God in His greatness knows how to balance those two and implement them every time. He is righteous and just, but He’s also merciful. He doesn’t exact all the judgment that we deserve. He’s patient; He gives us opportunities for us to turn to Him. Christ dying on the cross for us factors into God’s mercy, but because of this He wants us to imitate Him in all of these things. The Bible says this, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” God wants us to be kind but also preserve what is right. Sometimes there are people who are going to take advantage of that kindness that Jesus teaches because they don’t have the Jesus operating system. They have a system that is very self-focused, and they’re glad to run over people who are vulnerable because they are humble or kind. And, they’re glad to take advantage of that.
I love this meme. This meme: The sense of entitlement is strong with this one. I love that. Right? You run into that sometimes, people who feel very entitled, and they’re ready to run over you. I remember… Have you ever been cussed out in a language you didn’t understand? I have; it’s very interesting, very interesting. It was wrapped in this idea of entitlement. Before I worked at Hope, I resettled refugees, and that means we help people come into the country, get them established, get them jobs, get them housing, and we do a lot. As we get them established, we get them self-sufficient. Then, we move on to the next one. I remember this lady coming into the office, and she was pretty upset and desperate. We had worked with her several months before. We actually had gotten her a couple of jobs because she had lost some. She was kind of squandering things that we had helped her with.
We actually had a new batch of refugees that we were working with, and she comes in. And, she’s asking for some more help. I told her what we could do and what we couldn’t do, and I have a translator this whole time working through this. When I told her what we couldn’t do, she got really animated, and she said lots of things. Talk about global in-your-face, that was the global interface. It was just right there. I said, “Abdul, what’d she say?” He said, “Well, you know, she’s just saying could she have some more money.” And I said, “Really? It sounded like she said a lot more than that.” He said, “Well...yeah…” I said, “Can you not tell me? You understand it; you just won’t say?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “She’s cussing me out, isn’t she?” (Abdul) “Yes, sir.” I mean, he was really respectful. I said, “Oh, okay. Tell her here’s what we can do, and here’s what we can’t do.”
In that moment, the world would have justified me in responding in some mean, vindictive way, but that wouldn’t show mercy. So I still had to uphold justice; there still were things I couldn’t do for her because it would have been inappropriate. It would have been enabling; it would not have helped her in the long run. There were things that we had to do, but I could still offer mercy in my responses and what we could do to help her. It’s hard getting cussed out in a language you don’t understand. It’s great when you have a translator who doesn’t tell you everything. If you’ve been cussed out in your own language, that might be harder. Right? I’ve had that happen to me when I’m trying to do the right thing. I’ve never had someone actually threaten my life for doing the right thing and wanted to return evil for the good I’d done.
But, that has happened in God’s people in history, and we have a story of that. The first king, Saul, of God’s people, the Israelites… When they started the nation, they had their first king, Saul, and he was appointed by God. He had a special position, but he kind of got arrogant. He began to rebel against God, so God said, “The kingdom is not going to follow in your line. Your sons will not become king. I’ve appointed somebody else.” It was known that it was going to be David, one of his (Saul’s) loyal followers and soldiers. So it’s a known thing, and now David’s got his life threatened. David hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s only been helping, but David knows that this is a problem so David flees. He leaves town, finds a couple of strongholds...a couple of places where he can hide and be safe. But Saul is constantly looking for him, so David and his men are moving around in the wilderness.
At one point, they move into this cave, and Saul’s on the hunt looking for him. At one point, Saul’s got to take a pit stop. He’s got to have a potty break, and so he goes into this cave. It’s the same cave that David and his men are in; he’s very vulnerable at this point. He doesn’t know that they’re in there, and David’s men see this as an opportunity. This is...God’s put him in your hands! You can take him out. He’s been unjustly seeking after your life. You have an opportunity to take him out, and David cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe. But, he won’t actually kill him. Even in that moment of trying to cut his robe, he’s going to show evidence that I had you in a very good spot to take you out, and I didn’t. He felt kind of bad about that because he didn’t want to lift his hand against God’s anointed person who had a special role.
So what we see is, Saul leaves; he still doesn’t know what’s happened. Then, David comes out shortly after, and this is what he says to Saul. He says, “Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’” The world’s ways were David should buy up the opportunity and take this guy out, but David recognized Saul as God’s anointed. He had a special place; Saul wasn’t obedient. He was rebellious, but it was still a position that David respected and honored. Then Saul replied. Once he realized what David had done, he says to David, “You’re more righteous than I. For you have repaid me good whereas I have repaid you evil.”
Then later he says to David, “Please don’t mistreat my family when I’m gone.” David says, “I won’t.” Then it says this near the end of that section; it says this, “And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold.” Saul went back to the city. David practiced mercy, but he wasn’t naive about the situation. Saul was still a dangerous person for David to be around, so he stayed in the stronghold. He went back to his hiding spot that Saul didn’t know about. It wasn’t back in the cave. It was somewhere else. Saul went back home; David showed mercy, but he wasn’t naive.
We need to do right by people and honor God. One of our values at Hope is to love people wisely, but this takes humility. It takes an understanding of what is right, what’s just; but also an understanding, a discernment of when to apply and how to apply mercy. We’ve been forgiven much, and therefore, we need to offer forgiveness to those around us when they don’t do right toward us. We interface with a world that is on a different operating system, and we have an opportunity to rescue. We have an opportunity to encourage them to know the things of God. How can you humbly approach a situation this week and offer Truth wrapped in love?
We have this 2+4+6 initiative. Your opportunities for doing some of those things are different from my opportunities. I may shop at a different place than you do. You may have a different grocery guy. You might have a different path that you run, but you’re going to have opportunities. Wherever God places us, how can we humbly trust God to respond and engage in a world that we know is also challenging? That also may not want to hear it. How can we be faithful in those situations. A world that’s operating on a very self-destructive path… We were there. We have compassion for that. We know that we don’t deserve what we have, but God in His kindness has given us His Truth. We don’t look down on them, but we do look up to God and ask for His help on how to engage this world and offer mercy and Truth.
I’m going to ask the band to come up as we sing our last song, but as they’re coming up and they’re getting their instruments ready, I want you to consider something. Where this week do you have an opportunity to approach the world around you in humility? Where’s an opportunity where you can practice considering others, particularly those who don’t follow Christ? How can you put their interests above your own? Where can you uphold something that's right and just, and where can you offer mercy? I’d say out of those three things, probably one of the ones that’s easiest often is to do the right thing because we’re big on that. Right? If we’re followers of Christ, we want to do the right thing. Sometimes, humility is so close to our hearts, this arrogance thing, it’s hard to be humble. But we know that we can do right, and if we’re right, to do right is easy. The challenge is can we offer mercy when we do that right thing. Can we mix it with mercy? Can we attach it and offer mercy to those around us? Let’s pray.
Lord, we are grateful. We are grateful that You’ve given us a new way to live, and You call us to something that’s both meaningful, purposeful, life-changing, but there’s a challenge with it. Help us to engage the world around us the way that Christ did in humility, not compromising on Truth, still being just, but being merciful as we do it, begin pointing people to life change…that they would discover and experience who you are. We pray for the salvation of our friends, of our family, of our co-workers, of those that we interact with in the community who don’t know You, Father, because You see Your creation. You called it good. They’re precious in Your sight, and we don't’ deserve the goodness You’ve given us and yet You forgive us. Now, You’re calling us to share that with others, so we just pray that You would draw people to Yourself, that You would use us in the process to help them understand Your love and Your Truth and that they would turn and follow You. We pray for the salvation of our friends and family, and we ask these things in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.