The Loser

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Switchfoot has a song called “The Loser”, and one of the phrases in the chorus says this: “If I haven’t already given it away, I’ve got a plan to lose it all.” I preached at an Episcopal church this weekend where a friend of mine is a priest and this past Sunday was the final Sunday of Epiphany (the season of the church calendar that is focused on revealing and proclaiming Christ) that gives way to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season (if you want to learn more about the season of Lent, check out my friends blog post on it).

This song “The Loser”, in my opinion gets to the heart of the lenten season (40 days), that is marked by fasting and preparing oneself to celebrate the resurrection of Christ at Easter in a fresh new way. Losing it all is not on the top of anyone’s list, as we live in a culture that is climbing the ladder of success, even if it’s the ladder of a “successful Christian life”. We want to be on top, we want to have access to power, we long for prestige and accolades, we labor to gain more and more possessions, as small little trinkets fill our lives and homes.

The Lenten season reminds me that the winners in this life are really the losers, the ones who aren’t holding on to anything, who freely lose it all. Think of those who we glorify in the religious realm… it’s those who lost everything to care for the least of these. Jesus spoke about the blessings for the poor and the weak ones. He saved His kindest acts for the sick and the despised ones. He attacked those who lived well off lives while ignoring the injustice of their wealth. Jesus led by an example of selflessness which has never been seen since.

In Jesus, God has entered our humanity and made the divine understandable, and if we are honest with ourselves, the way in which Christ invites us to encounter Him doesn’t seem productive: fasting, weakness, humility, submission, brokenness, confession, suffering. It looks at times weak and very unlike the concepts of human power and authority which we live by every day, but weakness is where the Christian sees Christ more clearly. Losing it all makes room for more of the One who gives all.

This is my plan this Lenten season, to lose all that has kept me too full and busy to hear the voice of God, to receive in a fresh new way, the risen Savior, and to experience more fully the resurrected life.

A Functional Mess

That day when you get up and you move past the memories of reality for the day, telling yourself, “I’m okay. I’ve just got to get some coffee and I’ll feel better.” Or the day when anxiety sets in and you aren’t sure how you are going to get through the day with all the people who “need” things from you, be it small children, people at work, or close friends and family. Yah, that kind of day. I’m not sure what to call those days, but it seems that, if you were to “sit” in those feelings of pain and anxiety, you may not make it, so you move on, functionally at least, but like all the popular shows these days with zombies, you’re a walking dead person, numb to life, with limbs (figuratively speaking) falling off your body, “But you’re okay, because you’re functional, not like that one person from church who has fallen a part and needs a support group to survive.” You’re a functional mess.

I’ve been a pastor for almost 7 years, and I was a Young Life leader for 10 years in central Phoenix. Most of the years that I have served in ministry, I have been a functional mess, feeling like “I’m okay”, because “I’m not like that guy who I just met with. Poor guy, he’s really got to get his act together.” But inside the whole time, I knew I was just as messy, I was just better at playing the “I’m okay script” than he was.

I am very aware that this observation may just be mine, from my small world of experiences, and I know full well that there are totally different experiences, but indulge with me for a moment in this observation from life. There’s seems to be an unwritten code in many “Christian” circles that having seasons of honesty about the complete mess you’re in, often results in a Christian responding in one of these ways:

Panic and fear over what you’re going through, because you’ve been the “strong one”;
Words of encouragement to pull you “out of the pit” and left with an Old Testament verse that claims a promise that was given to exiles in Israel, then a follow up call the next day or two to see if the verse worked;

Being dodged and not addressing the pain or suffering that has caused the messy season;
Superficial engagement that acts like you never mentioned anything messy, and many people wanting you to just move on and get better. I know there are more, but these seem to be what I’ve observed in over 17 years of ministry alongside other Christians.

Now, I say these without a harsh tone, but still with an honest one, with an honest pursuit of wanting unpack the reason why it seems that many Christians (myself included on many points over the last 17 years) seem to be worse at walking through deep pain and suffering than friends that many people have who aren’t Christians. I say that comment, because it has been true many times in my experience, as well as having heard this from many a people from the inside. There seems to be confusion on what it means to truly grieve and feel pain so that you can process it, work through your junk, and really get healthy, and what it means to claim the promises of God that you are a new creation.

Maybe it’s that many of us feel that if we let on that we are really the mess that we feel we are on the inside, then our peers and those we lead might “think” we don’t believe God’s promises, or that we might be giving room for the enemy to come in and deceive us, after all, “We are children of God, brothers in the line of Jesus, co-heirs to the kingdom of heaven. With that title, I’m not supposed to feel this way.” This is all true, so in fear of acting like we don’t believe it, we pretend, we numb, we quote Scripture, but the functional mess continues and we never seem to get over the messy hump.

I guess the purpose of this blog is two-fold. One is confessional. I am confessing that I’m a functional mess and am cutting back all areas of life. I’ve gone too hard, trying to build God’s kingdom, and although I believe God has used me in many ways, I often try to build more than God’s given me the grace to build. My wife and I have also had an usually difficult season of life circumstances that have happened, and we are making changes in our life to cope, grieve, and heal in a healthy way, one of those ways, being this blog; transparency about where we are.

The second purpose of this post is to give someone who may read this, the freedom to feel again. My wife and I have been given the freedom by some friends to feel, even to the point of being uglier than we wanted to be, but none the less, we didn’t run from the reality. We didn’t anesthetize ourselves from the reality of our pain or suffering. This has brought much freedom and healing into our lives.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” This means yes, freedom to be free from sin, shame, condemnation, but free from pain and suffering? I don’t think that’s what Paul was saying here. Freedom to feel. Freedom to confess sin. Freedom to say, “I’m a mess!”, yet know that you’re radically accepted and loved. Freedom to sit with others in their pain and agony. Freedom to trip and fall. Freedom to doubt and ask questions. Freedom to say, “I don’t know what I’m doing or who I am.”

It’s my conviction that it’s at this place of honesty, when the Lord shows up in real, tangible ways, and Scripture goes from memorized, therapeutic verses that we hope work, to life changing truths that bring the presence of God Himself into the situation that we are in. This is the hope; “the presence of God in the face of Jesus”. I pray that some of you may receive this kind freedom and joy that comes from this kind of honesty. Until then, I am in the struggle with you, learning to find joy and peace in the midst of the mess.

Embrace Your Limits

Everyone has limits, few want to admit them. In a day and age when limits are ignore because of the advancement of technology in many ways, limits are seen as hindrances to personal growth and pleasure. But we would be wise to embrace our limits and have eyes to see that limits in your life might even be what God uses to accomplish His purposes.

We can learn about limits by looking at the life of John the Baptist, or John the Baptizer (Johnny B). He was a prophet who came before Jesus to prepare the way for Jesus being the Messiah, the Savior of Israel, and of the whole world. Johnny B had a very unique, but successful ministry. He lived out in the desert, off the grid. He wore clothes that you could make out in the wild, he only ate food that you didn’t have to pay for or pay temple tax for. He was not immersed into the religious system of the day. That’s exactly why he was so crazy and weird.

Anyone who doesn’t want to live within the confines of a religious system will always be looked at as “weird” by those who are within that particular system. Johnny B’s message was simple: “Repent and be baptized.” In other words, “Turn from worshipping the system, and worship God again. Come back to your first love. The Messiah is coming. You better be ready for Him or you will miss Him.”

Johnny B was a weird-o, but he had a following and he was getting famous as a prophet of God. So when we come upon this passage in John 3, what Johnny B does is actually a very mature thing; he embraces his limits. He realizes who he is and lives in reality. Turn to John 3:22-30 with me now:

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Peter Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, says, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality. In fact the true spiritual life is not an escape from reality but an absolute commitment to it. Loss marks the place where self-knowledge and powerful transformation happen…” Let me say that last part again: “Loss marks the place where self-knowledge and powerful transformation happen…” In other words, not having enough to give, or coming to the end of yourself is the very means of growing up. This is called the gift of limits. This is what Johnny B models for us here.

Limits (or limitations) are the cause of much of our loss in life. Can you imagine the ego shot that Johnny B took by surrendering to his limits at the prime of his ministry? It is here that he fully felt and realized his limitations as a human being, and that his time was up. It was time to move over to let the more qualified person step in, in this case, the God of the universe.

We are limited creatures, but that is often a problem to us in our fast-paced, get-what-you-want, comfort-driven, climb-the-ladder-of-success kind of society. Many of us view limits as this attack against our freedom that interrupts our desired “normal” lives.

And because of these limits that keep us from that life that we think to be the “good life”, we turn to things to cope with the grief of the loss. Again, Peter Scazzero says, “We numb our pain through denial, blaming, rationalizations, addictions, and avoidance. We search for spiritual shortcuts around our wounds. We demand others take away our pain.”

To be honest, addictions of many kinds has been the drug of choice to help us deal with pain. We want to manage our lives and protect ourselves from the risk of being let down or bumping into our limits. We consumers demand that someone or something (a marriage, a sexual partner, an ideal family, children, an achievement, a career, a church, or a church leader) take our loneliness and pain away.

The sad thing about all this is that by running to addictions and short cuts, we deny and minimizing our pain and losses, and what this does over the course of many months and years, is that we stop being human the way God intended, and experience a way of being human that deteriorates our bodies and souls. We become empty religious Christians with very sophisticated masks. Eventually, this way of living wears us down so much, that we stop knowing how to feel altogether.

Much of our pain and misfortune from losses are like experiencing deaths (death of a dream, desire, family system, comfort, youth, routines). God has given all of us the gift of limits, and many of us hate it. We are limited, and believe it or not, it’s a gift. Limits keep us grounded and make us humble, needy, and creative.

Think about this: the reason why we all relate to the book of Job somehow, and the reason why whenever suffering and pain is spoken of, we are interested even though it brings up pain and other realities that we want to dodge, is because we all experience the same types of losses that Job did.

Job lost everything in one day: his family, his wealth, his health (Job 1:13-2:8). Most of us experience our losses more slowly, over the course of our whole lives, until we find ourselves on the door of death, leaving everything behind, but none-the-less, we still experience these losses like Job, and they hurt, they max out our limits. We are limited.

Many of you have experienced losses at church or in another intimate and vulnerable setting. You’ve been betrayed by a tradition, a leader, or a spouse. You’ve been hurt by someone in your community and you lose the joy of feeling comfortable there. You lose friends; they move, they don’t forgive you, they change.

Everybody who gives of themselves in community with other believers, sooner or later, experiences these kinds of loses and the grief that comes with those losses.

I’m going here because I want to take us to where our limits end. I believe it is at this place where special things happen; growth happens; maturing happens; a realized need for help happens… oh these are specials things! Often times our eyes and hearts are not opened to the deeper and more beautiful things of God until we reach our limits; we get to the end of ourselves; and that’s where we find Jesus.

But we need help going here, because turning to consult our pain and losses is counter-cultural today. But if we were to actually get to the heart of the gospel, we would see that this is actually normal. Let me show you:

John 12:24-25: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Mark 8:34-35: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.

Mark 9:35b: If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.

Mark 10:43-45: But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

The way up is down. The way to real power is to give up power. The way to gain power is to lose power. The way to become rich is to become poor. The way to be great is to be the slave of all! Limits!! We are limited, and realizing our limits is the key to embracing the good news of Jesus. That’s called living in reality. Oh how beautiful!

It works for us when we are young, vulnerable children to create coping mechanism to help us survive and deal with the pain of being wounded; that is actually a gift from God to children in many cases. Blocking out the pain, or forgetting abuse done to you as a child altogether, enables the child to keep living a “normal” life. So at that point, it’s a healthy thing to not fully experience, or block out, those painful realities when we’re young so we can be relatively stable.

But the transition into adulthood requires that we mature through our coping mechanisms such as: denial, minimizing, blaming others, blaming yourself, justifying actions, intellectualizing, distracting, becoming hostile, numbing, etc. The transition into maturity from childhood is one of honestly, looking at what is true; what really happened; how we truly are emotionally, etc. Jesus himself said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Unfortunately, even as adults, it is ever so easy and convenient to carry with us many coping maneuvers to protect ourselves from pain. Here’s why this is a problem and why embracing reality (our limits) as adults is so crucial: false reality blocks us from growing up spiritually and emotionally, as well as from the light;

1 John 1:6-7: 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

So what I want to do is to put some things out there, things that we who are still coping as children (and if we were honest, we’d all raise our hands to this), that we could do to help us to move in the direction of embracing our limits and reality:

1. Pay attention to the pain and don’t be quick to dismiss it, numb yourself from it, or call it a lie or an attack from the enemy. Jesus did this, even though He knew there was an answer to certain things; Jesus wept over Lazarus and cried out in grief over Jerusalem (see John 11:35 and Luke 13:34). He experienced the pain of the moment and lived in the reality of what happened. He wasn’t ultimately crushed by it, but He didn’t say: “Oh, let go and let God. I’m gonna raise that bro up again. Stop crying everyone!” No, he sat in the emotion of the moment and grieved.

2. Wait in the confusion to hear from Jesus. No one like confusion. There’s even a passage that says: 1 Cor. 14:33: For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. But this passage often times is misused, as Paul was describing different practices within the corporate church gatherings such as speaking in tongues without some to interpret it. God had often used confusion in the OT stories to accomplish His will, and often times, it’s not until we are so utterly confused and we stop looking for answers, that God shows up and reveals somethings so sweet and clear. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).

3. Embrace the gift of limits. Embrace the reality that your body is the way it is. The same with your mind, your family, your finances, your talents, etc. Johnny B  understood his limits when he said this: “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven” (John 3:27). Essentially he was saying, “I accept my limits, my humanity, my declining popularity. He must increase. I must decrease. I’m good with that.” (see John 3:30).

4. Climb the latter of humility, not progress and success. Remember the gospel? The way up is down. The way to real power is to give up power. The way to gain power is to lose power. The way to become rich is to become poor. The way to be great is to be the slave of all! Prov. 22:4: The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.

5. Let the dead seed stay dead so it can get planted and grow. Good grieving and embracing your limits is not just letting go, but also letting it bless you. Remember, the resurrection only comes after death, real death. Trust that in God’s economy, ashes always produce beauty. Our losses are real, let them kill you, not destroy you, but kill you. And remember that our God, the living God, is big and He raises the dead! 2 Cor. 1:8-9: 8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

This journey is not popular and it will not be easy, but it is the way to maturity and intimacy with Jesus. There are many beautiful realities that spring forth in our lives as a result of embracing our limits and grieving our losses, and I would say that the greatest and most beautiful reality will be our relationship to God. We will move from a “Give me, give me, give me” prayer life to an intimate, loving prayer life characterized by a loving union with God. When we embrace our limits and let Jesus steal the show, we are changed forever.

Johnny B’s story ends sadly here on earth. Soon after he gives up being the man in the wilderness and begins to decrease, he really decreases. His church plant implodes, he gets arrested, thrown into jail, and then Herod has his head cut off because of a foolish vow he made to his mistresses daughter. Not the way any of us want to go, but the reality of the resurrection for Johnny B was certain, and his life was not wasted. I pray that our eyes and our hearts would be opened this morning to the all-surpassing beauty and power of God in Christ Jesus.

Mr. and Mrs. for 14 Years and Counting…

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As a church planter, often times counting is bad because people like me tend to find their significance from the number of butts in a seat on a Sunday morning. This is a bad measure of success, so I have stopped counting… and I sleep much better at night! But counting the number of years of marriage has been a fun thing to do. Each year that comes by and we celebrate another anniversary, we get excited about celebrating the next year (next year is 15 years… can’t wait to get to that one!).

Although 14 years to some couples is only half or a third of the time they’ve been married, for us, that number represents much more than just a number. It represents all that we’ve gone through and been through together. It represents grace, joy, pain, struggle, fear, children, celebrations, transitions, losses, happiness, etc. This morning is our first morning in a new house that we have just moved into, and it marks for me (us) another new chapter… a new chapter where we get to put together all of our hard learned lessons and aim for what the next 14 years will look like.

Amy and I (and the kids), after four years of planting Kineo, have finally and fully moved in to the neighborhood of Alhambra Village, down the street from our church. This move marks a deeper commitment to our neighborhood and to solidarity with those who have been underserved and overlooked. I mention this because these are two words that Amy and I have felt like to each other during some of our worst days together over these last 14 years and we know what it’s like (to some measure) to be underserved or overlooked.

The secret to a healthy marriage is obviously a deep and abiding commitment to Christ Jesus and to seek His glory over the glory of ourselves or our marriage. But once that is in place and pursued as a life long desire (even when you don’t feel like it), seeking the welfare of one another is probably the best lesson I have learned in marriage.

Underserved. If you use this word in the context of marriage, this means that a spouse is being served less than the other spouse is serving one’s self of something else. This is a terrible recipe for joy and happiness in a marriage, not to mention it’s wrongly displaying what marriage was meant to be (self-giving love and sacrifice for the good of the other). My first calling as I press hard into Christ Jesus, is to serve my wife first, yes, even to overserve her, or out serve her. I can track back over the years of our marriage and the crappy days, weeks, or months have been when I have underserved my wife. This new move marks for me a re-commitment to overserve and outserve my wife.

Overlooked. Again, when this word comes up in the context of marriage, ¡este no es nada bueno! Underserving is one thing (and I don’t want to minimize underserving), but overlooking the other spouse is worse. It usually means that you are dodging, ignoring, stonewalling, or have your focus on other people or things so much so, that the other spouse is or feels overlooked. Overlooking a spouse, much like overlooking the poor, the orphan, the widow, or the stranger, always leads to injustice, and God hates injustice. Too many days overlooking one another in marriage creates patterns that only much pain and stripping will cure, and many times, once patterns of overlooking occurs in a marriage, hope for reconciliation seems bleak, and many couples end up divorcing one another.

14 years and counting… because I want each celebration of another anniversary to be better than the last one. I don’t want to forget the lessons we’ve learned and the meaning of marriage to fall by the way side. I want to say at the end of year 14, that we put more time and energy (maybe not money) into our relationship this year than we did while we were planning for a big wedding. I want to outdo our celebrations each year and rejoice in that fact that two sinners are striving to outserve and outnotice one another. I want the gaze I have on Amy to be more intimate and heart moving than the gaze I had on her as she walked down the aisle 14 years ago. I want to display the beauty and worth of Jesus and His bride through our marriage. Here’s to many more years of doing just that, by God’s grace!

Stop Lying

Larry Walters had always dreamed of flying, but was unable to become a pilot in the US Air Force because of his poor eyesight. Walters had first thought of using weather balloons to fly around the age of 13, after seeing them hanging from the ceiling of a military surplus store. Twenty years later he decided to do so. His intention was to attach a few helium-filled weather balloons to his lawn chair, cut the anchor, and then float above the city at a height of about 30 feet for several hours. He planned to use a BB gun to burst balloons to float gently to the ground.

So this retired Vietnam vet, Larry Walters, and his girlfriend, Carol Van Deusen, purchased 45 eight-foot weather balloons and obtained helium tanks from California Toy Time Balloons. They used a forged signature from his employer at FilmFair Studios, saying the balloons were for a television commercial. On July 2, 1982, Walters attached the balloons to his lawn chair, filled them with helium, put on a parachute, and strapped himself into the chair in the backyard of a home in San Pedro. He named his ride “Inspiration”. He took a BB gun, a CB radio, sandwiches, cold beer, and a camera.

When his friends prematurely cut the second cord that tied his lawn chair to his Jeep, he streaked out into the sky as if he was shot from a canon where he leveled off at a nice cruising altitude, not of 30 feet, but 16,000 feet. At first, he didn’t dare shoot any balloons, fearing that he might unbalance the load and cause himself to spill out. For several hours he drifted, cold and frightened. He slowly drifted over the primary approach corridor for LAX airport. A TWA pilot first spotted Larry. The pilot radioed to the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair… with a gun! Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating at 16,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures went into full alert. Larry finally shot enough balloons to lower himself down safely into some power lines in a nearby neighborhood.

He was immediately arrested upon landing; when asked by a reporter why he had done it, Walters replied, “A man can’t just sit around.” After his flight, he was in brief demand as a motivational speaker and he quit his job as a truck driver. He was featured in a Timex print ad in the early ’90s.

Good ole Larry Walters needed a good friend to be honest with him: “Bro, I know you can’t just sit around and you’re going stir crazy inside, but come on dude, drop that idea and let’s rent some Harley’s, drive up the cost, and have a beer on the beach.”

Apparently his girlfriend Carol didn’t love him enough to be honest with him. “Yeh baby, okay… sounds like a great idea! Let’s forge your bosses signature, buy some weather balloons and lie about what we are using them for! Excellent idea!” That’s the kind of idea my 3 year old, not a middle aged man and his adult girlfriend.

Honesty! This is a big topic, isn’t it. Many of us have been that friend who should’ve said what was truthful and we didn’t because we loved ourselves more than our friends. Being honest with one another these days seems to be optional.

You know those hidden camera shows where they stage actors and actresses who are picking on an overweight lady, totally humiliating and tormenting her with words and laughs… in public. Over the period of 4 hours, they only have a handful of people (out of thousand passer-by’s) stand up to these actors and actresses and confront their unjust behavior.

Where has our honesty and character gone? Where has our regard for others, and for our own behavior gone. Where’s the love man? We need a revolution of honesty and truthfulness. We need this because the central defect of evil isn’t necessarily sin, but the refusal to acknowledge it.

The passage that I was given to teach on tonight, deals exactly with this honesty problem, but we are going to have to do some work to figure out how we can be freed up to have the character and courage to be honest people. Turn with me to Colossians 3:9: Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices. “Now that’s a strong statement Paul…are you assuming I’m lying to people? Why do you have to assume things? But whatPaul’s doing, is he’s making a comment on the heels of an unfolding letter that we must briefly unpack. Let’s look at Col. 3:5-8:

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you:
sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.

8 But now you must put them all away:
anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.

Paul is hammering Christian living in light of Christ being all and in all (Col. 1:15-23; 2:6-15). Thus, these commands and urgings (or we can call them imperatives) from Paul are not legalistic nor meant for you to “obey or else”, rather they are an urgent call for the Colossians to live in light of who they are in Christ (remember the indicatives). If we had the time, (I encourage you to do this yourself later tonight), I could slowly walk through Col. 1-2 and teach on all that is already true for believers:

-Reconciled to God through His death and resurrection.
-Christ in you.
-Established in faith.
-Your faith in Him has joined you in His death, thus receiving the reward of His death and resurrection which will be a glorified body that will appear with Christ in glory!
-You were made you alive when you were dead.
-Your sins were forgiven.
-You were given the power of God over the authorities that once condemned and damned you.

Because of this O’ Colossians, seek the things that are above (Col. 3:1). Set your mind on the things Christ has made you. Christ is coming back and you will appear with Him; not only appear with Him, but will be with Him in all His glory. This is your inheritance. This is what Christ has done for you. You are free not because you are righteous, but because Jesus is righteous. Stop pretending to be holier than thou, admit your sin, and be honest with one another. Plead the case for the widow, orphan, oppressed, stand up for those who can’t stand by themselves, don’t pretend you don’t see the injustice, etc…

This is why I believe Paul says at the end of these two lists above:
v. 9: Do not lie to one another. Don’t lie about your sin, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices… The old self is not only these actions, but the denial of you being in need of help from Jesus… 10 …put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator… This happens through on going confession and repentance of these sins that you must learn to put away, sins that you commit, but also, like those who over look injustice, sins you commit through inaction. You will never learn or change in a healthy way as long as you are not honest with yourself and others. In other words…

Be honest with each other. Quit pretending to like someone and then insult them all the more by talking about them behind their back. If your homeboy talks too much and doesn’t get the hints that everyone else is giving him, honor the dude and be honest with him. If his zipper is down or he has food n between his teeth, tell him! Don’t act all cool with him then go to another group of friends and talk about how much he annoys you. That’s not what Christ saved you into…

There is a false unspoken rule among many believers that if you don’t have it together, then you’ve got to claim it, and stop acting like you don’t have it together, because you are new in Christ. Well let me blow up a myth for you tonight: being reborn and made new in Christ doesn’t undo the past and doesn’t take away the pain and dysfunction you have because of your past or current situation. No, there is a real thing that theologians call sanctification (becoming more like Christ).

We are not redeemed and made perfect and skip the whole “being made like Jesus” part. No, the struggles, the pain, the failures, the confessions, the forgiveness that is granted, all of that is what is used to make you like Jesus and that process doesn’t stop until you die or Jesus returns. So stop lying to each other. The Christian gospel is about truth, and there is no place for false truths in the Christian community.

How do we do that? Maybe you’re hearing me tonight and you are all in, you want to be done pretending. You want to grow up into your salvation and have real deep abiding friendships, ones that matter and bring joy into your life. Here’s how you begin to grow up emotionally and stop lying to one another:

1) If you haven’t already, trust in Jesus today. Be honest with Him. Allow Him to be the One you trust and worship, not yourself, not your boyfriend or girlfriend, not your family, only Jesus. This happens by confessing your sin, that starts like this: I’m a sinner. I need help. Help me Jesus.

2) Ask for forgiveness from those you know you have either outwardly or secretly wronged. Make things right. Confess to them that you were a fraud and that you thought you could be more acceptable by dissing them, etc.

3) Be honest with yourself. If you take the time to think about how you really feel, what you really think, and how often you stuff feelings, emotions, griefs, etc… You will be able to come up with a long list of areas where you haven’t been honest.

For example:
-Have you ever had a problem arise and you ignored it and hoped it went away?
-Have you ever went somewhere that you didn’t feel safe and pretended to be okay and never tell anybody, and now you live in fear and anxiety about going back to that person/place?
-Have you ever lied about how you are feeling (whether good, bad or indifferent)?
-Have you ever been full of fear all night and went on your next day without telling a soul?
-Have you ever put on a smile, when inside you were raging with anger?
-Have you ever seen someone wrong another person (in any way) and act like noting happened or didn’t see it?
-Have you ever said yes to someone that would’ve made you feel bad if you said no and became resentful and bitter toward that person, but never told them?
-Have you ever ignored a glaring weakness in a friend just because you wanted to date them or be associated with someone of their social status?
-Have you ever been manipulated by a friend and never confronted their manipulation?
-Have you ever put on certain outfits to make people think you were wealthier or happier than you were?

All of these questions are just to get you thinking about how much we are not honest with each other. We’re like those on the hidden camera show where someone is needing help by a bully and 99% of the people just walk by & pretend they didn’t see it.
You see, we are all really good at pointing our fingers at others, our leaders, our parents, our friends, the Republicans or Democrats, our professors… but if we were to be honest with ourselves, we know we are the same frauds we think they are.

We must be honest with ourselves and admit that our way of looking at ourselves and glossing over our own actions while we secretly judge others is a terrible way to live. We need a truthful revolution because:

-We can be a dynamic, gifted speaker for God in public and be an unloving child, spouse, or parent at home.
-We can function as a worship band member or church leader and be unteachable, insecure, defensive, and sleeping around.
-We can memorize books of the Bible and still be unaware of our depression and anger, even transferring it on to other people who don’t deserve it.
-We can fast and pray one day a week for years as a spiritual discipline and constantly be critical of others, justifying it as discernment, and pretending you’re more mature.
-We can lead hundreds of people in a Christian ministry while driven by a deep personal need to prove ourselves because we are plague by a sense of failure.
-We can pray for deliverance from the demonic realm when in reality we are simply avoiding conflict, and repeating an unhealthy pattern of behavior traced back to the home in which you grew up.
-We can be outwardly cooperative at work, but unconsciously try to undercut or defeat our supervisor by coming habitually late, constantly forgetting tasks, withdrawing and becoming apathetic, or ignoring the real issue behind why we are hurt and angry.1

Are you tracking with me? We need not lie to one another. Why? How can we feel so safe to let our guard down and be honest about ourselves, our pain, and why we are struggling to love people and be honest with them? Here’s how:

Jesus wants the honest one who’s been broken. Jesus didn’t come for those who are not sick and broken. He came for the sick, the broken, the truthful ones about their wretchedness. He tells us this Himself. Jesus Christ lived the obedient life you and I couldn’t live, and died the death that you and I deserved to die, and conquered death that was going to crush us, SO THAT, you and I could be reconciled to the true Father, the good Daddy, who loves us and only wants us to be honest with Him and trust Him.

This is where Paul is going in Colossians. O’ Colossians, you can jump into this radical new way of living that is terribly dangerous and could seem like relational suicide to some of you, but it is the only way to live. You were created to live in the light, for Jesus is light and has brought you into it by grace through faith in Him.

Will you take Jesus at His word tonight and be honest with Him and others, and receive what you were created to receive? Be honest with one another, and start by being honest with yourself.

Let’s Pray!