Conversations with GOD: Living the Upside Down Life

Four Sundays ago I began this series with these words:

“There is something that all people of every generation, every culture and of all time have in common. It is found in the most sophisticated and the most primitive of people groups. It is transcends all people groups and all time periods. It is the most universal thread that connects the human race.

It is the quest for meaning and purpose beyond our material existence.

It is the spirit of man that searches for contact with his creator. It’s the painting of Michelangelo of the finger of God and the finger of man trying to touch.”

People have always longed to be connected with God. We talked about speaking with God, listening to God and connecting to Him through The Lord’s Supper.

Today we are going to talk about doing what is right not just what seems best. We are going to talk about some of the roadblocks to a relationship with God and we are going to learn some paradox’s that you need to learn to live with in the God’s Kingdom.

Ancient Hebrew Proverb: “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is death.

All of us have chosen a pathway for our lives to take. We make choices everyday that define who we are and what we believe. We choose everyday to live in connection to God or live and do our own thing. God has given us very specific plans regarding our lives but often men and women will hear what God says and then do everything they can to live and do what “seems right” to them and the end result is always the same. Doing your own thing in life leads to death and separation from God.

An illustration of one who thought he was right. He was missing something internal and didn’t know it and refused to see it.

 17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 
Jesus confronts his question to knock out his thinking which is rooted in falseness and wanting an easy answer. 

19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” 

10 Commandments were written on two tablets. 4 or one side and 6 on the other. 4 were vertical and 6 were horizontal. (God directed/man directed) Jesus quotes five of the six commands. 

 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 

Jesus looked on this young man with compassion because He knew He was dealing with a man who was doing what he thought was right but living in a way that would bring death to himself. “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is death.” 

 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
Mark 10:17-22 NLT 

The man wanted eternal life but did not understand that eternal life is not just about what happens to you when you die. Eternal life is about what you do while you are living now. It is about understanding who you are, why you were made the way you are with your unique gifts and strengths and how to use them in God’s greater plan for you now on this earth.

Jesus saw that this man had a problem with idolatry. Jesus was offering him the ability to enjoy a relationship with Jesus. He offered him purpose and all the things he thought he would find in eternal life in the by and by. But the bible says he rejected Jesus offer because he had many possessions. Jesus touched on the one thing that was impeding him from following in God’s way.

He was doing what he thought was right but he was wrong. The last commandment is: You should not covet.

Does this mean that we should all sell our possessions and give them to the poor? Absolutely not. It means that this one man had a barrier in his walk with God and what he needed to do was take money off the thrown of his heart and make room for Jesus but he rejected that notion and did what was right in his own eyes.

There is a way that seems right to man but the end thereof is death.

Roadblocks to Intimacy with God

We have talked the last few weeks about how to connect with God. How to speak to Him and how to hear from Him. How to connect intimately with Him through the Lord’s Supper.

Following Christ on the pathway of paradox

The world and even much of Christianity will always ask you to do the opposite of what Christ says you should do. The greatest most exhausting burden I have is to know what Jesus asks His followers to do and then to see the condition of much of the Christian culture in American and know how far off base we are most of the time.

There are barriers to intimacy with Christ and we are going to examine them for a few moments before looking at how to overcome them.

• The World’s System

15Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” I John 2:15-17 NLT

Lust of the eyes
Lust of the flesh
Pride of life

If you were to look up this scripture and underline the phrase “the world” you would see it is repeated many times. This is describing a system or a world view. It is describing an age or the god of this age.

We are in a dynamic spiritual conflict and there are forces that want to pull you away from God. Everything in this system is based on the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. Everything we are inundated with from commercials, to the magazine rack in the grocery store, to the theme of every TV show and every movie is filled with the worlds system.

I am continually amazed at what people watch to entertain themselves. There are many of you in this room that will sit and watch things under the guise of entertainment that are filthy and laden with sexual innuendo and content that is even rated by the world as explicit yet you have compromised your moral convictions because every one else does it and you are living so far out of relationship with Christ because you live on a diet of filth.

People make over cars and houses but now we live in a society that has set a standard for how you should look and people are spending billions of dollars a year world wide to make themselves over to fit the world’s system.

• The World’s Deception

18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.” Mark 4:18-19 NLT

There are three things that threaten to choke out our spiritual life and to become barriers to intimacy with God.

The worries of life (busyness)
The lure of wealth (money is not bad but it is the deceitfulness of riches)
The desire for other things (distractions that choke the Word out of our life)

These are things we have to intentionally battle with aggressive actions. This is why we studied recently how important it is to stay connected to Christ by listening to Him and learning to talk with Him. Let me just warn you about something. When you and I are drifting away from God we are often the last to know because we have been deceived by the world’s deception.

• The World’s Seduction

14 The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. 15 Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.” 
Luke 16:14-15 NLT

Think about who Jesus is saying this to.  These are the most exclusively religious people of the day. They were sucked in by the world’s seduction. (Power, prestige, influence, intelligence, what you drive, how many letters behind your name, how many zeros at the end of your paycheck, where you live, where you work, what kind of car you drive and how old is it, where your kids go to college, how you look, where you work, what kind of work to you do)  What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.

The issue is not have we been affected by the world’s system the question is how much have we been deceived and seduced.

Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Jesus reaches out to us today with the same compassion and broken heartedness that He reached out to the rich young man in the story at the beginning of this message. He is saying to us on a daily basis there is a way to live that is far better and will lead to eternal life instead of death.

Preaching this message is almost more than I can stand and the thought of doing this three times today has been overwhelming to me because I know that contained in these words are keys to eternal life but I am also convinced that many of you will not hear the message. You will not have ears to hear or eyes to see because if you do it will mess up everything you have worked so hard to achieve and you could never admit that you have spent you life and your time and your resources pursuing down the wrong road in life.

All the Gallup and Barna polls show that 90% of Christians in America don’t live differently than most of the world around them. That means 9 out of 10 Christians are completely seduced by this world and its system. They don’t marry differently, they don’t divorce differently, spend their money differently. How could that be?

Under this cover is the way that most of us have bought into the world’s system.

Television: We have enthroned it in the center of our family rooms. We sit around and make it the object of our attention and devotion. It tells us how we are to look and what we should drive. It tells us what’s in and what’s not in. In the average American household it runs six to seven hours a day. It is the new babysitter. In the last couple of decades we have invented things to plug into it so we don’t have to talk to our kids or have conversations. We keep it on until it dumbs us down and numbs our soul.

It has helpers: Newspaper. DVD, Blueray, High Def. We live vicariously through games and he who had the fastest thumbs wins.

Turn off your TV for three days and let God back into your life. You will have withdrawal to the point that it may, if you do this, just waken you to how far you are sucked into the system.

This is not about burning your TV’s, or never playing a game or reading a newspaper but it is about recognizing how and by whom you are being influenced in your life. Who is influencing your children more, the Bible and your witness or the world and its system?

Following Christ on the pathway of paradox

Overcoming the World’s Barriers to Intimacy with God

• Begins with a new New Attitude   

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.  6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
 and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names,”
Philippians 2:5-9

Verse 5 is preceded by verses three and four that teach we should think of others more than ourselves. Jesus is our model for living and loving instead of gaining and getting. 

• Requires a Radical Renunciation

23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?”
Luke 9:23-25 NLT

(The evangelical “both” “and” strategy.) We often think that we can have it all but that is not biblical. Many times we are convinced that we should have what we want and we deserve to have it now.

• Embraces a New Economy

1. The way to “life” is death  Surrender (purpose/power/passion)

20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NLT

2. The way “up” is down    Be a Servant

48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” Luke 9: 48 NLT

3. The way to “gain” is to give  Be Generous  

38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”  Luke 6:38 NLT

A. W. Tozer, said this: The widest thing in the universe is not space; it is the potential capacity of the human heart. Being made in the image of God, it is capable of almost unlimited extension in all directions. And one of the world’s greatest tragedies is that we allow our hearts to shrink until there is room in them for little besides ourselves.

In a recent NCAA cross-country championship held in Riverside, California, 123 of the 128 runners missed a turn. One competitor, Mike Delcavo, stayed on the 10,000 meter course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. Delcavo was able to convince only four other runners to go with him. Asked what his competitors thought of his mid-race decision not to follow the crowd, Delcavo responded, "They thought it was funny that I went the right way."

This is a day remembered in formal and liturgical churches as Pentecost Sunday. It is a day that is supposed to correspond with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the original Christfollowers in the upper room. There is no more vivid illustration that I could give of our need to live separated lives from this world and its culture. In a majority of the churches that remember this life altering moment in the history of the church, you will find a total departure from accepting the word of God as a lamp to live by and a light to guide every step.

I have no problem remembering that it was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit who had been promised was poured out on the believers in a life changing way, but let us remember that we have a role to play in allowing the Spirit of God to have complete rights into our lives, our relationships, our business, our marriages, our stewardship and in every other way known to man.



An Ancient Prayer of Paradox for Seven Days

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.