Ben McSpadden: Well, I had an experience with a printer this week that I wanted to reboot, so you may have had those experiences, too. We’ll get to that a little bit later, but you know, relationships really do impact our goals as we look at 2020. We want to look at how we’re approaching them because they’re going to impact whatever goals we set out. So last week, we looked at the foundational relationship, our relationship with God, because out of that flows how we relate with others. That impacts all of our goals, so we looked at...we need to be on Jesus’ operating system. He’s not just an app or an add-on, but He is the foundational thing in how we live our lives. So today, I want to look at our relationships that are really close to us. Typically, that is our family relationships, and in some cases, that’s even our church family relationships because these are the folks that often share the same values you do, and we’re going after a lot of the same things. But even then, sometimes, you really want to reboot somebody.
And that isn’t...if you’re in that situation, I want to encourage you, “Don’t do that.” If you’re in that situation and you feel like you really want to reboot somebody, that’s probably a good indicator that you need to reboot yourself. We need to look at how we can reboot and re-look at how we’re going to approach those closest to us. When you do a reboot, there’s usually...there’s some essential downloads that have to happen...some essential downloads. I want to look at one of those today, and it’s one that’s pretty obvious when I say it. When I tell you what that word is, it’s going to be like, “Yeah, that’s so obvious,” and yet, many times we just gloss over it. We assume that it’s happening. Sometimes that’s what happens in our reboot process is we’re assuming things are happening. Certain downloads aren’t happening, so we continue to have trouble with our stuff. So, I really want us to take a look at this essential, foundational thing because it is so key to us being successful in how we approach others.
It’s naturally a hard thing to do this thing that I’m going to tell you about. This is why we need Christ in our lives. That’s why we looked at relating to Him last week because it is so important for us to have a relationship with Him. If we don’t have that, we cannot effectively get this download going. If we switch operating life from the world’s ways and we really do choose the Jesus operating system, this is one of the first things you need to download, and that is love. I told you it was obvious; it’s an obvious thing. We need to love one another, but it is essential. It’s essential; it’s a characteristic of who God is. He’s the Source of it, and therefore, He calls us to also be loving as we are His children if we follow Him.
One of the passages we looked at last week kind of hits on that thing about how we’re connected to Jesus and how as we do that it impacts our lives. It says...Jesus was saying to His disciples, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” I remember as a kid learning something about this whole branches and vines and abiding. I remember staying for weeks at a time with my dad’s parents, my grandparents. I remember we’d spend like a week at a time in the summertime, and I don’t remember exactly when, but I do remember waking up not to the smell of Mamaw’s cooking though she had great cooking...best chicken and dumplings you can imagine. I remember waking up to the sound of Papaw’s shotgun. That’s what I remember waking up.
They lived on a small, five-acre plot in Oklahoma out in the country, and they had a small, peach orchard. I remember waking up hearing the sound of his shotgun because he was chasing off the birds that were trying to attack or eat the peach trees that he had planted. So, I learned some very basic things about plants through that experience. You could walk up on a peach orchard...a peach tree that looks like this, and you see that there’s fruit on the branch. And, there’s fruit on the ground. Very quickly, very obviously, I learned the fruit that’s on the branch is in a better place than the fruit on the ground because even if fruit looks like a similar color that’s on the ground...it looks like the same color of that on the branch. If you got close and you started to pick it up, depending on how long it had been disconnected from the branch, it would already begin to rot. It would already begin to be something you would not want to eat. I learned quickly that for the fruit to really be doing well, it needed to stay connected or remain, or in this sense, abide, in the branch.
That’s what Jesus is getting at when He’s talking about abiding in Him. We need to remain in Him because we need to stay connected to Him. He’s the Source of our life; He’s the Source of how we can bear fruit that we can bear. When Jesus says that we need to abide in Him, we need to remain in Him. What does that look like? I have that question there on your handout. How do I know if the download of love is successful, if it’s really working properly? The question I ask is, “Am I abiding?” But what does that look like? Now, that verse that we’re looking at is in the Gospel of John. What God did throughout history is He worked through men to speak HIs words and to write down what He wanted to communicate to humanity. We have four Gospels in the Bible; those are the four accounts of Jesus’ life, and John wrote one of them. God spoke through the apostle John, one of the early church leaders and spoke through him and had us learn about...we need to abide in Christ.
Well, sometimes that’s kind of hard to understand. In God’s wisdom, He also had John write a few other letters a little bit later to clarify what He was talking about in his Gospel. We call these the Letters of John. We call them 1 John, 2 John, 3 John. In 1 John, we’re going to get a little bit more clarity as to what it looks like or what it means to abide in Christ. He says this, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” ...or remains in death. Last week, we talked about two operating systems. We talked about the world’s ways, which lead towards death, and then there’s God’s way, which leads toward life. John is saying here we know that we’ve passed out of death to life...out of one way of living to a new way of living because we love the brothers. That’s an indicator for us as we are loving the brothers, if we are loving God’s household. But if we do not love, we’re still operating by the world’s operating system.
John goes on further, and he says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Again if we’re abiding, if we’re remaining on that vine, the vine of Christ, then we love because love is from God. He is our Source. The challenge of talking about the things of God is you can’t always exactly see them physically, and John acknowledges this. He says, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” We haven’t seen God; this is something we can’t see, and yet, we can tell if we’re abiding and remaining connected to Him and He’s connected to us if we love one another. It says, “His love is perfected in us.” When the Bible talks about the word, perfect, it means “being complete, being fulfilled, coming to completion.” There’s this process here; he says His love is being perfected in us..
Now, God is perfect; He’s complete, fulfilled part from anything that we are or that we can do. Yet in His divine, perfect will and wisdom, He’s bringing us into something, and He’s giving us love, and yet we don’t do it perfectly. It has to come to a completion; there is a process. He gives us His love, but it is not fully perfect. The fruit is just beginning to bud on the branch when we come to Jesus, but it’s not full. It’s not fulfilled; it’s not complete. We don’t do it perfectly when we start to follow Jesus, but it says it’s perfected when we love one another. I think that’s interesting because it’s not that it’s perfected when God shows His love for us and then we repent of our sins and we turn. We thank Him, and then we sing praises to Him. That’s part of it, but it is fulfilled; it is completed as we, not just as we love Him, but as we love one another. He intended all along that our relationship with Him would impact our relationship and His love would be complete...completed in us, perfected in us, as we love one another.
I don’t get it right all the time. I’m constantly developing and working on loving those around me, especially those closest to me. But this is all possible as I remain or I abide in Christ. As I love other people, this is evidence that the love download is working; it’s being successful. John goes on to say, “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Now when I first read this many years ago, that was pretty significant because I knew there were a lot of relationships I had that weren’t right. It’s saying that if I say I love God but I hate my brother, I’m a liar. I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty harsh!” And yet, God is saying that His intention in giving us love is to be perfected as we love one another.
We can’t do it on our own. It says we love because He first loved us. Again, He is the Source; He’s the Author, the Perfecter of our faith, the Author and Perfecter of how we can love. It’s a gift; God gives us a gift. A lot like the picture here, you see these hands; they’re holding this gift. It’s hard to tell from this picture...are these hands receiving? Are they getting a gift? Or, are they giving a gift? There’s an important distinction here. Often when we get God’s love, we receive it, but He intended for us to also give it. It’s fulfilled when we give the gift. It’s an important distinction because our definition of love, our concept of love is often corrupted by the world’s way of thinking, the world’s operating system. Love often means “what can I get out of it?” I fall in love, or I’m looking for love; and it has to do with my feelings and how I’m being impacted and what I can get out of a relationship. And yet, the Bible’s concept of love really is others-oriented. It’s not self-focused. It’s this idea of “what can we give to others?”.
The Bible’s idea of love is more about giving than getting. When we think of love and how that practically shows up in our lives, we need to ask ourselves, “Where can I give?” Where can I give? Family is one of those key areas where we may not be actually asking the question, but subconsciously, we’re like, “What can I get out of this moment, or what can I give in this moment?” There’s a passage of Scripture that summarizes how we should be relating in our family because it’s these places where we have opportunity to relate to others, and we can either ask, “What can I get?” or “What can I give?”.
This is what the passage says to the family; it says, “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise…’” And the promise was... “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This is a very interesting passage because everybody has a responsibility, and it’s in relation to someone else. If we’re not careful, we’ll read through the passage, and we’ll see what we can get out of the family relationships. Right?
If you’re a guy and you’re a husband, you can say, “Well, the passage there says that my wife’s supposed to respect me.” This is what I can get out of this passage. Or if I’m a dad, my kids are supposed to honor me and obey me. But, that’s not how it’s worded; it’s saying, “Fathers, you deserve respect. Husbands, you deserve respect.” When it addresses your role, whatever your role is, it’s telling you something you need to give. You need to give, but sometimes we get into the world’s way of thinking, and we’re asking, “What can I get out of this situation? What do I deserve in the family relationship?” But, we want to strengthen one another. That’s one of the themes this year that we want to do is to strengthen families. So, we’re going to do another series on family. There’s some other things happening this spring, but thinking about it from a reboot perspective, a refresh, thinking through our relationships. If you’re a husband, where can you give in relationship to your wife? It says that husbands, you’re to love your wives, so where can you give? Where can you give love to her?
Fathers, where in your relationship can you give to your kids? It doesn’t say, “Give them a hard time,” but it says, “Do not provoke your child to anger but bring them up in discipline.” To give them discipline and instruction… Wives, where can you give in relationship to your husband? It’s asking you and telling you to respect him, so where can you give the respect? Mothers, where can you give in relationship to your children? Children, where can you give in relationship to your parents? Now, we have some kids in the audience, but we all, at one point, have been a child. Some of us, even though we’re grown, my parents are still alive. In fact, my mom’s mom is still alive, so I have a grandparent, and I have parents. I have in-laws. I’m not a child in the sense that I’m a grown man; I have my own family, but there’s still opportunity for me to give honor and respect to my parents and my grandparent and to my in-laws. There’s still a place for me; it just looks different than when I was a kid under their authority in their house. There’s still an opportunity, even now, to give honor. Where can we give? As children, where can we give in our relationships or to our brothers and our sisters?
My wife recently told me about a situation we affectionately call a “bubble-burster.” She had this concept, and she had this… you can kind of imagine the concept wrapped in this bubble. It’s a very fragile thing that we want to implement in our house with our kids. And as she begins to implement it, things begin to rapidly unwind, and you could just see the little guys.. Pop! Bubble burst; it’s not working like we thought. She had this plan where she would teach them something and involve the older kids, and they’re going to help out. They’re behind it, and then, the little guys...they didn’t get the memo. They didn’t know that they were supposed to help keep that bubble safely intact. I’m sure that you’ve never experienced that, if you have young kids. Right? Then things go, and then, Pop! The idea that you had isn’t working, and not only is it not working, you have little guys that aren’t getting what they want. So, they’re giving hassle to the older kids who were wanting to help, but now they don’t believe this is going to work because they’re being given a hard time by the younger ones. It’s just, kind of, mayhem.
It seems kind of harmless; you had good intentions, but somewhere along the way, somebody didn’t get what they wanted, and then, Pop! This is a very harmless looking bubble burst, but oftentimes, it’s more like a lava bubble that bursts. Right? It’s really bad, and it’s a mess. There’s this landslide of destruction, and we can’t pinpoint it just to like little guys, little toddlers who aren’t mature enough. This happens on an adult level; we call this family vacation. Right? Everybody has goals; everybody’s for it. They have this concept of “Yeah, this is going to be great!” Except, Dad has a goal; mom has a goal. Kids have a goal; brother has a goal. Sister has a goal, and we don’t realize that some of those goals don’t really work out or are compatible with each other, always. So, we begin to implement family vacation, and somewhere along the way, the tensions rise because the goals are in tension with each other. Then, Pop! Bubble burster...and if you’re not careful...lava. This is where you want to push “pause.” You want to push pause and go “What are we downloading here? What have we downloaded? How can we download love in this moment?” Because, we’re ready to reboot somebody, and that’s not good. That’s not good.
My giving, though, in that moment, I can ask… rather than asking, “What can people do so that I can get my goal accomplished?” I can ask, “What can I give in this moment? How can I be a help?” My giving, my approach to those relationships, that’s an indicator that I’m still plugged into the Source, God, who helps me love and be others-oriented in those situations. So when you find yourself where a bubble is about to burst relationally, here’s a troubleshoot tip. Help others. Help others because love is others-focused. We see this concept again and again, and Jesus, He set pace for us. It says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So the One that we follow, Jesus Christ, He sets the pace...even He served.
So when you look to help others, you can ask yourself, “Where can I serve? Where can I serve?” In family life, there is ample opportunity to serve because there are basic tasks that every family has to get done...washing dishes, mowing the lawn, cooking the meals, doing the laundry, doing the checkbook, paying the bills...all those things. Every family is different; maybe you’re a match made in heaven, and you love to do the dishes, but your spouse loves to do the laundry. And, everything is covered. That’s great if that’s you; I think I have pinpointed in my family where some of us like to do certain things, but there’s one thing that nobody likes to do. I think that you probably have that, too. If you have to think, you don’t have to think really hard, but maybe you do. In our family, it’s the dishes. Nobody really wants to do the dishes. Now, we cut down on the debating and who’s going to do what because we have a schedule, and that helps with decision making. We rotate it, but nobody wants to do that.
There are those moments where I can still get alongside somebody even if it’s not my turn to do the dishes. I can get alongside, every now and then when I have the time, and I can do that. I can help, and I can be a help. I can serve in that way. Now, I can use the excuse, “Hey, I’ve been working all day, all week. I need a break.” I can walk into the situation going, “What can I get out of this? What can I get out of being at home?” But you know, the truth is everyone’s been doing something all day. Everybody’s been working in their own way. So instead of asking, “What can I get out of this?”, is “Where can I give? Where can I serve?” Jesus didn’t just stay up in heaven and go, “Being the Son of God, I’m pretty busy, so I don’t have time to do some things. I don’t have time to deal with people.” He could’ve said, “Well, I know I at least need to die on the cross to fulfill God’s plan, but when I come down to earth I don’t have time to heal the sick and cause the blind man to see or even wash the disciples’ feet. I don’t have time for that.” No, He didn’t do that. In fact, He did all of those things knowing He was going to the cross, knowing He had a significant role. Yet, He took time, even in what we would think of as insignificant, and He did those, and He served because He came to serve. He leaned into that to set pace for us that we would serve.
When you ask the question of those closest to you, “Where can I serve?”, you probably already have some routines laid out. There are probably some moments where, though outside of the routine, you see someone struggling. Maybe you’ve got your stuff down, but this person is under extra pressure for whatever reason. Here’s an opportunity where you can help others. When we get into a rut though and we think that’s their thing and this is my thing, we can really quickly begin to gripe about not getting what we want and having to go the extra mile and do something because something else is not getting done. And yet, we need to be asking, “How can I give? How can I serve?” Sometimes we just need to reboot in those moments and ask God to help us love practically.
God talks about helping others, especially, even in the church life. It doesn’t just happen in family life; it happens in church life. He instructs us; He says, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” When you came this morning, we experienced people doing this all over the place. If you had a warm cup of coffee this morning, like I did, I had a couple...really helped me to get through the morning. It’s a little pleasure, but somebody got here before I did. In fact, a couple of somebody’s got here, got the coffee out, the filters out, got it all ready, started brewing the coffee. Somebody was doing good to the household of faith. The parking lot has some level of order to it because there’s some people who get here early, put out signs, get ready, and prepare for people to come. What you don’t know is sometimes, even though… we’re right by the highway, road trash and everything. Those guys will come through at times, and they will even pick up trash just to make it a little bit more pleasant. It's happening all over the place, and when we leave, those connection cards that you’re filling out...you’re letting us know how we can pray or information you want. Somebody’s helping that information get into the hands of staff. Somebody’s helping with that.
Every step of the way there are people buying up this opportunity of how they can do good to the household of faith. In fact, right now, we’re doing a Start Here Experience that’s happening during the service, and they’re going to be talking today about serving and what that’s like. They’re going to get a tour of everything and different places you can serve because that’s one way to discover and experience God’s ways. It’s one way to discover and experience the fact that He is loving, and He calls us to love. He set the example to come and to serve, and He calls us to serve, but we don’t all need to serve in the exact same way. He’s given us different roles; He’s given us different abilities, different experiences, different gifting to help out. The question is; given all that God has given you, this is a question you can ask yourself: How can I build up? How can I build up?
We each have abilities and opportunities, and we can use those to build up or tear down. It’s a lot like this hammer. It’s a tool that can build up, or it’s a tool that can tear down. I ran across this meme this week: “Words are like a hammer...they can be used to build each other up or crush us into a million pieces.” I know that these hammers can do that; I learned that recently. The other day we were working on my kids’ bathroom, and we were fixing some tile. Here’s a picture of...there it is right there. So, that required some hammering and some other specialty tools to get it nice and clean. You see it’s a nice, clean rectangle. I have teenagers, but I also have toddlers. Sometimes the toddlers want to be big boys, too, and they want to help. Sometimes they want to help when dad’s not around, and sometimes dad forgets to put tools up. What we have in the next picture is evidence of somebody who wanted to help dad with a tiling project. So, dad learned all kinds of lessons about more tiling and smaller, refined cuts and also learned to put tools up and not leave them out.
In that moment, there’s an opportunity to use the power and the abilities and the words that I have to crush a toddler. The problem is that...or the good thing is that...I know, Lord willing, he’ll grow up to be a man who could be a great ally to me. I could either crush him in that moment and chew him out because he just created more work for dad, or we could talk about, “Hey, when should you start doing that?” Maybe dad should be around and you should ask before you swing a hammer at tile. The conversation...thankfully, this project...I say thankfully...this project took a lot longer than I wanted it to, but because of that, the pace at which we were going was slower. God was working on me, and I learned all kinds of lessons through this project, but one was thankfully he had torn up the tile when I wasn’t around. So when I got home, there was a little bit of distance between that. He was totally...didn’t think it was a problem; he was helping, so we talked about how we can help differently. That was a moment where I could take all my abilities, and I could build him up or I could crush him.
You have certain situations where you can do that, too. We need to use our words carefully. We need to use the things that God gives us to actually build other people up because what we’re given is much like this tool. It has power; the Bible encourages us to use whatever God gives us, though, to build and bless others. Again it’s in the context of love, the Bible says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies...in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
As we receive the things that God gives us, these blessings, these gifts, how do we serve or how do we give those to others? How do we build up? Some of us who speak, because of our different roles, we need to use our words to build up. Some of us aren’t as good at speaking, but you have a different role. You have a different job to play. Some of you are really good at noticing details that nobody else notices that need to be dealt with; you know how to deal with them, and you can deal with them in such a way that it really builds up the overall efforts. Whether it’s in family life or church family and the goals that we’re going after, you can do that. Some of you do not want to be in front of anybody and you just want to be behind the scenes. You can do some great good there; you can build up.
My father-in-law...he taught middle school for 30+ years. I cannot imagine going through puberty that long; that would be terrible. But when I see his life and I see who he is and what he’s done even outside of the public schools...even during that time he would teach that same age range in Sunday School. At church he was doing it, and now that he’s retired, he’s still helping out his church in the student ministry. I can see that that’s a gift from God that he doesn’t take lightly, and he’s been a good steward of it. We all have different gifts. That’s not my gifting, but he uses that to build others up. I use my gifting to build others up. What’s your gifting? What has God given you that you can take and use for good to build others up?
Even time is a gift. Time is a gift; I’ve known people throughout my life who further along in years can’t do what they used to do. Even my father-in-law can’t quite do as much as he used to, but he’s still doing what he can. I’ve known folks like that, who physically, they can’t do the things they used to do, but they can pray. And, they have become prayer warriors. They have the time, and they have the ability to focus because other responsibilities have been passed on. They’re passed on to other people, or they’re not able to do them anymore, but they can pray. Prayer is a definite need for every endeavor. It’s foundational; even if you are able-bodied, you need to be praying. But I’ve seen people become prayer warriors over the years, and that has been huge. You’ve been given a gift; I don’t know what it is, but how can you be giving back? If you’re a follower of Christ you’ve been given a gift, how can you use it to build others up?
I’m going to ask the band to come on out as we wrap up. They’re going to come on out and get set up, but as they’re coming up and getting set up, I want to ask you, “Of all those questions on your handout...I listed a handful there...they hit it at different ways...which question really hits home for you this week on your listening guide? Which question hits home for you, and how do you need to answer that this week?” Take a little bit of time, see which question really resonates with you, put a circle by it, check it (something), and answer that question this week as you walk with God. Let’s pray.
Lord, we are grateful that You came and that You loved us when we were not loving. You loved us first, and You gave us the ability not only to say “Thank You” and be grateful, but also to love those around us and invite them into a relationship with You. So, we are grateful for that. As we go out this week, help us see where we can give and pass on the love You’ve so richly supplied us. How can we use the things that You’ve given us to build others up? Help us see in those moments that seem...that we gloss over...that there are opportunities to help someone. Help us to do that this week, and give us insight and help us take our next steps with You this week. We pray these things in Jesus Christ’s name.